And it only took us 24 sessions to get there!
It also took them some time to climb down the mountain (not 24 sessions, though). It was a silent descend, everyone was focused on walking the treacherous road winding between snow covered rocks on one, and misty chasms on the other side. Their days were reduced to harsh walks during the brief periods of bleak light, an deep rest throughout the mercifully long nights. The gnome slept too, again, and studied in the mornings. Darwin spent some of his time outside of the hut. As the dwarf grew more and more reclusive, the periods of his meditation grew steadily longer. 11
Contrary to what Hubbertsuggested, Darwin, Wons, Roland and Žbica decided to let Brinnyalive. They threw a bit of an act to convince her they weren’t headed for Eleb, and Darwin cut her loose before the dawn, telling her to run for her life. And run into the darkness she did, like only a true horizon walker could.
In a few days – thanks to Darwin’s ability to keep them fed and healthy, and thanks to the shelter gnome provided every night, even old Dragunov reached the first settlements alive. They sent Roland ahead alone, hoping they would arouse less suspicion that way. 12
To make the long story short, Roland – drained of his strength and thus looking almost starved to death – told a lot of lies to the villagers, all wrapped up into a fat slice of truth that nicely fitted into the local lore and carefully spiced with generous will to spread his wealth amongst, it seemed, the first humans he saw in a long, long time. He got himself a warm bed to sleep in, a few news on what awaits on the road ahead, and the best meal he’s had in months. He also bought a few drinks for Darwin, and when the rest of the party came after him the next day, he bid the villagers farewell and ‘joined’ his new companions. They stormed away as fast as they came, not letting any potential Victor’s spies to call for backup and organize an ambush.
The rest of the way they traveled off road, through the woods, avoiding company. As they drew closer to the main roads and the city of Eleb itself, they passed near a few more villages, and noticed that the locals have organized some sort of guard. The farmers kept their vigilant eyes – and hay-forks – turned towards the many travelers.
And most of the people on the road did seem to be in a quite a bad shape; the kind that turns honest, ordinary folk into daring robbers, not out of whim but out of despair, and not for the wealth, but for the bread.
The closer to Eleb they got, the larger and hungrier the mob seemed. The very fields that fed the the River city were not just covered with snow, but also with a myriad of small, improvised and scrappy shelters. The outskirts of the vast hunting grounds were robbed of the trees new settlers used to build the many barracks and feed the life-bearing fires in their hearts, and the slums drew dangerously close to the rich and large brick houses of the local farmers.
This vast sea of improvised snow covered roofs even threatened to engulf the large bleak buildings with doors marked blue – the places where the untouchables were kept, while not toiling on the fields to feed their betters. As they passed by, the pc-s realized the barns of the untouchables are guarded by armed soldiers, which was most unusual, for in the world of men, especially during the winter and times such as these, there was no place for a blue-clad to go.
Knowing it would be foolish to even contemplate taking R’vidd into the city with them, they used a small trick on one of the guards and left the untouchable with his own kind, in one of the shelters. There was no time for explanations – before he knew it, R’vidd was once again left amongst the other elves. 13
As the party approached what once were outskirts of the city, they saw high steel fences surrounding the wealthier neighborhoods. At the gates, there were armed guards.
Roland was told, and it turned to be right, that there was curfew: from what would be dusk at 19:00 hrs to dawn at 07:00 hrs, only the guards were allowed to walk the streets of Eleb. There were many fences, and many control stations – if you were not a city dweller with a home of his own inside the city limits, and had no documents to confirm you had at least a temporary residence and employment in the city, you couldn’t stay inside during the night. And often, beggars and many of those looking for job and food weren’t allowed in during the day either – there was simply too many of them.
But luckily, our PC-s had a way in, and it was of the best kind…