Dwarves in Eden – Into the Ziggurat

After a number of weeks of scheduling problems (holidays always tend to present this problem), finally enough of us were able meet up to play some Burning Wheel. Not all was lost as we broke out some old-school Heroquest one week, which was pretty fantastic. On to the game! The game picks up directly after the last session just after the crazed Urgo runs off into the forest.

The Stairs

Unable to sleep and knowing he can do nothing for Halel, Kardin decides to take a look at all the writings that are on the walls of the Great Stairs that lead out of the mountains. He barely gets into the entrance before he hears the distinct sound of hammer-on-chisel on rock. Fearing the worst he rushes in and sees a crazed-looking old dwarf with hammer and chisel raised to the wall. It’s obvious he’s trying to destroy the runes and writings on the wall. Without hesitating Kardin rushes forward to tackle the old dwarf. They both go tumbling down the stairs, but not before the dwarf’s chisel catches in the stone and pulls away a sizable chunk (tied Power vs. Speed). Kardin is on top of the dwarf, pinning him to the ground. He recognizes him as Fergus, head chronicler.

“What the hell are you doing?!”

“I’m saving the dwarves!”

“Saving? You’re destroying knowledge!”

“You’ll have to kill me to stop me!” Fergus stops struggling and drops his chisel.

Kardin drags Fergus into camp in front of Captain Arak. His pleas to keep the writings safe fall on deaf ears “is anyone hurt? in danger? We have more important things to worry about than some writings in a cave. We’re trying to survive.”

Kardin walks off in a huff to get what information he can out of what’s left of the writings. He’s able to discern the writings concern forge-work of some sort , but is unable to glean anything useful beyond the basics of forge-craft. He knows there’s important knowledge to be had here. He packs up the chunks of stone that fell away from Fergus’ chisel. Hopefully what he’s salvaged can still prove useful. He stays up all night looking over the runes and is exhausted going into the following day (failed Ancient Languages).

A Camp, Divided

The next morning everyone is waking up and having their breakfast. Captain Arak comes to see Flint. “Hey, High Captain Grahm has given out assignments. Half of the host is to seek out signs of the Prince, the rest are to secure the area. He refused to let me to take a company to check out the ziggurat.”

“Is that so? Well, his duty is to defend the civilians. If we all pack up and head to the ruins, he’ll have no choice.”

Flint takes the time to walk among all the members of the camp, pointing out that their best chance of survival is more permanent shelter. “We’re Dwarves! We can’t survive out in the open like this! We need stone over our head and the ruins we find can provide safety and shelter!” Flint is able to convince enough survivors it’s the best course of action (successful Coarse Persuasion) and everyone begins packing up their belongings.

Gramm comes looking for Flint. “Ah, High Captain, how can I help you?”

“What the hell is going on here?”

“We’re moving. We have no shelter and no protection here. Everyone agrees that we’ll be safer if we seek shelter at the Ziggurat.”

“We have no idea what’s out there!”

“That’s exactly why you should send some men with me and Kardin. We even found an artificer to judge the structural integrity — young Galt, here.”

“You’re playing a dangerous game, Flint.”

“I just want to keep our people safe. That’s your duty. To the people. If we all go, you have no choice but to follow with us. I want your word that you’ll defend and protect the people.” (leveraging Flint’s Oathswearer trait allowing him to demand someone’s word and brand them a Coward if it’s not given).

“Fine. How about I send half the host with just you 3 and everyone else stays here until we know what the ruins hold. And I want all intel to come through me first.”

“As long as Captain Arak here leads the squad.”

“Deal.”

“We’ll be in regular contact with runners. If you don’t hear anything within a day, assume the worst.”

Those going on the expedition finalize preparations and get ready to head out for the short journey (about 6 hours walk) to the ruins.

Into the ruins

Upon arriving, Arak immediately begins giving orders to secure the area and set up a perimeter. He orders 3 dwarves to accompany Flint, Kardin, & Galt. Having fresh eyes on the structure, it’s obvious this isn’t Dwarven-built. It’s in decent enough shape it seems, but not as well-crafted as dwarven-hands would have made it.

