That night as the group of companions rested in the red-binding circle in the chamber containing the Pit of Doom, Mongo suddenly rose from his sleep and began walking toward the caverns northern exit. Altain, who was currently on watch, wondered what his friend might be up to? Mongo, not one for conversation apparently, simply told the swordmage he needed to go for a walk.
But what Mongo didn’t share was that he was awoken by a whispering voice in his head. When he awoke the voice was still present, and seemed to be urging the dwarf to get up. Mongo not wanting to alert the others decided to follow the mysterious voice through the northern passages to the dwarven tombs they had discovered earlier. There Mongo discovered a secret passage amongst the bas-reliefs that covered the chamber’s walls. A long stairway covered in bones led to a small landing dimly lit by a flickering torch that must have sat somewhere beyond a doorway located in the landings left wall. Then the voice began to mutter the question “are you worthy?”, in which Mongo confidently replied “yes, of course I am!” Carefully the dwarf descended the stairway and discovered a large chamber illuminated by numerous torches, and bones littering the floor. Intact skeletons of orcs also lay near the center of the chamber. It was beginning to look as though the dwarf was being lured into a dangerous situation, and Mongo finally decided to return to the camp to share what he had discovered with the others.
Upon waking his companions it was decided that the group would follow the dwarf back to the secret staircase. However, once they entered the dwarven tomb they discovered that Mongo had apparently been meant to follow the voice alone, as the staircase’s secret door had mysteriously disappeared? Mongo once again moved toward the sarcophagi that contained the secret mechanism (the hilt of the sword moved) that revealed the door, but the mechanism couldn’t be found!? It was with this unexpected revelation that Mongo’s companions decided to wait in the hall. Mongo then entered the chamber alone, and to his amazement the sarcophagi’s sword hilt once again moved to reveal the secret door! Once again the dwarf followed it downward alone, and then made his way towards a stone doorway on the opposite side of the room. Suddenly he heard the clanking of bones, and as he spun around he found himself flanked by two skeletal orcs! The skilled dwarf made quick work of the first two, only to have another pair suddenly rise, and then a third pair! But the dwarf knew they were no match, as he made quick work of them all. Then he opened the stone doors to reveal a short twenty-foot wide hall with a strange blue haze hanging in the air, followed by a stairway flanked by two massively large dwarven statues. Mongo didn’t hesitate, as he walked confidently staight ahead through the haze, and up the wide stairway. The dwarf continued to believe that he was in fact worthy (as the whispering voice had asked numerous times) and he now walked as if to prove his point. At the top of the stairs the dwarf discovered another massive chamber with two thrones positioned at the top of a raised dias. Once again the dwarf walked confidently forward until he stood at the base of the raised platform. It was then that he noted the skeletal remains of a dwarven individual laying near one of the thrones, a strange mist emanating from it’s skull. Then the strange mist began to take the form of a ghostly dwarven figure! Shocked, but still confident, Mongo listened as the ghostly figure began to ask him a series of questions – apparently checking whether Mongo was in fact “worthy” of the honor that the ghostly dwarf was prepared to bestow upon him. Then as quickly as it had all begun, the mist suddenly vanished, and a beautifully crafted battle axe with a fire opal set into its hilt lay in the ghost’s throne! It was then that Mongo once again heard the whisper of the dwarven ghost one last time, “take care of the legendary Skull Cleaver – an ancient weapon of the dwarven empires of the past in which only those found worthy are honored to possess.” Mongo returned to his companions above and shared his unusual story, along with the ancient battle axe. Robyn seemed most surprised by the dwarf’s amazing story, but after listening intently he simply walked away muttering to himself, apparently somewhat confused by it all.
Finally the next day the group broke camp and returned to the main corridor of Stonefang Pass. The passage continued for at least another hour, or more, before the group finally spotted light at the far end of the pass. There they discovered an expansive courtyard. A tall waterfall created a stream that bisected the courtyard, which in turn was crossed by an old stone bridge. Across the stream, a tower loomed high above, looking like it was hewn from the mountain. Orcs with bows watched the courtyard from atop several smaller structures, and others armed with handaxes prowled the ground level. Standing in front of a wide entranceway under the tower an orc sat mounted on an enormous boar. This orc was missing one of his eyes and carried a stone maul. The companions wasted little time and quickly exited the pass, crossed the old stone bridge, and immediately went on the offensive. They quickly made work of the savage soldiers as their skills in combat proved superior. In fact the battle seemed to be a simple affair early on, as the companions pressed the advantage against several of the archers positions as well. It was then that the lead orc upon his trusted steed (a large boar) charged into the fray. Then a second charge was executed a short time later. The companions suddenly found themselves on the defensive, and pinned against the raging river behind them. Struck by the charging boar, Altain suddenly found himself nearly floating downstream towards another waterfall nearby, but managed to pull himself from the frigid waters. Soon Fin found himself thrown into the rushing waters as well, but luckily he too made it back to shore. Then Mongo was struck by a massive blow from the charging boar and was thrown into the raging waters unconscious! Wolven was next, as he fell unconscious near the bridge’s footings, and was subsequently pushed into the fast moving waters. Robyn stealthily moved about as his companions fell one by one all around him. He knew he needed to act fast. Luckily, Mongo’s body caught on an outcropping of rocks near the top of the waterfall, allowing his companions to quickly rescue the nearly doomed dwarf. Unfortunately Wolven was not nearly as fortunate however, as his body cascaded over the edge of the falls at nearly the same moment that Mongo was pulled to safety. It was the third member to parish from the group that originally set out from New Haven, but there was little time to contemplate the loss as the remainder of the group still found themselves in great peril. Perhaps it was a rush of adrenalin brought on by Wolven’s tragic end, or perhaps the group’s luck had just finally turned, but no matter the cause one thing was certain – the battle finally turned in the companions favor. First the large boar was finally put down, and shortly after the creature’s orc rider fell too. Then the two remaining archers were eliminated as well. Near the small stone bridge the ground was now saturated with the blood of both groups, but the party had managed to avoid what had nearly been an all out slaughter. True, they had lost yet another of their beloved friends, but each of them realized that the price could’ve been much greater.
Downtrodden and exhausted the group looked up to the towering citadel that loomed above. It was time to pay it’s occupants a visit, and perhaps time to extract a little revenge as well.
Meanwhile, Mongo looked down at the enchanted battle axe he now possessed, and reflected upon the glowing red-runes that had suddenly appeared upon it’s blade as it savagely tore into his enemies flesh. The runes were now mysteriously gone! He had no explanation for why they had appeared, or what the runes may have been? There were no answers, just questions, but the dwarf hoped that someday he might learn more of the weapon his ancient people once knew as “Skull Cleaver.”