9th of Abadius, 4718 AR
Dunsward, Rashalka lands
The party sets out east toward the Nomen encampment. As the hills turn into plains, they spot a centaur party in the distance. Henri waves at them to indicate friendly intentions. The centaurs ask them who they are and why they are trespassing on their lands. Henri responds that they wish to find out what happened to Varnhold and he thinks whoever did it might be trying to frame the Nomen for it. The centaur agrees with the severity of the situation and leads them to them Nomen camp to see Aecora, their leader and shaman.
Nomen camp, Rashalka lands
As she finishes the ritual she’s been working on, she turns to the party. Although she is distrustful of them initially, Henri convinces her that it is important she help them, although she admits that she has no idea what happened to Varnhold. There are some malevolent spriggans, the Culchek, in the area, but they probably don’t have the resources to do something of a scale like that. The Culchek did steal an ancestral relic from the centaurs, a longbow called Skybolt. Aecora asks the party to be on the lookout for it should they confront the spriggans.
Henri decides to work on diplomatic relations with the Nomen. As he talks with Aecora, he asks how one would decrease hostile attitudes from the centaurs. She tells him that the Nomen have a ritual for things like becoming an adult and resolving disputes, the Kankerata Run. She explains that it’s ‘an obstacle course while you’re outrunning a land shark, in essence’. It’s been generations since a two-leg finished the Run. It would certainly change the attitude of the young warriors. Alternatively, earning the respect of the males of the tribe will also work like a charm, as they hold great influence in domestic affairs. She suggests checking up with Tamerak Elenark. She recalls some problems at their burial ground with some manticores but Tamerak will know more.
The party decides to participate in the Kankerata Run. They and three other centaurs get outfitted with basic supplies while they ride to Kankerata’s lair, the Blood Furrows. A group of centaurs joins them to watch the Run. One of the other participants turns out to be Xamanthe Silverfire, Aecora’s daughter. The other two seem to dislike her.
The Blood Furrows, Rashalka lands
The seven participants; Sen, Henri, Aldous, Isabella, Xamanthe and two warrior centaurs, line up at the start line on top of a hill. They run off, some of them sliding down the hill, others sprinting down the path. The path leads to a small ravine with rocky pillars standing between the ledges. Sen takes a lead, leaping the entire chasm with a single elegant jump. They climb down to a pool, where the centaurs start covering their eyes with a hand. The party gets the hint and averts their eyes from the pool, as cloudy reflections of grim, surreal alternate realities swim on the surface. They run into a cavern where bats dislodge from the ceiling and swarm out to the pool, knocking loose rocks in the process. After a short tunnel, the cavern becomes spacious, with more disturbed earth and bones of goats and such strewn across the ground. As a centaur tries to sneak by, Kankerata bursts out of the ground, bites her flank and burrows again. The rest of the participants make a greater effort not to be sensed by the beast, but most get a playful nibble from Kankerata. After some more weaving through falling rocks, the path leads above ground again. A thick patch of grass, a pool of mud and a low hill is everything that’s between Sen and Aldous and the finish line now. With the last of their effort they sprint to the finish line, both getting first place. In the meantime, Henri decides his time is better spent by seeing how much of a spirit Kankerata really is. He walks into its den, where it greets him with by chewing on his forearm softly. Henri nervously starts talking in Celestial as Kankerata stands before him, towering over him by eight feet easily. ‘Eh, hey. I’m Henri.‘. In his head, a deep voice resonates: ’You’re a weird one. You wield divine magic without a patron. Where do you get your power from?’ Henri responds: ‘I got both blessed and cursed. My patrons are many and they lend their power freely, but they made me an agent of sorts, fighting to uphold their ideals.’ The answer seems to amuse Kankerata. It touches Henri’s forehead with a clawed paw. Henri’s eyes glaze over as receives visions of locations. A pool somewhere in the Narlmarches, a nest wedged in a crack near the summit of Talon Peak, Stagholm’s menagerie, a giant skeleton of a Linnorm just to the south and lastly, a valley full of giant gravestones coupled with a feeling of dread. The land shark says ’That’s the counsel I can give you. It was a pleasure meeting you, Henri of Many.’ With a last nibble on Henri’s shin, Kankerata burrows as Henri says ‘The pleasure was mine’, as he moves on to complete the Run. Just before the finish, he overtakes Xamanthe, who seems somewhat injured. He stops to heal her and offers to take the last place together. She happily agrees and the cross the finish line a few minutes after Sen and Aldous finished.
