The day following the battle with the horned being and white hounds, the group returned to Kaer Kilmaren rather uneventfully. Maslorias and Bros stayed at their farm while Cadmus returned to the Kaer with the other Mitraics. In the morning, Cadmus awoke to find he had been abandoned by his comrades. Alexios and his men had ridden out early in the morning. He returned to the farm to discuss this turn of events with the other outsiders. While the three of them talked, Ygr the Dvergar from the Maghswold appeared and was quite distraught to find Judoc missing.
Ygr mentioned that two other sets of stones like the Pelloryns had been similarly attacked. This was seriously weakening the Ring of Khell, a mystical barrier keeping the Fomhoire from the world. Their return could start a new ice age. He stated that the caves they had been traipsing about in was an ancient city called Barakus. It had been home to the Keltic gods and precursors to today’s Dvergar. His people had been slaves there, even if well treated. He claimed to be the smith who forged the orichalchum sword Bros now carries, and that he had filled it with all of his hate. That it was cursed and should be cast aside. Bros scoffed at the idea. He identified the ancient short sword and stated the ivory rod held some compulsion over the Dvergar, but had no idea about the ebony heart. He confessed to betraying the gods on the eve of battle with the Fomhoire, stealing and hiding away Briannac spear of the gods. All this talk put Ygr into a deep funk.
Cadmus returned to town to speak with Ultan the high druid. Ultan seemed to know nothing of recent happening but was surprised Cadmus knew names from ancient lore. He agreed to speak with Maslorias and Bros, but only after the Samhain festival. While he was gone, Maslorias tried turn the Dvergar’s depression into determination with limited success. He agreed to stay at the farm and meet Ultan when the time came.
With six days ahead of their meeting with Ultan, Maslorias, Bros, and Cadmus decided to follow the cold trail of Judoc and Liannan. Following the now familiar trail towards the caves, the encountered a tangle of vines across the path that wasn’t there the night before. When Maslorias used witch sight, it was clearly unnatural growth coming from the south. Dispelling the growth revealed a figure sprawled off the path. This was the Mitraic crusader, Alexios, strangled by the vines. While a disgusted Cadmus looked on, Bros looted the body and Maslorios recovered some items from the crusader’s dead horse. Among Alexios’ belongings was a feminine ring on a bronze chain glowing with enchantment to Maslorias witch sight. In the Pict’s hands, the ring seemed to pull toward the south. Rather than following the ring’s pull through the wilderness, they decided to proceed to the game trail they identified earlier. The trail and the ring eventually led to Liannan’s corpse, a few days dead. Her throat had been cut and the ring Maslorias returned to her stolen. Towards the river to the south lay an odd hill. To their sarcastic delight, the circular hill held another cave…