Jul 212012
 

Kurin (to Kur): No tone huh? Hey, you can count right? Try this…

One-Two-Three-Four-Five…
One-Two-Three…
One-Two…
One-Two-Three-Four-Five…
One-Two-Three…
One-Two…

Got it? Now clap…
Clap-Clap-Clap-Clap-Clap…
Clap-Clap-Clap…
Clap Clap…

OOC: Once Kur gets it. Kurin says…

Kurin: OK, keep going. Don’t stop!

OOC: Kurin follows Kur’s beat with this pattern…
———————————
clap-stomp-clap-stomp-snap
clap-snap-clap
snap-stomp

And repeats with each verse
—————————
clap-stomp-clap-stomp-snap
clap-snap-clap
snap-stomp

Kurin: {chants in a monotone to the beat}:

Mist rise fore the sun
dew wet ground
We wake!
Lark chant in the mead
wind bend grass
We sing!
Cart bump on a rock
wheel roll round
We move!
Smoke drift on the breeze
fire burn stick
We work!
Owl hoot in the wood
cloud pass moon
We dream!
Wave push drift and sand
wind blow sea
We trade!
Deer leap high and far
hoof kick dust
We hunt!
Creek flow swift and fast
sun melt snow
We dance!
Wing beat through the sky
white goose fly
We follow!

Kurin: That’s one I learned with my family. We’re Miri Azan, you know, tinkers, I was born to tall people.
Here’s one from my family at Green Mountain.
These are the Common verses, the Dwarvish version is much richer, and has a lot more verses…

Thump… {stomps foot}
badger grunt
Tik-tik-tik… {raps a spoon on his beer mug}
marmot cry
Tep-tep… {taps knuckle on wood table}
rabbit thump
Hey-Oohh!… {sings out}
nanny bleats

Kurin: We keep rabbits and marmots in the mine you know, they’re good at knowing when a shaft is unstable, and smarter than sparrows, they warn us before any bad air kills them. But I guess you must have critters too. We use nanny and billy goats to pull carts in the mines. During weaning the milkers make a lot of noise calling their kids.
Now you do the beat. Remember one stomp, three spoons, two taps, one Hey-Oohh! Pause between for my chant.

Thump…
hammer pound
Tik-tik-tik…
anvil ring
Tep-Tep…
shovel dig
Hey-Oohh!…
bellows blow

Thump…
papa drum
Tik-tik-tik…
baby cry
Tep-tep…
mama chant
Hey-Oohh!…
children sing

Thump…
boulder drop
Tik-tik-tik…
water drip
Tep-tep
pebble roll
Hey-Oohh!…
quiet fall

Kurin: Here’s one I got from Inel, my dwarf mom.

Clap! {claps hands}
set the brace
Tek! {taps knuckle on table}
shovel coal
Whoof! {blows air from mouth}
bellows blow
Thump! {stomps foot}
rabbit watch
Wheeee! {whistles}
marmot sing
Pep! {Pops finger in mouth!}
water drip
T-h-r-r-r-r {rolls tongue}
pebble roll!
Clap! {claps hands}
hammer drop

Drop… {Clap}
Catch the Hammer… {Clap-Clap-Clap}
Hammer Drop… {silent}

Kurin: The dwarvish version rhymes much better. Funny thing is, I’d heard the pattern before. This is the way my tall uncle Hynard taught me…

Clap! {claps hands}
salmon leap
Tek! {taps knuckle on table}
acorn drop
Whoof! {blows air from mouth}
thistle down
Thump! {stomps foot}
rabbit hop
Wheeee! {whistles}
kettle sing
Pep! {Pops finger in mouth!}
bubble pop
T-h-r-r-r-r {rolls tongue}
water fall
Clap! {claps hands}
dancer stop

Stop… {Clap}
Catch the Dancer… {Clap, Clap, Clap}
Dancer Stop… {silent}

Kurin: Maybe you could try a chant with your people sometime? Might work like a song?

{Kurin starts humming, his voice fading as the beer takes hold}

Pump the bellows,
Pump the bellows,
Push the deeping mountain breeze
Beans for breakfast
Beans for supper
Beans for dinner if you please

Beans for breakfast
Turn the bore
Pump those bellows
Dig that ore
What are all those good beans for?
Blasting through a bedrock core.

{Chorus}

Beans for supper
Blow the air
Light a fire
Don’t you dare
If you light it
You beware
Mountain miners should take care

{Chorus}

Beans for dinner
Working late
Just how many
beans I ate?
Keeps me strong and workin great
Tummy grumbles
What a fate…

 Posted by at 10:22 am
Jul 092012
 

OOC: Kurin is sitting at a table pondering the sub-level map. His focus is intense, but weariness is causing his eyelids to droop. His mind wanders back to the prophetic dream of the other night. Dwarves, in nice armor, around a mandala… what for? Probably Vasaduhlk, but so what..? so what..? …uh… SO WHAT?!?

Kurin’s chair falls backwards with Kurin in it, his arms wheeling! CRRAAASSSSHHH!!!!!!

Kurin: VASADUHLK! Those were VASADUHLK! I’ve been looking for them half my life! And now I know where to find them! What have I been doing these past two weeks!?!

OOC: Now it occurs to Kurin that a group of dwarves, knowledgable in magic, skilled in forge and battle, and knowing how the Mandalas work were in his vision. Did they send it to him? Do they need his help? We need to go back to Green Mountain!

