View Full Version : Sharindlar's Vale (Muleskinner Hunting-grounds)

06-08-2009, 03:07 PM
Area Description:

A hidden valley located above the stead, where the few members of the Muleskinners Guild spend much of their time.

The valley, which runs north to south near the peak of the mountain on its southern face, is thought to have been created some two-thousand years ago by a massive collapse in the mining tunnels below and has since re-routed part of a nearby underground stream and become lush with flora and fauna. The stream seems to emerge from the ground on the northernmost end of the valley, runs most of the length of the dale with a few twists and turns only to disappear again under the ground a few hundred feet before the walls of the valley begin to climb again in the south.

Though the valley is exceedingly difficult to find unless one already knows to look for it, it has drawn many forms of wildlife over the centuries and developed its own isolated ecosystem ranging from moss and lichen to mighty trees and from slugs and insects to birds and small mammals. The first Muleskinners to stumble upon it many hundreds of years ago saw the vale as a gift from the Morndinsamman and eventually came to give thanks for it to the Lady of Life, Sharindlar.

--- Merged from Double Post ---
Continued From: Bottom of the Barrel (http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/showthread.php?p=77071#poststop)

It took him nearly an hour to make the perilous climb to the surface; a good fifteen minutes longer than it normally takes him when sober, and every minute of such a climb is one which threatens a fall that could easily maim or kill. It was in this last fifteen minutes that adrenaline purged what remained of the previous night’s firewater from his mind, and with it the last remnants of the liquid’s anesthetic properties, making him woefully aware of his bruised, aching, dehydrated body and his muscles burned at him with searing pain in retaliation for loitering during his ascent. Now, instead of alcoholic stupor, he had to contend with the dry, dull ache in his skull caused by the reduction of fluids in his brain which somehow always felt worse for coordination and cognition than actually being inebriated. Perhaps it was just the awareness of the condition that drunkenness spared him from.

As he approaches the apex of his long climb up the dilapidated chimney chute, he lets out a disparaging groan. He knows that despite his exhaustion, he must tie-off and suspend himself long enough to unlock and open the iron grating which serves as the second line of security just inside of a hollowed-out boulder on the surface with a secret door skillfully carved into its side. Emerging from the hidden passageway after resealing the grate behind him, his eyes involuntarily squint as his vision strains to adjust from the pitch black below to the ambient twilight of the world above and take in the sights of the only place he truly feels at peace.

Few outside the Guild are even aware that this place exists, or that there is an ancient chimney shaft in a mostly abandoned region of the stead which leads directly to it. These are considered trade secrets by the Muleskinners, as jealously guarded as the The Hands of the Gods protect their forging techniques, or the Militia their war-tactics. Dawn had come to the world outside the glen some two hours ago, but the vale itself, still fitfully attempting to wrest itself from the clutches of slumber in the extended twilight afforded by the steep slopes to the East and West, seems to share in Asbjørn’s morning-after languor, the dense, sleepy, mountain fog that collects here in the night will continue to lull the valley’s various inhabitants until the sun has had an hour or two to burn the mists away. It will take at least that much longer to burn away the fog in Asbjørn’s mind and he gives quiet thanks to Dumathoin for keeping that resplendent amber gem hidden away from his weary eyes until his wits return to him.

The late morning sun, after making the arduous climb over the eastern Greypeaks, would findAsbjørn still laboring in the crisp open air of the vast and hidden mountain valley, far above the stead, where the Muleskinners spend much of their waking hours. His face and much of his exposed torso are mottled with fresh bruises, and though it will make little aesthetic impact upon a nose that has been broken many times before, the swelling around the fracture in his nasal passage makes it harder to breathe, especially in the thin air at this altitude, and there is a slight, high-pitched wheezing as he goes about his task.

{{OOC: I will continue this scene when I have more time.}}

06-21-2009, 10:52 AM
For several hours now, Asbjørn had been pounding the same short trail in a copse of wood near the valley’s brook, like a solitary ant-drone; back and forth, carrying large, smooth stones from the cold stream and carefully placing them in a neat pile. He had selected the location because it was a juncture, a crossroads of about a dozen intersecting game-trails which formed a natural clearing. Now, he approached the mound of stones, which was a vaguely conical arrangement with the largest rocks on the bottom and tapering as the heap ascended and the stones decreased in size. He carried the last three water-polished rocks, each of them slightly larger than his own meaty fists, and had to step up on the edge of the lowest layer to be able to place them atop his impromptu cairn. When it is complete, he steps back to take a look at it, only to realize that the sun has already retreated beyond the western wall of the steep vale, he had not realized until now that it had taken him all day to complete a task that he thought would take perhaps an hour or two. And though he still was not sure that he could articulate what had compelled him to construct the monument in the first place, he felt as though something were missing.

