Two decades ago, most members of my family were slaughtered at a place in the Barrier Mountains known as Azan Gedat.
Azan Gedat was an old, abandoned dwarven mine. My family went there, along with a score of other poor and desperate families of our clan, to seek their fortune. After all, it had been centuries since clan Glamrik departed, after sealing up the mountain and issuing a dire warning. My family and their companions thought it worth the risk.
Within a few months they were all dead. My parents, sister, brother — every man, woman and child. Most slain ruthlessly and efficiently in their beds.
My people have always believed orcs committed this treachery. Orcs are known to populate the surrounding mountains and show no mercy when it comes to my kind. Who else could it have been?
Encounters with drow
Several weeks ago, I became convinced the drow had been involved somehow. At first it seemed incredible — impossible — that the mythical drow could be the mysterious emissaries the orcs of the bear claw had allied with. But then came our various drow-infested visions and an oath at the pool of Labelas, setting us upon the path to Azan Gedat (the place I yearned and dreaded to visit).
And then the searing agony as a drow minion wielded a knife — a finger, my left ear, the right, then finally my entire hand severed in the dirt. I can hardly breathe for screaming, let alone answer the persistent questions of this beautiful, deadly, malicious creature… a warped, twisted, corrupted version of my kind.
My friends found me, maimed, bloody and traumatised. They heard my wretched account of a raiding party from the underdark, bearing the sign of a black fist, spearheaded by a silver-haired, silver-tongued drow assassin. They bound my wounds and bore me back to the healing pool for another remaking of my flesh, if not my spirit.
When the black fist raiding party caught up with us again, less than a day’s walk from Talon Harn, they were no less savage and persistent, demanding to know our destination and what we sought. They incapacitated us in an instant, ransacked our gear with purpose, before fleeing into the night. They killed Aramil with the flick of a knife.
It was fortunate that our proximity to Talon Harn brought us reinforcements before the black fist killed us all, and the clerics of my people could sing a song of remaking for Aramil.
The drow are vicious and ruthless and powerful. I don’t see how we can hope to stand against them. Not even if we find this orb we seek. I desperately fear what will happen on our next encounter.
Confronting ghosts of the past
After a couple of days’ rest in Talon Harn, we travelled unmolested through the elven forest to Edya’ando, the town of my childhood, and beyond it Azan Gedat.
I don’t know what I expected… For two decades Azan Gedat has loomed in the minds of all my kin as a place of shadow and despair, of violence and death. It’s only a few hours’ ride beyond the town and the wall, but widely skirted and wholly abandoned.
A dozen small huts cluster at the foot of the mountain, overlooked by sturdy double doors set into the rock. I saw the tiny hut where my family had lived, where they were slain, my mother’s favourite brooch kicked into the dusty corner.
My friends gave me time in the place where my family was murdered. To absorb. To grieve all over again. Then it was time to get what we came for.
We entered the halls of Azan Gedat.
A dangerous bargain
We explored those rough-hewn halls, tentatively at first, then methodically and thoroughly, leaving no secret door or pit trap unturned. The dwarves have left their mark everywhere — the sigils of their gods are carved into many of the walls, and inscriptions in their language warn of danger and death. There are references to spiders and the world crashing down.
Eventually, inevitably, we found ourselves in the depths of the mine, facing another set of double doors, slightly ajar.
Beyond the doors sits a creature the like of which I hope I never have to see again. Its name is Miras Till and it guards an entrance into the underdark. We now know the dwarves of clan Glamrik uncovered the entrance some three centuries ago, and established powerful magical barriers to prevent the drow and their allies from emerging. This creature, this lich called Miras Till, sits as the drow’s guardian of the way into the underdark.
(We know this from the dwarf, Urten, who we encountered during our exploration. He told us many things about the dwarven guardianship of Azan Gedat — some of them horrifying, shocking, outrageous. He said they abandoned the mine — would have done anything — to protect the knowledge of a drow outpost in the bowels of the mountain. They drove off the orcs who tried to settle here… What about my family? I asked him. Did you see who slaughtered the elves?)
We could have walked away from the lich. He was trapped in a chamber behind those doors, bound by the dwarven magic. But our visions had told us to ask a being who does not sleep in the pit of sadness about the location of the artefact we seek… And so.
We bargained with the creature. We pledged to hand over a phylactery of spells that made him vulnerable, and he would give us the information we sought.
Of course, there was a skirmish with spectres at his command. But when that was done, we backed away, having fulfilled the terms of the bargain and received the information we sought.
Even so, Urten the treacherous dwarf cried out and charged. Miras Till dispatched him with a single blow of his great sword and Urten’s days of guardianship were ended.
A new destination
I do not mourn Urten. My feelings towards him swing between pity, hatred and rage. For the drow had nothing to do with the slaughter of my family. Urten confessed it was he and his kin who murdered my family two decades ago.
It was dwarves, our supposed allies against the darkness.
They crept into the village and slew my kin in their beds, all the while trying to make it look as though it were the work of orcs.
I cannot forgive him or his long-dead companions.
All our stories of this event are wrong. All our songs are wrong. I do not yet know what to do with this information.
For now I must focus on our oathsworn mission. We must find and retrieve the Orb of Lermia. At least we now know where to go… If the lich can be believed, the orb is to be found on the island of Ierendi. And that is our next intended destination.
It’s been a while since my last blog post on any topic (over three months), and in that time Melbourne got out of lockdown only to have it reinstated. I think we got in two in-person sessions of this game between lockdowns, but are now back using the roll20 online platform.
In game time, the events that follow took a few playing sessions. But it seemed to make narrative sense to wait until events at Azan Gedat had largely played out before writing it up.
I hope you enjoy!