Title: Return of the Bloodstone
Date: Mid Trilan, 1332 Avard
Synopsis: The Rakanus Clan has been betrayed by one of their own, and the Soul Forger himself is called upon to save them.
Evening of the 15th of Trilan, 1332 Avard.
The ME team was led into Mount Lavanor, seat of the Rakanus Clan and home to the ArchBishop of Rakore, leader of all the churches and the priests of all the gods in the realm.
Corrin's silik drew attention from a small portion of the dwarves; they either recognized a silik, or did not. The silik, like the other mounts was left in a large stable with hippotauns and donkeys, oxen and horses. The stable was tended to by dozens of Rakanus dwarves, many of which barely spoke the common tongue. Some of the stable keepers were fascinated by the silik.
The halls of Mount Lavanor were carefully cut from preexisting caverns, made to look natural whenever possible. The main hall of the mountain dwarves resembled a cleft within the mountain, with hidden doors made of stone all along the base of the cleft. The main hall was busy, with many wagons and much traffic. There was a rumbling within the mountain, a sound of stone hammering stone, with a lighter ring of steel on steel.
Corrin grinned, exclaiming, “The mountain, it has a heart beat!”
The team's escort led them past a number of guards, and through several hidden doors, to a representative of Father Bryan. A long-beard with a serious demeanor and scarred face met them. The long-beard never identified himself, but his face was unforgettable. The team refused to divulge more than that they had a book to deliver to Father Bryan, and so the representative bade them wait in accommodating quarters. The ArchBishop of Rakore was a busy man, and the team might have to wait several days for an audience.
One of the guards escorted the team to a smaller chasm hall, where hundreds of monastic cells fed through one easily defensible entryway that could be hidden at a moment's notice. Two guards in overlapping plate armor, with large shields strapped to their backs and lots of blades on their belts, held the front entryway to prevent the team from leaving.
They were made comfortable, however. Two tuns of ale, plenty of food, even sandals for Greff and tobacco and pipe for Aeron were brought in. Their cells were monastic, with covered chamber pots and water and dwarf-height beds. But, after a bit of ice-breaking, the guards loosened up a bit and were willing to play dice, drink, even talk – without ever giving up their stance.
Corrin and Aeron both spoke the dwarven tongue, Corrin far more fluently. She was able to pull several stories out of the guards, partially aided by a tattoo on the back of her hand. The tattoo was almost always covered by gloves, but among certain of the dwarves, the tattoo meant something significant.
Nearly a century before, Father Bryan Stonegrudge's son Thegrin stole gold and gems from the clan and then set out into the world. Unknown to the clan, Thegrin set himself up as a minor lord, using his stolen wealth to establish a manor in the middle of nowhere. A century passed before Thegrin was found – dead. His manor was tainted by one of the old gods, Nathel, and the grounds of the manor were overrun with undead. Thegrin's remains were returned to Mount Lavanor and the clan, where disputes began. The Stonegrudges wanted Thegrin buried with honors, but the leaders of the other Rakanus clans objected. In the end, Thegrin's bones were cremated, indicating the dishonor Thegrin brought to the clan.
Barely a month after Thegrin's remains were cremated, the Rakanus clan's bloodstone was stolen. Each clan's bloodstone was the largest gem their chief found in his lifetime, wrapped with a beard hair from himself, and from each chief thereafter. The bloodstone tradition was one of the reasons the dwarves came down on the side of the Inquisition in the aftermath of the Storm Wars. The War of the Undead and the necromancers it spawned made all of the dwarves nervous, and they protected their bloodstones all the harder.
The Rakanus clan decided to keep the loss of the bloodstone a secret, but like many secrets in a close-knit community, everyone knew of the loss within days.
A week after the bloodstone was stolen, word reached Mount Lavanor that Kaleus Stonegrudge, Count of Teras, had gone missing.
The dishonors being heaped upon the Stonegrudges kept growing.
