The swirling snow fell on the soldier's shield,
covering the symbol of Hrothen's Hope.
The swirling snow fell on the dwarf's black beard,
and melted into the darkness.
-opening poem of Hrothen's Curse, a dwarven tale
Stabbing into the heavens like an earth god's fingers, the Gotame mountains are tall and inhospitable. And because of their position running north/south almost through the center of the continent, the Gotame mountains are very inconvenient (which led to the name). There are three main ways to get around them. The first involves either heading north, and going around them by land. The main problem with this way is that you're heading through bandit country (or alternatively Averoth the Barbaric, or a place like that). The second way is south, likewise around the Gotame Mountains, but over sea. The mountains go all the way to the coast, remaining as tall and impenetrable as always, and as such hiring a ship would be the only way to go.. The third way was only recently discovered by the dwarves. The dwarves had previously started mining and creating their underground cities on the western side of the mountains. The west side because of the lack of precious metals and gems on the eastern half, and because the eastern half is more steep, more precarious, more dangerous. These dwarves discovered a pass, long hidden, that would provide easy travel past the Gotame Mountains. This pass is located roughly in the middle of the mountain. This pass was hidden naturally by rugged hills on either side, and by its isolation- the main roads were a good 30 miles to the east or west of the mountains. And so the dwarves, knowing an easy way to make money, set up a road from the main road through the pass, and a toll booth. After the word got out about the pass the dwarves had found, all the merchants started using it. Using the Short Valley Road, as it would come to be called in its early days, cut off travel time from not having to go around the Gotame Mountains, and was safer and cheaper- the dwarves kept the area bandit clear, and a normal toll costs much less than getting aboard a ship. As such, the pass was well traveled by merchants, travelers, etc.
The human armies were arrayed into the distinct legions of the various nations that had quarrel with the dwarves- the Dominans, the Abezians, the Firith, the Eveteportians, and the Cerert. Giant war machines stood out among the men- trebuchets, ballista, onagers, and a couple of the rarer ones, like Firith's Flameshot, a device that pumped out lit oil in aÂ fieryÂ stream that set men ablaze, and Eveteport's Magiboom, a tube that conjured and shot out magical balls that exploded when they hit a wall. All in all, an impressive array. The humans had not come to make war on the dwarves, but to negotiate with the dwarves. The humans had allied and gathered this host to cross the Gotame Mountains, home to five dwarven clans, through the Short Valley Road. Their purpose was to make war on Brutheron, which lay on the far side of the Gotame Mountains. But the Dwarven Gotame Kingdom, the joint group of those five dwarven clans, were allies with Brutheron. And for a dwarf, unlike the spineless, oath-breaker humans, one's word is final. The humans came to cross the mountains. The dwarves had come to defend their lands in the war they were set on causing.
The Gotame Mountain area was home to five Dwarven clans- the Stonebreakers, Ironfists, Axers, Y'futherin, and Holdarks. These five clans had various lands associated with them. The Stonebreakers had the southern half of the Gotame mountains, which had excellent stone quarries. The Axers had the Short Valley Pass, as well as some of the lands to the east and west of that area, and harvested both lumber, trade, and farms. The Ironfists had the northern half of the Gotame mountains, and area full of iron. The Y'futherin had the tips of the mountains, and were the main religious clan of the mountains. The Holdarks had the majority of the caves below the mountains. They all had, after the great Clan Wars of the early years, created a somewhat democratic form of government, in which theÂ chieftainsÂ of the clans voted on one of them to be the king, who ruled for life. The clan whose chief became king would get another chief. The country that resulted from this was known as the Gotame Kingdom. The chiefs would rule over there own clans, and serve as advisors to the king. The king had power of the army, foreign relations, inter-clan trade, and so on, but not much power over the actual goings-on of the clans. He was mostly a figurehead of the dwarven people, representing their interests. He did have the final say in most controversial matters.
