A short time later, our heroes arrived in the town of Womford. After asking around town, it was easy enough to find the docks and a few mentions of a keelboat captain selling odd books. When arrived at the keelboat pointed out to them, they are greeted by a fierce looking water genasi named Shoalar, and his halfing servant, Pike. At first, Samera asks about the books and Shoalar flatly denies any knowledge of such a thing. But, sensing he may know more than he’s letting on, Lavinia stands near the back of the group and attempts the few thieves’ cant tricks she knows from the area. Shoalar, ultimately more observant than they’d realized, notices the gesture and promptly invited Lavinia alone onto his ship. The budding rogues have a short conversation and Shoalar reveals that a few tendays before he mentions, “ferried unsavory passengers across the river a couple of tendays ago, and how they paid was no worry of mine.” He describes men in black robes and gargoyle masks, but he doesn’t know what happened to them after he dropped them off up stream.
With no other information to be had, our heroes leave Womford and begin the trek to Beliard.
Up the Dessarin Road
Unfortunately our heroes never actually make to Beliard. As they travelled north along the Dessarin Road, Affadil noticed a cloud of ravens and vultures circling a mile or so west of the trail. This perked their interest and they decided to investigate. In a small dell a mile off the road, they found the remains of a battle. A dozen dead soldiers laid on the ground, dressed in black surcoats bearing the emblem of a red axe, which Samera pointed out was the symbol of Mirabar. Most of these soldiers had appeared to die from battle injuries, although some laid in small craters or jumbles of broken rock. Abandoned and looted wagons were nearby. A couple of broken trunks sat on the ground by the wagons. Two rock cairns — one large and one small — stood atop a hillside nearby.
Affadil was the first to point out that these cairns were the result of powerful earth magic. Inside of the larger one were five dead bugbears, all dressed in black leather armor with a strange triangular symbol on their chests.
In the smaller cairn was the body of a human woman in black robes and wearing the golden mask of a snarling gargoyle. Samera decided to take the mask, hoping it may prove valuable later on. Lastly, Affadil inspected the area for tracks and found plenty. A large group of about thirty bugbears and medium sized humanoids wearing boots headed west into the hills. Since they only found soldiers and no members of the delegation, our heroes assumed they had been taken. With not much else to go on, they decided to follow the tracks and head west, plunged their horses into the river and emerged on the other side.
Once they’d reach the shore on the other side of the river, they heard screeching high up in the sky. A trio of enormous vultures were approaching from the west. Atop these mounts were men in shining armor and without warning, these men attacked. It was a short battle, but a single vulture managed to escape and took off back toward the west. When our heroes searched the fallen knights, they discovered one had a map tucked inside his boot. The map showed a crude sketch of the Dessarin Valley and marked a place called “the Spire” a few miles east of Red Larch. It also depicted a strange arrow-like symbol by the site.
It only made sense to seek out this spire. Onward went out heroes.