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Borodan Hardfest and the Spidered Valleys
It had been a long and exhausting day for the miners in the Bilver shaft. They had toiled for many hours, slowly chiselling their way downward inch by painstaking inch. The mountain was indeed a fruitful one, but its wealth was not being given up easily.
Despite their exhaustion, the miners were in good spirit. While following the seam of gemstones downward that day, they had come upon a natural opening into what looked like a small cave. While the seam they followed was still thick and rich, this at least provided another direction to explore once the current seam had given up the last of its wealth.
The last job of the shift belonged to Garandar Hardfest. Once the tools had been sharpened and stowed, he checked the pit props were secure then set the lamp at the rock face ready for the next shift. The others had already started to walk wearily to the lift basket. They were just too tired to pay heed to the muffled scuffling sounds that, at the beginning of the shift, would have triggered a sense of alarm. It was only after waiting several minutes for their companion that an air of concern began to pass among the group. Eventually Garandar's brother, Borodan offered to walk back to investigate.
No sooner had he got within sight of the rock face than he let out an almighty bellow, crying out for the aid of his companions. The scene that met the eyes of the tired miners was one none of them would easily forget. Borodan knelt over his brother's body that lay completely motionless on the tunnel floor, clearly distraught at what he had encountered seconds earlier. Garandar's face was ashen, as if all life had been sucked from him, and he was bound from the neck down in thick sticky threads. Borodan tugged at the unyielding threads with his bare hands trying to free his brother from their suffocating grasp. Eventually, with the help of the other miners, Garandar was freed, though his body showed no signs of life. The only injuries visible were two puncture wounds on his neck and shoulder. Much to Borodan's dismay, it was soon clear that the result of these had been fatal. Borodan's face was set as if in stone as he bore his brother's body to the lift basket, then up to his home. His eyes showed no flicker of sadness, just an intense, bitter desire for vengeance.
Despite his exhaustion, he was intent on returning to the shaft immediately. The creature that stole his brother from him could not be allowed to live. Wearing his father's armour and carrying the battleaxe that had been passed down to the eldest Hardfest son for generations, he strode forth, resolute in his quest to avenge his brother's untimely death. He appeared a man possessed as he marched toward the opening his shift had uncovered earlier that day. There was no fear in his eyes, only hatred. As he took his first step into the cave he turned to the miners of the next shift and saluted. He would not let another miner suffer at the hands of this creature.
It took Borodan only minutes from entering the cave to locate a large web-like structure in one corner. Closer inspection showed it was crafted from the same threads that had bound Garandar. The web was empty, but it could not be long before the creature returned to check its deadly trap. Borodan crouched down in the gloom to wait. This time it would be he who pounced on an unsuspecting quarry.
Hours passed slowly for Borodan. His mind raced, playing the forthcoming kill over and over in his mind. He had only seen a fleeting glimpse of the giant spider, but he was sure that with surprise on his side its end should be swiftly met. Sitting still and alone in the gloom, his hearing and sense of smell seemed heightened. His ears pricked at a distant scurrying sound and a faint new musty scent hit his nostrils. Time for planning was over. As the creature advanced to check its web, Borodan sprung forth from his dark corner, cursing the beast as he swung the family battleaxe at its head. There was a faint gurgle as its body slumped to the ground next to its severed head, but then all was silent. Its end had indeed been swift.
Borodan sank down onto one knee and bowed his head. The exertions of the day were catching up with him and his eyelids suddenly felt as heavy as lead. "Be at peace now brother," he whispered, as for the first time he allowed tears to form in his eyes. He knelt, with tears rolling silently down his cheeks for a few moments, allowing the hatred to subside to be replaced by grief. When he returned to the shaft the miners still working there greeted him warmly and shared with him what bread and ale they had. They were desperate to know every last detail of the spider and how it was slain, but Borodan was in no mood for storytelling. After thanking them for the meal he made his way up to the lift basket, then home to his grieving family. Despite the hero's welcome he received, he felt uneasy. He had avenged his brother's death, but he was in no doubt that there were more spiders lurking deep inside the cave system. It would only be a matter of time before others stumbled upon the opening the dwarves had made into their world. He, more than anyone, realised the need for extra vigilance now the spiders had been disturbed.
From that day forth, on Borodan's insistence, each mining team was sent down to the rock face with an additional guard to watch over the entrance to the Spidered Valley. Although he knew further attacks were inevitable, at least now they would be ready to fight back. It would take many years and the loss of many more lives before the Khords regained the upper hand in their struggle against the giant spiders. For Borodan it became a life long crusade. He had not been able to protect his brother, but vowed to defend his companions, livelihood and way of life with every ounce of energy he possessed.
Thanks to Sarah Pightling for this contribution!