Pathfinder Tales: Forge of Ashes

Pathfinder Tales: Forge of Ashes

by Josh Vogt

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Overview

Pathfinder Tales: Forge of Ashes by Josh Vogt

  • A decade ago, the dwarf warrior Akina left her home in the Five Kings
    Mountains to fight in the Goblinblood Wars. Now, at long last, she's returning home, accompanied by Ondorum, a silent companion of living stone. But once you've traveled the world, can pastoral pastimes and small-town suitors ever be truly satisfying? Adding to Akina's growing discomfort is the fact that her father has disappeared into the endless caverns beneath the city. In an effort to save him, Akina and Ondorum must venture below the surface themselves —
    and into a danger greater than they could ever have imagined!
  • From bold, new voice Josh Vogt comes a fantastic adventure of subterranean battle and the bonds of friendship, set in the award-winning world of the
    Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781601257437
Publisher: Paizo Inc.
Publication date: 05/05/2015
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 1,271,127
Product dimensions: 4.10(w) x 6.60(h) x 1.20(d)
Age Range: 16 Years

Read an Excerpt

Pathfinder Tales: Forge of Ashes


By Josh Vogt

Tom Doherty Associates

Copyright © 2015 Paizo Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-7653-8731-8



CHAPTER 1

Homecoming

Akina hefted her maulaxe and pointed to the iron gates visible just down the mountain road. "I swear, if you don't say something by the time we get there, I'm pounding you into the ground — head-first — and leaving you to rot."

Ondorum's soft smile, barely visible in the shadow of his hood, tightened her irritation into a prickling knot of anger. He looked down at her and then over at the dwarven city of Taggoret — at least, its surface level. He spread his hands and shrugged. She'd put up with his ridiculous vow of silence long enough to understand that this gesture simply meant, Really?

Huffing, Akina strapped the maulaxe to her back and plodded onward, iron-and-leather armor creaking. "Stop calling my bluffs. And next time you want to sell our horses and toss all the coin to a few beggars, you damned well ask me first. Think I wanted to walk all this way? And stop dragging me into your penance. Not your fault they died. How many times do I have to tell you?"

Ondorum kept his gaze forward, but his gait grew heavier. Akina sighed. Fool of a monk. His ridiculous commitment to "attaining perfection" had manifested in stubbornness before, but this took it to unbelievable heights.

He strode beside her, his hood and voluminous sleeves hiding most of his features, but dusky gray skin peeked out from time to time, streaked with emerald-hued veins. His deep brown robe, stained by weeks of travel, added to the illusion of his having been dug up from the earth. With his stocky frame, he had the size and sculpt of a man chiseled from stone — fitting for an oread, she figured, with an earth elemental for an ancestor. However, he moved more like a mountain river than a boulder.

Compared to him, Akina clomped along like a miniature avalanche, kicking up enough dust to blind an eagle. As Taggoret's gates neared, she straightened her helm. Shaped in the likeness of a ram's head, complete with horns curling back around the sides, it was one of the few mementos she'd kept from their years with Durgan's band, exchanging blood for gold.

Realizing she was fiddling with the strap, she dropped her hands and made fists. Since when did she let nerves get to her? Why should returning home make her feel more on edge than facing down a pack of rabid wargs?

Ahead, several caravans and a stream of lone travelers worked their way in and out of the main gates. The towering iron and stone had been worked by hammer and hand, filling the mountain pass from wall to wall with images of dwarves bent over the anvil or over fallen foes. Faces of the city's leaders stared out with graven eyes, features embellished with precious metals. All around them rose the peaks of the Five Kings Mountains, a mix of harsh scree- and scrag-spotted wilderness along the upper slopes, with verdant fields and forests in the valleys below. The peak of Mount Langley reared above Taggoret itself, one enormous bluff carved so the likeness of King Taggrick watched over Kingtower Pass.

Akina sucked in a deep breath, savoring an earthy scent she'd thought she'd forgotten these past ten years. Snatches of dwarven language filled the air as they neared the gates. With brisk efficiency, the guards inspected everyone, hammers and shields readied. Their helms and breastplates bore the symbol of the Five Kings Mountains, a noble peak adorned with a five-tined crown. Two guards blocked their path.

"Name and business?"

Akina stepped forward, chin lifted. "Akina Fairingot. Business is personal. Taggoret's my home."

The other dwarf tilted his head. "Fairingot? The one who went off to the Goblinblood Wars?"

