Master Artificer Glorin Glamdrang of Stahlheim
Gorli Glamrinson Works Smithy, Echer’Naught
Thunder Hawk 15th, 3127
Dranak preserve me. I had believed that young Master Blackstone was merely an imbecile lacking in tact or intellect. But then, a more sinister notion occurred that he might, in fact, be a Malakaran mastermind carefully constructing this comedy of errors to eliminate the leadership of the Rockbreaker ClanHome and establish himself as the sole Chief.
I know understand that he, and his entire team, are patently insane. The most capable and lucid member of the team is their ranking Ranger, the Ass. I simply lack the eloquence to articulate exactly how beyond any reasonable salvage our mission has become. My mission was to simply guide my young charge to the altar and, perhaps, secure some semblance of Diplomatic contact with the Rockbreakers and Stahlheim. We will be lucky to survive.
If some mishap should befall me, please tell my wife I am sorry. She was correct. Working with the Rangers is lunacy.
Eternal Sun 26th, 3127
We quit the field and ventured into the Black Mountains. I must admit to being quite impressed by the expertise of the Black Mountain dwarves. Their roads are ancient, deep, but well maintained. The sheer magnitude of their infrastructure dwarfs, if you will forgive the term, that of our own Kingdom. More impressive that these independent minded Clans managed to work together to keep even the more remote sections of roads passable.
The trek was of some 240 miles which our company traveled in some 12 days. Considering we passed through mountains, and were forced to accommodate an Ogress and a Dregordian, I was well impressed with our progress.
Thunder Hawk 4th, 3127
Toward sunset, we arrived at the mouth of a large natural cave. Water cascaded out of the mouth, down a glittering waterfall into a pool far below. Our road took us into the cave where we were met by a large assemblage of local dwarves.
Behind them, yawned a massive entrance, guarded by twin iron doors, twenty feet tall by ten wide each. Unsurprisingly, it opened at a touch. As we approached, an honor guard met us outside the Clanhome and escorted the body of Clan Chief Rockbreaker through their halls. I must admit a bit of marvel at the Rockbreakers holdfast.
From the front gate, to the deep mine entrances in the mountains, the Clanhome is about 3 miles long following an underground river which pools just inside the main entrance. The Clanhome follows the natural contours of the caves, but have been widened and expanded. 500 (200 yards) feet tall and 500 wide. The cavern is divided into several districts. From the main entrance back, they have carved from the living rock markets (specializing in precious stones an metal), a large housing community with inns and alehouses, vast smithies (though less impressive than our own), Grand Halls if the seven great families, and finally, the Keep, Rockbreakers last bastion and seat of the Clan’s power. Smaller mine entrances appea in nearly every district. Between the markets and the housing, and the smithies and grand halls are two enormous dolines where large sections of the cave roof collapse letting in sunlight and water. The ever industrious dwarves cleared the rubble and converted these sections into farms and gardens.
Admittedly, the Rockbreaker Clan better blends the natural living mountain with their own works than nearly any dwarves I have met; Stahlheim included.
With this setting sun burning orange over the mountains, we followed the solemn progression through the entire Clan Home with throngs of mourners lining the route. Research prior to this venture indicated the Clanhome was host to about 3000 dwarves from a dozen or so family groups. To save the alliance, and protect the Rangers from their own folly, the Rockbreakers sent 300 warriors, smiths, druids, and healers into the valley, with 200 solely dedicated to war. Among that number was the Clans foremost Dranak Druid and their Head Loremaster.
The price these dwarves paid for the Ranger’s sins was just less than 10% of their entire community. Along with their leadership in Political, Military, Knowledge, and Spiritual matters. A few weeks with the Rangers cost these people more than they have lost in the last century. And yet, as we approached the final resting place, the hall of Chiefs were were met with honor and welcome. My own Clan would have been far less hospitable given the circumstances. Which makes what transpired next all the more tragic.
Our solemn march was in silence, save for a lone drum. Upon arriving at the Great Hall of Chiefs, the petrified Chief was laid in state on a rock plinth beneath a single skylight. The vast hall was evacuated, and only his daughter, Ruby, was allowed to remain. Outside, we were greeted by the acting Chief, the Brother of the fallen Chief, Rourk Rockbreaker, and the Speaker of the Home. He struck me as a knowledgeable and congenial dwarf, despite being a bit obsequious. Also in attendance was the Chief’s son, Slate Rockbreaker, destined to assume his father’s mantel upon his death. The lad was garbed as a miner, confident and influential, but with none of his Uncles gravitas. Moreover, all accounts suggests the boy has little desire to rule. Behind these were the heads of the seven most influential clans and family groups, along with representatives of the mines and leading merchants. A fitting tribute for the passing of a Chief.
