Coming out of the dark tunnel, the group consisting of Elia, Sargis, Senna and Valeria starts to set up camp. It is night and they’re not sure what time it currently is, but they don’t plan on actually setting out while it’s still dark.
Elia takes first watch. During the night, she spots glowing eyes in the distance, at least four or five pairs of them, watching her. They’re not moving, but she readies her weapon anyway. She waits for some time, and while she is watching, the eyes retreat.
When Sargis takes over the watch, Elia informs him about the eyes she spotted and shows him the direction they were in. But during his watch, he can only hear his companions snoring, leaves rustling in the wind, and he can’t spot the eyes Elia saw. In his opinion, she may have imagined it because she’s a superstitious Antivan.
Night passes uneventfully and the party leaves the Shrine of Kor behind as they make their way north. It’s not as easy to follow the beaten path back to Jader as it was coming here, with the Frostbacks clear in view, but the group manages anyway.
They just set out when they spot a group of crows circling over what looks like the body of a large creature. Sargis spots something of human make behind the flock of crows. Maybe a camp of some sort. He decides that it is at least worth investigating, maybe there is something of worth.
The group finds a camp set up at the edge of a grove. As they get closer, several crows break away and reveal the body they have been feasting on. It is a horse. The party looks around and finds that no matter what happened here, the occupants of this camp have clearly been taken by surprise.
Beyond the horse’s skeletal remains, the group find several smashed and ripped tents, broken crates and lots of blood, soaking into the ground. Further south in the camp, they see a lone man standing next to a tent, seemingly disoriented. He doesn’t seem to notice them at first, and turns out to be a mage as he starts casting a spell. A small blue light appears next to him, circles around him and then floats above his shoulder, where it stays.
Sargis approaches the mage and asks: “What happened here? And what are you doing in this camp?”
The mage introduces himself as Maevin, and he admits that he doesn’t really know what happened. One moment he was sleeping, and the next he woke up to this mess of a camp. He says that he assumes all of his companions are dead, all but one. He asks whether someone can take care of this wounded companion of his.
Elia asks Senna to at least go and check out this person, and so Senna walks over, utterly irritated. “So how bad a state are we talking about? Do I really need to waste my mana on this?” She examines the unconscious elf and determines that he is mostly fine.
“This’ll do.” She grabs her waterskin and dumps some of it onto Revas’s face. He wakes up immediately and jumps to his feet. “Who are you?!” Assuming a defensive position, he makes sure to stay away from all the strangers and inches closer to Maevin.
“Maevin? What’s going on?”
“I don’t know, they just appeared here, and… and it looks like the rest of our people are dead.”
While everyone is busy talking to Maevin and Revas, Elia searches nearby crates and tents, supposedly checking whether anyone is alive. In reality, she makes quick work of any loot she finds. She inspects a crate and a tattered tent. The usually beige cloth has turned into a bloody brown in several places. Underneath the fabric, a bloody bedroll sticks out.
Making sure everyone is busy, she checks on another tent. This tent has been smashed. The wooden sticks have been crushed and the fabric lies loosely on the ground. A hand can be seen sticking out of a corner. Elia checks for signs of life: he’s dead. Next to him, Elia finds a few items, among them a pretty nice longbow made of whitewood, which seems to be of elven make.
Despite being busy with other things, Revas, Elia and Valeria all jerk up as they hear a quiet voice pleading for help. They hear a low moan coming from nearby. A stifled gasp and ragged breaths. They follow the sound, which becomes louder as they get closer to the cliff in the west. Revas carefully leans over the edge, looking down.
Just 5m/16f below them on a ledge leans a qunari in really bad condition. The ledge is just wide enough to give her purchase, and her legs are dangling in the air. She seems to be holding her side, but her eyes are closed, and she looks barely conscious. It is likely that she will lose her balance soon.
Revas calls down: “Salem? Is that you?!” The qunari is barely strong enough to reply, but she does make sounds that sound like affirmation. The group immediately decides to help, and a rope is pulled forth, a loop tied into it and Salem instructed to put it around her torso. They loop the rope around a tree and all of them decide to make an effort to pull her up. Valeria is in front, and while the others try to help, she plants her feet firmly into the ground and pulls the qunari up all by herself.