Surprise jolted through her at being recognized after so many years, especially since there'd been at least a hundred volunteers from Taggoret in her cohort alone. She studied the guard's features, but didn't think they'd ever met. "So?"

"Huh. Many thought you dead. Some will be glad to hear it isn't so."

She furrowed her brow. Many? Some? Before she could ask, the guard waved for the next group of travelers to come up.

"Pass on and welcome home."

The other guard thumbed at Ondorum. "What about him?"

When Ondorum just bowed, Akina sighed. "His name's Ondorum. He's" — a crack-brained fool! — "taken a vow of silence."

The dwarf peered up at the oread. "What for?"

Akina leaned in and spoke in a stage whisper. "He was cursed by a mad wizard. Now his voice makes warriors weep and children hide and dogs howl. So we figured it'd be best if he just kept his trap shut."

Ondorum drew his hood back, revealing a sweep of gray hair a shade darker than his skin, and ridges of alexandrite crystal shards instead of eyebrows. Malachite-green eyes gazed out beneath these, thoroughly unamused.

Akina contained her chuckle. She'd been working on rounding out his sense of humor ever since they met. Whatever monastery he'd been raised in, the monks there had certainly striven to grind any mirth into dust, replacing it with the nobler pillar of grave contemplation. Not that they'd needed to do much. With earth magic fused to their bloodline, oreads not only resembled stone, but also often shared its sense of humor. Hard to make a mountain laugh, after all. Ondorum readily admitted to his failings there, though he'd become more nomadic than most of his kind, partly due to Akina's influence — as well as the events that spurred him to leave the monastery in the first place.

The guards shook their heads in sorrow.

"Pity to hear," said one. "Might be the temple could help."

As they passed through the gates, Ondorum pointed back, frowning.

She smirked. "If you don't want me to lie, tell the truth yourself, hm?"

She ignored him and took in the sights of home. Taggoret's surface had been built on a gentle slope until it butted up against a cliff. The central road ended in another set of gates that led to the main subsurface dwellings. Little of this topside portion held her interest, except for faint nostalgia. Most of the buildings and shops were part of the trade district, shipping out the city's famous iron.

Dwarves bustled about, carting crates and wagonloads of armor, mining gear, or refined ore. Guards patrolled the thoroughfares, keen eyes scanning the visitors to the many inns and taverns. A handful of humans and gnomes mingled, and even one elf glided through the crowds, several bodyguards keeping in step. The stone buildings blended into the mountain while engravings and murals adorned almost every wall and rocky surface — results of the dwarven drive to transform the raw hills into eternal works of art.

Akina glanced at Ondorum, wishing he'd tell her what he thought of the place. Pure delight shone in his eyes, and his broad smile elicited one of her own, easing some of the tension simmering in her bones.

As they passed one frieze, his smile slipped and he pointed. There stood a carving of a female dwarf clad in golden armor, poised before a fleeing army.

Akina's marrow chilled. The image looked like her. It didn't just depict her build or broad features, but also the streak of platinum that shot through her otherwise dirty blonde hair. An inlaid strip of white marble created the effect.

She edged over to study the piece. Ondorum joined her, brow raised in question.

"Must be my mother's work." She brushed gloved fingertips over the smooth stone. "Looks like she's doing good business; it's an honor to mark the city itself." Was this a way for Jannasten to remember a daughter gone off to war? Akina tamped down a swell of guilt.

Ondorum stroked the image of her face, then turned and did the same to her cheek.

Flushing, Akina jerked her head away. "Come on."

They passed through the inner gates, exchanging sun and sky for cool tunnels blazing with torchlight. The passages had been decorated with reliefs, so walking down them felt like crossing through dwarven history. One detailed their emergence on the surface millennia before. Another showed the founding of the Sky Citadels.

Yet after they left the main tunnel, Ondorum pointed out several more carvings that looked eerily similar to Akina. The art often placed her in scenes of battle, fending off everything from orcs to hill giants. They passed a row of wall niches, and a small statue of Akina stood in one like a city guardian. Her appearance accompanied many other works, but care had been taken to subtly set her apart, especially with her distinctive hair.

With each image of herself she saw, Akina's unease grew. Why had her mother toiled to add her to the bedrock of their people? She didn't deserve any such honor. She didn't deserve to be treated like a revered ancestor, especially not after she'd surrendered that heritage to seek a violent fortune in the world beyond.

