By early evening, you approach The Crossroads and view three hobgoblins with pikes harassing a human prisoner. The prisoner is in a metal cage that swings five feet off the ground on the limb of a metal tree called The Gibbet Tree. The prisoner identifies himself as Valtier Blackthorn and pleads with you to set him free. You defeat six hobgoblins and two black raven swarms and then set Valtier Blackthorn free.
Wolvar sees that a dwarf near the entrance to the trading post is observing them. The dwarf is chewing a big wad of tobacco. He tells Wolvar that his boss is inside negotiating a deal with Millen Silvereye, the Tiefling proprietor of the trading post, and that you will have to wait your turn until his boss is finished. Renthro tells Wolvar that these are the dwarfs who betrayed him and Katuun. Wolvar attacks and kills the dwarf. However, you hear a door slam as a second dwarf dashes to the safety of the trading post.
A short distance away, a pair of teen-aged humans, a male and female, leave the trading post and walk toward the boneyard while they study a map. They are attacked by zombies and are both killed quickly. You attack the zombies, but before you have killed all of them, you are attacked by a female Orc mercenary, a pair of albino Eladrin Wizard mercenaries, and four of the caravan dwarfs. The two wizards and the orc mercenary prove to be staunch adversaries. However, they offer to swap sides if you pay them double what the dwarves are paying them. You reluctantly agree to pay them 1000 GP for their support. Having lost the support of the mercenaries, the dwarves surrender and all hostilities abruptly cease. The dwarfs are told to go away by the mercenaries. They climb into their oxen-drawn wagon and leave The Crossroads immediately. The mercenaries return to the trading post and invite you to come inside to do some trading.
Balasar exits from the cone and tells you that the The Creature of the Cone told him that there would be a visitor soon, and that you should do what the visitor asks of you. The worm opens its jaws and vomits a huge stream of yellow bile in which a humanoid form is writhing. You help the humanoid clean up. After he regains full consciousness, the Kalashtar says he is Minharath. He was sent to this strange and primitive world by his elders, who used a powerful ritual to bring him here. His mission is to collect a lost member of the Kalashtar who was diverted to this place by the powerful Adaarian storms that were raging on the night that a portal of refuge from attack by The Inspired was created. His job is to collect the flaming-haired young woman and return her to Eberron, where a resistance movement against The Inspired is taking shape. A seer at the great Monastery foretold that the flaming-haired one of fair voice, who has gained considerable strength during her time spent on the far-away world, would play a key role in the Kalashtar resistance. Her arcane skills and her ability to boost morale are needed badly by her people and thus she must depart the far-away world and rejoin the resistance on Eberron.
Minharath says that the seer showed him a vision. Both he and Khashana must eat a bright golden apple. Then she must fearlessly follow him back to Eberron, no matter where the path takes them. There is scant time to first bid her companions farewell, but the apples must be eaten immediately thereafter and they must depart.
Cookie gives Khashana a black truffle custard pie to take with her on her journey. Dog Boy gives her a jade pendant carved in the shape of a torch, with flames of jasper and agate. Cookie explains that Dog Boy has been carving the pendant in anticipation of Khashana’s departure. Dog Boy tells Khashana that as long as she wears the pendant, she will always be a Torchbearer in her own world, just as she has been in Arantus.
Balasar offers the last two golden apples to the two Kalashtar and they eat them. The worm’s jaws come unhinged and its mouth gapes wide, revealing a twisting, dark tunnel within. Minharath runs straight into the gaping maw and disappears down the black tunnel. Khashana follows. The worm closes its mouth and its head returns to normal size.
You are invited in to the trading post by the female orc mercenary and the two albino Eladrin wizards who offer to buy you an ale. The orc, Turka, says, “It grows dark, who knows what dangers lurk out there? Come inside to Millen’s fine establishment. Enough battle for one day! The triplets and I will buy you ale, and the pretzels are on the house, though stale.” One of the Eladrin, Endrin, replies, “Turka, you missed your calling in life. I dare say you would have made a fine Bard! Speaking of which, where’s the pretty female that was in your party? (directed to Hypatia—No offense, Madame).” The two Eladrin brothers, Aldrin and Endrin, explain that they are triplets but their brother Dieldrin is dead and they are seeking a Raise Dead scroll for him. “We drop by at these Crossroads from time to time because our good friend, Millen Silvereye, has assured us that he would be able to acquire and sell us a Raise Dead scroll for our fallen brother, Dieldrin. This is our fourth visit to his esteemed establishment, and so far no scroll, and the pretzels grow staler each time!”
You enter the trading post and do some business with its proprietor, Millen Silvereye. Also at the trading post is a Half-Orc pelt trader, Kulgrim, who tells you that he recently sold an animal-faced totem to the Bullywugs of the Muckraker Clan, the same totem that the dwarven caravan had stolen from Katuun, and the one that Wolvar has been dreaming about. In return, the Bullywugs traded some Behemoth hides to Kulgrim which he sold to the caravan Dwarves, who intended to fashion the hides into armor.