As soon as she is up, the party urges Senna to heal the wounded qunari, which she reluctantly does. After being doused in the golden light of the heal spell, Revas immediately asks what happened. “Weren’t you there last night? Where are the others?”
“Dead,” Maevin says.
“What? No, that can’t be right! I saw her get dragged off.”
Salem then asks about the state of the other characters. Flavius, a Tevinter Knight, and Alessandra, a Jader Circle Mage. She also wonders where Manuell is, and asks for him several times.
While the others converse with Salem, Elia starts looking for linen and rips some off of a bedroll from a nearby tent. The tent has been ripped apart by something large. Claw marks are clearly visible in several places, having torn open the thick material of the tent. Pieces of flesh litter the area, and what looks like a body is partially covered by the tent’s cloth. The area is littered with bones and pieces of flesh, and several broken crates litter the area.
Inside the tent is the body of an older woman wearing what looks like circle robes. It seems like she was trying to crawl into the tent (to get something maybe?) when she was killed.
In the meantime Salem mentions that she and her companions have been hired by Myali Cadaran, the owner of The Cauldron, an alchemist’s shop in Jader. They were supposed to track a wyvern and bring back its venom, but when they set a trap for the elusive creature, something went wrong. The large beast attacked in the middle of the night, and killed half of Salem’s companions.
Salem adds that the alchemist promised 3GP for each person in her group. With the poisoner of her group dead—Alessandra, the dead woman in circle robes—Salem admits that the only way she would be able to get the venom would be by hacking the wyvern’s head off.
Elia then bandages Salem’s arm, while Senna, Valeria and Sargis are talking. While taking care of the qunari, Elia listens in on their conversation, and realizes that she knows a little more than they do about wyverns: They are fast and more agile than dragons, and their bite is venomous. Adult wyverns are also capable of spitting venom at quite a distance.
The group starts discussing what would be the wisest approach. This takes close to an hour, as several of them are vehemently against going after the clearly dangerous creature. Especially Revas, Maevin and Senna aren’t too keen on going after it. And Elia is also rather opposed.
Valeria asks how long it usually takes a wyvern to eat the food it takes back to its hold.
“Well, they are a lot like snakes, you know. Sometimes they eat it right away, other times they leave it lying there for a bit. A day, maybe two. Rarely more. But it can take weeks before it eats again. They don’t eat very often,” Salem explains. “They don’t call my Wyrm-Slayer for nothing.” She takes a long look at the group around her. “With this group I’m not sure we will survive. But I need to find out whether Sigune is alive or not. If she is dead, so be it. But if she is not, then we must go after her. I can’t call myself a bounty hunter and leave my comrades behind. I very much want my honor to stay intact. I would rather die than forfeit my honor.”
The long-winded discussion continues until they finally agree to at least go and see whether the deer Salem’s, Maevin’s and Revas’s group set up as a trap had been eaten. If only to determine whether it makes even any sense to go after the large creature or not. Because if the sleeping potion inside the deer didn’t put it to sleep, there would be little point in going after it again.
Someone in the group says that maybe the wyvern was only so hostile because they are close to its nest. And thus an idea is born. What if they could lure it away? What if they could find something of value in its nest?
Elia and others look around the camp, trying to find more of that potion the alchemist gave the wyvern hunters: Sudden Slumber. Revas and Maevin find one, while Elia and Salem inspect Manuell’s tent. Now Salem finds out that another of her companions is dead, as Elia points out that she has inspected this tent before and found only a dead body and a bow.
They look a little closer this time, especially now that Salem said that any valuables they might find would be theirs. Among Manuell’s things they find some coin, as well as other items and a piece of paper, which reads: “Stilled Tongues Speak No Heresy! Bear Road, 21.10., Sundown.”
The Cult of the Stilled Tongue rings a bell for Maevin. It is a decades-old cult which keeps popping up every few years, and the reigning Bann in Jader is an avid opposer, who has been fighting the cult for decades. The cult is infamous for kidnapping children and cutting out their tongues.
Since the cult has its base somewhere in Jader, Maevin assumes that Bear Road is also somewhere in the city. Asking for it shouldn’t be too hard.
Before they head out, Salem asks Senna for more healing, but the mage refuses. “I do not know what you speak of. I never healed you,” she tries to convince the qunari. A raised eyebrow is all she gets for her troubles, until Elia chimes in and offers her a lyrium potion, if she would only be so kind and heal the wounded warrior. Senna relents.