Nomen camp, Rashalka lands
When the party returns to Aecora she has a loud disagreement with her daughter Xamanthe. Xamanthe storms off and Aecora invites them in. She is impressed that the two-legs not only finished, but won. She tells the party that they’ll be considered guests for as long as they wish to stay and are welcome to come back at any time. Although there are still a lot of centaurs against letting humans wander around their camp, this should prevent them from doing anything openly hostile.
She says ‘There is something that might have a bearing on the current situation. A scout reports that a big lumbering two-leg was walking around in Olah-Kakanket, the Valley of the Dead. It’s taboo for us to go there, so we haven’t followed up on it. I should also mention that that scout is my daughter. She thinks we should check it out and that not breaking taboo will not protect us from whatever happened to Varnhold, but I can’t just send a scouting party into the valley. Our traditions say we are supposed to guard that valley and watch it for stirrings or awakenings and not to enter it.‘.
The party offers to go check out the valley for her. Aecora thanks them and she’ll get a guide to lead them there, but she suggests the party spends the night here first to heal off the injuries from the Kankerata Run.
10th of Abadius, 4718 AR
The Valley of the Dead, Rashalka lands
The party sets out from the Nomen encampment with Danide Thunderhoof, a female centaur in charge of the warriors of the camp, and Xamanthe. Just before noon, they reach the Valley of the Dead. Danide gestures to the west and says ‘The Valley starts after those warning signs there. It’s around two miles long, so I hope you know what you’re looking for. We’ll stay here, as Nomen traditions do not allow us to enter Olah-Kakanket.’ She looks forbiddingly at Xamanthe.
Past some warning signs made from bones and skulls the valley widens a bit. About a mile after the bone totems, gravestones start littering the valley, standing between six and ten feet tall. They are badly weathered, but Aldous recognises the script as an ancient version of Giant and suspects it to be Cyclops. On each of the thousands of gravestones, a barely legible name and profession are written.
On the western end of the valley, a path winds up in a crag in a rock wall. As they approach the path, the entire crag slowly fades away to a even rock surface. Standing at about a hundred meters away, the crag reappears. Sen focuses his mind, envisions the path and steps towards it. He disappears from view, appearing again in the path. Shrugging his shoulders he turns around and walks out of the crag. ‘Not much there, it’s a pretty boring path to be honest’. Aldous scans Sen for signs of magic and finds he has been suggested to ‘This place is boring, I was looking for something else, let’s leave’. From the path radiates an aura of illusion and enchantment. They seem to draw on a source of power in the north. As this place is clearly warded well, the party goes back to their centaur guides to go north.
Once they return and explain what they saw, Xamanthe says: ‘There is the Ghost Stone and Talon peak in the north. The Ghost Stone is closer, we can go there first. It’s some ancient obelisk where planar boundaries are thinner.’
The Ghost Stone, Rashalka lands
At the Ghost Stone, they are greeted by a disembodied voice. ‘Greetings humans. Please do not be alarmed by my appearance.’ A giant spider the size of a bull appears out of thin air. ‘I am Zzamas and I need your help. I have been displaced from the Ghost Stone by a group of xill. As you see inns a place of safe stay, so do we planeshifters consider places where the veil is thin as a place of travel, rest and peace. These xill are being rowdy and drunk and they kicked out all other creatures. I have found a chest on the Astral Plane but I can’t get it open. It’s one of those magic wizard chests and it’s yours if you help me.’ The party agrees and sets up an ambush. The xill sit on the ground, drinking a black concoction from flasks. Two of them are throwing rocks at each other. The party rushes in. Due to their drunk state and unpreparedness, the xill fall quickly. Zzamas appears next to the Ghost Stone. ‘Thanks! Anyway, here’s your chest. If you’re ever in the neighbourhood, swing by for a visit!’.
In the chest are a wand of dimension door and a spellbook.
Examining the Ghost Stone, Aldous finds ancient Cyclops markings over slightly more ancient Elven markings. He thinks this was originally constructed by elves and later modified by cyclopes. The Elven markings suggest a ward to prevent the dark void from looking back at their observatory. The cyclops script seems to shift the location to the Valley of the Dead. The power it draws on seems to be divine in nature, originating from local guardian spirits.