Northpoint, Northwoods, Stonebreak Pass,
Late Spring, 20th Day of Promised Journeys, 4,028th Cycle
For six days, the intrepid group of four dwarves, one half-orc, and one human made their way from the town of Northpoint and into the dwarven halls of Azkar’keluun, or Stone Break Pass, as it was known.
By the fourth day, the ground eventually began to slope up towards the Jagged reaches. The adventurers stood in awe before the great gates of Azkar’keluun, or Stone Break Pass. Huge statues of dwarves guarded the entrance to the dwarven pass which led deep into the western Ridgeline Mountains.
For two days, the adventurers made their way through Stone Break Pass. The ancient dwarven tunnel was wide and supported by huge pillars carved to resemble past dwarven kings.
Occasionally, they would come upon halls, dwellings, and ancient dwarven shops carved into the side of the great tunnel. Although tempted, everyone decided it was best not to wander off and explore these places.
Dornak wondered how his kinsdwarf could have abandoned Azkar’keluun. He and his brother, Kaza, along with their cousins Dorin and Xan came from the northern Ridgeline Mountains. There, dwarven towns and villages were built above ground. Unlike the dwarves of the Jagged Reaches, his kind were more like merchants, crafting and selling their goods to one another. On occasion, dwarven caravans would trek down down into the southern lands to trade with the people of Kerrandi. It had been so for centuries.
After walking for several hours, the group was ready to stop and rest. They were lucky enough to come upon an area in the tunnel where fresh water was freely cascading out of the side of large wall amidst boulders and rocks. The water formed a small creek which wound its way deeper into the pass. They also spotted a small outpost nearby. It’s stone doors were visibly cracked while the rest of the building was falling into ruin.
“We’re running out of food,” said Dorin. He stopped by the water’s edge to get a drink. He then reached into his backpack and took a piece of dried meat he had purchased in Northpoint. “Four days left perhaps. Six if we’re lucky.”
“I hate to admit that we could have used Ezra on this journey,” Glint said. “The half-elf may not be worth much in close combat, but he could have hunted food for us in the forest.”
“How much more till the end of this pass?” Xan wondered. He went to sit on a small rock and began to rummage through his backpack for some rations.
"I"m not certain," Darnok answered. “Dwarves built passes like these to trade and travel between cities and other settlements in the mountains. Some have been known to extend for hundreds of miles. Legend has it that some were even built beneath the oceans linking continents with one another.”
“I find that hard to believe,” Glint offered as he reached towards the waterfall to scoop up a handful of water.
“Well, it’s more than what half of what you are has managed to do,” Dorin said. “Nothing personal, mind you. But orcs are not known for being builders, but rather destroyers.”
Glint flashed the dwarf a half-orc grin. Despite the pain of hearing it, he knew the dwarf’s words were true. Orcs favored destroying cities rather than building them. He wondered just how different Terramyth would be if the vast number of orc tribes would simply band together and build an empire, rather than spend their lives warring with each other and with the other races of the world.
Xan suddenly screamed in surprise after he felt a hot stabbing pain in his leg. Looking down, he was horrified to see the rock he was sitting on had suddenly sprouted eight legs and multiple eyes. Mandibles, dripping with liquid which melted the ground where it struck, had bitten into his leg.
Before everyone else could react, a dozen spiders—about the size of dogs—suddenly appeared and surrounded them all. The spiders looked like rocks with spindly legs and razor-sharp mandibles. Others, hiding in the shadows of nearby walls, crawled down to attack the unsuspecting adventurers.
The battle against the spiders nearly costed the group two of their members. Brother Silas and Xan nearly succumbed to the spiders’ attacks. But they and the others survived. They then spent the remainder of the day healing and resting in the nearby abandoned outpost.
For two more days, the group traveled through Stone Break Pass. Everyone began to worry since they were running out of food. Fortunately, they were able to find enough water to sustain them along the way.
They arrived at an area that looked as though it had been the site of a major battle. Parts of buildings lay in ruin. Broken pieces of armor and weapons littered the area. Scorch marks, possibly from arcane battles, were visible on the ground and on some walls. In some places buildings had completely collapsed forcing everyone to carefully climb over and under debris.
They also saw a large chasm which separated one part of the pass from the other side. In the middle, hung an island of sorts, which connected a long iron bridge, wide enough for two people to walk upon to both sides of the chasm. On both sides of the bridge, stood a large circular piece of stone. On one side of the disk, they saw what appeared to be ancient symbols which seemed to form a pattern of some kind.
Each one tried to make their way across the iron bridge. For some, the path through the area was extremely tiring. Dorin took the longest. He was tired from effort and tried to catch his breath on the island before crossing the rest of the way to rejoin his companions.
“Hurry cousin,” Kaza yelled from where he stood with the others on the southern end of the chasm. “We’ve some ways to go before we can stop to rest for the day.”
Dorin took a deep breath and stood up. “I’m on my way…”
Suddenly, everyone heard the sounds of large gears start to come to life!
To everyone’s horror, the bridge on both ends started to shorten! Ten-foot sections of the bridge began to slide under the next section, with both ends beginning to disappear towards the island in the middle of the chasm. Xan and Kaza both tried to run towards the shortening bridge but it was too late. If they jumped, they surely would have fallen to their deaths.
Dorak heard a strange sound coming from the large stone disk nearby. The ancient patterns began to turn and move in a dizzying pattern that left the dwarf wizard trying to recall the original pattern he saw earlier. He knew that somehow, the original pattern on the disk must be reset to stop the bridge from completely disappearing and leaving Dorin trapped on the island forever.
To make matters worse, Dorak heard both Glint and Brother yell out in alarm. Looking at the direction his allies were looking, Dorak saw more of the spiders they fought days before coming at them. They were coming from every direction. At least a dozen of the stone-like spiders were crawling or burrowing their way towards the group.
Meanwhile, Dorin lay trapped on the island, wondering if he or his friends would make it out of the deadly situation alive!