After an interesting conversation with the old man at the bone pile, the party went to sleep, camping rough beneath the cloudy sky. The closer they were to the old man’s campfire, the less impacted they were by cold and rain…leading Tolan and Cirindal to suspect a powerful ritual magic at use.
Later in the night, they were awoken by the old man who stood now clad in old fashioned Cathmerean legionaries armor, and commanded them to ready themselves, and to stand against that which was coming.
As lightning flared overhead and pale mist began to leach from the bonepile, the heroes took their places, readying themselves against the presence they felt pushing out from the Shadowfell, testing their resolve to stand and hold.
First came three tall men wearing crowns and masks of beaten gold and clad in shimmering mail, bearing long ash-shafted spears, who stalked forward from the mists to stand proudly before Tolan, gazing down upon him from their regal heights.
Son of our sons, the Circle Unbound yet sits silently and unheeded. Carry word if you can that the Veil is again joined and the souls of the Lost cry out to the Unfound, raising a chorus to the Saints and the Old Green Gods. An Enemy of Myriad and Legion stirs the Forgotten Realms; the pride of the Fey fades and only Children of Anurayak will face the Invaders. Decide if you shall yield the way or defend the Ancient Foe.
Turning, they took up positions of guarding before fading into the mist.
Then a strange, tall humanoid figure bearing short rods, cloaked in green and grey moved to stand momentarily before Xandfere, leaning to whisper to him before shrugging and stalking past to vanish into mist.
Four young children, leaped and tumbled out of the mist to take up position about Nivek, circling him, and watching warily over their shoulders. They seemed to call out to him, before bloody wounds began to appear on their small bodies and they collapsed to fade into the earth.
Four warriors with green covered shields then marched forth to stand and salute Hengest. Again, their words went unheard before they turned to face the now palpable sense of dread coming from the bone pile.
Finally, a lone Eladrin noble, clad in finest courtly garb, strolled to stand before Cirndall, and his words were clearly heard.
You are not the Thief, though you bear the taint of his teaching. You will find him soon for his enemies, both ancient and recent, seek to find their way here. When you do, you will return to me that which he took. I can find you now and can take your soul for mine when I choose. Now, a taste of that which hunts us all and seeks to return to the forests around Mithrendain. Do not let it pass.
As he spoke, he looked sadly over his shoulder where now a giant skeletal dragon, formed as if from smoke and ash, clawed madly at the Veil Between the Worlds. The Eldadrin Prince faded, leaving the scent of pine and grave-ash in his wake.
Four giant skeletal forms took shape at the feet of the dragon and lurched down the bone pile, as they old man called upon the heroes to defeat this foe, as he would stand in their stead!
The battle was furious, but the combined martial prowess and magical skills of the Flaybridge Five quickly shattered the skeletons, somehow cancelling the ritual that the dragon was casting and preventing that creature from crossing over.
The Old Man healed the party wounds, gifted them with small rewards and relayed the words that had gone unheard.
To Xandfere: Apprentice—vengeance is not the path. Victory is but the instance before the next defeat. The Ways are opened and our Homes await. Beware the…
To Nivek: Last of our Five, Last of our Fist. Death is not a stranger nor should he be feared. The Old Masters stir in their hiding places and call out for Service; forget your oath! Foreswear the Vow! Live for those of us who are Fallen. Fight for those who can hear the Voice! Forgive the Unforgiven and Beware the Caller in the Dark.
To Hengest: Brother! Have you seen the Captain? The Giants come and bring with them the deviltry of Lies and Magic. We need his guidance and his commands. The Saints called and he took his place but what of us who always fought beside him? There! The Giants, the come and they bring enough for all!
In the morning, after much discussion and conversation with the old man, and secure in their knowledge that the Veils were open now, the heroes turned their horses towards the Chertwall to the south and rode hard for the hills.
Arriving at the foot of the ridge, they could make out the remnants of the ancient fortifications that ringed the central valley of the Chertwall, where the old mines had been. Tolan relayed that the fortifications pre-dated the Cathmerean Empire, but had been strengthened and added to by which ever power controlled the hills. At either end, east and west, were said to be great towers and gatehouses, enchanted and warded by the Sky Tyrants themselves. As the party began to ride westward at the base of the ridge, they began to note sections of the hilltop walls that had been destroyed or had fallen.
Leaving their horses, more or less secured, in a copse of trees, the heroes began the hard climb up the Chertwall ridge. Scrambling over scree and fallen rock, pulling themselves up short cliff faces, they managed to reach the base of the wall near a large hole that they presumed had been made during the Giant War. As Xandfere ghosted up to the wall to scout, and the others puffed and wheezed after the long ascent, the expected ambush occurred. Ogres, goblin archers and hobgoblin witchery did not stand long against the onslaught as Tolan lay down a cloud of poison gas, Hengest lent martial aid about the field, Xandfere slew from the shadows, Nivek flew to the wall top and beat the archers down, and Cirindal cut down any foe brave enough to face him.
Looking past the wall into the valley below, they saw to the west a keep from which flew the Crescent Moon banner matching the heretical sigil of the followers of Lars di Meravayn, and presumably where the missing churchmen were being held. To the east, just nearly out of sight were the towers and gatehouses, with a large army of what were presumed to be hobgoblins camped out.
The hilltop wall circled the valley, some 15 miles in length, and 5 to 7 miles across. Spires of rock were connected to the hilltop defenses by arching bridges, held aloft by ancient design and magics. The heroes would need to travel eastward to a tower and bridge connected to a lower spire, around which they could just pick out a circling staircase down to a lower plateau from which another arching bridge might give access to the Meravayn Keep. Their course was set.
< Tower and crossing to inner spire.
From spire to Meravayn Keep >