Finally, the group sets out to see whether the deer is still in place. They follow Salem for 10 or so minutes, until they reach a clearing. Looking around, they wait until Sargis tells them the area is secure. In the middle of the clearing lies the deer. It has been chewed on, but the bites are much smaller than what they would expect of a wyvern. Most likely something as large as the wyvern would eat it in one bite.
The party inspect the area for a moment and soon realize that this is not an ideal place to attract a wyvern, as the large creatures prefer open terrain, and are not fond of narrow paths in the woods.
They decide to leave the deer behind and then return to camp, where they quickly pick up the wyvern’s easy to spot trail. They follow it for a while, always looking out for anything—especially wyverns—that might attack them.
When a small squirrel shoots up a tree and disturbs the leaves, Maevin is so startled that he accidentally casts shock onto it. Lightning strikes the tree and turns it into a smoldered stump. He apologizes and then proceeds to conjure another spell wisp to his side, in the hopes of it calming him down.
Using this moment to get some well-deserved (or so she thinks) rest, Senna sits down onto the warm tree stump and lets the others in the group look around. In the meantime, she studies Maevin, and determines that he is also from Tevinter.
Valeria, Revas, Elia and Sargis in the meantime inspect the path ahead of them, and find several blood spatters along the track the wyvern created. The blood, they think, is either from the wounded Avvar or from the wyvern itself.
Salem quickly makes it clear that she would like to continue following the path, to get to her friend and hopefully save her.
Suddenly, a mighty roar fills the air and the group watches as large teeth sink into Senna’s shoulder. She cries out in pain, trying to get away from whatever it was that attacked her.
A red lion.
The group watches her struggle with it, and Revas immediately looses an arrow at the creature. But Senna is still in the way, and so he flinches at the last second, making his arrow fly wide. Elia backs him up, nocking an arrow herself and aiming straight for the beast’s eye. It shoots off into the distance, lodging itself right in the eye, and the red lion cries out in pain, breaking the arrow with its paw.
Maevin tries to console him, and casts vulnerability hex on the beast. His magic envelops the red lion with purple tendrils, tightening even further as the creature tries to fight it. Seeing that Maevin has made an easier target of the beast, Sargis immediately charges in, slashing at the creature with his longsword, cutting so deep he can feel his sword scratching over bone.
Enraged, the big cat lunges at him and sinks its teeth into his arm, wounding him severely. Just then, Senna backs away from the red lion, and a flurry of frost shoots out of her staff, circling the creature and attaching to its fur. The creature tries to resist the icy frost covering its body, but even so, it seems to slow down. Frost is covering its eyes and mouth, and it makes light clinging sounds as it tries to shake the spell off.
Knowing that she can’t really do anything without her weapon, and with just one arm, Salem moves out of the way, making room for the others to flare out.
This time, when Revas looses his arrow, Senna is not in the way, and his arrow hits its mark. The arrow lodges into the red lion’s shoulder, and the party can hear the arrow scraping over bone. Elia tries to follow this up with an arrow of her own, but the creature nimbly jumps to the side, avoiding the impact of the projectile.
In the meantime, Maevin has prepared a small lightning to strike the creature, and easily finds his mark. The red lion roars in pain, and then Valeria is rushing towards it, determined to put the beast out of its misery. Her massive blow rips open the creature’s side, and while blood spurts in her direction, flesh hands loosely from the red lion’s side. Sargis is not far behind, and with his lightning fast reflexes he slashes at the beast twice, inflicting terrible wounds.
The red lion can barely keep itself upright, as the group watches icicles from Senna’s wintery grasp form and dig deep into the flesh of the beast, damaging it further. In a desperate attempt to gain the upper hand, the red lion lunges at Valeria with all its weight, almost knocking her down. Its massive jaw rips at her armor and arms, causing Valeria to bleed.
Senna then decides to end the lion’s suffering, and casts another winter’s grasp. Her spell surrounds the beast with frosty air, completely engulfing its body. Slowly, in front of everyone’s eyes, the beast turns blue, its very body seemingly turning into ice. It is now that Elia realizes that the eyes she saw at night were similar to those of the red lion.
What is left behind is a very life-like icy statue of a red lion.
