Second to last chapter until the end of this book, we're told.

Everything goes white, but then color returns to the world.

We're in a small clearing, surrounded by forest. Three moss covered standing stones form a triangle around us, and just 50 or 60 feet up the slope is a large hunting lodge constructed from stone and timber.

The windows for the hunting lodge are shuttered, but smoke is coming from one of the chimneys, showing evidence of inhabitants inside. The front door is slightly ajar.

Alissa sneaks in while Shale inspects the runes on the stones (which seems to be a very old dialect of draconian), and we hide the lock box containing the statue.

Scarcely had we hidden it, when we are ambushed by a pair of trolls and several drakes.

Alissa enters the first room, which seems to be a small antechamber. The right wall has several small arrow slits, and in front is another set of stout wooden doors.

Alissa opens the door slightly, and peers into the central hall. Stairs lead to an upper level, and in two of the corners are two stands with fine eleven plate armor coated in chip emerald paint. On either side of the stairs, are two rather demonic looking statues.

Just as Alissa enters the room fully, she hears screams from outside.

Two of the drakes bite into my arm and leg, and I can't help but scream in pain.

Shale is facing off the two trolls, and she isn't doing much better. Luke is fighting another drake.

Mist surrounds me and I take an enormous step towards the lodge, just as Alissa comes running out of it. Shale and Luke follow, and I put an illusion behind me, to hopefully distract. One of the drakes is distracted, but the trolls ignore it.

We manage to get into the lodge entrance, and I throw a fireball outside, killing the three drakes. The trolls look only slightly singed, and they barrel up the stairs to the lodge.

Luke slams the door shut, and tries to brace it against the trolls, but one of the trolls simply tears the door off.

Shale runs into the main hall of the lodge with her weapon still drawn, and the two demonic statues suddenly come to life. On the balcony above, several people come out of their rooms to see what their commotion is.

I duplicate my haste spell, and put it both on Luke and Alissa to help them get away from the trolls, and then misty step again to get away myself. Unfortunately, scarcely a moment after I had left, the troll swipes at Luke and knocks him out.

Shale shoves one of the gargoyles out of the way of the door so the others may pass, and Alissa grabs Luke and runs into the room with her.

The onlookers from above seem amused. We can't help notice one of them is another troll, but with four arms.

I run through one of the doors in the main hallway and start opening doors, looking for a way out. One of the doors leads to a room bare except for a door made of stone, which I run into.

Alissa runs into the room with Luke on her back as a fireman's carry, and shoves the door open.

Shale still hasn't made it to the room, so I run back to the hallway to see she is bracing the door leading to the main hall shut. Once again, the door seems to have no effect against an angry troll, who rips it off of its hinges and tries to assault Shale with it. The door shatters around Shale, who seems largely unharmed by it.

I twin another haste and cast it on her and myself, breaking my concentration on the first spell. I can only hope that Alissa has gotten herself and Luke out, and I run out with Shale not far behind me.

After several minutes of running, we manage to group up, and Shale dispenses some much needed healing, especially to an unconscious Luke.

We decide we should head downhill, to try to find a stream. Sure enough, we find one, and we follow it downwards.

It's late when we decide to stop our brisk pace, finding a good place in the lee of a hill.

We spend the time talking a little. I talk about first learning I could do magic. Alissa talks about her time with nobility, and how easy it is to steal from them just by sneaking into their parties. Shale talks about her first real battle against some orcs. Luke mentions how his best friend went into the army with him, but died in battle.

Morning comes, and Shale goes up the hill, and gives a cry of alarm. The rest of us run up the hill to see what has alarmed her so.

As far as the eye can see, a desert rolls out in front of us.

We have no idea where we are, and scarcely any idea where to go.

We could try going south, around the mountains. We could try crossing the desert. We could try going back up towards the lodge.

Or we could go north, and try to intersect the lodge's trail. We finally agree to go that way.

We march for two days without seeing anything of note, aside from some formion warriors in the desert below, which we make sure not to make aware of our presence.

Towards the end of the day, we see a pass in the mountains, and we decide to head for it.

We reach it, and in the distance, miles away, we spot a figure, who raises a staff and then pounds it into the ground. The cliff walls above us collapse, blocking our path.

The mysterious figure turns away and disappears, and we give pursuit.

We reach where we saw the figure and find a small camp. It looks like someone had spent some time here, but they left little, except several foot prints, which we follow.

