The newly-named Eleventh Hour return inside to split their reward (though most stay together as party funds), before continuing with their plan for the next month. Dorrin will stay in Longview to craft the box, Quaesitor and Sulyex will head West to Grimhold, and Val and Halbard will head East following the pendants. The party splits.
Dorrin meets with Aelius, the tall and well-muscled dark-haired man who runs the gorge that supplies the metal those who eschew the druid lifestyle use. Together, they plan and prepare the forge for creating the box. It's easy work, and would be relatively simple if it weren't for the enchantment being performed during the forging.
Two Druids are sent by the council to enact the shielding enchantment. Due to the nature of their magic, it cannot be placed into the metal itself, and so must be transferred through the forge-fires, a long and tedious process. During the time the Druids are working their craft, Dorrin befriends a young human girl named Dierna, who swears that she will be a dwarf when she grows up! Through Dierna, Dorrin gets to know the more mundane side of life in a primarily-magic-driven culture.
A bit over halfway through the month of crafting, Dorrin is invited to an audience with Amenda; he has had some questions about magic that she is able to answer for him, including a story that brings to mind several tales from Dorrin’s family history about a warrior inscribing symbols and runners into crafted items to invite them with power. This catches Dorrin's interest, but unfortunately Amenda doesn't have any further information for him.
Dorrin completes construction of the box with Aelius’ assistance, and it is elegant in simplicity; Dorrin has marked it with his clan’s symbols and the druid have successfully enchanted the metal to shield whatever is placed inside the safebox.
Halbard and Val
The two adventurers journey East, fording two rivers as they cross a wide expanse of grassland towards Whitebrand, the city closest to the direction they feel the pendants leading them. Their journey is mostly quiet, interrupted only by wildlife - including, as they near the Southern point of the Holding Highlands, the sight of a Roc flying far overhead - and the occasional traveler.
Not long after the duo spots the Roc, the pendants’ pull leads them North into the Holding Highlands, straight for the largest outcropping, labeled on their map as Bolder Peak. The pendants seem to be leading them directly to the Peak, and indeed, into it. As they get closer, they notice this area of the Highlands is riddled with cave systems, and several are marked with a strange symbol at the entrance: a circle with a straight line bisecting it vertically.
Val, reluctant to enter the cave, explores the surrounding area while Halbard inspects the entrance itself. The elf notices a faint trail worked into the rock, evidence of traffic coming through the cave fairly regularly, as well as a type of track he had never seen before.
While he investigates, Val's mind finally starts print pieces together: between the symbol, the terrain, the location names, and the fact that they had previously been warned about the ‘Underlord’ of Whitebrand… Val strongly suspects what awaits them inside the cave. He races back to Halbard - accidentally injuring his horse in the process and healing it quickly - and informs the elf of his suspicion that a Beholder makes its lair in the cave.
The two decide to utilize one of Val’s spells to check in with Sulyex and Quaesitor, informing them of recent events and receiving an update in return, and begin to make the two-week trek back to Longview to re-gather the party.
Quaesitor and Sulyex
The two charismatic friends begin their journey West in good spirits. Abbie a week into their travels, they find a poorly-hidden trail leading to an abandoned campsite that has seen a fair amount of traffic, though none recently.
A few days later, they make a less-pleasant discovery: a shallow pit has been dug and filled about forty or fifty feet off to the side of the road. Sulyex begins to excavate it and finds the putrefying remains of a number of corpses, chained together at the ankles and necks. Unable to unbury the entirety of the twenty-foot-long pit, Sulyex clears one body and says a prayer for the rest before moving on.
After a brief delay going through the mountain pass, Sulyex and Quaesitor spot Grimhold on the horizon, and see other travelers heading in the same direction from a multitude of angles, add though drawn to the city. They both notice that their pendants now pull them in a different direction- to the South rather than East.
As they approach the gates to the city - gray and white stone walls surrounding the majority of the city proper - they fall into line, where they are informed that the city's apprenticeship trials are about to begin. Quaesitor and Sulyex inadvertently sign themselves up to participate and receive direction to a specific inn to receive further assignment. They are told a bit about the format of the trials, and decide to play along to try and get an audience with the Guild master, Wordsmith Loremaster Ventrius.
The next day, they participate in the trials, performing and demonstrating their skill. Quaesitor does quite well, catching the eye of several judging masters. Sulyex’s nerves get the better of him as stage fright overtakes him.
Nevertheless, the day ends with Quaesitor gaining an interview with Master Ansil Korian. Master Korian was impressed by Quaesitor's skills and offers to make the Bard his journeyman, rather than apprentice - a position that comes with significantly more freedom. Quaesitor accepts, and celebrates with shenanigans in the town (including the short-term theft of valuable jewel).
Sulyex speaks to a Gnomish tattoo artist named Luarin about getting a tattoo etched into his scales.
When contacted by Halbard and Val, they inform their party members of recent events and the fact that their pendants have found another book location. The party agrees to re-gather in Grimhold, and - a month later - they do. Halbard leaves the group briefly to scout the road ahead and attempt to pin down the pendant’s signal, agreeing to meet back up soon.