Trapped on the platform at one end of the cavern by a large crowd of the pale-skinned creatures, the adventurers wait to see what the light at the other end of the cavern is. The light emanates from a small number of orbs, which streak into the nearby corpse. The creatures stop chanting. In a moment of stillness, the only sound heard is a sickening scrape as the corpse opens its dessicated eyes. Tendons, dry from death and long disuse, creak as the corpse stands. A voice rings out in the adventurers minds.
Why have you come here
The group gives a brief explanation which leaves a variety of details out (wisely), and S’sul on a hunch pulls out the Flower Chalice. “Do you know what this does?” he asks the corpse.
In a flash, the corpse is standing in front of S’sul. With emaciated, claw-like hands it grasps the chalice, easily snatches it from the unsuspecting saurians hand, and returns to its place in front of the throne. It did not appear to have traversed the intervening space.
A suitable offering. You have done me service; leave now, and none shall come to harm
The corpse stiffly moves a hand, and the white-skinned creatures which block the exits part, creating an open path straight down the cavern. The group stands in amazement.
“I wonder; if we attack it, will it forgive us later if the battle goes poorly for us?” says Stasis. The shallow, rasping laugh of the corpse is answer enough. Briefly they debate the advantages of attacking anyway, to recover the Flower Chalice, but S’sul warns them that the corpse is inhabited by a deep evil. Reluctantly, knowing they are overmatched, the adventurers turn away from this fight under the advice of Elam – “In time, we will gather our strength and allies, and take revenge.” As the reach a tunnel leading out of the cavern, S’sul looks back. The corpse is sitting on the throne of skulls, Chalice in one hand, the huge metal vault behind it, and rows of twisted creatures before it. The saurian paladin does not feel good about what has happened here, under the forest.
Led to the surface by one of the pallid things, the group finds that they are some distance north of the ruins of the elven outpost. Shortly after they begin to make their way east, Stasis’ figurine of wondrous power returns to him, bearing Whisperwind’s reply. He gives them direction to the forest glade where he has set up the ritual to destroy the metal spikes. Led by their oakling companion, they reach the glade in less than two days. Whisperwind thanks them, but receives only vague answers when he asks what they found in the elven ruins. No matter – he doesn’t care, as long as they have brought him the second spike, which they have. At midnight, under a half-moon, Whisperwind begins the ritual by placing both spikes in a mushroom circle. A variety of other fey show up, from satyrs to nymphs to pixies, to help in the ritual. They take up positions which Stasis thinks are strange versions of the constellations, and the spikes are destroyed.
After the fey disperse, Whisperwind again thanks the adventurers for their help. S’sul brings up another possible trade – Whisperwind had mentioned that he has knowledge about the Seven Citadels of the Saurians, ancient strongholds of S’sul’s people. In exchange for this knowledge, Whisperwind wants the group to find out who copied the second spike from the older, original first spike. He tells them that the spikes were crafted of cold iron, a greenish colored metal that is extra wicked when used against fey creatures. He does not know where cold iron could be found in the north, but expects that if they track it they could find the creators of the spikes. Once the creators are found, Whisperwind wants the group to put an end to them. The group agrees, and they return to the goblin camp to summon Rurik. Their oakling companion offers to be a go-between for Whisperwind and Stillwater, in case messages need to be exchanged.
Rurik arrives a few hours after they break the Sending wafer. He looks like he has been beaten – he has scratches on his face, his left eye is blackened, his robes have blood on them, and he walks a bit tenderly, as if his muscles ache. Waving away their concerns, Rurik has the party gather the stolen supplies. He tells them that he cannot teleport them all back all at once, but Elam offers the use of the Conjurer’s Spellcord he found. Tying it around a bundle of supplies, Rurik teleports them all straight to the courtyard of Stillwater Keep.
Here, they leave Rurik to report to Peter. Peter is very disappointed that they did not bring the metal spikes as asked, but he knows that they are up against deadly forces. They also inform him that the goblinoid forces have been making small camps on the western shores of Stillwater lake, presumably to spy upon and plan attacks against the town. Peter thanks them, and when they ask if he knows anything about cold iron, he directs them to the dwarves of the Gemstone House. They also tell him that an oakling may enter town, and to allow him passage. They also tell Peter about Whisperwind and that the treant is open to trading.
From the keep, they travel to the Gemstone House. Asking for Yigrum, they are ushered into a small dining room. Given food and drink, they have not long to wait for Yigrum. He Tells them that all the cold iron mined in the mountains was sent south years ago, and that he personally does not know if the dwarves even mine it anymore. However, he directs them to Frosthome. They ask if he’ll send a letter on their behalf. He agrees, and will send it with the next caravan, which should leave in the morning.
Next, they visit Calathes, the enchanter for Lord Caleb. Calathes lives in a large house, almost a mansion, near the keep. He is a wizard who is more interested in crafting and acquiring wealth than exploring new magical theories. He meets with the group, tells them he is willing to sell or craft items for them, and then tells them about his latest project. He is trying to build an ice golem, and needs certain components to make it work properly. Foremost, he needs frostweed, a plant that is uncommon but can certainly be found out on the tundra. If they can find any, he would be willing to give them discounts or small items in return. Additionally, in order to better understand the intricacies of ice and magic, Calathes wants the group to retrieve a staff possessed by a goblin shaman. This staff has unusual properties relating to cold magic which Calathes wants to study. He directs them to Rurik, who may be able to help them locate the general area the goblin shaman may be in.
It is early evening now. As the group departs Calathes’ house, people are returning to their homes, the scents of dinners being cooked waft through the chill air, and gold-glowing windows are beginning to cast patches of light out into the darkening streets. The group makes their way to the keep, where they are told that Rurik has been given time off to recuperate. This means he is most likely getting drunk. His most frequent watering hole is the Ice Lodge, which is also the favorite spot of barbarians staying in town. When they arrive, Rurik is already drunk. Politely refusing his offer of drinks, they ask him for help in locating the goblin shaman with the strange staff. He believes that the best place to start looking is at the north-western tip of the mountains, where the little tundra ends and the vast icy wastes begin. The group decides to stop in Frosthome first, to ask about cold iron. They stop in to talk with Yigrum, then head back to Rurik. Rurik happily and drunkenly teleports them north towards Frosthome.
And of course, being drunk, Rurik misses his mark. The group arrives on the open tundra, south and west of Frosthome. Though it is a journey of only a few hours from here, they will be cold hours. Night is almost upon them. Not long after they begin walking, they come upon goblinoid tracks. The tracks run north into the foothills, and the group decides to follow. They find a small gang of goblinoids and a hobgoblin casting some sort of spell over a pit of lava. S’sul charges in on his mount, distracting the monsters, while Elam casts invisibility on himself and Stasis so they can attack from behind undetected. They stop the hobgoblin from casting whatever spell he was casting. A magma elemental emerges from the pool over which the hobgoblin had been casting. They defeat it, and discover that the area was an elemental node. Elam finds that he can use the energy to increase his own power, and gains the benefits of a blood elemental. They find the charred remains of a map the hobgoblin had been using, which marks the location of two other elemental nodes – one located in Stillwater Lake, and the other in the Wild Reach (Whisperwind’s forest). They rest, and decide to head for Frosthome.