47. Silent wait of the seven faces
14th of Kuthona – Fireday – 84th day in Varisia
Magnimar, Kaijitsu Manor
Harsk wasn’t happy.
“Commander Valentine could not tell me anything”, he sighed and clasped his hands together on the dinner table. “The Church has no temples so up north.”
Alice shook her head and pursed her lips. “The wizards of the Mage School had little to offer in the way of knowledge about any seven faces near Lake Stormunder, or a Runeforge gate for that matter.”
I shared knowing glances with Alfred. The sellsword was grinning under his thick, well-groomed moustache. “Our trip to the Pathfinder Society was a bit more fruitful. Show them the map, half-elf”, he nodded at me, and I pulled out the map we had recently acquired together. The thick parchment and the drawings on it were old but not ancient.
Alfred begun to explain. “We bought this map from a Society scholar for two hundred gold. The old adventurer had traveled around Lake Stormunder in his youth while mapping the Kodar Mountains. When we asked about any old ruins or sites near the lake he remembered seeing seven stone statues of human heads, and a nearby trail leading up to the face of the mountain.” Seven little symbols marked the statues, and the mouth of the trail. The map was not exact, but it was good enough. It pointed us at the south-western corner of the lake. Rimeskull was the name of the location.
Alice examined the map closely. “Did the man climb the trail”, she asked non-chalantly. The sellsword guffawed. “He didn’t, apparently.” Maybe he didn’t have the nerve, I thought.
“This is reliable, yes?” Harsk asked next, already looking much more pleased. I nodded. “I have no reason to believe this is a fabrication. He was quite knowledgeable and this fits with what we know already.” Personally I was amazed the Society had been of any use. Too many times we had had to leave there empty-handed.
“Magnificent!” The god-touched exclaimed, clapping his hairy, thick hands together. “Now we know where to go.”
“When are we going then”, I voiced the question, underlining the first word.
“I need to manage my affairs in Sandpoint”, Alfred cut in, referring to his business partnership with Ameiko over the repair and renovation of the Rusty Dragon. He had left a large sum of gold to our mutual friend so she could pay for the repair, and the work had been underway for a good two weeks.
“And I need to oversee the repair of the brewery and the relocation of my temple”, Harsk added. The righteous dwarf was making a giant’s footprint in town. In addition to his business ventures with the Deverin family, High Priest Zantus had offered to dedicate a part of the Cathedral for Harsk and the Church of Iomedae. It was, as far as I understood, a considerable show of goodwill as the Cathedral already had separate shrines dedicated to deities Desna, Abadar, Sarenrae, Shelyn, Gozreh, and Erastil. Harsk was understandably eager to pack up his ad hoc temple and move his new locations. At that pace, he was to evict the other deities and dedicate the whole place to Iomedae within a decade. Of course, he was too nice to even consider the possibility, but it was amusing to imagine the stout warrior-cleric as the High Priest.
“Why won’t we then teleport there and pick up a ship to Riddleport after you’re finished?” I suggested, shooting a glance at Alice. The pale-faced magus showed no dissent. We had to physically travel to Lake Stormunder – once we got there, the magus could move us back and forth with her spells. “Fine by me”, Alfred shrugged.
It was early evening in Sandpoint when we made our magical appearance next to the White Deer Inn, scaring some townspeople as we did. The fear was quickly replaced by happy greetings and interested stares. Everybody knew Harsk and Alfred, but I wasn’t too happy about the fact that half the town recognized me. Word of the bowman Alpharius would surely reach hunters in the employment of House Horryn. I had to keep my guard up and eyes open, like always.
We split up, the sellsword and the magus going to the harbour to fix us a ship north, while Harsk headed to the Cathedral. I went south along Main Street with my panther. I had bridges to mend.
Big flakes were falling on the ground and the town had finally been covered in a thick blanket of snow. Light shone through the windows of the Vinder general store and I could see movement within.
“Wait here”, I told my animal companion when I reached the front door and the lithe beast got down on its belly. Brushing snow off my bear-fur covered shoulders and pulling back my hood, I made my entry.
It was almost closing hour and Ven and Shayliss were alone in the store, the old, pot-bellied merchant behind the counter doing some inventory, and his unlawfully attractive daughter with a broomstick sweeping the floors. Her eyes went wild as she saw me enter. Clatter of the broomstick hitting the floor accompanied her quick steps towards me and her hands pulled up. Shay never reached me, as she suddenly caught herself. She turned to her father, uncertainty holding her. He was frowning.
“I would not have believed to see you enter this store”, Ven said after an awkward moment of silence.
Still standing by the door, I responded with an equally serious face. “Times change, Ven. And this is necessary. I am here because I have something for you both.”
Ven harrumphed but finally relented. “Come in, for Desna’s sake”, he grunted and gestured me forward. I left the Carmine Avenger leaning against a wall and walked to the counter, passing his daughter who kept staring at me intently. Our eyes met and it seemed like a dozen different emotions were fighting for supremacy behind hers. I recalled the last time I had been there, and the corner of my mouth twitched involuntarily, a smile clawing for the surface. Benevolent or carnal, I couldn’t say which. Both maybe.
Ven cleared his throat to draw my attention from his daughter. “What do you have for us then?”
I unshouldered my backpack, reached into it and pulled out one of the last four exquisite red wines of late Aldern Foxglove. I placed it, and three more, at the counter. “I imagine you remember this wine from our evening in Ravenmoor”, I said simply. Ven’s eternal grumpy frown abated for just a moment, replaced by an honest surprise.
“You did not lie”, he gasped and took one bottle, handling it like a babe while he examined its label. “There really was more of it.” He looked at me quizzically. “What do you want for these?”
I remembered Harsk telling me how his demand might had been fueled by his desire to show gratitude for saving him and his daughter. “I am not an expert on wines”, I admitted. “What do you think is a reasonable price for one bottle?”
Ven considered this. “I would think one hundred and fifty gold per bottle would be suitable”, he said with a low voice. I was no expert but even I knew that was way too much for the wines. But I had little desire to injure his pride by disagreeing, so I simply nodded.
The merchant crouched to his little coin coffer, and almost completely emptied its contents to a sack which he then handed out to me without a word. I thanked him and placed the gold into my backpack.
“I would also like to talk to Shay. Can we spend a moment in private”, I asked him. The usual frown of the protective father returned, and Ven looked at me first, then his daughter. I could hear his teeth grinding together. “I have to check my inventory down in the cellar”, he said to himself before taking the bottles from the counter. A moment later the groan of the hatch to the cellar closing signaled that I was alone with Shayliss.
“How are you-” I managed before she came at me, wrapped her hands around my neck and pulled my face down and my body against her for a very long and very passionate kiss. Taken aback, my hands took their time before they found themselves around the young red-head.
Part of me enjoyed the heated, unchained act of intimacy (I admit, a majority), but another merely considered it futile. As she eased her hold of me and leaned back to get a good look at me, I produced from a pocket the pair of golden rings with intricate carvings I had taken from the sword-dancer who had tried to kill me and steal my mammoths.
“We’ve had our difficulties, together, apart. Losing your sister, losing Ilori, those were tough for you. Tough for me. And the giant attack. I just wanted to say I’m sorry. And I wanted you to have these.” The words streamed out of me and they felt forced in my mouth, but they were honest. The regret and humiliation during the day of the giant attack still burned in my soul. I had chosen to defend the town, but had failed, and she had paid for my failure. The earrings there in my hands between us suddenly seemed a pitiful gift, even though we had come for her, Ven and Ameiko in the end.
Her hand trailed to my left cheek, the thumb brushing my scar. I don’t think she even had registered the earrings. “Why can’t you just stay, be with me?” She asked, her voice trembling ever so slightly. I lowered my gaze.
He looks.. tired. Withdrawn and sullen. Like a man aged beyond his years. The words of Harsk describing his vision of my brother hung at the back of my head.
I am coming for you, brother.
“I can’t..” I began, not knowing what to say really. “I must travel, search the world for..” I hesitated, but she nodded. There was understanding, but also sadness.
“I will come back”, I added, the stupid romantic in me blurting out the words, and I regretted them immediately. I could not promise anything. Ultimately, I did not want to make any promises. I had too many unclosed doors in my life. But she said nothing in reply, only gave me a long, honeyed kiss equal to the first and after a moment that ended too soon, let go.
I set down the earrings into her palm and closed her hand around them. Then in silence I retrieved my longbow and returned to the darkening evening and the snowfall.
Alice and Alfred had fixed us a ship to Riddleport and we left the next day, on the 15th of Kuthona, after we had acquired some more basic supplies including a tent that could fit four people. Alice was at first unwilling to share it with a lewd sellsword, a shady killer who always slept in his armor on the road and a dwarf that snored, but she relented. To my defence magical clothing and armor somehow did not get dirty, so it was not about the smell. And safe to say it was not Alfred who turned her head around.
The pale-faced magus asked to see the strange quill made of a peacock’s feather when the ship set sail. It was strange indeed, weighing over three pounds.
“It’s enchanted with divination magic”, she informed us after a while of examination as we were lounging below decks on some furs. The sail was smooth for now. “I think it can tell us things if we ask it.”
Alfred raised his brow in puzzlement. “What, it can talk?” The magus looked at him like he was an idiot. “No”, she responded between her teeth, “It will write the answer. Somebody just needs to hold it when it does, and we need a surface on which it can answer.”
I offered a paper from my pocket. I had carried several since the first days in Sandpoint. She took it and placed it on the floor and raised the quill. “Where is the Runeforge”, she asked aloud, in Thassilonian. Miraculously, the feather in her hand stirred and she lowered it to my blank piece of paper.
The quill wrote a single word of Thassilonian. “Unknown”, she sighed and shook the quill. “Strange, it feels lighter. I imagine it can be used only a few times each day”, she said as she examined it again, more closely now. “Any other good questions?” She finally offered. No-one had any. Or I had, but they did not concern the Runeforge or our foe.
My mind was in a golden throne room, wondering about my brother among untold riches. Could the feather know about him? Would I dare to ask?
The sea trip took four mostly uneventful days. I say mostly since we were not attacked by trolls or water elementals or dragons or giants. But something else happened.
Our newfound powers began to manifest.
Easiest to notice was Alfred’s trusty battle-axe. The transformation began over the days after our strange experiences with the Thassilonian texts of elemental powers. It turned coal-black, begun to glow in red of murder and grew another, albeit smaller blade from the haft at the opposite side of its main blade.
“It’s legendary now”, Alfred had guffawed with unbidden pride. I remember thinking he joked. He didn’t.
Harsk walked lighter day by day, his steps less and less hindered by the shortness of his legs. He eventually became as flight of foot as Alfred and Alice. Compared to what he was before, he now really did flow.
Alice showed no apparent change, but that did not mean anything. Like me she used to be withdrawn. We witnessed her changes much later, in the heat of battle.
The wildfires that I had absorbed had literally kindled something beyond my eyes. I had slept lightly and woken up a few days after the event in my bed at Kaijitsu manor, to the utter black of the moonless, starless winter night. Even my elven eyes should have barely seen a thing. But I did as my eyes pierced the darkness. I could pinpoint the details of my room in black, white and shades of grey just like I had the dark-vision of a underground-dwelling dwarf. I marveled at my new ability, as it was a dream come true. It meant no more fumbling in pitch-black dungeons. No more relying on others’ lights. The wildfire within me lighted my way.
Harsk also did not sleep or eat at all during the sail, and was moody and tight-strung, but that was not due to the elemental powers he had gained. We later found out he had been meditating and praying during the nights for a particularly powerful boon from Iomedae. I still dared to ask him once during the trip for a greater scrying. To my haunting regret he did not reach my brother. I decided to let the matter be, so I could focus on the journey ahead for the time being.
The great arc of Riddleport appeared in the horizon on the morning of the 20th. It loomed threateningly, made no less intimidating by the number of Thassilonian runes etched upon it, each several feet high. “All the runes of the Sihedron”, Alice muttered. I could pinpoint Lamashtu’s mark, symbolising wrath, by then too. “Isn’t it charming”, Harsk said and spat over the side of the ship in disgust. He did not like the city, that was evident.
The city was filthy, not only by its nature but it also literally stank of shit. As if by poetic justice, Riddleport was covered in dirty sleet. We wanted to move along as quickly as possible, so we did not linger and see the sights. The only thing we wanted was more magical and alchemical wares and potions, so we looked for a suitable shop, finding it at the northern parts of the big town.
The shop, conveniently located between two brothels (we did not let Alfred have a try), looked like another simple home from the outside. No-one responded to our first knock and the dwarf tried the knob on the heavyset door. It was locked.
“Should we leave”, Harsk said from the door and was about to turn away when something inside made a sound.
