- High Bard Faern (think alcoholic Burl Ives)
- Abbess Gwyn – her name means “Fair” as in “lovely“
- Bard Fodaan (Ciamhain’s tutor)
- Gaer the P’ntri
– the bard Fodaan, Ciamhain’s tutor, offers to guide the party to Dun Crys. They accept
– the party visits the Aviary to say goodbye to the Abbess, and acknowledge they are taking Fodaan with them
– Gaer, their P’ntri companion, spots one of the Winged Folk (Avaen) high in the fog overhead
– Caerdwyn senses the Avae carries an artifact of power
– the party crosses the highland bog successfully, and camps overnight at the ruined temple
– descending, in the morning, the Road of a 1000 Steps, they reach the Trade Road and turn toward Dun Crys
Woken earlier than they would have preferred by a call to breakfast, the party is led again by a young student through the Abbey’s defensive maze of identical corridors. The great Hall where breakfast has been lain on sidetables feels as though it shares a fireplace wall with the Entrance Hall they came into only the day before.
Foul-smelling Saren soup is brought for Saar, and while everyone digs in, the High Bard, Faern, sits with them, and offers that no good day has ever been faced sober. He shares with them a bottle of eastern Honey wine that tastes as though it were mixed with ice cold springwater – intoxicating and refreshing together. Offering any other help he can, the High Bard tells them the home town of the Sorceress, Telsara Yrlaedd, is Dun Crys, the northernmost township of Teuthál.
In further conversation, he tells them there are 2 ways to Dun Crys: the Charcoalers Road back out past Dun Vwym and then back along the border of Teinwood; the other is the Invisible Way through the Highland Bogs north of the Abbey. He suggests that either way they go, they get a guide, and suggests that Apprentice Durdd (the singer they’d encountered below the abbey) would make an excellent candidate. He also reminded them not to leave without making a proper goodbye to the Abbess (as part of the Law of Hospitality, which seemed to run so much of things there in Pynwydden Abbey).
There is some suggestion that items may have gone missing to students from their unguarded packs. Bayeo corraled the brightest-seeming student and suggested he would reward her with a unique Vulfen experience should all of their gear be as it was when they left it. She boldly told him she would ensure their goods, but instead of a reward, wanted a gift. The Vulfen agreed.
Off in the shadows of the fireplace, they became aware a cloaked figure was watching them with some intensity. Piecemeal, they split and pursued the figure out of the room after his departure. They found him in a storage room at the edge of the abbey. It was the Bard Fodaan.
They spoke with him about their quest. He did not conceal a passion to make up for what he viewed as a personal failure with Ciámhain, and to find out what had happened, to throw his lot in with the demiurge that was driving them to pursue a tale of Mist and Dragons and Serpents. There was something in his eyes, or the slight madness of his voice that seemed to speak to the numinous aura of their journey.
They agreed to have him guide them on the Invisible Road, to a temple ruined in the Wars of Separation, and down the Road of a Thousand Steps, by which they meant: come with us, and find your end or your redemption, if you can.
The Aviary was a dome of ancient open-scroll stonework with a kind of wicker “birdlock”. Donning protective equipment, they made their way into the tweeting cackling space to interrupt a voice lesson the Abbess was giving.
Amid the canticling of yellow birds, they thanked the Abbess for the hospitality of the Abbey, and relayed their plans to continue on their quest. The Abbess provided them with some cautionary admonishments for the road ahead. Caerdwyn professed a desire to return to the Abbey sometime, perhaps to stay. The Abbess responded that in spite of the great peril he would pose to them (he wasn’t sure if she were being serious or ironic), that he would be very welcome.
Urged on, surely, by a moment of open-heartedness, Caerdwyn confessed to the Abbess that they had agreed for Fodaan to join their party and guide them across the bog toward Dun Crys. When she nodded quietly, he pursued, asking her if she weren’t angry. “In a place such as this, filled with the bright personalities of a future world, one becomes used to the disappointment of one’s will and the neglect of one’s advice.” She nodded, “But this is your quest, not my own, and you must do what needs doing in your eyes, not what some old woman cautions you against.”
With that, the party went down to an ancient oak that sat astride stones beside the beginning of the bog’s Invisible Road. Evidently, Gaer and Fodaan have become acquainted, as Gaer stood angry, flat-eared and soaking wet under the shade of the oak.
Gearing up, they advanced along the invisible road into the inexplicable bog that blanketed the crowns of this part of the Bys Pynwydden. The Invisible Road was a path of partially-submerged limestone and granite pavestones of the same grey as the walls of Pynwydden Abbey.
Some small distance into the mist, Gaer spotted one of the Winged Folk, the Avae, circling overhead. Caerdwyn loudly invited the creature down to join them with, but his invitation went unanswered. Opening himself with the Science of the Eye, he perceived an object – perhaps a weapon – in the Avae’s possession that was like a gathering of a hundred stars.
Fodaan shared with them what little lore he had of the Avae, that they did not possess the gift like other races, but that in the ages of Colonization, when men first met the Avae, they had great weapons of interdiction called Sunlances, that they used to prevent men from crossing the spine of the Pynwydden. What a Sunlance is or how it prevented the crossing of the mighty Kings and Sorcerers among the Five Kings, Fodaan doesn’t know.
The crossing was long, and beautiful and although danger and lifelessness (except for the mounting wet of the humped moss of the bog) surrounded them, they made their way through the bog and arrived at the ruins of the temple. The Avae pursued them, always high out of sight (except to the sharp-eyed P’ntri). He vanished from their presence once they reached the ruins.
Finding an ancient amphitheater, they made camp in its lee, made a supper from the viands given them by the small hands of Pynwydden Abbey and passed the night.
Morning came on top of the world, under a vast, clear blue sky. The mist and clouds seem to have been hurled back from the mountains and lingered in the distance, like the sea.
They made a long sojourn down the twisting road of the Thousand Steps, its stones and rockfalls and switchbacks tiring them more with the need for attention than the physical exertion of the descent.
On the lowlands on the north-east side of the Bys Pynwydden, they came upon the east-west trade road from Ardbynn to Cathál, called the Ribbon.
There they rested as the cold afternoon whispered around them with birdsong in the cool autumn woods.