Excerpt of a conversation between Nils Kaarne and Ragna Lox after the most recent delve:
“I’m fine. It’s just a sore elbow. Not as spry as I used to be,” Nils complained. He kicked his feet up on the pile of logs as if to drive home the fact that he was able to complain and remain casual at the same time.
“Well, you need a bath and a good night’s sleep at the very least,” replied Ragna in that tone that reminded them both of their mother.
“I’m not sure the stink of the Dvergar and the Mahaha are ever coming out, but I’ll give it a go after I get a few more nips in.” He smiled as he raised the flask to his lips. “Those Dawnbringers brought some tasty mead. I trust they won’t miss the barrel I, well, uh, borrowed.”
“But enough about that. We don’t have a ton of time. Eventually, Lene or Marja will notice we’ve been meeting, and we can’t have you blowing your cover after so many years. So, uh, what do you need to know,” asked Nils, clearly enjoying the conversation but aware of the danger.
“I want to know everything, but let’s start with the Mahaha. No one credible has seen one in thirty years,” Ragna whispered excitedly! Now she sounded more like her ten-year-old self than their mother…
“Ummm, well, I can’t say for sure that what we saw were Mahaha, but it fits the stories. You’ll see what I mean when you get a good look at the body. They were mutilated… dead and altered by the Dvergar’s… errrr, death craft I guess is what they are calling it. It had Orichalcum fused into its body, and some sort of sorcerous furnace in place of its organs. It was filled with ichor, like the automata spiders.” Nils took a second as if realizing he forgot something.
“Our attack was poorly coordinated, mostly because we all stood dumbstruck when we saw the creatures standing in the workshop. They barely seemed to care about us, and instead, they turned toward their machinery and began demolishing it. The only one who stood a chance of stopping them was the Dawnbringer… um, whatever his name is. Not Marja, the other one.”
Remembering he doesn’t actually care what the guy’s name is, Nils continues. “I’ve not had much time with the Dawnbringers, admittedly, but this guy was at least smart than most from what I’ve heard. He didn’t just charge the Mahaha without backup, he actually tried to rally us first. Maybe they don’t all have the tactical acumen of an angry toddler…”
“So you all just stood there like idiots while the Mahaha destroyed the forges and smiths,” asked Ragna in disbelief? “Even Hode? He’s not easily shocked.”
“Well, yeah… for Crow’s sake, they were dead, mutilated creatures from childhood nightmares! Worse than anything I’ve seen Tanaraq bring to bare. Seriously scary stuff, Ragna.” Nils was visibly still shaken, and he took another swig of his mead.
Ragna shrugged, “Yeah, I guess so. Go on. We’ve got ten minutes at best.”
“Yeah, okay, so once we were able to engage the creatures, we had a bit of luck. The Dawnbringer barrelled into one of them while Hode and I attempted to flank it. The heat of the dying forge was too intense, so we had to back away. We quickly re-engaged with bows while… Faval, yeah, Faval is the Dawnbringer’s name, I think… kept the Mahaha at bay. We put a few arrows in its torso with little effect before Hode finally put one in its head. That did it. The luck came in because the other Mahaha never managed to make it out of the side room with the other forge. It seemed to have tripped into the molten Orichalcum. Crow must have been looking out for us.”
Ragna made the Sign of the Black Wings in front of her face, giving Crow his proper respect. Nils nodded pensively.
“With the Mahaha taken care of, we went back to the main corridor where we heard shouting. The Dvergar had snuck around to attack Mako and Marja. I didn’t see how it all went down, but it looked like Marja was recovering from the ballista shot to her chest plate, and that Mako had been helping her when the Dvergar returned. There were a few crossbow bolts littering the scene, and Mako had one in his chest. He was out, but Marja was covering him with her shield. She may be hard-headed, but at least she cared enough to keep Mako alive.” With that, Nils inadvertently looks up at the sun before catching himself.
“Strangest of all, the Dvergar was crawling along the wall while shooting at Marja and Mako. Yeah, crawling, with its plate mail armor on and all… It was like a spider. Actually, I’m just seeing this now, but that seems to be a recurring theme. Giant spiders in the ruins, magical-mechanical spiders, now the Dvergar moving like a spider…” Nils drops his flask and pulls out a small leather-bound notebook and quickly takes a note before continuing.
“Anyway, well, this Dvergar keeps shooting bolts down at us as we fire a few shots back with our bows. Its armor deflects most of the good shots, and it scurries away. Unbeknownst to the rest of us, Alornek has spent the last minute or so summoning his Crow-forsaken bear friend again. Suddenly Altrax the Mighty comes barrelling past us and charges after the escaping Dvergar. I’m not sure what the goal was, but I think Alornek asked Altrax to recover or kill the Dvergar. As you know by now, it wasn’t successful. The Dvergar seems to have gotten away in the underground river, and Altrax never returned.”
Picking up his flask, Nils takes one last gulp before putting it and his notebook into some of his many pockets. “From there it was just a matter of stabilizing Mako. Seems like he’ll make it, but he’ll likely have permanent damage. I hope for his sake he is willing to pack it in and set up shop somewhere. He doesn’t appear to be cut out for this life anymore, if he ever was.”
“I think you saw most of the haul we brought back for Crow. Orichalcum weapons, a shield, some engineering plans, tools, and most importantly this…” Nils reaches into his backpack beside him and pulls out something oblong and heavy, wrapped in cloth. “This, sister, is perhaps the most important historical find in a generation.”
Nils unwarps the piece and sets it on the logs carefully. Ragna looks confused at first but soon grasps what it might be. “Is that a stone tablet map,” she asks? “Is that THE Mauragaaqtug route?”
Nils smiles, but not with his eyes, which seem more worried than happy. “Yeah, I think it might be. The stone seems right. The carvings are old… very flocking old. The geography seems accurate on the southern part of the map. This could show us the route the First People took to get here so many centuries ago. I’m not sure who I should share this with. I’m not sure I can trust anyone with it.”
Ragna quickly covers it back up and pushes it back toward Nils. “Keep it safe, and on your person at all times. If the Sun Cult gets it they will distort it. If the Wizened Ones get it, well, we’ll just catalog it and hide it away probably.”
Nils stows it back in the bag. “We need to go before someone spots us. Let’s plan on some food and drinks tonight before you have to head back. I’ll set a camp at our old spot.”
Ragna stretches out and hugs Nils, which he accepts, but with false apathy. “Be safe, brother.”