The kingdom of Arborus has been at peace for over 50 years. There have been few monster attacks reported from around the kingdom, and there has been no talk of war for as long as most people can remember. Trade has prospered both within and outside of Arborus. The people couldn't be happier, and King Haldrim could not be more respected. Recently, a very promising discovery has been made near the village of Mulard. A team of miners discovered a few diamond deposits in the mountain just west of the town (Mt. Artempla). A full group of miners, ranging from dwarves, gnomes, humans, and even a few adventurous elves, has been assembled to dig deep inside the mountain and find the large diamond deposit that is rumored to exist. Judging from the smaller pockets of ore, the main deposit should be the largest ever discovered in the kingdom, and it has the potential to make Arborus the wealthiest kingdom in nearly all the world.
Chapter One: ( 001 - 009 )
Herrol wakes up to the song of sweet birds as the sun cuts through the leaves and lands warmly on his face. After getting something to eat he begins to make his way over to Mt. Artempla to make his daily inspection of the mining site. Chasiarm, Furendithas, and Darius arrive at the mining site that morning and are assigned picks to begin working. They are assigned to labor in the right tunnel today to search for the diamond deposit. When Herrol arrives, he first speaks to Tinton Berrywater, the mining projects overseer, to see how the mining is coming along. Tinton explains to him that today may be the day that they find the diamonds. As soon as this is said, a loud yell is heard from the back of the left tunnel in the mine.
The voice exclaims, "Everybody, I've found something!"
-- ( 002 ) --
A rush of noise is heard as the workers, including Chasiarm, Furendithas, and Darius, all run to the left tunnel.
Tinton cries, "Could it be?!" and then also runs into the mine with Herrol following in his wake.
Herrol, Chasiarm, Furendithas, and Darius all meet up on their way to the left tunnel. As they arrive, Tinton makes his way to the front of the crowd. Furendithas also muscles his way through the crowd to get a better look.
"Sir, I think this may be it!" cries the Dwarf who had given the initial yell. Beside him is a very large stone that had been moved aside exposing an array of sparkling crystals around what looks like a circular stone with strange writing on it in the rock.
"What is this?" askes Tinton in bewilderment, "What does it say?" There is a brief moment of silence until the dwarf speaks again.
"No one knows what it means, sir. It does not look like any langauge I've seen."
"This must be the diamonds!" replies Tinton in excitement, "Bonus pay to anyone that can tell me what this says!" A mumble is heard among the crowd, but no one moves.
-- ( 003 ) --
Finally, Furendithas leans over to examine the writing more closely, but it is a language that he's never seen. Knowing that he would not be able to interpret the writings, Herrol waits patiently as he sees Darius come up to view the rock's markings.
"I've never seen any language like this before," remarks Darius as he takes a few steps away.
Tinton Berrywater speaks up again: "It's okay, I was foolsh to think that a group of uneducated miners would be able to know such things."
A cough is heard from the crowd as Chasiarm steps out from the crowd with a look of confidence. He approaches the rock and takes his turn at studying the inscriptions.
"Very interesting," he says to himself.
"Can you read it? What does it mean?" asks Tinton frantically.
"Well, I can only figure out a few words; it seems to be a form of archaic wizard tongue... The only to words I can really recognize are 'treasure' and 'here'."
"Then this must be it!" cries Tinton, "This is what we have been looking for, the main diamond deposit!"
A roar of triumph sounds through the crowd and the miners all speak words like, "Let's get the diamonds," and "We finally found it." The dwarf that initially found the writing again approaches it, raises his pick, and says, "What are we waiting for?" as he strikes the rock.
Immediately a flash of brilliant light erupts from the rock, and a rumbling in the earth knocks everyone off their feet. When the dust clears they see a tall man dressed in dark robes by the rock holding the dwarf by the front of his clothes.
"Thank you for falling into my trap," he mutters in a croaking voice, "but I have no further use for you."
He then mutters some strange words and the dwarf falls lifelessly to the ground.
-- ( 004 ) --
The dark man looks up to see a crowd of astonished miners with a glint of rage in their eyes. He faces the crowd and says in a loud voice, "Stay against the walls!" The voice is coarse but somehow charming.
Darius, Herrol, and the rest of the miners blindly obey his words and back up against the walls in a frenzy as the man begins to walk down the center of the crowd. Chasiarm pulls his bow out and readies a shot but is pulled back to the wall by one of the miners before he can release an arrow. At nearly the same time, Furendithas sprints out of the the crowd and swings his axe as hard as he can at the tall man. The blade of his axe rips into the man, tearing a deep gash into his side. The gash is visible, but it does not bleed, and the man merely turns to Furendithas and laughs.
After this, his body starts to change, he starts to grow shorter, and his face begins to grow hair. Furendithas takes a few steps back in horror as the man finishes transforming into the very dwarf that was just killed.
"I am much too busy to stay here and finish you off," he says in the dwarf's gruff voice. After he utters this he begins to run down the bending path of the tunnel towards the cave's entrance.
-- ( 005 ) --
As the enemy runs down the tunnel, Furendithas yells "He killed a dwarf! Are you all just going to stand there, or are you going to chase him down?"
The crowd still seems very content about staying close to the walls. However, Darius, Chasiarm, and Herrol emerge from the crowd, and Furendithas motions them to help him catch the dwarf-killing shape-shifter. They move stealthily at first until they see the silhouette of their foe's form against the light, then they break out into a run.
When the group arrives at the entrance of the mine they find both the guards dead with wounds from a pick. They look around for the dwarf-killer, but on an initial inspection they can find no trace of him.
-- ( 006 ) --
Herrol scans the ground, which is second nature to him, and finds a set of boot marks from the runaway in the dirt. He begins to follow the trail, and without words the others follow him. Only 20 feet into the forest, the pick used to kill the guards is found on the ground, still shining with the blood of its latest victims.
