In which nap time arrives.
The group of eleven is now a group of ten, and a pall of silence hangs over them as they proceed along the path. Durwen lingers near the rear, continuing to mutter quiet prayers as he casts a glance or two back toward the deadly ravine.
The forest opens up and the ground drops away before them down another steep rocky slope, this time ending in a stone dock that protrudes into a calm blue lake. The water is shrouded in dense mist that limits visibility to about 20′, but the tips of fir trees can be seen protruding above the mist in the far distance, suggesting the presence of an island in the middle of the lake. As the villagers survey this unexpected vista, the mist curls and moves in an unnatural way, shifting to suggest various sights: a looming, many-towered keep; two riders sweeping by on horseback; a great oak spreading its branches over creation. In a moment, these images are gone, leaving only swirling mist and the sense that perhaps no one saw them at all.
Oswald notices that a set of steps leads down from the far end of the dock to the water, and that these steps are flanked by a pair of broad-basined stone braziers. The group, after taking pains to create a safe rope system for descending the cliff face to the dock, carefully picks its way down. Warnings are called out, though — no one should step on the dock until it’s been given the-once over by the dwarven stonemason.
Finmunni crouches down at the edge and surveys the stone work. She rolls a 20 on her occupational skill check, and recognizes the finely-cut blocks of marbled stone as being of elvish workmanship, deducing from the degree of wear and amount of moss and lichen growing on them that they were set at least several hundred years ago, before humans settled near the Thornwood. She also notices what looks like a chiseled inscription on the face of a large flagstone in the center of the dock, mostly obscured by lichen.
The dwarf gives the sign that it looks safe, and she and Thelma step out onto the ancient stone. As soon as they do so, the two braziers spring quietly to life with flickering pale fire. Everyone is suitably impressed by this sudden occurrence, and they slowly move out onto the dock to get a closer look. Finmunni crouches down and scrapes the inscription clear: