Ringing Mountains, 190th King’s Age, Year of Priest’s Defiance, Month of Sorrow, day 3
By decree of the new Tyrian Council, Joani is placed with a mercenary team that is given the task of finding the druids of the famous tarn in the Ringing Mountains west of Tyr. Nobody seems to know exactly how to find the tarn, so the Council generously supplies the team with three crodlu to carry supplies, two weeks of water for the group, and two weeks of food. This veritable cornucopia should keep them well-stocked — as long as they aren’t beset by bandits or monsters. How difficult can it be, though? The tarn is known to lie somewhere in the mountains across from the scrub plains in the Tyr basin, barely a day’s easy journey.
The group sets out from the southwestern gate and across the scrub plains. The trip is an easy one; in spite of the dry heat of the sun, the group has little trouble as they take a leisurely pace. Occasionally they spot herdsmen with small herds of crodlu and erdlu. At one point they pass by a small fenced-in building — some kind of ranch house. The group decides not to bother stopping, and they keep heading toward the mountains.
As the scrub plains give way to rocky hillsides, the group finds themselves traveling over stony bluffs that hide as much as they reveal. The team takes a brief stop to refresh themselves and their beasts of burden and to survey the mountains and make plans. The mountains themselves rise 20,000 feet in a sheer wall of forbidding stone. Without a plan, they could spend many days wandering through tiny passes, crevices, and treacherous peaks.
While the rest of the team surveys the mountains, Kissik keeps the crodlu fed and watered, but the bird-lizards start to become nervous. Kissik spots movement somewhere behind the group. Watching carefully, the pterran druid recognizes a massive lizard with horns on its head — a minotaur lizard! Though Kissik knows that it is probably hungry for the crodlu, it is a potential menace to the group. He points it out and, as his associates prepare their weapons, he advances slowly and carefully upon it. When he reaches a close spot at the base of the hillside, he murmurs ancient sussurating words that calm the creature and cause it to show respect to this guardian of nature (Charm Animal). The minotaur lizard, happy to accompany the druid for a while, croaks without malice and follows the group as they resume their travels.
The team spends several hours hiking along the length of the mountain range, without much success. Eventually the ensorcelment upon the minotaur lizard wears off, and Kissik manages to keep the creature reasonably calm. The lizard wanders off, looking for prey elsewhere, with no desire to start a fight with the druid.
Afraid of Heights
The team continues searching and Vasharian decides to send his familiar to scout. Since his familiar can fly, it is able to soar above many of the mountain peaks and hillsides, and Vasharian can glean a bit of information from the empathic senses of the bird if it spots something unusual.
For several minutes, the bird soars, then it spots something. Its curiosity is piqued — then agitation, then sudden pain and blackness. Vasharian feels the horrid sensation of his familiar’s death!
The group hurries to discover what happened and finds a very narrow, very tall staircase cut into the side of the mountain. Vasharian’s familiar lies in a dead, charred heap near the bottom of the staircase.
With a lengthy trip, the team ascends the staircase and finds — a mile up — a large rocky shelf with a small house atop it. The house has a terraced garden behind it, and a stone cistern for collecting water that drips down from the peaks of the Ringing Mountains. A small stone cairn marks what might be a grave. Kissik murmurs a small orison and determines that the house bears some kind of protective magics. Zarasmina clambers up onto the roof of the house, disables a magical trap on the chimney, and prepares to shimmy down inside. Suddenly a booming voice is heard: “Who DARES to disturb me in my HOME?”
From inside the cabin, the deep and mighty voice berates the group for trespassing upon his lands. The team tries to reason, but the occupant seems (perhaps rightly) aggrieved that he is being disturbed.
After a few moments of this negotiation, Chak-ik-tak hurles a chatkcha in through a window with an arcing shot. This clips the occupant, and Zarasmina manages to slide down the chimney and sneak up behind the speaker, who turns out to be a whiny teenager with a heavy staff and simple homespun linen garments.
The group asks him for information about the tarn and the druids, which the boy gives them on the understanding that they will leave him alone. Zarasmina then unceremoniously slams him in the back of the head and renders him unconscious.
Following the directions given by the strange lad, the group heads back down the staircase and looks to the north, and they spot — behind a ridge line — a small, glittering blue lake in the distance.