The survivors from the mine trudged thru the mist, anxious to reach New Brovendar. Most are silent as they walk down the road, lost in thought or simply exhausted from their flight from the mining camp. As the day winds down, they hear the jingle of armor up ahead and soon meet an armed patrol on the road. After a brief exchange with the guards, they direct the wagons to the smithy and allow the rest to pass.
The party heads straight for the Baron’s estate and are taken directly to his audience chamber. There, unsurprisingly, is Har’rad, along with the Baron.
“My lord Baron,” Veyeper speaks up, “we have returned with the ore as requested, and with grave news.” Har’rad briefly shows a look of surprise at their entrance, but then relaxes once again. “Our journey was much more difficult than expected,” continued Veyeper, “this island is not quite so safe as we were thought to believe. Before even reaching the camp, we were attacked by a pack of huge wolves. We were able to dispatch all of them, but had they come upon the mining camp, there would have been many deaths. Once there we discovered the camp in inactivity. We were brought to Har’rad and delivered your message. He was quite disagreeable to our requests. We felt something was amiss and wished to investigate further on your behalf. Before we could press the matter however, something happened. Something was released, and we believe it was the steward from Lord Fairday that did it, most likely unknowingly. We raced to the mines to discover a chamber carved in the mountain. Within was no sign of the steward, but instead a black fog with moved unnaturally. It consumed one of Har’rad’s men and then attacked us. Har’rad fled and left us to die. There was something in the fog my lord, and it very nearly killed us. We were able to drive it off though, and it seemed to melt back into this strange metal object. We attempted to bring it, but it seems to feed of those who touch it.”
“As we went to exit the mine, we found the entrance collapsed, by Har’rad’s men and the camp was abandoned. We did see several of his men had been killed. While we were fighting the fog, some of it had escaped the mine.”
Har’rad speaks up, “If it pleases your Lordship, this man’s tale is not quite accurate. It was I who ordered the men to bring the ore to town. And I did not trap them within the mine on purpose. After I saw it devour my man, I knew we had to evacuate the camp. As we were preparing to leave, the fog came out again and killed several more men. I had assumed they had fallen in battle with the thing. I was only thinking of the safety of the town when I ordered the mine sealed my lord. And by any chance, did the rest of you seal the mine once you got out? Or is the creature free to escape now as well?”
Each of them looks at the others with shock and shame as they realize they had not. “You stole my horse,” exclaims Kellian, “leaving your own men behind in your flight.”
“A horse with a dead owner is no longer owned,” croons Har’rad, “I needed to return swiftly to New Brovendar to bring word of this dire event and bring back help. It was the Lord Baron’s decision not to send an escort back.” Har’rad looks quite smug and tilts his head up slightly to look down on the others.
Kenneth steps forward. “And what of your plan to hide the knowledge of the artifact from the Baron, and having one of Lord Fairday’s men there to buy it from you?”
“Well I…I…fine, yes I was intending on selling the thing to Lord Fairday. But it was my right my lord. We have not found the precious ores that you said we would. And with the troubles of the town, you would not be able to afford the price I could get for this.”
“What worth would a sheet of metal be?” asks Gergnedo.
“It is the only artifact discovered on this cursed isle so far,” sneers Har’rad. “There are many back on the mainland that would pay and pay well for it.”
“It is a dangerous artifact Baron, one who’s magic I am not familiar with. The fog that resides in it is extremely dangerous. I know not what bringing it into the town would do, other than bring more death.” Hegel announces.
“Can it be moved,” asks the Baron finally. “And Har’rad, you will pay for your duplicity.”
At those words the man shrinks back and his shoulders slump as he sighs. “Yes my lord.”
“I pulled at it with all my strength Baron,” Gergnedo announces, “and it barely shifted, but I do think it can be done.”
“You all did well in carrying out my orders. The ore is here in New Brovendar as I requested. You will be paid in full for that service. And if you would accept, I request that you travel back to the mine and recover this artifact. I understand the dangers and you will be well compensated.” The Baron dismisses the group and returns to his conversation with Har’rad, now armed with the upper hand.
The party goes out quickly around the town to gather more supplies, picking up a cart and mules with the Baron’s orders. Already rumors have spread of what happened at the mine and they are stopped several times as the curious and fearful ask questions. They spend the night in the inn to get a good nights rest before starting back to the mine in the morning.