The Woeful Tale of Durgarn-hur

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Durgarn-hur or Fikli Ir

Deep in the heart of Dwarven mines lies creatures not for men to know, we have yet to see if Durgarn-hur is one of these beast.

I met him under the most normal circumstances, and yet I know it was the gods at work, to what end they send him, I do not know. It was in the Maiden’s Bloody Heart, a tavern I frequented at the time that we met, that the monster of a man simply sat at the stool next to me. He stands something like 6 feet high, and grabs the room with his impressive visage, gleaming white scales contrast the strained and warn leather that clings to him. Perpendicular jagged and stained fragments of metal thrust from his figure like wicked claws grasping for something not there. A deep red cloak rest around his neck, and drapes far below his waist, stopping just shy of his leather clad ankles, which are adorned with tribal feathers and beads. His Reptilian face is scarred and battered, covered in marks from a thousand encounters with bad luck, but his deep blue eyes seem endless, and when one looks upon them too long, they feel the chill of a deep, dead winter’s night. Around his hands sat two sets of heavy brass cuffs trailing from each, warn and rusted linked chains hung, dangled. When they rang it sounded like a melancholy procession filled the air around him. This is the creatures that sat just one stool over from me, this was Durgarn-hur. I never will know what compelled him that day, and that is again another reason I believe it work of the gods. For there is little chance he knew who I was. After the initial fear had subsided, I took it upon myself to begin the most life changing exchange I have ever had.

“You must be new here, I would remember a face like your’s” I said,

“Aye, it would seem I am a new stone in the pile” He replied in an unbelievably thick accent I could only perceive as that of a dwarf. This was not the first nor last time Durgarn-Hur would surprise me.

“Do yer’av anything stronger here, or should I just buy the whole cask?”

“I wouldn’t know, I always drink this same cheap stuff, your accent, it sounds .. dwarven?” I replied unconfidently as I waved the bartender over.

“My past isn’t a light subject, laddie, but if yer buy the cask, i’ll tell it to ya, on the stone’s oath” He replied as finished his second drink since he arrived.

I knew it was surely insane, no matter how good one story is, it is still after all a story, and he was so eager to tell it, it couldn’t literally be worth it weight in gold, but that is what he asked. If I had not known the bartender as well as I did, I wouldn’t have done it either, but I knew I could get a fair price. That little thing at the back of my head tugged at the thought perhaps this was a story worth hearing.

“Done”, I replied as I grabbed the bartender, to arrange terms, That was the only time I saw Durgarn-hur surprised.

“Ah well, I deals I deal I suppose, beside what’s the point in living a tale if you don’t get to tell it, In the mines, each dwarf’s story is recorded in stone so it will last forever, Mine however will live through you I guess.”

The Following is his tale, as best as I could record it, Some of it may be fuzzy, it wasn’t until halfway in I thought it truly worth recording, and by then so much had happened. He stayed in the spot all night, and if I had moved I thought I might loose this forever. The most fascinating tale I’ve ever heard from a stranger.

It was many years ago for us, but to dragon kin, times moves slower. He awoke in small nest made of straw and sticks, and remembers the warmth of the fire, something he would never forget. Staring back at him were two creatures, each of them had large ruddy cheeks, and long dark rivers of hair that flowed from their heads to their waste, they appeared more intricate in the middle, and one was clasped with shiny metals. The Creatures shouted and screamed at Durgarn. He however could not understand the reason, or their intent. More of the things came running into the stone room, shouting and dancing, it was a terrifying sight, but what he remembers most was that cracking fire, and its extreme, oppressive, titanic waves of heat, they spurned him, and in a flash of white he scurried across the room. This is the first Durgarn-hur’s terrible memories and the one that haunted him in the night.

