Mauragaaqtuq: Murder of Crows

We’re getting ready to kick off The Situation in our next Mauragaaqtuq campaign, tonight. This one is centered on a group of Crow: a gifted child prodigy would-be-summoner, a vengeful necromantic sorcerer, a Crow who grew up thinking he was an Owl and wants to conquer his past and future, and a tomb-raiding relic hunter.

The Crow were a lost house of Elvoya for several generations, but they have been in hiding, continuing their work to understand and combat the things of the Deep. Recently, the great houses have become aware that they still exist in hiding. A Dawnbringer (think priest/paladin of the Sun) approaches the Rook, their hidden village…


Upon hearing the news of the Dawnbringer’s approach, Alornek’s heart began racing. It was said that a Dawnbringer could look upon a person and know the Darkness within them. Alornek looked to his elders, hoping for any excuse to be far away when the Dawnbringer arrived. While his gift was encouraged in studies, he did not believe a paladin of the Sun would look with eyes of understanding, only those of swift judgment.

Cupun was the first to speak up, thankfully. “Alornek, go with Harald and tell Takret of the approaching Dawnbringer.”

Harald smirked as he looked at the boy, “Can you keep up?”

Alornek knew that the wings on Harald’s feet meant there was no chance, but he nodded all the same when he considered the alternative was to stay and await the light of the Sun.

Harald ran ahead, and the boy followed. He was panting and drenched by the time he made the rest of the climb to the Rook. Harald had clearly given the news, as Takret was already at the gate, waiting on Alornek.

“Boy, go to Panik and tell him of the approaching Dawnbringer. I need his help to hide the things which must remain hidden. Go… now!”

Alornek ran with all the haste he could muster. Harald disappeared in an eyeblink to warn others. Alornek gasped out the elder’s instructions to Panik.

Panik rocked a bit on his heels, “Well, it looks like I have a chance to call in the debt you owe me.” Alornek caught his breath and his gaze turned inquisitive. “In what way?” he asked.

“There is someone I need, and you will go and fetch them,” the old crow smiled.

Alornek looked puzzled, “That’s it?”

“Yes, that is it.” Panik chuckled inwardly. “Just go and summon Tanaraq. Just a few things first.” Alornek winced at the word summon, but listened intently.

The elder Crow held up fingers as he rattled off the instructions, “Go to their door, knock gently and step back. You will then wait in stillness. Finally, when Tanaraq emerges, you must Steel yourself. Do not panic and do NOT scream.”

Alornek felt his stomach lurching. If something could make one scream in the Rook, then it must be horrible indeed. But his pragmatic side won out. Cancelling a debt was nearly impossible with nothing but rocks in your pockets. He listened on.

“After he emerges, Tell Tanaraq that a Dawnbringer is coming and Takret needs a portal to hide everything.” Panik turned and started packing things away. Alornek ran to find Tanaraq.

Alornek approached the strange hut. It was adorned with symbols and totems. Some Alornek recognized from his training, most he did not. He reached a hand up to knock, not knowing when it had started shaking. He knocked loudly and stepped back, waiting. Moments later, the door began to creak open. Alornek studied the ground. The whispers were the first thing he noticed, they spoke of things dark and unknown. Alornek could feel the piercing gaze upon him. He waited without speaking. The whispers surrounded him, they spoke in a language he couldn’t understand, but he knew they were speaking of him.

“Speak, boy.”

“Tanaraq? Panik has sent me to find you. Takret needs a portal to help hid everything from a Dawbringer.”

He couldn’t help but bring his gaze up. He was struck by the strangeness of the person before him. Deformities weren’t uncommon among the Crow, and Alornek might have recovered from the sight with little reaction, were it not for the creature that followed behind Tanaraq. It was an enormous, feline creature. It stood upright with four arms ending in sharp claws. It had no mouth, but Alornek knew the whispers came from this horror. Somewhere in his mind he knew that he should not scream, so his mouth took the shape of a scream, but no sound emerged. Instead he stared, dumbfounded.

“Very well,” Tanaraq said to the insensate boy. “I will create the portal. Follow if you wish.”

It was several moments later when Alornek came to his senses again. He saw just the tail of the creature disappear down the street, then went about telling others nearby about the coming Dawnbringer. He saw a purple light and heard a sound like tearing fabric. He did not want to know what it meant. Some sights were better left unseen.

