Having found temporary shelter in the fields, the PCs took a moment to take stock of their surroundings. In addition to the massive skyline of Cordova City to the North, there were numerous luxurious-looking farm villas dotting the landscape around them. To the West stood a crumbling tower, while to the East there was a river, and beyond it more corn fields and then a forest in the distance. Finally to the south they spotted a town in the distance, as well as a massive keep with twin towers rising up like horns into the sky.
Just then the PCs spotted a group of men on horseback riding South down the road, consisting of the farmer they had spotted riding away earlier, but now accompanied by five soldiers and led by a young man wearing ornate red and gold plate mail. They seemed to be headed towards the farm house where the PCs had been just minutes earlier. Deciding that discretion is the better part of valor, the PCs decided to hide once again in the cornfield, and make their way West towards the crumbling tower.
Along the way, Wren decided to tell the boy Arian about the teachings of Mishael her god, and the boy was transfixed by her words. He told her that his people worshipped a god called Bel the Sacred Bull, a sun god who had taught them that humans were the chosen race and that the Order of the Sacred Flame must be obeyed. As they arrived at the tower, she gave the boy Arian a pebble carved into the head of a lion, and carved a large “M” on his forehead, and let him go, saying she would return for him. He told her he would not tell anyone about the group and that he would wait for Wren to return.
The PCs had originally hoped the tower would be abandoned, but it turned out that it was occupied by a small crowd. The tower doorway had been smashed in, and inside the opening they had erected a statue of a man wearing plate mail with a flame motif (quite similar to the plate mail worn by the young man on horseback that the PCs had seen earlier). A group of worshipers bowed and knelt at the foot of the statue, placing flowers and lit candles, and a small bowl for collecting coin offerings. Around the perimeter stood a group of men and women in red and gold robes with a flame motif, ostensibly priests or monks.
The curious PCs sent Bob to sneak forward and eavesdrop on the assembled worshipers. They spoke of abominations that had been sighted in the area, and wondered if they had emerged from the Great Storm to the West, or been spirited into the kingdom of Cordova by Earth Wizards. They said the Order of the Sacred Flame was hunting them already and would soon put the abomination threat to rest permanently. The PCs were curious about the assembled worshipers, but they decided to leave the tower alone rather than approaching the strange group.
Just then, Moirae realized that this situation was very close to the events described in the mysterious book she carried with her, which spoke of its protagonist Xryyt finding himself in a strange land. It said he had made his way to a forest in the East, where “the green men” helped him escape his pursuers. Taking the passage for a sign, the PCs retraced their steps eastward across the cornfield, where they witnessed the man in plate mail questioning the boy. Bob crept forward again and listened in on their conversation, where he heard that the man’s name was Marcus Tullius, and he was a member of the Order of the Sacred Flame. He told the boy that the abominations “had killed two already,” and asked the boy if he knew anything about where they had gone, but Arian lied and told Marcus that had been knocked unconscious and the PCs had gotten away.
Avoiding Marcus Tullius and his soldiers, the PCs crept further eastward, attempting to reach the forest across the river. When they came to the road they spotted two bridges across the river, one to the north and another to the south; both appeared to be guarded. The PCs decided to wait until nightfall to attempt to sneak across, and hid in a barley field to wait until the night came. As they waited, they spotted a group of Cordovan soldiers marching south along the road, accompanied by a massive 15-foot golden lion construct, which hissed and clacked as it strode by. Moirae examined the construct briefly but could only determine that powerful magic was needed to create such a machine.
Once night fell, the PCs crept towards the southern bridge, finding just three guards carrying torches and keeping lookout. They planned an ambush, using Bob’s shortbow, Venjin’s javelins, and Moirae’s eldritch blasts to take out the guards at range, hopefully before they could raise an alarm. Launching a lightining attack, the PCs took out two of the guards immediately, but failed to finish off the third before he was able to shout “Abominations!” at the top of his lungs. As they made their way across the bridge, the PCs heard the sound of hooves rumbling towards them, and quickly fled into the grain fields nearby. Hiding there, they say Marcus Tullius and his men approach the bridge. They hoped to hide until he passed by, but he invoked a strange magic that caused his eyes to glow like a burning flame and allowed him to spot the PCs immediately despite the cover of the grain field!
The PCs took off running for the forest, pursued by Tullius and his men on foot. Tullius was faster than his men, and quickly outpaced both them and the PCs. He caught up with Moirae first, but Venjin hung back and engaged him in a brief clash of swords, striking him twice and forcing him to retreat. As his men caught up, he told them that the PCs were headed to the Woods of Weeping, and that they would not follow because it was “infested.”
Unfazed, the PCs made their way into the Woods of Weeping, going deeper and deeper within until they came upon a crumbling blue-white stone staircase with a pair of carved lion heads on either side. A small group of goblins stood guard on the steps, armed with makeshift spears, although they were clearly terrified of the massive presence of Venjin. Bob approached and engaged them in a conversation. They said that they served the Enchantress, rule of the Shadowlands and mother of the Beastmen who dwelled there, far to the Southwest. They added that they had traveled farther than any other goblins in search of a territory to claim as their own, using subterranean caves to avoid the Cordovan patrols, and that they had claimed the Woods of Weeping as their territory and driven the Cordovans away.
Bob got them to fetch their leader, Boss Gordo, and after a short exchange he agreed to allow one of his men to accompany the PCs in exchange for 100 copper Dragons (the Cordovan equivalent of a copper piece). The PCs paid him and he led them inside the ruins, which turned out to be an old disused temple to Mishael, Wren’s patron diety. Inside they found a mural which depicted the creation of Chestworld, originally known as the continent of Lacrima. It was placed in its enchanted chest by the great archmage Sif. The last panel showed Sif distributing five stones to the humans, Elves, Gnomes, Dragonborn, and Dwarves.
But as the PCs prepared to enter the subterranean tunnels, Boss Gordo yelled “Sieze them!” and the goblins attacked! Cursing their sudden-but-inevitable betrayal, the PCs fought a desperate battle against the goblins, which outnumbered them two-to-one. Venjin fell first, taking down four goblins but succumbing to the needle-like blades of the vicious green mob. Then Wren was struck by a blow from Boss Gordo’s greataxe and fell, gravely wounded, to the floor. The battle came down to Moirae against Boss Gordo, the other goblins all dead or wounded, but Moirae carried the day with a critical hit eldritch blast which obliterated the goblin and left the PCs bloodied and bruised, but victorious. The group looted the goblins and adjourned for the day, intent upon exploring the subterranean caves on the next session.