The next morning we took the horses and rode east but the trail soon ended. Vetrulfr found hoofprints and these we tracked across a wide plain with a lake to the south. We saw no game and our bellies rumbled as we rode. The trail led into woodland and we soon found ourselves back in the glade where the ruined tower stands. As we were already close we decided to return to the strange gateway near the Frogling cave and search for it’s counterpart.
We found the gate well enough but standing guard were two we did not recognise. A man and a woman who claimed the gate was theirs and that we must pay a large toll of much silver to pass. I suspected an ambush and would not be disappointed but their fellows were well hid. Not until Nokki grew weary of their talk and charged his mount at them did the ruffians make themselves known and we quickly found ourselves outnumbered, facing many bows and swords. Nokki leaped his horse right over the startled pair and rode straight between the bended boughs that should have taken him home. Yet to our dismay we saw him still, riding thru the woods. The gate did not work. Now these bandits, each one with a red skull painted upon their face meant to injure us for refusing their demand. The woman we had first met drew back her bow to shoot Nokki in his back but I spurred my horse forward and lept from the saddle to bring her down. She was fast like a cat and though I spoiled her shot I found myself in the dirt at her companions feet. He bid me to yield but did not know that men of Westworth surrender not! I grabbed at his sword for myself had no weapon but he was ready for my move and would have cut me but for my Hirdman Egil who came at him from behind. As they fought I stood, to find I had lost sight of the others although I could hear Nokki riding in the woods, blowing great blasts on his Lure.
Then from their ranks stood forward Slodi. A priestess by her attire and a handmaiden to my goddess herself by her lovliness. Beating my fist on my shield that bore her same colours I demanded to know why they had dared attack us and why a holy woman would associate with common bandits. It was clear we were not enemies and I bid Egil to stay his hand tho I am sure he had the measure of his man. Indeed Slodi took us to her camp and shared what little food they had. I told of our journey and she in turn told us much of the lands around. The company of the red skull hailed from Carleton beyond the city of Ravenscar which was but a few hours ride further along the road. We learned the archways are known as Elf gates and will only work when the moon is full so we must remain here for near a month before we can return. There is a city of Elves they claim and a domain of Lying men as big as horses. By their account we have travelled into the realm of Elfheim itself. I have suggested to Slodi that their company should travel to the Hamlet we passed through and make use of the stone temple there to raise a shrine to our Goddess. The life of a cutpurse is not fitting for such a beauty.
At length my companions showed themselves. Nokki had been chased by wolf creatures, half beast half man and savage in nature but his riding was too fast and he escaped them. Vetrulfr had been less fortunate. Thinking we had been taken hostage he had attempted to creep up on the campsite and lay out one of their scouts. But he had been discovered and in the fight shot with an arrow that has injured him most grievously. Nokki took him to safety and later I saw to his wound but fear that his noble line is ended by that cruel blow. That will have to be answered for. Bidding fairwell to the fair Slodi we travelled to the city of Ravenscar wich is a mighty fort built around a rocky tor where thier king resides. Here we were to find a goat to supply the milk our screaming baby needed. We also found food and drink in a hall that we were told is used to visits by noble folk. However their customs seemed most strange and they were reluctant to receive us until Nokki proved himself by playing for them and many did proclaim that never have they heard such music. Much refreshed we have decided to return to the tower and explore it more thoroughly.
It seems that we must stay till the next full moon in this land where it is said it is always spring. We shall bring back proof of elven treasure to our Yarl so we might return in numbers and raid upon Elfheim itself.
Leaving a Hirdman to guard the babe and animals we opened the trapdoor and descended into the tower’s basement. We soon found the narrow tunnel was a labyrinth of tombs. To be put to rest in such a strange way is surely an invitation to have your grave robbed and if we are to survive in these lands we will need whatever weapons we can find. We did not intend to refuse their offer however it seems the dead still had need of their arms. These unquiet corpses were a fearsome sight but no match for us in skill. Their skulls were quickly broken but disturbing the tomb had awakened something else. Shambling cadavers with a taste for living flesh. One was quickly dispatched but then the other seemed taken over with my goddess herself! How favored I was to battle it but by the fates was it strong. As we fought I heard Her words fall from it’s dead lips and for those few moments I could speak with my revered Mistress and tell her of her wayward priestess. With my friends help the battle was all too short and we pressed further into the tombs. A stone crypt we opened and smashed the creature inside before it could rise. It wore a fine cloak of brilliant red adorned with large feathers and this Nokki quickly took. Vetrulfr says it is enchanted. Beyond this I was awed to find a statue of my Goddess standing over an alter. This place must be a shrine or temple and I am certain whatever might lay within, weather it be test or reward, has been left here for me.