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The Dawnbringer continued to climb the switchback road as if he had not a care in the world. The Crow met him and held the pass, speaking with the Dawnbringer and allowing those in the Rook to make whatever preparations they needed to make. Takret later joined Nils, Tulok, and Cupun while they spoke to the Dawnbringer, Antti.

The Dawnbringer was asked not to approach the Rook, instead, the Crow would send a group to meet somewhere more neutral. So many decades of seclusion would not be doffed so easily. Tulok’s hatred of the Dawnbringer was not veiled, which was appropriate for the discussion in the light of day, if a bit inconvenient. They would meet the next day, at high noon, so that the sun could look down on their conversation.

That conversation was not to be. As they approached the camp, they found the Dawnbringer dead. Could it be another Crow’s doing? Could it be Roden from the surrounding hills? Could it be the Restless spirit that Alornek and Tulok summoned the night before?

Alornek had asked for a spirit that could look upon the soul of the Dawnbringer to learn his true intentions. The Great Seer answered, and a bargain was struck. Alornek’s talent for summoning was on display, he even struck a bargain that was cheap by comparison. Only a bedroll for the truth of a man. But Tulok had other plans. He attempted to capture the Seer for his own purposes. Alornek followed along, hoping to find a new master to learn from. Tulok failed to capture her. The Seer took the attempt in stride. She displayed no outward anger. She even returned later to tell the pair that the soul of the Dawnbringer was the most honest she had ever seen, though it was no longer in his body. The pair had no idea what that meant until they viewed the body of Antti the Dawnbringer laying unmoving next to the last embers of last night’s fire. Had they caused this? Was this the price of betraying the Seer?

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I don’t know why I’m writing this as we trek up the damned mountain. Probably because we’re just as likely to die going back up as we were coming down. I feel like a Raven with its wings clipped walking around with these inexperienced, loud, unguided fools. Between the whining of the man-child Alornek, the stomping and clanking of Cupun, and the staggering in pain of Tulok, we are more likely to draw the attention of more Roden than we are to scale the mountain successfully. Oh well, let’s assume this note will be found on my corpse at some point, and that what I am sharing will help those in the Rook pick up where we died.

It’s only been a handful of hours since we made it to the Dawnbringer’s camp. What follows is an accounting of what we witnessed there.

When we arrived at the small hollow where the Dawnbringer had made camp, it was immediately clear that he was dead. Even from a short distance I could see that he had been splayed open, something having rent his armor and carved out his innards. We approached carefully, and I examined the body more closely. He carried few valuables, but we secured what he did have in order to have it returned to his people when the time comes.

All evidence suggests that he made camp easily enough. He had a fire, managed to pitch a tent, and settled in to wait for us. It is unclear when his death occurred. If Alornek, Tulok, and the Seer spirit are to be trusted in their visions, the Dawnbringer was alive well after the Sun ceased its vigil for the day. This means that he was attacked sometime after nightfall but before he had retired to his tent. My skills in anatomy are lacking, so I was unable to tell the time of death any more precisely.

Upon examining the scene more broadly, I was able to discern that the attacker resembled a large insect or arachnid, based on the size, spacing, and shape of the wounds and tracks. This was confirmed through sorcerous means by Alronek and Tulok, who were somehow able to summon the restless spirit of the Dawnbringer. (This fact should be removed from any form of formal report to the Dawnbringers, as it would likely cause undue strife in our already fraught relationship. See the formal written histories of the rise of the Sun House and the banishment of the Crow for more context here.) The Dawnbringer’s spirit demanded payment in the form of an accounting of his deeds to be made to the Sun House proper. In return, he described his attacker in more detail, which further strengthened my theory of its insected nature. Though it is unclear whether the attacker was an aberration of nature, Crow sorcery, or Dvergar malignance.

Upon the release of the spirit, Alornek and investigated the Dawnbringer’s tent. He immediately fled in terror. I would later learn that this was due to the siting of “floating eyeball,” as described by both him and Tulok. Aside from this additional horror, the tend held little of interest or value. The source of the “eyeball” remains unknown, but Tulok claims that it vanished into the mountainside. I do not have enough information to make any sort of educated guess as to its nature, source, or purpose. This is an academic dead end, but it might be worth mentioning to more skilled sorcerers in the Rook.

As an olive branch to the Dawnbringer(s), Cupun and I made a pyre to match our understanding of the Sun House’s Rites of Passing. I believe this to have been successful, but I have no way to confirm my observations. There were brief words said to mark his passing, but as none of us were familiar with him, aside from his bravado, stature, and confessed need of House Crow’s wisdom, the words were without much weight.

