The Edge of Empire

An Icy Ascent

Disbelieving shouts echoed throughout the enclosed stone keep. Shaking off the dream-stuff of times long past, Arakos raised his head and peered about the room. Standing before the doorway of the keep, outlined by the dawning sky without, Dirkund stared incredulously at the resting group. A cool wind pressed around his sturdy frame, rustling the grey beard framing his face and assaulting the exposed skin of those lying beneath the course woolen blankets procured the night before.

“I cannot believe my eyes! The flame above the Watch has gone out. The pass has fallen!” he shouted. Roused from their slumber, the group quickly gathered their wits as a procession hastily made its way out to the rocky heights. In the distance Borodin’s Watch stood starkly, devoid of movement, the shadow of the wall creeping forward from the radiant light of Overlook’s twin suns. The Serpent camps pulsed with activity. It would seem after the final defender had fallen, the enemy force had pulled back to gather its strength before venturing to the pass and laying siege against the ill-protected town.

The braying of a mule interrupted the private thoughts of those viewing the scene below and Dirkund sprang into action. “Despite what may have occurred we have an obligation to those below.” The gruff old dwarf quickly imparted the locations of two places of import: The Horn of the Pass and the Temple of Moradin. Discussion was brief and in the end it was determined that Faegin would accompany Dirkund to Overlook in hopes of imparting desperately needed reconnaissance to the leadership about the force arrayed against them. Augustus and Thurgoth prepared themselves as well before quickly beginning the trek down the mountainside to the hallowed halls of Moradin. Kirshakru and Arakos gathered up the climbing equipment that Dirkund had provided and steadied themselves against the task at hand.

The path along the cliff edge was easy to follow, leading directly to the scaling wall atop which the horn resided. Examining the gear, Arakos and Kirshakru tied off to each other and began the slow procession up the rock face towards their goal. The cold stone numbered the deft fingers of the Elf, the winds buffeting against the two companions as they ascended. Rock chips fell around them as handholds gave way, the deceiving grips hiding the water-worn frailties beneath their hard exterior. As the duo crested the wall, the blinding sunlight reflecting off an undisturbed field of snow greeted them.

Atop the rounded mound before them arose an ice-encrusted stone horn. The pair approached the darkened entrance to the horn’s antechamber. A puissant odor assaulted their senses as they slipped within the confines of the cavernous hall. The musty smell of wet fur pervaded the area. The sound of heavy steps scrapping against the stone floor moved towards the entrance. All at once the head of a giant appeared from behind a stalagmite and a booming roar rolled across the shallow pool of icy water dividing the cavern. The mouthpiece of the horn could be seen protruding from the cavern wall on the far side of the antechamber.

Drawing upon the spirits of the air, Arakos enshrouded the giant in invisible manacles, slowing the movement of the creature. Kirshakru quickly gained the attention of the beast and working in unison led the creature away from Arakos’ path to the horn. Reaching the horn, Arakos drew a great breath and blew into the horn. A sharp note rattled within the horns confines, slowly building louder and louder as it moved thru the tubing within the walls. As the sound reached the opening a great crescendo settled over the pass. A dull rumble answered the sharp call of the horn and the two hastened out of confines of the hall.

The steps of the two crunched as they quickly made their way to the edge of the cliff face. The rope dangled before them, but time was an enemy that could not be assuaged. Grabbing the rope, the pair quickly dropped out of site, sidling down the side of the cliff face. With a great effort, each pushed out from the rock face towards a slight overhang and grasped handholds beneath its sheltering ledge. A white curtain violently flowed down the mountain top, cresting over the rocky ledge before falling into the pass below. Miniscule dots could barely be seen moving below as the snow began the unalterable descent. As the rumble continued, Arakos stared at the grand sight of nature’s awesome power flowing around him. A more beautiful sight had not been seen in some time.

For now, a short reprieve has been granted, but inevitably I sense the darkness approaching still. Sprits grant me strength. The drums still beat.

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Harwood

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