Trapped underground and unclear on how to get back to the surface, the first glimmer of hope opens a literal door for them: Thane Baern Thunderknuckle. Managing release from the cave goblins and their sovereign, escape from the lost thaig will not be easy. Our heroes venture north beyond the border of Oesel into the dwarven lands in Spring on the 32nd of Varpulis’s Month in the year 739 AC (after christening). The caravan carrying them for separate reasons will soon unite their fates.
By Aleksander Karner (Justin), human guide:
A letter from Aleksander, to his brother in Tellis.
Varpulis the 33rd, 739
So the commotion I heard outside our cell was Thunderknuckle, himself. He made it down to where we were by himself, somehow. He always looked like a sturdy little guy when I saw him, but I had no idea how much truth was woven through all of the stories about him. I have never seen anyone fight like that. He tore through goblins like they were practice dummies. After he broke us out of the shitgoblin prison, we fought alongside him, trying to get to the head shitgoblin. He easily handled as many goblins as the rest of us did, put together. During the fight, he thought it might give us an element of surprise if we used the sewer system down there. I jumped down there and came face to face with an actual demon. There are fiends down here, Eduk. If you dig down deep enough, you find actual fiends. Sarril jumped down with me, and part of me wishes he hadn’t, but the first thing he did was smash a literal monster with his hammer, so I won’t complain too much. That guy is super uptight, but also he smites actual demons. By the time we got done demon hunting down there, the fight upstairs had ended. I think the Sovreign Shitgoblin got away, but no one seemed to worried about that now that Thunderknuckle’s here.
These people’s minds change with the wind, I swear.
I’m gonna take some time to recover from the demon fight while Thunderknuckle helps the Tchotchke twins dig back into the mushroom cave to get their box. I still don’t know what he’s after in that thing. It is literally a box of old garbage. He seems to know a way out of here, and I feel like my entire body is a bruise, so I’m happy to wait for him to come back. I wonder if he’d train me? I’ve got a lot to learn about caves. Living in them has apparently turned Thunderknuckle into a damn super dwarf. There’s sentient mushrooms and shitgoblin collectives down here. There’s straight up demons down here. I can’t think of better practice for my eventual meeting with the Dullahan. I’m going to have to sign off for now; I can hear them coming back through the caves. Them or more goblins. Or mushroom monsters. Or demons. Don’t tell Mom about any of this. She’ll want to be looking at me, alive and well, while she hears about demon fights.
Another letter dated 11 days later…
Varpulis the 43rd, 739
Got back to Thunderknuckle Keep with little incident.
We were down there for two days. I know, for sure, that we were down there for two days.
Nearly two weeks has passed up here.
I don’t get it. I have to find out more about caves, and the weirdness that apparently goes on down there. No one seemed particularly worried about the demons or the mushrooms or the shitgoblins, but everyone is losing their minds about the time travel thing.
I can’t stress this enough, Eduk: Caves. What even?
Since I’m probably gonna be out of the guide game (I would never work for Svenn again, even if his caravan hadn’t left, thinking him dead.) I’m gonna see if I can’t get in with Thunderknuckle’s crew. What a weird… Two weeks? I guess? Need to rest up a bit before I can talk to Linkin, but I’m super happy to have him back with me. I gotta find a courier while we’re here, hope to see you soon!
By Miyuki (Kirstyn), Niponylthasian (high) elf samurai.
Charges forward fearlessly
Legends are made flesh
I have met him, the noble Lord Baern.
We were in the cave-pit, mired in conflicts with goblins. There were many beyond easy counting and few of us. I pressed the attack forward but fell in battle and without my sword found ourselves overwhelmed. We were imprisoned and the scent of fear was rolling off many of my companions.
Things seemed quite dire, with few of my companions seeming to be willing to meet our deaths as warriors… then Lord Baern arrived and breathed new life into our battle. My god how he fought, Ryu-chan. He was like a typhoon of edges and muscle and facial hair; I have truly never seen such an oddly impressive stone-man.
I think that I am beginning to understand why.
With Lord Baern at our side my companions seemed to recharge. He led a courageous advance straight into a large crown of cave dwellers and fell one after the other. He calmly commanded the group and easily did the fighting of the entirety of the remaining members. Gods, how I wish to fight like him one day. We are to set out to his keep now where I understand we will share gohan to cha; I will speak to him then of my desire to swear my sword to that of House Thunderknuckle and make this Dwarf Lord my daimyo.
I will resume this entry later.
Shame like knife in rib
Daimyo brings purpose to pain
Oneechan!!! He has accepted my sword and saved me from this shame; I am ronin no more.
