Chapter 09: Darkness in the Mountains: Journey Into the Wilds

Ambyrmont 8th 1014

A Brief Respite

After a bath at Sandford's and a night's rest Thanduil, disguised as his alter-ego Finn and accompanied by Dohrum visited the guard house to investigate Lucian and Enoch's background. A suggestion from Captain Wilson of the guard led them to the record's office where after a conversation with a strange record keeper they were directed to the deeds for a estate just beyond the northern city wall.
"Delightful stone built country residence set back from the shore road north of the city of Safeharbour, would suit a family or a gentleman of importance with many retainers. Property consists of a large atrium, one reception room, one dining room, large kitchen, with root cellar, and servant quarters on the ground floor. Further stairs lead up to upper floor with six bedrooms, a library and a chapel. Stairs lead up to a two story tower with two more rooms suitable for studies or further bedrooms. Access to the roof gives views over the surrounding country and Safeharbour itself."

Attached is a further document sealed with the mark of Sir Rupert,

"Property has been searched. It seems that the retainers have left when Enoch moved to the city, most items of value having vanished at about the same time. Property has been made safe, no traps or suchlike were found. Chapel has been cleansed of any evil influences. Suggest that Enoch may not have returned after his conversion. I have hired a small staff to keep the place safe from bandits and criminals. Suggest that the property be loaned to Zan's band of adventurers as a safe house while in the employ of the Council."

Meanwhile Victor took some of the items found to his order for analysis while the others took the rest to Madam Monir for evaluation and some shopping.

Enoch's farm turned out to be more of a fortified mansion with a mismatched crowd of servants led by the gnomish chief steward, Leif. The building is comfortable with well appointed rooms, including a small chapel and a, unfortunately empty, library. After a good meal thoughts turned to the visions and dreams the companions had had concerning the strange beings known as the Ancients. Almost all had some form of encounter with them; Dohrum and Thanduil from handling the helm and axe belonging to King Orry and Jedon in the fever dreams brought on by the poison in the Greenwood Inn.
When Aleanor arrived she spoke further of the tattoo on her palm.
"All I have discovered is that it seems to be able to answer questions, but in a cryptic fashion. I was frustrated and on my way here I asked myself as I looked at my palm, 'What are you?' and I got an answer! 'I am a tool.' 'What sort of tool?' I asked back, 'I lead' was the answer I received."
"I see us digging in the snow, deep snow in a vast crater; digging through the snow to what lies beneath; I see a city in the mountains bathed in moonlight; I see a falling star streaking across the sky; I see blood, lots of blood; I see the stars going out, our sun fading and endless winter and darkness spreading across the world; I see a mind flayer on every throne of every nation; I see every human and elf as nothing more than food and every dwarf and halfling a slave or soldier under their control."

Aleanor also presented the companions with jade and garnet badges in the shape of a dragon, the companions are now members of the Order of the Dragon 2nd Class.

Ambyrmont 9th 1014

Most of the companions spent the day gathering the items they needed for a long and tough journey into the mountains, while Thanduil spent time researching his spells.

Ambyrmont 10th 1014 - Ambyrmont 13th

Journey Into The Mountains: Winter Wolves

Preparations made, the companions started their journey into the mountains range that forms the heart of the Free Isles.

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Soon they were walking through ice and snow which covered tree and rock making progress slow and tiring. They soon found things that suggested that things that confirmed thoughts that the weather was not natural. A body of a farmer frozen solid beside the trail. The following day they found what caused the farmer's demise; a small pack of winter wolves led by a huge patriarch. The wolves blasted frigid air from thier mouths as well as attacking with tooth and claw. The companions managed to kill the smaller wolves but the pack leader stayed at the edge of the forest and was not harmed.

Journey Into The Mountains: Spiders and Fountains

The following day the weather suddenly changed for the worse, a blinding snowstorm caused a white-out and the party was split up in the wind driven chaos. Chang, Dohrum, Aleanor and Jedon managed to struggle through and find a way-house but were attacked by spiders hiding in the woodpile.

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They spent a comfortable night worrying about their fellow travellers and Dohrum launched a searing light spell into the night sky to attract the attention of the others. Victor, Zan, D'mond and Thanduil stumbled across a cave in the mountainside. Inside they found a flowstone fountain sculpted into the likeness of a blue dragon. On further investigation the fountain's pool, which contained warm, mineral rich water, had been defaced. All that remained on the tiled rim was some writing in the Draconic script:
"…ath Lord of the … air. Protec… from M… Bless this …."
Zan when he looked at the text said, "The text was probably 'Ar-Bagrin√Ęth, Lord of the Sunlit Skies and the beasts of the Air. Protect us from Moreldrak and bless this water.' Ar-Bagrin√Ęth was one of the Ancients, a Dragon Lord who fought against Moreldrak and his armies. The same war in which King Orry wore the helmet that Dohrum now wears. There are few such places as this left in the world, most were destroyed, or buried."

The next morning Thanduil took flight and searched the snow fields for signs of the others. He spotted smoke rising from the way-house and managed to lead the others back to the cave.
It was discovered that both groups had seen figures and a horse drawn sled on the ridge to the north west after they had been split up but before they had found shelter for the night and it was decided that they would head up onto the ridge to see who the people were.

Journey Into The Mountains: Dances with Wolves

When they reached the top of the ridge D'mond spotted a group of tired people trudging towards a small village. Dohrum took a short cut to meet them, sliding down the ridge on his shield while the others took safer, but less exciting ways, to the valley floor. Here they met Merens and a group of villagers driven from their homes by the bitter, unnatural cold and a pack of wolves. After Victor fed them with magically conjured food they told their tale. Driven out by the wolves they tried to make thier way to Safeharbour but lack of food and the cold exhausted them and they decided to return to the village to die with those too old or infirm to move. They welcomed the offer of help and led the companions to the village where Victor and Dohrum healed the sick and injured in the village inn while the others started to explore the village where wolves could be seen sitting in doorways and patrolling the food stores by the lake.

They were just settling down when a loud thump on the door surprised them. On investigation they found an arrow with a note attached. The note was signed by Verlis, and asked for a meeting by the lake. Verlis explained how he had become a werewolf after drinking the tainted potion supplied by Captain Vai. He had gained power over his bestial side with the assistance of a druidic friend and now led a pack of wolves. He then told the others what had led him and the wolves to the village.
"What I have discovered is that the foolish ancestors of the villagers built their cold stores atop a series of chambers known to some as The Pit of Twin Shadows. It is a place of woe according to a druidic friend of mine and should have remained undisturbed. A tribe of orcs, the Black Spider Clan, carried out raids from there and earlier still a group of harpies, The Coven of the Snake, had used the chambers as a place to store their loot. The orcs drove out the harpies and were then driven out themselves and the chambers cleansed before the village grew up but it seems something was missed, some taint of evil remained. A powerful evil artefact must have been hidden within the heart of the lair, a chamber known as the Cave of the Devils. According to my friend, a variety of texts and prophecies refer to different items; one mentions a sword known as the Fang of Black Valour, another refers to the Dark Shield of the Ape Defender while a third mentions the Corpse of the Obsidian Vampire. I have no idea what these are or if any of these tales are true."

Verlis tried to explain this to the villagers but they didn't trust him and he stormed off, back into the snow followed by a pair of villagers who said they were off to check on snares. Thanduil and Victor also left the comfort of the inn hoping to prevent the spilling of blood.
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