At dawn the next morning, one of Father Bryan Stonegrudge's assistants came for the team. The ArchBishop of Rakore wanted to see them. The team girded themselves in full regalia, polished armor, and arms. Aeron took the time to ceremonially bind his weapons. Greff had no such problem; his weapons were always in plain sight.
Father Bryan was a spry, elderly dwarf with a thinning beard. He was very accommodating, and began by approaching Arkhan, reading, “A dragonborn will fulfill a destiny that many paladins seek: to die gloriously in battle against the foes of his god. But, above all else, he must beware Nathel.” The ArchBishop of Rakore received confirmation that the dragonborn of the prophecy was, indeed, the one paladin of Xynosalionisis in all Rakore.
The team confirmed that there had been another prophecy, and explained it.
Father Bryan received the tome of Orven Lightforger, as well as the team's explanation of how it was found. The team admitted that the bloodstone had been in their possession – and that they had lost it. Corrin had the bloodstone, and gave it over to Father Bryan. It was why she had arrived in Chasadan, hunting down the bloodstone. It was why she had attached herself to the Ducal Mage and his team.
The team asked about the Dragon's Bones on Mount Breakhammer, and Father Bryan explained that the bones were a rock formation that looked like a huge cage of ribs. The 'bones' were why the mountain was known as Breakhammer – they were home to smithbanes. The team remembered their encounter with werewolves in Rustos, and their search for something about the smithbanes.
The ArchBishop of Rakore led the team to the main temple of Galgiran in Mount Lavanor. The large hall was long, with room for thousands. At the far end of the cavern whose roof was held up by natural-looking stone columns, was a massive anvil sitting amongst a bed of glowing coals. Leading to the anvil were two long, strange stones with large footprints of a bare foot, likely dwarven. As the ArchBishop led them towards the forge, he explained that the footprints were those of Galgiran himself, made during the War of the Undead, when the gods themselves were needed to protect the living from the dead.
Their procession was stopped by another group of dwarves. Their leader was outraged that Father Bryan would lead non-dwarves into the heart of the Church of Galgiran. When Father Bryan bade Corrin show her tattoo, the leader relented, somewhat, but he was still incensed.
Father Malachite Spurbreaker was a bishop of Galgiran, and an opponent of Father Bryan Stonegrudge being both Cardinal of Galgiran and ArchBishop of all the faiths in Rakore. Father Malachite believed it to be a conflict of interests, though the dishonors the Stonegrudge clan had faced was carefully never mentioned to anyone's face.
Father Bryan showed the ME team how to make offerings to Galgiran at the massive anvil. The glowing coals were not oppressively hot, but somehow melted coins and fractured gems such that they disappeared into the glowing coals. The anvil, Father Bryan explained, contained a hair from Galgiran himself.
Behind hidden doors, off to the right of the forge, was the vestibule for the priests. Father Bryan invited the team in, and then closed the doors behind him. Inside was a smaller anvil and forge, upon which the priest hammered out three short notes. The anvil rose from the glowing coals of the forge, revealing a hollow beneath the anvil.
The bloodstone of the clan had been hidden there, and so Father Bryan believed that someone from within the clan had stolen the stone. Only a double handful of dwarves in all the mountain had known where the bloodstone was.
Father Bryan placed the bloodstone back into the hollow – and the hairs caught fire and began to burn. Greff caught the old dwarf as he fell in shock, and helped the Stonegrudge to a nearby stone bench. The bloodstone was the real stone, for Galgiran had not shattered it – but the hairs, the very reason the bloodstones were so highly guarded from mages, were fakes. The hairs had already been taken.
It made no sense to the team, though. The bloodstone with its fake hairs had been found down on the Janis Plains, hundreds of miles away. Orven Lightforger had been sent to find it, and when he failed to report back, the Deep Dwarves of Brachneb, Keepers of the Old Ways, sent Corrin to find the bloodstone for Father Bryan.
Father Bryan, gathering his strength, told the team to remain. He said he would be back shortly, for there was something he had to ask of Galgiran himself.
