Cloudless days traveling under the incessant sun of the Stone Sea did little to improve our mood as we made our way to the great northwestern Spire. By the time we reached the entrance to the oldwalls, our lips cracked and bleeding from the heat and dust, none of us were in the mood for games or frivolity.

As we approached, a man came running from the large valley below, exclaiming and falling to his knees before me. “Fatebinder! I’m so sorry – please don’t drag me back there! We just shook hands, it wasn’t a legal contract!” Dressed in Disfavored purple, he was shaking with fear, though he wasn’t afraid of us.

“The Earthshakers hired me as a guide,” he explained after some prodding. “They were looking for some kind of precious stone but there were Stonestalker Beastmen in the way – I don’t want to die!”

Three men appeared from a bend in the path, walking with slow determination. Earthshakers.

“Leave this man to us, Fatebinder,” the leader offered. “And I shall give you a full accounting of the situation. He is beneath your notice.”

Calling on my status and position, I allowed the panicked man freedom to leave, and demanded of the Earthshaker an explanation for what the problem was; not with the man who was busy running away, but the Beastmen who inhabited the valley. After realizing that I was the Fatebinder who had “sided” with the Scarlet Chorus, his tone changed into one of mewling supplication, begging for me to understand that the Earthshakers were after knowledge, and did not always of one mind with the rest of the Disfavored.

I stared at him, unimpressed, what little sweat I had left rolling down my face in thick, dusty rivulets of grime. “What are you suggesting, Earthshaker?”

“Please, fair and noble sir, know that we study the strange purple crystals that sprout from the ground in this place. The Beastmen were happy to have us look around, but took umbrage when our excavations began – they claimed we were ‘stealing from their elders’ or some such nonsense.” Responding with a dispassionate shrug, he took my meaning and continued speaking quickly.

“It was these crystals which lead Cairn to overreach his orders in the first place,” the mage tried to explain, “they truly are something special! If we had more to study, we would happily leave this land in peace.”

“You caused trouble with the local Beastmen, and now want me to kill them on their own ancestral grounds, so you can study purple rocks that your leader betrayed our Overlord for. Do I have that right?”

The Earthshaker realized how feeble his argument had truly been.

“I will speak with the Beastmen; I have other business with them. Do nothing until I return.”

Offering many, repeated thanks with bowed head, the Earthshakers pointed us the way into the valley.

At least there was shade for a change.