Oslaf’s death was painful, but quick. He had just a second or so to realize that he’d been disemboweled by the umber hulk (the dwarves of Djuna named her Grundenkrom, lit. ‘stone eater’), before he was decapitated by her wickedly serrated mandibles. Here are the events that led up to Oslaf’s demise:
Weland returns with Oslaf, a smartly dressed dwarf with an intelligent, if somewhat sad expression on his face. His features are surprisingly human, save for his small round ears which rest too high on his head. He’s dressed in a thick green tunic with a velvety red cape at his back. Under his arm is a long, weathered roll of parchment. Weland introduces him, giving his full title: Oslaf Heogundar, son of Guthlaf, and so on. Oslaf bows deeply, a smile curling the well-trimmed moustache above his beard.
OSLAF: Yer introdukshun honors my kin, Captain. Oslaf bows to Weland, then continues. And it is an honor to meet the keepersh of the fort.
PCs: Stand with arms crossed and say nothing.
OSLAF: Now, then, I don’t intend to washte yer time. I hail from Verbeeg Hill, where I own and manage a modishtly big arm-ory. My motive in journeying to your fort is shimple: I hope to make a large profit by eshtablishing a new trade route. Verbeeg Hill imports a great deal of gems an’ ore from the dwarven city of Djuna, which liesh in the heart of the mountains just behind yer fort. Thish ore is heavily takshed by the Verbeeg Merchants’ Guild—the trade route is shafe and shecure, so there’s little rishk for Verbeeg shuppliers. I am, however, more advenshuresome than my competitors and willing to gamble a more dangeroush path for a greater reward. So, that’s what’s in it for me, not a whit more. And if it would make you eashier I will shubmit to yer shcrying or whatever yer will.
OSLAF: Now for what’s in it for yer. I’ve been to yer shmithy; hish forge is cold an he’sh got nothing more ‘an a few shcraps o’ pig iron ta rub tuguther. Let’sh give ‘im shumthin’ to work wiff. I’ve brought in tow a weeksh worth o’ coal and iron, which I’m ready to hand over to yer today—‘an a word from me ‘an my wagonsh return every fafteen daysh with another load. I’ve got a map which’ll lead us to Djuna, lesh ‘an a third the dishtance from here as from Verbeeg Hill. It won’t be an eashy road the firsht time through. That’s why I need’yer. The coal and iron my men’ll bring ish worth about two, ta two fafty, Furyondian gold wheatsheafs.# I’ll naver pay an ora more fer shafe passhage through yer lands though they may someday shtretch far ‘an wide. I’ll be around fer a day or two, if yer’d like to chew on it for a shpell. Otherwishe I’m ready ta go.
PCs: Sure, why not. We’re kind of bored just hanging out around the fort.
Oslaf calls to his men, waiting just outside the fort. One brings him a shining suit of plate armor, another a maul which looks too big for the dwarf to wield. Oslaf waits patiently as the men to buckle his platemail.
OSLAF: Right then, off we go. There’s a horgar’s wake which runs easht under yer fort. Yer know if we can get to it from hair?
KOLBURN: A horgar’s wake, you say? Sure, I know what that is. It’s a tunnel formation which is created by the passage of a horgar, a gargantuan slug-like animal uses acidic secretions to burrow through solid rock. Follow me!
A ghoulish stench remains in the caverns under the Western Quarter, but all is quiet.
OSLAF: I can shee yer been down thish way already…yesh…yesh, thish ish the way.
Travel through the caverns is slow going, the ground is pocked with holes, the smaller of which are difficult to spot and easy to place a foot in, the larger are treacherously deep and impassable without rope. But Kolburn and Oslaf are at home in this environment and can quickly determine the safest path. Oslaf is also well equipped, with a hammer, pitons, and rope. Every so often he stops to catch his breath and examine his map: it’s an ink diagram on a large and, judging by its cracked surface, very old sheet of parchment. As Oslaf eagerly explains, the map is unreadable by non-dwarves for two reasons. The first is that the diagram doesn’t give cardinal directions or elevation. It won’t tell, for example, whether to veer right or left at a fork. Instead, it gives directions based on the relative ages of the passages, or sometimes in terms of whether a tunnel was formed naturally or not. The second reason is that landmarks are signaled by ancient dwarven runes which have fallen out of use in dwarven script but are still employed by cartographers. Oslaf’s father Guthlaf, as Oslaf proudly tells, was an explorer of no small renown; the map was his, and his father before him, each generation adding another region so that the map has grown like the rings of a tree trunk.
Oslaf has only a very general idea of where you are in relation to the map; he won’t know for certain until he’s spotted a combination of tunnel properties and landmarks. But you are, as Oslaf reassures you, far from being lost.
An hour or so has passed without Oslaf stopping to check his map. A series of narrow branching tunnels, descending deeper and deeper into the earth, has finally led you to a vast cavern. Its upper and lower reaches are lost to obsidian darkness, but here and there the mountainous tip of a stalagmite breaks through the pitch like an island in the sea. A pathway cuts an arch into the cavern wall, above which protrudes a craggy overhang, and below a sheer deadfall. Oslaf stops suddenly along the path and reaches back with an open hand.
OSLAF: Summat…innit right…