After settling down at the bar with ales in hand, Endrin says, “We’ve heard Rumors that Parathion has been spotted traveling through this region. Do you know anything of this?”
Turka says, “The triplets and I are long-time veterans of the Bug Wars. We venture north from time to time for a change of scenery and some easy money in The Scar. Not a good idea to spend too much time in The Scar, though, it can do some really weird-ass things to you! Like, we knew this one guy, a Bugbear adventurer, who spent so much time in The Scar, he woke up one day – and I swear to Kord this is true – his mouth was where his butt-hole used to be, and yeah, you guessed it!”
Turka, turning to Rook, “You put some good gashes in me, brother! You would do well in the Bug Wars. You might consider hitching up with us for our next campaign. Our contract promises to be very lucrative.” Endrin adds, “Yes, and Aldrin and I would certainly welcome another meat shield in front of us!”
Valtier Blackthorn tells his tale of how he became a prisoner in the Gibbet Tree at the Crossoads:
“We were released from prison in Silverdale ten days ago (Mayantus 1). We traveled to Ardmore, where White Crane spied on The Company of the Black Wagon. She seemed increasingly jealous and bitter about the glory that was being heaped on you after the King’s Hearing. She waited for you to leave Ardmore, then she approached The King’s Council and begged them to give The Company of the Crane’s Wings a quest to fulfill. The council deliberated for a few minutes, then they handed over the Chaos Shard to White Crane and asked that it be returned to the Chaos Scar and destroyed.
“Initially, White Crane was intent on completing the mission. But the longer we traveled together, the more unusual her behavior became, even for her. Then one day the three females were bathing in a pond and I heard the Goliath let out a shriek. Later, she confided in me that the thing that startled her was that a pair of small, writhing tentacles were sprouting from White Crane’s back. We also noticed that her eyes were getting small and beady.
“We traveled west beyond The Wards, then beyond the old King’s Wall and into the outskirts of the great, strange valley of the scar. We had numerous adventures this past week, too many to recount now, and we met our obstacles with much success. White Crane became skilled at using the Chaos Shard to manipulate things in peculiar ways. For example, one evening I was playing my lute around the campfire. White Crane told me to stop playing so that she could focus and meditate on the power of The Shard, and I said I’d just like to finish the ballad I was playing because it’s bad form to interrupt a ballad, and I promised to cease immediately afterward. She became furious and pointed that shard at me. Three of my fingers fused together like icicles and would not move. I could not play my lute for two days until finally my fingers unfroze.
“It became clear to us that White Crane had no intention of ever surrendering or destroying the Chaos Shard, she was too enamored with its power, and devoted her meditations to sharpening her skill with it. She seemed to forget that she was a follower of The Raven Queen, never even mentioned her at all. She gloated about how she would return to Ardwen one day, subjugate The King’s Council to her will, and imprison The Company of the Black Wagon, condemning you to a life of slow torture.
“All of us in The Company of the Crane’s Wings became terrified of White Crane. All except the ranger, Ruby Blue, who seemed to admire, almost worship, White Crane’s every thought and action. Meanwhile, Heron, Argana, and I met secretly one evening, pretending to forage for food. We formed a pact and agreed to leave the Company at our first opportunity. That night, Argana woke me and Heron during her watch, and the three us of us left camp.
“We headed east, leaving the Chaos Scar behind, made it through the Old Gate, and put some additional distance between us and the camp. Once we were convinced that we had broken free without observation, we went our separate ways, thinking that we stood a better chance if White Crane and Ruby Blue could not pursue us the next morning as a single group. We agreed to meet up at a place to the south we’d heard of called Restwell Keep. I never made it there. I was captured by a roving band of Goblins and traded to the Hobgoblins at these Crossroads in exchange for a few baubles and 19 silver pieces. The Hobgoblins put me in the stinking hanging cage near the zombies and tormented me for three days straight. They tried to sell me to a band of Gnolls, but the Gnolls spit at me and laughed in their hyena-like way, saying I was not fit or strong enough to sacrifice to their God, Yeenoghu, who they call The Destroyer. After that incident, the Hobgoblins tormented me even more viciously, saying that they had wasted their silver pieces on me and that they would probably never get their investment back.
“I was at my rope’s end, alone, with no prospects of rescue. I had just played what I thought would be my final ballad, for I had decided to end my life tonight. When I finished the ballad, my throat was dry, and the Hobgoblins forced me to drink their sweat from a rag. But while I was suffering that indignation, I had a vision of my parents, who themselves were Torchbearers, members of The Company of the Black Thorn. They told me to look north and call out for aid. And just at that moment, you came over the horizon.
After hearing Valtier Blackthorn’s tale, you lay out bed rolls on the upper floor of the Millen Silvereye’s trading post, and rest the night uneventfully.