Vanitas – Still Life with Books and Manuscripts and a Skull, Evert Collier, 1663
After spending the night at Stonehill Inn in Phandalin, Riordan and Dorn head out to the archaeological site to warn the prospectors about the dragon’s presence in the area. They arrive at the entrance to the canyon at high noon. As they enter, the canyon’s walls rise to over a colossal 80 feet and the path begins to narrow. Eventually they come to a 20-foot-high wall built of black stone, and where a pair gates were once now the path is open. The bulk of the ruins seem to be built into the mountain itself with a courtyard beyond the black wall. The two men spot a couple of dwarves arguing in the yard.
Dorn interrupts their conversation with a firm greeting. The two dwarves stop and turn to them. Dorn introduces himself and Riordan. The dwarves introduce themselves as Dazlyn Grayshard and Norbus Ironrune. Before Dorn can inform them of why they have come, Dazlyn asks fervently if they would be willing to clear the ruins inside of some seemly invisible creatures which make horrid slopping and squishing sounds. Dorn agrees and Riordan follows him inside.
As soon as they appear in the doorway, the cold humidity of the cave-like chamber hits them, and they spot a giant ochre jelly hanging from the ceiling. There are also two more inch-worming across the floor. Dorn without hesitation rushes into the room striking at the closest jelly with his massive warhammer. Unfortunately, he does little damage to the creature and it retaliates, knocking him prone and unconscious. Riordan reacts quickly to the situation. Using guerrilla tactics, moving relentlessly, taking cover, and striking with his longbow from distance outside their strike zones, he exterminates all three creatures. Riordan, being a user of magic, heals and awakens Dorn. Dorn thanks him and is pleased that his assertion was correct in that Riordan is impressive, capable, and compassionate.
They decide to clear the chamber of any more threats; they don’t find any more creatures, but they do find the ancient remains of a dwarven priest along with a holy symbol. They return to the prospectors with the symbol announcing they have cleared the room of threats. Dazlyn’s eyes light up when he sees the holy symbol, and he snatches it from Dorn. “Abbathor!”, he exclaims. Dorn recognizes that Abbathor is the dwarven god of greed and is none too kind. Dazlyn offers a pair of sending stones in thanks and as a trade for the symbol and Riordan happily accepts knowing what the stones can do. He gives the other stone to Dorn while explaining to him their magical nature.
Norbus gently steps forward and requests if they would stay the night and help to clear and secure the rest of the ruins past the chamber in the morning. He offers them a homecooked campfire meal, a couple of health potions, and half of any loot they find. Dazlyn grimaces and scowls at the mention of sharing the loot, and Norbus gives him a hard stare until he sneers and turns away. Dorn and Riordan agree and begin to make camp for the evening. At dinner Norbus weaves the lore around the ruins, “This place was once a temple of Abbathor…the dwarven priests were crushed by the temple itself…they didn’t provide the sacrifices the god demanded…”.
Early in the morning, the team heads into the ruins. Dorn finds another jelly in a hall leading out of the chamber and deeper into the mountain, and he dispatches it quickly. A large dislodged stone door is found and when they all attempt to move it, it crashes down violently crushing another jelly in its wake. Behind the door they find a caved-in area, and as the rest of the temple has been explored, Dazlyn and Norbus agree that the chamber they have been looking for is on the other side. It takes the team the rest of the afternoon to clear the rubble away. Although it is obvious that everyone is exhausted and in need of food and rest, Dazlyn bullies his way over the last mound of rock and slides into the chamber. The rest of the team scrambles their way through following him.
Within the chamber is a man-sized statue of a dwarf in robes holding a large green glowing gem in his palms, the face stares obsessively at the gem with a large toothy grin and a look of sheer avarice. “The Hall of Greed.”, Norbus whispers. Riordan is instantly put off by the statue and spies Dazlyn slowly and reverently moving towards it. He backs away and declares that the status is unsafe, and they should stay clear of it. But before anyone can react, Dazlyn has snatched the gem from its home and the statue explodes into large pieces of shrapnel causing massive damage to the chamber and knocking Norbus and Dorn down. The gem dissolves into nothing and Dazlyn seems to snap out of his trance realizing what has happened. He rushes to his best friend and brother-in-arms, pulls out a health potion and administrates it to Norbus.
As Dorn is getting up, Riordan rushes at Dazlyn in full fury. Fortunately for Dazlyn, Dorn cuts Riordan off and persuades him to go. Riordan storms off while yelling that was the health potion promised to them and this wouldn’t have happened if the little shit wasn’t so greedy and selfish. As they are leaving through the outer black wall, they run into a couple of orcs scouting the place. Riordan doesn’t stop to ask question or think; he spies them and immediately starts shooting with full rage and fury dispatching them quickly.
Directly after the fighting, Dazlyn and Norbus return outside and Norbus attempts to reconcile. He nudges and pushes on Dazlyn; Dazlyn then holds out the holy symbol of Abbathor as an offering. Riordan takes it, looks at it for a moment, and then throws it back at their feet with scorn. Dorn takes a breath and does what they had come to do; he warns the dwarves of the white dragon and he bets that there will be more orcs to come since it looks like they were scouting around. Norbus thanks him and offers his last health potion. Dorn puts his hand up as though enough was enough, and he and Riordan head to the cover of the forest to make camp for the night. Tomorrow they will be off to Umbrage Hill and the midwife.
Greed is a killer. So is wrath. And not only with the taking of lives, but with the demise of the human spirit. Dazlyn is consumed by greed so much that he causes destruction and places peoples’ lives in danger – even his own family suffered for his sins. Riordan is consumed by wrath and so much that he either kills on instinct or turns to drink to quell it.
And what of the forgiveness in Dorn and Norbus? Norbus stays at his brother’s side no matter the circumstances it would seem even probing him to better himself. Perhaps forgiveness and openness is the difference in Riordan’s and Dorn’s worldviews and temperaments. Dorn not only forgives Riordan’s trespasses, but forgives his own discrepancies and moves on. He doesn’t mire in mistakes, instead he learns. Meanwhile Riordan dwells in his memories and allows the feelings of hate to wash over him day in and day out. It is as though he is the one to blame; he is punishing himself for the annihilation of his clan. Dorn isn’t fixated on his past family situation and focuses on bettering himself and growing while Riordan closes himself to growth and contentment.
Riordan’s and Dorn’s backstories are explained in another post located here, in case you missed them! Also, I suggest the book, Never Stop Learning: Stay Relevant, Reinvent Yourself, and Thrive by Bradley R. Staats. Be a lifelong learner, have a growth-mindset, forgive yourself and others, and press on.
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