Continuing through the narrow confines beneath the ruined temple, the party encounters more undead, some corporeal, some not, and some able to hurl viscous globs of necromantic energy, but these were all succesfully managed. Further into the complex, among the constant din of crying and sighing, a woman’s screams echo through the corridors, the source of which cannot be far away. The party has yet another encounter, and are unable to rush to the victim’s aid. As they fight, an occasional scream sounds out, one of terrible agony.
After dispatching the latest foes, they continue on to a room which is much larger than the rest. Inside, a burning brazier boasts a number of red-hot irons, and upon a nearby table is the writhing form of something barely recognizable as human. A large, red-skinned demon stands over her, bringing his cleaver down and mercifully ending her life when he sees the characters. As the adventurers begin to enter the room, they notice two swarms of disembodied hands moving in a mocking semblance of life. Vindurinn casts one of his more powerful spells, and both the demon and one of the swarms fall to the ground, helpless for the moment. The ranger and rogue moving in and deal a significant amount of damage to their targets, which awakens the demon. He stands, but is soon knocked prone again by an attack, accumulating more damage. The combat was well fought by the party, and they came through it with no worrisome moments.
A chest was found inside another room, but though the container was quite large, it held but one item, an oval semi-precious stone about an inch in length. The stone did radiate a slight glow deep from within, though no one in the group knew what it might be. Once the ruins were cleared, the characters removed the bodies and spent the remainder of the day digging graves, over which Elhara eventually gave remembrance and blessing. They had removed any valuables from the corpses, and had gone through the homes, correlating belongings with families so that they might be returned to any relatives still in Nulray.
They then proceeded to Bale’s Retreat, discussing along the way the best method to return the money and goods, especially considering their somewhat cool relations with Mother Zubota.
They reached Bale’s Retreat and again asked to speak with Keltos, who again admitted them into the city. They asked the dwarf if he had a means by which he could communicate with the sgae, Roderick, whom they believed to be their safest contact in Nulray. The dwarf said that such a thing could indeed be managed, but the message would have to be very brief. The group declined, opting instead to take the chance of returning to the smaller community to return whatever items they could. Before they left, they asked Keltos if he knew about the strange stone which they had found, and while he didn’t, he could check with his contemporaries. It was eventually identified as an “Anchor Stone”, something which keeps demons or other extraplanar creaturese tethered to a particular area in any given plane. The party left the stone in the care of the dwarf, who was to see that it was placed within Bale’s Retreat’s own extradimensional portal.
The group rode once more to Nulray, asking the guards at the gate if the could speak with William the Vain. A short time later, he met the party at the gate, and they explained the particulars of their situation and their desires. He granted them entry into the community, again cautioning them to keep their activities limited to the inn. There, they met up with Roderick, who knew everyone and was familiar with the many families, and they asked if he could get in touch with those families they had identified from the splinter community. William said that his network was better suited to such a task, and thet it would take a shorter amount of time.
One by one, the family members arrived to take possession of their loved one’s valuables, and their was understandable grief and sorrow. Sometime during the afternoon, Mother Zubota and Broken Korvis came into the inn, and Mother expressed her dismay at the events which claimed the lives of so many and lamented their leaving the protection offered by Nulray. She did not, however, seem particularly surprised by the events. After the heroes returned what treasure they could, they expressed a desire to stay at the inn for the evening before riding out the following morning. This was agreed to, and William once more took a position by the door, where he remained all night.
The party rode north again, stopping at the shops outside of Bale’s Retreat only long enough to rest and reprovision before heading out to the next closest set of ruins on the map provided by the dwarven sage. These ruins were shown to be about two and a half weeks away, with Coldfel being the only community in between. The adventurers stopped in Coldfel, a predominantly dwarven city, to reprovision and spend a night indoors. The inner hold of the city was off limits for any non-dwarf, but visitors were free to move about the outer hold. The inn was large and crowded, and there was something of a buzz about a recently arrived performer to the city. When she came out to play, the characters recognized her by her flowing red hair and scarlet outfit, Abigail Hart. Realizing they were out of Iongate’s jurisdiction, they decided not to approach her about the questions raised before they left Irongate.
The party continued westward along the foot of the Northern Rim, and when they came within sight of the weather-worn ruins they sought, they also noticed a large force gather not too far beyond. As they rode nearer, they could see that dust and smoke came from the mountains to their north, and that this appeared to be some type of military force, though no banner or insignia was to be seen. They continued to approach and were met by a small force which rode out from the larger, though there was no sign of agression. The heroes mentioned their desire to scout the old ruins, and that the events here did not concern them. Permission was needed from the leader of this force, and together they went into the encampment.
From this vantage, the characters could better understand what was happening. A twisting path was cut into the mountainside, often switching back upon itself, through a series of seven gates which were obviously meant as defenses. The six lowest gates lay in cold ruin, while the highest showed signs of just having been defeated, and was the source of the plume of dust and smoke. Above, high on the slopes, was some type of large dwelling, which was marked as Edenhall on the map given by Keltos.
As they rode by the camp, they noticed a large area set up to treat the many wounded, and healers were rushing about frantically between them. It was then that a familiar face was recognized, the Priestess Reyna of Erathis, who had given the adventurers their introduction to their quest. After a brief exchange to refresh the priestess’ memory, Elhara asked if there were anything she could do to help. Reyna became emotional at the scale of the suffering, and not wanting to see anymore bloodshed, she asked if she would speak to the men and women of Edenhall to simply walk away and keep their lives.
Meeting with the commander of the force, they gained his permission to scour the ruins, but also asked if they could speak to the inhabitants of Edenhall, so that they might be spared. The commander said that several attempts had been made already to convince the scribes to leave their writings, but had each time been met with refusal. However, he would not deny them one last chance to save their lives, and if the newcomers thought they could convince them so, they were welcome to try. He said that the final push would be mad at dawn, and no quarter would be given then.
Adopting the accepted signal for parlay, the party headed by foot up the slopes, navigating the treacherous terrain and crossing wooden bridges where the stone walkway had been demolished. It was full dark when they reached the top, and the door to Edenhall opened. The characters were surprised to be met by a group of the elderly, none younger than sixty summers or so. One man spoke up immediately. “We have not changed our minds. Our works will not be yours.” The party expressed their relative neutrality in this situation, asking only that these people spare their own lives, and they were welcomed inside. What they found was disturbing, a collection of defenders who were obviously on their last legs.
When asked what could be worth their lives, the party was told that Edenhall collected and stored information from the previous age, with the intent that the knowledge should never be revealed. It had the power to do great good, and thus should not be destroyed, but could also wreak great ill. Before the attackers could reach it, these clerics, wizards, and academians would buy time with their lives in order to secure it. Vindurinn asked if they could just make an offering, but the spokesman shook his head, saying that anyone willing to go to these lengths would not be satisfied with a token offering. There did seem to be some doubt whether the defenses would hold long enough to secure or destroy their tomes and scrolls.
Just then, an injured defender stood from where he lay and began fastening his armor. He took up a mace in a hand which could barely support its weight, and staggered to the door despite the protestaions of the person tending him. As he crossed into the feeble light given by torches which burned in wall sconces, his face became visible for a second. He was significantly younger than the rest, spattered with blood, and his hair and beard were unruly, but a holy symbol of Kord identified him as a worshipper of the storm god. When Elhara caught sight of this individual, she blanched, the color draining from her face to be replaced by a look of shock and horror. This was noticed by her companions, but she declined to talk about it.