On March 16th, the missionaries called to go among the Union of Schek, accompanied by Verdis, Agon, Rowan, and Dohasan (and others who might be interested in joining) set out toward Gilded Falls for the Union of Schek Equinox Festival. On the 17th, they slew a couple of small undead bands before reaching Valalarte (an elven city on the Great Road not far from the college), where they learned that goblins and orcs of Valalarte had fought off a larger undead group at great cost. With fine weather and easy days on the Great Road they arrived in Gilded Falls by late afternoon on the 19th, the day before the Equinox.
There were booths with shops and games for the festivities and performers on various stages, as well as dozens of high platforms with special trappings (they saw others like them in Valalarte and Gjelber on their way) not currently in use. There was a great deal of excitement and energy and the city was much busier than on Verdis’ and Agon’s previous visit with pilgrims from all over their lands. They were welcomed with excitement and had an opportunity to enjoy some of the festivities before nightfall, but were told that the most important events will be on the 20th at dawn and dusk.
Before dawn on the 20th, a horn warned of the coming dawn and orcs and goblins throughout the old elven city streamed into the streets to go to the main courtyard under the full moon, near setting in the West. In the cold morning air, they were fairly warm, packed nearly shoulder to shoulder with the orcs in the courtyard. The orcs watched the moon and the platforms with excitement and when the first sun struck the mountains to the North, a gasp went up from the crowd. The crowd became unbearably loud with the murmur of thousands of quiet voices and the shuffle of feet as they turned back and forth to look West to the moon and East toward where the sun would rise.
The whispers became quiet when the first rays of sunlight broke in the East and all looked away from it to the moon near the horizon, then to the platforms. On the platforms, shapes of burning light appeared. The lights slowly coalesced into orc and goblin forms as the moon set and the sun rose. Cheers went up as the first orc emerged from the light, naked and skin painted in glistening patterns. Each time another emerged there were cheers. Soon, all but two light had produced an orc or goblin, but dismayed cries started to sound, as the moon was about to pass the horizon. Orcs started to climb the platforms to the last two lights and the lights died suddenly, depositing one orc and one goblin, charred nearly beyond recognition, onto the platform. The orcs climbing onto the platforms attempted to resuscitate them, but nothing could be done. They were ceremoniously and quietly carried away. Meanwhile, the majority of the crowd gathered excitedly around the platforms of the living orcs and goblins who emerged as they stretched out their arms and spoke to the multitude with tones of hope and great joy.
From where the Valefolk party were, they could not hear all they said, but it was clearly not the common dialect of the Schek, though seemingly a related tongue, perhaps the language from which their religious terms are chiefly taken. They managed to get closer to a platform and hear the orc their switch into the tongue you are familiar with. He said, “but I speak words that but few of you will understand, and I should speak this more broadly. For I bring a message of great hope for all of the Schek, both united and disparate. For behold, I have looked down upon our world from the higher world, and I have seen that the time is near that Charuke with his Nephil companions, yea, and even the Rephi, shall return to rule this world again. So I bear witness, together with these other witnesses, my fellow traveler. The time of the Schek is near!”
The orcs and goblins who emerged from the lights soon descended from their platforms and were escorted to the old elven palace, where the Union of Schek council was adjourned. The multitudes of orcs and goblins dispersed somewhat, but most remained in the courtyard and surrounding area, discussing with excitement the pronouncements made and returning with new vigor to the festivities from the night before.
As sunset on the 20th approached, the people of Gilded Falls and the many visitors again gathered excitedly in the main courtyard around the platforms. Young orcs and goblins, probably merely teenagers, were escorted reverently to the platforms, one each. There they disrobed and were painted with the same shimmering paint as those who appeared that morning, with symbols evoking each of the five deities of the Union Schek. As the sun grew low in the sky, they climbed up onto the platforms and waited. The Charuke high priest spoke to the crowd, teaching that these chosen youth would be graced to visit the halls of the Nephil and the Rephi to there be tutored for the next ten years, after which they would return to impart the wisdom taught them by their gods. His speech ended and the multitude looked to the east, watching for the full moon to rise, checking now and then the position of the sun. When the moon rose, lights engulfed the youth on the platforms, burning ardently for several minutes before fading away. The youth were gone. The sun set.
With that done, the orcs and goblins drank and celebrated and went to their beds. In the morning, the 21st, those who traveled to participate started to leave Gilded Falls. The Citadel Adventurers leave as well, leaving the missionaries in Gilded Falls. With fair weather on the road, they arrive in the Vale on the 24th in time to be met by Rovert and Conan on the road to beg their aide.