Our heroes are summoned in the town square and face each other, allowing to come to terms with each other and greet each other formally. Durgon and Elscara had already met prior, due to her semi-routine performances at the Seven Silvers, a local tavern Durgon found himself staying at for roughly a fortnight. As the barbarian practiced his weapon forms and Elscara tweeted softly on her flute in the town square, Durgon found himself staring at the third member of their party-to-be, the wizard apprentice known as Eraisuithon. After a brief exchange of formalities, the tower stuck noon and the townsfolk began gathering, dressed similarly in drab, black outfits as if attending a funeral. After a few moments when everyone seemed to be there, Mayor Uptal cuts through the crowd, a small cart of supplies being wheeled in his wake. The farewell ceremony was nothing extravagant, as the townsfolk were still painfully aware of the very real dangers that the town had almost succumbed to nearly 200 years ago. The mayor made his speech and summoned the heroes to his side to take up the Everflame Lantern and begin the few day trek to the crypt. Durgon quickly took up the honor of carrying the lantern, and then the three heroes were each given a knapsack of some simple supplies including an length of rope, grapple hook, rations, water skins, and some fine local brandy. With that they departed, eager to complete their quest and gain some recognition in their little town, and if nothing else find out any and all secrets behind this ceremony.
As Elscara was most familiar with the town and the local surroundings, she managed to successfully piece together the cut up map that was divided amongst their packs and set them on the right trail. In a most uncharacteristic and sweet turn of events, Durgon offered the Halfling purchase upon his shoulders so they would not be burdened by her lack of speed, despite the fact that she was not very good at being able to stay astride the Half-Orcs broad, muscular shoulders. After a few hours of travel like this, our heroes were forced to stop and take up arms against a pack of bloodthirsty Orcs waiting in ambush along the path. Understanding their language, Durgon attempted first to reason with the Orcs, not knowing of any tribes in the area and figuring them perhaps lost or estranged from their territory. The Orcs were having none of it however, and proceeded to attack the trio unrelentingly. To no surprise, the attack caught Elscara off guard, causing her to fall off Durgon onto the flat of her back, although luckily enough not in the path of any nearby Orcs. The battle was short and sweet, Durgon quickly overpowering his mindless and battle-crazed brethren with assistance from the spells of Erais and some quick work from Elscara’s scorpion whip. After the battle was over, however, Durgon’s large wound quickly vanished, as did their vanquished foes, leaving the party to realize that the Orcs were possibly not real. Sensing magic afoot, Erais quickly scanned the area and detected a strong magical presence hiding a ways off the road, but upon approaching, it vanished, an unclear figure darting off into the sky. A quick survey of the scene let Erais recognize the familiar scent of Holgast’s pipe tobacco, but no other clues were to be found.
After dispatching their make-believe assailants the party started again on their journey, taking point from Elscara and her superb map reading abilities… or so they thought. Unfortunately, the fall from Durgon’s shoulders seemed to have rattled something loose in the little Halfling, as she managed to lead the heroes on a 6 hour detour through the woods before ending up almost exactly where the scuffle with the Orcs had taken place. Thankfully, she seemed to regain some of her bearings at this point and started leading true again, and managed to find them a suitable campsite after nightfall. The night passed mostly uneventfully, although with the recent battle fresh in their minds the party seemed a little more on edge than usual, taking heed of the sounds of wolves in the distance and the cover that the undergrowth might provide to any nighttime predators. Indeed, only thanks to Durgon’s vigilance was he able to notice a lone wolf stalking the outskirts of their campfire, drawn close by the smell of stewed meat. Durgon attempted to calm the wild beast down, but was satisfied to toss it part of the parties limited supply of rations instead. Luckily, the beast was too scared to attempt an attack on the camp single handed, and ran off with it’s prize, able to stave off starvation for another night. The rest of the night was a peaceful one, the only real trauma coming to a rabbit, scared out of it’s wits by Elscara doing a round of the campsite.
The next morning the heroes set off again, placing faith once again in Elscara’s direction which thankfully seemed to lead them true. A while before midday the group made upon a large lake, so large they were unable to see the other side clearly, obscured by a thick mist in the middle. While refilling their water skins they happened upon a corpse lying near the lake edge, slowly decomposing and appearing to have his entire upper torso covered with huge bite marks. Noticing that he was long dead yet no animals had defiled his corpse yet, the party managed to carefully loot what valuables were left on his body before moving on, not wanting to bother taking the time to bury him as nature was already running it’s course on that matter. They made good time after that, pushing themselves to travel as fast as they could with Elscara’s guidance, and managed to reach the edge of the Serpent’s Gorge by nightfall. Afraid to push on with the impending shower, Erais and Elscara vouched to camp by the edge of the gorge until nightfall, much to Durgon’s dismay. After a completely uneventful and cold night of increasingly heavy downpour, the trio started off early morning searching for a way down the slippery slope, trying carefully to master the cliff side with just sheer force of will and a stubborn attitude, and absolutely no ropes. Eraisuithon unfortunately was not able to hold on and tumbled town most of the sheer slope, acquiring more than a few cuts and bruises as he discovered a sprained ankle at the end of the fall. Elscara was happy to deftly maneuver down the slope, tripping only a few times, while Durgon, spurred on by his anger for his companions wasting time in his opinion, trudged angrily down the slope. Unfortunately for him, his trudging stopped just short of the bottom as he fell into a rather large pile of mud pooled near the end of the gorge.
While Durgon was sorting himself out however, Elscara and Erais caught sight of the first thing that started to tell them that something might really be afoot: still tied to their posts outside the doors to the crypt were a few steeds, horses and ponies alike, slaughtered and lying dead in the grass before them. The creatures could not be dead for more than a few days, and the crypt doors lay slightly ajar. What lay in wait for them beyond, was something they could not fathom…