Time passed, again, time feels different for the dragons, and he stayed under the dark stones of the dwarves for far to long. His next memories were after he had grown, he learned the language of the creatures that imprisoned him there in the granite vaults, with cyclopean walls, Dwarves they were called and Durgarn-hur was he. Placed in chains, he worked for the things, toiled on their machines, and with their metals, he helped forge masterpieces and mend the un-mendable, it was the only enjoyment he would find deep in those stones. One day Durgarn fell upon his worst of unlucky encounters. He asked one of the dwarves, why he was called Durgarn, and why he worked all day while others sat idle. This Infuriated the dwarves, who began yelling at at Durgarn, he however  did not yet understand what they were entirely saying, or why they were attacking him. One dwarf slashed him across the face with a shard of metal, this is how he got his first scar. From as he says, “an encounter with bad luck”.

From this day forth, Durgarn learned two lessons, to never question your superiors, and to fight when attacked. The Former would save his life, the latter, win his freedom. Durgarn-hur, was worked the next day, as hard as ever. Then he was gathered and brought deep into the mine, to a place he cannot forget, even in his more euphoric dreams. The Carved walls of the pit were to clean to climb, and circler design prevented any shimming up in corners. But Durgarn, had little time for either activity, sitting opposite of the young dragon kin, was a large beast, with razor like tusk and wild eyes, The creature stamped his hooves and charged. A wild squeal was loosed, and Durgarn knew, if he wanted to avoid another scar, he had to act fast. His mind however as a jumble, he could hear a thousand foreign words roaring around him, the wild cry charging at him. That and the raging fire, of very first day, the crackling of the wood, and the oppressive heat of the flames. He re-focused barely in time. Dodging the beast at the last moment, his scales tightened, and his cold winter eyes focused on the beast. As it crashed into the thick stone wall an even louder noise was loosed. Blood splayed all across the wall, and the beast fell silent. Everyone in the arena sat still, even Durgarn was in awe. He slowly approached the beast, and upon inspection realized when I had crashed into the wall, its tusk splintered, and falling back into itself, pierced the beast heart and killed it. Durgarn had finally had an encounter with good luck. He reached down and removed a large shard of the tusk. He held it in his thick fingers, and looked at the crowd. Durgarn couldn’t understand much, but from the roars he gathered, he wasn’t suppose to live. To him, it felt good to defy the odds, It was a feeling he would chase for the rest of his life.

After that night, Durgarn never saw a full nights rest, only times when he won in the area faster then others, and got just a few hours of rest. This in time was alright for the dragon kin, he lived on the excitement, and the odds were never in his favor. He fought more animals until the dwarves grew truly bored of him. They began to pit him against beast of the underdark, monster of an arborous nature that even he refuses to speak of. Finally they fought him, and in time he learned their ways. Even in his eyes earned the respect of some of the more, liberal dwarves. This, eventually won the dragon his freedom, and his right to bear the name Filik Ir, the Freed One. Durgarn remained in that dwarves mine for a short time, but he knew his time would come again, when those small dark monsters would force him to fight again. He left those stone vaults, and angry creatures behind. His tale would not be recorded in the stone hall of lore the dwarves kept. It would be song, by the bards of waterdeep, and by the children who hope against hope to escape an “Encounter with bad luck”

–Tale from the Journal of Kelvos Darkeyes, Traveling bard

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Never trust a Gypsy

Never trust a Gypsy

The adventurers stood still, while the question hung in the air. Something about the cramped wagon, with that lonely candle which mixed both the all to familiar darkness and the bright colors of thoses gaudy gypsy decorations, it made them question why they were even there. Something that had not happend since they arrived in this strange land. “Yes” croaked the old crone, “I am the one you seek, the one who has your answers, that is why you’ve come?” Her ancient eyes studied the teifling, “Andareta, the warlock, summoner of demons, deceiver of the flames”, Madam Eva then turned to the metal clad Paladin, “Von Hohenhiem, the ancient, Spring Warden and lover of lies.” This instantly drew a reaction from the guest, they suddenly realized this was not just an old women who was revered for her age. Her head turned again and locked eyes with drow who sat in the back, watching every move ” Zara, weaver of magics, and lover of wealth, defiant of her people” with this she trailed to the elf, “and you Ilyrion, Spring Warden, Hunter of monsters, master of thorns.”
” and I am Madam Eva, I know why you have come, but I do not know why he has brought you here” her shaking voice trailed into the shadows, while mist curled around the windows of the wagon.