The remainder of this account is a bit of a blur, due in part to the chaos and in part my limited perspective.

As we finished the ceremony, we were ambushed by the creatures known to us as Roden. There were four of them, I believe. They moved with speed and stealth and attacked us in close quarters with knives. Though they are small by the standards of men, they were fierce and tenacious. Within a few breaths, they managed to mark injuries to some of us, and do significant harm to Tulok, who did not appear to have any skill with blade or bludgeon. Once we got our bearings, we were able to force their retreat.

These are my conclusions from the encounter. First, the Roden seem to be venturing farther west than was previously known. All previous incursions had been east of House Fox’s southern outpost. Second, they are masters of stealth. For though it was daylight they managed to sneak in quickly and quietly. Third, they appear to be opportunists, seeking only for quick gain from easy targets. They were quick to flee once there was chance of harm to them.

After the fight, we patched up Tulok the best we were able, and we now move slowly back toward the Rook to him tended to properly.


Growing up in Owl lands never prepared me for the…wonders of the Crow.

Trekking our way up the mountain, I decided that it would be best to attempt to get a healer to our location rather than further injure Tulok. Alornek attempted to do so, and apparently talking to himself was enough to get Tanaraq to come to our aid - this time joined by a large, lithe, creature (not the feline beast from before). We implored Tanaraq for help, and he bade the creature help Tulok.

The creature cut out a piece of his own flesh and applied it to Tulok. He gasped for breath and was once again amongst the conscious. It seems to have fully recovered him. Unclear what the long-term effects of such methods will be, but I will have to keep a weather eye for any changes.

We returned to the Rook to determine next steps and to get Tulok some armor. I attempted to get an audience with Takret to report on what happened.

We need to find the creature that killed Antti. The Crow cannot be blamed for his death.


OOC notes:
Tulok asked the creature & Tanaraq what was owed, the creature said “The price is paid” in a soft, breezy, cold voice.
The skin graft is a trait and counts as 1D armor for torso (does not stack) and also opened Reach at B1. Tulok is now a Vector. (Reach). In addition, the Metamorphica rolls from Reach level identified another flaw and trait: that Tulok must bathe the graft in water from the fabled Deepwater Spring every two weeks, or become weak (lose a cumulative point of Forte). The fact that the Deepwater Spring is in the Rook area was unlocked by a great Wise test!
The way Alornek got aid was by summoning an ancient crow…actually in crow form…that carried the message.
One other update:
Alornek also summoned Antti the Dawnbringer again, but this time found his spirit smoldering. Antti was furious that he was trapped on the earth, cursed, and incapable of soaring to the sun. Negotiations on the price failed.

I was drawn by the raised voices and gathering crowd to find Cupun facing off against Takret Qaaqlax in an attempt to gain help in hunting the horror that eviscerated the Dawnbringer. Cupun appeared to have begun the debate well, strongly inciting Takret into making a mistake. However, the leader of the rook quickly composed himself and his rebuttal was without fault, but he was not without some understanding. In lieu of sacrificing much-needed resources necessary for defending Crow lands, he offered the assistance of the mountainous and voracious Elk Man to our cause.

Soon thereafter, I felt the gentle pull of the whispered mystical spring and, with Alornek’s help, summoned a spirit servant to help search for the spring. The casting took its toll and the summoning, while extremely successful, was too much. The last thing I remember is instructing the spirit and watching it drift away. I woke to the bemused and questioning looks of my new comrades who apparently had brought me home to recover.

Nils, Cupun, and Alornek apparently made it to the spring and Nils may have gathered some of the spring’s water. If I knew them better I would reveal the pull that the spring and its waters have for me, but I barely know this small gathering of outcasts. However, they’ve already saved me twice: once after the Roden attack and now, again, after my weakness during the summoning. Bah! Enough of this malding.

Nils assured us that he could track the jewel-encrusted beast and, armed and armored, our little group - joined by Elk Man, were eventually led to an outpost near the southern border. The lives of those manning the outpost have been threatened and it seems our group may tip the scales in their favor…

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From Nils Kaarne’s journal

Here I am, sitting in what passes for a tavern in this backwater outpost. My boots smell like the shit that seeped out of the Dvergar construct. Strangely, my breath smells worse. I think it’s the grog that passes for ale in this shit hole. At least the views are nice.

