The night was dark and cool; the night sounds of the Orcish Waste a strange sort of silence. Little lives as the plants and small animals had been wiped out by the Orc Horde that had risen after the shattering. Humans had ruled the land when the Jagged Pines had been at its peak, acting a shepherds and caretakers of the wood. Their small city had been burned and crushed when the Orcs ravaged and burned their way across this land of massive old giant trees. The Shattering had also collapsed the tunnels of the deep underground world of the Underfoot, causing the opening of a vast chasm that quickly filled from the Ocean of Tears separating the Pines from the Surefall Glades, just a day's ride north of Qeynos. This new sub continent was quickly overrun by the Orcs and turned into a burned out wasteland, with only a few pocket valleys where the forest remained. The Orcs were intent on invading and destroying even these small remnants of life.
Over this sad, dusty land, a lone Woodelven raced through the night. She needed to reach the location the Greenhoods had set up to fake an assault on the mines to distract the guard forces around the thousand foot deep mine shaft known simple as, The Pit. They would need then to hold the guards attention long enough for her to reach the elevator, board it and descend into the depths. Her mission was to find a simple bit of metal, the magical Clapper from the Transit Bell. Without it, the humans and related forces were stranded and slowly being overrun as their supplies of food and weapons ran out. They had all but given up hope as no relief ship had made across the narrow sea in months, until one day, a wreck appeared off shore after a bad storm had passed by.
On this wrecked ship of the sea was a single survivor from the violent battering the vessel had taken. Tamalain Arrowmark, Woodelven from the greater Feydark. She was escorted to the docks and questioned in depth by the mariner port commander, Captain Fildalgo. His attempt to convince the post fort commander that she could be of assistance proved futile as the barbarian had little use for females other than bed mates. In his fury at captain Fildalgo, he exiled him to the Greenhoods. They are the remains of the protectors of the Jaggedpines, with a goal of one day replanting the massive wood and in time returning it to its former glory.
While gearing up for the run to the holdout village, Tamalain found pieces of armor and weapons that shocked and surprised her. She found gear that had been made by artisans from her home village, the Upper Pass. The bow and many of the remaining arrows in the accompanying quiver were those she herself had made almost twenty years earlier. She learned that the Elven man, one William Arrowline was said to have died in an ambush two years earlier, and his gear had been recovered to be resold.
With this new old gear, she and Fildalgo fled the fort into the badlands. Behind them was a trail of dead creatures that caused fear among the Orcs for days. Entire patrols and observation points simply ceased reporting. The Catapult row across the valley from the fort was obliterated in a few hours time, leaving the Orcs in further disarray. The Orcs did find Tamalain's trail and tried to follow her, but she escaped with a burst of speed that only bards could manage to produce.
It took a few days, but the two travelers made it to the outpost village and were able to rest and Tamalain prepared for the next stage of her mission, the effort to recover the bell clapper from the mines. She cut her hair, dyed it, darkened her skin and changed her appearance so as to not be directly linked to the destroyer on the badlands.
Tamalain was able to follow the trails made by the locals over the mountains and made it to the encampment an hour before dawn. She was expected so nobody challenged her reason for being out in the wilds.
"Miss Arrowmark, we attack in two hours, how are you planning to get to the shaft with arrows falling all around you," asked the curious raid leader.
Tamalain looked at him then frowned, "I would rather not say. Just make a lot of noise, bombard them with arrows then after ten minutes start running like hell. Make sure every living being of your village is on the other side of that ridge before nightfall and keep them there for their own safety for at least a week. I have to go now, may the Gods protect you and yours." She seemed to blur before his eyes and was gone.
He sent word for everybody to prepare for the distraction attack at one hour after sunrise and for how long it was to last then what to do after. The camps were quickly broken down; the material train quickly loaded and began moving back to the paths that led away from the battle. The Warriors and Rangers at the front stayed quiet and waited for the single to fire.
Tamalain quickly crossed the valley the shaft was in well of to the west, hoping to find an easy path along the ridge behind the small Orc village. This so called village was composed mostly of rough wood shacks and ragged tents, and many of the sleeping Orcs were exposed to the weather as they slept out in the open. "I would be cranky all the time too if I lived like this," she thought as she quickly, quietly crept along the cliff wall. She saw a few watchmen out but not enough to delay her in her path to the mine shaft.
She arrived at the hole with about a half hour to spare, giving her a chance to study the situation; it also increased her risk to detection by the wandering guards. She saw two massive Orcs standing guard at the front entrance to the mineshaft; they would be the biggest problem getting past she thought. What could not be easily seen from a distance was a rim of stone, rocks, wood and dirt twenty feet high surrounding the hole. The wall of massive timbers around the hole kept this from open sight. It also hid the actual size of the hole from view. She stared in dismay at the shear width; it was over three hundred feet across. "Ok, now I see why they warned me repeatedly about getting in and out." She studied the walls and saw they were glass smooth, no handholds to be found at any point she could see. She studied the elevator from a safe distance and decided that would have to be it for getting in and out.
The elevator though was not a single platform or cage. It was composed of five separate cages stacked on one another. The lowest two seemed to be used for cargo only. The lowest was currently filled with barrels stacked five high. "This thing is huge," she thought to herself, "and maybe not as hard to get into as I though it would be." The floors were a thirty foot by thirty foot square cage of heavy timber and steel strapping. This would allow large crews and cargo to move in and out of the mine quickly and easily. The lift mechanism was a huge steam powered winch manned by several dispirited looking gnomes in chains to keep them from escaping. She decided the second cargo level would be the easiest place to hide on the trip down.
She had just gotten to the spot she wanted to wait when her time ran out. She could hear the Elven horns blowing in the distance, singling for the attack to begin. This sound caused every Orc in the area to snap awake, grab for their weapons, and run to their assigned post. The guards at the entrance did not move, but did focus their full attention outwards, that was all she needed. With great care to not disturb the loose gravel on the ledge near the elevator, she made her way to the ramp to the second floor of the elevator. She seemed to make it without being detected and carefully slid into a small space between several of the largest crates. Now she cursed her heritage from her grandmother side, her oversized breast were getting in her way yet again, preventing her from squatting all the way down in the narrow space. She had them tied down as flat as they could go without impairing her breathing, but they still stood out too far. This would have to do she decided, and waited for the daily drop into the mine known as Hell.
~Descent into the Abyss
Tamalain remained still and waited for the expected call to retreat and the Greenhoods had fled back into the hills. She could hear the calls and shouts of the leaders of the Orcs as they called their people back, lest they go charging off into the hills and get needlessly slaughtered. It took close to an hour before everything settled down and the daily routines settled back into place. More cargo was loaded around and over her, squeezing her even more tightly between the crates. More barrels were rolled into place below on the lowest level of the giant elevator, making shake and rattle alarmingly.
It was when the miners started loading that she nearly lost herself in rage. Large Orcs, each holding a long chain came aboard. On the chains were shackled slaves, Humans, Woodelven, High Elven, Uredites, Barbarians, Gnomes, Halflings, Dwarves. They all had iron collars around their necks, joined by the long chains. All of them, men and women alive were gaunt, nearly starved, wearing only rags of once might have been good clothing. All of then showed scars, open sores, slash's still bleeding from a fresh stroke of the whips. This changed her plans drastically. She would have to act to free these people and try to get them to the Greenhoods and safety.
.... There is more of this story ...