Her pace quickened. She locked her eyes forward, refusing to give the art any further regard until she burst out of the tunnel's end. She paused to slow her breath as Ondorum caught up. The tunnel exited onto a ledge with switchback stairs leading down several flights to the main level. Their perch provided a perfect vantage to see across the cavern. Stone columns jutted up to the rocky ceiling far above, and the non-load-bearing pillars had been carved out to provide dwellings for thousands of dwarves. Everburning lamps and torches cast most areas in a golden glow, blazing from doors and windows as well as from posts set at intervals along the roads. Worked every hour of the day, hundreds of forges lit swaths of the cavern.

Several deep rifts cut through the cavern floor, with massive bridges set across them allowing for steady streams of foot traffic. Further dwellings and workshops had been dug directly into the sides of the cavern, connected by stone ramps and stairs. More tunnels bored deeper within the mountain, connecting to other city districts. The smell of hot iron filled the air, underlain by the nose-crinkling stink of scorched beards. Bellows and laughter echoed through the cavern, punctuated by the metallic music of hammer on anvil.

Akina pondered her next move as she soaked in the familiar sensations. Find her mother and get it over with? No. She wanted a clearer head first. Wouldn't do to make her first homecoming act a demand for explanations — especially since she owed the bigger one for her extended absence.

She fixed on the central temple to Torag, where the smithing fires forever roared in honor of the dwarven god. Her brother, Brakisten, had just begun serving there as a cleric when she'd left. Akina assumed his position had since changed, but they'd no doubt have his name and current station noted in a duty roster.

She led Ondorum down into the city proper and had to reorient herself only twice before they reached the front court of the smithing temple. Here, dwarves worshiped the Father of Creation by fashioning magnificent works of art, powerful tools, and equipment for war. Unlike many clerics Akina had encountered during her travels, ones who kept their robes clean and hands unsullied by labor, Torag's faithful milled through the temple in dirty aprons, faces stained with soot. Their roaring chants rang out as loud as the clang of their tongs and pounding of their hammers on the consecrated anvils. The whole temple thudded with a fiery heartbeat.

Akina paused within the main chamber to let the sense of the place engulf her, memories sparking in her mind, stories and legends and history she'd given little thought to ever since leaving home. All dwarves of the Five Kings Mountains grew up with abundant reminders of their heritage. Even outside the temples, countless statues, murals, and anvil-shaped altars celebrated their maker and god, Torag, whose forge hammer had birthed their race within the Darklands and who'd given them a simple prophecy:

When the ground shakes beneath your feet, you must leave the caverns of the world behind and journey upward at all costs.

For even though dwarves still toiled beneath the earth, in ages past they'd existed far deeper, and knew nothing of the surface. When earthquakes wracked the world, her people had embarked on the grand Quest for Sky, traveling for three centuries and braving monstrous dangers to finally answer Torag's call.

Though not all of them had done so. Akina frowned, but her reverie was interrupted by a sweat-stained cleric who escorted them to a side room where they could hold a conversation. A grin split his black beard as he focused on Ondorum, giving an excited bob of his head.

"A son of the earth! We're blessed to have you with us. Have you come to ply your strength in Torag's honor?"

Ondorum bowed with a rueful smile. At the dwarf's quizzical look, Akina explained the monk's vow of silence and then presented her own inquiry.

"I'm looking for my brother, Brakisten Fairingot. He served here awhile back."

The cleric's beard sagged.

Akina removed her helm and clutched it against her side. "What's wrong?"

"You must be Akina." The cleric drummed fingers on the hammer strapped to his belt. "We're blessed to have you back with us, but your brother has fallen out of favor." At her scowl, he raised calloused palms. "It isn't my place to speak his deeds, but I can direct you to him. Please, tell him he's not beyond redemption. But he must be willing to go through the fire of renewal if he wishes to work beside us once more."

Akina stepped closer. The cleric gripped his hammer but didn't draw it.

"Where is he?" she growled.

CHAPTER 2

Brother's Keeper

Akina rammed a shoulder against the tavern's front door and tromped inside. A single lamp flicked shadows across the simple bar and the tender who gawked at her from behind it. Rough-carved tables and chairs littered the area, and it took her a second to scan the assembled riffraff. Her brother wasn't present.

Ondorum waited by the doorway as she marched over to the barkeep.

"Brakisten Fairingot," she said. "He here?"

The dwarf scowled through a bristly beard. "If you're looking to collect, you'll have to wait a few. Snuffstone's boys already have him out back, and I doubt he'll have much left to pay with by the time they're through with him."

Akina chucked her chin at the back door set off to one side. "That way?"

