The group, made up of Erika Valetti, Garret Baxter and Uzochi Balewa, arrive in time to aid a group of men who were fighting off The Red Row Artifice. When the Artificers fled, the men introduced themselves as being Stephen Pryce, Ollander Hart and Marcus Cartwright, of the Gentleman’s Skirmisher Society of Gardien, claiming to be a minor street-gang devoted to patrolling the perimeter of the district of Gardien to fight off intruders in order to let its members gain some martial excitement. They showed the group their Pawn-shaped badges and stated that they did not seek to usurp The Rook’s influence, and so, the group decided not to take action against the Society. The men of the society departed in order to get their injuries patched up, and the group proceeded back towards the Croisse Shipyard… though not before Uzochi excused himself for a few moments, staying behind in the square while the others moved on, and caught up to them several minutes later with nary an explanation as to what had happened.
The group head on their way through the shipyard, which, had it not been for the light at the dockhouses at the opposite end, could be easily mistaken for an abandoned and thoroughly decrepit old wharf – the area was strewn with pieces of wood, bundles of material used for construction, discarded rope, broken glass and other miscellany, indicating that it had definitely seen better days. The three managed to get up to the dock where the light was shining, and found a door, slightly ajar. Erika peeked in, only to find an eye peeking back. Erika and the owner of the eye briefly exchanged hellos through the crack in the door, before Uzochi impatiently placed a hand on it and swung it open, noting that it seemed as though the person behind it was just about to swing it shut. The group entered the dockhouse, confronted the man on the other side – a wispy, panicked-looking young man who seemed utterly confused at their presence – and, through some brief, bumbling conversation, the group gained passage on a small boat that would take them up the river Eaïs and out of the city, where, Mulholland explained, they would meet their guide.
The group travel upriver under the cover of night, with no-one so much as uttering a word on the way. Uzochi spent most of the trip solely focused on the river’s surface, staring pensively at the water. Erika attempted to get close to him in order to intiate a conversation, which was quickly interrupted with Garret, who began to question her on her motivation, and how much she had really thought about the potential danger she could be getting into by returning to a home she knew had some strange goings-on inside. The two conversed for some time, and before long, the boat arrived at a small dock just outside the city walls, where the group met their guide.
The guide, as it turned out, was Alison Halliday, another member of the Rook and a woman that Garret had talked to on occasion when she was in L’Édifice du Roc—which was a rare occurence, as she spent most of her time in the Troug, the expanse of grassy plains to the north of the city of Montmarais. She had recieved Mulholland’s missive of helping the group to navigate the Troug in order to get to the Valetti Estate, and was happy to help them. She led the way while the other three trailed behind, and during the few hours before daybreak, the group worked their way across the hills.
The trek through the Troug was largely uneventful, until Halliday, seemingly having been pensive for most of the journey, spoke up to Erika, asking her how much Mulholland had told her about the decision to approve her request to explore the Estate. Initially, Halliday seemed uneasy about talking about the matter in front of Garret and Uzochi, but after Garret “overheard” the pair speaking to one another, she came clean and intimated to Erika that she believed that the Hautconseil, the ruling body of the Rook, should not be trusted with matters of great importance, such as the exploration of Erika’s family home. Halliday claimed that every member of the Conseil had an agenda, and that the decision to approve Erika’s request was more complicated and filled with intrigue than what Mulholland may have let on. She tells Erika that, were she to find something potentially valuable – in terms of sentiment or finance – inside the estate, that it would behoof her not to immediately tell the Conseil, just in case they attempted to procure something for themselves. And with that small hint of warning, the group continued their trek on towards the estate…
The Troug is a lonely place, certainly – there’s no-one else around. As you trudge on through the dewy gras, daylight slowly seeps into the sky. It’s not bright, by any means, and more than anything the dawn light seems to reinforce, rather than dispel, the feeling of emptiness that permeates the wet plains – as the sky gets brighter, you realise that though there are fields around you, nothing else is visible. You encounter no paths, no people, no signs or farms or trade routes, no fences to clim, nor streams to cross… just endless grass, lit by the morning sun that itself is hidden away behind the clouds.
Similarly, the mist lies thick on the ground; the only thing hampering you from looking to the horizon beyond the seemingly-infinite verdant plateau, preventing you from noticing landmarks of geographical features that might indicate your location, or at least grant you some sense of being present in the physical world, is the ethereal curtain of hazy grey wisps of fog that surrounds you on all sides. Even Montmarais has vanished beyond the veil of mist.
Before long, a dark shape looms up ahead… at first, it seems to be a hazy, uncertain, patchy shape, but as you continue on, you realise it is a wall, though no markers are present to indicate its relative distance or height. And then, beyond that, a darker, larger shape begins to form… edges slowly become more distinct, more concrete, and you realise that you are approaching a colossal house, rendered in what was once a grandiose demonstration of the art of architecture, but now is something close to a dessicated husk of a former home, cloaked in mist.
You’ve reached the Valetti Estate…