It’s been a few hours since everyone has gone to sleep; my own rest was disturbed by images of Tol-Zurbak. While the northman Rurik has been a brother to me in my time of exile, I still long to be amongst kin in my home. Oh father…how you must be ashamed of your son, hiding while usurpers walk your halls.
Rurik and I decided to help this elf lad, Orn, investigate the disappearance of his hunting partner, Garm. Upon finding his friend deceased we were attacked by a party of goblins. Rurik and I put goblin after goblin to the blade but if not for the elf’s marksmanship we might have lost the battle. Rurik was clever enough to leave one alive to take back to Orn’s uncle Azar, the only other elf in Hathwick and the only one who could understand this horrid goblin tongue.
After a heated interrogation we learned the chieftain of the Pale Heart elves, Taal, had allowed these goblins into an ancient elf barrow. We ventured out with the goblin (who we learned was called Griznak) and though traveling with a prisoner made the journey more difficult, he’d begun to grow on me. His kin abused him and that’s no way to live, even if he is just a wretched goblin.
Upon our arrival at the barrow we discovered a man who had been taken captive by the goblins. We freed him and he helped us slay the goblins around the entrance to the barrow. He told us his name was Lungorthin and he had been planning to search the tomb for riches, not expecting it to be overrun by goblins. Orn didn’t say anything but I could see the anger behind his eyes. Humans, goblins…it didn’t matter; they were both defiling his ancestors’ tombs.
We delved into the old barrow and when we reached the first antechamber a heat shimmer unexpectedly appeared in front of us. Within a few seconds, this shimmer erupted into a ball of fire. We all dove for cover and drew our weapons, ready to face whatever monster was responsible for this fiery show of magic, only to see a confused eladrin woman. When we called out to her she assured us she came in peace, and was merely searching for information on an ancient elf king she suspected was interred within the barrow complex. We informed the lass (who introduced herself as Althaea) of the goblin infestation and she decide to travel with us.
After many battles with the goblin squatters and the restless spirits of elves buried within the tomb, we reached the goblins’ chief, a stout creature named Zagrat. After a brutal shakedown, the goblin told us a tale of Taal meeting with masked riders. As the goblin was begging me to spare him, Orn shot him between the eyes. At first I was outraged, having promised the chieftain his life for the information he gave us…Orn assured me that he took no joy in the act but that he had sworn a blood oath to avenge his fallen friend Garm, and would not break it. While elf customs are very strange to me, I understand vengeance; hopefully mine will come swiftly as well.
We spent the rest of the night clearing the tomb of goblins and repairing as much of the damage to the barrow as we could. It took all of my strength to seal the tomb, calling upon my rudimentary Earth-Forging ability to close off the entry with great stones.
On the journey back to Hathwick we came upon an elven warband, and by eavesdropping we learned that they planned to attack the village with a sizable force. We quickened our pace in a desperate race to reach Hathwick in time. When we arrived we quickly informed Marshal Brand, leader of the town guard, and began helping him shore up the defenses of the town. The elves came at dusk the next day. After a long and hard battle the people of Hathwick prevailed, but it was a bittersweet victory for Orn; his uncle Azar fell in battle, bravely defending the lives of others who were not as strong as he. Orn took the loss hard, attending to Azar’s funeral rites alone. I and the rest of the group respected his decision.
Later, Orn sorted through the things Azar had left for him. He found a map showing the site of the elves’ sacred grove. The lad told the rest of us that he wanted to seek out Taal for revenge. I wouldn’t see him set off to complete this task alone so we all decided to head to the grove in the morning.
Other than a run-in with a pair of grizzly bears and the giant who turned out to be their master, the journey to the grove was rather uneventful. When we arrived, however, we found the grove littered with the bodies of dead elves and the sacred trees a smoldering ruin. Althaea quickly used her arcane talents to tame the remaining fires. A single survivor lay beneath a standing stone, and he told us that Taal was responsible for this great betrayal, forsaking his kin and leading these masked riders in their slaughter before joining their number and donning a black iron mask himself. The riders seemed to answer to some one or something called the “Sunderer.” The nature of this entity is unknown, but the name alone sends a chill down my spine.
I overheard Orn telling Althaea that these trees were said to be where his ancestors’ spirits resided in the afterlife, and that Azar had believed his spirit would come to rest here as well. Though I find it hard to grasp the notion of spirits residing in something so soft as a tree, I understand how it feels to lose a loved one and have your world turned on its head. Orn has not said much tonight. Lung, Rurik and I spent most of the day trying to clear the grove of the ash and fallen trees, while Althaea assisted Orn in collecting the bodies of the dead and laying them to rest deeper in the forest as per elven tradition. Rurik and I both said our prayers from the campsite and left Orn to grieve in solitude.
I know he must be confused and hurt, but I hope realizes that none of his new companions will let him face this crisis alone.
We determined that the masked riders rode off in the direction of the city of Vaerhaven, to the northwest. Our plan is to travel to a nearby port on the river, Red Harbor; there we hope to book passage via boat to Vaerhaven, where we might learn more of these masked riders or this Sunderer character. While boat travel makes me uneasy, I know it will provide us the speed crucial to staying on the trail of these masked riders while it’s still warm. We depart in the morning.
May Moradin help us all.
-Rothar Rockhide, Son of Tulthor