The upper levels of the ziggurat all seem to be in good shape. They begin descending (past the previously-discovered lair of the large cats). They enter an open area with large columns going from floor-to-ceiling. Kardin begins looking over the carvings and runes while Galt is assessing the structural integrity. Unfortunately the floor beneath that particular column is worn with age, but nobody spots the signs of distress and Kardin, Galt, & one of the dwarven host fall through to a lower level (failed Perception), getting entirely blocked off from Flint and the other two. It’s obvious there’s nothing to be done and Kardin will have to find his own way out.

In the mean-time Flint starts looking over what carvings are on the remaining columns. He’s able to determine (successful Dwarven Rune Script) that this structure was once a sort of cultural center. It appears dwarves used it for trading with some other group (that appear to be non-dwarves). There’s also mention of tributes being brought and sealed away. “Tribute! Ah-ha, that’s what I need to find!”

Meanwhile, down below Kardin and his party seem to have fared quite well, with just some minor bumps and bruises. They’re completely sealed off in a bare room with only one exit. A bare dead-end room seems suspicious to Kardin so he begins looking for some false stones of some sort. It appears the recent cave-in may have loosened some seals and he’s able to find some rocks that can be pulled away. The way they were placed makes it obvious it was done by dwarven hands. Unfortunately whatever the stones are hiding was trapped and a blade shoots out, catching Kardin and the Host dwarf in it’s arc (failed Observation). They finish pulling up the stones and discover a shaft. A most-definitely-dwarven-made shaft. Lacking the equipment to properly explore the discovery, they make note of it and decide to seal it back up.

Up higher, Flint has been looking at more runes and discovers that tributes were stored in a vault. With a little more work, he’s able to follow markers on the walls that point the way to the vault. He and the two dwarves from Arak’s squad continue to descend down ramps “Ah-ha! Ramps! That means they were bringing in cart loads of stuff!”. Suddenly the ramp levels out and they find themselves in a room with webbing everywhere. Not just lots of cobwebs. But huge, thick webbing.

“Woah, woah. We need to go back and report this” one of the host Dwarves says.

“You can’t go back no! You’re here with me, we have to keep pressing on. Just start burning the webbing away and we can make our way forward.”

“We’re just supposed to scout! If there’s anything down here we need to go back for backup.”

“We’re still scouting! There’s 3 of us, that’s all the backup we need. Are you boys or are you Dwarves?!”

“We’re Dwarves, dammit!” The two stick around for the time being (failed Coarse Persuasion).

They begin burning the webbing when suddenly they here skittering noises. They stop what they’re doing, keeping an eye out, when suddenly a Great Spider leaps from the shadows (tied Observation vs. Stealthy). The two host dwarves lose their nerves and run off, while Flint starts cautiously backing up with his hand on Marina (his trusty arbalest).

“So, you come back?”

Flint’s taken aback. He wasn’t expecting this creature to speak. It speaks in a very precise, almost academic way. “Back? This is the first time I’ve been down here.”

“So the Sons of Midnor return?”

“Sons of Midnor”. Flint remembers back to his childhood and the tales his mother would tell him growing up. Stories of 3 Dwarven brothers, one of them named Midnor. “That old story? That’s just some legend.”

“Then why are you here? … Ah. Are you here for treasure?”

“Yes! There’s a vault down here I mean to find.”

“I can take you to it.”

“Fine, but you stay in front of me where I can see you.”

The Great Spider leads Flint along, clearing the way of cob webs. Eventually they enter a chamber with two huge double doors on the other side. The doors are obviously of dwarven make. Flint moves on, focusing completely on the dwarves “Ah, the vault!”, completely missing the spider skittering up the wall and onto the ceiling.

After just a few minutes of investigation Flint easily sees how the doors are meant to open. Inside is a medium-sized rounded room. Sub-par (non dwarven) weapons and armor scatter the floor as well as chests and bags of precious gems. More importantly, right in the middle of the room is a statue of a bald, beard-less dwarf with his hands out-stretched. In his hands is a metal cylinder of some sort, at his feet an impressive dwarven shield, and wrapped around the body of the statue is a beautifully crafted set of Dwarven Mail. Flint’s eyes widen as he’s stunned by it’s beauty (failed Steel vs. Greed), but just as he snaps out of it and rushes for the statue (choosing the I Must Have It Steel Reaction), the Great Spider comes scrambling in, planning to take Flint out and get the treasure for her own, because she was never able to open the doors herself.

