Having successfully proven their worth to the Nomen centaurs during the Kankeratta Run, the party was finally welcomed into the Nomen camp. Even the loudest opponents to their presence prior to the run accepted that the party had more than shown their mettle during the Run and agreed that the party could, at least, stay. So long as their intentions remained noble of course. Aecora Silverfire was even more welcoming than the rest of the tribe though for the party had taken time to ensure that Xamanthe was safe after she was trapped by a collapsing ceiling. To show her gratitude, Aecora gifted the party with a wand that would mend their wounds.
Aecora then proceeded to tell the party much of the history of the relations between the Nomen centaurs and humankind over the centuries. She described a long, bloody history where, as she told it, the humans constantly attempted to displace, or worse, kill, the centaurs despite the fact that the centaurs had been roaming the plains of the Nomen Heights long before any human ever set foot there. Sadly, she described the attitude of Maegar Varn as being little different from that of the previous humans they had encountered. When they sent a welcoming party to greet the new group of humans that attempted to establish an outpost in the area, that welcoming party was immediately attacked. This, she stated, was why her tribe had given the party such a chilly reception.
Aecora again thanked the party and then allowed them to mingle amongst the rest of the centaurs. One centaur, the tribal tattooist, approached the party and asked them to be on the lookout for manticore quills, for they could be used to make particularly excellent tattoos. As they mingled, the party was also informed of several sites considered to be sacred to the tribe. One was the Nomen burial grounds where, unfortunately, a group of manticores had recently taken up residence. Another was the grave site of a long dead linnorm which the Nomen said they often visited to leave offerings for in the hopes of appeasing the spirit of the linnorm so that it would not return and rampage across the Nomen Heights. A third was a peak atop the Tors of Levenies known as Talon Peak where a great spirit of Air resided. Finally, there was the Whispering Grotto on the Western side of the Tors.
The party decided that they did indeed wish to visit these sites in the hopes of learning more about the centaurs as well as hoping to further gain the respect of the tribe. They first set out north to the burial grounds where the party was attacked by three manticores. Although manticores had proved to be quite troublesome to the party in the past, this time the party did not have many problems with the creatures and they were sood dispatched. The party gathered up numerous quills to bring back to the tattoist and he was quite pleased with their efforts, gifting a magical circlet to the party which Vlad found to be very interesting.
The party then decided to travel south to the linnorm grave so they could see it and pay their respects as well. When they approached, the ribs of the creature still stuck up in the air like long, deadly fingers and the party could see numerous urns, jars, pots and baskets that had been left at the site. There were numerous tracks as well, most appearing to be horse hooves. The party had hoped to then travel to the Whispering Grotto but soon discovered that by continuing on the direct path, they would have to climb up and over the Tors of Levenies. At this point, they decided to travel back to the north and to the Varnhold Pass to make their trip easier.
After spending the night in Varnhold, the party set out the next day and went through the pass and headed back south toward the Grotto. As they traveled south though, Aven found an old tower part way up the mountain, a tower that from the top of it, likely had a view through a gap in the peaks of the Tors to the eastern side. The party decided to check out the tower and found that the front door to the tower was unlocked. When they entered they found numerous weapon racks that were largely still full with recent weapons, but nary a sound in the tower. The party continued to explore until finally, on the top floor, they found a single door that appeared to be stuck shut. Aven went around outside the tower and through a window into the room where he observed a single emaciated, and dead, human. Aven also saw that a large dresser had been slid across the door to bar entry from the outside.
Aven let the others in and they were soon able to determine that the human had died of starvation. Clutched in his hand was a journal of sorts. Thom took the time to read the journal and discovered that it was a daily log of the captain of a group of soldiers that appeared to be from Varnhold. The journal left clues of a terrible tragedy born on the howling winds and speaking of bright eyes that could be seen in the night. It described a terrible fate for the rest of the soldiers stationed there and ultimately the captain had barricaded himself in the room stating he couldn't leave. They wouldn't let him leave. Also telling was mention of a signal fire, presumably from Varnhold, that should have been lit nightly but evidently had stopped being lit not long before the troubles befell the inhabitants of the tower.
At this point the party decided to explore the area around the tower for they recognized that it was part way up on Talon Peak. They began to climb and soon found the going to be very difficult but for the magical rope of climbing the party possessed. Even with the rope though it took hours before they could reach the next plateau where a sizeable cave was located. The party began to explore the cave, only to discover that it was the den of giant dire bear. An angry one at that. The bear was ferocious and was able to claw terrible wounds into the bodies of the party, but with the party fighting together, and thereby distracting its attention enough, it was finally able to be slain. Bernard wondered if the bear was somehow responsible for the disappearance of the village of Varnhold, but it didn't make sense since it couldn't have taken the entire village without a trace.
After resting to recover from their battle, the party continued to climb higher, certain that a greater mystery awaited, and an answer, at the very least, as to what had befallen the tower. After climbing for another hour or so, the party was ambushed by a group of ice mephits. The mephits had some advantage since many party members were still climbing, but others were able to fly and thus, engage the mephits on even footing so to speak. The mephits, while annoying, were not particularly dangerous however. After several of them had been slain, the last one left in fight shape surrendered. The party asked it if it knew of any powerful creatures on the mountain and it did describe a group of creatures that it said were very dangerous. It could not give a great description of the creatures though for it said that they moved fast and were powerful and thus, the mephit and its brethren always kept their distance. The party then healed an unconscious mephit and informed both mephits that they could leave so long as they did not trouble the party further. Before departing though, the mephit asked if the party had any of the extremely valuable eggs that could be found on the mountain and seemed disappointed when the party indicated that they had not encountered said eggs. With that, the mephits departed and the party decided to rest and consider whether to continue climbing to the top of Talon Peak, or to back track and head instead to the Whispering Grotto.