An unexpected summons from the town council started my day earlier than desired. Bleary-eyed, I followed the messenger through the soft, late-summer snow to Hammer Hill city hall. Aimon, Alexey, and (eventually) Gledrick were also summoned. The two indebted guardsmen, Omlet and Sven, made an appearance as well.
Once assembled, Konnor Hale wasted no time. He told us that Master Timble has agreed to serve as guide and he asked our party to lead a raid on the camp holding the Hammer Hill prisoners. He even saw fit to assign a small troop of 25 guardsmen to Alexey’s command. Actually, he offered the command of these men to any of us, but for my part I avoided his gaze. I can hardly keep myself from harm. I will not be responsible for a bunch of guardsmen. I hope we shall not miss Alexey’s stealthy tactics during this mission. We depart before dawn tomorrow.
With a full day available, I thought I’d take some time to familiarize myself better with Master Vontaze’s library. While looking through some papers on his desk, a soft knock at the door tripped the silence. The unexpected noise surprised me and it took a moment for me to respond (beyond giving the door a harsh, questioning look). Mr. Brightscale, the steward of the Academy, stepped through the door, poured me a steaming cup of tea, and asked if there was anything else I needed.
I have to admit I was a little taken aback by this. I am no Academy Instructor. I cannot replace Master Vontaze. I have no authority over this man. But, there he stood with some strange hope creeping into his eye. Again, I took my time to reply. (He must think me a bit slow.) Recalling Aimon’s request, I asked Mr. Brightscale if he could find us a map, as detailed as possible, of the wilderness between Hammer Hill and the Dragon’s Spine. He set off, looking pleased. I have another task I’ll ask him about later.
That evening, I bore witness to some cunning dwarven magic. Gledrick has, undoubtedly, become a bit of a working man’s celebrity in the community. Just yesterday in the square, I heard Kardum Smythe loudly bragging that he forged the hammer used by Gledrick to crush goblins and their hounds. But last night, Gledrick used his bit of notoriety to conjure, out of thin air and with no spoken words, a 20-year single malt scotch in a crystal glass. (Crystal? I didn’t know there was a crystal glass in all of Hammer Hill.) I watched in amazement as he downed the glass and received another. After pushing my mead aside, and looking longingly at the barkeep, I received my own crystal glass of liquid gold. It was incredible, and led to a slumber undisturbed by dreams.
Pre-dawn came with a brisk wind and a thin frost just etching the edges of the windows. We met by the bell tower on the square and set out, Timble near the front and Alexey at the head of five neat rows of the town guard. During the day, Alexey would sometimes split off with his troop and practice tactical maneuvers and hand signals. They would disappear for one or two bells, and then rejoin our party. The goal for the first day was simply to move west and help Master Timble recall his harried journey from the camp.
Just after Sunpass, with legs weary, I called to mind the new spell granted to me by the town council. Mount. I pulled out some horse hair I had gathered from the stables. I spoke the words, released the hair, and watched as the winds seemed to carve a shape out of the very air. Within moments, my horse stood before me. I was suddenly aware of the eyes of the rest of the troop. Some gasped. Some stepped back from me and the horse. A few of the more quick-witted asked for a horse of their own. Sharp fellows. I offered Master Timble a ride with me and we spent the next couple hours riding to our camp.
The next morning, I started early with the horse. I wanted the chance to talk to Timble about his escape. Encouraged by my request, he closed his eyes and relived the dangerous journey. He found a bluff shortly after leaving the camp, turned south and came down a long incline to a marshy ground. At this point, haunted by the memories of a worg attacking his friends, his mind was jumbled and less accurate. We pieced together some vague ideas with the help of the map and set off in that direction.
Once my horse dissipated back into air and dust, we were on foot the rest of the day. An errant path took us to the end of a box canyon and forced us to retrace our steps. With darkness stretched across the vale, we camped at the mouth of the canyon. The nights were crisp, but the midday sun felt good in the cool air.