 Posted by at 10:12 pm
Jul 072012
 

Kurin-Dan

Name: Kurin Zeri Thenis / Dan Level: 5 Lev Exp Skill Exp
152 25
Skill Luck: 10
STR 1
CON 2 Pers. Luck: 3
AGL 2
MND 3 Age: 20
Special Exp (2x) Level Bday 16-Oct
Earth Meld 120 3
MND based skills Exp Level Dice
Mining 100 4 7
Read/Write (Dwarvish) 150 5 8
Read/Write (Voneer) 60 3 6
Sailing 4 0
Pain Control 10D
Melee Weapons/STR Chart
AGL based skills Exp Level Dice (damage points added on combat success)
Med. Blunt 100 4 6 Weapon Range Speed STR
Armorer 100 4 6 1
Blacksmith 100 4 6 None 0-1 0 0
Weaponsmith 100 4 6 Small 0-1 -1 6
Fire starting 100 4 6 Medium 1-2 -4 8(-1D)
Snares/Traps 30 2 4 Large (2H) 1-3 -8 10(-2D)
Missiles, Sht, Shp 4 0 (-#D ) = Attack dice reduction
2H used 1H reduces STR by 2.
Mana
Earth Sphere 100 4
Mana cost Time Target Exp Level Dice
Det Sphere Magic 1 M 30 30 2 5
Read Sphere Magic 1 H 30 30 2 5
Sanct from Creat Earth 1 R 10 60 3 6
Knock 1 R 20 30 2 5
Trip 1 R 30 2 5
Enlarge 1 R 30 2 5
Mana
Fire Sphere 100 4
Mana cost Time Target Exp Level Dice
Det Sphere Magic 1 M 30 30 2 5
Read Sphere Magic 1 H 30 30 2 5
Affect Normal Fires 1 R 30 30 2 5
Dancing Lights 1 R 30 2 5
Resist Heat 1 R 20 30 2 5
Light/Darkness 1 R 30 2 5
Burning Hands 1 R 10 60 3 6
 Posted by at 6:47 am
May 072010
 

I am recording these moments in my diary to help collect my thoughts. And to preserve our discoveries for those who may carry on our quest in the event of our deaths. Please, if you find my notes, make every effort to prevent this disaster.

If, on the other hand, you are the fools responsible for the failure of our errand. May your ancestors haunt your dreams, May the water wear you away, May the wind cut to your heart, May the fire burn your bread and hand, and May the earth close up your grave. Until you see the error of your ways.

The following notes describe the remarkable events that befell us these last weeks.
– We were staying with Oc’s uncle in the capital city Voneer. On the way to the city gates to renew our visitor’s pass, we were attacked by a group of local thugs, whom we soundly thrashed as the players learned how to use their dice. Then during an interrogation of two injured miscreants, we found they had been persuaded by an agent of Oc’s brother to attack us. The whole event was a plot to get us to stretch out our necks and visit “The Drunken Unicorn”. Quick thinking on Oc and Da’s part persuaded us to avoid this scenario, and get ourselves registered at the city gates, the original purpose of our outing.
– On the way to the gates, Tiboh transformed into an owl to scout the way for us. Nothing transpired. At the city gates we encountered a brother dwarf from the Mountain tribe. Kur, as this exceptional person was known, was an agent of the king of the mountain dwarves. Exceptional in that he was regarded as insane by his tribe, a solo traveller from an insular people, who were never apart from their own kind. And a person in the royal line of succession.
– Kur, was relieved to see a fellow dwarf. And we quickly persuaded him to return with us to Oc’s uncle’s home. We retrieved little information from him on the way, but as we spoke to him of his travels during dinner, he opened up and told us of his quest to Centaur Isle.
– Kur was concerned about the activities of an evil wizard. The wizard Pol was near the end of his natural life and attempting to gain immortality through a complex and unnatural plot. This plot was due to culminate in one year.
– The plot involved one tribe of orcs [also known as the people of the oak or PotOs for short] that sought dominance over all orc kind. These orcs were pawns to the wizard, clearly to be discarded when he no longer found them useful.
– Also, involved in the plot, a floating island that was leaping and drifting inland toward his citadel. This island was to be offered as payment to a tribe of dragons who held some secret to the wizard’s quest for immortality. [Was it to be transformed into a dragon?]
– Finally, the wizard was searching for three segments of an artifact of the orc god Grumssh. One of which we currently held. The wizard held one segment. One of the other segments was lost in the bay of Voneer, where the wizard’s minions were ceaselessly searching. So far, they had no success. In part due to the resistance of an unknown undersea people.
– The centaurs of their namesake island held a vast library where information could be found on the powers of this artifact and the wizard’s plot. Kur also told us how another group of adventurers was battling the wizard as well. And of the two citadels in opposite parts of the continent between which the wizard frequently travelled.
– Impressed by Kur’s story we offered to join him on his journey, and he gratefully accepted. The next day Oc’s uncle sent out servants to prepare a boat for the 2-month voyage. Our hope was to find a faster route home through the portals that linked disparate locations in our world.
– That evening our party each left the house in a secret and quiet manner. Tiboh flew as an owl. Da merged into my flesh to travel with me through the earth [an eerie sensation]. And Oc spider-climbed over the wall and stealthily slipped through the city streets. We left the port and harbor without incident or remark.
– Following our long voyage we arrived at Centaur Island. There we persuaded the centaurs to help us in our research. We soon learned that each segment of the artifact held a distinct power operated by a key word. Our segment could allow an orc to switch places with any other orc they had once physically contacted. Another segment could shoot streams of blood and flame. The third [I don’t recall this one at the moment]. When combined these three segments would enhance each other’s power. Our segment would grant additional powers of movement to vast groups of orcs. The second would generate even greater and more devastating streams of blood and fire. The third would [not sure]. And lastly together they would grant command of the people of the oak (the orcs). [I am not sure what else may have happened at the island. It would be nice to roleplay some of it to get more details or potential help]
– Following our research, the centaurs aided us further by finding us a portal that brought us near the city of Voneer. So our return journey took only two weeks. [I think] we returned to Oc’s uncle’s house to report on what we learned. We have yet to decide on our next course of action.

 Posted by at 12:00 am
Jan 012007
 

You are just like a Vasaduhlk” — Quote by an elder of the Green Mountain collective.

The Miri Azan Creation Story

The Miri Azan believe that, in the dawn of time, before birth and before death, an elemental war was waged between the Os Kurm (people of earth), the Os Ehnehb (people of wind), and the Os Zepihm (people of fire). The war ravaged the world so that none could thrive. Seeing this, the Os Vonsa (people of the stars) sent a peace delegation in a great ship that carried with it the Os Talqa (people of water). This ship crashed amidst the chaos of the elemental war and the delegation was stranded, forced to engage in the great battle with the other peoples. However, as the Os Talqa joined the battle, a new shape began to form amidst the disorder.

