When the mist rises and the giant stones revert to ruins, the group heads for Whitemere to seek a place to rest. As it turns out, the town was largely abandoned a good time ago. The only resident is an old hermit who stayed with his fishing, and has deteriorated socially somewhat with only fish for conversation partners. The group leaves him to his own devices, camps in a sturdy building, and then sets out for Mathraine after a long rest.
Along the way, Baden tells the group more of what he knows of Tythoas Nil. The elven lich is notorious among the order for his philosophical insistence that undeath is a far higher state than life, his desire for silence and isolation, and his links to the void. It seems unlikely that he will employ living spies — more of a scryer than a spymaster, as it were — because his thralls tend to be empty or hollow in some fashion. Nil believes that nothing living can perceive anything of use, only its own mortality.
In another day’s time they reach Mathraine, and cross the river to the human portion of the settlement. They make arrangements to stay at the Highland Shade, a brewhouse that also offers lodgings to travelers. They then begin circulating among the townsfolk to gather rumors. The locals are clearly too isolated and conservative for the slayers to blend in properly, but they are welcoming enough after some initial conversation.
Honora visits the temple, where the high priest offers her hospitality, but seems to be far removed from the powerful questors found elsewhere.
Baden finds that his ally Rivenin is known locally, but hasn’t been seen for weeks. The Highland Shade proprietor Burstav produces a series of notes left for Baden.
- Tythoas Nil confirmed. I have dispatched two of his Hollow Guard; the craftsmanship was unmistakable. He is likely in the Library, location within unknown. I will continue to watch for an opening.
- The Star-oak is safe. The Beacon to Ianavath remains lit. I do not know if I can trust its keeper, though. She seems to know of our order and distrust it.
- I have monitored the stone sphinxes for clues of possible subversion. They do indeed seem erratic, degraded — but unmarked by Nil to my eye. Their resistance to kepherel may be a convenient coincidence for his purposes.
- I have entered the Library via the Eastern Equinox door. There are few wards but many servants. Has Nil been here for years? Decades? Avoiding servants until it is necessary or inevitable to make my presence known.
- Signs of living elves in the Library. Spoor. Nil has taken “apprentices” before; he fills them like wineglasses and then drains or smashes them in the same manner. Perhaps one can be taken and questioned.
- Sighted a yellow wraith in the library. Expect fear, madness.
Further investigation reveals that Rivenin was staying with a local autumn elf poet. This poet, Iaverine by name, turns out to have a bad leg that prevents him from traveling. Baden calls on him, and finds that Rivenin left another set of notes there for him. During the course of the conversation Baden attempts to ascertain Iaverine’s motives, and comes away with the impression that he and Rivenin became lovers. Now the poet is quite worried for the Amaelite scout’s safety.
Abbron, who hadn’t made it far enough up the Sawfell to visit Mathraine before, makes up for that oversight by making friends throughout the town. One in particular, a storyteller by the name of Illona, mentions that someone else has an interest in the ruins. She points Abbron to the allegedly insane dwarf surveyor Madrood. That evening, the group decides to go visit Madrood after convening.
Madrood lives in a multi-story building crammed with a variety of peculiar tools, presumably scavenged or bartered or tinkered. The bristle-bearded dwarf is brusque and eccentric, but seems glad to talk to people who take his project seriously. He elaborates on the difference between Thurvakki and Helvakki — deep magic and high magic — and notes that Mathraine is situated on a site where the two are both fairly strong. He has been attempting to map the lines of deep magic power, and has noted that they likely power the sphinxes.
He also notes that the winged creatures Baden spotted earlier are gargoyles, and rune-graven ones at that — Madrood has spied on their runes from afar, and believes them to be elven in design. Bralta confirms that this is likely making the gargoyles powerful, and they are likely acting at least partly in Nil’s interest.