Vengeance of the iron dw.., p.1

Vengeance of the Iron Dwarf, page 1

 part  #3 of  Companions Codex Series

 

Vengeance of the Iron Dwarf



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Vengeance of the Iron Dwarf


  THE LEGEND OF DRIZZT®

  Follow Drizzt and his companions on all of their adventures

  (in chronological order)

  The Dark Elf Trilogy The Hunter’s Blades

  Homeland The Thousand Orcs

  Exile The Lone Drow

  Sojourn The Two Swords

  The Icewind Dale Trilogy Transitions

  The Crystal Shard The Orc King

  Streams of Silver The Pirate King

  The Halfling’s Gem The Ghost King

  Legacy of the Drow The Neverwinter® Saga

  The Legacy Gauntlgrym

  Starless Nights Neverwinter

  Siege of Darkness Charon’s Claw

  Passage to Dawn The Last Threshold

  Paths of Darkness The Sundering

  The Silent Blade The Companions

  The Spine of the World (Book 1 of The Sundering)

  Sea of Swords

  The Companions Codex

  The Sellswords Night of the Hunter

  Servant of the Shard Rise of the King

  Promise of the Witch-King Vengeance of the Iron Dwarf

  Road of the Patriarch

  VENGEANCE OF THE IRON DWARF

  ©2015 Wizards of the Coast LLC.

  This book is protected under the copyright laws of the United States of America. Any reproduction or unauthorized use of the material or artwork contained herein is prohibited without the express written permission of Wizards of the Coast, LLC.

  Published by Wizards of the Coast LLC. Manufactured by: Hasbro SA, Rue Emile-Boéchat 31, 2800 Delémont, CH. Represented by Hasbro Europe, 2 Roundwood Ave, Stockley Park, Uxbridge, Middlesex, UB11 1AZ, UK.

  FORGOTTEN REALMS, D&D, WIZARDS OF THE COAST, their respective logos, The Legend of Drizzt, and Neverwinter are trademarks of Wizards of the Coast LLC, in the U.S.A. and other countries.

  All characters in this book are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. All Wizards of the Coast characters, character names, and the distinctive likenesses thereof are property of Wizards of the Coast LLC.

  Cover art by: Tyler Jacobson

  ISBN: 978-0-7869-6570-0

  ISBN: 978-0-7869-6582-3 (ebook)

  620B2368000001 EN

  * * *

  Cataloging-in-Publication data is on file with the Library of Congress

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  Contact Us at Wizards.com/CustomerService

  Wizards of the Coast LLC, PO Box 707, Renton, WA 98057-0707, USA

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  Visit our web site at www.DungeonsandDragons.com

  v3.1

  Contents

  Cover

  Title Page

  Copyright

  Prologue

  Part One: The Winter of The Iron Dwarf

  Chapter 1: Duke Tiago

  Chapter 2: The Deep Skirmishes

  Chapter 3: Raiding The Garden

  Chapter 4: Growling Bellies

  Chapter 5: Madness

  Chapter 6: When Hammer Falls

  Chapter 7: Moving Targets

  Part Two: The God Inside Your Heart

  Chapter 8: Influential Friends

  Chapter 9: By the Gods

  Chapter 10: Trusting a Most Unusual Drow

  Chapter 11: The Possessed

  Chapter 12: Where are the Damned Dragons?

  Chapter 13: The Haunted King

  Chapter 14: Stinging Gnats

  Part Three: The King of Dwarven Kings

  Chapter 15: Field of Blood and Fire

  Chapter 16: The Puppet Master

  Chapter 17: Waiting for the Whites

  Chapter 18: Prelude

  Chapter 19: The Battle of the Surbrin Bridge

  Chapter 20: The Violence of Dragons

  Chapter 21: The Wisdom of Moradin

  Chapter 22: The Ritual of the March

  Chapter 23: Drow Deconstruction

  Chapter 24: Torn Ground and Excrement

  Epilogue

  PROLOGUE

  IT WAS A SOLEMN GREETING AT THE UNDERGROUND WESTERN GATES OF Citadel Felbarr, on the first day of the second tenday in the eleventh month of Uktar. The first snows had fallen in the Upper Surbrin Vale, and the white coating already reached low among the Rauvin Mountains above the dwarven fortress. But if the orc hordes now controlling what was left of once-mighty Sundabar, or those in sacked Nesmé, or besieging mighty Silverymoon, or camped around the dwarven citadels of Mithral Hall, Felbarr, and Adbar had any intention of packing up and returning to Dark Arrow Keep, or to anywhere else within the accepted boundaries of the Kingdom of Many-Arrows, they didn’t show it.

