The Duchess of Phedes is expecting a trade delegation, who are due to arrive at the port of Seawell in a few of days. Her ministers have assembled a group of emissaries to receive the delegates at Seawell. No problems are expected with the trip, so their main purpose is to meet the delegates and provide an appropriately eminent escort to Phedes; with the secondary mission of subtly tapping them for information and softening them up before the negotiations begin. Once they arrive, more senior officials will take over. The emissaries have their own guards, and such a large party is unlikely to meet with trouble, so the escort is mostly a diplomatic one.
The group are representatives of various official bodies, and junior agents recently appointed to the Duchess’ service. They’re respectable enough to be both gratifying and unthreatening, but junior enough not to give an obsequious impression. In any case, the higher echelons don’t waste their time on simple tasks like escorting delegates.
Eleftheana is a druidess from the elven communities of Phedes. Professor Godalming is a gnomish mage of good family, and a member of the Phedic arcane school. Raylin serves as a priestess of the Pantheon and has been favoured with their blessings. All three have some experience of trouble-shooting and basic militia training, and between them should easily handle any problems that arise, social or practical. Just in case, the Duchess sends along a guard for protection and to handle the travel arrangements; Lawson is a professional soldier with no allegiance but to the Duchess, which ensures her interests remain paramount.
The journey will take nearly two days, despite the excellence of the highways. It’s early summer, but the weather has been stormy recently, and rain pours down most of the day. The road is well-maintained, but their progress is still slow and miserable. In the early evening, as the road descends through a series of wooden valleys, the rain begins to turn to a full-blown gale, and the spellcasters are forced to conjure light to guide their way (Lawson has to rely on a simple lantern). Suddenly, they find their way blocked by a landslide, presumably caused by the torrential rain. After some shouted discussion amidst the howling winds, they turn their horses off the path to look for a way round through the thick woods. The geography is steep and rocky and they’re forced to make quite a detour.
As they trek wearily through the trees, occasional flashes and rumbles of thunder approach. A cacophonous crash sounds almost overhead, and Lawson and Eleftheana’s horses bolt in fright, plunging off through the trees. The others are forced to follow them. It’s quite a while before they can regain control, and by then they’re lost and wandering uncertainly through thick woods. They decide to follow the slope uphill to try and get their bearings.
As they approach the top of a hill and start to break free of the trees, a flash of lightning outlines a ruined tower jutting out from it. Heading towards it in search of shelter, they find a rough stone gateway into the hillside itself, and a large stone that seems to have once blocked it. The chamber inside offers enough room for them all and their horses, and seems dry; they decide to head inside and wait out the storm.