The new and inexperienced army of Os Talqa was swiftly pursued by Os Ehnehb into the waiting jaws of a trap set by Os Kurm. Somehow, however, Os Talqa penetrated the defenses of Os Kurm, and mixed with them so thoroughly that they could not distinguish their peoples from each other. Os Ehnehb was confronted with an army twice as large as they expected to meet, and were forced to retreat. During their retreat, Os Ehneb met Os Zepihm who had been hoping to ambush the exhausted victors of what they expected to be a devastating battle. Os Ehnehb sent an emissary who frightened the Os Zepihm with a tale of the new great army formed by the alliance of Os Talqa and Os Kurm. Os Zepihm offered to join with Os Ehnehb in order to counter this new threat. They merged their armies and began a great charge towards the massed forces of Os Talqa and Os Kurm, who had now formed ranks together. The two great armies of the four peoples met in a spectacular clash that almost rent the world asunder. After that initial shock, however, the armies were so mixed that the peoples could find neither their enemies nor their friends. And for the first time, the fallen on the field of battle did not rise again to join their ranks. The peoples panicked and fled toward their homelands. As the peoples pulled apart, however, running to the four corners of the world, a mysterious force fought to hold them together. From the center of the world, where the fallen lay, something strange was forming. The bodies of the fallen were merging into a great sphere, with countless invisible strings attached to all the peoples pulling them towards the center. The Os Kurm, Os Ehnehb, Os Zepihm, and Os Talqa were all greatly frightened, and fought harder to escape the pull of the center sphere. Some managed to pull themselves far enough to reach their homelands, but many more were drawn into the sphere. As this struggle ensued, the Os Vonsa arrived, and with the oars of their great ships began to pull the struggling survivors out from the growing mass. However, the people that came out of the great sphere could not be recognized as Os Kurm, Os Ehnehb, Os Zepihm, or Os Talqa. Some bore traits of one people more than the others. Others were so mixed that they could only be called Os Ce (New People).

The Os Ce spread across the surface of the great sphere forming many clans. Among these were the Azan, who were pulled from the mixed people of Os Kurm and Os Talqa by the frenzy of Os Ehnehb and Os Zepihm. They brought with them the skills of all the peoples, but they refused to be held closely by the bonds of the sphere. They drifted far and wide, never staying long in any place, knowing that if they did, they would be overwhelmed by the pull of the sphere and be drawn into it upon their death, never to see the light of Os Vonsa again. From generation to generation this tradition has been handed down, and now the Miri Azan continue the practice of never remaining in one place long enough to allow the pull of the sphere to draw them into the depths below.

 

The Miri Azan

The Miri Azan, or tinkers, are this land’s rough equivalent of the gypsies. As a group, they have developed a cultural tradition as tinkers, herbalists, farriers, and livestock traders, which allows them to make a humble living on the outskirts of society.

The Miri Azan have a longstanding tradition of adopting abandoned children in their travels. Their philosophy is that if we all come from the elements of earth, air, fire, and water, then we are all the same people and should be treated as family. Thus, a great diversity of children have found their way into the Miri Azan clans, and a general acceptance of differences is the norm. Due to occasional misunderstandings, and conflicts with families who recognized their lost relatives children being raised in a Miri Azan camp, the Miri Azan have developed a reputation as crib robbers, and are frequently shunned by townsfolk.

The Miri Azan social and organizational structure is based on the clan unit. The Miri Azan consists of several clans. Each clan is family based and is predominantly an extended family unit. Typically, a caravan of tinkers consists of only one clan, though occasionally clans will band together to form larger caravans. Although the hierarchy of the tinkers is not especially strict, and youth are encouraged to explore their freedom, the clan Elders are given the highest status. The status of Elder is conferred to those who show great wisdom and/or experience in a clan. Thus, though most of the Elders are old, having age is not a prerequisite to be an Elder. Each clan is led by their Elders, one of whom is elected to be the Wagonmaster, who directs the operation and repair of the caravans. Another clan Elder is elected to the position of Craftsmaster, directing the trade of goods, and a third to the post of Beastsmaster, directing the care of animals. This triumvirate holds no more power in meetings of the clan Elders than any other Elders, however, they direct most of the daily operations of the clan. No single person can hold more than one post. The clan elders can vote to remove any one person from a position they hold at any time. Likewise, a person can be appointed to any of these three positions at any time. Women and men alike hold these appointments. Once a person attains appointment as a clan Elder, that post is permanent. In cases where a clan Elder loses the respect of their clan, they may be subjected to a ritual of ridicule. Afterwards, publicly, their position may be lower, depending on how much support they are able to retain. However, they are still able to attend and vote in the clan Elder meetings.

Tinkers are forbidden to marry within their clan, thus every year a great festival is held where dances, music, trade, exchange of news, and marriages take place. The clan meet typically takes place over the winter months, when travel becomes difficult. The rest of the year, the caravans are mostly independent, though they share information about where they plan to travel during the year, and at what times to avoid competition with other caravans. Tinker caravans regularly trade territory with other clans to avoid becoming to attached to any piece of land, thus, few towns will see the same caravan return within a period of five years. Not all clans are able to attend the festival every year. However, each clan will always send a representative to festival each year to ensure they keep in communication and maintain ties with the other groups. The location of the festival changes every year, keeping in practice with the Miri Azan belief system. The site of the next festival is decided by the elders through a vote at the conclusion of the current year’s event.

Tinker clans typically teach the practice of non-violence and sufferance. This eases their relationships with townfolk, who distrust their nomadic ways. However, this does not mean that the Miri Azan are completely non-violent. Most caravans keep a small supply of effective hunting weaponry, mostly bows or spears, which they use also for their defense. Knives are common as a tool, but many know how to put them to use in combat. They are also very skilled in the use of whips and crops, as these are very helpful in handling their stubborn, thick-hided oxen.

 

Kurin Zeri Thenis

Kurin was born to Amlin Zeri and Ysra Thenis of the Miri Azan (literally “Cloud children”), a clan of tinkers who travel throughout the land plying their trade from village to village. The Miri Azan are similar to nomadic peoples in other lands in that they are always on the move, seldom remaining in one place for more than a few months. Why they do this is a mystery of outsiders, who simply attribute the custom to a basic dishonesty and desire to cheat or steal from the towns they pass. While this is occasionally true of some less reputable nomads, the custom in this case actually stems from the Miri Azan creation story (see above).

