The journey from the farms to the city walls is difficult. The party must travel through a labyrinth landscape of white-poison streams and cutting rocks. One member decides the journey is too much and stays behind. The remainder wonder if they will ever see him again.
Day 44 - 47
The farms grow in size and density. On the horizon, the thin line of dark smoke has grown to a broad, churning mass, rising above broad city walls. Ferran has taken form from a smudge on the horizon to the clear metropolis Pall and Verrir said it was.
They travel on, hiding and avoiding all contact. At first it's just farmers, but they start to see other workers, merchants in higher-quality clothing and the occasional wandering family of Dwarves. The see no other races. The party knows that there are paved roads that would cut their travel time by a day, but the party looks and talks like foreigners, and the Dwarves (again according to Pall and Verrir) like to harass people they don't believe belong. The party also know that there are strict entrance checks at the city gates.
Eventually the farms cease a half-mile outside the visible spread of Ferran. The land under their feet has begun to buckle into a thick, karst geography. The upheaval doesn't look natural. It looks like the land has sunk into a degraded thick moat of crevices and dragon rocks as if massive volumes of material were suddenly removed and the earth tumbled in to fill the voids. The air is foul and acidic. Drifts of smoke rise from the land ahead, but most of the fumes descend from the industrial stacks of chimneys that are bunched inside the outer city wall.
Against the outer wall of the city, the party makes out a wide border of of dense slum buildings. That's their destination. They'll try to circumvent the traditional channels of thoroughfare by seeking out people who's existence requires them to do the same. Once they're in the city, they'll try to someone who knows what the hell is going on.
But first they must descend down and through the landscape ahead.
The party observes a solitary Dwarven scout on a mount two-hundred yards ahead, down in the pleats of rock below. They wait for him to pass, but as he moves out of view another scout follows his path. The party realizes they won't be able to proceed unobserved unless they decide to proceed with stealth.
Wacha and Balcazar are bold Dragonborn who approach situations directly. They can't hide and can't move silently. Knowing their limitations, the party decides that Wacha and Balcazar will hail the next mounted scout while Hardy and Orryn wait in ambush. They'll quickly incapacitate the scout before the next one can approach and then move quickly down and out of sight.
Orryn and Hardy get into position. Balcazar and Wacha wait and hail the mounted scout. He sees them and directs his mount their way. As the mount moves into view, they can tell it isn't a standard war pony. It's covered in thick scales. Hardy, as a Tiefling, recognizes the fiendish heritage. They worry and expect it could project fire if provoked.
The scout asks Wacha and Balcazar what they want. He asks them for their papers. As they stumble through their sidebags, buying time and distracting the scout, Hardy rises from the grass and casts charm person. The spell works and the scout's dismissive hostility melts into friendly conversation. They party explains that they've just escaped a skirmish from the Northeast and that there may be some sort of uprising on the farm.
The scout seems concerned. He says he'll check it out. He thanks the party and rides away at a gallop. As he does he pulls out a thin tube and lights it. From it, a small flare pops into the sky.
Hardy knows charm person isn't a permanent spell. It lasts for an hour and when it expires the charmed person knows they've been charmed. They must move on, and quickly. They take one step forward.
Wacha hesitates. He tells the party "Go on. I'll make sure no one follows." He doesn't want to continue. He would rather take his chances at the front gate than crawl like a lizard through the labyrinth beyond. The party earnestly plead, but he's firm.
Orryn, Balcazar, and Hardy go forward. Wacha stays behind.
The party descends into the twisted rock. It's dark. They abrupt walls and spires blot out most light. They left Wacha behind, but they had no choice but to continue on. They pray on his fate. Nobody is optimistic. Orryn does his best to point everyone in the right direction, but no path is straight. They crawl through openings into adjacent channels, slice their hands and knees on sharp rock, and avoid openings that seem to fall directly into the interior of the earth. From those gaps, they hear a steady, dull hum.
The party find themselves on a perch on top of a steep descent of slippery ash powder, ending in a milk-white pool. Beyond the pool is a worn path. The party has come across little rivulets of the liquid before. It smells rancid, like decay, and the party believes it must be some sort of magic effluent. They've cautiously stayed away.