We made our way into town just an hour ago or so. Cupun is prepping for the trip back. I’m supposed to be trading these gems in. The ale seemed more pressing, but I might as well update my notes while I finish this last drink.

We left home a few days ago, following the trail of the strange creature that killed the Dawnbringer. It was easy enough. The creature didn’t seem concerned about stealth. We came upon it around midday, watching as it plodded mindlessly toward this very outpost. I was familiar enough with the area to know the topography and the route it was moving. This made setting an ambush a fairly straightforward task.

We decided to attempt destroying it without engaging, by dropping a large boulder on it from the slopes above. Beforehand, though, Tulok and Alornek crafted another one of their summoning circles; this one to trap the creature if it came too close to us. Once the preparation was complete, our companion Graak did the hard work of pushing the rock from its perch above the creature.

There are few things more satisfying than watching the inevitable come to pass. As the stone gained speed, it proceeded down the soil-covered slope with the steadiness and ponderousness that only nature can provide. It slammed into the creature with improbable force. I was reminded of the cracking of an egg…

My satisfaction was short-lived, however. This particular egg’s shell was made of stern stuff. The creature wobbled and toppled. Its carapace seemed to shudder and crack a bit, but it was soon to recover. We did not give it much time to do so, as we began raining arrows down upon it. Cupun’s aim was faulty on most shots, but the creature was large enough that even he couldn’t miss every time. I managed to land a few good shots between the creature’s chitinous plates.

After several moments it made a full recovery and began ascending the hillside. We maintained a safe firing distance for a time, but eventually closed the gap. Cupun and Graak attempted to draw its attention as Tulok and I stayed at bow range. Its central eye, which appeared to be similar to the one in the Dawnbringer’s tent some days earlier, seemed to fixate on the two, causing the two some confusion.

This distraction was all I needed to fire a felling shot. The creature took a final arrow between the armor plates in its front quarter, which must have hit some vital organ. A few moments later, we were upon it with swords and antlers (from Graak, of course).

After removing the creature’s central eye and head, Tulok seemed to call its spirit (souls?) just as it was passing. Though I know little of what it is that Tulok and Alornek do with their sorcery, it seemed obvious that he was somehow preventing the creature from dying. Its spirit, which was really more of a misty amalgamation of ghastly voices, was forced to remain behind.

Tulok spoke to it audibly, and at my urging, asked, “who created you?” It responded with a cacophony of muffled and strange voices. It was indecipherable. He followed up, demanding “how do we put you to rest?” This time, a single voice seemed to hush the rest, and it said, “we are now released, but to put us to rest you must kill those that created us and destroy the method of our creation.”

I couldn’t make this up if I tried.

After that, we examined the corpse. It was little more than a skin of chitin, a tarry goo, some loose organs, and strange metal and gemstone ornamentations. It appeared to me as if the Dvergar had taken the corpse of a giant arachnid, stuffed it full of other living things, then armed it like a warhorse.

Cupun and I then made our way to the outpost (this town really needs a name) to warn them, get some supplies to help us transport the creature, and get a drink.

Cupun and Nils went down to the Outpost , while Graak, Tulok, and I waited behind in the foothills. Our time passed rather dully. Graak is a voracious eater and rarely has anything to say. He ate every nut and berry we could find while we waited for the others to return. Tulok stayed with the… thing while I went to forage for more to keep Graak satisfied. It was an uneventful evening, which was a welcome change from the day before.

Cupun and Nils told me a little about their visit to the outpost. They bartered away the gems for an ox and cart, so we were able to take the beast back. Nils bartered with a Seal, Kallik Natchik, and came back with his soul, so he must have done well. (Other notable meetings were Thain Raev and Sigevi Lox). They apparently attracted some attention because we were followed on our trail home.

We continued on our way, but when it was clear that they were trying to follow us when we started the climb into the mountains. Cupun thought that he would stall the interlopers to buy us enough time to escape without giving away the location of the Rook. Nils talked him out of that. We were low on options that didn’t involve turning and fighting.

I summoned another spirit. I know its dangerous, but sometimes it seems like the only option. Maybe my former master was right, if I just took the time to master some of the other skills, maybe I could be of some use without so much risk. It worked out well, though I’m fairly certain that Altrax slaughtered the lot of them behind us. Maybe that’s for the best, though it weighs on me a bit. And if the bear spirit didn’t kill them all, do they come back with more next time?

