On the third of Neth, each member of the party is approached by their mentor in private. Zakkariak tells his hot-headed student Bart that it’s time to prove himself a true Thundershot; rakis Jove informs Asphodel that he’s cutting her free; caring Iolanthe informs Lisianthus that she’s put her dearest friend’s daughter up for an important ceremony; and the ominous White Annis tells Solenzara that if she were to participate, she’d find something “most interesting” within the tomb.
So our curious heroes find themselves arriving in the town square of Kassen as the church bell tolls a mournful call. Villagers, dressed for mourning, slowly fill the square as the mayor laments of the chill of winter and its encroaching upon the town. “Who will be the heroes that stood as Kassen did, so many years ago?!” he called. As if summoned by the divine call, Bart strides forward, flicking the brim of his cap with a confident smirk. Asphodel and Sia are steps behind, and the fourth arrives soon after, cloaked in grey with a hawk upon her shoulder. The mayor offers forth the sacred lantern and points to the south, telling the heroes that they are to return with Ekat Kassen’s eternal flame, kept within the crypt within the Serpent’s Gorge. The four make their way south, leaving as villagers offer mournful goodbyes.
The journey is quiet for a few hours, until three savage orcs appear, their tusks jutting from their jaw and foul oaths harshly falling from their mouths. Bart wings one with his crossbow, but it’s Zara who sees through the illusion, realizing that the orcs before them are nothing more than a trick of the mind. As the images fade, the scent of licorice and tobacco suffuse the air, before being carried away on the breeze. Recognizing the scent as that of White Annis, Zara smirks before the party continues southward
That first evening is a harrowing one. Cold winds blow through the thicketed camp, and the branches overhead dance in a manic way. As the party cooks their evening meal, a wolf’s howl can be heard in the distance. Soon after, a wolf can be seen on the perimeter of camp. Luckily, Sia works her druidic magic, allowing her to converse with the beast. The emaciated creature explains that hunting has been rough the past few months, as they had been driven from their hunting grounds. In a compassionate gesture, the party shares their evening meal with the wolf and his two brothers. After eating, the trio wanders into the woods once more, allowing the party a well-deserved rest.
The following morning is grey and rainy, the drizzle oppressive as the party continues their journey. Coming upon the Grey Lake, the group comes across a human body upon the shore. His clothing suggests he hails from somewhere outside of Kassen, as none recognize him. Clearly, he had run afoul of the lake serpent, as the bites surely attest. Lightening the dead man’s purse and liberating his sword, the quartet makes their way to the Serpent’s Gorge.
Slowly and carefully sliding down the steep wall of the gorge, the party found themselves at the entrance to the Crypt of the Everflame. Curiously enough, the double doors to the Crypt were already left ajar… and five slaughtered animals lay outside, tethered to stakes driven into the ground. Beneath one of the horses was a set of ancient bones, but the kills were fresh, within the past week at most. Just what could have done that? What of the man found on the edge of the lake? And just what lies within the caverns of the Crypt of the Everflame? Find out next time!