“Should I be on my guard on a night such as this? I hear ye been lookin’ for me…" Wryde stood in the living space of his sister’s small home. Warrick d’Montford, Sir Childris Osteman and Narthairian Brentar introduced themselves and explained the reason they had sought out the Pastor of Caer Cllydn. Upon hearing their quest, Pastor Wryde agreed that it was a worthwhile endeavor and decided to throw in his lot with the three travelers. They made preparations to leave the Highlands the following day.
27 Sirrimont to 13 Lytormont
With such a knowledgeable guide, the group was able to travel back to Hanover City in two weeks. They experienced no difficulties along the way. Back in Hanover City, Narthairian Brentar took his leave of the other travelers to check in at the Cathedral. Upon returning to the offices of Hightower Security, the others were greeted with several pieces of news. First, Grom had tracked down some additional information about the recently fenced Glenside cavalry saddles. Secondly, a Moravian knight had sought a meeting with Warrick at the offices of the Hightower Company. Finally, a rude knight of Exeter had presented himself to Hightower and demanded a meeting with Warrick as soon as possible. This rude Knight had seemed very put off that Warrick was not immediately available.
The heroes gathered in the private quarters of Gromdon Hindalfsen to make plans. Grom had discovered that a consignment of saddles belonging to the Baroness’ guards had been fenced through a warehouse in the seedy dock area along the Hanover River, outside of the City itself. This dilapidated warehouse was some sort of front for a group of thieves calling themselves The Night Panthers. A working girl known to Grom named Maria had divulged to him that a recent party at the warehouse had been broken up by a ruffian with a thick scar on his face. Also, she had tripped over a trapdoor on her way out of the building. The group decided to approach the warehouse the following night and gather clues.
The following day, Warrick met up again with Sir Huro, a retainer of Sir Kabik of Moravia. Warrick was presented with his father’s longsword, a masterwork blade with grey-blue handle entwined with silver wire. Then, after depositing some items of power at the White Tower of the Society of the Golden Bough, Warrick and his companions headed for the Garden District and Exeter House.
Several soldiers in livery stood quard outside of the stone house that was hung with the banners of Exeter. After a few tense moments, Warrick was ushered into the house and into the presence of Sir Jusal who he recognized from William Fitzhugh’s home. Since Warrick was known as an engineer and entrepreneur, and additionally was a native of Crystal Lake, the Exeter man had an offer of employment by way of the Equerry. He would be given a generous commission to return to Easton and design and construct the Exeter castle there. Additionally, there would be gainful employment for Sir Childris with the cavalry contingent that would be quartered in Easton. However, the job was contingent upon leaving immediately. Warrick thanked the man for the gracious offer, but politely declined as he would not be able to leave immediately. While this offer was being made, an Exeter soldier made several outbursts in protest to the offer. He was ultimately cowed by the heroes and left the room in disgrace.
Back at his lodgings, Sir Childris was performing routing grooming upon Spartan when the man working in the next stall over struck up a conversation. “Magnificent animal,” he said. “It would be a shame for anything to happen to a fine beast like that.” He then left, leaving Sir Childris somewhat uneasy in his wake. The group repaired to Sir Childris’ quarters and made preparations to reconnoiter the warehouse. They also briefly discussed commissioning a playwright to construct a mockery of Exeter. While they were doing so, a commotion was heard in the street. Watching from the window, Grom spotted smoke coming from the stable across the way. This was not the stable housing Spartan, however.
Sir Childris, Warrick and Wryde rushed into action to battle the blaze and to rescue the horses across the way. Fearing that the fire might be a distraction, Sir Childris asked Grom to keep a quiet eye upon Spartan, which the intrepid rogue did. As Wryde turned into an elemental being of water to quench the flames and Childris used his knowledge of horse psychology to guide the beasts within the stable to safety, Grom noticed a man fitting the description of the earlier conversationalist approach Spartan. This newcomer fed half a carrot to the mighty steed. Under Groms watchful steely gaze, Warrick approached the man, having spotted him from the street. They spoke briefly, with the stranger making somewhat veiled threats about leaving town. The man then departed, shadowed by Grom, who followed him though a circuitous route back to Exeter House.
Having extinguished the flames and rescued all of the horses, the crew left for the docks along the Hanover River. It was a dark and friendless night. The scent of low tide clung to the scene. The heroes borrowed a rowboat and made their way quetly and efficiently underneath the warehouse pier, aided by the magic of Warrick, which allowed them to see in the dark. Short work was made of the trapdoor, and Grom slipped inside the warehouse. He was followed by Warrick, who also climbed the ladder and slipped inside. In the room, three men were playing cards. One of these three noticed Warrick and rose to confront him, striding forward threateningly. Two blades, one on fire, flashed in the lantern light and crimson splashed the table and chairs. Two rogues lay gushing out thier life’s blood upon the warehouse floor. The third rogue dropped his cudgel as he felt the heat of Grom’s sword press to his back. A short interrogation followed, in which Warrick used his magic to discomfit and intimidate the hapless rogue. He discovered that the scarred man was named Lew, who had gotten the saddles from his brother Stew in a village called Graham located in the hills to the west of Hanover City. Warrick d’Montford instructed Grom to clean up his mess, which Grom did by disposing of the two bodies. The group departed the charnel house as the hapless rogue got out a mop to begin to clean up the puddles of blood.