  Nor were the vast networks of Upperdark tunnels clearing of invaders, as the procession from Mithral Hall discovered on their journey to the planned council at Citadel Felbarr. For nearly the entire month of Marpenoth and into Uktar, the legion of battle dwarves surrounding King Connerad Brawnanvil and his distinguished entourage had fought their way from waypoint to waypoint, regions the dwarves of Mithral Hall and Felbarr had strongly secured, heavily fortified and well supplied, in their long underground journey to the halls of King Emerus Warcrown.

  Emerus himself was there to greet the dwarves of Mithral Hall. They were a tenday overdue. That had all been explained, and the actual arrival announced well in advance, thanks to the cunning dwarves of the Silver Marches, who had set up elaborate messaging systems through their connecting tunnels. Side-slinger ballistae would hurl messages rolled and tucked into hollow darts down long tunnels to be retrieved at the next guard post and there loaded again and sent flying along. Unless a section of the secured tunnels had been overrun by orcs and their allies, a message from King Connerad to King Emerus could be sent the two hundred miles in just a few days.

  “Well met, King Connerad!” Emerus said as he wrapped his peer in a great hug, to cheers from his fellows gathered at Citadel Felbarr’s gate. “Ah, but we been concerned, me friend.”

  “Aye, the vermin are learnin’ o’ our main boulevard, and poking and prodding all about,” Connerad replied. “Me and me boys had to stop and help along the way—or might be that our warriors down there didn’t need our help, but we just wanted to punch a few orcs, eh!”

  That brought a cheer from dwarves of both groups.

  “Aye, but the meetin’ ye asked for can wait until a few orcs’re killed!” Emerus agreed. “Ye surprised meself and the dwarves o’ Adbar in callin’ it, with such grim news dancing all about.”

  Connerad nodded and pulled off his metal gauntlets. “Bringed some fellows with me ye might be knowing,” he explained. “And when ye’re seein’ the truth, ye’ll know why I called us all together.”

  Emerus nodded, putting a curious look on his face as he glanced past Connerad to the group of newcomers still out in the hallway, just beyond the immediate torchlight. Connerad followed his lead and glanced around. With a knowing grin, King Connerad waved the rogue drow, Drizzt Do’Urden, forward.

  “Aye, I expect ye’re knowing this one, then,” Connerad said as Drizzt stepped up and bowed before the old King Emerus.

  “Drizzt Do’Urden,” Emerus remarked, nodding. “It has been many years since ye’ve been seen in the Silver Marches, old friend o’ King Bruenor.”

  “Too many, it would seem,” the drow answered, and extended his hand, which Emerus clasped and shook warmly. The curious manner in which Emerus had spoken of him, as a friend of Bruenor, surely didn’t slip past Drizzt or Connerad.

  “These drow leading the orcs claim—” Emerus began.

  “To be of my House, yes,” Drizzt interrupted. “Though I beg to differ. There is no House Do’Urden, good King Em
erus, or at least, there is no House Do’Urden of which I have been aware for many decades now.”

  “So ye deny these drow be yer kin?”

  “Kin, perhaps,” Drizzt replied with a shrug. “I deny any foreknowledge of this attack, if that is what you mean to ask me.”

  “And deny that yerself was sent here to bring about the conception o’ Many-Arrows, and so, in the end, to bring about this very war?” the old dwarf king asked. Still he held tight to Drizzt’s hand. Tighter even, squeezing as if the handshake was as much a test as this blunt line of questioning.

  “Bah, but shut yer mouth!” roared a familiar voice from behind—one familiar to Drizzt and Connerad, and also to King Emerus and the dwarf named Ragged Dain, who stood behind the king of Felbarr. All glanced that way to see a young dwarf with a fiery reddish-orange beard hopping out from among the others.