Orryn believes he can descend without issue, and he begins to climb down the hill. Unfortunately, his usual grace fails and Orryn slips. He can't save himself and he tumbles, half airborne into the pool below. It's shallow and he pulls himself out, but he's covered and sticky. He wipes off his face.
Balcazar gets out his rope and secures it. The rest of the party descend with help and make it to the bottom, safety to the left of the pool.
Orryn is bent over. He doesn't feel well. He is poisoned. He's able to continue on, but it will take rest to fully recover.
The path that passes by the pool continues around a bend. They follow it cautiously, Balcazar in front. They pass over a deep pit via a thick rope bridge, crudely supported by thin piles hammered into the ground.
The path opens into a large flat space. Recent humanoid footprints are visible on the ground. Balcazar cautiously peeks ahead, around the corner. The Southern part of the clearing is sealed off by a palisade.
Orryn knows what it is. He can tell by the size of the work and the poor quality of construction. It's a Goblin village. He's shakes his head to try and clear away the effects of the poison. He hates Goblins. He believes each and every one is irredeemable and evil and should die. They are one of his favored enemies. Orryn stresses caution but he will attack.
A Goblin squeezes around the right side of the palisade and heads away from the party, down the continuation of the path ahead. There's apparently space to enter the village. Orryn jogs ahead and the rest of the party is forced to follow.
Orryn plunges in, yelling, bow drawn.
The Goblins weren't expecting the attack. They're evil, motivated by greed and joy of malice, but the party is a bit shook by Orryn's ferocious glee. Children, men, women, babies. All are killed. Every hut is entered. He runs out of arrows, and draws his sword and continues until every Goblin is dead.
And with the last blow, Orryn is content. He rests amid the dead bodies, happy.
The rest of the party rummages through the piles of debris that the Goblins had collected. There's a lot of clothing and random bits of rusted armor. Hardy, however, finds a flask of Oil of Fiery Burning which he gives to Orryn.
Everybody's exhausted. They decided to camp for the night. Everyone takes a shift in case an errant Goblin returns, but none do.
The follow the trail to the end, the base of a cliff. Above them, is an ad-hoc collection of multicolor dwellings, built of low-grade cement and corrugated metal, perched over the edge. A pair of children look over and stare at Balcazar, Orryn, and Hardy. They're a rope ladder that they can climb, but they're not sure if they trust it, especially Balcazar.
There's only one way up. Balcazar heads up first. A third kid joins the group above and chucks a stone at Balcazar's head. He reaches the top and signals for Hardy. Hardy reaches the top. Orryn quick follows.
Humans mill about the party. There's a dreary, worn quality to everyone's movement. A few bright banners and facades break up the jumble of buildings.
A human leaning against the wall, face turned, has an extra arm jutting from his draped tunic. Hardy glances around. A woman has an indistinct eye embedded in her cheek, another's hand is enlarged to the size of shield and is supported by thin straps wrapped around her neck. Hardy feels ill. He is surrounded by abnormality. He tries to find a place to sit.
Ahead of the party, through the narrow passageways of multistory shacks and rising a hundred feet into the air is the great outer wall of Ferran.
Word has spread, and a crowd of thirty has gathered around the party, mostly to gawk at Balcazar, the Dragonborn, and Hardy, the Tiefling. The party tries to engage a couple in conversation—they've begun to pick up on the irregular accent of their Common—but nobody knows anything about the city beyond the walls or the lands beyond the slum. They'll need better information.
From the crowd a pair of enterprising humans in stiff leather cuirasses approach. They tell the party they're in the wrong place. There's nothing to do where they are. They part the crowd and lead them between a pair of leaning buildings to an open door, beyond which is a single wide plank on a pair of handmade sawhorses. Inside are two seated humans, one beyond the plank with a pot-marked hat, and in front a human drinking distilled alcohol from a metal cup. The party can smell the alcohol from the threshold.
Orryn muscles past the party and steps in. He places a gold coin on the counter. The proprietor is taken aback, inspects the coin, and pours Orryn a large mug of grain alcohol.
Orryn starts drinking and doesn't stop. Balcazar and Hardy glance up and down the street and plan for contingencies.