Icewind Dale 24-26: Tracking the Duergar

Trovus, the dragonborn town speaker of Caer-Konig, partakes of a drink as he guards the Northern Light
When we arrived in Easthaven and sold off some of our treasure and my hunting trap, I paid Bran back the 100 gold coins that he had lent me.

Mendel purchased the supplies he was looking for.

While Erling, Bran, and I were exploring the town I detected that we were being followed, but our pursuers soon disappeared into an alley.

Eventually we all met up at the Wet Trout. Bran asked the barkeep, Nymetra Myskyn, about the ferry, and was pointed to the owner and operator of the Easthaven ferry, a tiefling named Scython.

We eventually made our way to the ferry, a keelboat, that was trapped in the ice at the end of a wooden dock. A small cabin was situated toward the aft end of the hull.

As we approached, I cast faerie fire on the cabin, and Mendel cast minor illusion, creating the sound of thumping footsteps entering the cabin from the window.

The duergar soon emerged from the ferry, some of them glowing, and quickly enlarged. It was a difficult fight, and when we thought we were victorious, more duergar appeared around us.

I used my hunter’s mark, Mendel tried to use his hypnotic gaze, and misty step, Bran cast thunderwave, Blaze used his radiance of the dawn, Mendel cast magic missiles, Bran cast healing word, Oosi used his javelin of lightning, Blaze cast spiritual weapon, Mendel cast toll the dead, and Blaze cast sacred flame.

One of the duergar gave Oosi a command, and the barbarian walked off the dock, falling to the frozen lake below, but he soon leaped back up to the dock and rejoined the fray.

Finally all the duergar were defeated, and we searched the ferry.

The aft cabin was roughly ten feet square and contained four sleeping bags, packs of rations, and a rolled-up map of Icewind Dale that marked the location of every Ten-Towns settlement, written in Dwarvish.

It also indicated the location of Xardorok’s fortress.

After we searched the duergar bodies and divided up the gold coins we found, we returned to the Wet Trout.

Just as we reached the edge of the dock, I spotted Scython coming our way, accompanied by Captain Imdra Arlaggath and some guards.

“I heard there was trouble here at the ferry,” Imdra asked.

“It’s all been wrapped up.” Oosi replied.

“Yeah, there was,” Bran agreed, “but we ended it.”

“They started it,” Oosi repeated, “we finished it.”

“Who were they?” Imdra asked.

“Duergar,” Bran explained.

“Mam,” Erlin chimed in, “we came here thinking there might be some duergar here, and we kinda you know went to look at the place and they all just came out and grew up into these giant duergar and started attacking us. It was totally self-defense. Scython saw them totally jump out of the boat and attacked us.”

“Yes,” Scython confirmed, “just like I told you, Captain.”

Sending two guards to survey the dock, Imdra acknowledged, “Well, I guess Easthaven owes you thanks. What made you think there were duergar hiding in the ferry?”

“Well that’s a long story,” Bran responded, “and I’ve got a dry throat, but let’s just say we heard rumors of the duergar hiding out. The bigger mystery you should be asking is: what were they doing here? We didn’t find anything on the ferry that might be a clue.”

“This was the second set of hidden duergar we’ve found,” Oosi barked. “We found another set hidden over in Caer-Dineval. And here’s another set here. It seems like they’re trying to infiltrate the Ten Towns.”

“Well, that’s really bad!” Imdra realized.

“There was also a mage that managed to escape us, though,” Bran added.

“There was a wizard?” Imdra was amazed. “In the ferry?”

“Some magic user,” Bran surmised. “I don’t think we got a very good eye-line on him. Oosi might have seen them the best.”

“Yeah, I saw him,” Oosi confirmed. “He used some kind of spell that forced me to walk off the dock. He said ‘walk ten feet’ and I couldn’t help myself. So I walked off the dock.”

“Well, this is really disturbing,” Imdra admitted. “I’m going to have to go check it out myself. Maybe increase our patrols. Thank you for your help. We’ll take it from here.”

As Imdra and her remaining guards began to walk up the dock towards the ferry, Erling tugged on Bran’s coat, and whispered, “Now might be a good time, before they slip away.”

Mendel sent Bran a message, “They have a scroll of fireballs.”

“Oh, Captain,” Bran called out. “Last time we were here, you did mention an alternate reward. I don’t suppose eliminating the duergar would be worth another reward? Perhaps that scroll you offered us?”

“Let me go see what occurred at the ferry before I start handing out magic to you adventures,” Imdra replied. “Where are you staying?”

“We should go back to that other bar and have a few drinks, since your throat is so dry,” Oosi offered with a heavy slap to Bran’s back. “That Wet Trout was more my speed. Come on. I’ll buy the first round.”