  “Little Arr Arr!” Ragged Dain cried, both in surprise and to scold the impetuous young warrior.

  The dwarf came forward, looking very much like he would put his fist into King Emerus’s old face—until Connerad stopped him with a shout. “It is not time for this, Mister Reginald Roundshield!”

  The young dwarf paused and put his hands on his hips. He looked to Drizzt, who nodded, and grumbled as he went back to the group to stand beside a fair-haired human woman.

  Ragged Dain continued to glower at the fellow, though he whispered to the others around him, “Ye be at yer ease, Mister Do’Urden. None outside o’ the human cities’re thinking bad o’ King Bruenor and his old friends.”

  “Bring yer boys in,” Emerus bade Connerad. “All of ’em. We’ll show ye to yer rooms and show ye proper Felbarr hospitality, don’t ye doubt.”

  “Show me boys to their rooms,” Connerad replied. “For meself and a few others, show us to the gatherin’ at yer table. I’ve much to tell ye, and it’s not for waitin’. Get King Harnoth and his boys, and let’s get to talking!”

  King Emerus shook his head. “King Harnoth didn’t come,” he explained, and Connerad’s eyes went wide.

  “I begged ye all …”

  “His seconds’re here,” King Emerus explained. “And we’ll collect them for yer talk.” He looked to Ragged Dain and nodded. “Take Connerad and them he wants aside him to the table.”

  Huffing and puffing, Franko Olbert stumbled up against the thick trunk of a tree. He dared a glance back across the snowy field to the distant wall of the town that had been his home for most of his life.

  But though the skyline of Nesmé was surely familiar, Franko could not look upon that blasted and cursed place as his home. Not since the orcs had come. Not since the drow had come.

  Not since Duke Tiago Do’Urden had come.

  He started away once more, determined to get to the Uthgardt tribes, to raise an army, to find some way to repay the monstrous scum. His mother was Uthgardt. He knew their language, their ways, their pride. The proud barbarians would not suffer the orcs and dark elves to hold a city so near their borders.

  Franko slipped away from the tree to another, then made a short run to a copse not far from there. He paused when he saw the human form lying on the ground facedown. The fallen man was dressed in armor: plate mail, mostly, and with a full helm, like some knight from Everlund.

  The escapee hesitated and looked around cautiously. There were no signs of a struggle, other than the clear implications that this man was quite dead. He wasn’t moving at all, set in the snow in an awkward and broken pose, with the stillness Franko had seen all too often since the monstrous horde had poured over Nesmé.

  Seeing no one around, the escapee inched his way toward the fallen knight. He gingerly grabbed the dead warrior by his arm and turned him a bit so he could look into the man’s face.

  He shuddered at the gruesome visage. One eye had been pecked out, with more than half the poor man’s face shredded and torn. Franko dropped the corpse back down to the snow, then fell back into a sitting position, forcing some deep breaths to help steady himself.

  He noted the man’s sword poking out from under one hip, and he was fast to it, easing it out of its sheath. Franko was an accomplished warrior, had ridden with the Riders of Nesmé, and he knew weapons. This one was fine indeed! And so was the armor, he noted, and the man was almost exactly his size.

  “Thank you, brother,” he said with respect, and he went to the man and began his looting.

  With every piece he put on—the greaves, the breastplate, the paul-drons—Franko grew more confident. He strapped on the sword belt and breathed a sigh of relief. Even if his pursuers caught up to him now, he knew he would die a warrior, and Franko could ask for no more than that, particularly given the torturous executions he had witnessed in Nesmé under the cruel gaze of the tyrant Duke Tiago. The city stank of bloated corpses.

  “I should bury you, friend, but I haven’t the time,” he whispered. “Please forgive me, leaving you to the crows. Please forgive me, stealing your sword. But never would I steal your honor.”

  He knelt and said an Uthgardt prayer for the spirit of the dead man, then removed the dead man’s helmet, gently and respectfully pulling it free of the torn head.

  Before Franko had even brought it back, he understood something was amiss.

  He plopped the helmet on his head and jumped to his feet, determined to be away quickly, but even as he took his first stride, he was stopped by curiosity and turned back.

  Something nagged at him, just beyond his conscious recognition.

  The wounds on the back?

