Successful and enriched, the party returned to the port of Meridian to get passage back to Rogan’s camp, but found a message there from the Commander waiting for them. Rogan had been contacted by the Meridian high council because they believed that an attack on their town was imminent. Rogan had replied that one of his top squads was in the area, and they would be available to take on the mission as soon as they returned, which at any pace would be sooner than he could get another squad out to the area. What Rogan did not know is that Krav and Balthazar were both facing personal quests above and beyond anything that Rogan could command from them. Krav was forced to part ways with the group, seeking out that which compelled him, and the party did not know when or if they would see their captain again.
Balthazar, being a holy man who had not hesitated to assent to the dwarven priests’ requirement of a geas, had a relatively straightforward quest: he was to seek out a being of great evil and malice, equal to or greater than himself, and destroy it utterly. When the now-reduced party arrived in Meridian, they were directed to the ductus bellorum of the town, a man with the same red hair and blue eye (the other being covered by a patch and revealing a scar beyond the patch’s covering) as everyone else in the town. On seeing the group that Rogan sent, he burst out laughing. He asked the group if they could try to stick out a little harder, since they were sure to blend in so well, at which Rabadash was tempted to remove his hood and give him something to laugh about, but declined to do so, deciding that discretion was the better part of valor.
The ductus, named Canthus, explained that there were magical inklings coming from the collegium that there was an imminent attack on Meridian, and his job was to keep that from happening. The group’s job, then, was to scout the area, and look for any evidence of a mounting army or assault. The group asked him if there were any people he knew of that might want to attack Meridian, and he mentioned the scorch marks on some of the buildings near the port side of town. He explained that those marks were made some years ago by a very powerful mage who had forced her way into the collegium, a tiefling who had managed, by means presumed infernal, to disguise herself as one of the townspeople in a magical veil so powerful it could not be pierced by any of the high wizards there in the town. She had started out as an adept pupil, but her hunger for power led her down dark pathways, doubtless due to her infernal heritage, Canthus mused. Her name was Lotharia, and she was given the title The Deceitful by the high mages of Meridian, but she was better known as the Witch of Iron Mountain. Canthus wanted the group to look for signs that she was behind any foreshadowings of doom that the old sages had seen.
The party set out to find Iron Mountain, and were able to purchase reliable passage that way from some of the more adept sailors down at the dockside tavern. The party never found out whether Lotharia was responsible for the prophesies of imminent danger froming from the sages; when they found her mountain, they destroyed the foul undead and dark humanoids that called the place home before wiping out Lotharia herself. As the final, killing blow was struck against her, Balthazar felt a great lightness of being, as if he stood on air beneath the rays of a brilliant sun, and his geas was lifted.
The group sent word to Canthus via the sailors who transported them that the Witch was no more, and that they were going to scout a perimeter of several miles to see if there were any imminent threat to Meridian. Although this was true, the real purpose of this in-depth scouring was something other: now, the search for Krav, to find him and aid him in his own geas if they could, began.