“Now you’re speaking my language,” Bran cheered.

“I think I’ll sit this one out,” Erlined chimed, scratching his groin. “Maybe there’s a nice card game over at the White Lady.”

“After consulting with my companions,” Bran informed Imdra, “we are indeed staying at the White Lady Inn.”

We departed, and as we were heading toward the Wet Trout, Mendel offered, “Do you think I should wait at the White Lady Inn? I can secure our rooms and then if the Captain comes looking for us, I’ll be there to receive her.”

“Erling,” Bran suggested, “you wanted to go play cards anyway, right?”

“Yeah, you ever play cards?” Erling asked Mendel. “Do you know how to play gin rummy or any of those games? Come on, I’ll teach you.”

“Oh, okay,” Mendel agreed. “I’ve never really played any of those games.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Erling pressed. “Real easy. Real easy. Don’t worry about it. I’ll show you exactly how it’s done.”

Blaze joined Erling and Mendel, while the rest of us headed back to the Wet Trout to wait for Scython.

Blaze was checking on their rooms when Captain Arlaggath met Erling, and Mendel at the White Lady while Erling was teaching Mendel how to play cards. Mendel was gradually losing all his copper coins.

“Well,” Imdra began, motioning to the waitress for a round of drinks. “It looks like you did the town a favor. You killed nine duergar. That could not have not meant anything but ill for our town.”

“Were there that many?” Erling asked.

“I thought it seemed like more at the time,” Mendel whined. “Maybe because they were so big. You know they were way bigger when they were fighting us, and then they shrunk down after we killed them. They were like giants!”

“Well, if that’s not a kick in the pants, I don’t know what is. Can you imagine someone as small as me standing there, fighting a duergar, and then all of the sudden, boom, he’s as tall as a building. Well, I’ll tell you what. They’re not going to frighten a stout halfling like me, that’s for damn sure.”

Dropping a pouch of coins in the middle of the table, Imdra stated, “Easthaven is grateful for your service,” and promptly left before we could say another word.

“Wait,” Erling called, “Would you join us?” But she was already gone.

“It was our pleasure,” Mendel added.

“Thank you?” Erling chided, turning to his companions. “Well, this is interesting. Let’s have a look-see here.”

“Maybe there’s some copper coins in there we could use,” Mendel wondered aloud as Erling sifted through the pouch.

Erling counted one hundred and fifty gold coins.

When we joined them at the White Lady, we distributed Imdra’s reward, Erling returned Mendel’s copper coins, and we eventually settled down for the night, long discussing what we would do in the morning.

While we were considering heading to Karkolohk to negotiate the peace treaty with the goblins for Targos’ Speaker Naerth Maxildanarr, Mendel determined that the directions to Karkolohk were included in the treaty itself. I was eager to find Copper Knobberknocker’s friend, Macreadus, and the device he was building. Oosi wanted to make sure tracking down the renegade berserker barbarians was not last on our list. Ultimately, we decided to head toward Caer-Konig to hunt duergar.

That night, Mendel cast find familiar, summoning and dismissing an owl form. He named it, Who.

In the morning we departed Easthaven and reached Caer-Dineval in the evening without incident. Mendel had his familiar owl circling around overhead while we traveled.

After stopping by The Climb, we spoke with Speaker Crannoc Siever in the Caer, who cleared out the ground floor of the northeast tower for our quarters.

Oosi checked in on the young tiefling girl, Mere, and found that she was doing well.

We had an uneventful night’s rest and departed for Caer-Konig in the morning. The white, snow-covered slopes of Kelvin's Cairn loomed large behind the quiet lakeside town. Mendel explained that, “Caer-Konig started as a camp for a group of mountaineers from the northern Moonsea region. As the camp grew, a wooden palisade was added to discourage raiders. Later came the stone castle of Caer-Konig. Alas, neither the palisade nor the castle fared well; both fell to orcs before falling into ruin.”

Caer-Konig
Caer-Konig consisted of terraced rows of houses that receded from the shore of Lac Dinneshere like the tiers of an amphitheater. The harbor was frozen, its docks skewed and broken by the shifting ice. Buried under the snow on the slopes above the last row of houses were the ruins of the Caer that gave the town its name—like a reminder to the people of Caer-Konig that nothing lasts in this corner of the world.

The town sat quietly at the foot of Kelvin's Cairn. A few bundled-up people shuffled between snow-battered houses, keeping their heads down, barely bothering to give you a look as we walked by them.

As we approached a large building, a pile of snow stirred as you passed it, and someone hidden beneath it suddenly stood. The figure looked around and yelled, "Who goes there? Is it thieves? Have I found those creeping bastards?"