“Who’s there”, a high-pitched, croaking old man’s voice called. “A potential customer”, the stout cleric responded. “We heard one could purchase magical potions and wares from you”, he added.
“And you try to force yourself through the door”, the croaking voice replied. “Who sent you?” He was awfully un-businesslike and suspicious for a shopkeeper, I thought.
“We came on our own”, Harsk replied. “And where we come from, customers are treated with respect.”
The man beyond the door coughed or laughed, I couldn’t say which. “Here one respects gold. What do you want?”
“A wand of moderate healing. For our trip up north, just in case we need one when we face opposition.”
The man snorted loudly. “Bah. The dwarves up north are no challenge, you should be able to go through them like a wolf through a herd of sheep.”
Alfred guffawed particularly loudly and even I laughed at the most likely unintended insult. I saw the veins in Harsk’s neck bulge in anger.
“Now listen to me, you fool, just sell us the wand and shut your mouth. And it better be fully charged or else!”
I heard a snicker. “That would be 450 platinum.”
Even though I enjoyed the banter my usual suspicion came to fore and I paced next to Harsk who was steaming and offering quick prayers to his goddess. Extending my palms, I touched the door and gazed what lied beyond. I nodded to Harsk. “A shabby man and a shabby place but he has a storage room full of wares. Go ahead.”
A small hatch at the foot of the door opened. “Platinum first”, the sleazy shopkeeper ordered. Harsk pushed a bag of coins inside, and after a moment, a wand made of steel rolled out. The hatch closed quickly after.
Alice grabbed the wand. “Six charges from full”, she informed us calmly. Sometimes I felt like she had been used to being cheated thanks to her relationship with Garnet Alexandros. Harsk turned to the door and slammed it once with his armored fist. “Maggot! You owe Harsk the dwarf six charges, don’t you forget it!” For a second I entertained the thought of getting inside and either killing the man or at least beating him half to death, but we let the transgression pass. Such swindling was more than expected in a place like Riddleport so instead we continued further north towards the outskirts of the city.
We had no intention of walking the way to Rimeskull and Lake Stormunder, so we kept an eye out for a stable. We made it all the way to the abandoned gates of the city before we could find one. Like the rest of the place, it looked worn-out, shady and bleak. A plump older woman was carrying water to her animals when we entered. Seeing us I think she tried to smile welcomingly. She was missing a number of teeth and the rest were yellow-brownish, so it came out as a sneer. Beneath I could sense wariness at first but when she came to know what our business was, her demeanor improved.
“We’d like to buy three horses and a pony”, Harsk explained with little preamble and gestured at us. Alice cleared her throat. “Just two horses. I can manage my own means of transportation.” Harsk looked at her and shrugged.
“How many sails do you have”, the woman asked, and licked her lips, realizing her chance to swindle some coins from dumb strangers. “We’ll give you 300 in total”, Harsk responded, throwing a wild figure into the air. I felt like slapping my forehead. None of the animals I could see where worth 100 gold coins. Without thinking the hag spat on her right palm and offered it to Harsk. “Deal. Take any three you want.” She was really excited now. I guess business was slow this time of the year. And we were truly acting our part of the stupid foreigners.
“Wait”, I cut and stepped past Harsk. The fat crone eyed me suspiciously. “I want to have a look at all your horses first”, I said slowly. I was tired us being cheated of our gold.
“Oh, is that so”, the crone observed and sneered again. “I want to see your gold first, stranger”, she demanded. I threw her a bag of coins which tinkled as it fell on her big lap. “Sounds like gold”, she replied with satisfaction and nodded over her shoulder. “All the beasts are mine. Pick the ones you like the most. I’ll pay you 50 gold sails for each when you return.”
She had no better horses in hiding, but we got reasonably healthy and sufficiently well-behaving mounts for our trek north. As we rode them out of the stable, Alice was waiting outside. Behind her stood proudly the most magnificent horse I had ever seen. It was completely black, and its eyes shone like two stars in midnight. Its crest was made of blue fire that crackled but did not burn. The creature was painfully magical.
“Oh come on”, Alfred gasped. “It gallops twice as fast as yours”, Alice smirked cockily in reply. I bet it can fly too, I guessed. I wasn’t quite far off.
