The day turns to night as the caravan of Dragons, Half-Orc, Gnomes and carriage come to rest amongst a copse of Pike Trees, a variety common in the more arid regions, but still available in these colder, moister areas; they stand dozens of feet tall, with no branches save for the uppermost reaches, and arched curves in their trunk. They often grow in bunches of five or so close together, making travel through forests of them incredibly difficult. Thankfully, there are enough here to provide shelter but not enough to impede travel. Tubanen and Iresha have a large fire and a meager, although satisfactory, feast on offer for all to share. Tubanen shares some tales of the southern lands, their grand empires and shining towers that touch the clouds themselves sounding very different from the crumbling decadence and constant in-fighting you usually hear about.
Iresha makes some extra blankets from some of the material they have, offering them to each of you. The woman in the back of the carriage doesn’t awake, although Iresha does feed her a foul-smelling soup in small doses throughout the evening.
When the Gnomes retire for the evening, the rest of you have no option but to rest under the stars, the bright lights from further north licking the edges of the night sky here. The shapes in the stars look familiar, placed there by the Taihun to help explorers find their way, and augers to learn the future.
The night uneventful, the camp is broken down in the morning and on you go to Hargijk, the low-lying city belying the strength of the citizenry within. Huge wooden walls tipped with sharpened, decorated bone tower above and shield the sun for a whole minute on your approach, the gates being slow and cumbersome to watch open; as in Hyxhuathil, Hill Giants are employed to operate the doors that once barred your way in. Tubanen salutes the chief guard on top of the wall, who simply looks away to the horizon before turning and disappearing behind the palisade.
Behind the great wall the road dips sharply down into the city, the streets and buildings set the height of a Stone giant below the ground level outside the walls, obviously dug by hand. The buildings are wide and rounded, the wood and stone interwoven in complex cross patterns and creating a colour pallette few would expect. From moment to moment, as the carriage trundles along the rough road towards the clear centre, many small combat training sessions, incense-guided meditations and endurance tests of all kinds can be seen in gardens, clearings and the streets themselves. Market stalls are absent, as are any signs or symbols. As Cragenak knows, every Orc in the city knows where everything is if they need it.
The Dragons attract a hushed attention, however. Iresha sits comfortably reading some parchment leafs while Tubanen furtively looks around, evidently quite defensive and on edge about accompanying Hexfang and Gemscale. While none approach them, many flickering glances and avoided stares let them know that they should perhaps tread lightly. Dragons are not too common, and their abilties, or body parts, can be highly sought after. The Orc Chief, Arngor, is known to fear very little but the wrath of a crossed Gorbane, however, and so will not knowingly upset an agent of the ancient Dragon.
The Gnomes make it to the wide open city square, a huge oval space with a flourishing garden at one side near Arngor’s building, the raised rounded roof coated in some gleaming white material. “I’ll be going to a few traders we know nearby, get some supplies organised. We’ll be here if you need us, but in a few days we’ll be heading back further south and away from your homes. Best of luck to you all.” With that, Tubanen heads off. With the sun quickly rising to settle high above your heads, Iresha tending to the woman in the carriage and the Orcs mostly leaving you to your devices, you all find yourselves in a fairly quiet position.
What do you do?
If you feel up to it, feel free to share a tale of your character’s life or a made up story you may have heard as a child; this will be something you’ve share during the night camping with the Gnomes.
Gemscale’s papers are observations made about the heavens and the Taihun. The book appears to be part journal, part spellbook. The journal is of a monk devout to the Taihun, and the ending details the discovery of a strange orb, the dismantling of the orrery, and the attack by “living flame in service to a dark lord”. It is unclear how much of it is hyperbole.