When he pulled down the scarf covering his face, we saw it was a silver dragonborn holding onto an empty wine bottle as if it was a weapon. He belched, grinned at us, and said, "Pardon my manners. Bit jittery with all the thieving going on. I'm Trovus, the town speaker."
Trovus, the dragonborn town speaker of Caer-Konig, partakes of a drink as he guards the Northern Light
“Well, it’s nice to meet you mister speaker,” Erling greeted.

“Oh, Newcomers!“ Trovus replied. “Are you here to climb the mountain?”

“Ah… in a manner of speaking,” Erling hinted. “Metaphorically, I think.”

“Well, just don’t steal nothing,” Trovus warned. “We’ve got enough trouble with thieves already.”

“You think you’ve got trouble with thieves,” Erling bantered, “you been to Easthaven lately?”

“Uh, yeah, I’ve been to Easthaven,” Trovus responded with a belch.

“They’ll pick your pockets clean before you even get into town,” Erling reminisced.

“Yeah, picking pockets is legal there,” Trovus expounded.

“What?” Erling was incredulous. “It is?”

“Sure!” Trovus snorted. “Well, you’re not from around here are you?”

“Well, I’ll be,” Erling hooted. “Picking pockets is legal. But I take it it’s not legal here, is it?”

“No! No,” Trovus promised, “I’ll throw you right in the brig.”

“Not that I’d be picking any pockets anyhow,” Erling hinted. “Do I look like the picking pockets type?”

“Yeah, you do,” Trovus warned. “See that you don’t.”

“That’s just silly,” Erling laughed. “That’s just silly. That’s pretty funny for a speaker.”

“Anyways,” Trovus continued, “where you heading?”

“Ah...a tavern?” Erling suggested.

“Yeah, I can take you to the tavern,” Trovus offered.

“I’m sure you would,” Erling agreed. “So what’s your favorite tavern in town?”

Squinting into the distance, Trovus asked, “Well, you want drinks, or you want rooms?”

“What do you think guys?” Erling asked us. “Drinks or rooms?”

“Food and drink for now?” Bran answered.

“I could use a stuff drink after that road,” Oosi agreed. “Warm my bones.”

“Hook, Line, and Sinker’s a pretty good bar,” Trovus disclosed.

As we all passed the ruins of the Caer, Mendel asked, “Is there a lower level to that ruined castle?”

“No, there’s nothing there,” Trovus assured us. “There’s nothing there but memories.”

“You know there’ve been duergar hiding out in some of the Ten Towns you know,” Erling revealed. “Have you heard about that?”

“No,” Trovus replied.

“It’s a real one,” Erling told the tiefling.

“Infestations,” Mendel added. “And they’re invisible. That means you can’t see them.”

“Well, our towns had some thievery troubles,” Trovus divulged. “Maybe invisible dwarves is the reason. No one’s seen anything, really.”

“They tend to like to hide out in abandoned houses,” Erling shared. “You have many of those?”

“I mean, a few, I guess,” Trovus replied.

“What are the thieves stealing?” Bran inquired. “I mean, are they picking pockets or are they taking items?”

“They’re taking things,” Trovus explained. “Just the other night the lantern over at the Northern Light was stolen. Cori won’t let me hear the end of it, because I haven’t been able to find those responsible…not yet anyway. But I have a knack for this stuff! I was out last night patrolling.”

“I’m sure you do,” Erling sniggered.

“Anything else stolen,” Bran pried, “besides the lantern?”

“Um, yeah, goats, pearls, uh…you know, things,” Trovus considered.

“Sounds to me like somebody might be gathering supplies,” Bran suggested. “The pearls could come in very handy for some spells.”

“That’s right,” Mendel squawked.

“A couple of goats could feed a few duergar for a few days,” Erling opined, “I would imagine.”

“And a lantern would give them a little bit of light, if they were hiding out,” Bran guessed.

“Maybe we can help you with your investigation,” Erling offered. “What do you think?”

“Oh, yeah?” Trovus accepted. “Yeah, sure.I could always use help.”

“I’ll bet,” Erling sneered.

“Can you tell us whereabouts these items were taken?” Bran inquired.

“Huh, oh, yeah,” Trovus tried to recall. “The magic lantern from the Northern Light. Other items were taken from other places. Everybody’s complaining about things missing.”

“The magic lantern?” Bran asked. “What’s magic about it?”

“Well, yeah,” Trovus stammered, “it made light.”

“Well I have a lantern that makes light too, but it’s not magic,” Mendel disputed.

“Yeah, but this Cori’s was,” Trovus insisted.

“How long ago did it go missing?” Mendel inquired.

“Uh, just the other night,” Trovus recalled.

“We should check out the abandoned buildings,” Erling suggested.

