The party rode south along the well-maintained road into the deep valley as the sun set. The road was deserted as they climbed ever higher on their approach to the dwarf kingdom. Soon, they came to a high place overlooking a pool below. But what got their immediate attention was the water’s source — gigantic carved dwarf heads in the mountains, the water falling from their mouths. These flanked an enormous opening in the mountainside, the gates to the Dwarf city of Kazakh. A wide arch of smooth stone leapt over the pool, connected the road to the gates. This the party took, riding across unobstructed and unhindered.
Waiting for them across the bridge was a group of Dwarven soldiers, in heavy armor and carry red shields with a gold boss on them. Their leader hailed the party in Common, demanding them state their business. They immediately said they came to speak with Nali, a name which clearly was recognized, as the Dwarf captain bade them follow him into the city. Here, they dismounted and their horses were taken under the charge of a number of Dwarves, who led them away, saying they would be well cared for.
The Dwarf now led them into the city itself. Here were sights beyond what any of them had ever seen. Before them was a great avenue, perhaps 150′ wide and extending far into the mountain. Numerous wide avenues intersected it at right angles, these “side streets” all dozens of feet wide and to a like height. Everything was immense and cyclopean, elaborately carved and decorated. It was also well lit from some non-fire source set high above and casting little or no shadows. Above, many balconies and windows opened up above, looking down on this main street. Dwarves were everywhere about, most clearly not soldiers and out on their own business. They were uniformly interested in the party and watched them as they passed. The party was led up this long street, eventually coming to the end, which was taken up with a fortified “building” which their escort called the Citadel. It was clearly designed for defense, though the entire city seemed to be nearly impregnable.
Once in the citadel, their escort handed them off to additional Dwarf soldiers, as he had to return to his post at the city gate. Nali had been summoned, they said, and in the meantime the party was escorted to a small chamber filled with stone furniture (and yet quite comfortable with many cushions), where they were provided ale and wine while they waited. This was not long, and soon Nali arrived, somewhat surprised to see them, though much pleased. Floi has returned, he said, much to his own pleasure, though he had not received the message that Iban had tried to send by bird to warn of the enemy army. That Nali was all too aware of, he said — it had been a topic of much debate within the Lord of the city’s chambers. Given the party’s recent encounters with the Giant King’s army, he felt that an audience with the lord of the city was a necessity, and he would arrange it while the party was given a chance to rest and eat.
Fed and watered, the party was rejoined by Nali, who now led them through a variety of passages I the citadel to eventually arrive at the lord’s audience hall. Like all of the places they’d been thus far, it was elaborate and immense in scale (compensating, said Aldeberon). Here, they were presented to the Lord of the City of Kazakh, Fror, an old Dwarf who proved to be harsh, stern, and dour (as cliché a grumpy old Dwarf as could be imagined). Also present was another Dwarf of rich appearance, an emissary from the Dwarf King sent to observe and gather information (but “not to advise or direct”).
The party now told the old dwarf about their activities and encounters with the armies of the Giant King. In turn, they learned that the Dwarves were unsure of how to proceed against this seeming threat. The Giant King’s forces had been very careful to respect the ancient Dwarf borders (the large Dwarf statues flanking the road that connected this city to the old Dwarf Road. Many Dwarves felt that whatever happened beyond their borders was not of their concern. Others (more trade minded) were concerned that their chief trade route had been cut and this would have severe repercussions to Dwarven prosperity (others countered that trade could be rerouted via the southern end of the Kingdom where, though the infrastructure was lacking, there were no threats). Though the party advocated action, Fror informed them that it was not in his power to take the Kingdom to war; only the King could do that, and he clearly was reluctant to do so. Other matters were discussed, as well, including how Floi was considered to be in disgrace for losing his entire command and leaving it behind in the Giant’s thrall (Floi, Nali, and even Fror noticed that havoc carried Floi’s Dwarf Axe, though none of them said anything about it).