His keep is humble and modest in appearance from without, unassuming, much like the man himself. But, ho, the appearance cannot speak to the treasures within. Weapons, shields, armors… one item even made from the scales of a dragon, honto…
I’d beg you to believe me but I suspect you know, that you were there, fighting alongside. Oneesama, I dared not believe it with all my being and for that I apologize. All the stories must have been true, and my torturers were liars of course, trying to break my spirit by telling me the stories of your adventures across the great salt sea were the legends of fishmonger wives. Between my beatings they told me that you were food for eels on the ocean floor; sometimes I believed them. Now standing in front of evidence of your great deeds with your legendary companions and I am filled with shame. When I see you in person I will offer you my life should you find my doubts dishonorable and petition my lord on your behalf for permission to carry out seppuku.
Ha! When I see you, because I will see you. My daimyo has accepted my sword and we’ve spoken of you; he seems to want to find you as much as I do. My lord commands us north to walk among and speak with giant men of ice, but I am coming to find you, Ryu-chan. I swear on my sword; I will find you or I will find my death.
By Olya Tchotchke (Rebekah), half-elf Komes islander merchant:
Have you ever missed the sun? I have. I miss it with all of my body. Jurek and I were born on warm sands with cool wind and shining sun. Not in moldy, awful cave! Everything has odor here. I have odor here. Time means nothing without sun. Who knows when last bath was? Beyond that, I am afraid.
We have been captured by little monsters. Little horrid things that drink molded children of sentient beings. It is horrid. It turns my stomach and I cannot eat. Everyone is dejected. Everyone has given up. I will not give up. I will not die here! No! They may believe in honorable death, I believe in honorable life. I will not let Jurek rot here. He is too good to rot here.
I suggested we wench door open with sword. It not work, but door open anyway and there he was. Baern. The dwarf that paid for Jurek and I to come here. He save us from little beasties. Well, we helped in the saving and now we are going to his keep and I am grateful.
Another letter, dated 11 days later…
43rd Day of Varpulis
Apparently, time passed beneath the ground much differently than above. We have been missing for three weeks. Three. Weeks. That is… I don’t know. It felt like only couple of days. Not three weeks. We arrived at Baern’s keep. The place is strangely homey. Just average people making average living. I like people who are salt of earth. Jurek is smiling again. Not all is hopeless.
Even so, these bluebloods sometimes make me boil. You see, we met with Baern who took this little eye I find on beach. It look very… real, but it is only glass eye. I pick up and put in small bag. Of all my trinkets, that is what he want. I charge sixty goats, ten for profit, and another fifty to return to Poles. Reasonable exchange. That is not part I am flustered about.
Baern ask us to go with him to meet with giants. Da, giants! I can hardly believe my own writing. Why would he want two peasants with him when he has high and mighty people? Sands, Miyuki, the pretty elf with long blade, she pledged her life to him. Her whole life! Why? She not even know him! I say, if Lord Thane Thunderknuckle want us to go and talk to giants, then we get paid.
You know who raised a fuss about that? Sarril. Da, that’s right, the guard of the blueblood. He probably was raised in some fluffy manor somewhere and never had to worry about food and clothes. Things that cost real money to make life livable! He tells us, “You should do it for goodness. Some things are worth more than money.”
He is right, some things are worth more than money. Like Jurek or Mama. They are worth more than money. However, my time dealing with giants is absolutely worth money!! He has no idea. Jurek needs winter clothes. His are full of patches and holes and mine aren’t fairing so well either. I have to work hard to put food in bellies and clothes on back. Not all of us had luxury of growing up in manor.
Ehhh, I am too hard on Sarril. He just not understand. The rest are planning to go as well. Haiko want more stories. Meeting giants will make for one hell of a story! The pretty elf, ah, Zenvara? She come, but I have no idea what is going on in her head. She is so distant it is hard to say. Lord Malek is tied to Baern. Baern saved him from doom that came to Kalth! So, of course, he will go. Crazy guide go too. Aleksander? Da, he is crazy, but in good way. He fight so well! It is safer with him, though I still don’t like how he looks at Jurek. Travok is dwarf. Dwarf and dwarf stick together. He will go.
Eh. Guess I will meet giants. At a goat a day, I suppose I cannot complain. Still, what did I get myself into?
By Jurek Tchotchke (Jeremy), half-orc Komes islander, amateur barber, and dentist:
28th Day of VarpulisUnknown Date: (We lost two weeks. How can that be?)
We’ve been down underground for a long time. I hate it here. I wish we had never come this way. Nothing a stuffy dwarf lord can pay is worth this. I want to see sun again, but I don’t think I will. Olya, I’m sorry I could not protect you.
After we fight those little mutants off in that chamber, we all pick a path and started walking. I kept our tchochtke chest close, but it is large and heavy and I got tired of carrying it. We walk for long time. It was probably morning by then and we saw another little blighter. Haiko and I help catch him. Haiko call him Thomas, but we don’t speak his language. Sarril say Thomas is goblin, not mutant, but I still think they are all mutants. Two goblins run after Thomas. They were cover in spores and they poof out when we hit them. I hold breath so I don’t breathe in spores. Then we walk a long time again.