“Finally. We need to leave. I need to know whether Sigune is alive or not,” Salem utters. Despite being massively wounded and missing her forearm, she makes sure to show the group how hardy qunari are. “Let’s go.”
But Elia has other plans. She offers 5CP to anyone who can shatter the red lion “statue”. Revas tries, but his shortsword doesn’t get him very far. Then Valeria steps forward, and in one giant swing takes its head off. Of course Senna can’t let that stand. She is one for semantics, after all. Conjuring a giant stonefist, she shatters the frozen creature into a dozen pieces. Impressed, Elia gives 5CP to both of them.
The group decides to take a break and at least bandage their wounds, when everyone but Senna hears a voice in the distance:
Expecting Senna to react, they all look at her, waiting for a reaction. When Senna simply looks confused and slightly uncomfortable with the fact that everyone is staring at her, everyone looks into the direction the voice came from.
At first they can’t see anything because rocks, trees and bushes block the view, but then a lithe figure appears in their field of vision. A young elven woman is jogging towards them. Her brown hair is tied back into a ponytail, and in her hands she carries a crossbow. A shortsword is attached to her hip, and she is wearing light leather armor.
The elven woman comes to a halt at a distance, looking a bit wary because of all the weapons directed at her. She stands there for a moment, seemingly unsure about how to proceed next.
Revas greets her in Elvish, and her reply in turn makes him think that she is from somewhere in the west.
Senna simply stands there for a moment, completely flabbergasted.
Her companion and friend—thought dead—now walks up closer and waits for Senna to continue. When the Tevinter mage stays uncharacteristically quiet, the elf says: “Hey… it’s good to see you. I wasn’t sure whether you were still alive.”
“Oh, she’s pretty,” Elia says, unsure of why she couldn’t keep that comment to herself. Luckily, no one seems to notice, when she adds a flirtatious wink on top of that.
“Well, you know that we were in that vault or whatever it was… And you fell unconscious. Before you, both Marie and I were also unconscious, and when you also fell over, we got worried. And then Marie heard the sound of darkspawn coming closer. We tried to lure them away from you. And then we got lost. We tried to find you again, but before we could, we were attacked by a large group of skeletons.”
The young elf pauses for a moment, obviously emotional.
“Marie tried to fight them off and hold the doorway, but they overpowered her. I watched them rip her apart. I was scared, so I ran and hid. I don’t know how long I stayed there, but at some point I heard voices. I thought I heard you, Senna. I was exhausted. I didn’t have any water or food, but I tried following you, hoping to find a way out. I couldn’t see anyone until I came into a large chamber. From there I could see a torch in the distance. I heard stone scraping over stone.
But I was too exhausted, and so I risked drinking from the fountain in that antechamber. It helped a bit, and so I tried catching up to that torch I saw. But all I found was an empty room. From the sound I heard, I figured there must be a way out somewhere, and so I looked for one. I saw your foot prints in the dust, leading straight into the wall. It took me a long time to find the switch, but eventually the door slid open.
I followed the tunnel, until I came out on the other side. It was daylight, but no one was around. I saw your tracks, though, and so I knew I hadn’t imagined things. I wasn’t sure whether you were actually in the group, I didn’t see any sign of you, but… I figured trying couldn’t hurt. After losing Marie, I wanted to make sure.
Following your tracks I found a destroyed camp, where I found more tracks. Really obvious ones. I picked up the trail. And here I am.”
Senna steps up to Limbes and gently puts a hand on her shoulder, fully expecting the elf to go in for a hug. Leaning into Senna is all Limbes does for now, however.
“So your companions actually were real,” Sargis mutters. Considering the wild story Senna told him and the others, he wouldn’t have been surprised if the Tevinter mage had either made it all up or simply imagined it.
A debate breaks out about what to do next, and during this discussion, Limbes hesitantly asks for food, which Valeria gives her readily. Limbes is clearly grateful and quickly stuffs her face. Elia watches this display with interest, and mentally logs it under “Valeria feeds Limbes with rations”, which seems completely appropriate.
Limbes then asks the group what exactly they are after. The party explains the wyvern venom hunt, and Limbes says she will follow them, as she wants to stick close to Senna.
The party quickly picks up the tracks, and continues on.
