The vintners of Angleheath received the heroes enthusiastically, throwing a great feast in their honor, full of music and dancing. The trio was seated in places of honor at the Monastery of the Heath, near to the High Mother Esmerelda Baisse de Bordeuax, priestess of Demeter.
The next morning, with aching heads, the heroes visited Esmerelda in her study, where she had laid out the intellectual treasures recovered from Morningfall Mountain.
One of these tomes contain rituals such as “Towards the Sending of Crucial Communications Across the Lands and Beyond” and “On the Creation of Secret and Hidden Containers Unreachable by Mortal Eyes” as well as much magical lore. Some month’s study of these texts could be used to gain knowledge of ritual formulas, or even set out on the path of the arcane initiate. Other tomes were of a more sinister bent: “Circle of Set: Investigations of the Serpent’s Ring”, “Multiplicities of Shade: Questing the Shadow Dimension”, “Above the Clouds: The High Folk of the Second and Third Age of Faerie” and a newer book, “The Cursing of the Night’s Pillars and Scions of Darker Dieties: Notes Toward a Further History”
Finally, there had been discovered a second, older patent of nobility than the one found on the person of Bejik Vuthaner. Both patents traced the same lineage, but the second did not include the Vuthaner family name. The name of the ghost Vrak Tiburcaex is mentioned several times in the lineage books as a warrior who served in Ustraternes; the Vuthaner name does not appear in the books. Indeed, the eldar was no descendant at all, but a skilled forger who had managed to con a ghost!
But truly, these heroes cared little for such scholarship, for they were men of action. “Tell us, oh Esmerelda, petit childmother of the vineyards, where is this man your erstwhile protector, Jaeroon Lorrickson? For our church is curious.”
And Esmerelda replied, “He has gone these six months since the passing of the dark hour of winter, gone to do battle with those villains of his youth, a cabal of Set, a cult of darkness which lairs far from the hearths and homes of his people, those he swore to protect even after the promise broken by his father, Lorrick. Jaeroon Lorrickson is a stalwart of Mithras and a veteran of countless campaigns against the the Beastlords. During the winter, Jaeroon was visited by an old friend, Dajani the Magician. Now, he and a loyal group set off with Dajani to undertake a mission that strike a mortal blow at the heart of Set. The protection of this monastery was entrusted to his father Lorrick, and so he returned when the seat became vacant. But now he has fled like father like son. Jaeroon and four companions sought to take the battle to the heart of the cult. Set’s faithful are based in a great temple in the World’s Edge Mountains. The Pillars of Night, they call it. Jaeroon swore to break the cult by destroying its leaders.”
Esmerelda shows the heroes a box of send in which a message has been written at a distance: “My last contact with Jaeroon was a sending some months ago that placed him deep in the borderlands at the head of a trail he called the Black March. I have had no further word. Please, you must follow the trail of this wayward paladin and return our protector to us.”
“No problem little lady,” said Zebidiah, the Hammer of Faith.
“We’ll take care of the cult as well,” said Suntop, the Hunter of Beasts.
“Let’s go,” said Kara the Gladiator.
Having accepted Esmerelda’s mission and equipped themselves for a long journey, the party set out. With a last word of thanks and gifts of wineskins, Esmerelda and her compatriots waved good-bye. Their destination was west, down the Kings Road and across the Eamon River to the frontier of civilization. But first they would stop at Delver’s Dale.
Everyone in the Dale was very very busy. Zeb was obliged to pull out his symbol of Moradin to get a single dwarf to stop and talk to him. Flint Firestone was helpful enough, in his way, telling of a brewery they should visit if they are heading into the wilderness, called Balean Nakt.
Finally, the party received an audience with a distinctly unfriendly Knight of the Dale, one Gaz Nine-Fingers, of Mithras. The knight was brusque and brief, but relayed the information that he had indeed shared a campfire with Jaeroon Lorrickson some months earlier. He expressed his distaste for the Magician, Dajani, and relayed that Jaeroon had planned to stop at Balean Nakt on his way to the Black March. He then excused himself to go to jousting practice.