"You want to poke around in Snuffstone business, go out the front and 'round the side. But they don't like being interrupted."

"Right. They'll have to get used to disappointment." Ignoring the bartender's bark of warning, she clambered over the counter and strode through the back storeroom. Another door deposited her into the broad alley behind the tavern, filled with rubble and scrap.

Three dwarves already occupied the space, and Akina barely recognized Brakisten as one of them. He stood with an arm locked behind his back, held by one of what she assumed to be the Snuffstone brothers.

Brakisten wore a tattered robe stained yellow and green down the front. His black beard and hair had grown wild, hiding most of his eyes and cheeks. He breathed heavily, and his eyelids drooped.

A Snuffstone brother tangled a fist in Brakisten's beard and growled threats until the other nodded Akina's way. He spun, scowling.

"Off with you," he said. "This don't concern you."

She reached back and gripped her maulaxe. "That's my brother you're working over. You've business with him, you've got it with me."

"This lout's your kin?" His grin exposed a silver tooth. "Never figured anyone would admit to being related to this soppy soul. Don't you know what he's done?"

"Let me guess: he owes you money, hm?" Akina hid her dismay behind the nonchalance, pained to see Brakisten in drunken disarray. How had he fallen in with these ruffians?

The Snuffstone brothers shared a look. The one holding Brakisten let go and whacked him across the back of the head as he dropped. Brakisten curled up on the ground, shivering and whimpering.

Akina bared her teeth. "I might expect surface folk treat him this way. But not his own kind in his own home."

The first Snuffstone prodded Brakisten with a boot. "You wouldn't claim him as kin if you knew. He got kicked out of the temple years back for stealing from the coffers. Then he started raving about Droskar and how we're all doomed to burn in the Ashen Forge. He's nothing but a mad traitor."

At her snarl, they put hands to the blades at their belts.

"Don't you dare accuse him —"

"It's true," Brakisten whispered. "I've stolen from Torag himself. Droskar will take our souls. I've seen it ..."

She stared in horror. Mentioning the Dark Smith, much less proclaiming doom in his name, equated to blasphemy for some dwarves. And her devout brother admitting to thievery? It had to be the ale addling his senses.

When the other Snuffstone reared for another kick, she stepped closer. "Touch him again and I'll break your knees and knuckles."

"Oh, the little lambie thinks she's a wolf." The lead dwarf blocked her path while his companion laid a blade across Brakisten's throat. "We're the ones with fangs, see?"

Akina trembled in rage. It'd be so simple to let it wash over her and leave these two as quivering piles of pulp. If the fury claimed her, though, she might hurt Brakisten before she regained her wits.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Pathfinder Tales: Forge of Ashes by Josh Vogt. Copyright © 2015 Paizo Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Contents

Cover,
Title Page,
Copyright Notice,
Dedication,
Map,
Chapter One: Homecoming,
Chapter Two: Brother's Keeper,
Chapter Three: Graven Images,
Chapter Four: Contemplation of Stone,
Chapter Five: Harsh Words,
Chapter Six: Misunderstandings,
Chapter Seven: Fallen Faithful,
Chapter Eight: Sundered Earth,
Chapter Nine: Gladdringgar,
Chapter Ten: Den of Madness,
Chapter Eleven: Unfair Advantage,
Chapter Twelve: Death's Stench,
Chapter Thirteen: Darkness and Light,
Chapter Fourteen: The Long Walk,
Chapter Fifteen: In Chains,
Chapter Sixteen: Ambush,
Chapter Seventeen: Desperate Means,
Chapter Eighteen: Parted Paths,
Chapter Nineteen: Buggane,
Chapter Twenty: Silent Conversation,
Chapter Twenty-One: In the Ruins,
Chapter Twenty-Two: Fiery Crossing,
Chapter Twenty-Three: Vaskegar,
Chapter Twenty-Four: The Forge,
Chapter Twenty-Five: Perspective,
Chapter Twenty-Six: Sacrifice,
Chapter Twenty-Seven: Worthy Opponents,
Chapter Twenty-Eight: Upward,
Chapter Twenty-Nine: Tunnel Pests,
Chapter Thirty: Taggoret,
Chapter Thirty-One: Forge Spurned,
Chapter Thirty-Two: Old Friends,
Chapter Thirty-Three: Control,
Epilogue: Vows,
Acknowledgments,
Glossary,
The Pathfinder Tales Library,
About the Author,
Newsletter Sign-up,
Copyright,

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