The tracks wind around a few rocks and between trees. Here and there high grass makes it easy to follow the tracks, and the party makes good time, despite walking uphill. As they take a short rest under a tree, the sun has just passed its zenith. It’s surprisingly warm for Harvestmere, and while the sun is shining at the moment, dark clouds are coming in from the east.
As they get ready to continue, they notice blood spatters on the grass which has been pushed aside by the giant beast. They look fresh.
Uphill ahead of the heroes is a small grove. Its trees are blocking their view, but everyone except Valeria can hear high-pitched screeching coming out of that direction. Elia suggests that the noise they’re hearing is a young wyvern. The grove itself seems untouched, and everyone assumes that the large wyvern walked around it instead of tracking through the dense growth.
The group sneaks up to the grove and waits in the tree line. Both Revas and Elia decide to climb trees, and Revas easily scales the large tree, swinging from branch to branch. Elia, however, barely gets a grip on the first branch, and so she stays just a few feet above ground.
Revas doesn’t stay up there for very long, but he does see an expanse of grass beyond the grove, leading up to a cliff, on which a large wyvern sits next to a nest. He quickly descends the tree to tell the others.
Before the group can discuss what to do, they hear a mighty roar far above them. They watch as the sun disappears and a large shadow casts the grassland before them into darkness. Their heart speeds up. Could it be?
Elia moves to the other side of the grove, closer to the cliff, to get a look at what’s going on. Salem follows her quietly, and after a short moment of hesitation, Revas joins them.
As they get to the edge of the grove, the noises they heard before become louder. In front of them is a small expanse of grass, which ends at cliff. The sheer surface of which is around 7m/22f high. They can see a lone tree from here, and beyond it on top of the cliff, they spot the massive nest.
The wyvern has heard the sound as well. Her head shoots up, just in time to see the mighty dragon before they collide. They come to stand on top of the cliff, the wyvern roaring up on its hind legs in an effort to make herself look larger than she actually is. The dragon is easily one and a half times her size, but she seems determined to protect her young from the massive creature.
When the dragon delivers a mighty blow with its tail, the wyvern is flung onto the grass in front of the small group of three. They feel the earth shudder as the massive creature lands with a thud. The wyvern prepares for impact, and then the dragon is upon her, slamming her to the ground. The dragon’s enormous front claws dig into the wyvern’s back as she is pressed into the grass, and blood trickles from fresh scratches.
Elia, Revas and Salem watch as the wyvern struggles under the dragon’s weight, incapable of shaking the larger creature off. The dragon roars and strikes her, trying to push her onto her back so her tender neck is exposed. As it does, the wyvern uses this chance to push the dragon away with her hind legs, slamming her tail into the dragon’s face.
Momentarily blinded, the dragon takes a step back, and that is all the wyvern needs. She lunges at the beast and sends a spout of venom right in its face. Enraged, the dragon strikes the air, its tail and claws searching for a mark. The wyvern circles the dragon, hissing like an angry snake. When the dragon strikes again, the wyvern jumps out of its range and onto the cliff with ease.
Taking the bait, the dragon takes to the air and tries to pummel the wyvern into the rocky surface. This time, the wyvern is prepared, and with an unbelievable swiftness she lunges to the side and away from her young. She runs towards the edge of the cliff, gives one look back at the dragon, and jumps off, gliding into the distance.
The dragon, completely furious, takes flight and follows with a loud roar, spitting fire after the smaller creature.
Elia instantly runs across the meadow, Salem and Revas hard on her heels. And even the others rush to catch up to them.
Throwing a rope with a grappling hook up the cliff, Elia offers it to Salem.
“That is sweet and all, but…,” the wounded qunari points at her arm. “Oops,” Elia utters, and offers the rope to Valeria instead. “You look like you’re a good climber.”
Without missing a beat, Valeria grabs the hemp rope and pulls herself up the cliff with ease. “Are you coming?”
Elia follows as fast as she can, definitely slower than the strong warrior who scaled this steep surface in record time.
In front of Valeria and Elia is a massive nest, easily 3m/9f wide. Inside of it lay four eggs and the body of a woman. Blood is covering her head and torso, and she isn’t moving. Next to her, one of the wyverns is pipping, and they can see a crack run along the length of the egg.
“We need to hurry!” Senna, while staying down in the grass, has no intention of climbing up the steep cliff. But she will be damned before she lets her companions waste precious time. Next to her, Sargis is keeping an eye out, making sure that neither dragon or wyvern are returning.