However, per Arimar Blackstone the Clan Chief was not dead, so the entire line of succession was now in question.
Dranak preserve us.
After a short silent ceremony of posting guards, Speaker Rourk Rockbreaker invited the Ranger team to be guests at his manor house. All our comforts were provided. The rooms were stately, access to hot running water, and servants to prepare our clothes. We were treated with every courtesy befitting ambassadors of foreign lands. We were informed that there would be a week (6 days) of mourning at the loss of the Chief. The Speaker was kept busy these days with official duties.
Thunder Hawk 10th, 3127
Once the regilious and cultural observances were complete, Speaker Rourk Rockbreaker graciously invited our entire team, ogre and all, to a state dinner with visiting dignitaries from the clan’s trading partners in the Malakar Dominion and the Eternal Desert.
After taking a moment to make ourselves presentable, we joined the Speaker at his table, young Blackstone being offered a position of honor at the Speaker’s right hand, and I beside him. After all of our trials, I hoped that our true mission might finally move forward apace. If the Rangers were capable of going more than an evening without embroiling us in another war. Admittedly, I feared more from the ogress or the dregordian. It never occurred to me that our every effort would be undone by the boy himself.
As our host showered us with honor and courtesy, young Blackstone attempted to inquire about the noble lineage of the Rockbreaker Clan, a reasonable and wise attempt to both ingratiate himself while learning more of his new family. That is, if he had not entirely forgotten our, arguably brief, linguistic lessons. Rather than inquire, he not so subtly managed to, at once, insult the Speakers lineage, call into question his courage and manhood, with a very colorful and specific reference to the Speakers own grandmother and her particular oral fixations. It was as elegant as it was biting, subtle as it was offensive. I have heard professional politicians eviscerate their most ardent opponents with less exacting precision and derision. All through an improper turn of phrase.
I was both horrified and grudgingly impressed. Were the insult intentional, one could have at least respected Blackstones temerity. As it was, not only was he insulting, but bumbling as well. The first might be accepted if done well, the latter inexcusable. I did my best to cover for the boy, and remove him from any further potential disaster, but the damage was done. Even the esteemed guests from the east and west heard the exchange irreparably damaging our reputation in the face of not just our host, but those independent kingdoms as well.
In short, Blackstone would have done less damage had he simply attempt to assassinate the Speaker. As it was, we returned to our chambers in shame, waiting for our fates. I was left doubly troubled as I now had not only my own mission in jeopardy, but I could only guess as the ham-fisted farce of which the Rangers would make of this situation. In this, they did not disappoint.
Back in our chambers, I posed to the boy that our position was now untenable and that he must now make an alliance if this marriage and any hope to salvage our mission was to succeed. We needed allies. In that, he must choose to throw his support behind either the son or the uncle. Slate Rockbreaker is the rightful heir, but with his father not dead, there is legal justification for the Speaker to remain as defacto leader until all efforts to revive the Chief are exhausted. Considering his options, the boy chose to support the son and legitimate heir. In this choice, there appeared no good option, so I began discreet inquiries.
Thunder Hawk 11h, 3127
While I counseled the boy, the Rangers elected to host their own moot in a nearby alehouse. Apparently the Rangers wisely dispatched a Farspeaker and reinforcements to support the Rangers of Alpha Team. Unfortunately, those reinforcements were less effective than the team itself. So, in all, they gained the ability to more easily report their failures, but little more.
As he was also a Ranger, I joined Blackstone at the meeting were we encountered the aevakar back from his deathbed, with his two human lovers, and three NEW Rangers to add to my nightmare. The Farspeaker, a capable young women with the only authority to report on events, not to actually improve on them. There were a pair of humans, one large and one scrawny. The larger put on airs so I assume he is something important in his homeland, but here, he was useless. In that, he fit in well with his new companions. At least the bird did little but drink. Though, he was the first to stumble upon the idea that Blackstone was less a bumbling fool he appeared and potentially a political mastermind bringing about the destabilization of the Rockbreaker Clanhome for his eventual takeover.
Part of me prayed for the latter. Despite being despicable, at least in that he would be useful. Sadly, it seems that he, along with his team, are simply imbeciles.
While the Rangers plotted their next idiotic moves, I escorted the boy downstairs where Slate Rockbreaker was mourning with the mining clans. We joined the Heir and spent the next days destroying our internal organs and saving some face with the working dwarves of the Clan. Blackstone can drink. If he can do little else, he CAN do that. Which I suppose is something?
Thunder Hawk 12th, 3127
Meanwhile, having no useful ideas to contribute, the Rangers chose discretion, the better part of valor, and dispatched their new recruit to lie to the Speaker claiming some fictitious emergency in Almahrad before rejecting his hospitality, insulting his intelligence, and declaring loudly their unwillingness to support his cause. And with that, the Rangers effectively removed themselves from the situation and any hope of being part of negotiations or alliances.