” The land of Barovia is cursed, and the devil Strahd is the source” at the mention of that name, the old gypsy’s voice grew strong and powerful as if a sense of fear brought on the requirement of extra efforts to concisely relay the information, or perhaps confidence  welled inside her, confidence that her audience was now fully listening.

” no one enters or exits this land without his knowledge and consent, and why he sent for you for you I cannot fathom. However I sense, perhaps you could heal this place. My faith in the gods is little here, but the Morninglord does sometimes work his miracles.” Madam Eva looked down at her table, there, next to the candle, sat a round glass ball about the size of fist propped on four ornate claw like feet. Inside, mist swirled and vague shapes danced about. Von Hohenhiem, the man of faith, stared into that crystal ball. Inside the fog cleared, and the sky above a dark castle broke open, a blazing sun rose high in the sky, and the shadows of the castles high peaks dominated the small village below.

Zara, the drow, spoke up first, ” Who is the Devil Strahd? ”

” Strahd was a man, who’s luck was terrible, he now blames the people, and the land for his fate. He rules this land, but only in name, and through fear, if any of his subjects even knew who he truly was, they would leave this place at any cost”

“And you want to stop Strahd?” Zara asked

“Strahd, is not all bad” Eva said, as her voice trailed and her eyes gazed across through those dirty windows. “But he is lost, and his people suffer, he has brought you here, perhaps for his own enjoyment, or for other reasons that I do not know, but I can help you”

“You’re coming was foretold, long ago, in the vague prophecies of my people, perhaps we should look into you’re future?”

“Yes” Zara replied, clearly piqued at the offer, the others were just as interested.

Madam Eva reached into a chest that sat to her side, and removed a small velvet bag. From inside she produced a set of wooden, ornately carved cards she shuffled them in her hands for a moment, and set the stack on the table.

” one of you must shuffle them, go until they sit right in your hands” she said, as her eyes fixed deeply on Andareta.  “you my child, take the cards”

Andareta reached out with inferno touched hands, and grasped the set of cards. They where surprisingly heavy, even though they were no larger then common cards. She shuffled them, and all five of them sat in near silence, while the wooden cards clanked together like a old loose door banging in the wind. After a short time, the teifling stopped, he cards simply sat right, like the final piece of a puzzle, it simply felt right.

Madam Eva knew, she did not even seem to register Andareta had stopped. “good, now place five cards, in a cross and we will begin to see your fates” There sat a small cross of five cards. An ornate picture of that crystal ball was carved into the back of each card.

Madam Eva reached across the small table, and flipped the first card, “This card will tell of history, knowledge of the ancient will help you better your enemy” her voice took on a sinster quality as a picture of mad man, screaming whist he sat shackled. Behind him burned a structure with an impressive visage, burning wildly while smoke trailed into the distance. ” hmmm, the Anarchist” as Eva spoke, her eyes glassed over, and in that same mysteriously quiet voice she greeted them with ” I see walls of Bones, a chandelier of Bones, and a table of Bones – all that remains of enemies long forgotten.”

The trance she entered wavered a little, but only long enough to reveal the face of the next card. Carved into the wood was a wild women, dancing around the cauldron bellowing a mountain of smoke. “This card will tell of a powerful force of protection, a holy symbol of great hope, you must search for the crypt of a wizard ordinaire. His staff will be your key”

Again, as she set the card down, Eva returned briefly from whatever misty place she visited, but before long, she produced another card face, and another piece of the future. This card showed a lonely, worried women, who clutched her staff as shepherded her flock into the mist.”This is a card of power and strength, it tells of a weapon of vengeance; a sword of sunlight, to find it you must find the mother- she who gave birth to evil”

This time, Eva’s trance did not fade she swiftly moved to the next card, the bottom of the cross, as she revealed the saintly image of a women, her hair in buns, dressed in an ornate gown, light radiates behind her as if good followed her every step. “This card sheds light, it will show you the one to help you greatly in your battle against the darkness, and it is Evil’s bride whom you seek!”