The team was left inside the vestibule for only minutes, before other dwarves opened it. Some of them were those that had been with Father Malachite, but their leader was someone else. Speaking only in the dwarven tongue, the leader introduced himself as Chert Stonehand, and asked the team why Father Bryan had left in such a state.
Arkhan, having already placed himself strategically before the alter, blocked Chert and the other dwarves' view of the anvil with its barren bloodstone.
Chert and his fellows quietly took seats in the vestibule, and waited patiently. Chert continually stroked his beard, chanting the lines of the Stone Codex silently to himself in the dwarven tongue. The rest of Chert's entourage, including some heavily armed and armored dwarves, simply sat in the pews of the vestibule and waited patiently.
Father Bryan returned with two of his underlings. The ArchBishop seemed not-at-all surprised by the other dwarves in the vestibule. He held a massive tome nearly a foot and a half thick, and let his underlings close the doors.
Father Bryan said he was about to ask Galgiran for a direct answer, and the voice of the Soul Forger was not kind to some ears. He implied that those with less than absolute faith in Galgiran might never hear again.
Chert and the others, as well as Aeron and Greff and Arkhan, chose to wait outside the vestibule – more out of respect than due to any lack of faith. Greff, thinking of ale, returned to his cell to drink.
Corrin had palmed the naked bloodstone when no one was looking, while Arkhan had prevented the others from seeing that the bloodstone had been naked. Once Chert and the others left, Corrin returned the bloodstone to Father Bryan, who returned it to the anvil.
With the underlings assisting, Father Bryan Stonegrudge began the hour-long prayer that would garner the attention of the Soul Forger, and reward them with his voice.
Outside in the temple, the others waited. Dwarves in the back of the temple began to clamor and exclaim and point, and it drew the attention of the three ME operatives. The footsteps of Galgiran were beginning to light up, as though the Soul Forger himself were striding towards the forge.
When all of the steps had lit up, the mountain's heartbeat quivered in the presence of a god.
Father Bryan asked the Soul Forger what would happen to the clan without its bloodstone restored. Galgiran said into the small room that the clan was doomed. Blanching, Father Bryan asked who possessed the beard hairs of the Rakanus Clan bloodstone. The Soul Forger answered such that the mountain trembled, but the answer was only heard in the vestibule. “Chert Stonehand.”
The presence of Galgiran withdrew, and the light of the footsteps began to fade. The mighty anvil of the forge had become luminescent with heat, to the point that the beard hair of Galigran had become visible within it. It, too, began to cool back to its normal colors.
Father Bryan opened the vestibule doors. To Corrin, he said quietly but forcefully, “Get him.”
The Cardinal of Galgiran for all Rakore then drew the attention of all the temple's patrons, more of whom filled the pews with each passing moment, word of mouth spreading among all the mountain's dwarves.
Father Bryan carefully did not say Chert's name, gathering the attention and eyes of all present, telling them that the clans were doomed by a betrayer. The cardinal quickly reminded them of the Betrayer of the King during the War of the Four Winds, how Duke Herod Notimeh, right hand man to the king of the land, had set the war in motion and nearly killed the king.
By that time, Corrin had maneuvered herself to be right behind Chert, while Arkhan and Aeron maneuvered into position nearby. Greff, having followed the other dwarves' excitement, arrived in the back of the temple in time to see Father Bryan simply stare at the one that had betrayed them all.
He never said Chert's name, but all the dwarves in the temple followed that stare to Chert, who placed his arms in the air in surrender.
Morning of the 16th of Trilan, 1332 Avard.
Sommer made some pretty good chicken spaghetti, and we ate well. The night went well, and we had a good time. I had plenty of prep work in the politics of things, and had a clue where the players were going, so I think we did well. I know this is the second session in a row with no combat, and I hope they'll forgive me for that. Perhaps once they get back out of the mountain and are out of civilized lands, there will be some butt whoopins.
All characters have 35,000XP, and are 12th-level.
It was definitely interesting to see a different facet of the world. The society of the dwarves, at least those in particular, is pretty different than the other peoples that make up Rakore. I enjoyed it, now let's beat a confession out of that guy and see if Malachite is actually behind it all!