Views From Above
|.||Welcome to Hearthold Keep
path leads you from the bridge through the island's scrub and jungle. The trail winds around, and eventually you find yourself emerging from bramble into the open. A ways before you is a high cliff, at least 100 feet high. Toward the top, you see a massive fortress carved out of the cliff wall. A narrow, grass-covered hill leads up to the front doors.
As you climb the hill, you catch a glimpse of a creature on the roof, watching from behind a low wall. You're not sure what sort of creature it is, but you can tell that it is big. And if the size of the doors you are approaching is any indication, the inhabitants are larger than you.
Before you reach the door, you hear a gong reverberating within, a precognitive doorbell announcing your arrival. The two doors themselves, you now see clearly, are huge: ten feet wide each and fifteen feet tall. They are wrought of iron, and set into each door is a symbol or decoration — a pair of crossed swords graces each door.
As you think about knocking, the westerly of the two door (the one on your left, since you are facing north) opens, revealing a fantastic creature. The being has four legs and two hands. He reminds you of a centaur, but with a bull's head, a lion's tawny lower body and paws, and a black horse's mane and tail. He is taller than you, and more imposing. When he speaks, you hear that his words are selected and pronounced in a refined and civilized manner.
"Well, I say, another visitor!" the creature exclaims as he ushers you in. You find yourself in a grand entry hall that is lit by torchlight. "Let me welcome you to Hearthold Keep, where resides the Healed Heart of the God of War, who is known among humans as Domi the Brave."
"I am Kular, the steward of this place. Please be at ease!" The Taur bows low and steps back.
"No doubt you have not seen my like before. Know then that this form is that of the original Taur, before the Sundering of Legend, when Liontaurs, Centaurs, and Minotaurs were one people. In this place has begun the healing of that division. Everyone present in Hearthold works with the other Taurs here, instead of clashing with them due to erroneous cultural beliefs," Kular says. "They also have that innate inner courage that the God of War strives to inspire within all beings of the Wold."
"To that end Domi brought the Chosen here, tested them, and healed the Sundered Heart. You can gaze on it through the doors at the end of this hall. Here, let me show you the way ..."
At that moment, a young centaur emerges from a door you did not see a moment ago. She whispers to Kular, who frowns.
"Oh bother!" the Taur says. "Those bloody Chosen can be quite the burr in my fur, don't you know. Sticky buns and pies disappear before dessert-time when they are home, and if they're not defacing the place, they're setting it on fire!"
Collecting himself, he smiles at you. "Forgive me," Kular says, "but I must go play nursemaid. Please explore the Keep to your heart's delight, and Domi's Heart will delight in you."
He leaves, and you have free rein to explore Hearthold Keep.