Herrol speaks, "The tracks appear to change right here. He may have used his form changing trick again. These are wolf tracks."
As if in answer to Herrol's remarks, a single wolf's cry is heard about 100 yards away. Moments later, another wolf cry is heard, and then another. The group breaks out into run towards the howling. They reach a small clearing and find three large, growling wolves awaiting them, and they don't appear to want to be friendly. The wolf in the center appears to be larger and more menacing than the other two.
-- ( 007 ) --
Quickly, Chasiarm readies and releases an arrow at the wolf on the right. It drills into the wolf's side, but the wolf continues charging at Chasiarm in a blind rage. His second arrow misses wide and the wolf jumps up to take a bite out of him, but also misses. Darius releases 3 darts in a quick, but accurate, throw. The first dart hits the large wolf in the center in the left eye, and makes the wolf partially blind. The second dart misses, and the third dart hits in the neck. Furendithas charges the center wolf with his axe gleaming, right as the darts hit the beast. Even though the wolf's vision is impaired, it still dodges Furendithas's blow. Furendithas, now off balance from his axe swing, leaves himself vulnerable to the large wolf's bite. The wolf lunges at his side and bites into his flesh hard The wolf on the left and Herrol advance towards each other. The wolf springs and takes a bite out of Herrol's leg, but Herrol retaliates with a slice from his bastard sword. Herrol tries to get in a second shot with his rapier, but the wolf is too fast. After the blood is spilt, the center wolf and the right wolf both look fine, but the wolf on the left seems quite injured.
-- ( 008 ) --
Darius launches another round of darts at the center wolf, two miss, but one hits it in the side. The wolf on the left makes another lunge at Herrol, but misses. The wolf on the right lunges quickly at Chasiarm, however, its lunge is awkward, and after it misses it crashes its head into the ground and injures itself. The center wolf takes another bite out of Furendithas, who is unable to avoid its gnashing teeth. Furendithas, enraged by his two injuries swings his axe with incredible power, slicing deep into the center wolf, then swings his axe backwards and connects with a second, smaller hit. Chasiarm, seeing that the left and center wolves are weakened, takes a shot at each of them, but barely misses. Herrol swings his sword at the wolf next to him and misses wide, but with a smooth and graceful motion he uses his momentum to stab the wolf in the side with his large hunting dagger. The wolf lets out a pain-filled yelp. It and the center wolf look very injured, but the third wolf still seems to be fine.
-- ( 009 ) --
Herrol whips his dagger around for another strike at the injured left wolf, who is far to weak to dodge the blow. The knife cuts silently into the wolf's throat, and the wolf collapses onto the ground dead. Chasiarm swings furiously at the right wolf with his long sword and connects with a huge slash in the wolf's side. The wolf falls lifelessly to the ground. Furendithas turns to face the injured center wolf, but sees that the center wolf is closing his eyes. He winds up for a swing with his axe but is stopped in place by some kind of force. In fact, everyone is completely frozen and cannot move. The wolf seems to sneer as it begins transforming. Once again you behold the face of dwarf-killer from the mine as the wolf body finishes transforming. He appears to be a tall man wearing dark robes. His eyes are deep and sullen and his smile is filled with cruelty.
He speaks, "You are indeed bold, and I am afraid that I underestimated you at first. Rest assured, it will not happen again."
He turns and glares at Darius who is frozen with darts still in his hand. "A Druid in the mines?, obviously a spy."
He takes a few steps towards Darius, and even though Darius struggles, he cannot move even the smallest of his toes. "Perhaps I should relieve you of your soul." The dark man says as he raises his hand towards Darius's chest.
Suddenly you here the distinct, annoying cry of Tinton as he emerges from the mines, "Come back here you scoundrel! You can't have my diamonds!"
The dark man glances up calmly, and then says, "Perhaps at a later time. I must take my leave now. After my long sleep, I have a lot to catch up on."
He turns away from the group and begins changing again. This time he becomes much smaller as he turns into a hawk. He launches up from the ground and flies out of sight. The force holding everyone diminishes and they regain control of their now aching bodies.
The group hears leaves rustle as Tinton comes running out of the trees. He pauses in surprise to see each person standing there holding very sharp, pointy weapons in their hands. He stares at the two dead wolves and then back at the group.
"What happened? Where's that Rascal?"
Once the group explains to him what had happened, both inside the mine and out in the forest, Tinton tries to process the information. He shakes his head and stares at the ground as he leads the group back to the mine.
"This is terrible!" He says to himself,"I knew there was a curse upon this land. I should've listened to that ugly broad with the see-through ball." He stops as you reach the entrance to the mine. "I'm afraid I am going to have to ask you to do a favor. You must go to Arborin and tell the King what has happened. I'll take care of everything here." He reaches into his satchel and pulls out some money. He hands Darius, Chasiarm, and Furendithas each 2 GP. "Here are your week's wages. You might want to return to town and get yourself a wagon for the journey. Tell the wagon man that I sent ya if he gives you any trouble. You must get to the King as soon as ya can. Arborin is about 2 day's journey. You're dismissed."
Tinton returns to the mine to sort out the chaos and leaves the group standing outside the mine's entrance.
"The king will not like this," says Darius to the others, "We must inform him of this matter."
"You're right, the king needs to know," adds Chasiarm.
Furendithas cries, "I will get that blasted murder if it's the last thing I do... We should rally the King to our cause."
"Yes I am also interested in this dark man," says Herrol, "I will come with you."
The group decides to head back to town to get a wagon as Tinton suggested and maybe a few extra supplies for the journey.
CHAPTER TWO >>>