The trio wasted little time in the Dale, leaving at first light the next day. They crossed the valley and entered the forest, heading for the Scarp. Suntop lead the way on a huntsman’s trail that seemed to have had much use this spring. At dusk that reached the base of the Scarp, an inclement arm of the Stoneheart Mountains that reached far south, before dying out in the Great Swamp. A steep switchbacking trail went up. They travelers rested and began the ascent the next day. In the afternoon, with the Dwarven Brewery nearly in sight and the thought of beer on everyone’s mind, the weary group looked around to discover that they were surrounded by a pack of wolves!
The heroes found themselves tongue tied for a moment, wondering at this beast that spoke and yet did not feel like one of Danzig’s creatures, for this was one of the wolves of old, of the first pack to roam the land in time immemorial. Zeb tried to appease the beast, speaking to it with grave words of courtesy, explaining his mission to Balean Nakt and the World’s Edge Mountains.
“You are out your way if you journey to the world’s edge, dwarfling. You must descend and go around to reach that farther range. But you smell familiar, like one who needs must see a familiar face at this hour. Follow me.”
The trio followed with much trepidation as the old wolf led them up the trail so that they could see the squat stone square that was Balean Nakt nestled above the ridge. But the wolf took them to a thicket some distance from the building. There a noise was heard, like a man in pain. Rushing to the spot, the heroes discovered a very skinny dwarf, with a very very long unkempt grey beard that would have reached to his ankles had he stood and was he not sprawled on the heather amidst darkening pools of his own blood.
“They came from below,” gasped the old dwarf. “The Annals speak of perfectly pure subterranean streams and a strain of yeast so perfect, it practically brews itself. We were going to make a showing at the Grand Tourney… Magnus chased them off, but that only bought me a little time… I do not know if he still lives.” Zeb bestowed some of the power of the All Father upon the wounded Father Eftward (for it was he who had led pilgrims to this place of ancient brewers’ lore).
So the heroes rushed forth to battle these Orcs from the earth below, for perhaps Magnus lived, and in any case, there were dwarven lives to avenge!
Descending the stair beneath the Anvil of Moradin, they were confronted by an apparition of a Dwarven Legionnaire. “Name Your Fathers!!” called out this apparition. And so Zebidiah the Second dutifully listed his lineage dating back to the First Age of Elves.
“You may pass,” intoned the Legionnaire. The party stepped over the lifeless corpse of a green skinned orc and found themselves in an extensive sleeping hall. It was a scene of horror. All around, bodies had been tossed like rag dolls; the pilgrims lay in crumpled heaps, many still in their night clothes.
At the far end of the room a small group of green skins were heartily drinking from a keg of beer. Two orcs were holding another above a barrel, shouting and carrying on. Another three were laying about on the floor. Curled up on one vacant bed was a huge bristling Orc Boar, a savage creature of the wild kept chained in caves all of its brutal, violent life. This creature leapt to its feet and pawed the ground.
It was a quick and brutal fight. Soon all the orcs were dying upon the ground, although one had fled down a set of stairs beyond.
The impetuous heroes rushed in pursuit and found themselves at the top of an enormous staircase.
This was precarious battle, as there were orcs wielding great “bellybows”, like personal ballista mounted against the Orcs’ belt buckles. These marksman caused great havoc as another wave of drudges attacked, followed quickly by a huge and menacing foe, well versed in slurs both common and exotic; and swinging a mighty sword of wicked curvature.
With the rocks many terrifying feet below, the heroes feared for their lives, but soon the might of their arms prevailed and they stood alone upon the stair, looking down at a faint but broad glow in the cavern below. Once again, the gladiator struck the final blow, this time with Vathune’s Shard. The black spear sent the final orc tumbling to his doom.
XP: 500 each