After several long months of travel the party finally arrived in the Elsir Vale just as summer was really kicking into gear. A steppe land, the Elsir Vale "enjoys" intensely hot, dusty summers punctuated by periods of intense rain. Fortunately the party has not seen the intense rain yet (although the local farmers might not say the same).
It takes about five days to go from Dennovar, the southern gateway to the Vale, to Brindol, the destination suggested by the notes of Glass Staff and the Black Spider. Upon arrival the party learns that all is not well in the Vale. Something is causing problems in the north, keeping the usualy common caravans from arriving. Spooked merchants from the south – travelling in the other direction – have decided to hunker down in Brindol, where it is safe. The result is an overcrowded city, where everyone is hot and tired.
The heroes begin to investigate their own problems – Malik heads off to discuss the so-called Heart of the Lion with the resident wizard Immerstal. Li heads to speak with the High Priestess of Lathander, Dawn Lord Tredora Goldenbrow. And Siero seeks an audience with the Duke, Kerdan Jaarmath.
Malik's investigation turns up little – Immerstal has heard the tales of the Lion King and the Heart of the Lion, but doesn't put much stock in them.
Siero's investigation doesn't turn up much either – the Duke, it would seem, is too busy to meet with him, but his major domo – a halfling named Anna Swiftstone – tells the Halfling tales of the Lion King and how the river-people halflings that first dwelled in the Vale brought to him an artefact of great power known as the Heart of the Lion (and how it was all utter nonsense made up by Halflings to make themselves look important). After discovering that Siero is an adventurer Anna does invite him (and his friends) back to the fortress the following morning with a promise to set up a meeting for them.
Li's visit to the Temple of Lathander does not reveal much – Tredora herself is not a native to the Vale and is not entirely familiar with their folktales – but on a hunch she visits the local Academy afterwards and does some research into the tales. While most of the stories are vague, she does find that Brindol is not the only Lion city in the Vale – before it was sunk beneath the waters of Lake Rhestin the city of Rhest once featured Lions prominantly in their regalia.
Li returns to share her findings with the group. Siero shares his news as well – that is seems like the Duke might be interested in retaining their services, and they all agree to meet with him the following morning before heading out to locate this Rhest.
The next morning they meet Duke Jaarmath coming from a meeting. After a quick exchange with his major domo Kerdan addresses the heroes – he requires their services as a means to resolve the issues in the northern part of the Vale without actually getting his hands involved (since he does not want to deal with the political fallout of sending actual troops north). His offer to them is simple – he and the merchant's council will pay them generously to head north to escort a caravan that a local is expecting. They are to resolve the situation as best they can while they are there. The players agree, seeing as how Rhest too is in the northern Vale, and they head out towards Drellin Ferry and beyond that – to Skull Gorge.
About three hours south of Drellin's Ferry trouble the encounter their first bit of trouble – a pack of Hobgoblins (including one who can cast spells, much to Malik's chagrin) has set an ambush for unwary travellers upon the road. Unfortunately for the Hobgoblins, the heroes are not merely unwary travellers. A short battle ensues, during which Siero slays a foe, causing him to be consumed by a magical, silver-white flame. The flame reveals something of the mysterious sword he carries – the gemstone turns from red to blue, and silver writing is revealed on the blade – an old fashioned Elven name.
We leave off as the party searches the dead, finding some valuables and two letters to Kerdan Jaarmath – asking him for Brindol's help. They depart again, heading north to Drellin's Ferry – more wary now than before.