We did a couple of introductory sessions in the last few weeks to do character creation, basic introductions to the setting and background.
The party are individually recruited into the Paths Command as part of a new scouting initiative. The dwarves of Goldenhills have been isolationist under the Ironhammer Clan for the last 100 years - only limited trade with humans and gnomes to the north, other remnants of the Old Kingdom of the dwarves to the south and elves to the west has occurred, and there has been almost no outside contact at all in the last 25 years.
In the introductory sessions, the characters are recruited into Paths Command. Khidre Eigar, by benefit of his clan relationship with Ragkon Eigar, the Paths Commander, is appointed as squad leader. Hilbo Huggins, recently released from his service with the Goldenhills Guard, is recruited and re-instated to his previous rank of sergeant. Korrum Kargonath, having completed his training as a storm-priest of Moradin, is recommended to Paths Command by his superior in the priesthood, High Hammerer Morim, and decides that his previous experience with underdark guide and messenger work makes the position appropriate.
Finally Stalagmite, the feral dwarf found in the southern tunnels by Paths Command scouts, is assigned to the squad. His uncanny skills and odd elemental magics seem like they would be useful.
In the first briefing, Senior Scout Duggan Kammering lays out the assignment. All communication with Shalecliff, the northernmost mining settlement , has been lost. Nothing has been heard in the last 2 weeks, and 2 squads of soldiers sent to investigate have failed to return. Paths Command has advocated a stealthier approach, and the new squad's assignment is to head to Shalecliff, investigate the situation and return with a report as quickly as possible.
Accordingly, the squad gears up and heads out immediately, taking the Great Tunnel northwards before breaking off into the High Pass tunnel and climbing the 2,000 stairs to High Pass Watch, a small 3-story tower manned by Scouts from Paths Command. The party heads out into the pass to make a bit more ground before dark, then camps and set out in the early morning.
Stalactite checks in with the local wildlife, which he seems to be able to communicate with. The pikas which live in the pass prove to have little useful information, other than mentioning the recent passage of groups of armed dwarves, headed north, which the party assumes were the previous Guard detachments. Nothing has come south, although the pikas note the presence of several golden eagles with considerable alarm.
In the morning, Khidre does a quick forage for supplies, coming across several large pikas, who seem both distracted and unconcerned about his approach. Some handy crossbow work nets a hearty breakfast for the party, and they set off across the alpine valley towards Shalecliff.
About half a days hard march brings them close to the entrance to the colony, but the group pauses out of sight of the watch-towers that guard the outer gates. Khidre, Korrum and Hilbo have all been to Shalecliff before, and Hilbo spent many years with the guard detachment there. After some discussion, they elect to not approach the gate directly, but instead to enter the mines through a tailings dump, then work their way back to the hold.
Initially, this approach works well, although the normally busy mines are eerily quiet and abandoned. After a few hours, they come to the main hoist, a platform lifted by geared pulleys that drops from the back entrance of Shalecliff all the way through the processing and smelter areas, down to the mine layers, where the party enters Shalecliff proper.