We regrouped and discussed what each of us had noticed and amongst our deliberations it was discovered that the riders had departed oddly, as if they were confined by walls we could not see… Much like one would expect a mounted column to enter and leave a castle. The riders were also armored in a very ancient style of armament for this land according to those who knew of such things.
Oddly enough, though we individually disregarded the information, collectively we realized that in all of our travels, no one we had met, no tome we had read, no structure we had seen, dated back more than roughly 150 years.
This is when we began to search the grounds of the inn in ernest, looking for clues as to how all of these puzzle pieces fit together around us. A few things arose of interest in our searching; we discovered that the graves I had assumed were family were in fact members of a regiment of knights that the elderly man I received the inn from belonged to, and that the graves were either 75 years old, or 150 years old by looking at the dates. We discovered that the trees we had cut down to build the smoke house were the largest we could find and proved to only be around 75 years old as well, and the feline warrior discovered a hidden chamber of white stone accessed though a secret door from the cellar.
The last proved to be the most interesting as within the white marble block room we discovered many a tome of historical documents dating back 300 to 500 years. It appeared that these were hidden for some reason and we were careful to look though most, if not all of them, for clues.
We came upon an ancient map that detailed the kingdoms of 300 years ago and discovered where the kingdom the riders had spoken of used to be. We also discovered that there once was a grand castle occupying the ground that the inn now rests upon. Once these pieces of the puzzle were discovered some of the party wanted to go out and see what information we could glean from the surrounding towns, while Aryntha, not wanting to spend weeks on a horse, wanted to promptly head for the castle to the far north-west.
It was here that much deliberation was had as to how we should proceed while I gathered my few meager belongings, donned my plate-mail and secured my sword and shield for the journey. Aryntha had other ideas though and decided he'd ride a little ways to the north-west just to see if there were any ruins of the castle that once stood where the inn resides now.
Once he was seated on the animal that brought the elven woman and himself to us in the first place, it once again raced off with complete abandon towards the north-west; Aryntha flailing in its saddle.
As it seemed our decision had been made for us, the feline warrior raced off ahead of us along with the elven woman in order to relay the course we should take while the rest of us tended to the wagon of provisions we were taking with us and proceeded as fast as we could while hauling it.
After a day and a half the horse nearly drops out from under Aryntha on the edge of a blasted, barren plain several day's walk across according to our maps. The area wreaked of death and the more psychically attuned of our party immediately fell ill from simply being near. The druid in an attempt to divine the cause of this horror was overcome by it and spent several hours in shock while anyone else foolish enough to progress more than a few dozen paces felt their very lives being pulled from them.
It was here that we, as a group, learned two things; the first was that the feline warrior was terrified to the point of hysteria by lizards and that Aryntha is really an immense black dragon…
As Aryntha changed shape in order to carry the party across, the feline warrior completely lost his composure and attacked him. There was little the warrior could do in the face of this immense beast, but we had to give him credit for trying.
Eventually the feline warrior fell to exhaustion and collapsed and the party secured him and themselves to the dragon's back for a flight over the wasteland… That is all but me, for I have a distinct mistrust of flying ever since a bat wizard I know once told me that he could levitate me over a chasm and the resulting plummet had me bed ridden for an entire season.
Well, with my faith to protect me I headed out as the shape of the flying dragon receded to a point on the horizon. For seven days I trekked across that slice of the ninth plane while the whispered voices of the dead assailed me, taunted me, pleaded with me and visions of fortunes and fame floated before me. I was offered my deepest desires and shown my deepest fears… The nights were the worst and the first night that I tried to sleep proved to nearly be my undoing as the ghosts that haunt that place found my sleeping mind to be far weaker than when I was awake. The next six days were spent in a trance-like march though heat and freezing cold.
But my faith did not waiver and I was seen safely though the torment by The Light of Creation.
As I reached the camp the party had set up on the other side I collapsed into a heap, knowing that I had passed another test set before me, and slept in the arms of saints.
It was here that we decided to rest for a few days and gather our resources for the next leg of our journey…
Not bad for about 6 hours really. Stay tuned for next weeks adventures. 🙂