Madam Eva’s voice rose as the last notes of the words left her throat, her hand quivered over the last card, the cross was almost complete it simple missed a center, a heart. “Your Enemy is a creature of Darkness! whose powers are far beyond mortality, this card tell us where you will find the monster!” her hands moved now quickest of all, The card’s face was grotesque dungeon scene, where chains hung from the ceiling, and only the small light that shown from behind cell bars offered any hope. “He lurks In a dark Hall of Bones, down deep in the pit of his castle”

There the five cards sat, a cross of confusion and mysticism, the Mad man Anarchist, the powerful Evoker, the lost Shepherd, and the naïve Innocent, at the center of it all the Donjon, the pit of bones. It created a sight that burned deep in the outsiders for a long time to come. While Madam Eva sat sunken down, warn from peering into what will be.

(Photo Credit Pinterest)

 

 

 

 

Strangers in a Strange Land

Strangers in a Strange Land

 

(Photo Credit: Jerreth Esq: Music to role-play to)

Mist coalesced around the three rickety Vardno’s as the road ahead sloped ever downward into a thick and onyx black forest. Even the bright colors of Vistanti’s wagons and clothes seemed to fade and a heavy air set deep in the lungs of the caravan. The fours strangers seemed oddly out of place in the group, but somehow also fit in. The tall silent Elf that sat in the front of the wagon held his bow tight, either from fear or habit. The mischievous Drow sat behind him counting her coins and watching the road ahead looking for any sign of civilization. Next to her the naïve Teifling  playing with whatever bauble took her fancy for the moment, uninterested in the road ahead. Driving the wagon sits the final member, a stout and iron clad paladin, searching with weary eyes for threats and fighting hard to keep the horses steady. The Caravan marched on, even as the woods encroached father and father on the path, until finally not even the sun shown through the thick canopy. The most eerie part of the forest was the ever present mist that entangled everything, and was always visible even in the almost blackness around the forest. It was as pale as the moon, and followed them as a hunter would prey. Just as the group settled in to the stark difference of their new surroundings the ghastly howl of a beast, not far from the path broke out. Almost instantly in response more calls broke out all around the caravan, It was clear that more then men traveled these roads. The Ranger drew his bow also in response, and the drow picked up her crossbow, they would not be caught unawares. The howls continued for sometime but the source was never revealed, left behind in the wood to remain a mystery. As the road broke from the oppressive trees and roots into an open clearing a large pool, or perhaps a small lake sat. All around were varndo’s like the three of the caravan, and a fire’s blazed at edge of the water, It was a camp, and perhaps even safety.

As the caravan approached, and parked in an odd semi circle fashion, gypsy like characters exited and began various actives, starting fires, preparing drinks and food, one casually strolled over the wagon where the four strangers sat, also preparing a camp for the night. “Come with me, Madam Eva is expecting you, she will have all the answers you seek” the brightly dressed man expressed as he motioned to a particularly old looking varando at the other end of the camp. The group casually shrugged, to one another, it had been such a strange trip so far, why question it now? The Drow began to voice some objection, but the gypsy man simply shook a long cord attached to his shirt, fashioned to it was a ridiculous number of bells and cymbals which caused a metallic racket to loud to over power in a causal tone. afterwards he simply said again “Madam Eva has the answers you seek”.