It grows cold, and Alissa and I wrap ourselves in our blankets.

After about ten minutes we reach an enormous cliff wall, which the prints stop at. The only way to go is up.

It's a difficult climb, but soon an arrow shows we are still on the figure's trail, and not far behind. It seems he had found an alternate ledge several hundred feet away vertically, and has several quivers he is now firing at us. Luckily conditions make us a hard target to hit, but he does manage to to get an arrow into Luke, before putting the pack back on and free climbing back up the side of the mountain.

Shale unties herself, and climbs up the mountain after the figure with much renewed speed, while Luke, Alissa and I find a ledge where we can rest and tend to Luke's wound. We are clearly no match for Shale's climbing skill, and would only hold Dan back from our quarry.

Shale reaches the top shortly after the man, who looks rather menacing in his winter garb. Shale tells him she just wants to talk, but the man draws his swords and advances on her.

They fight. The man drops a sword and twists the other blade, striking Shale. Shale gets the upperhand, and the man throws a knife blade at Shale as he is knocked backwards.

He lays gravely wounded, and Shale tries to tend to his wounds, but the man looks Shale in the eye and then bites down on something and expires.

Shale strips the corpse, finding a tattoo of a five headed dragon. He also had several bows, daggers, and arrows, as well as a brace of rabbits. Searching around, Shale also finds his backpack in the snow, as well as two vials of dark liquid, one with a black stopper and the other with a white stopper. She also finds a map, a climber's kit, a blanket and a note.

Shale looks to the west. A storm is coming. It will be no use staying up here at the top of the world, so she starts climbing back down the mountain.

Luke had packed the falling snow to make a windbreak. Our ledge isn't large, but it's enough to huddle without fear of rolling off.

After several hours of shivering, Shale's head suddenly pops through the snow. Apparently on her way down, she remembered this ledge, and decided to take shelter here too.

She shows us what she found. With the map we think we have a pretty good where we are, and unfortunately, we had passed a town near the lodge completely.

The note is much more interesting, and was signed by five cult leaders who called themselves wormspeakers, each one in different colored ink.

  • Severen the Red
  • Galvin the Blue
  • Nerovine the Green
  • Rezmir the Black
  • Varium the White

The note goes on to describe orders for an assassin (apparently the man Shale just killed) who was to eliminate enemies, in which we are described with some detail, including mention of magical disguises. It also mentions unrest in the cult, which the assassin was also supposed to deal with.

The goods from Greenest are also mentioned. Apparently we had been following them all the way up, and had been taken to Parnest, the town near the lodge, where they were loaded on...a flying castle. A flying castle which belongs to a dragon called Snow White, Glazriel the Cloud Chaser, and a Wizard of Thay is also in attendance.

The storm lasts for several days, and isn't until our rations have dwindled to nothing that it finally lets up.

Very miserably, we make our way down the mountain, and start our journey to Parnest.

It takes us almost a week to make it to Parnest, with the need to hunt for our food slowing us down, with little game to be found. Growing up, at least, gave me a little experience to help us survive out here.

We push ourselves hard on the final day, and we make it to town only a few hours before dark.

The town is small, and has only a few buildings of note. One is a shrine, and there is a stable as well, but we set our eyes on the Golden Tankard.

It's a rustic tavern, with very little for accommodations. The owner, a man in enormous mutton chops, offers us his room for 10 gold, which we take, since we already seem to be attracting quite a bit of notice, including selling cultists good to a town, which we later find is under the cult's thumb. We also buy much needed supplies.

It's late, and a man knocks at our door.

He looks fearful, and asks if we're looking for the castle, yes? He can get us there, but we need to leave tonight, as the sheriff will try to take our heads by morning.

We're interested, and he tells us that the wyverns in the stable can take us to the castle. He's not sure what it takes exactly, perhaps a code word, but he's not sure how we might get it. The sheriff would probably have it, but he doesn't recommend tangling with him. Could be as simple as unleashing them

We thank him, and he scurries off. We collect our things and go.

The wyverns in the stables look angry, but Luke and Shale manage to calm them. I bend luck a bit to help. We hear noises from outside, and with no time to wait, we get on the wyverns and they fly off.

We see the sheriff and several cultists below, who are powerless to stop us from getting away.

Before long, we are very high up, and heading towards a very oddly shaped cloud...