“The goats and the pearls,” Bran continued, “ were taken from other houses, or also from the Northern Light?”

“No, from other places,” Trovus explained. “Everybody’s complaining about things missing.”

“Ah, they’re everywhere!” Bran cursed. “Buggers!”

“Look,” Trovus warned, “we don’t have any money to pay you if you investigate this, so I understand if you want to just move on your way.”

“That’s not how we operate,” Erling promised. “We’re here to help the people of the Ten Towns. We’re happy to help you.”

“We’re heroes,” Mendel added.

“I’m interested in checking out those ruins,” Frizzt suggested. “Perhaps we could find some tracks.”

“Perhaps you could cast detect magic,” Bran suggested to Mendel,” and perhaps the lantern, or something, might reveal itself to you.”

“You know, we know pretty much all the speakers around here. We met most of the speakers. Actually, we saved the speaker down in Caer-Dineval just last week. Overrun with cultists he was.”

“What?!?” Trovus gasped. “Cultists?!?”

“Cultists,” Erling confirmed. “Kidnapped the guy and tried to take over his place.”

“You think cultists are stealing our stuff?” Trovus asked.

“No, I don’t think cultists is your problem,” Erling shared. “I think—”

“You haven’t seen anybody wearing these necklaces, have you?” Bran inquired.

“Oh, you’re talking about chardalyn?” Trovus replied.

“Yes,” Erling confirmed.

“The lantern was made of chardalyn,” Trovus explained. “You want to talk to Cori, at the Northern Light?”

“Yeah, let’s go have a chat with Cori,” Erling agreed.

Trovus led us through Caer-Konig to the Northern Light inn. Outside the entrance was a hook meant to carry a lantern. The inn appeared to be mostly empty. A young woman looked up as we entered, gave Trovus a chastising smile, and said, "Did you fall asleep outside again? I'm telling you, Trovus, one day you're going to have to stop relying on the kindness of strangers."

“He was conducting quite the investigation,” Erling fibbed.

The woman then opened a door into what looked like a kitchen and called out, "Heat up something for Trovus. He's been out 'patrolling' again."

“You could heat a little something up for us too, if you don’t mind,” Erling suggested.

“And for six others,” the woman called. “Hi, I’m Allie. Allie Shorard.

“I’m Erling. Erling Diggle.” Erling extended a hand. “Nice to meet you.”

“Where are you fellas from?” Allie asked, helping Trovus into a chair. “Please have a seat. My sister will get you some food in a short while.”

“Thank you very much,” Bran greeted her. “Trovus was telling us you had a bit of a theft, and we noticed the empty hook outside, on our way in.”

“Oh yeah,” Allie nodded. “Oh, yeah. We sure do. The whole town’s been having break-ins and robberies lately, don’t you know. But no one has witnessed anybody. The only clue is a set of tracks leading in the direction of Kelvin's Cairn. I think those tracks were made by dwarves who live in the valley beside the base of Kelvin's Cairn. I think this endless winter has made them desperate for food and ale.”

“Nah,” Erling shook his head. “We know those dwarves. They’re a good lot. They wouldn’t steal a thing.”

The door to the kitchen swung open as another woman entered holding a steaming bowl of soup. She placed the bowl down in front of Trovus and said, "No dwarf did this. Someone would have spotted 'em. Caught 'em. No, there's something more going on.”

“See,” Erling concurred, “now that I can get behind. I think that’s a perfect idea. Mmm, that soup smells great!”

"A quiet dwarf is an oxymoron," the stern-looking woman added. “Besides, what use do hungry dwarves have for a lantern?"

“Maybe you could tell us about the lantern?” Bran encouraged.

“It didn’t do anything except display different colored lights,” Allie informed us, “but, you know, that was our logo.” She confirmed that the lantern magically changed colors on its own, but was purely decorative.

“You know we discovered that there are duergar in several of the other Ten Towns we’ve just been through,” Erling hinted.

“What are duergar?” Allie asked.

“Those are evil versions of dwarves,” Erling explained. “They’re grey. They come from deep within the bowels of the earth. They’re a pretty nasty lot.”

“And they make excellent thieves,” Bran added, “because they can turn themselves invisible.”

“That means you can’t see them,” Mendel squawked.

“So we were both right,” Allie turned to the other woman. “They were and weren’t dwarves.”

“Yeah, but not the friendly dwarves down in the valley,” Erling reiterated. “We know them. They’re a good lot down there, those dwarves.”

“And they hate the duergar,” Bran added.

“Oh, well, I’ll take your word for it,” Allie replied.

The woman brought out more soup.

“You said the footprints led off to the north,” Bran pursued, “toward the mountain? Was it a single set of footprints?”

