Guided by a spirit and shielded by the spell mists of Sharee, the mercenaries left the forest on a journey that would prove to be more arduous than expected. After only ten minutes they met another merc: Roack, from Sergeant Hollmann’s squad. His wonder at the parting of the mist was only surpassed by the horror written on his face as he noticed the mutilation of his friends and fellow mercs. Later, when he had calmed down, he told them that he had been sent down the mountain by the captain, Craeth, who was anxious for reinforcements. Roack stated that the mercs had split up and only 20 men remained with Captain Craeth Calwydden in his base camp, which lay one days climb below the ruins near the summit. The rest had deserted and joined Marcus el-Keddath while the others slept. The trackers claimed that the traitors had ascended further up the mountain, towards the ruins. This had perplexed the Captain, which wondered why they would desert when there was no other way to come down from the peak.
Thus it happened that they left the forest at noon and marched up the winding mountain path, even carrying on well into the night. Early in the march there had been signs of a failed charge by the barbarians, as their arrow studded corpses littered the ground, their wounds somewhat bruised and a small number of flies present around their cuts. Roack had urged them to take the furs from the barbarian corpses littering the mountain path, for higher up the mountain snow covered everything, and the mercs followed his sound advice. The mercenaries marched on, veiled in a mystic mist of Sharee’s design, and eventually they entered the snow covered areas, the last of vegetation left far below, save for a few bushes, stoically surviving even here.
They followed in the footsteps of the company that had passed days before, and it came to be that they discovered a cave from which emanated strange sounds, a moaning whistle like the breath of some fell beast, or perhaps the sound of the wind playing one of its many strange tricks. Roack had told them then that the Captain had grown pale at the sound and had commanded his men to hurriedly march past the cave and not to look back, even if it felt as if someone stared them in the neck, for, he claimed, their very soul depended on it. So Hans had commanded them onwards, and half an hour later they approached the base camp.
It had been snowing lightly, and the loose, powdery snow had settled on the ground. The night sky was unbelievably clear with a myriad stars gracing the celestial sphere. The stellar constellation known as the Master of Leaves was dominant, which was generally considered an omen of approaching autumn. In Arbad, a town in Southern Ardamien, the fortune tellers often dramatized the importance of the Master of Leaves, telling their customers that the constellation was a sign of change, struggle and of fading glory.
Hans walked in the forefront of the squad, cautiously peering up toward the tents of the base camp dimly lit by a small bonfire that cast shadows which danced wildly against the face of the mountain. The wind came in gusts that carried along the powdery snow, which lashed against their faces, and more than once they had silently thanked Roack for reminding them to bring furs.
“Hello the Camp, we come in peace! This is Sternflucht and his squad, along with Roack and Hunthar. May we enter the camp?” Hans uttered loudly.
But no answer was forthcoming, and the only sign of life was the shadows cast by the bonfire, and the exhausted, tired mercenaries faced each other, puzzlement and caution evident on their faces.