Kurin was therefore raised in an accepting household by parents who were thrilled to have a “born” smith for a son. Fortunately for Kurin, he turned out to have an aptitude and interest in smithing, so he spent his early childhood working at and around his parents’ forge. When Kurin was 11 years old, his parents adopted two children who had been abandoned on the road near Gondello (the ore town), a sister and brother named Hala and Michin, ages 12 and 11 respectively. Hala and Michin had been raised in a town that despised non-humans and took an instant dislike to Kurin. The two harassed Kurin mercilessly when the adults were not around, and used their larger size to advantage in bullying him. (Kurin would not hit his growth spurt until 14, the age at which dwarves become adolescent. Hala and Michin on the other hand were both large for their age.) Kurin had been taught the Miri Azan practice of non-violence and sufferance, so for two years, he put up with these minor abuses, until one day Clan Elder Brita spotted Michin hanging Kurin over a stream by his ankles while Hala whipped his legs with a switch from a barbed pine. The Elder seized the two miscreants and hauled them off for a week of backbreaking camp maintenance, wheel repair, soap making, and forge stoking. At the end of which, they were both forced to apologize to Kurin with foreheads in the dust. Kurin accepted their apology, and, as was the tradition, placed his foot on each of their heads once, and, along with the rest of the clan, stated that the incident was forgotten. The humiliation ritual was too much for Hala and Michin, however, and they vowed they would get revenge on the clan and especially Kurin for his part in their punishment.

Two months later the opportunity arrived. The caravan arrived at the town of Bistro, a community where signs were posted denying tinkers and non-humans access. The caravan nevertheless set up their wares outside the fringes of the community, as no town ever refused opportunity to acquire goods or services from outside. There Hala and Michin decided they were ready to put a plan into action. The second night, after the clan had established their camp in the forest outside the village, and completed one successful day of trade with the distrustful villagers. Hala stole Kurin’s favorite hat, a flamboyantly embroidered toque (similar to a chef’s hat) that he had worn during the day of trade on the borders of town. She and her brother snuck into town past the sentries, and made their way to the corral. There, they set fire to a hay-shed, and in the ensuing disorder of the panicking herd of goats and cattle, rode off on the mayor’s prized mule, leaving Kurin’s toque in the corral.

The villagers were furious, and following the commotion, formed a mob. Waving, Kurin’s trampled hat at the end of a pitchfork, they stormed out of the town to set fire to the tinker caravan. Fortunately the tinkers saw them coming and were able to flee into the forest, but the caravan was burned to the ground, and all their livestock stolen. After several tense days of hiding, the tinkers were eventually able to make their way to the next settlement, Vopank, where they knew another caravan of Miri Azan to be trading that fall. There they learned that a messenger from Bistro had arrived and declared that the tinkers would be killed if they returned to the area. The residents of Vopank demanded the culprits be handed over so that friendly trade with Bistro could resume. The tinkers were suspicious of Hala and Michin’s disappearance after the crime, and Kurin’s uncle Hynard and cousin Leitha had been with him while the crime occurred, so he had witnesses for his alibi. However, though the tinkers believed Kurin had no part in the crime, they were forced to ask him to leave if their livelihood in the region was to continue. Kurin packed his few belongings and tools that night, and left to find his own way in the world.

Kurin moved north that night while the remnants of the caravan continued east. He had learned from Elder Sonnitch of a colony of dwarves at Green Mountain, two weeks travel North, into the realm of orcish territory. For the first two days he moved swiftly away from the vicinity of Bistro, but knowing that his supplies were short he soon sought a settlement where he might be able to use his skills as a smith to earn some food. It took him two more days to reach the small community of Weiburt’s Field. There he convinced a bachelor farmer, Esber Gladstun, to allow him to fix a fry pan, a leaky pail, and three dented milk jugs in exchange for some grain, cheese, and dried apples. In addition, he helped around the farm for a few days while he gathered information about the journey to the north. Esber had never heard of Green Mountain, but he gave some good information about the settlements in Kurin’s path. Kurin continued in this manner for five weeks, performing chores and mending wares at small farms along his way, until one day he chanced upon the farm of a dwarven family, the Goodadzes. Milo Goodadze, the great-grandfather, had been raised at Green Mountain, and drew Kurin a map with his shaky hand indicating the route to take. Kurin thanked Milo and his family profusely, and set out again the morning after with renewed vigor.

Unfortunately for Kurin, Milo Goodadze was slightly senile, and his map contained features that only existed in Milo’s one adventure west to the settlement of Roaston, and completely lacked information about the deep canyons of the raging Eskil river, or the deeper, darker forests past the Eskil. It took Kurin two weeks to find a route across the Eskil, and three more weeks to make his way through the pathless forest, where he found himself lost, near starvation, freezing cold, and hunted by wolves. At the end of one especially grim pursuit, Kurin spent two days without water up an oak tree waiting for a howling pack to let him go. Finally he was rescued by a party of dwarven hunters led by Ogarth Alebarrel. Ogarth’s party drove off the wolves with their crossbows, managing to take a pair of pelts in the process, and guffawed as Kurin slowly made his way down from the bows of the tree. Greatly humbled, Kurin thanked Ogarth and his party for rescuing him, before finally passing out from exhaustion, thirst, and hunger.

He woke minutes later to a great splash of water as Ogarth emptied his cookpot over his head. Ogarth set him next to a large campfire, gave him some water and food, and, when he was able to speak again, made Kurin relate the entire tale of his journey from the night the caravan burned. Pleased by the tale of his adventures, and thrilled by the fact that Kurin had met his 2nd cousin thrice removed, Milo Goodadze, Ogarth gladly told Kurin that he was only two days journey from Green Mountain, from where his hunting party had originated the week before. Kurin gratefully accepted Ogarth’s offer to accompany them, and soon found himself putting his exhausted body to a quick march as the party immediately set out to return.