“Maybe we should go take a look,” Erling suggested.

“To me, it looks like that’s kind of like their path,” Allie surmised. “Whoever’s coming here and taking stuff. You know, you could tell in the snow, people have traveled back and forth. You just can’t see anybody. I stayed up late one night seeing if I could spot somebody coming down that way, but I never saw anyone.”

“Did you ever lose anything other than the lantern,” Bran inquired, “or was the lantern the only thing they stole from you? No food? No supplies?”

“Yeah, we lost a sack of grain a month ago,” the stern-looking woman replied, returning from the kitchen, “but I didn’t think it was anything important.”

Agreeing to set up a trap in the snow, we discussed the details. Frizzt wanted to hide in the snow. Mendel suggested tempting them with an illusion of a magical lantern. Erling considered using local dogs to find the duergar.

That evening, we took up positions 600 feet north of town where Erling and I hid behind snow drifts on either side of the trail. Near each of us were two tents where everyone else hid. Mendel sent his snowy white owl to scout to the north.

Eventually, using my eyes of the eagle, I saw footprints appear in the snow, made by two or three invisible creatures. Once they were between Erling and me, I cast faerie fire, but no one appeared within the violet glow.

His owl was 130 feet north when Mendel cast minor illusion, creating the roar of a winter wolf from behind the violet glow.

I cast hail of thorns and struck the duergar in the lead, causing blood to spill into the snow.

Blaze ran through the snow toward the glow.

Erling struck it with a crossbow bolt.

Blaze cast guiding bolt into the air.

Running through the snow, Bran mocked, “What’s that smell? I thought breath weapons were supposed to come out of your mouth.”

Oosi ran forward, ready to throw his handaxe.

Withdrawing, I hit the duergar with another arrow.

Mendel cast web, ensnaring two other duergar.

Oosi hit one with his handaxe.

Mendel cast mirror imagine on himself as his owl returned.

Oosi dropped one of the duergar with his other handaxe as he closed the distance.

I hit the other duergar with an arrow and shouted, “I think there’s more than two!”

While his owl circled overhead, Mendel moved up and cast sleep, but it had no effect.

Bran cast sleep, but it also had no effect.

Mendel continued to move up and cast sleep again, causing a duergar to fall face-first in the snow.

Blaze took out his rope and tied up the sleeping duergar while the rest of us searched for any others. Erling made sure the rope went around its neck, in case it tried to enlarge.

“Who thinks it found another set of tracks going back the way they came,” Mendel informed us. “Should we pursue?”

We agreed to stay put and interrogate the captured duergar.

After a couple of hours the captured duergar awoke, looked up at us, obviously testing his bonds.

I aimed a knocked arrow at him, as Oosi, wielding his hammer, stepped on his chest and warned, “I wouldn’t try it if I were you! I’ll finish the job.”

The duergar stopped struggling.

“We’ve got some questions for you, dwarf,” Bran began.

The duergar began cursing in Undercommon, “Let me go! You’re going to be sorry if you keep messing with us!

In Undercommon, I asked, “Do you speak Common?

I spit on your pitiful language!” the duergar replied.

I continued, “What is your name?

I am Novrael, the bearded,” the duergar answered.

Where is your base?” I asked.

When Novrael remained quiet, Oosi threatened, “Answer the man!”

Novrael frowned and turtled up, but remained quiet.

“Do we think that he really doesn’t understand Common?” Mendel whined.

Bran knelt down and whispered into his Novrael’s ear, his dagger nearby, “We know you took the lantern.”

Novrael looked up at me and barked, “Get this stinking human off of me! I’ll answer your questions!

“”Bran, give him some space,” I uttered in Common. “He seems to be cooperating.”

Bran backed off.

Where is your base?” I repeated, and began translating Novrael’s responses back to my companions.

It’s on the slopes of Kelvin’s Cairn,” Novrael replied.

How many duergar?” I asked.

Too many for you!” Novrael hinted.

Give me a number,” I demanded.

15,” Novrael revealed. “They are duergar warriors. You don’t stand a chance.

Are you allied with Xarorok?” I asked.

Lord Xardorok, pig!” Novrael replied.

Is Lord Xardorok at the base of Kelvin’s Cairn?” I asked.

What assurances do I have you won’t kill me after I tell you my information?” Novrael countered.

Currently, you have none,” I replied.

Then I’d rather die silent, than die a traitor,” Novrael stated.

The chances of you being able to die silently are much less if you do not cooperate,” I threatened. At the puzzled expression on Novrael’s face I reiterated, “If you do not cooperate, the odds are, you will die screaming in agony.

Duergar don’t scream,” Novrael insisted.

I find that hard to believe,” I replied. “Hopefully, we will not have to test this theory.

