Having made arrangements, the party made ready to travel north into the Jendarri lands to determine the nature of this “ancient evil” let loose by the “Emissary” Foss. Stocking up on rations and bundling their warmest clothing, the party headed north along the Great North Road. A day’s travel put them at the small mining town of Bardenhold, west of the Blanryde Hills. Staying at the larger of the two inns in town, The Copper Nugget, they asked about the next day’s travel. The innkeep, Asgar Kraddorn, explained that about 15 miles north was the fishing town of Ashenport. Most people stop there for the night, but a determined caravan can press on to Sandpoint if they don’t mind arriving after nightfall.
The next day, they took Asgar’s advice and pressed on, passing through Ashenport a bit after noon and arriving in Sandpoint after dark. Taking rooms at an inn called The White Deer, the party again enjoyed a quiet night.
The last leg of their journey took them a little over 40 miles and well into the night to reach North Tower, the northernmost outpost of the Kingdom of Hawkmoon. Staying at The Sharpened Spear, they spent some time with sailors from the distant lands of Petrovia whose captain had stopped at North Tower for a small bit of shore leave. There they were introduced to the unique Petrovian spirits known as vodka.
Setting out the next morning, just a bit worse for wear after a night of drinking the potent beverage, the party was determined to head north along the coast until reaching the great Gwenvieren River, sister to the Celindria. There they would follow the river until arriving at the Jendarri town of Berwyn.
Zin spent much of the day hunting for food for the party, so that their rations would last longer in case they needed the food. However, as night fell, they found themselves without tents or shelter. Finding a hollow that barely provided cover, they slept a restless night and woke up exhausted and spent. The next day, and the days after that, Zin began a new routine, hunting during the morning hours and searching for an appropriate campsite when the hunt was over. Although the nights were rough, the extra time searching for shelter more often than not turned up a suitable site.
Two more days passed before the party came to the Gwenvieren, and 5 more days upriver. While they had left the road far behind at North Tower, a path that seemed somewhat traveled often pointed the way. Nearing the end of the fifth day, in the late afternoon they spotted their destination, the town of Berwyn.
The town looked unlike any settlement in Hawkmoon. The structures were old, and many of the buildings lay empty or in ruin. The town seemed to have three distinct styles, with only the newer construction seeming to be made by man. The oldest buildings were often covered by images and reliefs of dragons, dragonborn and beastfolk, though much of it was defaced long ago. The next set of buildings seemed the largest, doorways at least double the height of a tall man would open up into many structures. The style of these buildings was somewhat primitive compared to the first. The newest construction was clearly Jendarri work.
An island lay at the west end of the city, the point at which the southern River Bern fed into the Gwenvieren. On that island were three enormous buildings. The first was a manor house seemingly fit for a king. The second a tall tower which was unmistakeably an ancient observatory and the third building, which dwarfed the other two even though it was not as tall as the observatory, seemed as if it were sealed up. On the eastern edge of town, just inside the old walls, lay a ancient stronghold of some type. It was here that Torra kept looking. When she asked the rest of her companions if they heard the pleas, they confirmed her suspicions. A powerful spirit lay beneath those ruins, crying to be freed, and though she could hear the spirit’s call clearly, there was something wrong about it.
Taking rooms at the Red Horse Inn, they spent the next few days gathering information. Torra went almost immediately to the Gweirhenge Circle, one of the most powerful Jendarri Circles. She spent the rest of her time with the Circle undertaking rituals unknown by outsiders.
Zin spent the first night at the Fang and Claw, a rowdy inn and tavern catering to the hunters and trappers. Somewhat disappointed that the clientele at the Fang worked on a barter system, exchanging hides, pelts and other valuables gathered from nature for room board and gambling stakes, Zin was up to 4 mink pelts before he lost it all on the last bet.
The next day, Diego visited the local skald, Lysa of Amael. When he approached Lysa’s home and school, he was brought back to his childhood. Lysa was drilling a few Jendarri youth in the Hanferren Saga, which told the story of Odin’s defeat during the Dawn War and the ascension of his daughter Ingunn, who the Arvanorans call Ioun. The stanzas and verses exactly as he had been made to learn them years ago.
Asking Lysa about Varnhold and about Argent, Diego was told that there were many ancient stories about Jendarri heroes approached by men in silver cloaks and asked to join the heroes of Argent. Most Jendarri refused, not wishing to be taken away from their people. According to the stories, the heroes of Argent were served by minotaurs who acted as squires and henchmen for heroes. Of Varnhold, Lysa told of the local heroes Maegar Varn and his Varnling Host. The Varnling Host were Varn’s adventuring companions for years before the group decided to found a new Stedding. He recruited most of his initial villagers from Berwyn, though as he passed through Ogmund’s Crossing, he picked up more followers. Varn was a fighter by trade, his host included Wllas Gundrason, a Jendarri ranger, Caspar Morgarion, a cleric of Frey, Howitt Gurney, another fighter, and the wizard Cephal Lorentus.
At Gweirhenge, Diego met with Mahlar of Scobel, the face of the Circle. When asked about ancient evils and dangers to Varnhold, Mahlar spoke of many battles with the centaur clans of the Nomen Heights. He also said that there were old stories that indicated the area around Berwyn was inhabited by cyclops during the reign of the giants. Another source of danger could be the fey of the Darkoak Forest.
Two days after arriving in Berwyn, Torra rejoins the group somewhat solemn. They leave that day out of the east gate and follow a well-trod path for two days to the small village of Ogmund’s Crossing. There they stay at the Redfeather Inn where Sahail and his wife Laren make their stay as comfortable as possible. Laren’s cooking is incredible, and Sahail brags that she is the best cook in the Soro Valley. They learn that the local stables, The Clean Hoof is the best place for purchasing mounts in the region. When asking about Varnhold, the party is told that there’s been no word from Varnhold in about a week, which is fairly unusual since the two communities are only a day from one another, and merchants from Varnhold always pass through Ogmund’s Crossing on their way to Berwyn.
The party is told to cross the Bern River, and follow it south until they get to the Kirov which feeds in from the south. Then they should follow the Kirov and ford the smaller river when they find a good fording spot. Varnhold is on the Kirov. For a small group traveling light, then entire trip takes a day and a half, and they reach Varnhold in the early afternoon.
The village is eerily silent, the chimneys show no sign of cookfires. While farm animals and wildlife roam through the village, no other signs of life are present. Passing a few farmhouses, the party enters the open doors to find food left in pots on the now-dead fires or even on the table, spoiling as it waits to be eaten. Dolls and childrens’ toys lay on the ground as if dropped and forgotten.
Using the ford to explore the buildings on the other side of the Kirov, Zin is attacked by a monstrous aberration known as a chuul. Though one lone creature is hardly a match for the party, the attack lends an air of danger to the silent village as they continue to explore.