Water-day the 23rd day of the second season of Orhan 831 SE. Afternoon.
Having found the herb, the party return to the nearby campsite to speak to Gleinien about the news on his family. The elf takes it surprisingly well, explaining that he feared as much. they also present Gleinien with the magical javelin and he chokes back a tear as he accepts it. As they are talking a group of elves step out from the edge of the forest clearing and approach the party with a gesture of peace. They are led by an animist with a fine oaken staff, as well as a small fey, standing barely two feet in height.
The animist introduces himself as Findire Yraudhen, and he explains that he comes from the Fey Queen who wishes to extend her hospitality to the party. Findire goes onto apologies for the actions of some of the fey who attacked the party a couple of days ago, as he explains that some of their number believe that violence is acceptable to keep the man-folk from the forest.
The party agree to go with the elves and are led for an hour down a path that seems to materialise out of the forest in front and just as quickly disappears behind them. When the hidden valley comes into sight the party sees that the dense forest has given way to pleasantly rolling grassland with scattered woodland and a large sparkling lake at its centre.
The party are led through the valley to a small settlement, which Findire introduces as the fey village of Pelaskinarco. Nestled up against the northern shore of the lake, Pelaskinarco consists of graceful, elegant curved architecture of the elven buildings scattered between which are stumpy like hollows and humps, and garlanded trees and bushes. The nearby woods close in around the settlement, but this is in no way ominous, rather compliments the graceful architecture.
The fey of the valley form a noble Court ruled over by the fair elf Fey Queen, Elwindith Sharndalan, an ancient druid of the Earthmother. She resides in a graceful wood and stone structure built around, and curling up, a huge oak tree that towers several hundred feet above the village. It is here that the party are led, and after entering a large domed roof chamber cut into the base of the huge oak, they are introduced to the Fey Queen. Elwindith is a female fair-elf druid, with long, curled, golden-blond hair, blue eyes and her pale skin has a slight green tinge to it. She is tall and extremely thin, standing 6’ 7" in height, but barely ten stone. She has a square, innocent looking face, with several piercings on her lips, ears, and nose. She is garbed in long flowing white robes of silk, thin and wispy, in places clinging and extenuating her slender body. Her hair is decorated with leaves, twigs and mosses.
She offers food and rest, and after initial uncertainly about the fruits and nuts offered, the party partake. After some pleasantries, Elwindith offers to have her owl take the herb to Rulias’ mother, saving them more than three days of travel back to the town. After some debate and uncertainty, it is agreed to do this. The Fey Queen then goes on to ask the party for help.
At the head of the valley lies an ancient temple to the Earthmother. Not only would the fey feel unease at climbing the steps up to the temple, they are forbidden from doing so, for in the Earthmother’s doctrine an axiom dictates that it is a place reserved for the rare occasions when an immortal fey who has accepted the Earthmother dies. The body is brought to the valley and laid to rest at the base of the Endless Steps, which lead up to the temple above. The fey’s soul is then said to travel the stairs to find peach in the Earthmother’s embrace. The Keeper’s of the Steps are elves who are charged with maintaining the Garden of Remembrance that stands at the foot of the stairs that lead to the temple above.
Of late, orcs have been harrowing the Keepers of the Steps at the base of the rock carved staircase leading up to the temple. Despite the Fey Queen increasing patrols in the vicinity, the orcs have continued to be a problem, retreating up the Endless Steps when the fey warriors approach in any large numbers. As the fey are forbidden from entering the temple, the Fey Queen asks the characters if they will force the orcs from the temple (Quest: Orcs and the Temple). Sisu is surprised that the orcs were able to find the hidden valley and asks Elwindith how this happened. The Fey Queen is unsure and is just as surprised herself (Rumour: How’d the Orcs enter the Valley). As a reward she offers access to the valley for the characters in the future, although she insists that its location is kept a secret.
Earth-day the 24th day of the second season of Orhan 831 SE.
The day is cold, and a light rain persists throughout, with a light breeze (5mph) rustling the leaves of the trees.
After sleeping in the most comfortable beds that they have ever experienced and being healed by the village healers, the party leave early for the Endless Steps and the temple that lies at the their top. Assessing the cliffs, it is decided that the stairs are the only option, as the climb would otherwise be long and dangerous. Gleinien is absence when they leave, but the party decide that they cannot wait for him.
Reaching the top of the Endless Steps safely, the party find that the temple has long since crumbled, with all that remains being low stone walls and debris strewn flagstone floors. Surrounding the ruins is a deep fissure, as if the very rock was ripped apart to leave the temple standing on a rock island. Beyond the initial structure, a crumbling bridge spans a gapping chasm, a fissure that drops forty feet below the temple ruins. Beyond the bridge is what appears once to have been a large circular structure, now crumbled to no more than low stone walls and rubble scattered flagstones.
As the party cautiously enter the crumbling ruin they encounter a group of powerful orcs and battle ensues. Early on in the fight a large fog erupts from the inner temple area, shrouding the bridge and beyond in thick white mist, but the party ignore this and finally defeat the orc warriors and approach the fog-shrouded bridge. They can hear arguing going on from out of the mist, but unable to understand orcish, they cannot determined what is being said. But suddenly, a voice in Walter’s head begins to translate the words and explains that they are arguing about whether to join the fight or not, and a commanding voice insists that they don’t. Confused, Walter strikes up a conversation with the voice, who introduces herself as Jaspel, but chastises Walter and tells him to get back to the fight. At the far end of the bridge they see two huge wolves prowling and snarling at them from across the chasm. Sisu determines that the structure is safe so the party prepare to cross.