We rode along the only road north towards Brinewall, between the rocky outcrops of the eastern reaches of Calphiak Mountains and Velashu River. Traffic was almost non-existent barring a few traders, but the roads were good. Before nightfall we left the mountains behind us and decided to strike camp. Alfred and I got a fire burning and prepared some dinner from our trail rations. I noticed Alice wasn’t eating. I asked her about it and she lifted her hand in response, showing a ring I had been wondering about. “Ring of Sustenance”, she said in a way of explanation. “I don’t need much sleep or food with this around my finger.” Alfred snorted and added some twigs into the fire. “I prefer eating.”
“So do I”, the god-touched interjected. “But I too require little if no sleep during this journey. I have prayed Iomedae for vigilance and perseverance, and she has granted me it in ample measures.” The ardent prayers had been the reason he had been so out-of-place during the ship voyage.
“Congratulations”, I said absentmindedly and pulled the hood over my head for protection from the chilling wind, “you two get all the watches then.”
We crossed into Velashu Uplands proper on the 21st, and on the way Alfred told us about the Shoanti hunter tribes that populated the lands, if sparsely. They were fierce nomadic people split into several clans, and they were native to Varisia. This of course meant that the typical Shoanti did not love the Chelish and other colonists that littered the southern parts of the region.
“I once met this one particularly fire-blooded Shoanti woman”, Alfred chuckled. “She was a really good rider, if you know what I mean”, he added with a wink and burst into his guffaw. I just sighed.
The second day of our journey was as uneventful as the first, and Alice asked the sellsword if the lands truly were as quiet and uninhabited. According to him they were. I kept my eyes on the horizon and the road both, and saw little evidence of other travellers. Our trip was starting to look like a breeze all the way to our destination.
On the 22nd we spotted a band of ten riders a mile away to our west. They followed us for a while, keeping their distance, but seemed innocent enough. They did not approach and disappeared before evening.
Alice rode off ahead every now and then, returned and kept teasing us about the slow pace of our mounts. The joke lost its edge on the first time.
We passed the Uplands in four days, then rode along the feet of Red Mountains before turning sharply east and off the Brinewall road to the Nolands.
Alfred was becoming increasingly bored thanks to our lack of dangers and action and literally seemed drained. Not even Harsk’s beer helped. The dwarf himself hadn’t slept for a week.
“How are you feeling”, I asked the cleric as we gazed down to the empty, snow-covered valley of plains from our camp on the foot of the mountain.
“Never been better. I can feel the touch of my goddess empowering me. Such a humbling feeling.” I had to smile at that. “How do you spend your idle time? I imagine it gets tiresome at nights, even if you still need to meditate and pray a little once in a while.”
Keeping his pious smile he turned to me and pulled a book from underneath his cloak with its name etched in gold on its cover. The Acts of Iomedae. Somehow I wasn’t surprised.
“Don’t you ever get bored of reading the same stories over and over?” I still asked, but he didn’t need to answer.
“Another dull day tomorrow”, Alfred sighed dramatically in a way of goodnight before pulling his bear furs over his body and turning his back on his bedroll. My corner was at the other side of the tent and I was resting, trying to catch some sleep as well. The wind, blowing down from the mountains, had picked up and it made the covers tremble like sails. My panther lounged on the entrance to the tent, the light of the fireplace before it glittering from his eyes. Alice and Harsk remained outside by the fireplace, and listening to their hushed voices, I eventually fell into oblivion.
I didn’t know how long I slept, but something woke me up with a startle. At the mouth of our tent Dûath was growling and getting up on his feet. Danger close, I realized.
Alice’s scream of alarm broke across our meager camp. Hill giants. Pushing through my light sleep I felt my senses returning in a flash. Blood thundered in my veins as it brought me to sudden readiness for battle. I heard heavy rocks impact on the ground around us. The stupid bastards were flinging stones at us. Then one connected with steel and I heard Harsk bellow a particularly nasty curse. Headshot. Frantically, I reached to my death’s head mask and replaced it on my head before getting up.
The sellsword was groggy but nonetheless as quick to react as I was. “Who is disturbing my rest”, he groaned and fumbled for his battle-axe and shield. Unlike I who never got out of armor on the road he had no armor on, only his woollen underbreeches. Heedless of the fact he scrambled outside with myself in tow, my two gladii at the ready. The enemy was already among us – my giant-bane blade would get its fill of blood tonight.