The group gave a motion of acceptance and followed the gypsy through the camp of oddities. As they walked they passed a group of gypsies gather around a campfire, one of them clad in stripped green and orange costume took a swig from the jug in his grasp. He spit into the fire causing the flames to roar and grow like the breath of a dragon. He began

“There was long ago a hope for the people, he came clad in red robes and clutching a staff of immense power. A Wizard! He came from a far away place, one of those lands not choked by the mist, he knew nothing of our land, our Barovia! save for the name of the man he came to defeat, Strahd Von Zarovich, the devil, the bringer of our sorrows! This man the wizard who’s name is forgotten in time. Hidden among us for a time he studied the devil and when he thought it time he rallied the people! the lowly ones the devil has cast aside. He took them to that black fortress on the mountain and they challenged the despot! Almost immediately at the sight of the monster the villagers ran for safety, and those who stayed did not survive for long, save that mysterious wizard. The two hurled bolts of lighting, and ray of scorching flames at other, and at the end of the struggle our wizard stood at the precipice of that cliff. He was casted down below into the dark, and the last hope for the people of this land faded. “

The party stood ringed around the dancing flames, entranced by the tale of green and orange storyteller. “Who was the wizard?” asked the curious drow. The orange and green man, stared back at her, “He was a man from beyond here, and is lost now, we searched but could not even find his remains, such is the fate of the devil’s enemies”

She went to ask more, but the first gypsy again shook his bells and they knew their time among the warm flames was over. They set off again, towards that ancient wheeled house which was promised to hold all their answers. While it was in reality only a short walk, the four, who had come so far as to trust the one another, couldn’t help but feel a sense of dread, that stretched out mere moments into haunting hours as the approached the foretold sage. The gypsy stopped, and shook his bell’s when an air of finality. He reached out and opened the door to the varando. Inside a sinister light illuminated the small hut, lined with a thousand gold tasseled pillows. At the other end sat a small, frail women whose loose grey hair and hard wrinkled lines both displayed her power and deceived it.  “Madam Eva I suppose?” asked the timid teifling, who couldn’t be more curious about the old women.

The Start of a Journey

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(Picture credit dnd.wizards.com)

You sit in a Tavern Surrounded by strangers

It all began with a random comment and a curious friend, he asked me something about D&D and boom, there  was, I didn’t even know what had been let loose. I told him all about the adventures I had, as an Oath sworn Paladin, and a Greedy Rouge, I told him about dragons, and wizards, about turning javelins into rail guns, and about nuking towns with scrying spells, and funny enough he didn’t seem to care nearly as much as I did. I wanted that feeling back, I wanted to dungeon delve, and solve the great mysteries of the kingdom. So I took up the mantle of  (queue that funny Zelda treasure noise) Dungeon Master, but I found out I was a few editions behind, I played 3.5, and 5e is …. different, especially for a rusty player. I had books to buy and Adventures to write, but then I realized what’s an adventure, monsters, plots and all with out the adventurers? I had the usual troubles, flakes, half commitments, and an ever shrinking group, But eventually we settled for four solid newbie’s not unlike myself, It was a case of the blind leading the blind and looking back even just a few sessions (were about 7 sessions in now) I can see the myriad of mistakes made.

Hindsight Always rolls a 20

I find I make the most mistakes when I feel the most confident, not unlike a fighter charging into a group of bandits, only to discover their all werewolves, and you don’t own any silver. The first few sessions, at the start were not all that bad, (see that’s the confidence bit) but as the grind went on, I began to feel like the last party member, bleeding out without much hope. I had what equated to maybe, 3 more sessions of experience with the game then my Players did, and almost none of that was as a DM. It’s like teaching your crew how to build a house, when you don’t even know how, you make the best of it.

I skipped a lot of crucial steps, first off, I had my character creation session, and our first play session at the same time.  Which led to a lot of stress, How does the party know each other? Why do they care? and most off all why are they here? My party was practically all new to the game, and I wasn’t much less green.  I got hung up on these small details, and it pained me that my players couldn’t care less. They wanted to play, whatever that meant for them, I found out that meant a lot of talking, a lot of rolling 20’s, and apparently marrying each other, oh and collecting every random item worth anything.

I guess the REAL take away for me was that lesson the books keep repeating, but that you never really learn until you play. It’s about having fun, however you do that, if that’s the serious horror campaign, or the silly high magic where dragons constantly get turned into shep’s and a man-bearpig leads your party. It’s about how you have fun. That’s the real magic a DM brings to the table.