I was informed later by friends that after this brilliant political retreat, they stood outside the gates of the manor and discussed possible plans. Having exhausted the limits of their giant intellects, they chose to simply leave the Clanome and head toward the nearest Ranger outpost. Which is Almahrad. This would be a trek of some 315 miles through independant dwarven clanhomes. Never mind the logistical nightmare of such a trek without ample preparations, there was the small issue that without the political protection of the Rockbreaker Clan they might be seen as an invading force and slaughtered out of hand by any of the dozens of clans along the proposed route.
To this, one, or more, rightly pointed out the absurdity of such a plan. Instead, they proposed merely leaving the Clanhome and camping somewhere along the road, either in the mouth of the cave entrance, or somewhere among the blistery peaks of the mountains. For what, and until when was not really discussed.
Never mind the absurd image of the small team huddled around a campfire on some lonely bluff in a transparent attempt to appear to have left the Clanhome, this entire exchange occurred within earshot of the manor and the dwarves on guard. While arguably the Ranger’s own mission was simply escorting Blackstone to the wedding, a mission in which they succeeded despite their own best efforts, it would be reasonably assumed that anyone dispatched on an important diplomatic affair would have the barest modicum of tact and political acumen. Such, clearly, is not the case.
At any rate, by all reports one or more simply started walking south and the rest tagged along with nothing better to do. I would weep had I the energy left. But, at least, the Rangers were rapidly marching into irrelevance and might even stumble into complete absence. Which, of course, did not happen. But, I get ahead of myself.
It seems that during their flight one, or more, noted that they were missing, in addition to any semblance of a plan or leadership, their mounts. Which, would not normally be such an issue, mounts being replaceable, but in THIS particular instance, their lead mount, one Muriel, was, in fact, the ranking member of the team, and the most capable. Not a particularly laudable distinction, but the truth nevertheless.
Again, the RANKING member of Echer’Naught’s Elite Ranger team is an Ass. Not, just an Ass but a mule as well. I’m sure there is some noted distinction between mules, asses, and donkeys, but such are of little consequence here. Muriel, a mule, is a full Sergeant in the Ranger corps with years more experience than any member of the team. Why is this important? Because, while the actual team was flailing aimlessly toward self destruction the MULE had, in no particular order, secured lodging, gained a fair understanding of the surrounding terrain, and NOT insulted their host and tried to incite a civil war. Again, I am coming to that.
So, as they began their idiotic trek to nowhere, one of the Rangers thought to recover their supplies and mounts. Of consideration, Alpha Team is a “cavalry unit,” and it was ONLY at this juncture that anyone gave thought to their mounts, those beasts which define the unit for what it pretends to be.
And so they found Muriel, along with ALL their mounts, placidly dining, and in some cases drinking, at a nearby alehouse where, apparently, the MOUNTS had arranged lodging, and amply provided for their own creature comforts while simultaneously making inroads with the local people.
A MULE, A GOAT, and two HORSES managed to achieve more political capital than the Alpha Team…
So, the Rangers decided, with nothing better to do, to stay with the animals. I THINK they found rooms in the inn and not in the actual stables, but in truth I would hardly be surprised. And now with the Sergeant in command, the Rangers would manage not to make complete asses of themselves…for a few days.
Thunder Hawk 13th, 3127
We continued drinking with Slate Rockbreaker, resuming our mourning with each new shift that came out of the mines.
Thunder Hawk 14th, 3127
We drank for two days, until mid morn on the 14th, the final shift staggered home to their wives. Visibly tired, but still strong, Slate Rockbreaker invited us to speak with him later. He would send someone to fetch us when he had rested.
With the Heir gone, and our only lodging lost to us, I sent the boy to the last contact I had remaining in the city, my distant cousin. We were not actually related, but his family were old family friends of my own. It was one of the reasons I was selected for this mission as I already had a contact in the Clanhome. I sent the boy to stay in the relative safety of my cousin’s trading outpost while I found a quiet corner to write missives to Stahlheim.
I knew a Clan Assembly was in the offing and the Heir would likely lose. When that happened, I needed authority and certain concessions if I were to salvage anything from the unmitigated disaster of this venture. I also penned a scathing indictment of the Rangers and, should I survive, I will personally speak to the King about our “alliance” with the Corps and suggest strongly we reconsider such ties.
Then, I went and slept.
Eventually, I woke and Blackstone reported that he had been followed from the tavern. I was unsurprised. It would have been odd had he NOT been followed. I am a bit surprised he was not assassinated. And, if I am honest, disappointed. It would make my job easier.
