After traveling overland for many days, the adventurers drift one by one into Terish De’Carn. They first encounter each other at Garron’s blacksmith shop, which also serves as a public watering hole for the depopulated city. Over tankards of thick ale, the four adventurers discussed the rumors they’d heard on the road into the town.
Prometheor and Jalez both spoke of gruesome tragedies perpetrated on holy pilgrims near Naspers, a frontier village many days’ travel to the south. The holy knight in particular advocated for an armed mission to purge the evil from the southern lands. Everitt, however, called attention to a common rumor that everyone in the town had heard: that Baron Argus’ ancient fort had been consumed by the swamp east of Lake Bovil many centuries ago, leaving nothing but festering ruins in the heart of the marsh. And Kez put forth a chilling tale he’d overheard from several villagers, about an ancient defensive outpost called Tora Norrith some five miles west of the city. Terish De’Carn’s determined villagers had begun rebuilding the stone fortress to serve as a bastion of defense throughout the long winter — but in recent days, the workers became fearful and refused to spend the night at the work site, telling of grim creatures that stalked the ruins at night.
Some discussion followed, but eventually the characters agreed to investigate the stone fortress and then make their way to Naspers. As the party bedded down for the night in an abandoned barracks building, Everitt the thief found a sheaf of papers in the bottom of an otherwise empty supply chest. Slipped in alongside some boring supply reports and requisition forms was a crude, hand-drawn map tracing the route from Terish De’Carn to the swamps east of Lake Bovil. The swamp itself was obscured by a droplet of liquid that had smeared the ink on that portion of the map.
Jalez slept atop a pile of blankets and pillows, determined to keep luxury about his person even in the musty barracks hall. Prometheor knelt and prayed quietly to a small tinderbox full of glowing coal before retiring to bed. Everitt and Kez both climbed out onto the roof of the building, preferring to make their bed on its thatched roof. As they drifted off to sleep, they noticed the pinprick glow of several campfires in the Faris Hills many leagues south of the village.
The next morning, the party spent some time securing food, water and equipment and then departed for Tora Norrith, the ruined keep in the hills west of the village. They hiked throughout the morning and into early afternoon. During the journey, Kez ranged far ahead of the main group; this exploration uncovered an old quarry cut into the side of a hill. Undergrowth and fallen leaves covered the massive stone blocks, but Everitt was able to brush away the foliage and uncover some runes etched into the rocks. He made a charcoal rubbing of this odd script before the party moved on.
After some three hours of overland travel, the party emerged from the sparsely wooded hills to see Tora Norrith: a squat, three story stone drum tower and a half-finished curtain wall curving gently along the top of a ridge. The curtain wall was thick and stout, and two parallel corridors ran through its length before terminating (presumably) into the drum tower. The villagers had felled some trees to make a crude campsite, but the workers themselves were nowhere to be seen. The adventurers were not alone, however: Four deserters from the recently concluded military campaign had been hiding out in the hills — and now, they moved forward to catch the party unawares.
The fight was short and brutal, and in the end the adventurers dispatched two deserters and captured another two. Prometheor, speaking of the kindness of Rhianna, won the trust of the two men (for the time being) and they were given the task of guarding the camp. Meanwhile, as dusk crept over the hills, the party moved forward into the corridors beneath the crumbling curtain wall…