Outside thunder clapped and was responded with a bullish roar of pain – Alice was already in the thick of it. Dûath engaged immediately, needing no command from me. Seconds later Alfred was out of the tent, bare-chested and guffawing taunts. The brutes were lightly armored and armed, but there were a lot of them. The sellsword threw himself at the closest but was awarded with a club into his side for his eagerness.
The impact would have killed a normal man. But as the weapon struck the sellsword’s skin, I saw his hide harden like it was stone. I had no time to admire the effects of his elemental powers as another hill giant approached the tent from another direction. My quarry. The smell was so awful I wondered how the nine hells had Alice and Harsk managed to let them come so close without noticing them.
The others later remarked that my eyes had caught fire and I did not find it surprising. It was the first fight after the event with the ancient scrolls and without really thinking, the wildfires within me came to the fore. With rapid steps I charged onto my foe. The periphery of my vision swam in blazing colours as I slashed and stabbed with my bane gladius, the fire empowering my attacks, making them faster and deadlier.
I could not see Harsk past the huge brutes but the pale-faced magus was between three of the giants, evading, striking but not parrying. Her scimitar crackled with such energies that it looked like she was carrying a spear of lightning. With another ear-splitting, hair-rising crack she slaughtered the first assailant. She allowed the momentum of her movement carry her over the smouldering remains of her first victim and followed by letting loose a bolt of lightning from her free hand at the one I was in the process of gutting to death. It exploded into bits.
“I thought you’d never wake up!” She yelled at me and Alfred between breaths and ducked one swing of a wooden club. Show-off.
The sellsword was not as nimble and his upper body began to look like completely made of a combination of bloody stone and hard leather, and he was losing his patience.
“GOD DAMNIT”, he roared in rage at his opponent and finally managed to land a furious axe-blow. And then another. And a third. I think the giant was already dead when he slammed it once with his shield for good measure.
With the fourth giant brought to its end by my panther, it had taken us a ludicrously short time to dispatch the surprise attack. Two remaining giants came to the sudden, smart conclusion that our party was too big a prey to take on and win, and turned tail towards the darkness of the mountains. Harsk, striking the air with his golden sword and shield ordered them to return and finish the fight. “Cowards!” He added the insult.
I agreed with the righteous dwarf and felt we should not suffer them to live. Besides, I had been waiting for the chance to give the command I was considering. With a whistle, I told Dûath to charge and pursue, and off he went, bounding in long leaps, reaching the slowest in a heartbeat.
I have to say I was again very happy for my fire-enhanced vision as I saw the hunting skills of my animal companion in action. Like jumping on a tree, the panther’s last powerful leap brought him to the uncovered back of the giant and he sunk his jaws at its neck. Already wounded, that was all it took to bring the giant down. The last made it alive into a cave and I whistled again to command Dûath to return.
“Well this was a welcome surprise”, Alfred was first to comment when danger had passed. His bare torso steamed in the chill of the night. The old mercenary actually looked invigorated by our skirmish, but then again I had already stopped wondering at the quirks of the thrillseeker.
On the 24th we reached the shores of steaming Lake Stormunder and we could pick out Rimeskull mountain in the horizon. I recalled the words of the poem.
On frozen mountain Xin awaits, his regal voice the yawning gates.
On the western side of the mountain was an actual face, a massive statue of a man with an open mouth covered in everfrost. One could see it from miles away. The mouth itself was a cave entrance, and it had to be our destination.
We were close, but first we had to reach the mountain by going over the lake – easily over a mile of water.
“My horse could pass”, Alice smirked from the back of her black stallion. “Yes we know your horse could pass”, Alfred spat his exasperated response and I too shot an irritated glance at the magic-wielder. Harsk was not as hostile. “I like your horse, Alice. Can you summon more them for the rest of us?”
I don’t know how I and Alfred would have reacted if she had said yes. Fortunately she said she couldn’t. However what she could was to teleport us across. But that meant leaving the horses.
We tried to continue around the lake but ran into terrain so rugged and hard to traverse by horse that we were forced to use magic or walk. We chose the former and let the horses and pony go.
Alice brought us safely over, and by foot we continued up the hill per the instructions of our map. It was a long, tedious hike but when we eventually emerged into a plateau, the sight was worth it. The old scholar had not lied.
Seven faces silent wait encircled guards at Runeforge gate.