They spent the afternoon preparing to leave. They determined that they would bring four of their guards with them, and Ink assured them all that ze could keep them all magically warm, so nobody bothered to pursue extra warm clothes. Instead of live mounts, they determined that Ink’s magical steeds would be preferable, being both faster and without need for care, warmth, or feed.
Before full dark had fallen, Eirlys had gone to the Explorers’ Guildhall to meet with Artoss and Master Lighttouch. She signed the Guild Contract, and the Guildmaster told her which of the Waypoints were known to have been attacked. Meanwhile, Sardis and Ink worked together to magically retrieve several vials of alchemical antivenom from Sardis’ contact in M’ziir; wyvern’s being notoriously possessed of a venomous sting.
Lord Zorin’Oze and Ezra were off to the Kazzar’s feast that night, so they bid the young Lord of Zoran farewell and thanked him for his hospitality before turning in early. They intended to set out before dawn if they could. Before they went to bed, Ink wrote a brief letter to Hallendra: “Unfortunately, my associates and I will not be able to address any concerns in M’ziir over the next few days at least, as we plan to attend to some business in the Greybane mountains.”
They broke their fast on rolls and leftovers from the kitchen. As expected, the Lord was still abed, but Ezra woke early to wish them luck and report that the feast had been nice enough, but largely uneventful. The party and their retainers gathered in the courtyard of the Zoran manse while Ink busied zeself with various rituals before setting out into the pre-dawn of the D’kathi winter.
They left D’kath through the northgate towards the Lake Town, riding Ink’s magical steeds across the top of the snow, though they discretely detoured around Lake D’kath instead of riding across it.
The first Waypoit they wished to investigate was some 75 miles to the northeast, as the wyvern flies. Though their magical mounts could have pressed to cover the full distance within their 12 hour lifespan, Eirlys cautioned them that they would not like to be caught out in the Greybane mountains at night, even this far south in the range, if they could help it. So, they planned to make for a nearby Waypoint within an easy day’s ride, and start fresh for the ruined one on the morrow.
They discussed the howlers that had followed them from M’ziir. Even their mundane horses had outpaced the Ix’iil wolves on the road to D’kath. It seemed unlikely that the monsters, whatever they were, could keep pace with the faster magical steeds the party now rode. Still, to be safe, Ink placed an enchantment on them that masked their trail and discouraged eyes from seeing them as they traveled. if that didn’t shake their pursuers, nothing would.
Unfortunately, even an eladrin memory can falter. Or perhaps the paths had just changed in the time since Eirlys had last visited the Waypoint they were seeking. Regardless, part way through the day the eladrin faltered and they had to double back. Fortunately, Sardis spotted a shortcut through a craggy pass, getting the party back on track.
Unfortunately, Ink can’t resist a mystery. As they rode between upright rock formations, the wizard spotted a cave opening with some clearly dwarven runes chiseled into the pillars carved to either side. Riding a bit closer, ze noted a small pyramidal stone monument covered in runes and placed just 30 feet or so into the cave. Predictably ze dismounted and crept inside to investigate.
Just as predictably, the cavern was occupied.
The hill giant, apparently unhappy at the intrusion of his home, came charging towards Ink and his armed escort, bellowing incomprehensibly in the tongue of giants. Sardis, Eirlys, and several of their retainers caught up with Ink in time for everyone to be discouraged from persisting by the entire tree being swung at them. To make matters worse, sounds from deeper in the tunnels resolved into the shouts, and then the persons of two juvenile hill giants (each only about the size of Sardis), come to help papa drive off the invaders.
The party was already feeling a mite squeamish about killing kids (even giant kids), when Kalyx, who had remained outside with several retainers to keep watch, shouted that they had incoming. Mama Giant, it seemed, had returned from her hunt.
With no real motivation to remain save Ink’s curiosity about a dumb old dwarven monolith, the entire party beat a fighting retreat, hopped onto their magical horses, and rode off in search of the Waypoint.
They found the Waypoint just as the sun went down behind the eastern peaks. The structure itself was a simple, unmortared stone hutt, with one door and a smoke hole in the roof. It was set against a cliff, one wall opening into a very small cave (more of an overhang), on one side of a large ravine through which rushed a modest creek. There was, as promised, wood and a place to build a fire. It wasn’t much, but it was warm, and would keep the undead away while the party slept.
An few hours after full dark, they started to hear the howls.
Despite all their measures. Despite being fast and near untrackable, the howlers grew closer as the night wore on. Sleeping in shifts, the party tried to get a full-night’s rest while simultaneously preparing for the attack that Sardis said would come not long before dawn.