27 Springtide 459
Arlyn’s breath hung heavy in the frosty air. His eyes crawled across the edge of the ridge just ahead, watching for tell-tale depressions in the snow and ice. Much of the road had been relatively safe, allowing them to push the horses beyond the point where they should have collapsed. Joshua was tending to the animals even now, focusing the magics of some sort of strange religious icon to wash away their fatigue and restore their strength. Arlyn snorted; he could certainly have used a little of that.
At least his teeth weren’t chattering. Charmalina, who insisted on following him around on the treacherous ice, shivered against the cold. The lowlands had made them soft. Winters in Gate Pass had always been at least as cool, and the footing not much better. He’d grown up climbing the passes to either side of town with his father, yet he too was growing weary of the windswept rocks and ice. The sun was getting low in the west, and the final outpost along the Alydi Gap should be just ahead. He knew that Joshua hoped to find signs of Ragesian treachery, but he himself was warming to the idea of a cozy hearth and a hot meal.
Charm’s foot slipped, and she grabbed a hold of him to keep from sliding to the ground. Arlyn sighed. He loved his sister, but sometimes wondered how different life would be if he’d managed to leave her at home. Who knew? Maybe Gate Pass would be that much safer…
At Duke Gallo’s behest, Commander Hertiage and the heroes ride north into the Alydi Gap, making haste from one outpost to the next and conducting quick interrogations of the sentries. It isn’t until the northernmost outpost that they discover any sign of Ragesian activity, which promptly materializes as an ambush on the slope leading up to the watchtower. Wyvernriders drop fire bombs from the sky, whilst archers from atop the tower pepper the heroes upon approach. Enemy soldiers attack the party from the rocks to either side of the path as Jasmine, Basil and Elessar spur their horses forward, quickly covering the ground to the tower. Arlyn, meanwhile, takes to the sky under the influence of Joshua’s magic and sidles up the side of the tower to return fire upon their perched assailants. Derek wisks balls of fire into the air to discourage the wyverns as Joshua, sighing heavily at his limited mobility, settles into his saddle and pushes onward.
The battle moves into the tower soon enough, and is a bloody one. More than one hero find themselves at death’s door amidst the conflict, pending the timely arrival of the party cleric. As Jasmine and Arlyn face soldiers on the tower stairs and Derek blinks through the walls in search of the lurking inquisitor, Basil, Charm and Elessar trade blows with a skilled cluster of ground troops. Elessar suffers one axe stroke that almost certainly spells his doom, but some enigmatic force keeps him from dying and he is soon returned to the fight.
With their opponents finally vanquished, and yet another bear-skull mask added to Jasmine’s collection, the heroes search the tower. Amongst the inquisitor’s belongings is a set of orders outlining the Ragesian general’s instructions, which clearly preclude any sort of cooperation with King Steppengard. The orders allude to a larger conspiracy surrounding the Dasseni court, and the army’s intentions to march on Dassen as soon as some sort of “madness” has run its course.
The heroes elect to retreat to the next outpost to the south before settling in for the night, preparing to ride the next morning for Gallo’s Fend with all possible speed.