We made it back to the Rook to find others in the middle of packing. Apparently the death of Antti was somehow signaled to the rest of the Dawnbringers. They are on their way here, now. Takret has asked Cupun and the rest of us to take those that need to stay hidden, away from the Rook, and establish a camp for them. It may be temporary, but it sounds like we’re being asked to form a colony, a safe haven for those that can’t blend in the rest of society any more. Now we’re supposed to make preparations for the journey. Tulok has barely spoken a word the whole time.

Oh, Cupun is a Captain now, and I’m officially a member of the guard! I even got a set of armor, though the stuff is heavy an uncomfortable. He and Nils said they would work on my training while we travel. I have to talk to Tanaraq before we leave, though. Takret said that the wizard could help me with Pana’s essence. Some day I’ll be able to look Tanaraq in the eye, but for now I just need to keep my knees from shaking when he shows up.

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[Through Tulok’s eyes]

The itching on my chest had increased quite dramatically. Finding a shadowed area, I opened my tunic to peek at the once-mortal wound Tanarak had healed for me and immediately recoiled. The greyish skin was pulling away at the edges. I thought - for a second - that I saw the edges of the newskin moving actively trying to pull away, but it must have been my weakened state.

I remembered that Nils had mentioned finding the mystic spring and, while he offered to give me some of the water that he previously had taken, I knew this wouldn’t be the last time I’d need that water; I needed my own reserves. Alornek and Nils generously bought me four skins and agreed to take me to the mystic spring. I was surprised to find that it was both so close and beneath one of the town’s buildings.

Splashing my chest with water, the skin immediately readhered, feeling supple and fresh. What a relief. Only then did I notice my surroundings, so focused was I on the spring itself. Nils and Alornek were looking at some of the people around the area, but one specifically caught their eye: a caged and raving man spouting what one might call prophecy as venom dripped down his fangs. Another had that dead stare and didn’t seem to respond to anything around us. We cautiously exited and made our way back up.


Alornek was speaking with Tanarak about the settlement and protecting those who would come with us. He held what initially appeared to be a staff. Alornek took it and began to quiver, tossing the staff in my direction. I caught it and inspected it further feeling the wrongness within. Some caged organ - still working - sat atop a long, sharpened spike. It had an effect on me, but I have yet to discern the impact of holding such a thing up close.


Cupun was busy organizing some sort of rear guard and, in his absence, Nils took charge of gathering the inhabitants together and planning the settlement’s location. He wanted something secluded, protected, and away from roads, trails, and possible discovery. It was a good plan and we set out.

Roden! Again.

Nils asked the group whether we should attempt speaking with them, but I wanted them all dead. I still have night terrors in which the nasty little things attack and I always wake right after one of them plunges its knives in my chest hilt-deep. Alornek was gone. Nils and I looked around, but both he and the spike were missing. Echo was growling beside me in warning as Nils was ordering the townsfolk into the wagon.

Nils was a crackshot and absolutely routed the beasties single-handedly. One fell nearby and I felt compelled to raise his corpse, startling the rest of them away. Surprisingly, even Nils was a bit startled. I kept that thing walking beside us as a warning, but Nils also wanted to skin the other dead, using the bones as a warning. Graak, to our horror, approved of the plan provided he got to eat the meat. Not a single objection was raised. However, what I remember most was Nils telling both Alornek and I that we needed to get better with bows. Now that is an interesting concept…

We eventually found a secluded spot, with a cliff overlooking a wonderful view. Bordered - and protected - on another side by a snowcapped mountain wall, it was a well-chosen spot. A wooded area was nearby and, to Alornek’s delight, so were mountain goats. That boy and his goats.

He summoned everyone close to what would later be the center of the encampment and, raising the spike above his head, began summoning Pana’s spirit. “Ancestors of the Crow, Mother Pana, Secret Keeper, keep us safe from outsiders…” The boy used both hands to slam the spike into the ground. We all felt it. Nobody’s spoken about it. A shudder passed through us all. One of the townsfolk pointed at a bird in distress, one that hadn’t been in the protection of the spike; it dropped dead in midflight.

Those of us present - goats included - as the spike was planted can pass and return without ill effect, but the weight leaves you as you get beyond its influence. The Burden falls back into place as we return to the encampment, but protection is worth it. Or, it seems to be.

I walked to the cliff edge, gazing out over the wondrous landscape, and summoned the roden who slowly walked up next to me. After a few seconds of peaceful contemplation, it stepped over the edge at my command. I never once glanced in his direction…

It’s time to work.

