The bogatyrs wake their captive and begin asking him questions. The scraggly human scout assesses his situation and quickly decides to cooperate. He tells them that his group was ordered to track Tarska the Slayer’s movements. They reported to Commander Tazvach, Knife of the Black, though their more local coordination point was in the town of Volinka. The bogatyrs decide to keep him captive and take him with them to the Mountain of Steel.
They make their way down the mountainside and follow the steppe boundary to the temple of Goryador. While the group is still about two hours from the Mountain, the overcast sky lights up. A falling star streaks past the clouds and impacts somewhere into the plain. The impact’s thunder rolls past them minutes later.
At the foot of the Mountain of Steel, the bogatyrs pass through a tent town of various travelers come to trade with the Goryadon priests. The crowd is very mixed, from barkers offering luxuries brought across the steppe to gnoll hunters with bundles of trophies taken from rare beasts. The five find a Goryadon acolyte among the tents and explain that they’ve taken a captive from a Ruin warband. The acolyte admits he doesn’t know what would be best done with the scout, and they decide to move up to the temple.
They march up to the entrance cut into into the mountain’s side. A pair of templars standing watch outside ask them their business, and then send them in with an admonition: “Bring no mischief here. This is a sacred place, and the crooked bar gets hammered straight.”
The five enter the grand inner hall, reputedly carved from the mountain long ago by the first Hammer-Saints. A massive statue of Goryador dominates the far wall, looming over an altar where Gena hangs up the Luskrin armory’s shield and offers some coin. Mika peels away from the group, moving through the small trader stands set up in the closer portion of the hall.
They find a Goryadon priest of higher rank and discuss the reasons for their visit. The priest is likewise uncertain what to do with their captive, and has the Ruin’s scout sent to the kitchens to at least make himself useful. The riddle of Saschka is also beyond him, but he sends word to Loremaster Bronva. The Loremaster’s reply is swift, and an acolyte takes the living sword in that direction. Gena inquires about the services of the current living Hammer-Saint Vashtil, but Vashtil is away — the falling star arrived earlier than their divinations suggested, otherwise the Hammer-Saint would be here to claim it for its potential metals. The priest recommends that the bogatyrs speak with Ilya Stakomir, a forgemaster with a talent for metallurgy.
Forgemaster Stakomir turns out to be impressed with the amount of high-quality firebrass and hardsilver the bogatyrs have acquired. He agrees to forge an axe out of firebrass and a number of hardsilver items — a shield for Gena, a pair of silver daggers, a saber for Anfisa — in return for the unused metal. Gena inquires about the possibility of having the weapons enchanted. For that, suggests Ilya, they would have to do more — perhaps bring the meteorite that recently struck in the nearby steppe, for gold is not so valuable at the Mountain of Steel.
The bogatyrs — absent Saschka, who is apparently still in an audience with Loremaster Bronva — leave the temple and descend into the tent town, where they find a hospitality tent and rest. Better rested, they gather themselves before sunrise and head out into the steppe to find the meteorite’s impact site.
The crater isn’t hard to find; two small groups of traders are already camped outside it. But the impact site is a hole — the fallen star seems to have punched a hole through the ceiling of an old subterranean complex, forgotten underneath the steppe earth. They look down through the cavity and see a layout of rooms, broken walls, and a smaller hole punched through the floor to an even lower level. As they do so, the nearby traders make them offers to split the find in exchange for a little assistance, but the bogatyrs pointedly ignore them.
Gena makes particular haste in lowering a rope and descending into the hole. The others follow as he’s preparing to drop to the second level. Anfisa tells Kostya to stand watch, given the difficulties of lowering the bear down on a rope — or pulling him back out. Once the four are all in, they have a look around the rubble. The subterranean structure seems to be elven architecture, with the first level having the signs of a guard post or barracks to protect the level or levels below. Anfisa finds two things of particular interest — a chunk of stone that looks suspiciously like a crudely shaped human (or elven) hand, and signs of disturbance in the dust. Someone else has already entered the complex.
The bogatyrs drop down to the second level, in the midst of a large hall. Again, Anfisa finds tracks of others leading away into the other rooms. Gena drops down to the third level while the others check for more traces of their potential rivals. Suddenly, one of the ancient doors crashes open, and a mismatched group of fury-eyed men and women charge Anfisa, Mika, and Kazimeer.
The first strike goes to the attackers, as one of them hurls a talisman at the three bogatyrs on the upper level. The talisman detonates in a pulse of power that jolts pain through their wounds, and the lightly armored scout vanishes into the shadows. Anfisa retaliates, cutting down three of the enemies before a member of the group chants an astromantic spell, binding her in ribbons of strangely colored starlight.
Gena clambers back up the rope to the second level, only to be bound in more of the spell-ribbons. He catches sight of the hidden rogue, and hurls his saber — which strikes home. “NO SNEAKY!” bellows the warrior.
Mika reaches into the Underworld, and finds death-energy near the surface. She hurls the Queen’s Needles and conjures elven ghosts, only to be targeted by a burly axeman. Kazimeer hurls thunder at the enemy sorcerer and falls back to a more strategic location.
The rival astromancer responds with a hypnotic cascade of lights. Anfisa, feet still rooted to the ground, draws her bow and fires an arrow into an enemy archer, failing to notice the beguilement that’s fallen over Gennadiy. The enthralled warrior takes up another weapon and attacks Anfisa.
Mika scrambles for cover away from the axeman. A needle just misses the sorcerer, but explodes into cold bone slivers, which topple the wounded mage. But as the corpse falls to the floor, another figure appears from a different section of the complex. The newcomer is clearly also an adept, wearing simple clothing but wielding an iron staff. He casts two spells in quick succession, one igniting the waraxe of Mika’s opponent, and the second sending a thunderbolt into Kazimeer.
Gennadiy snaps free of the spells holding him in place and lunges into the melee. Kazimeer, by compare, is pressed into a corner by the enemy rogue, though his strange dodecahedron familiar manages to poison his assailant.
Mika again dodges away from the axeman, as Gena cleaves through one of the enemy and strikes into the sorcerer with the iron staff. A horrid metal sound rings out as the rogue strikes down Kazimeer — but a quick spell from Mika restores his health. The bogatyrs erupt with a sudden, half-desperate fury. The assassin and the axeman both fall beneath weapon and spell, and the mage finally drops with one of the Queen’s Needles in the back of his head.