Our brave team, having arrived safely at the port of Yodelheim, bid the roguish Miguel/Eduardo adieu and prepared for the next leg of their journey. After some discussion, they dismissed the chance to get a guide, figuring the map provided by Snergle was more than enough for them to find their way. They also split up, figuring they could garner as much information as possible about both Avarkal and the Gray Mountain simultaneously. They promised to catch up later- Queso, Elora, Hofniel, and Belladonna headed North, while Heisenberg, Gregor, Serena (or Sriracha), and Dobby did some exploring in Yodelheim.The trip to the mountains was cold, punctuated by a fierce blizzard that set upon them. Huddled in their winter tent, the adventurers thought they could hear voices in the wind, calling…but the feeling passed almost as soon as it came, and they buckled down to ride out the storm safely. When they arrived at the great gray mountain, the directions became less clear, and they spent several hours climbing along switchbacks through the evergreens. In time, they found their way to a steep rock face that appeared to be cut right into the mountainside….at least, until said mountainside began to move. Pebbles and stones tumbled down, the earth shook under their feet. Two great glowing eyes opened on the rock face, and a colossal stone golem stepped forth, leaving an equally enormous golem-shaped recess where it had been hidden in plain sight. The construct towered over the now very anxious heroes, speaking a single riddle in booming tones: “I’ve many windows, but no door; On a Pavilion I sit, with no floor. What am I?” It raised three of its gigantic finger appendages as if to signal the number of guesses the team had. Elora took one look at the situation and was about to turn tail, leaving nothing but a big cloud of NOPE behind her. At that moment, Belladonna, who had clearly spent a great deal of time not only stealing gems, but fencing and appraising them, immediately piped up. “A diamond?” The colossus opened its fist and dropped three pommel-sized gems; red, blue, and yellow, and retreated back into its position in the rock wall, leaving a small doorway as access into the mountain. The rest of the group stared in astonishment, as this was clearly meant to be a MUCH MORE DIFFICULT riddle to solve which instead turned out to be a 2 second inconvenience. Guffawing at their good fortune, they moved ahead into the passageway, which was just wide enough to drag their cart. Glowing lichen lined the walls, as if placed with purpose. They eventually found their way to a large movable wall that blocked their path. Everyone put ears on the stone surface, and they heard several voices speaking congenially in both common and another tongue- likely dwarven, they surmised. Queso, pounded on the side of the wall, and the voices fell silent- within a few moments, the stone slid along deep grooves in the ground, and they were greeted by a troupe of very miffed-looking dwarven guards bedecked in heavy armor. Hofniel put his charm to the max and worked hard to persuade them that they were simply there for trade, pointing at the load of meteoric iron they were dragging along with them. Still suspicious, the dwarf demanded they explain why they were using the secret back entrance into their clan halls. With a mighty sigh, a shrug, and an eyeroll, Elora muttered that this group simply “never did anything the normal way.” Cautious but somewhat assured, the guard required that they disarm, which they did without question. Entering the commons of the great halls of the Gray Mountain clan, the group was overcome by the splendor of the architecture; the glowing molten ‘rivers’ flowing in it’s lower halls, and the plethora of traders and merchants from throughout Roan, all there for a chance to buy and sell with the best craftsmen in the land and take some of those wares back with them to sell at, no doubt, a substantial mark-up. Queso was virtually frothing at the mouth by this point, as Elora and Hofniel tactfully asked where they might find a good smithy. They were directed to Brokker Braunite, whose forge was powered by the very molten flows that ran through the lower city. He made it very clear that he was the best smith they would ever meet- and was rather surprised that the group had found God iron. He even described the original musical greatsword crafted for the hands of the first bardbarian, Fabiol, in the time of the Great War. Much discussion and bargaining took place, and at long last, Queso was able to put in his order for a fabled sword of his own: the Quesoblade. The only catch, of course, was that they needed the guts of a Remorhaz, a gigantic centipede-like monster, to complete the blade’s “string” part and allow it to become the musical weapon of lore. The others got some pretty nifty orders put in as well, and the group headed toward the local Inn/tavern: Helga’s Hoppy Haven. Helga herself was a buxom dwarf woman with a no-nonsense attitude and a bar full of drunken dwarves. They queried her extensively and found she knew a dwarven hunter, who, after several games of dice and and heavy drinking, was able to give the more details about the Remorhaz- specifically, that, while it dwelt in icy climes, the creature was fire based and thus vulnerable to cold attacks moreso than fire attacks. They thanked the fellow, and were about to retire for the evening, when a very intoxicated dwarf punched Queso (of all people) in the side, offering a vague threat. Queso grinned, glanced around as if to confirm that everyone had seen that he hadn’t been the instigator….and promptly lifted the dwarf off the ground….by the beard. The unfortunate dwarf’s friends soon made themselves scarce at this display of raw power, particularly after Queso nonchalantly tossed the fellow across the room. There were no further incidents during the group’s stay in the Gray Mountain.
During their days and weeks waiting for Brokker to complete his work, the team also found out, through Helga, that some very productive mines had gone dark within the past few years. Rumor had it that dwarves either went mad or missing completely, and they finally sealed the mine for safety. Fearing nothing an no one, and suspecting that their status among the dwarves would improve dramatically if they offered assistance. Unfortunately for them, the mine overseer was a surly, bitter fellow named Volden. Fortunately for them, Hof was in particularly good form that day, and was able to smooth talk the group a deal: Volden would open up the mine, provide a map (with designations as to where gem mining sites were). They gathered up their gear, steeled themselves, and delved inside. While there, they narrowly evaded getting flattened by a cave-in, fought various troglodytes, and (wisely) avoided confronting an Otyugh in it’s filthy, filthy lair-thanks to Elora’s ability to speak Draconic and squeeze the defeated troglodytes for information. They even found a strange, brightly glowing gem- as bright as a lamp if not moreso, which Queso promptly placed in his loincloth as his personal crotch-light. Typical Queso behavior, though now no one was willing to touch the gem or examine it to discover if it had any other unusual properties, now that it was stuffed in the barbarian’s unmentionables. Being extra-cautious, the team chose to load up inside an abandoned mine cart and inch forward slowly in case they were flanked by more critters. Out of the corner of her eye, Belladonna spotted movement- something dwarf sized, which Elora promptly put to sleep with a single magical utterance. Approaching, they saw a bedraggled, unkempt, dirty dwarf fast asleep, not far from what appeared to be his living space- dirty rags, various odds and ends, and other hoarded trash that served as the poor wretch’s home. Upon waking, the team quickly realized (to no one’s surprise) that the fellow was completely mad, muttering about some sort of “watcher” or some such drivel. Regardless, Elora took pity and they tied him up in his lair, allowing him to rant and rave to himself while posing no further potential threat to the group. Deeper into the mine, they discovered giant spiders and desiccated, silk-wrapped bodies…of various types. The spiders were shooed away by the light of the gem, but they knew they could sneak up on them at any time, and so took their advantage to fight and slay a large group of the monsters, incurring minimal injuries in the process. Indeed, Queso suffered several bites and incurred their venom- venom which would sicken or kill a lesser man, but only seemed to invigorate our brutish hero. Searching one last room, Elora’s keen searching ability uncovered scratching on the wall that resembled a large eye with…tentacles? It was difficult to say for sure. Even more unnerving were the old, skeletal remains of dwarves, a few of whom seemed to have died fighting each other, for reasons unknown. Having carefully scoured all the rooms on the map, the team took a rest and prepared to enter the newest mine passage, for they knew that the answer to the mine’s deadly mystery was most likely within.