The next day, the group departed Hanover City for Graham, a journey which took four uneventful days. Arriving at Graham, they noticed that the quaint village was situated on the pebbly shore of a large lake. Grom approached Stew’s house and spoke to Stew’s woman. He discovered that Stew was part of a gang led by a man who fancied cats. Also in the gang were a pair of brother warriors of no mean skill who favored large shields. The gang of highwaymen made their encampment on an island on the other end of the lake. Hiring a fishing boat, the crew made their way cautiously towards the island. On the island, they found a long-abandoned camp. They also found a hedge maze. Wryde calculated the the Skein of Madness likely fell through the center of the maze. He also noted that the island had scarce wildlife, and that the animals in evidence were acting strangely.
Making their way cautiously through the hedge maze, the group was attacked by a section of hedge that seemed to come to life. While dealing with this, they were also beset by a Minotaur of largish size. After a brief scuffle, the living hedge and the minotaur were defeated. After several false turns, the heroes found the center of the maze. The sun was sinking to the west, casting its light through the ring stone and onto the standing stone of Warrick’s scrying vision. Pausing momentarily, the heroes noticed a dead body in the near distance. Upon investigation, they found that the highwayman had been stabbed to death in the back, then looted. With a few moments to spare, the group approached the menhir and prepared to traverse it’s gateway. The group was whisked away along the Skein of Madness to an unknown destination, during which the madness tried unsuccessfully to pry into their minds. They arrived exhausted, Warrick most of all. They were in a glade next to another menhir and seemed to be at a much higher elevation. It was fully dark.
As Warrick slumbered, a cat was noted to approach the encampment. It slunk away when it saw the bear-form of Wryde. A while later, a man approached the camp. He too saw the bear, and turned to run. Wryde-bear ran him down and dragged him back to the camp. Grom slunk out into the darkness and recovered a porcelain mask that the running man had dropped. The man told Sir Childris that he had been sent by his leader, Reginald, to communicate with the group by way of the mask. Placing the mask upon his face, Grom became paralyzed. Rossik the Artist’s face peered out from where Grom’s face used to be. He asked for Warrick, then spoke with Childris when told Warrick was not to be disturbed. He asked Childris what Warrick was up to, but seemed dissatisfied with the answers he got. “The Baroness is to be rescued, but not by you!” he snapped. Getting testy, he demanded Warrick rudely. Childris responded by removing the mask from Grom, restoring the rogue’s ability to move. Around midnight, Pastor Wryde on watch called a contingent of animals to join in the blessings of the Trinity. This night, he was joined by an unusually large number of housecats.
The next day, Sir Childris reported the conversation to his cousin, who expressed puzzlement over the reference to Easton. Interrogating the captured rogue, they discovered that the dead man was in fact Stew and that he had been dealt with for defying instructions and stealing the saddles from the rest of the gang. The heroes were also told that the path in front of them led into a small valley over a wooden bridge. In the valley was the house where the gang was staying. Through a tunnel on the far side of the house was a tower where “The Lady” was being held. “Only the Goblin goes there.” On further questioning, he revealed that the goblin was Urukuhag himself, Warrick’s friend from the Red Claw Orc tribe and the original subject of Rossik’s painting. When asked how the bandits would return to Graham, the thug was unclear, but he indicated that Reginald had operated the portal. This fact made Wryde very angry because Reginald was messing with ancient magics that could backfire.
The group prepared themselves and made their way cautiously up the path. The air was crisp and chill. They followed the path along a cliff to their left and a precipitous drop to their right. A waterfall was heard in the distance, which slowly came into view. A slippery looking wooden bridge perched atop a fast moving and treacherous appearing stream where the waterfall plummeted from the left hand cliff. The heroes stopped and surveyed the bridge. Four men were waiting on the far side of the bridge with weapons ready. Also evident were a half dozen archers.
The group of miscreants on the bridge called out to the heroes, bidding Warrick to advance and parley. After some discussion, Warrick and Sir Childris Osteman advanced towards the bridge. When they were halfway to the bridge, the cowards sprung their trap. At a pre-arranged signal, which they tried to pretend was a response to the heroic Wryde casting spells, the villains sprung. Bowfire and treachery reached out towards Warrick and Childris. Warrick of the cunning mind sought to incinerate the bridge defenders, but some foul sorcery stopped his just action. Another spell of his was countered before Warrick was able to enhance his comrades. Meanwhile, Grom unleashed a flask of magical monkeys on the bridge defenders. Childris also advanced upon the bridge defenders, whose cowardly actions deprived him of his fine sword. After falling back, Sir Childris re-armed himself with Warren d’Montford’s sword while Warrick cast an enlarging spell upon him. Thus readied, Sir Childris waded into the pitched battle. The miscreants tried to use subterfuge, guile and a Lightning Bolt Wand against the heroes, but were ultimately undone. Gromdom Hindalfsen used subterfuge of his own to distract the enemy archers, six strong. Pastor Wryde called upon the powers of the Allmighty to strike down his foes while Warrick employed his powers arcane to enhance his comrades and to clear the bridge. Ultimately, the enemy spearman ran for his life, having been deeply cut by the unseen blade of Gromdon. Warrick gave pursuit, stopping the enemy before he could gain the valley house. Having rendered his opponent unconscious, Warrick carried his body back to the bridge where the others had finished dispatching the remaining defenders. Of these, only the spearman still breathed.
Warrick examined the fallen, and found four enchanted rings and one healing potion. Using his knowledge and guile, he was able to discern the purpose of three of the four rings were to counter magics cast at the wearer. He surmised that the fourth ring might have had the same property. Breathing a sigh of relief at carrying the field during the short violent battle, the heroes gathered themselves and made ready to press on.