“Let us rest now, and enter the forbidden vale with sun’s first light to guide our way,” Hasan suggested. “The land here is good, but the sun is weak in the sky already. This hidden place will surely bring some dangers of its own, and I would like to face them well prepared.” The elf cultivated a small fire and began to roast two small quail he had shot earlier that day. Later that night, the elf studied his own spellbook, the pages’ familiar writing lulling him to sleep.
Ludo settled gratefully to the ground, a rest was welcome after the hard day’s tramp through the wilderness. He removed his boot and tipped out a small stone that had somehow made its way in there and been bugging him for the last couple of miles. He felt good, now that Golthar was dead, however they were travelling on the fringes of civilization going deeper into the wilderness where all sorts of dangers lurked, they would have to be on their guard.
“Hasan, keep the fire low. I suggest we start to keep watches overnight, we have no idea who or what is in these woods and it would do us no good to be attacked unprepared. I will take first watch.
Maruc settled down, he’d hardly notice the weight of his aromur now. He cast his mind back to when he first wore it. All his sore joints used to give him a lot of pain, but it had subsided now, thank Halav.
“I suggest we rest up completely before we trial the mountains, this may take several hours, perhaps a day for us to be fully healed. Hasan could you find us a place out of the wind where we can make camp?”
Maruc would spend his time between healing and meditating until all his friends were at full health.
The mage took the time to create a half dozen continual light stones before he grew too tired to concentrate. He mused over the information they had so far.
“Hutaaka. They must be the Jackal people that ranged about this place in times past. Golthar himself referred to the Hutaaka hence my thoughts that he was speaking of a culture rather than a place. Although what the Sons of Night sort to find out from this ancient race are quite beyond me. Some ability to further their cause no doubt.” He toyed with the lightstone in his hand. “They are a fearsome race if they are able to imbue statues with life, I suspect we may find more as we travel.” He pulled out the tapestry. “This is a magical map, it may have other functions? Maybe it is a key as well? Golthar was very keen on its acquisition.”
He laid back on his bedroll. “Perhaps we will learn more as we travel. Golthar’s flying incantation may come in handy on a journey into the mountains. I shall prepare that I think.” Miklos sat and copied Golthar’s spells into his book and memorized those he thought most useful.
The dwarf was content as they set camp. They were well away from city now and he could feel the ground beneath his feet was more stone now than soil. This reminded him of home.
Feldard volunteered for the midnight watch knowing that the spellcasters preferred uninterrupted sleep and that his infravision would give him an advantage during the darkest part of the night.
Stephan also felt what he sensed his companions mood to be. He found himself strangely elated to be venturing into the mountains. Threshold and Golthar were shed off now like scabs of old wounds. The path ahead looked up. It promised the unknown and mystery. It held forth the promise of confronting evil. It was just his cup of mead. And it seemed that he was in good company that also felt this surge of vigor, hope and excitement. He slept well that night, taking the third watch and ensuring a merry breakfast awaited his mates as they rose.
The following morning just after dawn, Feldard helped clean up the camp, dousing the last remnants of the fire used to cook breakfast. Ludo filled his canteen from the river and chewed on some salted beef whilst he waited for the others to shake off the night’s sleep.
“Thank you for your patience, my friends,” said the prient, thankful that they had given him enough time to arm himself with fresh blessings from Halav. “I know the time grates for you but we would have been fools to venture forth on this last dangerous leg of the journey unprepared.” With that he packed his gear and squinted into the lowering clouds and gathering mists. “It looks like a venture for warm clothing.”
The magical map was once more tucked away into his pack and his axe was nicely sharpened and oiled. He was looking forward to this leg of the journey. The dwarf even smiled as they set off towards mountain valley.
As they set off, Ludo looked back and saw Feldard smile, or was it a grimace? He wasn’t sure. Exploring the unknown wilderness filled the young rogue with excitement. He could sense they were getting closer to their goal. As they marched off, Ludo followed Hasan as he led the way through the undergrowth keeping a careful eye out for anything unusual or out of place.
Setting out, Stephan found it difficult to keep up with the dwarf. “Mind you, Feldard. You have the pace of a fire eagle! Your legs have no lag! Don’t leave us all behind!”
The elf led led the party north, the Foamfire slipping by steadily on their left. The broken landscape was hard travelling, and there was no path, except for the faintest of gametrails along the river’s rocky bank.
As they continued, they came across several places where saw the stones of an ancient road running along the riverbank.
At mid-day, they saw a thin tendril of smoke coiling into the air ahead.