We go into big room with big mushrooms. The mushrooms move and they talk in my head! I think is black magic! I drop chest, grab Olya’s hand and run after Aleksander. We all hide away from evil mushrooms. The blue bloods stay and talk at mushrooms. They say that mushrooms show us way out of ground if we kill king mutant. I don’t like this, but I want to get out of ground. I should have say this is stupid after we get ambush again by mutant goblins. I don’t say that. Stupid. We leave Sven, Thomas and Olya’s tchotchkes behind.
We go into underground dwarf city. Travok say is long abandoned thaig. I ask him and he tell me thaig mean dwarf city from underground. Anyway, we walk into thaig, and more little mutants ambush again, but this time there are tens of them, at least five tens, maybe ten tens of them. Rocks fall from ceiling and block off tunnel back to mushrooms. We surrender. They take us to their king and he say nasty things, that he want to keep us, then he lock us in old building. I write in journal in building.
Olya, I love you. I hope you escape.
43rd Day Varpulis:
Lord Thane Thunderknuckle break through door and free us. He say we should try and sneak out. We try, but goblin mutant spot us and begin to wail. Sarril shut it up, but more come. One try to cut Olya with knife. I panic. Is strange, only second time I feel Black Delirium. I resist, but mutants are everywhere. Travok fall, Sarril fall. Olya is behind me. I can’t see anyone else. I’m so scared, is like wind bless me with speed. I grab for sister and run away. Dwarf Lord jump in and hold mutants off us. I don’t know where he even come from, but he rally us. Somehow blue bloods, elves, Aleksander and dwarfs push goblins back. They cut me up bad before I run away. I don’t know how I even run, and I was shake so bad, but at least Olya is safe.
Lord Thane Thunderknuckle have us go back for Sven and chest. He think we are strange because of Thomas. I help him move rocks back to mushrooms. We get Sven and chest. We leave Thomas behind. Lord Thane Dwarf say he look for us for six days. He say is 34th Day Varpulis. I say that is crazy, then I think about mushrooms and black magic. Sister say is no such thing black magic. She yell at me, say I don’t know what I talk about. Maybe is mushroom magic. I don’t like mushroom magic or big mushrooms that talk.
We make it back to Thunderknuckle Keep. Dwarfs at keep say is 43rd Day of Varpulis. They say Lord Thane send scouts to look for us and he go himself twelve days ago. Caravan leave back to Quills one week back. Dwarfs at keep worried because Lord Thane not come back after so long. Scouts come back and then go back out to look for him. They are look for him still.
Keep Keeper Balderick, Travok call him Seneshal, say Thunderknuckle Keep have ten and four people who live there. I think is small. I had think five tens of people live at keep, but no, only ten and four. Keep Keeper Balderick say that Lord Thane Thunderknuckle is fair and honorable man. People here like work for Lord Thane Thunderknuckle. Also, why do dwarfs and blue blood always have silly title. Lord Thane Dwarf has title Thane. Keep Keeper dwarf have title Seneshal, I don’t know what that is supposed to be. Malek have title but I forgot, and maybe he get angry if I ask him. I ask Travok. He not get angry. Sarril have title Riter. Maybe because he rides horses, or rights wrong. He is some sort of knight, maybe it is a sacred rite or something. Travok have title of the Anvil, so I guess he forge things like blacksmith. I am always confuse with funny names.
Lord Thane Thunderknuckle meet with us to buy tchochtke. Finally we find out which one he want that is important enough that he pay five crowns just to come see him. He want the fake eye that Olya always keep in small brown pouch. I don’t even like that one. It look real even though is made of glass. She charge him sixty goats. He offer her two small cut piece of tiger eye and one piece of malachite. They are special dwarf gem, Olya say tigereye worth twenty five goat each and malachite worth ten goats.
Miyuki pledge her sword to Lord Thane Thunderknuckle. Is very important. She talk to sword so must be important. Aleksander talk about how he is tired of working for caravan. He say he used to have farm, but farm is underwater. Is why he became guide in first place? He glare at me when I ask him if he build farm in river bed. River bed have rich soil. In The Poles farmers plant along river bed. Anyway Aleksander pledge his axe to Lord Thane Thunderknuckle too.
Lord Thane Thunderknuckle say he need people to come with him to make deal with frost giants. He ask for Malek and Sarril, then he ask for Olya and me. Olya look at him like he is crazy. She tell him if he want her to go up with him to frost giant land that he need to pay. Sarril get angry and yell that sometime it is more important to do what is right than for money, but Olya yell right back. She say good for him that he don’t worry about money because he live with blue blood. She say we do and that it isn’t his business anyway. Lord Thane Thunderknuckle say he will pay for our time. Is good enough for me, but I am nervous. Frost giant big enough to eat entire man in one bite.
Oh and Travok say Malek is Herr of Kotkas. Is mouthful to say. Elfs probably have nutty titles too. Swordspeaker Miyuki or Bladesworn or something like that. Stormchanter Zenvara, maybe elf word I can’t even say. I’m glad I don’t have a title.