After leaving their druid companion behind with the tribe of halfling children, Bella and Veramal continued traveling south to the mountains, following the map they’d gotten from Irma, cleric of the Bear. Vermal intended to find the Barvan nobility in the hidden fortress in order to tell them all that they’d learned in the city of the Drow—that the war had been started by the Drow in order to destroy the nations above and take them over, that the Snake was behind it all and the war was completely profitless for everyone involved. Bella was just enjoying the journey and looking forward to the opportunity to smash things, hopefully monster heads.
In the foothills, several days’ journey from Eagle’s Nest, they met a young monk named Min. She came from Souvigneau and wore finely made monk’s robes with the symbol of the Wolf, and she, too, was looking for the last Barvan fortress. Bella and Veramal didn’t trust her immediately, but Bella let slip that they had a map, and Min wanted to see it. She didn’t trust them completely, either, but she still paid Veramal’s fee for a glimpse of the map, and she traveled along with them. That evening, when rain began o fall, they took shelter in a cave and spoke a little more.
Meanwhile, north and somewhat east, another group of three travelers took shelter from the rain in an inn in a small village. The young wizard of Caylambra, Lanliss, had traveled to Barva seeking more knowledge of magic, and there he met Sojourn, a cleric of the Armadillo who loved to wander. On learning that Lanliss was seeking the secret hiding place of the Barvans, Sojourn decided to travel with him simply because this was a place he’d never seen. Theirs was not a completely harmonious companionship—Sojourn always wanted to travel through the wilderness while Lanliss preferred roads—but they got on well enough. Later, though, they met a strange, pale young woman named Cecily who was even less amicable. She had a fierce and vaguely sinister mien, and a raven familiar who laughed loud and long in a spiteful, raucous clatter at nothing in particular. She was heading the same way, though, and so they traveled together.
On the night of the rain, each of these six adventurers was visited in visions by the god they worshipped (or at least said they worshipped). Lanliss found himself in a vast sunlit studio, watching the Fox paint with brilliant colors in bold strokes. Veramal felt himself falling, as over a waterfall, surrounded by sparkling water and a chaotic rush of sound, flying with the Waterfowl in joyous abandon. Bella met the Bear in her vast snowy kingdom, though the vision was suffused with warmth and ease. Sojourn traveled with the Armadillo in a beautiful jungle, enjoying a journey with the wandering god. Min ran with the wolf in a heart-pounding chase, pell-mell in freedom and excitement. And Cecily saw the Stranger in an enormous spinning dimension of clockwork and the cosmos, his face pale and blank with pits for eyes.
Fox, Waterfowl, Bear, Armadillo, and Wolf told their followers that they were on the right path, that they would find the rulers of Barva and their actions would help to heal a huge and terrible wound in the world. The Stranger told Cecily something altogether different, and she woke with a scream. The others woke refreshed and content, assured of their gods’ approval.
Each night after that, the gods continued to visit each of these six, encouraging or warning them as appropriate. And, through the guidance of the gods, it came to pass that the two groups of travelers arrived on a rocky path at the same time, from opposite directions, just as two ogre mages and four ogres solidified from gaseous form and went on the attack.
The battle was not without difficulty, but the six adventurers prevailed in the end. Having seen each other’s strength and being headed in the same direction, they all decided to travel together afterwards. (Again, Bella and Veramal did not immediately trust the strangers, particularly the sinister-looking Cecily, but this time they pulled Min into their little huddle. They knew her first, therefore she was one of them.)
Thus, the champions of the gods were called and joined, and they traveled on.
Next – Chapter 2: Valley of Trials