Lydia helped Ezekiel get word to Aliana about where he’s going to be, and we headed out. Between Ezekiel and some good directions, we made good time along the quickest route to Fort Gellsblood. Agnar took turns riding double with us, since he insists this “horse-foolery” isn’t something he’ll do long-term, so there’s no point having his own pony.
First impressions are this place is pretty military, with tending the church to Heironeous and guarding the pass to the Deepholm dwarves being the only “industries” to speak of.
After they let us in, we stabled our horses and looked for a Father Joseph, who Ezekiel said would be in charge. We found him alone in the temple, and Raven gave him our letters of introduction from the Grand Duke.
The Father seemed very business-like, made no small talk with Ezekiel, and explained the situation as far as he knew it. Apparently the garrison had discovered a trail of some kind off to the side of the main route used to visit the dwarves. An initial scouting (going as quickly as possible, and still taking two weeks to complete) showed the trail looped around through the mountains and came out at Lake Mala, which is another settlement to the north of Fort Gellsblood. (He gave us a copy of the scouts’ map.)
Since this was clearly a made path, but with no sign of who made it or who might use or have used it, His Grace ordered a regular patrol of the trail. The first patrol was Sir Hoshur’s squad…and after missing their expected rendezvous at Lake Mala, only Sir Hoshur was returned – dead.
The unusual gnomes who brought in his body gave no details, except that the knight promised them a reward if they returned him (or his body) to the fort. The burns must have been from whatever attacked him – and removed his gear, as the gnomes implied he suffered from the elements while they were bringing him back. Apparently, his last words were warnings about “fire” or “flames.”
Father Joseph seems to think the Grand Duke’s primary concern is the medallion, and whether or not he could finally find answers about his son. The Father obviously thinks the danger of an invasion is a more pressing concern for his own responsibilities, but sending us out could cover both interests. I’m not sure he thinks we (or perhaps Ezekiel) are the best suited for this mission, but I don’t suppose he has plenty of extra men to throw into harm’s way for this.
Ezekiel seems indecently hopeful we cross swords with the Underdark through this – but he went off to visit his father and his mother’s grave, so perhaps that will steady him a bit.
Raven went off to secure what supplies we need, while Mikael has been asking everyone he can about (live) bears and mountain lions. I tried to drum up some more intel about these mercenary gnomes, but it wasn’t very promising. It’s been like a month since this happened, and a lot of details are supposed to be privileged information anyway. One of the guards said he thinks a wizard killed Sir Hoshur…there’s an old rumor about a wizard setting up a tower somewhere in the mountains – but like most rumors, it’s unhelpfully vague.
Got an early start this morning, and reached the entrance to this mysterious pass by the time the light was failing.
This is where the route to Deepholm and the dwarves splits off, and I can really tell that more traffic goes that way. There’s virtually nothing in the trail to the side, although morning light might change that. Ezekiel asked if I could see where the grey gnomes came from, but I don’t think he really comprehends what time and weather do to the traces of living creatures. If they were here yesterday, or this past week, then maybe.
Mikael tried calling animals out of the mountains, but no luck.
We made our first acquaintance with the inhabitants today. Our first indication was when the ground turned to mud beneath us.
Thankfully, my ring let me run free and into the shelter of a fallen tree, as boulders crashed down on us from either side of the ravine.
Turns out it was not giants, but rock people – stubby, bipedal boulders with faces, kicking rocks down on us. Fortunately, they were vulnerable to arrows – though I must have been at a bad angle, and Heiron did way better than I did. Ezekiel floated himself and Agnar up the cliff to attack the enemy on our other side, and Mikael used his magic ebony fly to pull himself out of the mud.
The last two boulder-men tried to hide under a shell of stone or something, but Mikael dispelled it. We didn’t leave much to answer questions, though everybody except me and Lydia was bleeding pretty badly, so I don’t think interrogating them was at the top of our minds.
Ezekiel called them Galeb Duhr (children of the mountain), and thought they were usually more chill and easy-going than this…but I pointed out anyone could be testy when strangers barge into your territory without warning. Mikael flew around on his fly and found a stash of gems and magic things. At this point, there’s nothing for Tressarian to scan to see if the Galeb Duhr were charmed or something, but Ezekiel is still floating that theory. He really, really wants a conspiracy theory that leads us to fight dark elves. I say what would Aliana think.
We’re far enough into the mountains now, we set up the fortress for the night. The fire burns just as well inside, and it keeps out the wind – and prying claws.
Well Ezekiel has gone and been Ezekiel again. When Raven woke me for my watch, we had a visitor in the fortress – an elf all bundled up sleeping against the wall.
The short version (which Raven gave me) of the long version (which Ezekiel gave him) is Ez and Mikael spotted this elf (with help from the ring of infravision, so I’m glad we have that) out in the snow watching the fortress. Ezekiel naturally invited him in (allegedly after some cautious questions on both sides) and fed him, and Raven says he’s been well-behaved since.
Tressarian says he’s not Magically Evil (so no Lower Plains or charm involved), and he seems to be properly geared for traveling in the wilds alone…though he’s got enough magic gear, I can’t help wondering if he had a party before, and if so what happened to them. Equipment like that isn’t cheap, and even the best of us need someone at our backs.