Sunday, Patchwall 9, 552 CY (50 AN)
At the alpha wolf’s request, Southie indicates he will not cause any trouble. The wolves let them pass, indicating they will not stop them, but the road ahead is still treacherous. The group continues onward.
Croitus, Dhavita, Marguerite, Osvanpyw, Resh, Southie, Thava, their horses, and the mercenaries continue along the road. As dusk approaches — what passes for dusk in the Shadowfell, anyway — they note a figure sitting by the side of the road. He wears only a loincloth and carries a begging bowl, walking stick, and a pack. His features and dark complexion mark him as a native of Nadhi; his head is anointed with Tilaka and his body is covered in ash, marking him as a sadhu, or holy man (and potentially as one of the death-focused Aghori). As far as anyone can tell, he is alive. Dhavita greets him befitting his station, and after inquiries, he reveals he is there for her. He is an associate of her father’s, and although her father has not requested her presence, it goads the sadhu that she is living beneath her station. He would like to return her to her father. She has pointed questions about this — namely, would she be free to go if she journeyed to her father. The sadhu presumes so, but does not know. As far as she can tell, his belief is genuine, although she suspects his purposes are more mercenary (trying to toady to her father, perhaps?) than his indignation suggests.
Croitus, Dhavita, Marguerite, Resh, Southie, and Thava take a moment away from the ascetic to discuss the matter. Southie wants to take the deal, as he thinks dealing with a vampire is better than dealing with the goddess of death — he even acquired magic weapons to fight vampires! Dhavita counter-argues that they don’t know what the situation may be when they arrive — he may have legions of soldiers in some massive temple complex, and they end up having to fight their way out. She interested in leaving, however. She asks if it would disrupt Croitus’ plans if they leave before confronting the Raven Queen, and he replies that he will have to speak with her eventually, but it does not have to be now. He has plenty of time.
The group returns, and Dhavita indicates her terms — she is willing to go with him if they may be returned to neutral ground in the Sorrowfell Plains with no agents of her father around and with three days before he or his representative arrives. The holy man replies that starting three continents away with three days’ head start sounds like no meeting will occur. Southie, however, indicates he is willing to return to Nadhi with the holy man. Ignoring Southie, and with no further negotiations, the sadhu takes his leave, walking on the road back to the House of Black Lanterns.
As it is near dark, the group decides to camp for the night.
The group rises without incident the next morning. As they continue their march, the road ends, giving rise to a deep wood of evergreens. Croitus notes this is the outer border of Letherna, and will progress into rugged mountains before leading to Letherna proper. As the group penetrates the woods, they notice silver streaks in the sky, heading in the direction of what is presumably the Raven Queen’s domain. As they notice this, Resh feels a curious pulling sensation; he acknowledges it but resists it, not wishing to leave just yet. Osvanpyw apparently also resists it, but the mercenaries do not — they and their skeletal horses transform into silver streaks of light and rush toward the sky.
Resh questions why Osvanpyw did not pass on, and he indicates he still wishes to discharge his debt. The group continues to walk until they notice chains stretched across the trees like spider webs. They move to circumnavigate the chain webs, but a creature — humanoid, but covered in chains — rushes out at the group. Southie does not engage, thinking this creature may be a native and attacking it would go against his agreement not to cause trouble, but Croitus, Resh, and Thava absolutely do. Thava slings spells and Croitus throws his spear while Resh drains its essence with his enervating touch; the creature quickly falls and dissipates in a greasy mist and a puff of brimstone.
As the group debates what needs to be done next, and that Southie should participate in future battles, two creatures silently descend from the trees. They are humanoid, bearing lean, cadaverous faces, raven’s wings, and scythes. Various piercings and tattoos adorn these creatures. Croitus recognizes them as Sorrowsworn, servants of the Raven Queen. Battle is joined — Southie engages one while Croitus and Resh engage the other. Southie cuts at the beast with his axe while Croitus sends his amalgam-ghoul after the other. Resh menaces the creature with his enervating touch. Thava throws spells of flame and force at both, and Dhavita tries to keep her wife out of harm’s way. After a few moments, the chaos of battle is over, and the creatures are destroyed. Croitus speaks a brief incantation to keep them from dissipating, then places their bodies in canopic jars. Dhavita treats the injured — Thava is a simple matter, although trying to develop a symbolic treatment regimen for Resh is more difficult — and then tries to calm her wife again.
While the others recuperate, Croitus moves away from the group as if in prayer. In truth, he invokes the Raven Queen, Nera, and says if she wishes to speak with him, she should do so in person.