It was not exactly how he had planned to spend the day; in fact, he had not planned to do this at all. He had simply gone about his daily routine of checking the traps that he and the others used to procure meat and hides –Dwarves may well be exemplary warriors, but they are also exceptionally poor hunters- when he spied a great stone in the water and began to build the monument, almost as if compelled. It was only now, as he stood looking at his work that he began to realize why he had done it. Reaching back through the thick fog of his alcohol-clouded memories, he remembers a conversation with the eldest of his guild. He was no longer the acting Guildmaster, wise and knowledgeable though he was, he had passed the mantle of leadership fearing his demise was not long hence. That day was yet another in a long line of days, much like today, when Asbjørn had quaffed just a bit too much firewater the night before and was late for his duties.

When he had finally made it to the surface that morning, he had all but dragged himself over to the fire pit to report for duty. As always, the wizened and decrepit Ervar Glangrim waited patiently, tending the fire that was used both to cook the meals the Muleskinners ate and to boil hides, prepare dyes, melt wax and heat tools used in their craft. Glangrim was ancient, even by Dwarven standards; he was small and thin, and gave the impression that if the wind suddenly blew too hard, he might crumble to dust and blow away. Yet he was still strong and capable, serving his Guild day after day, cooking meals, giving council, and telling stories, and though the many winters he had seen had all but blinded him, his other faculties continued to serve him well. As Asbjørn approached, the aged Dwarf began to smile without looking up, he would not have been able to see Asbjørn from that distance anyhow, but his old ears told him enough.

“Praise The Finder!” Ervar had exclaimed excitedly and somewhat teasingly, “We were beginning to think you had become lost, boy.” In all the years that Asbjørn had been a part of the guild, Glangrim had never spoken directly to him; he glanced about confused as he staggered the remaining distance to the fire. There was no one else about, no one else that he might be speaking to and no obvious reason for the man to say ‘we.’ He had of course heard the rumors that Glangrim was ‘touched,’ that he spoke more to himself than he did anyone else, but he had always struck Asbjørn as one in full command of his faculties. There were also those who contended that it was not himself to whom Glangrim spoke, but the gods. Asbjørn reflexively began to make an excuse for his tardiness, but stopped short. “I was…” He paused, collecting his thoughts and tried again. “I be here at long last Master, though I may yet be lost.”

Glangrim’s fixed and cataract-stricken gaze did not shift, but a single steel-grey eyebrow arched sharply above a cloudy eye and the old man ceased stirring the pot he had been tending. “Then perhaps it is time that someone gave you a map.” The old Dwarf turned, rummaging through a nearby pack and drew something small and square-ish from within. Rising again he stepped toward Asbjørn and pushed it into his hands saying, “It is only once we have admitted -if only to ourselves- that we are lost that we have any hope of finding the path we seek once more.” The object was a strange bundle of what he had later called ‘parchment,’ bound together with sinew and covered with a strange skin which Asbjørn had not recognized. Glangrim had showed him that it could be opened, and inside there were markings in Dethek; not carved, but seemingly tattooed upon the multiple surfaces inside the small object. Asbjørn recalled thinking it was like a stack of several hundred tiny doors, all hinged together. Asbjørn would soon discover that it was a collection of eddic narratives, at least one tale dedicated to each of the Dwarven Pantheon, though the bulk of its pages told of Marthammor Duin.

In the weeks that followed, Asbjørn had been so enthralled by the contents of the book that he had avoided the Broken Barrel altogether, instead spending all of his time away from his duties reading the tales of the Morndinsamman. It was among these that he had first seen an illustration of a pile of stones, similar to the one he had built today, and suddenly he knew what it was that the cairn lacked. Fetching one last rock, he bound it to a fallen tree branch to form a crude, stone hammer and clambered up the side of his monolith once more, wedging the haft of the makeshift hammer firmly between the three stones at its summit. As he stood admiring his work, the backdrop of the moonless night sky behind it through the opening in the surrounding canopy of trees and the waning glow on the western horizon proclaimed that the day was done.

It was only now that Asbjørn began to understand what had compelled him. It had been building in him for weeks now, a tiny stone tumbling down the slope of his subconscious which slowly became an avalanche, a series of events each building upon the last exponentially. The momentum had become unstoppable. All at once the landslide strikes him with all the crushing weight of epiphany and he falls to his knees before the altar. “Great and wise Marthammor Duin I beseech thee. I am Asbjørn Oathbreaker, outcast of Thuldul, abdicate of the mighty Allvis, and I have lost my way. My path takes me in an endless circle, always leading me back to the place I began. My every step is hounded by jackals and the buzzards are circling me in anticipation. I know that I cannot continue on this way much longer. I ask, nay, beg for you to show me the way O Finder-of Trails, that I might begin my life’s journey anew with honor and purpose.”