13th Age of Worms
Here are the assorted ramblings of Knuckston Grizzlebeard, miner and regular patron of the Feral Dog Tavern in the mining town of Diamond Lake.
Knuckston, though simple, had a pleasant demeanor and had his own special kind of wisdom. Prior to leaving Diamond Lake, I received the lamentable news of his passing. He was apparently brained by a falling girder in the Tilgast Mines.
He is survived by his adult son Renald Grizzlebeard. He is mourned chiefly by the Feral Dog who will now have to do without his coin.
- Lord Beldrak, Collected Musings and Writings
So, ye wanna know 'bout life in Diamond Lake? Hells man, why? It’s a black mark on the ass end of nowhere. For what? I've ground my old bones in these mines, an' I’ve got nothing to show fer it 'cept a case of gout an' the hackin' lungrot.
Ye ain’t goin' away are, ye?
Well then, sid'down. . . I’ll talk to ye about the sights 'round here, but it’ll cost ye a few rounds . . . the Good Dwarven stuff too, ye cheapskate.
Okay, where was I? Right...right...Diamond Lake, a s~%*hole like no other. . .
Guv'nor Mayor Lanod Neff is the head cheese. He’s got his position on account of his ol' da'. Now, he sits pretty in his mansion on the hill. He keeps working the place o'er, mostly to puff his'self up o'er the other bigwigs in this berg.
The man his'self? Hells! He’s a lyin' cheat who spends more time chasin' tail than doin' any real work. He lines the pockets of the rich to keep his death grip on his position, an' pays to keep the sheriff an' his boys out of his business.
If it weren’t for his brother, Allustan, Lanod’s lifeless body would 'ave been dumped into a dry mine years ago by his competition. Allustan knows quite a bit 'bout the arcane arts they say, probably the smartest man in town. I heard that back in Axis, he had designs on makin' a name fer his'self with other mage folk, but fell out of favor an' was forced into retirement. Since he was born an' raised here, he ended up back where he started. I like to think he may 'ave ran away from the big city with his tail betixt his legs, but, eh . . . don’t tell anyone I told you that.
Anyway, the law 'round here, if ye wanna call it that, is a fat ol' bastard name of Sheriff Cubbin. He spends his time drinking and f%&ing. Lucky son of a b+!*. . .
The only other law in town is the Garrison. Captain Trask runs 'bout 60 soldiers in the old keep, but the snots don't seem to care a lick fer Diamond Lake. He’s just here to make sure Axis don’t get attacked from our general direction. If bogeymen were to leap out of the Knee Deep at us, the gates of that keep will shut so fast that any honest wage earner standing in the way’ll get dashed against its walls.
The mines are everything here, an' I’ve been breakin' my back inside of ‘em for 30 years. Most o' us dwarves would rather deal with the Greysmere Covenant. They're dwarves that trade in ore and the like. Sadly, some like me'self are tied by debt or circumstance to toil for the mine managers.
Right now, there are six mine managers. They have the clink to ignore the law, an' hire their own thugs to keep order 'round their business an' protect their interests. Fer the most part they don’t do much but bicker amongst themselves for every scrap of ore they can squeeze out of the hills.
Ye want a rundown of 'em? What’s the point of that? Ah . . . the hells with it . . . keep the ale comin'. . .
Right now, the comer is Balabar Smenk. He is a fat, lecherous bastard who got his start from his old contacts in Axis. He spends his time gamblin', drinkin', and schemin'. The mayor hates him, with good reason too. Smenk owns 4 mines right now, an' is after more, most like. Balabar may 'ave just enough of the town in his pocket to take it by force, but he’s usually too powdered up with perfume an' sweaty finery to think about liftin' a sword.
Of course, this has really pissed off Moira Tilgast. I work for that old crone, but it may not last. Before Smenk came into the picture, Moira reigned over this berg like a petty baroness for years, an' now she’s gettin' a taste of what it’s like to be on the outs. I’ve even heard rumors that she’s tryin' to get support from other mine managers to fight off Smenk, but that’s hogwash. Tilgast doesn’t know which way is up these days, an' they sure as hell wouldn’t deal with her after the way she’s backhanded them o'er the years.
Then there's Luzanne Parrin an' Chaum Gasworth. Parrin inherited her mines from her mother, who died in the Red Death when she was still a pup. Now, twenty years later, she’s almost bankrupt - though word 'round the campfire is her an' Gansworth keep more than polite company if ye' get meh meaning.
Gansworth has been in town fer a while, an' keeps mostly to his'self. Other than the word he’s keepin' with Parrin, there ain’t much to tell. He does own the Rusty Bucket, an' has dinner there quite often.
The same can be said fer the other two mine managers. One’s an elf, some prancin' fool named Ellival Moonmeadow. He only owns one silver mine, an' doesn’t have anything to do with regular townsfolk like us. He just sits about with his fellow elves, doing . . . well, whatever it is elves do when they’re together. Haw ha!
