With the blackscour taint dealt with, our party takes some time to restock and check out Falcon’s Hollow.
The ramshackle town of Falcon’s Hollow rests perilously close to the infamous Darkmoon Vale. The jagged shadow of nearby mountains casts a shroud of gloom on the desperate souls who call this place home. Many are drawn here to make their fortune cutting a swath of darkwood lumber through the lush forests of the vale. Others journey to these remote fringes to start over, piecing together their shattered lives on the edge of an untouched wilderness far from the things of man. Persecuted zealots and outcasts flock to Falcon’s Hollow. Here, these fanatics practice their strange and often deviant rites unfettered by the mores of civilization. Still others are lured to Falcon’s Hollow by the promise of great adventure. Peril and splendor await within the accursed halls of dwarven kings of old, whose glorious civilization long ago shattered and crumbled to dust.
Chatting with the locals eventually reveals some startling new discoveries. They learn that a group of children, five in all, have gone missing. They learn that Elara’s Halfway House, which they passed by on the way back from the dwarven monastery, has burned to the ground a few weeks ago. They also learn a bit more about the dwarven monastery that they just returned from.
Further inquiries about the missing children reveals the following:
- Kimi Eavewalker: Daughter of the famed elven ranger Idris and a beautiful seamstress named Kitani, Kimi has not seen her father in two years. The ranger is constantly away adventuring and tracking down relics for a mysterious patron. Kimi idolizes her dad and has grown into a fearless tomboy chomping at the bit to follow in her father’s adventurous footsteps as soon as she is old enough to wield a sword. Kimi is the protector of this band of friends, often scrapping with boys twice her age who try to bully the others. She usually wins these bouts, and many of the town’s children are afraid of her.
- Hollin Hebbradan: Hollin is a freckly faced ten-year-old boy missing his two front teeth (from a bad spill off the waterwheel at the old mill). Hollin’s mother died in childbirth and his father was savaged by an owlbear two years ago. Now Hollin’s older sister, a beautiful young red-haired woman named Ralla, looks after him. The two have struggled to make ends meet and rumor has it Ralla works in one of the pleasure dens on Mud Street to keep food on the table. Hollin is a skilled woodcarver and he manages to earn a few copper pieces hawking his statuettes. The boy’s only aspiration is to grow up faster and work the cutyards so his sister won’t have to set foot in a brothel ever again.
- Mikra Jabbs: The thirteen-year-old son of the town butcher, Colbrin Jabbs, Mikra’s difficult birth resulted in several mental deficiencies. He cannot read, is easily confused, and believes almost everything he is told. Mikra is well liked by everyone. While not incredibly bright, the boy possesses limitless kindness and his bright smile wins the hearts of almost anyone who meets him. Though the oldest of the bunch, Mikra is looked after by the others.
- Jurin Kreed: Son of the wealthiest, most powerful, and evilest man in Falcon’s Hollow, Jurin Kreed is a boy of eleven torn between his family and friends. In public, Jurin behaves insufferably, snarling at the other children and threatening to have his dad’s bodyguards beat them if they don’t do everything he says. People wonder why the other children don’t simply avoid the spoiled bully, but Colbrin Jabbs knows the boy has a good heart deep down, and in private would do anything to help his friends. Jurin spends many hours at the Jabbs’s house reading to his son Mikra in the afternoons.
- Savram Vade: Son of the mysterious wizard Sharvaros, Savram is a quiet, withdrawn nine-year-old boy, whose bright eyes betray intelligence far beyond his years. When he is old enough he will no doubt follow his father into the cryptic life of a wizard.
The shiny glint of coin manages to convince a few neighborhood kids with loose lips to reveal “the secret dare” taken by the five missing kids: to spend a night at the burned-out ruin of Elara’s Halfway House up on a mournful hill in Darkmoon Vale.
Inquiring further about Elara’s Halfway house reveals that a middle-aged silverhaired human woman named Elara opened the orphanage ten years ago, hard on the heels of the Goblinblood War. The atrocities committed by marauding bands of goblins left dozens of children without parents, and Elara took in droves of them. Among other things, they overhear that:
“Elara was a selfless woman who spent the greater part of her life caring for those no one else wanted. The fire was a horrible tragedy.”
“The fire started out of nowhere and spread so fast, by the time the town’s volunteer brigade arrived all that was left was a smoking ruin, every child dead, and Elara burnt to cinders. Hard to believe a blaze that fierce could start as an accident. I was always a’feard for the safety of that place. Elara built her halfway house far away from town and much too close to that haunted vale.”
“The last few months or so before the fire people claimed to hear all manner of clatter from the orphanage at night. Screams they say. Terrible screams. Some even claimed Elara lost her mind, took to torturing the children in the dead of night. That’s why she built the place outside of town.”
Inquiring further about the dwarven monastery, which the townsfolk refer to as “Droskar’s Crucible”, people have this to say:
“The Crucible is some sort o’ dwarf ruin. Hosts of monsters plague its darkened halls, and they say ghosts o’ the dwarves skulk there too.”
“It was a monastery long ago, where they worshiped some dark joyless god of toil. Druingar the Glintaxe, the great dwarven hero, quested there to find relics of his people’s ancient empire. He never returned, and now those who venture close to the place at night claim his ghost glides through its gloomy halls, preying on anyone foolish enough to trespass there.”
“Something vile lives deep below. Recently, freakish little monstrosities have surfaced in the vale. I’m sure they murdered those goatherds found dead last week, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they are behind those children’s disappearance.”
Spending a night carousing at one of the local taverns, the Ballad of Glintaxe is heard played at least once:
Glintaxe, mighty hero of the dwarven race,
Seeker of heirlooms lost without trace,
He ventured the deeps where old evil sleeps
He perished in the halls of some dark place.
His restless spirit still stalks the night,
His shining axe still glows bright,
I’ve seen his ghost, and this is no boast,
I’ve ne’er laid eyes on a more fearful sight.