The negotiations went just as the dwarves predicted. The five human leaders came, and met with the Dwarven King and his five chiefs. They asked politely for passage through the pass. The dwarves asked why they wanted this. The humans said to destroy Brutheron. And the Dwarves told the humans that the only way they would pass through the Short Valley was over the Dwarves' dead bodies. The humans had come in the middle of summer. They would lose to many men to the snow and terrain if they went north around the the mountains, because they would arrive at the northern plains in winter. Ships for all the soldiers would be far to expensive, and it would be too late in the sailing season for any sane captain to depart. And so the only way to Brutheron was through the pass. The pass full of dwarven warriors. The dwarves took to the Short Valley Wall, and the human ambassadors to their armies.
The Short Valley Pass runs straight through the Gotame Mountains. The pass itself is the perfect defensive position, with steep, cliff walls on either end. Though it is possible to climb the mountains to get into the center of the pass, it is very dangerous. And the majority of the pass has cliff walls. On each end of the pass is a stout wall of dwarven make. As such, it is tall, thick, and can take a lot of force before collapsing. Each of the ends of the pass is 25 feet wide, which means that the walls themselves are 25 feet long. Each wall has a tower set next to the cliff. On the level above the ramparts are archers, the level above that javelineers, the level above that ballistae, and the roof has a catapult. There is a decent-sized gate in the center of the walls. The dwarves keep the whole garrison well stocked. Each wall has a camp for the dwarves to live in. The camps have stone buildings, and are surrounded by another wall. The center of the pass is another reason why the Short Valley Pass is so precious to the dwarves. It is a large clearing, around 500 feet in diameter. The clearing has a small lake on the north side, fed by the Dameute'el River, which stems from a spring on the mountain's peak. The river continues out of the lake, and wraps its way almost through the center of the clearing (and roughly cuts the pass in half), and goes underground into a cave system that has an entrance on the south side of the clearing. This cave system is where the Holdark clan's main entrance and exit is. In fact, the only other known Holdark entrance is from a point on the top of a mountain to the south. The clearing has a small city set in a large cave to the north, where the king of the clans reside. This city is not considered a part of the Axer clan's territory, and is ruled by the king. This city, called Drak'instione, is the political hub of the Gotame Kingdom. The clearing is also farmed.
Hrothen was, at the time, chief of the Axers. A young chief, the old one had only recently become king a half decade ago. He bore on his left arm his shield, in his right the Axer's Axe- the axe the Axer clan chief traditionally wielded. Though its appearance makes it look very ceremonial, with its gold gild-ings and gem-encrustedÂ hilt, the maker of the axe had made sure it could very easily kill. As such, the maker, a genius of the Axer dwarves, made it heavy enough to get through any armor, strong enough to withstand any blow, and durable enough to last a millenium- all without the aid of magic. It had all ready survived numerous battles, political and physical, over its 10 centuries. Hrothen stood next to King Halfburth, along with all the other chiefs. They stared out at the hordes of humans, knowing that they would no doubt begin the attack at dawn, when the sun would be at their backs. Dwarvish soldiers from all the clans waited on the wall, preparing for the attack. Boulders were raised via pulley to the catapults on the towers, huge quarrels were rushed to the ballistae, arrow and javelin stockpiles were carried to the towers. Oil in great vats were being prepared all over the wall. Makeshift camps had sprung up all over the pass toÂ accommodateÂ the numbers of dwarven soldiers. And a small number of humans, roughly 1000 men, had arrived from Brutheron, with the promise of more to come. On the dwarven side was 10,000 soldiers. On the humans side, or as they had taken to calling themselves, the Federation of Allies, was 50,000. The dwarves had readied themselves for war. But would it be enough?
The Gotame Kingdom has seen a variety of wars. And one of the first moves of most sides is to head for the Short Valley Pass. It is theÂ strategicalÂ and political heart heart of the whole kingdom. Take it, and your next move is to take Drak'instione. From their, all you have to do is clean up the remainders of the clans. Which is why the dwarves have invested so much time and effort into the defense of the Pass. Though they still allow travelers through, thoseÂ travelersÂ are checked and searched for weapons. Any weapons that are found areÂ immediatelyÂ confiscatedÂ by the dwarves, and may or may not be returned to the traveler, depending on what the weapon is, the traveler him/herself, Â etc. Security is strict in the pass, but not strict enough to discourage travelers. from using the pass.
