The five characters, each hailing from a different village in the Windy Vale, the protectorate of the city of Irongate, were summoned within the community walls with their neighbors by the tolling of a large bell which sounds only in times of great import. A burly priest militant of Erathis and a prefect from Irongate have arrived, and survey those gathered, sometimes speaking to each other, but not with those in the crowd.
The cleric then converses with the commander of the guard contingent, who in turn, accompanied by the village representative, approaches the character and congratulates him/her on being selected to serve the greater glory of Irongate by the will of Lord Ystan. The character is then told to present himself/herself at the Office of Billeting no later than a fortnight hence.
Each character travels southward through the Windy Vale, paralleling the Kendrichee River, which is swollen and flowing rapidly with the runoff from the snowy peaks of the Northern Rim. The journey on foot takes several days.
Upon reaching the northern wall of Irongate, which rests in a bottleneck in the Northern Rim, they see many buildings, apparently of recent construction, and it seems as if an army is being fielded. Asking about, the most likely explanation they hear is that Lord Ystan seeks an impressive display to gain the support of other communities around the Cradle before striking out further to reclaim the glory of ages past. They also learn that this desire to spread the influence of civilization is most likely the result of the counsel of Jendis Sloan, chief advisor to Lord Ystan and High Priest of Erathis.
The bard, Talerion, is first to arrive in the city, confident in his abilities and anxious to make his presence known. He arrives at the Billeting Office and proclaims his arrival to the guard on duty, a young woman by the name of Lisette. Though she clearly would not have any reason to have heard of this young man, she feigns knowedge when the bard acts as if she should have. It is obvious that she finds the bard charming.
The second to arrive is Elhara, a young priestess of Pelor, who politely checks in at the Billeting Office. She then makes her way to Mount Exalt, into which temples dedicated to each of the gods are set. She stays for afternoon services, noticing how much more ritualized services seem to be here than in her rustic village.
Next to arrive in Irongate is the battlemind, Abel, whose first order of business after checking in at the Billeting Office is to sleep, snoring loudly, after spending several nights huddled within a bedroll.
The bard, who had, in the meantime, managed to convince the owner of an inn called A Wicked Grin to allow him to perform later that evening, returns and introduces himself to the now awake battlemind. There is also a third individual present in the billeting barracks, a grizzled veteran name Hufri. The soldier is taciturn and unpleasant, obviously displeased with his upcoming assignment of escorting ambassadors. He does not know to where, and, in fact, the destination seems to matter little to him.
The priestess returns from the temple and meets both the bard and the battlemind, discovering that they have all recently been told to report here. With four days until their scheduled meeting, their time is pretty much their own.
The trio goes to A Wicked Grin several hours after sundown, where the bard climbs the small stage and delivers a talented performance on his lyre. He passes the hat and earns some respectable coin. He then begins working the room, hoping to find information on local occurances, buying pitchers of ale to loosen tongues. And of course, he drinks with all of his new friends. He then, somewhat unsteadily, climbs the stage once more, but the effect of the drink is evident in both his playing and his voice.
They return to billeting for the evening, deciding to return to the tavern on the morrow when it should be less hectic. The bard had learned that the proprietor, a tiefling named Arameekos, would be the best one to ask about opportunites which might provide some coin.
Before dawn, the priestess rises and returns to Mount Exalt, specifically to the Temple of Pelor, to attend morning services. There are only a few devout worshippers at this early hour, and she convinces an acolyte to allow her to speak with one of the priests. She explains to her brother in faith that she is soon to enter into the service of Irongate, though she knows not in what capacity. The priest assures her that it is the policy of the temple to attend to the needs of the clergy, and that aid will be offered if needed.
The priestess returns to the Billeting Office to find her two companions now awake, though suffering from the previous night’s excesses. They break their fast and venture to A Wicked Grin about noon. Unlike the evening before, when he had been working frantically to keep pace with the drink orders, Arameekos was now cool and collected, deliberate in both word and movement. He explains that his bartender, Nordan, has seemed to have disappeared with the latest performer, a young woman by the name of Abigail Hart. He would like the trio to go to Nordan’s house on Seven Lanterns Row and tell the man that if he does not show for work this evening, he will no longer have a job. Arameekos also tells the party that they may hear rumors that he is involved with illegal and illicit goods which make their way into the city. He does not confirm or deny these rumors, but he does know of another individual, a human by the name of Rattick Thorne, who is somehow getting herbalistic extracts into Irongate. As a concerned citizen, Arameekos would like the group to discover how this is being done and return to him with that information.
The young adventurers make their way to Seven Lanterns Row, a short, narrow street lined on either side by modest homes. There are a number of children playing in the street, and the bard rewards one urchin with a silver coin who tells him which house is Nordan’s. They go to the front door and knock, receiving no reply. They knock again, louder, with the same result. A hurried conversation takes place between the three, where the battlemind considers using his shield to bash the door in. The priestess then tries the handle, which she finds to be unlocked. She opens the door to reveal a body lying upon the floor in a pool of congealed blood. She moves to the side of the figure and finds that he is indeed dead, and probably has been for at least a day. A search of the house turns up a plate with dried blood and encrusted hair along the edge.
The three leave the house, and the bard and the priestess fetch a guardsman and tell him of their actions and their find. After being convinced of their innocence, the guard records contact information and tells them that this matter will be investigated. They then return to the inn and tell the news to Arameekos, who seems more concerned with finding another bartender than the death of his employee.
The party once more returns to the Billeting Office, where they meet three figures whom they had not seen before. The first is a quiet, demure man named Gravir, who informs them that he is a scribe who will be accompanying the diplomatic envoy to the city of Beacon, which is set to leave the following day. With this news, and knowing that their own meeting isn’t for another three days yet, the party concludes that they have not been selected to be emissaries, as had been speculated.
The other two individuals are roughly the same age as themselves and have also been selected from villages in the Windy Vale.