Kurin would have passed out again soon after, except for the presence of “Dog”, a huge canine that bore a resemblance so close to a wolf that Kurin at first thought the pack had come back for their feast after their route. To the laughter of the hunters, Dog followed Kurin very closely, and through the intense focus that comes only with extreme fear Kurin managed not only to keep pace with the hunters, but soon found himself leading the party. Finally, Kurin collapsed, exhausted and unable to take another step. Dog lunged forward, but to Kurin’s great surprise, he did not feel sharp teeth embed in his throat. Rather, a great sloppy tongue bathed the back of his neck and ears. Turning around agape, he got another great doggy-kiss right in the mouth. Coughing and gagging, to the roaring delight of Ogarth and the others, Kurin soon learned that Dog was a hybrid that Ogarth had picked up in the woods as a pup the year before. His appearance was fierce, but his personality was tuned more closely to that of a shepherd. Dog had been herding Kurin specifically because he was exhausted, just as a sheepdog would have pushed a tired sheep to the corral. Taking stock of the situation, Kurin realized he had already made his first stalwart friend in his new life. For the rest of that afternoon and the following day of the journey to Green Mountain, Kurin leaned against Dog’s broad back as he walked.

Green Mountain was the tallest peak in the forests past the Eskil. The colony which bore it’s name consisted of a small village of 14 residences in a cleft on the mountainside with another 30 or so families living on the outskirts of town. Green Mountain’s chief commodity was copper, although the primary mine shaft, which was situated right in the center of the town’s main square, also passed a fair amount of iron and tin. The mine was co-managed by the Nineaxe and Weldcutter families who took the greatest share of the profit. It was partially due to this mine that the orcs allowed the existence of the Green Mountain in their tribal territory. The dwarves of Green Mountain paid a monthly tithe of copper to the orc tribes for their forbearance of the settlement on their land. The other reason stood at the peak of Green Mountain. There, where the trees began to thin, rose a single monolith, known as Gyr Rock. The formation was said to have held special importance for the orcs, who regarded it as a place of truce. The dwarves were allowed to remain at Green Mountain largely because of the treaty negotiated with the orcish tribes at Gyr Rock.

Ogarth brought Kurin to his household in town where he worked as a foreman in the smithy. His wife Inel Nineaxe Alebarrel, the chief forewoman, who also managed the family accounts, immediately took Ogarth to task with a verbal lashing that left genuine red streaks running across his face, first for bringing an extra mouth to feed during mid-winter rationing, and next for his coarse treatment of the helpless little boy-child. Kurin was immediately subjected to his first Dwarvish motherly bearhug. As his ribs popped and creaked, he struggled for the breath to squeak out that he wanted to earn his keep. Inel immediately turned to business and set Kurin to mending a warped chain from a minecar. At the forge, Inel’s motherly attitude evaporated like mist, she sharply criticized his tong-work and called his hammering bug-slapping. Ogarth stepped up to mention that his shaping wasn’t too far off, but promptly dropped down again when Inel affixed him with a gaze that made two journeyman smiths drop their tools and duck under the table from the peripheral blaze. When her scrutiny returned to Kurin he shakily presented her with the reshaped link. With a sharp eye, she growled that she doubted it would hold a loaded mine car for a full two seconds, but it would make a fair replacement for an ox-team’s hitch. With a slap on the shoulder that bowled Kurin into a pile of pokers, Inel announced that Kurin could stay on at the smithy.

Kurin worked harder that winter than ever before in his life. His apprenticeship, under the watchful guidance of Ogarth and the occasional flame of Inel’s attention led him to understand more deeply the refinement of truly great smithing. Kurin was also introduced to the beauty of the mines, seeing for the first time the raw veins of ore as they glinted in torchlight. In addition, Kurin found a second family in the Alebarrels. He stayed in their home, ate his meals with them, and played with their five young children, whom he soon came to consider as his little cousins.

As spring approached, and the season shifted towards summer, Kurin started to grow his first beard and soon put on several stone and three inches in height. By mid-summer he was finally achieving the heft of arm that would allow him to forge a minecar chain to Inel’s satisfaction. However, though Kurin was happy with his work, he began to feel the walls of the smithy close in about him. The drift of clouds in the sky pulled his attention away from his work so that Inel more than once had to tan his hide with a verbal lashing. Seeking to keep him focused, she assigned him to longer shifts in the mine. Though the mine did not bother Kurin, he soon found himself exploring through the forest in his offtime, until he had traversed as much of the Green Mountain territory as he could without treading into orcish lands. His behavior baffled the other dwarves who seemed to think his wanderlust unnatural. After all, where else could one want to go when the ale was rich and the veins glinted so brightly. Finally, Inel got word of Kurin’s mania and went to go see what the problem was. In her offtime, she always reverted to her motherly attitude, and soon managed to get the taciturn adolescent to speak of what was going through his head. Kurin told her about the traditions of the Miri Azan, and explained how despite his great appreciation of her family’s generosity and his love of the mine and the smithy, he felt an overpowering urge to move on. Bewildered by this idea, but wanting Kurin to be happy, Inel assigned him the duty of mine-ambassador, an onerous duty for most dwarves, who tend to root themselves in one place, but a natural fit for Kurin.

Kurin left a week later, accompanied by Ogarth, who grumbled about babysitting a runaway, and Dog, who had undergone a growth spurt of his own and also seemed to enjoy the opportunity to get out. Over the next few months, Ogarth led Kurin to a number of small dwarvish settlements in the surrounding country. At each homestead, they met with the dwarven families to negotiate trade, set prices for commodities, and arrange for attendance at the annual winter gathering at Green Mountain. Every settlement had some sort of smithy, and Kurin spent some time in each one, exchanging knowledge and building his skills with new techniques. Finally, in late fall, their small party returned to Green Mountain, where they awaited the winter gather.