Flint hears the spider coming and pulls out his hammer, bellowing at the top of his lungs “THIS VAULT IS MINE!” He charges the spider, batting away her legs and landing a solid blow against her face (successful Bloody Versus helped along by Fueling the Fires of Greed). He bloodies her nose as it were and she scurries away into the darkness.

The first thing Flint does is to remove the armor from the statue and replace the sturdy leathers he’d been wearing. He gets a closer look at the shield and cylinder and it’s not obvious what metal they’re crafted from. His father is an artificer and although he never pursued those skills all dwarves have some knowledge of metals and alloys. Whatever it is, he’s never seen it. Much more interesting however is the cylinder’s purpose. All forges require a key of sorts that help to regular heat. Forges are completely worthless without a proper key. This cylinder looks very much like a regular forge key, but it’s at least a third bigger than even the keys of the great hearth forges. Flint prepares to leave with his new treasure, but not before stuffing his pockets with gold and gems. On his way out he shuts the door, ensuring the Great Spider can’t get in to plunder the bounty he found.

Up above, Kardin & Galt are making their way out. On the way Kardin decides to seek out a library, hoping to learn something useful and maybe find more significant writings. He finds a room with some square stone tablets with dwarven script as well as what appears to be animal hides with some other type of script that’s similar, but not quite the same.

They finally make their way higher and see the two dwarves that had been with Flint on their way out. When confronted they say Flint is still down below and there’s a giant spider down there. Kardin rushes off to check on Flint and they meet up in a tunnel as Flint is coming out. Kardin’s eye catches Flint’s new treasure and they swap stories on what they just went through. Kardin and Galt also admit they have no idea what the shield and cylinder are made of and that the cylinder looks an awful lot like a forge key (Kardin thinks back to last night and the pieces of writing on the stairs he deciphered that seem to indicate some kind of new forge craft).

A Nasty Surprise

Back up top, it’s turning to night so Kardin and Flint decide to go over everything they’ve learned. They look over the tablets (successful Ancient Languages) and find that the square tablets are ledgers of some sort. It appears the dwarves were trading with someone. There’s some pictographs mixed in and the figures are tall and slender, very similar to elves, but not quite the same. They call themselves the Children of the Sun. According to the ledgers the dwarves were receiving metals and the like as well as foodstuffs and sending back finished goods.

Before bedding down for the night Kardin starts thinking that Urgo may just have come this way. He’d been here previously when they came after those cats and he wouldn’t be surprised if Urgo came here after running out of camp. He starts looking the forest nearby the ruins and eventually comes across an abandoned campsite. Signs show that it must have been left only hours before the expedition arrived at the ruins earlier that day and he finds some leavings that indicate it was most definitely Urgo. Unfortunately Urgo left a nasty surprise (failed Observation) and Kardin finds himself poisoned by a trap Urgo made.

The End

We left it on that cliffhanger. Partly so the GM can figure out exactly what the poison is going to do. Another great session. At the player level we know there are tribal humans in the valley, the “not-elves” (Children of the Sun) we saw in the pictographs and humans don’t exist anywhere else, so no one has ever encountered them. Also, we know there are collossi crafted by ancient dwarves, probably with the use of the special forge we’re getting clues about. We also know that we’re going to start seeing more Great Spiders.

Playing Flint the extra-greedy (he has B8 Greed and the Avarice trait) has been a blast and I’m worried about what’s in store for me now that the GM has given me a suit of Dwarven Mail (which is super-sweet) — I’m sure that’ll cause me all kinds of problems going forward.

There was also a short scene near the beginning where Kilgar (the merchant) came looking for “that orphan” (relationship of Bozkar, another PC that wasn’t there for the session). OOC it was obvious he’d discovered the robbery (perpetrated by Flint) and he was ready to blame Bozkar’s orphan. Flint wasn’t around and Kardin had no idea what was going on, so he pointed Kilgar in the direction of Bozkar, so he’ll get to deal with that the next time he’s present!

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