Thunder Hawk 16th, 3127
Two days later, we received a summons from the heir, Slate Rockbreaker. Taking our “offering” from its strongbox, I joined the young Blackstone as we were escorted into the mines by two miners. We were followed, but by which faction I cannot say. Hours later, deep in the mines we were granted an audience with Slate in a foreman’s outpost deep in the mines. There, joined only by a few miners as guards, Arimar Blackstone pledged his support for the Heir, Slate Blackstone, and pledged Stahlheim’s support as well. I then presented our gift, a 30 lb ingot of the purest WhiteSilver. A king’s ransom. That, more than our pledge, impressed Slate.
He accepted our support and bid us be safe until the Assembly of Clans. The young heir event dispatched his men to guard us. Little good it would do if the Speaker chose to end our lives, I imagined. But, we graciously accepted and thanked him for his consideration. Young Blackstone managed to stumble through the meeting without damaging our cause any further. Dranak be blessed.
We returned, followed again, and resigned to wait. Young Blackstone had taken time to continue his education about the Clan, and continued to do so. In this, I saw the potential of a leader to come. Perhaps tempered by a few decades of hardship?
Thunder Hawk 18th, 3127
The day of the Assembly dawned. Because of their theoretical political status, the Rangers were summoned from their alecups by Slate’s men and arrived at the Grand Hall. Young Blackstone and I joined with Slate and his supporters on the floor of the Assembly. Eventually, all the clans and families gathered, along with representatives from trading partners and diplomats from as far as Almahrad. The Speaker took his place, and opened the Assembly.
Slate Rockbreaker spoke first, but his oratory skills are better suited to the alehouse, or barking orders in the mines. Then, young Blackstone stepped and spoke well. His words were true, and delivered with confidence, but the Speaker well countered his argument. Then, to the shock of all, the towering Ogress, Ranna, took the floor as a representative of the Rangers and called upon the sacrifice of her mate, Grendel, but the words were like gravel and her translator, Kenzie, struggled with the dialect. Much as Blackstone had on his first meeting. Then again, Kenzie managed not to incite a riot, so, she did well enough. Following this, the Builder stepped onto the floor and orated an impassioned speech against isolation, veritably promising the dwarves the gift of Builder knowledge if they would join in the surface wars.
Many looked upon with greed, thinking of the power such knowledge would bring. But, as the Builder sided with neither the Heir or the Speaker, his speech, however grand, did little to resolve the current crisis. Which seems to be a trend with this particular representative of his race.
Finally, young Blackstone spoke again, and again articulated well, having learned from past mistakes. Still, it was not enough. When the floor was closed, the Clan Chiefs deliberated for a short hours before voting on the acting Chief. Unsurprisingly, Speaker Rourk Rockbreaker won handily, 6 to 1. At least one of the clans supported our cause. That is one more than I expected.
The true shock of the day was when Ruby Rockbreaker, still in her mourning veil, descended onto the floor to stand beside her brother and betrothed. Though we lost the vote, the marriage, it seemed, was on. And so, our mission here is salvaged, in some part, through no fault of our own. After he public declaration, Ruby returned to the Hall of Chiefs to continue her vigil.
I collected the Rangers and returned them to my cousin’s establishment. The Clanhome was no longer safe, and considering their past behavior, I wanted to keep them away from anyone important to limit the further damage they might do on what is now the most tenuous of threads.
I retired to strategize and sleep. It has been an exhausting month. The boy retired to his bed.
Thunder Hawk 19th, 3127
I was wakened in the morning by a curious Blackstone. He purported to have had a dream about the Clan Chief. So, we went, after now many weeks, to finally pay our respects. When we arrived, I feared the Speaker’s guards would turn us away, but it seemed he was feeling magnanimous. I waited near the entrance while the young Blackstone joined his betrothed by the body of the Clan Chief. There he knelt in prayer to Dranak for hours, three or four.
After that, he returned. changed. I know not what he saw, or experienced. but I fear that young Blackstone’s mind has finally snapped. At least in his newfound insanity, he has achieved a semblance of wisdom.
Thunder Hawk 20th, 3127
The evening of the 20th, we were summoned before the new acting Clan Chief. I foresee the wedding to continue, though I fear we will be forced to make concessions if we hope to achieve anything further. When we arrived, we found Slate Rockbreaker also waiting in the antechamber of his father’s office. The old dwarf had wasted no time moving in.
I pen this as we are being summoned. On my honor, I will do my utmost to salvage what I can from this unmitigated disaster. It might be prudent, however, to apply what pressure may be brought to bear upon the Ranger command to recall the Rangers stationed as our escort before we lose any hope of success.
Master Artificer Glorin Glamdrang of Stahlheim