Where once had lived the Valkyr now was an exotic bazaar in which dragon-kin and serpent-folk writhed and slithered through thick clouds of incense. Gold was presented for sale and trade in many forms, every object that one might normally expect to find in a market was made of solid gold. Swordlanders from the farthest corners of the world had also made the journey here and were trading their furs, armour and weapons for golden pots, horsehoes, even fruit made of pure gold.
In the center of the bazaar an elegant medusa with blind white eyes sat within the coils of a seven headed hydra as she was attended by merchants and musicians. As the party approached she turned and spoke.
“I was here when Bangog rose to power from the ashes of the Crown Wars. I saw the coming of the Dragonborn and all the dragon-kin that came of the union between this new world and the old world of our ancestors.
“Before the great war this hall was the house of a mortal king named Saal. He and all his people disappeared in the onslaught that came, and for many years Saalsgard stood empty. It was the Dragonborn who claimed it as their home. A great and noble people they opposed Bangog and her bloody-minded tyranny. They called themselves the Valkyr. They were led by a glorious faerie warrior, a maiden who came to be known here as Goldenhair and is still to this day revered as an exemplar of purity and excellence in battle. In our world she was known as Sif, and her defeated adversaries were many.
“I saw Bangog finally defeat the beautiful Sif in battle nearly 250 years ago, and I watched as the Valkyr retreated from these halls into the mountains in which they had long since buried their dead. And there the Valkyr were not silent, but they grew in strength, seeking every opportunity to oppose the Serpent-Queen and her forces, as they still do to this day.
“This is my home now. I am Shewva, Oracle of Chronepsis, the Watcher. I have seen the future, the end, and the beginning, and I know that it is close. Many will die, but some will be saved, and they shall be chosen by the one who holds the Crown of Byfrost, for ‘He who hold the Crown, holds the Bridge, and from the Rainbow Bridge shall the last among men watch the giants fall.’ None can prevent the end, and until now Bangog has denied any the right to leave this land. And so here we await what is to come.
“It was I who, long ago, told Snoflgrof of his fate. He took it rather well. Kindrbode I cannot imagine even barely understood what I said to him, but Bangog was… displeased. She is a jealous creature and will not relinquish her life willingly, no matter what is at stake. She has allied with Siegmund, and together they have been searching for the lost Crown of Byfrost. I have seen only that one of them will find it.
“You have come seeking the Valkyr in your quest to slay the last of the three. You are not the first to attempt this. Already the conjunction is weakening, the Cycle of the Sword passes quickly, the red sun sets in the sky and the cycles of the old world reassert themselves. You will find the paladins of Sif in their ancestral tombs that lie behind the waterfalls around Saalsgard. There they are protected from the agents of Bangog by powerful unliving guardians.
“A century ago came what is known as The Curse. At that time I sensed the presence of a dark power. In a dream I saw The Boon Companion, The Apple Thief, The Trickster, Jack-In-A-Hood, The Sleepless Dreamer, The Gift That Is A Curse, A King Unborn, Night and Fear, Death and Dream, Friend and Foe, The One Who Waits At The End Of A Journey, The Night Watchman who fashions a ship from the torn nails of dead men in which will sail the army of the damned through seas of blood at the end of time.
“That the dead once walked the land was doing of this dark force. That they are now restless is the doing of Siegmund, for it was he who has disturbed them in his search for the Crown. The guardians of the tomb of the Valkyr are unliving terrors, yet the Valkyr wield powerful magic that was taught to them by their patron Sif, herself a servant of Bahamut.
“Through the magic of their faith the undead tomb guardians have retained some sense of their former selves, and will allow to pass any who is an enemy of Bangog. However I have seen that all will not be well with your search into the tomb. Something is not right and you will be opposed.
“Bangog has been silent for several days now. It is unusual that so much time should pass without some manifestation of her fearsome will. It will not always be so, and thus you should make haste toward you goal.”
The medusa turned back to her attendants. Suddenly a small eladrin chlild appeared at Aengus’ side. She introduced herself as Sanoba, a merchant, and said that she would show them the way to the tomb. Sanoba mentions in passing that she has seen a statue of Aengus at Hamingjen, Bangog’s lair, but at the stage the soporific effect of the incense that fills the hall had rendered the party almost at a loss for words. Sigurd, realising that this creature knew a great deal about the mysteries of destiny, decided to stay in Saalsgard, with Oellorn to watch her back.
Outside at the waters edge Sanoba presented Karl, Aengus and Thunder with rituals of water-breathing, saying that they will need them to enter the tomb. She explained that she and the crew of her ship had been making the voyage to Saalsgard for as long as passage existed, but one day they were cursed by Bangog for some perceived slight and since that day they have aged ‘younger’ rather than older.
The three adventurers wade across the shallow lake and soon come to the waterfalls behind which Sanoba said the entrance to the tomb lay. Thunder strides through first and finds a deep water-filled shaft beyond. Protected by the eladrin child’s magic they dive down into the tunnel and begin to swim into the darkness.