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OOC notes:
Alornek’s handling and usage of the device opened Reach for him. Both Alornek and Tulok are now at Reach 2. Alornek received no change at each level. Tulok got a negative (addictive need for the Deepwater spring water) for his first and a positive (mental aptitude for learning technical skills) on his second roll on the table.
The device’s effect is to drain 1 point of Fortitude a round, from among those that enter the 30 yard radius. It’s a horrible necromantic craft item in the Dvergar style. Did Tanaraq make his own, get it from the Dvergar, or get assistance from Atlat (the alien creatures that seem to follow him)? That remains to be seen.

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From the Notes of Nils Kaarne

Day two without a drink and it’s getting intolerable. Maybe I have a problem… but who can know these things for sure? At this point, the Deepwater spring water is starting to sound tempting. Surely it couldn’t hurt matters? Not yet… not yet.

I am nearing 100% certainty that Alornek is already in his last season. The boy is going to end up on the sharp end of something very soon, despite my (best?) efforts. Tulok isn’t much better, but at least he has the sense to stay out of harm’s way most of the time. I guess this is all Cupun’s problem now that he has caught back up to us. I wonder if he knows that? I should probably just tell him. First things first. I’ll find a drink or six, then tell him. I’m more palatable when I’m drinking.

Enough about my trials and tribulations. The matter at hand… I am scrawling these notes quickly as I prepare to head into the tunnel ahead of me. Surely the other three are wondering why I’ve taken five minutes to take notes. Oh well, let them wonder.

We’ve spent the better part of a week trekking along uncharted goat paths across the highest mountain range in all of the north. We left the “camp of the unfortunate,” as I have taken to calling it when only in my own company, with high spirits, much vim, and two full wineskins. (By the spirits I hope one of the others has more.) After a few days of climbing, frayed ropes, fraying nervous, rocks in boots, and at least one significant toe-stubbing, we actually happened upon something other than birds and bugs.

To everyone’s surprise, we came across what Tulok believes to be “goblins.” Yes, the strange little creatures once thought to be the fodder of takes told to children who were out past dark. Well, turns out the more recent tales propagated by House Fox and Wizened Ones about the little monsters are true. Though they seem less like monsters and more like short, disfigured, stinky people. They would fit right in at the camp of unfortunates, actually.

Long story short, they are clever and territorial but we managed to barter three barrels of whisky worth of gold in order to proceed unmolested.

Long story long, we thought about fighting them, then noticed there were at least eleven of the little buggers. Then we noticed they were skinning something large, but we couldn’t get a clear look at it. Curiosity and a desire to spare lives (theirs or ours?) forced us to approach and parlay. We were fortunate that one of them could roughly speak our tongue. Cupun asked if we could pass. It (he?) said “no.” It was protecting whatever they were skinning. We negotiated, gave them a gold ring, and got them to let us be on our way. In the process, I may have flashed a bit too much of my Dvergar daggers. This caused them to want to renegotiate, which resulted in us finding out that they had felled a troll, which apparently they hunt for their parts. They tried to give us troll parts in exchange for one of my prized daggers. Absurd! I talked them down and we made a commitment to return in one month to negotiate further. Most of us will be dead by then (see above notes about Alornek and Tulok), so it may not matter much. To be foot-noted: as part of the deal we struck, I was smeared with some paste by one of the goblins that gave me a bit of a… something. I’ll have to find out more about this particular substance, as it was quite nice, particularly in the absence of dear, old drink.

With the goblins behind us, we made our last camp before getting to our destination – the former camp of the formerly living Dawnbringer that start all of our current woes. BUT, we were not yet ready to adhere to our stated mission. NO, not us, the leaders of the unfortunate! We are far too clever to just tackle the mission head-on (except maybe Cupun).

Instead, Alornek decided to hunt for a goat which I believe he and Tulok intended to transmute into an engine of war. Walrus-fucking sorcerers… If I’m lucky I’ll die in this mission and not have to worry about any of the bastards anymore. No more Tanaraq. No more Tulok. No more Alornek. No more Ragna. Anyway, well, Alornek failed to find a goat… on a goat path. Instead, he stumbled upon the bear spirit he had summoned just a few weeks earlier, and apparently, it was on a rampage killing caribou that it couldn’t eat because, well, it’s a spirit. I’m not entirely sure what happened with the bear spirit and Alornek, but he made it back to camp and we managed to have some caribou to eat. Not exactly a win, but it beats some of the other likely outcomes.