The battle came before dawn. The Federation opened it with a bombardment with its siege weapons. Boulders flew through the pre-dawn air with deadly speed. They hit the wall and burst into fragments. But they weakened the wall. More boulders flew, and then again. And when the sun shone over the wall, it was to see aÂ moderatelyÂ weakened defense. The stout dwarven architecture still stood strong. Dwarves peeked over the defenses, and saw the humans charging, heading for the gate. Several siege towers were being pulled forward into position. The dwarves, smiling, readied their axes. Finally, an enemy that you could kill, that you could fight against! The ballistae and catapults and archers and javelineers loaded their missiles and fired at the towers. One took a direct hit from a catapult's boulder, and fell, crushing a good number of humans. Another's protective walls were decimated by ballistae quarrels, and its archers slaughtered by the incoming hail of arrows and javelins. But several more kept coming. The defenders kept firing, but a tower got into position by the gate. Its battering ram swung as its swordsmen charged off the top at the dwarves. Melee combat initiated on top of the wall as humans tried to get a foothold on the wall. Finally, a dwarf managed to get a good blow on the plank-bridge between the tower and the wall, and a couple of humans fell screaming to the ground. But by that time another pair of towers reached other sections of wall, and offloaded more humans. But the defenders managed to fight them off too. Missile weapons thundered off in volleys into the crowd of humans, killing groups at a time. The defender's numbers began to dwindle, but they fought on, giving more than they got, but not giving enough to stem the tide. The dwarves launched a counterattack, and stormed one tower, and managed to butcher its crew. They retreated before more humans could come, lighting the tower on fire as they went. But as this went on, the southern tower was stormed by the humans, who managed to clear a section of wall. The tower guards fought bravely, but the humans killed them. The humans manged to reach the catapult on top of the tower and launch a boulder at the north tower. The north tower fell under the barrage from the south tower as the gate gave a final crunch as the ram finally tore it to smithereens. The remaining dwarves retreated to the camp and the city, placing a final hope in those walls. The king and chiefs, using magical means, counted the remaining forces. They had lost 6,000 soldiers, with 2,500 of those soldiers garrisoned in the city, with the remaining 1,500 in the camp. The enemy had lost 25,000, half of its fighting force. But they still had plenty of men left to take the lesser defenses of the city and the camp.
Drak'instione is a moderately sized city. Certainly not the biggest city in the world, it is the biggest in the Gotame Kingdom. Each facet of it is a marvel of dwarven architecture and engineering. The various temples, the palace, the federal buildings, each is work of pure beauty. From the Ar'ithinlot, the main street that has seemingly weightless vine-wrapped arches, to the Weightless Way, a bridge crossing the Dameute'el, each facet is unique and marvelous. Any human craftsman and engineer would gap in wonder at the works he would have no hope of accomplishing. Some parts of the city, of course, are worse than others. The two main such places are the Edge and the Darks. The Edges is the dirty, grungy, immigrant section of the city. Though immigrants are aÂ minority, they are still present. Most such immigrants are human, but there are others. Most such immigrants can't find jobs. The main jobs are really just farming, and crafting, and there is only a limited amount of farmland, and the dwarves can craft better than humans. As such, most of the immigrants turn to crime. The Darks, on the other hand, is the area in the farthest portion of the cave that most of Drak'instione takes up. It is where the poor native dwarves tend to live. It, too, is a den of crime. But the emphasis of the crime in the Darks is not on theft, but on the black market. If you need some clandestine weapon created, someÂ officialÂ document forged, some poison traded, the Darks is the place to go. The defenses of Drak'instione, on the other hand, are lesser than that of the walls guarding the pass, but still formidable.