The other one is a dwarf, named Ragnolin Dourstone, who’s been here ever since I can remember. Like most of our kind, he does well for his'self in the mining profession, an' has handpicked a number of spots to start new mines, all of them pretty damn successful. So far, neither Tilgast nor Smenk has managed to dent his business one bit . . . though they’ve both tried their best over the years.
All six mine managers share a single smeltin' house, located near the lake. It’s run like a tight ship. The chief smelter, Vulgan Durtch, is an odd bird, an' the entire operation resembles a fortress with no windows, an' no unguarded entrances. They had to step things up a bit after recent sabotage.
Well, I can’t really go back all that far. My memory gets a mite fuzzy when I think back to the old days. . . I do know that the area 'round the lake was run by some uppity feudal lord a long time ago. He built a keep, which currently houses the Garrison’s men. There are also a couple of old fences in the Cairn Hills where he tried to get his farming subjects to grow carrots and potatoes. I wonder how many of those idiots starved to feed that fool!
Well, his children started explorin' the cairns an' old gravesites that litter this whole place. I guess they found quite a bit of loot from the olden days . . . and I don’t mean 50 years old trinkets. I mean really ancient relics. From ages ago lad, ages!
Anyway, all this attracted the attention of Axis, an' pretty soon they bought off the noble kids an' took this whole area for themselves. They hired a group of adventurers to explore it all, an' sucked every last treasure dry from those old tombs.
That would have been the end of Diamond Lake, 'cept prospectors an' surveyors came in an' took measure of the land. It’s still s*$~ for growin' anythin' but weeds, but wouldn’t ye know they discovered a massive cache of silver lodes an' veins of iron under the hills, includin' the one we’re sittin' on right now?
Now, years an' years later, it’s said that that we’re the cornerstone of Axis’ ore supply. Not like they’d pass any of that wealth onto common laborers like us, ye understand. When I was a kid, gettin' a meal was as easy as castin' a line in the Lake. Now, the smeltin' house runoff has tainted the water so badly that the merchants have to send off to Axis just to get a week-old, salted flounder.
As far as recent history goes, there ain’t much to tell . . . honest folk are still getting screwed an' the wealthy are still gettin' richer off of our sweat. Let’s see. . .
There’s an old ring of stones out in the boonies, called the Menhirs. It’s visited by Rangers, Druids, an' other freeloaders. No one knows who built it, but they say the worn stone have been there for centuries.
The Old Observatory used to be a haven to some scholarly Monks, who used to lay about an' read off astrology. They packed up shop when I was just a kid, an' since then it’s pretty much sat abandoned.
Then, of course, about 19 years ago, a pretty bad plague called the Red Death swept through an' killed a good lot of us. I lost my sister to the Boneyard, an' me son’s still got vapors an' can’t make a living. I even had it myself, but it’s weren’t too bad on me. I did get a pretty lumpy scar from it on the back o’ my head though. You wanna see it?
No? Ah well. . .
The mining town of Diamond Lake and its titular lake is pictured above north of the Bronze River. The Cairn Hills surround the town and the Giantwalk Mountains lie just to the west of them. The Gnomish warren of Grossetgrottel lies north of Diamond Lake. The Halfling town of Elmshire lies to the east of that. Blackwall Keep lies between a break in the Giantwalk. The distant and dangerous Knee Deep swamp is lies further west past the Giantwalk. The city of Axis lies to the east.
We may not get much in the way o’ housin', sanitation, or any of that city crap . . . but we do know how to drink our wages.
If ye have the money, the Emporium is the place to be. It’s run by Zalamadra, an' she’s got a whole cadre of sweet ladies at her disposal (and some charming gents if ye like). They sit in perfumed glory upstairs in the Veiled Corridor. There’s also the Den on the top floor where ye can buy elixers that twist yer mind 'round an' make ye talk funny, if yer into that. There is plenty of gamblin', an' a very interestin' freak show downstairs full of dangerous an' exotic creatures.
If ye like boredom, ye can always visit Lazare’s House. It’s a fancy, high class place. I remember when Lazare managed a mine in town, 'til his wife got sick an' he sold everything to that bastard Smenk. There’s no music an' no fun. I heard everyone sits at tables an' plays chess. Lazare used to be a champion, an' has somehow pushed his habit on some of the upper crust. It’s a snore, but at least ye can gamble on it.
If ye find yourself a little light of clink, there are a few other places ye can visit for fun.
If yer looking to get drunk or wager some, there’s the Feral Dog, where ye can see some pit dogs tear each other to pieces, an' get into a bar brawl or two.
Yer other choice among the chaff is the Spinning Giant, but the other patrons are usually Garrison soldiers, so ye have to be tolerant of drunken chants an' bravado. They don’t tolerate stealin' or bad manners, an' there isn’t a card game to be found anywhere in the vicinity.
If yer just hungry for some food, you can go to the Hungry Gar. The cook there is a pretty decent, but there’s only so much ye can do with snared rabbits an' deer meat. One alternative is the Rusty Bucket, which has a pretty decent common room as well.
