Friday, 10 December 2010
The March to Humstrolande
After travelling for nearly a week, the brave and cunning dwarfs of Medgrim started having the first glimpse of the peaks of the mighty Humstrolande, the ubiquitous chain of mountains that separates West of Hargam from the wild plains of the East. The dwarfs had been told by Surgon, the wild wanderer, that there was an ancient mine, long abandoned, located somewhere in the valley of Humstrolande. This mine, Surgon would reveal, was told to guard the lost treasures of Grimgory, one of the first dwarf kings and certainly a character venerated for centuries by most dwarfs.
In order to reach Humstrolande, the dwarfs decided to cross the woods of Lomman Toll, thus avoiding the human towns of Balderhelm and Gormann. Since the disappearance of Sir Lore, the unifier of the races, dwarfs and men had been living in mutual suspicion.
The first few days of the journey went with relative ease. Marching along the brooks during the day and camping in the open at night, soon the dwarfs would reach the valley leading to the first steps of the giant mountains.
The leader of the expedition, Daugrim, an audacious veteran who had seen many battles, some of them along side Lore himself, took special care of the small group of engineers and their pony, ensuring that they would be safe at all times during the journey. Lomman Toll was not famous for its dangers, but any caution was never too much.
When the fifth night came to an end, Daugrim and his band saw the silhouette of "Old Lady", the first mountain of Humstrolande for those travelling from the South.
Delighted, as much as a dwarf can be, to get nearer the mine, the group swiftly resumed the trot.
All was going as normal until Thromgrim, the most experienced scout of the group, stopped for a moment. Raising his arm, to the rest of the dwarfs, he said that there were Orcs nearby. "Orcs?!", the group retorted in amazement. How was it possible? Sure, they had seen green-skinned creatures beyond Boran Hills and even Naull Falla, the watchtower of the South. But Orcs as far as Humstrolande? Surely, Thromgrim was losing his skills that once had made him so famous.
Daugrim was about to order the dwarfs to continue marching forward when tribal sounds of wild chants and distant drumming started filling the air. Thromgrim was right; there were foul orcs and goblins at close quarters!
In fact, after a closer look around, the dwarfs could see some smoke coming from a glade a few metres away from them. Some of the scouts rushed towards the nearest pine trees to take a peek. Horrified, they realised that there was a whole orc village standing between them and the easiest path available towards Humstrolande! Daugrim, with centuries of experience, ordered the group to turn right towards the eastern section of the valley, in order to avoid the promise of a bloodshed. His biggest priority, at this stage, was to keep the dwarf engineers immune to any possible threat.
Without even noticing, the dwarfs stumbled upon what seemed to be an abandoned miner encampment. Before he was able to start speculating about what had happened in there, Daugrim and his soldiers were caught by surprise by a vicious mushroom man. The creature was hiding behind the a group of trees and decided to attack the dwarfs. Mushroom men, unlike most forest beings, are very tricky to kill, since they release deadly poison through their pores. But fate was to favour the dwarfs, as they managed to slay the monstrous fungus after some hard and cunning acts of bravery.
But when the dwarfs thought they could resume the run towards the safe flank of the forest, away from the sight of the Orcs, they realised the engineers were under huge danger: a group of six goblin raiders, which had been tracking down Daugrim's party since they had left the outskirts of Medgrim, was swiftly approaching from the Northern part of the forest. The dwarf thane lost momentarily his sense of leadership and allowed a few irresponsible dwarf warriors to make a very risky decision by attracting a sloth of bears from the western flank, very few metres away from the Orc village. Their intention was to attract the bears to get nearer their enemies' encampment. For a moment, Daugrim's heart froze as he saw his original tactic of passing unnoticed being completely compromised. And all seemed lost, as the goblin raiders were already preparing their arrows to kill the nearest dwarfs. At this stage, Daugrim took the engineers and their precious pony to the narrowest section of the forest, in the hope that they could find a safe place away from the bloody conflict.
But when the goblins seemed to have the upper hand, suddenly the bears started chasing the raiders, leaving the dwarfs for vital moments. This was enough for the dwarfs to strike back and slay three of the raiders.
At the same time, Daugrim and his engineers were spotted by a few goblin sentinels from the village. Screaming furiously, the goblins called out the rest of their group, some dozens of orcs, goblins, orclings and snotlings to kill the dwarfs, raising pandemonium.
Daugrim realised that any tactic was now useless and went for the kill. With the precious aid of his best warriors and miners, the leader killed several goblins and snotlings that had surrounded the bearded fighters.
They also managed to escape a storm of arrows coming from the goblin archers. As the inhabitants of the village kept on flooding the forest, and close combat carried on, Daugrim saw two goblin shamans casting spells from a safe distance, threatening the success of the dwarfs. In that instance, Daugrim made his riskiest decision in years and ordered all his soldiers to rush into the village and kill the vicious shamans before it was too late.
Hammering every single creature in their way, the dwarfs managed to get very close the shamans. But killing them was proven to be tougher than they had assumed, as a posse of savage orcs came out of a hut and went straight to Daugrim.
On the other side of the forest, the bold dwarfs that had attracted the bears were chasing the remaining raider, who had miraculously escaped and was now very close to the engineers. But one raider was not enough to do the job and was killed before he could do any serious damage. Ironically, the raider had attracted the bears to where the engineers were, so it took another serious run away from the beasts to escape for good.
Inside the village, an epic combat was being fought between Daugrim and the great orcs, aided by the shamans and their deadly spells. Some dwarf warriors lost their lives in the middle of the mayhem, but eventually, Daugrim was able to fatally wound his closest enemies and gain advantage over the rest of the orcs and goblins.
Some of the dwarfs even dared to enter one of the huts and managed to rescue a group of trapped miners. And to their surprise, one of the prisoners was none other than Surgon, the wild wanderer! Surgon had gone in search for the treasure weeks before Daugrim and his band found their way into the forest.
Now released and properly armed, these dwarfs were the best gift that the rest of the group could have asked for in order to defeat the orcs! And so they did, as the green-skinned started succumbing before the rage of the mighty dwarfs. There was still time for one of the savage orcs track down the engineers and chase them in a desperate attempt, but it was too late by then, as the dwarfs had the upper hand and by now, a much superior number of fighters. Soon, the whole village was destroyed and the orcs annihilated by the brave Daugrim and his fighters.
Victory had a bitter taste, as Daugrim looked at the inanimate bodies of some of his friends, lying still on the ground. The dwarfs took their time burying the corpses and sending their prayers to the Gods. But by the end of the long night, the dew on the grass reminded the adventurers that Humstrolande was just a few steps way.