The camp was quickly crushed. Its walls were never meant to be tested. The dwarves in the camp gave as much as they could, but they died quickly, in the day after the wall failed. The Federation lost only 3,000 men. The dwarves were down to 2,500 men, with the Federation at 22,000. The day after the camp fell, at noon, the Federation sent an envoy under the white flag to speak with the dwarves. The envoy gave the dwarves the option of surrender. The dwarves opted to fight to the end. The honor of the dwarven people were at stake. They would not let down their ally. And so, the humans launched their attack that dawn. They barraged the stone walls of the city, and the gate crumbled under the onslaught. The Federation's army then stormed through the hole, and the two sides clashed in the streets. The dwarves fought bravely, but eventually they had to fall back to the palace, the remaining bastion of the dwarves. A temporary respite in the fighting happened then, at noon, where both sides did what they could for the wounded. The dwarves were down to the last 500. The Federation, on the other hand, still had 18,000. Both sides knew that the dwarves would fight to the last man, and both sides knew that the Federation had all but won.
The palace of Drak'instione is beautiful and elegant. Not designed for war, but rather to impress any diplomats who came to the city, its graceful walls are mostly for show. They can still be used for war, but they are thin. They gracefully soar up, and look weightless. The palace's keep, likewise, is made for show. It has four towers, one per corner. These towers are roofed with sheets of gold, with veins of gems. The gems represent the cardinal direction that the tower is at, with the north tower having lapis lazuli, the south having rubies, and so on. The palace keep has a thin stream of gems pointing to each tower, with the gems the same as the tower it points towards. The whole thing is a marvel of dwarven engineering. Inside the keep, the entire complex is made out of precious materials. There are niches in the walls for candles, with chandeliers in the large hall.
The two armies lined up, with the dwarves on the walls of the palace, and the humans on the streets. Both were waiting for the human's signal. But then a strange signal sounded, a bugle call, that the Federation did not use. It was Brutheron. The reinforcement troops from the country this war had been over had finally arrived. The knights of Brutheron cut through the reeling humans, and the infantry forces filled that cut. With a shout of triumph the dwarves opened their gates, and took to the fields. Brutheron had arrived! And on the spur of triumph, King Halfburth, Chief Hrothen, and the rest of the chiefs followed their men into the midst of combat. They knew not how many men Brutheron had, or whether or not they had a chance. But they had been set on death before Brutheron had come, so why should that change? The Federation retreated, and pulled out of the city, and the dwarves followed, not caring that the men of Brutheron was going slower than them, not caring about tactics or strategy, not caring about the frantic calls of their King, or their Chiefs, but caring solely on the slaughter. And that was how King Halfburth, and his chiefs, found themselves with only 500 dwarves on the fields of the Short Valley pass between the Federation, and their newest member- Brutheron.
The Federation and Brutheron's forces mingled, and surrounded the dwarves.
'WHY?' shouted Hrothen, full of rage at the oath-breaker humans, whose honor apparently meant nothing to them. 'WHY, BRUTHERON? WHY DID YOU BETRAY US?'
'Because you were doomed, and we saw a chance to ally ourselves with the Federation. Us humans should stick together, and not with inferior races,' replied the king of Brutheron.
'You betrayed us to save your own neck? You could have helped us! Together, we could have easily beaten them!' Hrothen shouted back.
But the King of Brutheron only smiled, and blew the war-bugle. And the Federation charged. The dwarves fought on, back to back, holding the line. Doing everything they could, giving everything they had. Their axes rose and fell, and blood soaked into the ground. Bodies of both sides formed, providing the dwarves with a wall. And still they fought on, giving all they had left. Hope had left them, and had been replaced with a fiery hot rage against the world, against fate, against everything that had put them here, in this blood-stained valley, to protect a friend who had turned on them. They fought, axes falling and voices shouting, dwarves crying and heaving and trying to live in vain. And then the humans pulled back. The dwarves, with sheer will power, with sheer stubbornness, with sheer rage, had given five times as good as they got. They had suffered a 200 casualties, the enemy 1000.