How many mages do you have?” I asked.

Cut me loose, and I’ll tell you,” Novrael negotiated.

We will not be cutting you loose,” I replied.

Then I will not tell you,” Novrael insisted.

“He’s refusing to cooperate,” I informed my companions.

“Make him cooperate!” Erling said, as he walked up and grabbed Novrael by the beard and held his dagger to it. “Now you tell him that if doesn’t start talking and giving us the answers we want, I’m going to shave off his beard, and they’re going to call him, ‘Novrael bald face’. Let’s see how that goes over with his colleagues if we let him go.”

Novrael,” I warned the now-wide-eyed duergar, “You are about to become ‘the unbearded’ if you do not cooperate.

You dishonorable cur!” Novrael conceded, “I’ll answer your questions!

“He appears to be more complacent now,” I informed my companions as I began to interrogate the duergar further. “Tell us all about the forces at your camp. All the defenses. Who is there? How many fortresses do you have? How many bases? Where is Xardorok? What are Xardorok’s plans?

Novrael began to speak, “Nildar Sunblight commands the outpost at Kelvin’s Cairn. He is a noble, Xardorok’s son. There are also servants at the outpost.

And where is Xardorok?” I grilled.

Novrael began to speak, “Xardorok commands a much larger fortress in the mountains to the south. Only Nildar knows how to find it.

What were the duergar doing in Easthaven?” I grilled.

Nildar commanded us,” Novrael revealed. “We were searching the Ten Towns for chardalyn on behalf of Xardorok.

What do you need of chardalyn?” I pressed.

Xardorok wants the chardalyn,” Novrael revealed. “He’s forging a dragon out of it.

“Can you do that?” Erling wondered aloud. “That sounds kind of crazy.”

Why did you steal the lantern from Caer-Konig?” I pumped.

It was made of chardalyn,” Novrael revealed.

Was there a duergar mage in Easthaven?” I questioned.

I don’t know,” Novrael replied.

Do you have any other outposts, besides the two we discussed?” I grilled.

No,” Novrael revealed.

What can you tell us about Xardorok’s forge?” I questioned.

I’ve never been there,” Novrael replied. “I don’t know anything about Xardorok’s forge.

How many entrances are there to the outpost at Kelvin’s Cairn?” I pressed.

The outpost is impregnable,” Novrael revealed. “You have no chance of invading it. You should quit now.

How many entrances are there and how is it defended?” I demanded.

There’s just one entrance,” Novrael revealed, “and it is defended by duergar warriors.

Who brings the chardalyn to Xardorok?” I questioned. “And how often?

Xardorok sends his emissaries,” Novrael shared, “very often. It seems like they’re always there.

“Maybe we could use the emissaries to infiltrate,” Bran suggested, once I translated. “Take them on their way in. Disguise ourselves. I’m good with a disguise.”

How many of the Ten Towns have the duergar invaded?” I probed.

We’re all over the Ten Towns,” Novrael revealed. “It will be our land soon.

What will you do if we let you go?” I asked.

I will oppose you to my last breath,” Novrael threatened.

“I think we should hand him over to the constable,” Erling suggested, “or somebody, because they’ve been killing and pillaging these places and they have to be held accountable, right?”

“As you wish,” I replied. “I think if we hand him over, there’s a likely chance that he will escape, and potentially threaten the lives of the civilians in Ten Towns.

“So what are you saying?” Erling questioned. “Are you saying we should kill him?”

“I think letting him live will only lead to more death,” I concluded.

“Why don’t we hand him over to Trovus, the speaker of Caer Konig,” Mendel proposed, “but we supervise him until they’re finished disseminating whatever justice they have? Perhaps they are sacrificing lives there. Or let Trovus deal with him.”

“Yeah, we should probably hand him over to someone,” Erling agreed. “Unless we let him go and he attacks us, and we have to kill him, or something.”

“If we let him go,” Bran suggested, “he’s definitely going to attack us.”

“He might run to warn the other,” Erling considered. “We’re not murderers, right? He’s our captive now. Like a captive of war. Should we just slit his throat and kill him here? After what they did to my village, I am very tempted to put him out of his misery. But, I don’t know, it just doesn’t seem quite right to me.”

Ultimately we agreed to bring Novrael back to Trovus, along with their scale mail armor, shields, war picks, and javelins.

We noted that the cultists’ amulets were also made of chardalyn, and we had dropped them, along with chardalyn weapons, in Lac Dinneshere.

What’s so special about the chardalyn?” I demanded.

Chardalyn, it’s a wondrous material,” Novrael revealed. “It’s a crystal that works like a metal. It is easy to imbue with magic.