A few hours later and here we are. We made it to the once-camp, which now appeared to be a bonfire with a one-Dawnbringer audience. We avoided him, golden plate mail and all, and headed for our true purpose, finally. Just to the north of the camp, in a craggy section of the mountain pass, was the trail that the spider-like automaton had made so long ago. It wasn’t easy to find, or follow, but I managed not to mess it up. So now I am staring at an unnaturally smoothly carved tunnel into the face of a mountain, pretending to take very important notes so that I can steel myself against the coming onslaught of disheartening darkness and disquieting silence that awaits me ahead…

You are still a fucking coward, Nils, after all you have seen, all you have killed, and everyone you have abandoned. Cheers.

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Posting on the behalf of @Malloy42. From the perspective of Alornek

Master Tulok and I waited in the dark for what seemed like forever. Nils said that if we lit torches it would alert all the things deeper in the cave. I can only imagine some of those horrors, though at this point, I may have seen worse. Nils returned to tell us about the passage forward and where it opened up to a place with running water. He also talked about the skittering he heard. So there are more giant spiders? Are they all creations of those Dvergar? Captain Cupun joined us back at the mouth of the cavern. After a brief discussion, he and Nils left to get help… from the Dawnbringers of all people. I suppose there is a logic to letting them find where the creature that killed Antii for themselves so they can stop blaming us, but Master Tulok did not seem pleased at all. In the meantime, we worked on a circle to summon something or someone to help us in the depths. Of course, that’s when the Captain and Nils brought one of the Dawnbringers right into the cave with us. Master Tulok and I scrubbed away our hard work so we wouldn’t arouse too much suspicion.

Marja is her name. She seems ok, I guess. Though I don’t doubt that if she dies here, we are all in real trouble. She came and lit a way through the caves. Nils tried to warn against it, but the Dawnbringers are stubborn about the power of the sun over the darkness. It’s hard to dispute, really. I could feel the power coming from her sun shield. All the elders were taken aback by the strength of it. For all the times they chide me, I wasn’t the one cowering or begging for mercy… at least not this time. We made our way to the point where Nils turned back previously. The sight was something out of a nightmare.

The deep cavern was like an alien world. Spiders were clearly skittering in the darkness above. Then boulders started flying in our direction. We ducked out of the way, but maybe the boulders weren’t intended for us at all, but for the spiders above, because they didn’t descend to eat any of us. In the meantime, we saw one of the Spider automatons across a chasm, and what looked like a stout man firing a catapult. Nils swears he was speaking Dvergar. All the stories have pointed to their existence in the past, but this may be the first evidence that they are still alive and still making deadly contraptions in the depths. Maybe the old religious fervor about the deep and the darkness were based on more than superstition. Anyway, the elders debated with Marja about how they could possibly defeat one of those monstrosities. I might have been a little hasty, but the debate was taking a long time. So I walked back into the cavern and struck a deal. I knew that Altrax wasn’t far away, based on all the kills it had made recently, so I called Altrax the Mighty. I figured he might be able to destroy the beast. All he wanted in return were some goods being held on the other side of the river. I figured that would be fine with everyone. Of course, Nils and the Captain didn’t see it my way. I’m sure I’ll get yelled at for single-handedly destroying a spider creature of death. How dare I, right?

I didn’t see much of the battle between Altrax and the beast, but the others saw. Marja swooned from the sight. I guess the Sun priests don’t prepare their people for what really lurks in the dark. For all their talk about how brave they are, maybe it’s really fear that causes them to fight against the dark so hard. The little man retreated after Altrax destroyed his pet. Nils and Marja eventually navigated their way across the chasm and the river below. Master Tulok summoned something of his own to keep the little man busy until we could follow up behind and dislodge him. I’m still shaken by the form, or lack of form the summoned thing took. Maybe one day I’ll be able to face these things down fearlessly, but not today.

Now the little man has locked himself in some compartment. Nils is sure that there are traps all down the corridor. I don’t know what the next steps are, but Master Tulok seems really keen on sending the Dawnbringer first.

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OOC notes:

Marja the Dawnbringer used a minor miracle to get the shield glowing.

Boulders were coming from a Dvergar catapult.

Many many steel tests this session!

Very abbreviated OOC update of two sessions this time, as the crew is busy and we are preparing for the last session of the chapter as well as trait/social vote!

The PCs tested the corridor the Dvergar had ran down by throwing rocks, finding that spikes shot out of the walls when spots in the floor were pressed, and then making a deft path down the hall.