As the discussion proceeded, the doorward announced that an emissary from the Giant King had arrived and wished an audience. The room grew hush as the Fror told them to be admitted, and all seemed quite surprised when a Frost Giant entered the chamber (without a need to stoop), accompanied by two humans (a mage and a fighter) and a pair of plate-armored Ogres. He was Jarl Vostok, he said, sent to bring a message of peace and friendship tot he Dwarf King. His master, Gulliveg, the Giant King of the Blueflood, had nothing but peaceful intentions towards the Dwarves and wished to assure his Dwarf neighbors that, once things had been properly “ordered” in the new kingdom, trade would be not only allowed, but encouraged (with some necessary tariffs and what not, of course). The Giant King had no desire for war with his neighbors, as was emphasized more than once.
As this was going on, Iban cast ESP discretely to learn what he could — and nearly was stunned by a feedback loop from the ambassadorial mage who had apparently done the same thing. Iban did determine that there very likely was a real Giant King and he was not a ruse of some sort. Also, he decided that this magic-user was not the same as the one that had slipped into their interrogations in the Giant’s fastness (that one was somewhat shorter and of slighter build). His impression was that the Giant truly wanted to avoid a war with the Dwarves, not unsurprising given that they already were in the field against Manson and likely wanted to avoid a two-front war. (I think there was also a brief discussion on how the party were “renegades” and troublemakers, but were not a major point of contention for the ambassadors — in fact, they were likely not surprised to see the party, given as they’d rushed the Giant King’s lines to get here earlier in the day).
The lord of the city remained non-committal with the ambassador, saying that he had to consult with the king, and the Frost Giant and his entourage soon left, their message delivered. The party, meanwhile, spoke further with the Fror and decided they would begin direct action against the enemy, first by crossing the Kaz River and seeing what passed in the direction of Manston, and then trying to find where and how the Giant King’s forces were crossing the Blueflood. To aid in his rehabilitation, the party offered to take Floi with them as a liaison of sorts. This the lord granted, seemingly with no love lost for the dwarf. They were then shown to comfortable quarters and allowed to requisition supplies from the Dwarves, who were most generous in providing most everything asked for.
Next day, the party retrieved their horses and departed north once more, this time veering more east towards Manston. They passed quickly down the slope away from the mountain kingdom and eventually struck the Dwarf Road. After a time on the road, they encountered a mounted patrol of men. These they managed to approach without causing a fight and found they were a patrol from Manston, watching for movement from the direction of the Kaz River bridge. Their roders were to skirmish and slow, not fight a pitched battle, and their numbers were small. In fact, their officer said, Manson seemed to be husbanding its strength closer to the city, and was avoiding the provocation of a forward defense. But, the city would not submit to the Giant King. He was reassured by the presence of a Dwarf from the kingdom, but less so when he learned the Dwarves were non-committal.
Parting from the patrol, the party moved north of the road, camping in the wilds not far from the Blueflood. The next morning, they departed on foot, leaving their horses in the care of the Druid Annan (slightly out of sorts from his wide-ranging journey). From here, the aprty began to explore along the Blueflood, looking for where the enemy might be crossing. They found it, finally, just downstream from where the Feather River joined the Blueflood. It was a strong camp, with hundreds of monsters, a large company of Hobgoblins, and a camp of human mercenaries or brigands. This was somewhat removed from the river landing, which consisted of a pontoon dock with a large barge moored to it. A similar landing could be seen across the river. The party used the day to scout this and for their invisible people to mark the locations of sentries and pickets.
That night, the party snuck towards the dock. After dispatching sentries, the party poured a great deal of the oil they’d procured from the Dwarves all over the dock and barge, and then, well clear, it was fireballed by Cadwallider. This was quite effective in starting a roaring fire which would be impossible to extinguish. This act of sabotage complete, the party slipped away in the dark to the east. They would find a place to hole up and, in the morning, make their way to Castle Featherstone, a nearby fortification that they were told was the home of a petty noble and his retainers, to see what passed there and if he might be of use in the campaign.
– Experience: 500 XP each.