The weather becomes overcast as the adventurers leave the Valley of the Fallen Magisters and turn south to Vandalin. As they rejoin the main road, an uncomfortable drizzle begins. Strange clouds mass above the mountains to the west, near the border with Mittel, and for a moment they catch the scent of incense upon the wind.
Their travelling companion, the eccentric Septeminian man named Parasmus, has settled down a little now that he’s away from the Fallen Magisters. Indeed, it seems the further away he gets from it, the better he is. He doesn’t have a strong recollection of how he got to the Valley, but he recalls that his sextant, found in either the market or library of Vindabona and now either lost or destroyed, whispered to him and lead him there. Tagar mutters under his breath that the sextant is likely cursed, and the adventurers all agree that it’s best the mysterious device isn’t coming along for this trip.
Aerwyn and Dardiana ask Parasmus questions about his childhood and the Six High, both of which he’d mentioned earlier. Parasmus explains that the Six High are a term he uses to describe the races of Giants that pre-date the dragons and humanoid races, and who ruled this land long ago before there were any human empires. The Giants were very different from one another, and were bound by a compact. He doesn’t know what happened to them, but knows that they retreated from the world long ago. That said, when he was a child on a beach near Vindabona, he saw one of the Six High rising from the sea. He recalls she approached him and smiled, but she was then ushered back under the waves by a distant figure. Parasmus hopes that a druid named Verreban, who lives in this region, may be able to help understand the mystery of the rune-carved obsidian hidden by the Fallen Magisters.
Vandalin is a small town on a gentle hill. Behind the town, to the south, they can see a group of perhaps 30 or more people packing up tents and possessions. The town itself looks quiet, but the adventurers quickly identify that the remains of an old manor house has been recently set alight, as it still has smoke balefully rising from the ruins. When they enter the town proper, Tagar gets directions from a man named Tobias. He leads them to the Miner’s Exchange, where they meet a woman named Talia. Talia explains that a group of brigands, named the Redcloaks, have been run out of town within the past few days, and that the (unnamed) necromancer who led these brigands has recently fled on horseback. The Redcloaks’ time in Vandalin coincided with a series of disappearances; the manor has been the base of operations for these enemies for some months, and the villagers have now extracted their revenge by burning the remains of the headquarters. Questions around the Rangers of Sunder and Altamarian garrison don’t get the adventurers far; the members of the garrison appear to have vanished some months back (before the arrival of the Redcloaks), while the Rangers have hit the road to the south to defeat some goblins near Redpeak and see if they can find any sign of the necromancer. Talia does ask some questions around the ‘Six Swords Society’, but the adventurers say they’ve never heard the term before.
Following Talia’s recommendation, the adventurers head back around to Stonehill’s Inn, which is run by Tobias. Dardiana playing a fine song on her mandolin that guarantees both free food and drink, and also lodging for Parasmus. Aerwyn chats to the waitstaff, Rosie, and discovers that
- Verreban is a druid who protects the Tree of Stars, which is located a few miles past Thunderfell.
- Thunderfell is a village built near the elven ruins that mark the old border between Mittel and Sunder.
- The village has recently become more built-up (i.e., within the past twenty or thirty years).
From previous information, the adventurers also know that a Hag has been seen near the Tree of Stars.
As the adventurers travel through the town, they see the remains of the battles that had been fought here. A tavern is closed up, and stinks of death. A fine building, once the Townmaster’s Residence, has been burned to the ground – and at least two charred sets of bones can be found amongst the rubble. Dardiana also chats to a man by the apple orchard near the town gates, while Aerwyn explores the half-built church and meets Sister Garael, a Mittelian elf who worships Marianus. The adventurers speak again with Talia at the Miner’s Exchange. She says that the recently-deceased townmaster was offering to pay for scalps for the gnolls and orcs harassing Widowsreach, or the goblins down near Redpeak, and she’s willing to honour that. She also asks them for help in passing on news to a travelling monk named Kella that there’s been a death in the family. Kella left a few days ago on the road to Mittel, which would pass through Thunderfell, and was travelling slowly on foot. They may be able to catch up with her if she’s tarried along the way. Talia does warn them that orcs have been seen near Thunderfell, coming up from the south.
The next morning, the adventurers leave for Thunderfell. The weather remains poor, and the road is quieter than that leading to Vandalin. The air gets cooler on the second day as they climb up into the mountain pass. The land here bears the scars of battles past – as the road twists and turns, they catch sight of a cleft mountain, where the phenomenon known as the Shear has sliced deeply into the rocky peak. The trees here are tall and grow close to the road. Filigreed ruins, covered in moss and ivy, can be seen amongst the thick, untamed undergrowth.
The group hear Thunderfell before they see it, due to the continuous ringing of church bells. The adventurers identify several dozen tracks leading north, and 14 smaller sets – goblins! – coming back. There are also two large wolf-like prints. Inside is a mess; several buildings have been haphazardly smashed by gigantic rocks, as has the bridge to the similarly damaged keep. The remains of several townsfolk are found in the rubble, both in the fields and the collapsed homes.
The battle for Thunderfell is brutal. Two worgs almost kill the adventurers within the first few minutes, and the adventurers go house-by-house, building-by-building to rid the place of goblins. In all, the adventurers slay all 14 foes, but they’re exhausted and their magical resources are much diminished. Soon after Dardiana discovers a tressym (winged cat) in one of the residences (who she promptly names ‘Priscilla’), Tagar and Aerwyn search the square and identify that a statue or something similar has been removed from the town. Tagar then leads them to the partially-destroyed inn, where he’d previously spotted a goblin killed by a crossbow bolt. They help a woman down from the wreckage of the top floor, who introduces herself as Kella.