At the end of the hall, they found the door the Dvergar had gone through was covered in geometric Dvergar script. Nils could read the item enough to tell that it was a puzzle, but didn’t know enough how to solve it. They debated trying to bash the door down, or even wheeling the ballista up to try to shoot through it. They even considered going around the “other way” in the cave to come through another path, but didn’t want to work through another series of traps.

Marja of the Sun was adamant that she would stay and fight the Dvergar or die trying. The PCs felt they weren’t getting far enough and didn’t want to risk further forays without reinforcements. A great Duel of Wits ensued, with some major compromise. In the end, Marja agreed to go back with them, rather than dying alone in the dark. She made them promise to get more help and come right back to defeat the denizens of the Deep. On their way out, Tulok and Alornek pushed things (the Dvergar construct remnants (minus what they looted from it) and siege-style weapons) into the river.

In town, we met a new PC, Mako Lox, who will be replacing Cupun Ookpik, as the player wanted to make a change. Mako is an enchanter from the group that traveled to the new Crow outpost, and he’s moved his shop to outside that outpost from the Rook. We’re using house rules that apprentices can “finish” enchantment work after the PC gets it started, so that they don’t have to be around all the days of enchanting. (Of course, the GM can include the workshop and apprentices in challenges, too.)

In town, Nils worked with his sister (a Crow plant within the Wizened Ones) to angle in on favorable negotiations for the party who would be descending back into the depths to defeat the Dvergar and his madhouse of traps. Agreement was made that the Sun only desired destruction of things of the Deep and the Crow were satisfied to take from those they killed, leaving other loot to the party.

The group to descend back into the depths included the leader of Lene Raev (a Wizened One: think Maesters from SoIaF), two Dawnbringers (Marja again and Fasalt), our party, and two more Crow (Rika, an archer, and Hord, a scout).

Lene had Nils and Hord scout out the two “entries” to see the current status. There was a mass of rubble in the river near where the party had pushed stuff in. A ballista had been reset but was unmanned by the Dvergar, who was out of sight. No other signs of him were showing. Hord identified the state of the traps on the “other” entrace: swinging items that would knock trespassers into a spiked pit.

They made a plan to sneak the party across the river, have Lene and Nils work together on deciphering the door, and ambush the Dvergar inside. But as the rest of the group was crossing the river via rope bridge, the mound in the river rose out of the water. It was a hideous creation consisting of parts of giant spider and the Dvergar’s defeated construct. The Dawnbringers rushed it while others got by and got to work. They cut the net in the river, letting it come downstream and tangle it up and away with the current.

With surprise gone, they went to plan B. Going to the other entrance, they shot the trap device ropes overhead, causing the trap to activate and it’s parts to fall across the path. The Dvergar came out of the door ahead and fired a ballista at the crew as they were working their way to the door. It flew true through the mess and pinned Marja. Mako stayed to see if her life could be saved while the rest of the crew ran (as much as they could through the trap remnants) after the Dvergar.

They got through the door, and found a forge workshop inside. Out of Crow legend, there were two Mahaha there, tall sinewy mannish things with bluish skin. But…their mouths were sewn shut, their clawed hands were replaced by a grafted pincer on one side and hammer on the other, and their chests were pried open with coals visible inside. They turned to the party with their eerie white eyes…

and that’s where we pick up tomorrow.

@jasonward77 will be doing the final update for the chapter. In the meantime…trait vote results!

add: 1D Affiliation for the PCs with the Camp of the Unfortunates
add: 1D Affiliation with Rook Sentinels for Nils’ being deputized
add: 1D Reputation for Alornek as “Sustainer of the Restless” (orders/summoning reputation)
remove: Deferential (Ch) for Nils
change: Drunk (Ch) to Pickled (Dt) for Nils
add: Resigned to Fate (Ch) for Nils
change: Feared (Dt) and Spooky (Ch) into Dreadful (C/O) for Tulok
change: Bitter (Ch) to Vengeful (Ch) for Tulok
add: Extremely Respectful of One’s Betters (Ch) for Alornek
add: Lifting Heavy Things (Dt) for Alornek
add: In Over His Head (Ch) for Alornek
add: Figurehead (Ch) to Takret (NPC)
add: 1D Reputation for Graak (NPC) as “Will Work for Food”
add: Easily-Winded (Dt) to Mako due to a failed Severe recovery test from this session, affecting Forte

Also, they had to cash in some of the Dvergar loot, but they all met their low lifestyle costs.

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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.”

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