“Duergar, listen to me. Hear my voice…” Mendel tried to use his hypnotic gaze to pacify Novrael, but the duergar resisted and spit in Mendel’s face.

“Darnit!” Mendel cursed. “Nobody listens to Mendel. We should blindfold and gag him.” Mendel followed his own suggestions.

When we returned to the The Northern Light, we found Trovus dozing by the fire.

“Trovus,” Bran called, “look what we caught.”

Trovus awoke with a startle and a grunt, “What the— Dwarf? Is that the thief?”

“Indeed,” I acknowledged.

“It’s one of your thieves,” Erling added.

“It’s actually a duergar,” Mendel explicated. “It’s a different kind of dwarf. Not the kind of dwarf you’re used to. These dwarves can turn invisible. They can also get really big. And there were more than one of them.”

“They’ve been raiding your town every night,” Bran explained.

“Oh!,” Trovus acknowledged. “I’ll have to arrest him for thievery then.”

“What’s the punishment for thievery in this town?” Mendel inquired.

“Uh, I don’t know,” Trovus replied, “but he’ll be in jail for a while. That’s for sure!”

“Well, you have a jail,” Bran sighed. “That’s good.”

“You’ve got to be careful,” Mendel warned, “because he can turn invisible and get really big, and strong!”

“I’m sure we’ll be able to deal with him,” Trovus assured us, securing Novrael with manacles and returning our rope. “Don’t worry, we got this,” Trovus responded to our hesitation. “Just take your rope and let us handle it.”

“Are you sure you don’t want to let us help you escort him to the jail?” I offered.

“No, we got it,” Trovus insisted.

“Be advised that there were three of them,” I informed him. “One was slain, and the other fled.”

“You guys are adventurers, right?” Trovus hinted. “You’re going to handle them?”

“We may not be able to find him,” I shared. “They said they stole your lantern, because it was made of chardalyn.”

“So they’re stealing chardalyn?” Trovus clarified.

“Indeed,” I confirmed.

“So, you’re going to go root them out?” Trovus asked.

“I think that’s the general idea here,” Erling agreed, “yes.”

“Great!” Trovus said, quickly leaving with Novrael.

“Uh, no, no, we don’t need your help,” Erling called after him. “It’s quite alright. Thanks for offering.”

“Did Trovus seem mighty eager to get that duergar away from us?” Mendel asked.

“Why don’t we follow him?” Erling suggested. “Come on, Frizzt. Let’s go follow him and see what he does.”

“That’s a good idea,” Frizzt agreed, and departed after Erling.

Down the road to the weat, Trovus stopped and turned toward Erling, “What are you following me for?”

“Isn’t this the way to the Hook, Line, and Sinker,” Erling asked.

“No, it’s that way,” Trovus replied pointing south.

“Ah, thank you, your eminence,” Erling replied.

Erling suggested we follow him again, and I agreed. This time Erling stalked Trovus on the opposite side of the row of houses leading from The Northern Light to the speaker’s quarters. I trailed ninety feet behind Erling.

Suddenly Trovus appeared from around the corner of one of the buildings, shouting toward me, “What? What is it? Why are you following me? Hello?” He walked toward me, continuing, “Hey, I’m talking to you. Why are you following me?”

“I am not following you,” I responded, shocked that he saw me through the buildings.

“What are you doing behind these buildings?” Trovus asked. “Why are you in these people’s yards?”

“I did not realize that these were yards,” I explained. “This looks like open town.”

“What are you doing here?” Trovus pressed.

“What is your concern,” I countered. “Don’t you have a prisoner to attend to?”

“My concern is that you’re following me,” Trovus explained, “and you’re skulking around behind these people’s homes. I am the law in this town, and it is my concern when people act suspiciously.”

“We just brought back the thief who was stealing from your town, from before we arrived,” I argued. “It would seem that you would have more important things to worry about than us.”

“I can be concerned with more than one thing at a time,” Trovus stated. “So, what are you doing? Why are you following me? Why are you here behind these people’s houses?”

“I’m not following you,” I replied. “I’m just wandering through town.”

“If I hear of anything else being stolen,” Trovus warned, “I’m going to arrest you and your lot.” With that, he turned and continued on his way.

“If anything else is stolen,” I said to his back, “it is probably other duergar.”

Once Trovus was gone, I followed Erling to the Hook, Line, and Sinker.

I went to The Northern Light to let our companions know where we were, and they eagerly joined us.

We described our encounter with Trovus, and agreed that he seemed suspicious, but that we should deal with the durger as soon as possible.

We tried to strategize how we would engage the duergar, possibly focusing on the emissaries as they come and go.

Before we left, Mendel rented a room and cast find familiar, summoning and dismissing a bat form.

