Day 28, Month of the Festival, 757 years since the Fall of the Gods, end of spring
The next day, the Hammers reached the Castle of the Legacy, residence of Duke Adamar Lionis XII, lord of the Duchy of Lionis (sometimes also known as the Golden Lion Duchy). The House Lionis has its origins in the Old Orb of Elaria, where it was famous for its alliance with an ancient bloodline of high lions, which assisted the House’s paladins in their battles against dragons, demons and goblinoids.
The Hammers searched for rumors regarding local goblinoid activity. Entering the city’s gate, the group was accosted by the Guard of the Golden Helms which, upon seeing fighters bearing arms, summoned the invocation of the Old Code. Hilguen of the Ark, as a paladin versed in diplomatic arts by the Celestials, recognized the ancient tradition of the Derenti human nobility and answered adequately. Actually, the aasimar took the opportunity to request sanctuary and hospitality for the Hammers.
The group was escorted directly to castle itself, where they were introduced to the Warden and Seneschal of Legacy, Sir Malakast Lionis, younger brother of the Duke. A stern and rigorous man, the Seneschal requested the adventurer’s assistance in dealing with renegade dwarves, responsible for sacking and destroying one of the windmills at the Duchy’s west borders. After this crime, the dwarves were audacious enough to march inside the city and barricade themselves inside a forge at the riverbank.
The Hammers accepted the challenge – in part to appease the Duke – and marched together with a war veteran, Capitan Tasser of the Helms, and his faithful mountain lion – Sentinel. Once at the forge, the Captain commanded the dwarves to surrender. The dwarves were from the grim and cold nation of Karn, famous worldwide for its warlike nature. Their answer to offer was a unanimous mocking laughter.
Heian, taking crowshape, sneaked inside the forge with his familiar Valquir. They saw six dwarves, heavily armed and armored, one of them – a female – carried a holy symbol of Entari’el, War Mistress of the Heavenly Night Hosts. Entari’el was a benign deity, worshiped by the Church of the Seven Flames. The information was passed to Hilguen that, intrigued by the presence of a priestess among the “dwarven raiders”, attempted to parley with the dwarves.
The Hammers suspected that something was amiss and that the true responsible for the windmill’s destruction were probably goblinoids (after all, the goblin warlock possessed a mysterious magic item aligned with the illusion school and the stolen wheat found was clearly taken from the Duchy).
After some careful negotiation, the group met the Toraik (“lieutenant”) Kazdum of Clan Zravaik, leader of the Stonefists. While trying to solve the misunderstanding, the Hammers discovered that things were a little more complicated. The dwarves followed the Kharnadon, a complex and ancestral Divine Code of Honor and War. The Kharnadon, explained Kazdum, demanded formal apologies from the Duke as well as full rights to bury the two Stonefists killed by the Golden Helms in the Castle of Legacy, with tombstones narrating all the event and blaming the Duke’s guard for the dishonor. Despite severe protests from the Seneschal – who hated dwarves because of the death of his father during the War of the Dark Banners – the Hammers made a deal and scheduled a formal visit of the Toraik with Duke Adamar himself.
To the relief of the adventurers, the Duke was not only fairer and more serene rulers than the Seneschal, but also a paladin. A small treaty was arranged with the Stonefists (after all, dwarves loved contracts and documents) to the general benefit of all. Before leaving the Castle of the Legacy, Kazdum asked for permission to march together with the Hammers of the Dawn to Baer’s Tower, on the following day.
After the incident, the Duke invited the Hammers to a night banquet (actually, the idea of the banquet came from a totally undiplomatic suggestion of the chaotic elf Heian, but Adamar was happy to consent).
The night in Legacy proved to a pleasant stay. Hilguen talked at length with his spiritual brother-in-arms, the Duke, who revealed to the aasimar one of the legendary Flames Pristine – sacred fires kept in honor of Entari’el by the Paladin Lords of Old Derentar. The bards tell that these holy flames would never burn a man pure of heart – like a paladin.
During the festivity Garet, the halfling, was fascinated (and a little scared) by the great lion of the Duke, Fadur, probably one of the last celestial cats of House Lionis. Fadur was not only intelligent, but could also talk. In addition, Garet became acquainted with the gnome maiden Samnyren, herald of the gnome community at Legacy (and knowledgeable of all the gossips surrounding the local nobility). Nogard, the hian monk, entertained his hosts performing stunning athletic (and supernatural) feats.
Day 29, Month of the Festival, 757 years since the Fall of the Gods, end of spring
The Hammers, followed by the Stonefists, left Castle of the Legacy before sunrise. The Duke, as a last gift, supplied the party with horses and a royal letter, endorsing all the Hammers’ deeds while at the Duchy (so that it could be delivered to the bards of Concordia, who keep the records of several adventurer companies of West Aldar).
