October 31, 1650, Friday afternoon
As the party reaches the top of the waterfall, they find themselves in the cleft between two cliffs, facing a remarkable vale, where the stream forms an intimate meadow two hundred yards long and seventy yards wide. A cascade falls from the mountain, emerging from the sheer wall at the meadow's end. High above you, a crystal glacier sits atop a cirque, cresting the top of the peak, four thousand feet up.
The stream is deep, five or six feet, but the flow is negligible ... and it has been temporarily dammed to stop the water dropping over the waterfall the party has just climbed up. Grey-brown grass reaches from either side of the stream up toward sheer sides of rock, hundreds of feet high, embrace the meadow. Spotted here and there are patches of open, leafless aspen, and there are stakes covering an acre and a half where grapes would be growing in the summertime. Snow has piled high in places and covers much of the outer meadow.
Between the snow, there are a dozen little houses, in part carved into the sloping edges of the meadow; there are children playing, women working, men repairing the houses, line fishing in the stream and 'guarding' - there are four men posted up high in the rocks with bows, particularly watching the party as they climb up.
There are also two other men, whom the party is introduced to as Maximillian and Mareo. They are residents of the town of Bozen, for which the party was bound - unarmored, but clearly men of means. Both are enormous; 6'1", more than 220 lbs. Maximillian seems wise and aware, and quite likeable at once. Mareo is clearly protective of the other.
Lazaro tells you you're free to travel where you will. The river is freed, and you see that there seems to be some mechanism that closes it off. He tells you that the food is good, the lodgings are fair, and as soon as you find someone to pay your ransom, you'll be freed and all your possessions and horses will be returned to you.
Maximillian and Mareo are waiting for 400 g.p. to be paid by his Maximillian's father's father. Lazaro tells the party that he's set their ransom at 2,000 g.p. ... and that writing materials will be made available for them to write to whomever they know who can pay it. Lazaro will give 90 days for the money to arrive, and after that he is sorry, he will have to kill you.
Maximillian did nothing to be here - but Lazaro has a friend, who has a quarrel with Maximillian's grandfather ... and thus the grandson was seized in Bozen and has been held here 22 days.
Lazaro will assign two guards to each of the party, with instructions to beat any of you who attempts to cast a spell. Maximillian can confirm that these men stay quite conscious and are nearly impossible to get around.
There's more, no doubt, but at this point it will be easier to answer questions.