As the winter approached, representatives from dwarven families across the land arrived for the festivities and the ostensible goal of trade negotiations, though, as Kurin soon learned, what the meetings really amounted to was price fixing. It was this winter at which Kurin first witnessed dwarven magic. On the night of the solstice, Kurin woke restlessly, with an odd-feeling of a dream that still haunted him as he woke. He tossed restlessly in his bed, but finally rose, dressed, and went outside. Ignoring the latenight sounds of revelry in the village tavern, he made his way to the edge of town. Without conscious decision, he found his feet carrying him up the hill from the village, breaking a path through the heavy snow. After three hours of strenous climbing, he arrived at Gyr Rock. There, he came across a ritual led by Gyuther One-Eye, an aged mystic. Gyr rock towered ominously over the circle of dwarves, as Gyuther chanted steadily and slowly with a voice that resonated through stone. His followers, 12 in all, followed his chant with a deep, drone that picked up the vibration of Gyuther’s rhythm and made the rock at their feet seem to move like waves. Not understanding, but entranced by the ritual, Kurin approached the circle of chanters. The circle seemed to be lacking a body in the position to Gyuther’s left, and somehow, Kurin felt a pull that drew him into that place. As he took the position, an invisible shock ran through him and he suddenly found himself linked to the chanters. With a small part of his mind, Kurin now realized that he too was chanting. With another shock, a line of force ran through him and the circle and arched above them to form a dome. At the same time, Kurin felt the dome extend below the ground, forming a perfect sphere around the chanters. As Gyuther built the chant to a crescendo, in the center of the sphere the stone began to warp wildly as something twisted itself into shape. There in the midst of the chanters, an earth elemental formed itself out of the raw bedrock. As Kurin watched, frozen with excitement and forgetting all fear, the elemental shifted itself into a humanoid shape. It approached Gyuther, who intensified the chant again, and Kurin could now sense that somehow Gyuther was communicating with the being. The elemental shifted its crude hand, and something that sparkled rose from out of the stone at Gyuther’s feet. Gyuther abruptly shifted the pace and rhythm of the chant and a glow began to build around the elemental. The light grew brighter and brighter still until Kurin was forced to close his eyes against the glare. When he opened them again the elemental was gone. Suddenly the link that held the circle together dissipated and Kurin collapsed with exhaustion. When he regained awareness, Gyuther and all the chanters were gone, but, at his feet, Kurin found a single red gemstone, cut to perfection, and set in a formed indent in the stone as if the rock had been poured around it. As Kurin reached to touch it, the stone liquefied and the gem came loose in his hand leaving no imprint. A sudden image came into his mind of Gyuther’s name and the knowledge that the ritual he had participated in was sacred and not to be spoken of. He was to be held to a strict geis of silence on all that occurred this night on the honor of his tribe and family.

Stunned by these events, Kurin returned to the village by dawn, where Ogarth inquired as to his wherebouts the previous night. Absently, he mumbled that his travels had led him further than he expected. Ogarth took his introversion and distraction to mean that he had successfully made off with a jug of the tavern’s strongest spirits and belched him a congratulations over his morning mug.

Over the following weeks, Kurin discretely sought among the representatives for the aged mystic and his circle of followers. However, despite his efforts, he could find no trace of the members of that circle. Nor did any of his limited queries or repeated returns to the sight of the ritual result in any more information. Anticipating that an answer was coming, and fearing that breaking the geis would result in a loss of opportunity to learn about the magic, Kurin kept silent on all that had transpired during the solstice. As the winter snows began to melt and the reprentatives prepared to leave, Kurin’s anxiety built until he felt ready to burst.

At last, the time for the representatives to depart had arrived. Watching the crowd of ambassadors dispiritedly, Kurin felt his attention suddenly riveted. Through the activity, he briefly spied the face of one of the chanters in the circle, which instantly disappeared again into the bustle. Frantically, he pushed forward, searching through the crowd, but no sign could be found. Finally, he was resigned to believe he had imagined the whole incident.

That evening, however, Kurin found under his bedroll a small pouch which he did not recognize. Opening it, he was shocked to find two stones, one carved with a single eye, and the other with a hearth, the sigil of the Hearthstone clan. Recognizing the package for an invitation, Kurin’s heart leapt.

That evening, Kurin pondered how he was to tell Ogarth and Inel of his plan to find tutors in magic, when he could not speak of the true purpose for his journey. Inel also intended to graduate him out of apprenticeship and confer to him journeyman status. A position where he would have with greater responsibility at the forge and more opportunity to direct his own work. If he left to study magic, he would thereafter lose an excellent opportunity for improving his skills. Conflicted, but knowing he must go, he spent a sleepless night racking his brains for ideas.

The following morning, shadow-eyed, but ebullient, he surprised Ogarth and Inel with his new plan. He told them he intended to begin his journeyman status by actually journeying to other smithies around the country. In this manner, he could continue to act as a mine ambassador, and learn new techniques from smiths outside of Green Mountain. He would bring back knowledge, news, and trade details to the community, and return to Ogarth’s and Inel’s tutelage when his circuit was completed.

Upon hearing Kurin’s plan, Ogarth and Inel hesitated and turned towards each other, each giving the other a long look. The couple did this occasionally when serious subjects were broached, and it was far more unnerving than when they argued aloud. Now they were silent for several minutes, and Kurin stood in place nervously, chewing his beard as they faced each other. He knew he was breaching dwarven tradition. The title of “Journeyman” was actually a carryover of the common language word. The dwarvish dialect meaning did not actually imply any sort of journey beyond the educational. He knew they could barely understand his strange desire to go and see other places. Of a sudden, they turned from each other’s gaze and regarded him. Kurin nearly lost his composure, but managed to hold himself steady. Still his breath exploded in a relieved sigh when Inel announced that Kurin could go ahead with his plan. Ogarth chuckled amusedly as Inel immediately began to regale Kurin of all the dangers of the road, insisting he dress warmly, and carry plenty of clean undergarments, stopping to wash them fresh every day. She also insisted he take Dog with him as protection, which Kurin readily agreed to. Dog was now near the size of a pony, and had a keen nose and ears, and a good sense for avoiding orc patrols and wolf packs.

Kurin remained for another week, enough time to prepare for his journey and discretely learn about the towns where he could find the Hearthstone clan. When he left, Inel, Ogarth, and their family gathered together to say farewell. He allowed the tearful Inel to give him a spine-popping hug, clasped hands with Ogarth, and gave each of their five children a swing into the air before shouldering his pack and starting down the trail from the village, Dog cheerfully leading the way.

Kurin journeyed west, where most of the settlements with Hearthstone clan members lay. On his way, he visited every settlement along his route, human, hobbit, and dwarven, where he plied his skills as a smith, negotiated trade, and exchanged work for food and information on the whereabouts of the Hearthstone clan. Occasionally, he met Hearthstone clan members, but none were able to recognize his description of the circle member whom he witnessed among the ambassadors at Green Mountain.

