Your band is finally winding it’s way downward along the rocky trade route descending into the Iri Valley flanked on either side by the tall Eoral Mountain peaks of your home.
It should take 3 or 4 days to reach the small town of Goldenshaw of which you’ve heard is a trade crossroads low in the valley but have never visited, in fact, in two days you will have travelled further than you’ve ever been in your adult life.
On your first day you make careful progress down the steep and treacherous mountain trails but by the end of that day you’ve arrived at a green valley lush with long-leaf pine and before you descend into the tree-line you see it continues for as far as the eye can see. You did not encounter any other travellers.
Day two, your progress is slowed by having to push the pull-carts through several soft and mushy sections especially down the center of the valley where a shallow blue ribbon winds it’s way down the center of the Iri Valley. By the end of the day you reach the eastern side of the valley and proceed through the pines. You notice clouds begin to cover the evening sky and spot shelter near a set of tall boulders which would provide an awning in case of rain. Just before you reach the boulders…
You’re startled as a large snowy-white stag silently leaps onto the road and regards you from a few yards away, it’s as if time stands still for a moment and then it disappears on the other side of the trail.
You all recall there’s an old saying back in Wildhood about a white stag, but sadly you none of you paid enough attention to the elders to remember.
Day three, travel resumes along the piney trail. It is uneventful but the light descends into gray as the sky fills with low hanging clouds. By the late evening the heavens open up with a crack of lightning and a barrage of large cool drops drumming on your heads and push-carts.
You realize you’ll be drenched in a few seconds and then you spot a hearty fire through the trees on the east side of the trail.
Within a magical protective ‘bubble’ you meet Burkhart Ackerman the Mystical. Once he hears about the Sinous Tunnels he proposes a ‘deal’. He is compiling a tome called Florilegium Abominabile a catalog of particularly horrendous creatures containing a complete description of their origin, habits, powers, etc. He asks the group to explore the underground tunnels, reporting on any strange monsters. He provides equipment necessary for them to catalogue the aberrations. Base payment is 250gp per aberration properly described; bodies or significant portions thereof presented to Burkhart are worth twice this amount, and captured living will award 1000gp. He also explains he was moving towards the Great Ravine pursuing rumors that there was a fabled tentacled creature within. He provides a means for communication (Vial of Dust to throw up in the air.)
Fourth day, they begin to see a thinning of the trees and some isolated farm-lands until you encounter the sobbing mother and child on the road…