And then the humans pulled up their archers, and let loose a volley of arrows. Dwarves fell, at the hands of the unhonorable. With an incoherent scream of rage, King Halfburth lifted his axe and charged the side of Brutheron, heading for the king, with rage guiding his feet. The archers fired once at the king, and still he charged, eyes red with bloodlust, unfeeling the pain. Again, the archers fired, and again. And on the third volley, Halfburth fell to his knees, pain etching hisÂ countenance. He slowly drew out his throwing axe, shaped and weighted for his arm, and threw. It turned and twisted through the air, and cleaved the king of Brutheron's skull in two. And the Dwarven King fell dead, the ghost of a smile on his lips. And then the dwarves charged. Fighting wildly, their axes cut through armor, the dwarves died, one by one. But Hrothen stood still, as his dwarves fell around him, sounds of battle barely reaching his ears. He gripped his axe in one hand, his shield in the other, and shouted a curse down on the humans, any human, who dared step in this valley, his valley, his land. And then, as dwarves and humans died around him, snow started to fall from the summer sky, and settled on Hrothen and the dwarves. A cold wind blew through the valley, as the fighting dwindled to a halt. And then a sudden flurry of snow settled, and the blizzard rolled in, smothering and entombing the valley. Snow swirled trough the air, blinding the Federation and the dwarves equally. And then each side heard Hrothen's Curse thunder through the valley,Â reverberatingÂ cliff sides, destroying any hope of resistance. On and on the words sounded, as twin sheets of ice grew in front of the walls guarding the pace. On and on the words sounded, as the men of Brutheron died hideously. On and on the words sounded, as both dwarves and the Federation slipped into their final slumber. And then the blizzard died, and revealed Hrothen simply standing amidst the snow, bodies covering the field, blood dotting the pure white. Hrothen laughed his first laugh as a mad dwarf.
Hrothen's Hope is a dungeon set in the wintery wastes of Short Valley Pass. That land isÂ permanentlyÂ frozen, with snow storms common. There are two ways to get in-Â throughÂ the ice walls on either side of the pass, or through the cave system that the Holdarks still control. There are three main areas in the whole area- the fields, the city, and the palace. Hrothen resides in the palace, where he rules over the dwarven spirit-warriors chained to the land of the living by Hrothen's Curse. The whole area is now known as Hrothen's Gate, because of the fact that the whole pass is the door through the Gotame Mountains.
The whole pass is haunted by the souls of the dwarves, Federation, and Brutheron. Each side is a different type of undead fiend. The dwarves should be the most powerful and mostÂ tangibleÂ with a moderate amount of free-will. They have their duty, and will do Hrothen's will to the end. The Federation ghosts lack free will, areÂ moderatelyÂ powerful, and did not die too brutally. The Brutheron, however, have the worst position of the lot. Forced by the curse to serve Hrothen for all eternity, the Brutheron, too, must also suffer eternal torment as they struggle in vain to fulfill their curse. The Brutheron would like nothing more than to kill Hrothen, but cannot, because they have to serve Hrothen in all things. The Brutheron, because of their eternal rage and torment, are almost as powerful as the dwarves. Each type of ghost (or ghost-like being) are in as large a number as the DM wants. Some of them have been dieing their final deaths from either past adventurers, time, or fulfilling their curse.
Hrothen himself was driven mad by the curse he unleashed, and by the betrayal of Brutheron. He now hates all races, except the dwarves, with a passion, because he views them all as possible betrayers. HeÂ especiallyÂ hates people who have broken their promises. Hrothen himself will target oath-breakers with all the forces at his disposal, but will wait on the other races. The dwarves, on the other hand, will only be killed if they are either from Brutheron, have broken an oath or promise, or have the 'human taint.' He would prefer that dwarves learn from their mistakes, but will have no qualms about killing them.