Finally, however, after months of searching, with summer closing and the fall colors beginning to spread, Kurin met Teyanna Hearthstone, an armorsmith, in the settlement of Bundt’s Steading. On mention of the description of the circle member, Teyanna immediately grabbed Kurin by the arm and dragged him into the tool room of her smithy. There she revealed that she knew of the circle member, though she did not know who he was. She herself had once been drawn into a circle led by Gyuther One-Eye for a similar experience. She also had found a token of the one-eye sigil and a clan stone that led her eventually to a practicioner of the mystic arts. There she spent several months in apprenticeship, while her teacher, Lynus Greyhammer, who also had a similar experience, taught her the fundamentals of magic. From what she gathered from Lynus, the circle of Gyuther One-Eye seeks out those dwarves with great magic potential, and brings them into a network of dwarven mages, promptly vanishing after that initial contact. Rarely are they ever met again, but it is rumored that the circle of Gyuther One-Eye watches those whom they find and will strictly discipline those who fail in their geis by revealing the rituals of dwarven magic to outsiders.

That fall and winter, Kurin remained with Teyanna and her family, working in the smithy in exchange for lessons in armoring and magic. Knowing he could not complete his lessons before the winter closed the roads to travel, he resigned that he must. Kurin practiced the fundamentals of meditation and spell shaping, attaining the sphere of magic. The following spring, with the instructions on locating Lynus Greyhammer firmly planted in his head, Kurin set out to return to Green Mountain, determined to set out soon after to find his next instructor. After spending a two months getting reacquainted with his adopted dwarvish family, Kurin was once again on the road, headed southeast this time to the town of Gondello.

Lynus Greyhammer showed no surprise when Kurin arrived at his door in late spring, he merely handed Kurin a hammer and put him to work at his weapons forge. After a few weeks with barely a word, one day after forging Lynus brought Kurin to a hidden cave not far from town where he set himself down and began to meditate. Watching Lynus do this for a few minutes, Kurin decided that he had better follow what Lynus was doing. He set himself down and imitated his posture and breathing. After an hour of this, Lynus finally began to speak, he instructed Kurin on the basics of the sphere of earth. Every day, following hot hours on the forge, Lynus repeated this ritual, bringing Kurin out to the cave, starting with meditation, and then focusing on the fundamentals of earth magic. As fall closed in upon the land, Kurin took leave of Lynus Greyhammer bearing only the name of his next instructor. After spending the winter at Green Mountain, he again departed in early spring to find his instructor in the sphere of fire, Alis Wyrmspindle.

Alis Wyrmspindle dwelt as a hermitess in the forest far to the north of Green Mountain and deep into orc territory. Kurin traveled swiftly and silently through the deep woods, avoiding orc patrols with the aid of Dog’s keen ears and nose as he moved through their land. Finally, Kurin reached the canyon which held Alis’s hut. Alis had developed a humble trade in herbs and fungi with the orc tribes of the region and had come to be known as a respectable medicine woman. Orcish clans journeyed to her hut from far and wide to negotiate trade on what they considered to be neutral ground. Thus, when Kurin arrived on a trading day, Alis immediately put him to work digging a new well as she negotiated with the clans. The orc Maghur (chieftains) and Ylselt (chiefesses) were irritated that he had passed through their country without permission, and several tense moments ensued while they debated his appropriate punishment. Tongs and red fire ants were mentioned, but at the last, Alis convinced the tribal leaders to allow Kurin to remain as her apprentice in exchange for his providing smithwork. After long debate, they finally consented to these conditions, even complimenting Kurin’s companion, who clearly carried Warg blood in his veins.

For the rest of the summer, Kurin spent his days either mending and shaping tools, weapons, and armor for the orcs or chopping wood and fetching water for Alis’s garden. In the evenings, and well into the night, he meditated and developed the discipline of fire under Alis’s watchful tutelage. Every night he collapsed exhausted, only to wake up again at dawn to the rattling of pans and utensils as a new wave of orcs brought him their worn implements to mend. At the conclusion of summer, Kurin finally attained the sphere of fire. That evening Alis held a celebration, inviting tribes into her canyon where bonfires roared throughout the night. That evening, Kurin also observed an odd figure, whom he learned later was an orcish shaman. The small figure covered in sackcloth and draped with talismans approached Alis. Removing its distorted hand from its robe, it carefully laid a dried snake painted with strange designs at her feet. Alis bowed forward in respect, clapping her hands twice in ritualistic acceptance, and Kurin repeated her maneuver. Later, however, after the revelers dispersed the next morning, Kurin learned that the snake represented a warning that his time of truce and tolerance within this land was approaching its end. Thanking Alis profusely, he departed that same hour, again guided by Dog, but this time walking in the open and acknowledging the scattered patrols with a sign of treaty. Each patrol sent a scout to follow his progress, and by the time he reached the borders of the Green Mountain territory, a small army of observers watched him pass over the boundary. It was not until he reached Green Mountain that he realized Alis had neglected to provide him with a clue to his next instructor. Severely disappointed, but knowing that the way back was barred to him, he turned his back on the North and continued home.

Reaching Green Mountain in mid-fall, Kurin was pleased to see Ogarth, Inel, and their family again. Ogarth, however, held troublesome news. He informed Kurin that the elders of Green Mountain were not pleased with his foray into orc territory. Despite the treaty at Gyr Rock, border disputes and skirmishes between troublemakers on both sides had built tensions in recent years. He was called before the town’s council of elders and subjected to questioning. As the council members pried into his foray into the North, Kurin was forced to reveal, bit by bit, his many travels about the land, and slowly the council pried out of him that the trade of smithing was not the only purpose to his journeys. At the last, Kurin revealed that he had visited the hermit, Alis Wyrmspindle, for his education. He offered a viable explanation that she was teaching him crystal setting, but to his chagrin, a deep silence followed, unbroken until elder Shial Rockbreaker, the highly respected archivist, cleared her throat. “You are just like a Vasaduhlk”, she said. The silence continued, but Kurin heard an audible release of breath from Ogarth.

“What is a Vasaduhlk?” he asked.

“It’s nothing, ” Ogarth grunted, “just an old tale to frighten children into staying at home. The Vasaduhlk are witches and baby snatchers. They use magic to lure children away from their families in the deep of winter. The children never again return, becoming Vasaduhlk themselves, and thereafter wander the earth looking for more victims. These ‘respected’ knowledgables believe old Alis is a witch.”