Finally, many out-of-towners stay at the Able Carter Coaching and Barge Inn. They run coaches, barges an' supplies back an' forth to Axis, Blackwall Keep, an' other far off parts. Boarders from all o'er stay there, mostly for short term business, so a good conversation about Axis an' other part o’ the world are in good order there. Plus, if yer willing to pay, they’ll take horses too.
Hells, ye can always do what I do... spend thirty years of yer life slaving away to Moira Tilgast, only to see yer life get poured down the drain when she sells the mine to Balabar Smenk...
There are plenty o’ places to get business done in Diamond Lake. Ye got something to buy or sell, ye can most likely procure yer needs right here.
Let’s see. . . the General Store is where ye can pick up just about any mundane equipment you’d ever need. Taggin runs it pretty reasonable, an' has all the supplies ye need to travel o'erland fer a month, or survive a mountain climb.
The Lakeside Stables are run by a half-elf named Lanch Faraday. I ain’t ever owned a horse myself, so I don’t know her well. I only met her once, during a card game, but I took my leave when she upset a table and pulled a knife. She’s a mean, sour drunk, but she takes care of most of the community’s horses, so she can’t be all bad.
If yer looking for weapons, Tyorl Ebberly has a good shop. He claims to be a watch captain in Axis, but be must’ve done something wrong to end up here. He has a few artifacts from the Cairn hills that he’s found. If yer interested his place is called The Captain’s Blade.
Venelle’s contains some of the finest bows in the land. Venelle herself is happy to sell anything she has, if she can locate it through all the clutter o’ her shop. I took up bow hunting myself once, an' stood all day in a tree stand, on her advice. The only thing I caught was a damned cold.
Manlin Osgood. . . now there’s a man I can hang a reputation on. He’s a right fellow an' an able drinking companion, if his head’s right. He doesn’t bluff at cards, he’s always ready with a backslap an' a handshake, an' he makes the finest armor in the region. Some come from quite a ways to Osgood’s Smithy special, just to access his team of apprentice blacksmiths.
That’s about it. There are other places in town to get things, but I wouldn’t recommend it. When yer life depends on a wooden girder underground, ye better make sure the right hands set it up, if ye catch my meaning.
In Diamond Lake, it’s better to be gouged by an honest exploiter than outright cheated by a thief, so stick to those places I mentioned . . . you should be fine.
There are a few churches in town that have gained a following, but I wouldn’t recommend any of ‘em. The best church for me are the Halls of the Veiled Corridor, where ye can tithe yer money for a cause that’s worthy of yer coin, an' get a little bit of sweetness besides.
However, if ye insist, ye can go to the Hall of the Auditor, right on the center of town. The sermons there are full of piss an' vinegar, led by Jierian Wierus, whose favorite activity is to flog his own backside with a cat-o-nine-tails, an' go to the seedy parts of town to covert others to do the same. His following is 150 strong an' growin'.
If they’d make ye feel welcome, ye can go to the Garrison an' sit at the Shrine of the Unyielding. It’s mostly full of soldiers, who like to puff themselves up with honor before riding around the countryside in their fancy armor. Shelyn Dunn is the sanctimonious nut in charge, preachin' 'bout public do-goodery, but doin' nothing about it. She opens the service up to the public, but no one goes 'cept those who swing swords for a livin'.
If ye like trees, weeds an' all that nonsense, ye can traipse out in to the boonies to visit the Bronzewood Lodge. Its run by Nogweir, a druid in service of the Great Root. He likes to scare people about bogeymen in the hills, but I can’t imagine why they’d sit out in the middle of nowhere with nothin' to entertain them. Tryin' to fill the coffers so he can get back to real civilization is my guess.
There’s also the Twilight Monsatery just outside of town. But ye won’t see them much unless you go the Boneyard an' visit the graves they tend to. When my Suzie died from the Red Death, they took her thin, deformed bones an' washed her up real pretty. Priest stood around an' gave a prayer to the Gate about mortality an' life while some monk types chanted, but I didn’t have a penny to give ‘em. They went ahead an' did it for free.
Anyway, that’s pretty much a good rundown of Diamond Lake for ye. Ye wasted enough of my time, so get out of my face an' stop askin' questions. I got a few coppers left in my pocket, an' I want to get to the Emporium to see that damned two-headed mule again . . .
The joys of the rich man, who scoffs at us who live simply, are nothing. Their delights are a pittance compared to eternity, and their rewards shall be devoured by the writhing darkness. They seem as trees along a riverbank bearing luscious fruits, but I tell you: they are consumed from within by a blind terror that eats without mercy and leaves nothing behind. Not a one of them will be safe on the day of final judgment, when the slithering darkness feasts upon them. We tread toward a red day, full of writing doom and a dread feast of bloated, ravenous hunger. Dark times are coming. The austerity of flesh is the path of salvation. Be ready, and prepare your body for the coming Age . . . an Age of Worms . . .
- Jierian Weirus, Priest of the Auditor