When we departed Caer-Konig, I quickly picked up the durger tracks, and we followed them north, toward Kelvin’s Cairn.

On the way, we were attacked by two winged creatures with deer heads. They swooped down from the night sky, surprising everyone except for Bran and I.

Nevertheless, Bran was gored by one of their horns, and raked by its talons. After swinging wildly with his sword, he quickly cast healing word on himself and fled, getting raked again.

I used slayer’s prey on one of the peryton’s, but missed, and withdrew.

Mendel hit Bran’s attacker with three magic missiles.

Blaze cast cure wounds on Bran.

Oosi flew into a rage and hit it with his warhammer, but was gored as the peryton flew by.

Bran fell after being gored once more.

I cast hunter’s mark on it and hit it in the neck, sending it crashing down dead by Bran’s feet, and withdrew further.

Mendel hit the last peryton with three magic missiles, and tried to follow Frizzt through the snow.

Blaze revived Bran with cure wounds.

Oosi threw his javelin of lightning, but missed.

Erling was gored by its horns, and raked by its talons.

Bran rose, dropped his sword, drew his bow, and nicked it with an arrow.

As Mendel withdrew, he cast toll the dead, but it had no effect.

Blaze hit it with two scorching rays.

Oosi dropped his warhammer and threw his handaxe, hitting the monstrosity fatally in the chest.

We took a short rest to recover, and Bran sang a soothing tune.

Once we were recovered, we continued on and soon reached the foothills of Kelvin’s Cairn. I was still able to pick up tracks, and we followed them to a blocky stronghold, bereft of warmth or charm, that jutted out of a hillside in a rough crescent shape. Only part of its construction was visible; the rest was buried in the stone.

A large double door of stone served as the main entrance. The terrain leading to it was a gently upward-sloping plain covered with fresh snow. A stream used to flow out of a barred culvert northeast of the main entrance, but the waterway had frozen. Two other barred openings could be seen along the stronghold's northern wall.

Closer to us, separated from the rest of the stronghold, was a snow-covered stone bunker perforated by arrow slits.

Mendel sent his bat to scout around the bunker, seeing through its eyes, and relaying what he saw. Referring to the bunker, “It doesn’t look like there are any arrow slits on the north or east. There’s a duergar in there, and a trapdoor as well. He didn’t spot us yet. Perhaps we should back off.”

We backed off and tried to figure out the best way to infiltrate the structure. Ultimately, we decided we needed to rest for the night before we confronted the duergar.

We followed the base of Kelvin’s Cairn for about two hours west and found a niche to make camp.

We spent much of the nice trying to figure out how to penetrate this seemingly impregnable fortress.

The next morning we returned, and Mendel had his bat scout closer to the fortress. Examining where the frozen stream met the barred culvert, he noticed that, “It looks like there is enough of a gap on top of the ice for any of us to crawl through to the fortress. There’s also arrow slits all along the side of the fortress. We would be visible to all of them.”

“I can try to hide us with a fog cloud,” I suggested, “but I cannot move the cloud.”

Blaze cast guidance on Erling as the halfling skulked closer to the entrance.

Mendel cast message to Erling, asking, “Do you want me to send my bat up with you, in case there’s anything invisible?”

“Sure,” Erling whispered back, climbing to the roof of the bunker and scouting the area for secret doors.

Mendel kept using message to communicate with Erling, telling him that his bat now saw two duergar in the bunker.

Erling made his way stealthily back to us. “It seemed all but impossible to get in over there. I don’t know what to suggest. The only thing I can think of is wait for one of these things to come along, hijack it, and pose as an emissary.”

Blaze cast guidance on Erling again as the halfling revisited the entrance, hugging the side of the northern cliff under the barred windows.

Examining the culvert, Erling peered inside and saw a tunnel beyond. Slipping under the culvert, he found that ten feet into the tunnel, the frozen river continued on, but above was the circular opening leading up to a well.

Communicating with his bat, Mendel eventually told us that Erling wanted us to follow him under the culvert.

Blaze removed his armor so he could move more quietly and we all skulked our way forward, hugging the north cliff wall, passing under the barred windows, and slipping under the culvert into a five-foot-high tunnel. There was a ladder leading up the side of the twenty-foot-deep well.

Erling told us he heard duergar voices coming from above the well and smelled rotting flesh.

Blaze cast guidance on Oosi as the barbarian climbed up the ladder, a hooked rope in one hand, and Erling hanging on tight. Mendel’s bat flew to Erling’s shoulder. Oosi set the hook on the south side of the well.

Erling quietly climbed over the wall.

In the darkness were cages filled with humanoid figures, one with a larger humanoid. Across the room were two duergar, and a third farther back.

Oosi climbed over the wall, not as quietly, and was spotted by the duergar.

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