Wordlessly, Valeria grabs the woman lying in the nest. Her body is heavy and limp, but the avvar woman poses no issue for Valeria. She’s carried heavier things. She puts her down at the edge, loops the rope around her torso and slowly lets Sigune to the ground.
Immediately, Salem appears and frees her from the rope, and she instructs Senna to check on her friend. “Do something!”
Cursing under her breath, Senna bends down to look at the woman. “Well. She’s alive, anyway. Not sure for how long, however.” She points at the wounds. “She’s taken quite a beating.”
In the meantime, atop the cliff, Elia and Valeria debate over what to do. Are wyvern eggs worth a lot? Is it worth it taking one along, or will the mother come after them with a vengeance? How much does a wyvern egg go for? And how do they know that the little wyvern inside the egg is actually alive?
In the end, they decide to take the egg that is already pipping. After a short discussion, they agree that it would be best to put it in a blanket, make a knot and let it down gently. Which Valeria does.
The group at the bottom of the cliff isn’t entirely sure what’s going on, but some of them don’t even care. They just wanna get away from this place, as they expect the wyvern—or worse, the dragon—to come back any moment.
They decide to carry the egg in the blanket, and Sargis, Revas and Valeria hold onto three ends of the blanket. Senna grabs the fourth, but the burden proves a bit much for her, and so Maevin gives her a hand. Together, they carry their quarry back the way they came, as they decide that that’s the easiest way to get back to Jader. At least, without actually getting lost.
Back at the camp, they pause for a moment, and Elia watches as the tiny wyvern breathes through the slit in the egg. Its nostrils flare, and air bubbles form where it is breathing.
It’s so cute, though, Elia thinks. I wish I could keep it.
The group sets out, and after several hours of traveling at exhausting speed, they arrive at the south gate of Jader. It is late, around 11pm, and all they want is some rest. For the last few hours they have been traveling with nothing more than two torches lighting their way, and a few of them are still wounded.
Two guards bar their way, and one of them walks up to the group, asking what they want in the city.
Sargis explains that they’re just bringing back a hammer that a smith asked for. Band–something. “Oh really,” the guard mutters, trying to see what the five of them are carrying.
“Yeah, really!” Elia goes ahead and produces the hammer from Sargis’s back, waving it in front of the guard. “Look, that’s all we’re trying to do. Deliver this hammer.”
But the guard is not so easily convinced, and so he asks what they’re carrying. He’s obviously curious, but Elia persuades him to just let them pass.
“Fine, it’s been a quiet night so far, and I’d love for it to stay that way.” He motions for his comrades to open the large gate and so the group is finally back in civilization.
The Centuria District is sparsely lit and rather quiet at this time of night. Contrary to what they know about the city of Jader, this district seems to be a bit run-down, although they do spot several buildings that look like temples or shrines on their way. The only people the group sees and encounters are guards and other military types. Worried they might get caught with their precious cargo, they send Elia into the first inn they encounter.
From the outside, it already looks inviting. Laughter and conversation draws in the party’s attention, and the warm light shining through the glass of the windows feels utterly welcoming.
Inside, Elia is quickly approached by a young woman, who welcomes her and offers a drink and meal. Elia declines and instead asks for a room for the night. They discuss details for a moment, but then come to an agreement. A community room for six is what Elia agrees to pay for.
After handing Elia a receipt, the young innkeep opens the door to let the rest of the group in. She raises her eyebrows when she sees them lug in the egg (which is covered), but doesn’t mull over it very long. It’s clear that she has seen weirder things.
Once inside the room, the heroes make themselves comfortable. The room is sparsely lit, and there is not a lot of furniture, but it seems clean and well taken care of. Three bunk beds take up the most space, but there is also an old wardrobe and a few nightstands. A small table and chair are shoved into a corner. The bathroom is a community one down the hall.
Elia shows everyone the receipt and asks for her money back, or at least part of it. Several in the group pay for it, and in the end she has more than the 80SP she actually spent.
Maevin, Revas, Valeria, Sargis and Elia each take one bed, and after making themselves comfortable, Valeria offers to take first watch, pointing at the egg they placed in the corner.
“We should probably watch this.”
Everyone agrees, and so they finally turn in for the night…