The night before our northward trek, after finishing my spell research and turning down my bed, a thunderous knock assaulted the front door of the university. A moment later, a protesting Dadrigor followed a heavy-booted tread down the hall toward my quarters. The thunderous knock found my door next and I was convinced this was the warning we’d been waiting for. The goblins must be coming to the gates. Instead of one of Burdic Chainsunder’s runners, the dim light revealed Gledrick, grinning from ear to ear.
He pushed past me, knocking my nightcap to the floor. All the while he carried on about, “Won’t believe it. Wild bitters were the key. Never better.” He commented something about the pleasures of Moradin himself. And, he finally ended with a somewhat acrobatic flourish involving a waterskin and a small tin cup of frothy amber held out to me.
“Welcome, Gled…” was all I could get out before he shushed me and wiggled the cup.
I took a sip. He grinned. I took a swig. He beamed. I took a gulp. He burst into another glorious rant of ‘best ever’ and ‘never tasted its equal’ and ‘how the Gods intended it’ and finally closed with, “I think I’ll call it WunderBrew.”
For my part, I have to admit that it was wonderful – probably the best I had ever tasted. Just as I was forming the words to ask for more, Gledrick pushed past me, knocking loose my nightcap again, and bound down the hall shouting that even that elf would have to admit his new brew was a WunderBrew.
Dadrigor woke me well before daylight with a hearty oatmeal and strong tea. I studied and memorized a small assortment of spells, including my new one. Knowing we would have horses for this journey, I packed two of my research books. Dadrigor took my bags and loaded them onto the pack horse. I stepped out into the brisk dawn and met with my companions on the north side of Hammer Hill.
Aimon wore a small copper symbol around his neck – the holy symbol of Melora. Ilirithil walked awkwardly, and I thought perhaps he hadn’t healed well from his terrible wounds. I then noticed he wore a form of studded leather armor. Clever, but I wondered if he could really move with the freedom he needed during combat. Alexey was there, but no one saw him arrive. Gledrick protectively cradled his over-full wineskin and pleaded with Burdic to protect his brew should the goblins come.
With a few urgent words of haste from Burdic, we started the northward trek. We hugged the east coast of The Lake of the Clouds. Unlike the western shore, the forest was not thick here and the wind bit at us as we traveled.
Eight slow, frigid hours later, we were frozen by what we found. A wide swath of tracks showed where 50-some goblinoids marched southward. Aimon told us the tracks were less than 24 hours old. He picked out goblin, hobgoblin and bugbear tracks from the mess. I was relieved we didn’t leave a day earlier, but I wondered what might be following this troop from the north.
Another day of travel brought us close to the mouth of the river where we thought Gruncheck may be. Aimon suggested a wide berth and to come back into the area from the north. When, at last, we came to a low spot with some shelter from the wind, we set up camp. Alexey and Aimon crept ahead to scout the area.
They returned and told us about a small outpost with only one tent. They didn’t see any evidence that Gruncheck, or any other prominent leader, was present. I shared with them the reading I had done during their scouting. I had brought a book on the History of the Northern Lands and found a short entry about the Khazaban clan:The Khazaban clan is a reclusive clan of mountain dwarves who have long inhabited the mountains north of The Lake of the Clouds. They drift into and out of the history of the region for centuries. They keep to themselves and have little contact with outsiders currently, even other dwarf clans. Not much is generally known about their ways.
A dull, cold morning greeted us with a thin layer of snow and a light breeze. Gledrick made another stew, though not nearly so good, as Alexey and Aimon scouted the area again. The outpost still showed no signs of a significant inhabitant. We decided our advantage lay in not being discovered, and continued north without accosting the camp.
A span of four long days found us standing on a rocky outcrop overlooking a rough river. With no obvious ford, we headed upstream. The terrain was wild, but beautiful. Rugged, but fragile. I was lost in the vision, when the peace was disturbed by Gledrick’s shout, “Amarak mir da razak.” I recognized the dwarven phrase, “My heart lies in the mountain.”
Gledrick explained that this was how he intended to engage the Khazaban clan. He expected, like with any decent dwarven clan, that we would be known to them before they revealed themselves to us. With no apparent answer, we continued on, climbing a steep ravine and leading the horses carefully.