(GM's note, I'm taking a little different tack on this summary, laying it out from the point of view of one of the NPC's)
William Manebrush stood before the Earl's imposing ebony desk for his dressing down. Technically he was a member of the household of the Earl's son, but Osgar was still in his minority and so William found himself serving and answering to the Earl more than he liked.
"So," began the Earl, "What excuse do you have for missing the rendezvous?"
William grimaced, "Lord, I overslept and Xander refused to go on without me." A flicker of a smile crossed William's face, it had been a sweet night of wine and carnal pleasures that had caused him to oversleep. Then he caught the Earl's scowl and forced the smile from his face, looking down and smoothing the wrinkles from his livery.
"I see." Disapproval dripped from the Earl's deep voiced words. "And after you missed the rendezvous, what happened."
William turned the plain copper ring on his finger and thought about how best to answer. "Xander was most insistent that we go on to Adder Crag. As that was where your original instructions told us to be." The Earl said nothing, but gestured with his hands for William to continue. "I thought that we should go back to the Estate but Xander talked me into continuing. He was sure that we could catch up."
"Xander possess a devotion that you lack."
"Yes, m'lord, he believes."
"And you do not?"
"I try m'lord."
"Enough, continue with your story."
"Xander and I travelled on to the Crag, it was deserted when we arrived, so we made camp in the ruins on the summit and agreed to wait until morning. I thought it strange that we should arrive a day late and find no one else from the Unbroken Border there, but Xander wished to stay." William paused and turned his copper ring again, the Earl stared straight through him, contemptuously.
"You would have rather been somewhere else, somewhere warm with ale and whores?"
"You stayed on the crag, continue from there."
"We awoke and argued further. We never saw the smugglers, I don't know when they snuck onto the mountain. We argued until noon. I thought it was clear that the plans had changed and no one else was coming, but Xander could not be convinced to leave. I left early in the afternoon, but the bandits found and caught me and brought me back to the summit where they also had caught Xander. They were unsure if we were with the smugglers or with you, m'lord, and were interrogating us to make sure we with you when Deckard spotted the smuggler, sneaking up to eavesdrop." William tugged at his collar, feeling pinned in place by the Earl's cruel eyes. "There were at least two of the smugglers there. Deckard ordered his men to shoot their bows and to capture them, but they one dodged and weaved and fled and the other flew away like some kind of sorcerer."
"Bladebright thought that a sorcerer was involved in his brother's murder," the Earl said softly, more to himself than to William, "Go on."
"After the smugglers fled, Deckard ordered scouts to try and track them, but they could not be found. Deckard did discover that the smugglers stole from the bandit's hoard. He had his Cigany cooking girl beaten and she confessed that she led seven smugglers up to the hideout and showed them where the treasure was kept."
"I could have told Deckard never to trust a damned Cigany."
"Yes, m'lord. Deckard spoke with the innkeeper in Wallingford, the nearest settlement and heard that the seven had also been there and spoken to a deserter from the Ashen Kingdom army."
"The Cursed Lands spew up much filth into our Free Valleys, William, that is why we must work to make the Unbroken Border until the Hero is of age and ready to smash the darkness that lies to the south."
"Then Deckard sent you to me as a messenger?"
"Yes, m'lord, he sent his apologies that he was not able to capture the smugglers and to ask permission to keep Xander with him as he was now convinced of the need to join the Unbroken Border as the rebellion had shown that they were naught but dishonorable thieves who will sneak in and steal from a man but flee when face to face with him."
"I will have word sent back to Deckard that Xander may stay and instruct him and his men in the ways of the Unbroken Border." The Earl paused, "William, some advice for you. If you wish to drink and fornicate, do it in your own house and with your own wife. There is nothing I despise more than an adulterous man."
"Yes, m'lord." William bowed and began to leave, but the Earl began to speak again.
"You need to have more faith in my son. Osgar is the hero reborn and the work of the Unbroken Border will prepare the way for his smashing the evil that lies beneath our Free Valleys."
"Yes, m'lord, is that all?"
"Yes, you are excused." Earl Oswald Locklight, said, standing and looking out the window, down into the courtyard where his son sparred with his sword instructors. Soon, he thought, soon the darkness that had been sweeping over his beloved lands would be swept away. Soon his son would rise to his rightful place and Oswald would be there to advise him wisely. The earl sat down and began his letter to Armin Bladebright, telling his loyal follower to take heart as they had more information about the villainous smugglers who had killed Armin's beloved older brother.
~ ~ ~
Several days to the south, the spirits awoke, a devotion had been done, after hundreds of years, in the sanctuary of the Adder Goddess. They had been slain for their devotion, cut down by followers of the first Hero, for their refusal to raise arms against the Old Empire. Their blood had filled the temple where they had taken refuge and sanctified it in a way the Hero cult's subsequent desecration could not completely erase. They whispered and slipped through the holy stone of the Crag, they sped through the air, invisible and intent, towards those who had awoken them.