A couple of years after the fall of the Short Valley Pass, a couple merchant clans hired the Holdark clan to provide a way for them to safely pass through the pass. The Holdarks then created special Blocking Stones, which they placed on the road. Because of these stones, Hrothen's minions cannot go onto the road for an hour and a half before before and after sunrise and sun fall. Therefore, for six hours, the road is not safe. During that time period, travelers are allowed to rest in the Holdark's caves, which Hrothen's minions cannot enter. The safe limit is about five feet beyond the road, with a short wall of stones showing the limits. This wall is about 3 feet tall. The Holdarks are currently seeking a way to expand that safe area, and to get rid of the curse forever.
Hrothen, and his minions, are mostly concentrated at Drak'instione. However, some of them can be found near the road, walls, and so on. Some patrols of these creatures have been established by Hrothen.
-The PCs have to find a special object that is found in Hrothen's Gate
-The PCs need information from Hrothen, from Drak'instione's library, etc.
-The PCs are hired by the remaining dwarven clans to find out what exactly happened after the Federation stormed the pass.
-The PCs are hired by the Holdarks to 'fix' the pass, or to act as guards for some Holdarks as they expand the territory protected from Hrothen's minions.
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? Responses (9)
A mistake I have made often and still make is to be taken in by interesting narratives or attractive descriptions whenever judging a talk, proposal, paper or article. My first response to this was, aside from a banal enumeration of deaths, heavy recycling of the 300, and a ridiculously small area to have an epic battle, I loved it. There is so much here, religious dwarves, farming dwarves, dwarven politics, I wanted to write fan fiction about this half way through. Yet the content here in is about the pass, the dwarves that owned the pass and the battle that took the pass from the dwarves. This piece is only marginally about a dangerous ice filled valley run by mad dwarven demi-god and populated by vengeful spirits. It is even less about Hrothen, we learn more about his Axe then we do about him before the maddness.
There is alot of good stuff here and great ideas, but it is not put together as cohesive or complete narrative or gaming resource.
Yeah, I was thinking about how it fit together as a dungeon at the end. It was too sparse in the dungeon area to really be considered one. So what I think I'm going to do is just make it so the humans kill off the dwarven army, betray Brutheron (who can trust a turncoat like that?), and let the dwarves rebuild. Which would provide meaning to the description of the city. Maybe I can add a section about the war memorial where King Halfburth died...
I like the story, I think you have a great story. Is it the story you want to tell?
Well, it has dwarven feel for sure. I agree with axle for the most part, it is a good legend and history for a world, if a bit disjointed and mish-mashed together. Undead dwarves are fun. I particularly enjoyed the beginning, where you discuss the clans, geography, and societal notes.
I was torn as to how to vote on this, as dungeon write up it is weak sauce. As detailed write up of 'historical event' it is fun, you get a bunch of stuff like this in your fictional world and you can start making in world literary allusions. And I actually muttered 'Jerks!' when the Brutheron's charged though. So thanks I enjoyed it.
It got loose at the end, but I loved it. Rise and fall of a Dwarven Empire. I think the end just needs to be more clear. I didn't get that nobody can go through it till one of the last lines. I just thought the place was haunted by ghosts and zombies. The place is too important to the world you created to just let lie. I see it being held still by humans. They have figured out ways to keep the undead at bay and/or lock themselves in certain safe areas after dark and can come out in the daytime. Besides the undead, I think there have to be some dwarves around (even coming in from another clan deeper in the mountains or something) that continue to have some kind of insurgency against the past with the hope of one day regaining it.
I like it a lot, the end just needs to be tightened a bit more to bring it all together in a solid understanding of the current state. I agree a solid 4 as is, but it could be upgraded with that fix and some better plot ideas.
Awesome, LOVE IT!!
That is true. The Short Valley Pass is an important pass for travel and trade. I will go add a bit for that purpose. Perhaps the Holdarks provide a place of safe refuge during the times Hrothen's minions come out...?
Anyway, good ideas. I will go edit it presently.
Update: Took up Stro