Ssibliss chirped thoughtfully to himself as he considered the ragged remains of the dead priest. The body was fresh, no more than a day old. The crows and other carrion animals had not even been at it yet. The priest had died at the very summit of the mountain pass that marked the entrance into the Namaran Valley from the north. An old, crumbled column that may have once been a mile-marker stood a scant ten feet away.
What ever had killed the man had been thorough about it, Ssibliss thought. The priest’s body was twisted and broken, right down to his individual fingers. Bones punctured the flesh and protruded from the skin like broken branches. His mouth was twisted open at an unnatural angle and his dark eyes were fixed in terror on something distant. Beneath his weather-stained travel cloak the priest wore the simple garbs of a country cleric. A small pouch on his belt held a number of coins, which Ssibliss helped himself to. There was little else to indicate his purpose on the road nor what had befallen him.
Ssibliss scrambled up a rocky outcropping and scanned the surrounding area with a wary eye. To the south the mountains turned to stony hills that sloped towards a broad valley bottom dominated by a large lake. From the heights he could make out the towers and walls of a village huddled near the western edge of the lake. Perhaps four miles away a small holdfast stood atop a hill with a cluster of huts around it. Except for a desert hawk circling high over the foothills, nothing moved.
The lizard man turned back to the north and watched as the first of the wagons creaked around a bend and into sight of the summit. Teams of dwarves put their sturdy shoulders into the heavily burdened drays, helping the horses up the road. There were a dozen of the large wagons and over seventy dwarves in the mining party. They were on their way to the village to take up employment in the mines of the valley’s lord, Baron Fenton Farling.
Ssibliss watched as Brandos, dressed now in the amour of and in the guise of a crusading knight, and Sir Tristan rounded the corner on their large brown destriers. Kasper walked alongside of one of the wagons. They were sure to make something of the dead priest, Ssibliss thought to himself. He scrambled from his perch to await their arrival…