Together, both groups passed the windmill destroyed by the goblinoids. It was there that Garet met Farin of the Seven Arts, a halfling minstrel. Farin told that he saw, a few nights ago, a band of dwarves charging the windmill but that, upon attacking the inhabitants, they suddenly changed their mien to goblinoids. This confirmed the Hammers’ theory. A close description of the dwarven insignia used in the goblinoid’s illusion revealed that it belonged to one of various dwarven companies killed during the War of the Dark Banners in the Mountains of Eternal Fire. While the party investigated the mill’s ruins, Farin spoke discretely with Garet*. He told that their meet was not a coincidence and that Farin would return in the future to collect an old debt of Garet. The minstrel was, in fact, an assassin.
By the end of the day, the adventurers had not yet reached the Emerald Valleys and so decided to camp for the night. During first watch, Nogard listened to distant winches of some big beast. Heian sent his familiar ahead and discovered that the origin of the growing racket was a giant boar dragging a man. The group chased the wild beast through the woods, finally saving what they found out to be an old human. His name was Jturn – a vanyr** barbarian – and to the surprise of the Hammers, he was quite offended to be denied the killing strike of “his boar”. Before the old man could advance unarmed against the entire party, a band of vanyr barbarians showed up. Their leader was a blond giant called Lysurg, a man of quiet manners.
Thanks (again) to Hilguen’s diplomacy, the fight was averted. He quickly offered the boar’s carcass as a gift of friendship to the vanyr. Lysurg was satisfied and both groups returned to the place where the Stonefists were camped – once together, all enjoyed a fine feast.
The vanyr called their company the Red Wolves and were in number of five (or seven if you counted Night and Shadow, their wolf companions). Their leader, as mentioned, was Lysurg Chief-Father. “Grandpa” Jturn was his aging father. Lysurg had three sons: Regel, the Wolf-Warrior, more beast than man; the young Beolrus Windsniffer, whose might bow (he claimed) could reach a target at a thousand paces; and the striking and scantily-clad Beltia Greylady, whose skin was covered with ashes and marked with arcane tattoos***.
During the night feast Lysurg – as any accountable vanyr father – attempted to gauge if Hilguen would be a good husband for his daughter. He was disappointed to discover the aasimar’s status as a paladin. The vanyr are unique in the moon of Isaldar in that they deny worship to the dead gods, accusing the other mortal races of being little more than “god-slaves”****.
Garet discovered that Beolrus’ amazing feats with the bow were the result of the Divine Spark inside the barbarian. Like Hilguen, he was a Luminar (or “akkar-vor” in the vanyr tongue).
Nogard had some “colorful” conversation with Beltia and even bested her in unarmed combat before finding out that the barbarian was attempting to seduce him. After this, Beltia spent the rest of the evening trading spells with Heian (the elf was fascinated – academically of course – by the “grimoire” of Beltia). Grandpa Jturn drank until he became stone drunk, telling vulgar and bawdy anecdotes the entire night. The paladin couldn’t stand anymore the impious ways of the vanyr and preferred to keep his distance.
Albeit the three companies were enjoying themselves, none could resist the sight of the Blaze – the undying golden and crimson aurora that blanked the west skies and revealed the presence of their destination, the Mountains of Eternal Fire. It was said that the Blaze originated from the inner fires of Gromunfang, the Terrible, an ascendant red dragon trapped below the peaks, banished by a Luminar hero a short time after the Fall of the Gods.
Day 30, Month of the Festival, 757 years since the Fall of the Gods, end of spring
In the last morning of the Festival Month, three adventurer companies arrived on Baer’s Tower, at the feet of the Mountains of Eternal Fire. All were recent allies and friends: the Hammers of the Dawn, the Stonefists and the Red Wolves.
A flaming summer loomed ahead. The main worry of the Hammers were the goblinoid menace, because Heian suspected that the tattoos that covered the deceased goblin warlock were actually part of a painful arcane ritual used to imbue lesser beings with eldritch skills. If the elf was right, then the only likely conclusion was that a greater power was involved behind the barbarian humanoids. To worse matters yet further, the Hammers had examined the goblinoid incursion at Lionis with local maps and discovered their destination: the town of Silvery Palms and – probably – the sinister meteor that fell from the skies just a few nights ago.
*The Halfling Tongue is a secret language in Isaldar. The Halflings are a very reclusive nomad folk and their language is one of their greatest treasures.
**The Vanyr are a human race of white skin and great stature that inhabits the frozen wastes of Vanidrad.
***The Vanyr leaders are counseled by magic-users that follow the Path of Ashes. Because the Vanyr are barbarian and illiterate, their wizards lack grimoires and thus inscribe spells in their own skins, through magical treated ashes and tattoos.
****The Vanyr were godless even before the Annihilation and the loss of Elaria. They escaped the cataclysm through mysterious portals. How they accomplished this is unknown, but many suspect the Vanyr barbaric magic-users of making a dark pact with some hidden power.