High Pass Hold
Several defensive positions have been constructed along the many miles of High Pass. At the southern end of the pass, the road narrows to the width of four men shoulder-to-shoulder. Long ago, dwarves chiseled a flat plane high above the road, and there they constructed High Pass Hold. From there, a small contingent can cut down large swaths of enemies as they pour through the natural choke point.
History 15 DC or Child of Ungolliath Background: The Hold was constructed well over a thousand years ago by a legion of dwarven stone masons. Funded by the Aruth Empire and initially manned by elven archers from Quelthalin, the Hold represented one of the last efforts of the peaceful alliance that predated the Last War. Fearing that any enemy repelled from the forest would head south through the pass, threatening the Druid nations of the Iron Oak Forest, the Hold stood as the last defense against invading armies.
The first test came only two decades after the final stone was laid. An army of marauders from the Periotor Desert sought to claim the west’s water supply as their own, and were caught completely by surprise as they were waylaid by a hundred archers as they marched only four wide through the narrow pass.
History 21 DC or Child of Ungolliath Background: After the marauder invasion was put down, the elves sent a sapling from Quelthalin to be planted at the site of the Alliance’s great victory. A ritual was performed, allowing the hard stone to sustain the tree, and indeed it grew for centuries, and became a symbol for all who stood watch from the Hold’s walls over the Pass.
When the Last War was upon the people of the West, the Hold was beset by darkness. Demonic forces from Underdark made their way through dark passages unknown to the Dwarves of Ungolliath and were upon the guards at the pass without warning. Valiantly the Dwarven regiment held the Pass; however, it was soon clear that the forces of darkness greatly outnumbered their spears and arrows.
The beacon was lit, so that the Lords of Thelfiosa might send their winged armies north, but the small contingent of archers and spearmen would have to last the night waiting for the griffons to arrive. Their hope and resolve was dwindling along with their weapon supply. They would be overrun soon.
With the blessing of his elven ally Lothellan, the dwarven Captain Kordan Stonehand was the first to take an axe to the Tree of Quelthalin. Quickly the tree was felled into splinters, and as the dwarves and elves along the wall fired the last of the arrows into the throng of creatures scaling the walls of the Hold, Lothellan and Kordan sharpened the splinters into spears. The magic in the stone had imbued the wood over the centuries, and the spears retained this power. With renewed vigor, the remaining dwarves and elves charged down the mountain from the Hold, slaying countless thousands of creatures before sending them fleeing back down under the Mountains.
Tales of Stonehand’s victory spread, as did the tales of his destruction of the Tree. “Stonehard Spears”, those carved by Kordan and marked with dwarvish runes, or “Spears of Quelthalin”, in which Lothellan carved elvish script, are prized weapons, and notably difficult to find.
The Keep is accessible only by the steep and winding path that begins on the mountain side south and east of the pass entrance. A flat space allows the would-be entrant to address guards at the heavily fortified walls, well within eye shot of any guards patrolling the walls. From the outer walls, said guards have full visual access to any one passing through the extremely narrow end of the pass.
Once through the main gate, a small “kill room” with 20 foot high walls must also be passed through, providing the guards with an additional choke point to thin the numbers of would be invaders. Past the door here lies the first of two courtyards, constructed as open spaces so that archers on the first and second walls have clear visual access to anyone in them at all times.
The second wall is accessible by stone stairs on either side of the barracks on the eastern side of that wall. Past that, the second courtyard, home to the stump of the Tree of Quelthalin and no more.
Finally, nestled into the mountain side, is the Beacon chamber. A heavy stone door blocks the entrance to this room which is built into the mountain itself. A circular shaft has been cleanly carved straight up the mountain, allowing full exposure to the elements. In the floor sits a moonstone Artifact, black and imbued with platinum streaks.
Arcana 15 DC: Approaching the stone, elvish words can be heard, “A beacon of light to fight back the darkness”. Assuming the listener can speak Elvish, repeating the words in their native tongue causes the beacon to light, sending a beam of mystical moonlight into the sky through the carved shaft. The beacon light is visible from the towers of Thelfiosa in the south, to the walls of Balem Crossing at the entrance of Ungolliath in the north.