  He turned back to the corpse and this time suppressed his revulsion to take a good look at the poor man. The corpse had been rolled over in the process of looting it and that shredded face was clear to see.

  “Marquen?” he gasped, and he looked closer, confirming his suspicion. “Marquen,” he said, for surely this was the warrior Marquen of Silverymoon, who had moved to Nesmé a decade before. Franko’s shock turned quickly to confusion. He had seen Marquen die, just a tenday earlier, as part of the executions in the open square in Nesmé.

  Marquen had been tied to a pair of stakes and beaten mercilessly by Tiago’s wife. Franko had watched as the vile Duchess Saribel Do’Urden had put her awful, venomous snake-headed whip to its cruel work. Again and again, the serpents struck, tearing Marquen’s shirt, tearing his flesh, filling him with poisonous fire.

  And there was the tattered, bloody shirt, and Franko didn’t have to pull the ripped strands aside to know that the viper wounds were there in the flesh. Aye, this was Marquen, and Franko had watched Marquen die.

  So how was he out here in the snow, a mile from the city, dressed in armor and carrying a sword?

  “By the gods,” Franko whispered, figuring it out, and he leaped to his feet and ran off at full speed.

  He neared a small ravine, and didn’t dare slow.

  Not until he was struck blind.

  No, not blind, Franko realized, as he stumbled over the ledge and tumbled down, falling out of the globe of magical darkness.

  He felt his shoulder pop out as he crashed into the rocky dell, but came right up and threw himself hard into a tree, jamming his limb back in place. He ignored the waves of nausea and the dimming consciousness. He had no time for that.

  Indeed, Franko had no time at all, as he learned when he spun to find a small but deadly figure standing in front of him, looking quite amused.

  Duke Tiago of Nesmé.

  The drow smiled and raised his gloved hands, his small, translucent buckler strapped to his left forearm, and began to clap.

  “You did well, iblith,” Tiago said. “You traveled farther than I expected. A most worthy hunt, considering my prey is no more than a pathetic human.”

  Franko glanced around, expecting to see some orc archers or a giant holding a boulder nearby. Or other drow.

  “It is just me,” Tiago assured him. “Why would I need more?” As he finished, he held out his arms.

  And Franko leaped at him, sword cutting for the foul drow’s he
ad.

  But up came the shield, and its edge spiraled magically as it did. With each turn, the magnificent shield enlarged, and behind it, Tiago easily ducked the blow.

  And out came the drow’s sword, so fast that Franko didn’t register the movement, or hear the star-filled blade sliding free of its scabbard.

  Franko felt the bite of the tip, though, as it pierced his thigh. He grimaced and fell back into a defensive crouch, his sword slashing out sidelong to keep his enemy at bay.

  But Tiago wasn’t advancing. Instead, he moved easily, circling Franko, just out of reach.

  “Fight,” the drow said. “There is only me. I’ve no friends nearby. Only me, only Tiago, standing between you and your freedom.”

  “You think this sport?” Franko spat at him, and he rushed and chopped with his sword, cleverly—he thought—pulling up short and breaking his momentum to stab straight ahead.

  “Is it anything less?” a laughing Tiago said from back the other way, having somehow eluded Franko’s attack so fully that the stabbing sword was farther from Tiago’s flesh than it had been before Franko began the strike.

  Franko licked his lips. The extent of that miss wasn’t promising.

  “Just me,” Tiago teased, circling back the other way.

  Franko, too, began to circle, studying the area to see if he might find some advantage in the uneven ground, trees, and rocks.

  “Is that not a fair game, human?” Tiago asked. “I even armed and armored you, finely so! I could have struck you dead while you robbed the corpse. I could have stopped you from fleeing Nesmé—a dozen archers watched you run out. They had their bows trained upon you even as you squeezed through the crack in the wall. I held their shots. I gave you a chance. All you need to do is defeat me, and as you’re nearly twice my size, that should prove simple enough.”

  His voice never strained, never lost its composure, even though Franko came on in midspeech, ferociously chopping and stabbing, pressing ahead, trying to simply overwhelm the diminutive drow.

  “Though I admit you are a bit clumsy,” Tiago added, and that last sentence was spoken from behind Franko, as the drow’s sword slashed across the man’s calf, tearing a painful line.

 
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