“The Vasaduhlk are not just an old tale you fool,” rasped Shial. “They are an ancient clan, which fell into extinction in the troll wars of the old country, 700 years past. They were wiped out during the great storming of the Ulmith plains, when trolls were thick as forest and goblins covered the ground like blades of grass. They had no fortress to run for until the great charge subsided, and were pushed to the sea, where they drowned in the waves or were trampled beneath the boots of the horde. Yet they took with them many of the enemy, for despite their wandering ways, they forged great armor and weapons. And it was said by some they had those among them with powerful magic.”

“Then they were dwarven tinkers!” exclaimed Kurin. He suppressed vocalizing the rest of his thought, “And mages, like me!”

“They were not tinkers!” snorted Shial. “They were great craftspeople. And an odd sort on top of that. They never settled. Rumors of odd rituals. Unnatural. Probably best that they are gone now. The whole baby thieving business is just a myth.”

However, now Kurin was convinced that he had witnessed at least some branch of the Vasaduhlk that solstice two winters before. The circle of Gyuther One-Eye was connected to this people. Kurin waited out the remainder of the hearing, most of the elders of the collective now believed that his upbringing as a tinker had conferred him a mania for wandering, though he spotted some of them giving him a wary eye. Troubled by the reaction of these few, he felt determined to resume his journeys again soon. He also was now convinced that he had found a link between his origins as a tinker and a dwarvish lineage. He had to learn more about the Vasaduhlk.

Kurin soon departed again, leaving Dog with the Alebarrels as he now felt confidence in his ability to protect himself, and his long-time companion was reaching a maturity where his own wanderlust was replaced by an eagerness to establish his territory (the other town canines were terrorized for two months until Dog finally asserted his authority over the whole pack). For the next two years, Kurin made learning about the Vasaduhlk his new mission in life. He wandered the countryside, plying his trade as a smith and searching for sources of information. He visited Teyanna and Lynus again, but neither of them had ever heard of the extinct clan. Finally, from a merchant he met as he approached the city of Voneer, he learned of Ecol, a school in the southeast of the country, a place of knowledge where he hoped he might learn more of the Vasaduhlk. With renewed optimism, turning his steps to the {rising winter sun}[what cardinal direction the school is from Voneer], he set out on his way to Ecol.

 

Characters

Amlin Zeri and Ysra Thenis: Kurin’s mother and father respectively. Both are recognized as skilled smiths and crafters, and will likely compete for the title of Craftsmaster at some point. Kurin has not seen either of his parents since he departed the caravan at Vopank. He misses them greatly, but does not know where he will next reestablish contact. This does not trouble him greatly, however, as tinkers who leave their home caravans, whether for marriages, or other reasons, often do not see their families again for many years. “All rains flow to the sea”, is a saying that is part of an old Miri Azan tale. Its implication is that, though a person may travel far, they will always return to whence they came.

Hala and Michin: Kurin’s adopted sister and brother respectively, about Kurin’s age, who bullied him mercilessly in his childhood. Their bullying culminated in framing Kurin for burning down a barn and stealing a prize mule from the mayor of Bistro, a settlement of xenophobes. Kurin has vowed that he will bring these miscreants to justice if he is ever chances upon them again.

Clan Elder Brita: A clan elder of the Miri Azan from Kurin’s family caravan who rescued him from Hala and Michin’s bullying. Not directly related to Kurin.

Kurin’s uncle Hynard and cousin Leitha: Members of Kurin’s extended family.

Elder Sonnitch: A well-educated and highly respected member of Kurin’s family caravan. Able to read and write and holding great knowledge of the settlements in this land.

Esber Gladstun: A bachelor farmer from the town of Weiburt’s field.

Milo Goodadze: The respected great-grandfather of the Goodadze clan. Well-traveled and knowledgable, but somewhat senile. 2nd cousin thrice removed to Ogarth Alebarrel.

Ogarth Alebarrel: A jovial dwarf who enjoys hunting, mining, and smithing almost as much as his morning mug of ale. Patriarch of Kurin’s adopted dwarven family. He is well-respected in the community of Green Mountain for his skills as a hunter and a smith, but few take him too seriously as he is far too jovial for any decent dwarf.

Dog: A very large canine, who as a yearling pup already had the stature and appearance of an adult wolf. He has grown larger with his maturity and is now nearly the size of a pony. The orcs who trade with Alis Wyrmspindle indicated he probably has Warg blood in his veins, but his personality indicates it is probably mixed with sheepdog.

Inel Nineaxes Alebarrel: Chief forewoman for the smithy at Green Mountain. Wife of Ogarth Alebarrel and Matriarch of the family. She manages the family accounts. Beware her glare when she is in a bad temper. Beware her hug when she is in a good one. She keeps the over-jovial Ogarth under a strict eye. She bears lineage from both the Nineaxe and Weldcutter families, who established the mine at Green Mountain. She is highly respected in the community, and considered to be a dwarf of good sense, though a trifle frightening when she turns her glare on you.

Gyuther One-Eye: An aged and mysterious figure who directed the ritual which introduced Kurin to dwarvish magic. He and his circle disappeared immediately thereafter, leaving Kurin scant clues as to their origin or purpose. Kurin suspects they are members of a supposedly extinct clan of nomadic dwarves, the Vasaduhlk.

Teyanna Hearthstone: An armorsmith in Bundt’s Steading. Kurin’s first instructor in magic.

Lynus Greyhammer: A weaponsmith in Gondello. Kurin second instructor in magic.

Alis Wyrmspindle: A hermitess in the wilderness two weeks north of Green Mountain. Kurin’s third instructor in magic. She dwells deep in orc territory and has established a reputation as a skilled medicine woman with the clans of the region.

Maghur and Ylselt: Titles for leaders of orc clans in the vicinity of Alis Wyrmspindle’s hut. Male chieftains are referred to as Maghur and female chieftesses are referred to as Ylselt.

Elder Shial Rockbreaker: A scholar and Elder of the Green Mountain settlement. She is respected for her comprehensive knowledge of dwarvish history. It was her description of the Vasaduhlk which sparked Kurin’s current quest.

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