And so we headed on up the road, towards the mountain pass.
Thanks to excellent survival skills, we made it along the trail intact. Along the trail there are villages where they farm goats, do a bit of mining, and make some money off passing travellers (including us). We trekked our way from village to village (or at least a cabin when no village was available) for about a week. As we went on, the villages got fewer, and the only thing that got flatter was the goat.
As we approached the highest point in the pass, we saw some nasty weather coming in. Finding ourselves some overhanging rock, we took shelter, and some light snow started to fall. While camped high in the pass for the night (with most of the party suffering minor hypothermia), Maul heard something sounding like stealthy steps… and waked us all with a cheery song.
Trouble had approached.
Two ice trolls. They hit hard. We fought back, and Mel did a decent amount of damage, right up to the point when she threw Roderick over a cliff… “aaaaaaaaYIPaaaaaaaaaaaaaYIPaaaaaaaaaaaaa”. Poor Roderick. Poor Mel!
Between Alchemists Fire and Flaming Sphere, we knocked off one of the ice trolls, then the other. Maul and a (devastated) Mel were weapon-sharing which limited how much they could do, but the fire was highly effective. After prevailing in that fight, and an expedition to retrieve Roderick (“wetwieve Wodewick!”) – who was much the worse for wear even after some healing from Maul, we proceeded along the mountain track (our handy haversack on our back) and found the remains of a dwarf, wearing a probably-religious symbol (about which Maul had no idea, on account of having zero Knowledge: Religion).
On our way along the road the next day, we encountered some dwarves with the same symbol on them that was on the body we found. After telling them what we’d found, including the part of a dwarf body, they sent the youngest of their group – Denerik – to escort us to the granite tower. It seems there used to be a giant in the area whom the dwarves kept fed, and who in exchange kept the trolls at bay… but the giant went missing a couple of years back and the trolls have been more of a problem since.
Around midday, we crested a ridge and could see the granite tower in the distance (like a sturdy, sprawling castle)… but even so we were still a day and a half away from it. It doesn’t look especially tall until you realise how wide it is.
Towards evening on that day, we arrived at an under-construction outpost, with a dwarvish crew working on building it. It was rather like a small fortress, where a couple of dozen people could hole up and be well defended… and indeed it was a good place to spend the night, uneventfully.
By about midday on the second day, we were starting to get to the outer defences of the granite tower. As we had our lunch, Maul and Cog notice something in the sky… a sack… tumbling end over end. We took cover (just to be on the safe side), and it landed with a BLART. Seems like it had been full of rock dust… and apparently that’s the trebuchet crews practising.
We then made our way closer to the ramparts where the trebuchets are being put away, and saw ballistae on gymballed mounts. Cog expressed some genuine interest in studying engineering there. Arriving in the shadow of the fortress, we began to be able to see more details of its construction. The stonework is unusual – house-sized blocks of stone which lock together. There were quite a few dwarves coming and going, apparently headed onto various trade routes. We approached the main gates, where Denerik vouched for us. We saw many guards around wearing heavy plate and the like, all with the insignia of Taureg (god of protection and the forge). Denerik took us to a priest, and told the priest what we had found.
Denerik then led us through the castle to the forges. Although the Tower looks big and imposing from the outside, inside it feels very claustrophobic. Like there is a considerable amount of missing space. Are there secret tunnels or passages within the walls? Or are the walls just absurdly thick? And in either case, why?
One of the dwarven workers took Roderick and examined him: clearly he will need some repair. We offered them the dwarven weapons and the troll axes, and in return they offered to do the repair for free over a couple of days. In the mean time, we’ll stay in the merchant quarters.