Lady Ayyam was most generous in her offer, even though we were honor bound to fulfill her request she still provided our group six-hundred gold pieces to outfit our party with needed supplies. We made good use of the coin, some of us purchasing additional equipment and better armor. I chose to spend money on exceptional food and lodging for my companions and I as I wished to see some of the wonders of the outside whole- I was not disappointed.
After a well-needed rest and a hearty breakfast, we set off the following morning. The trip was by foot and the blazing sun was most discomforting to me and my companions. Those of us who were heavily-armored found our manner of dress unsuited to the rising temperatures and it was only due to our close proximity to the Zalim River, which we were following its course to locate Sakina Falls, that we were able to keep ourselves hydrated and bear the heat. Fortunately, as Lady Ayyam had stated, we found the lands safe for travelers, and occasionally observed armed patrols of the city’s army.
When the main trial shifted away from the river when it continued into a mountainous region, Takashi (who I learned was a ranger that specialized in mountain locales) took over leading across the treacherous terrain. He was indeed skilled and was able to find various goat trails and other animal pathways that made traversing the difficult terrain easier. We finally came upon a narrow path that followed along the southern cliff of the steep canyon that held the flowing river 200 feet below. Takashi pointed out recent tracks of humanoids and several pack animals. This trail eventually dead-ended up to Sakina Falls with no entrance to be found. A survey of the area showed evidence that the river and waterfall occasionally shifts to the right near the waterfall location, but there was no evidence of what causes this shift to happen.
When further searching of the area was fruitless, it was decided to observed the falls from a hiding spot (which Takashi selected) and wait for at least two days to see if anyone ventured into the area. Food and water was no worry as we had a fresh source of water readily available and Taksahi’s skills in this terrain found us more than adequate food. I used this time to talk with my new companions and hear stories from their lives, of places they had been, things they done and seen, any knowledge that I could gain of this new world. Their experiences were varied, as were their skillsets and I was both happy and sad when I realized all that waited for me to experience and all that my people had forgotten and or missed out on.
Our patience paid off on the second day as we were amazed to observe the waterfall shift to the left revealing a passageway into the mountain. From this passageway, a caravan of armed men and heavily laden donkeys, led by a stern-looking dwarf proceeded down the trail in single file ever careful on the narrow cliff side path. The last person in the caravan turned to the waterfall and we could tell that he said something but the roaring waters made it too loud to hear and the waterfall shifted back into its original place.
We quickly devised a plan on the belief that there must be a phrase that triggers the movement of the waterfall, and after quickly stripping off Takashi’s armor, he and Jorael stealthily make their way down to the mountain path and ambush the rear-most caravan guard. The plan goes perfectly with Takashi and Joreal subduing the man and dragging him out of sight and hurl some rocks down to the river below to make it look like he fell off the cliff. The dwarf leader comes over to inspect and satisfied with what he sees, he orders the caravan forward. We wait till the caravan is out of sight before questioning our captive.
I receive the task of convincing our new friend to cooperate. Apparently my stories about interrogating Zargon cultists and other rival faction members has impressed my new companions and they see my expertise this area. I start with the basic of motivations- greed. Thinking that this is just hired labor, I explain to him that we do not want to hurt the man, but we need access to the area behind the waterfall. His cooperation will be rewarded not only by sparing his life, but he would be monetarily compensated as well. The man hastily agrees and tells us that the waterfall is controlled to move with a magical code phrase, “Sakina, stand aside.”
Thanking him, we bind and gag him, leaving him in the shade, telling him he will be released should his information prove true. Joreal the takes the man’s clothing, and with the use of his disguise kit, makes himself resemble the guard as much as possible. His plan to scout ahead of our group in this guise is a good one. With Joreal in the lead, we make our way to the waterfall where Joreal shouts out the phrase to the falling waters. As we observed before, the waterfall shifts to the left exposing a corridor that has been cut into the mountain. Staying several meters behind Joreal, Dovak and I lead the rest of the party inside.
Inside is anything but what we expected. With a magically lit interior, we find elaborately decorated walls and floors with mosaics depicting crashing waves and white alabaster columns holding up a vaulted ceiling. The well-stocked underground chambers and halls make up an underground complex that is dedicated to wine-making. I was initially perplexed about why such efforts had been done to conceal a mundane task, but then I remembered snippets of information that I had learned in my brief time walking that streets of Muluk, about the great prophet they called the Loregiver, and his influence in enacting laws prohibiting alcohol in the kingdom.
Joreal’s disguise was more than helpful as he was able to bypass guards and venture into areas accosted, as well as surprise the enemy when what they initially thought was an ally stabbed them in the back. For the most part the complex was deserted with only a few guards remaining, the bulk of the forces most likely departing with the caravan, and we searched the rooms for Yodfah’s ledger. In one of these rooms, secured in a large cage, we found a badly beaten man who identified himself as Rashad and a Paladin of Osiris who was captured by the guards while trying to infiltrate the complex to find proof of illicit deeds.
I had heard of the god Osiris who is said to have power over life and death and seeks justice in the world. My gut feeling (which I think Gorm influences) tells me that Rashad is an honorable man. He pledges to assist us and tells us that he seeks justice on Hanzala, a wizard in the complex that has been torturing him daily. I heal some of Rashad’s wounds and help him scrounge up serviceable armor and weapons from the guards we have dispatch.
We would find Hanzala, and eventually the ledger as well (which was secured in a locked vault filled with chests containing copper and silver coins), and the battle with the wizard would cost us dearly. During a battle with four guards in the massive chamber containing the stockpiles of grapes and large vat for stomping and fermenting wine, Hanzala entered the fray with magical blasts of frigid cold and fire that severely injured me and my comrades. I went in and out of consciousness throughout the battle as Lester used his magic to revive me, only to have me fall later from the wizard’s magicks. It went on like this for what seemed like an eternity as myself and my companions fell and were revived, only to fall again, each time getting weaker and weaker. It was a deadly battle of attrition as our spell pools were expended and our crippled bodies fought on. In the end we killed the wizard though Joreal laid dead as well.