The Eternal Winter

Session 6
The Weasel, and the Doll

They crossed over the bridge leading away from the lodge. Beyond it, a game trail led them through the woods for a mile before they spotted tracks crossing the way.

“Skeletons. Frozen. Like the ones we fought at the lodge,” Said Shanka, kneeling in the snow to inspect them.

A rustling, clattering of ice and bones sounded through the trees- three frozen skeletons trudged through the snow, weapons in hand.

Holt stepped off the trail towards them, a short prayer from him splintered the bones of one of the skeletons, ice scattered from it with a crack.

Urtusk bounded through the snow and swung ferociously with his war hammer. Holt approached from behind him and crushed one with his morning star, causing it to explode in a spray of ice.

Kazimir moved in on Sorrow and tried to strike it with his mace, Sorrow tried to strike with it’s hoof- both missed. Shanka called on the spirits to guide Tacey. Njaldur shot his bow and missed.

The skeletons retaliated with their claws to little effect. Utrusk and Holt missed with their weapons.

Sorrow crushed one with it’s hoof, exploding it. Tacey finished the last one off with an alchemist’s fire, the spirits lending their assistance.

Further along the game trail, they found a body lumped in the snow. Upon inspection, Njaldur identified him as Dryden Kep, the hunter. He was torn to shreds, his skin that wasn’t covered in blackened blood, pale as frozen death.

On Dryden was a bottle of apple jack and two finely crafted arrows. Shanka discerned that the arrows were magic and crafted to slay animals.

Last, they found Dryden’s journal, detailing his tracking of a giant weasel. He laid bear traps at the head of the valley. He also saw a strange hut standing on sticks down in the valley. It was surrounded by ice blocks and inside was a strange doll and nobody else. Finding the situation eerie, Dryden left without investigating. Then the entries abruptly ended.

While Njaldur read the journal out loud, Kazimir was overcome with a strange feeling- like someone walking over his grave.

Shanka was able to call back Dryden’s spirit so that they could speak with him yet.

“It broke out of the bear trap, so I knew it was big, but I didn’t expect it to be so tricky and so ferocious. It fell on me and slashed me to ribbons before I defend myself.”

“What would you like us to do with your body?” Shanka asked.

“I don’t care, i’ll be headed to the fair hunting grounds. Just kill that weasel and take it’s head to Hedren, prove them them I wasn’t just telling tales.”

They agreed and let his spirit go.

Further along the trail, the group was waylaid again, but this time by more frost furs.

Urtusk lept form his horse and threw an axe. The rest made use of alchemist fire, which caused the frost furs to stop and roll on the ground to put out the flames.

Tacey dispatched one with fire, while Holt slashed with his dagger. Tacey let fly with another flask, but missed and struck Njaldur, whose clothes ignited. Njaldur dropped to the ground to put himself out.

Sorrow and Kazimir smashed the last frost fur. They continued along the game trail.

After another mile or so, they found bear traps buried in the snow. Tacey and Njaldur sprung them and loaded them onto the horses.

Down in the valley, they saw a building coming into view through the snow. It appeared to be a shack standing on stilts. Below it, before the party was a scattering of large ice blocks. Holt drew out his spyglass and saw the doll sitting on a chair inside, just as Dryden had described.

As they approached the ice blocks, they heard the wimpering of a little girl. They saw her come out from behind the ice blocks, crying and talking to someone unseen.

“I don’t want your stupid doll! I don’t want to go back to the White Tower!”

As they made to speak with her, she fled behind the ice blocks. Njaldur tried to calm her down and get her to answer some questions, but she did not seem to be listening, or rather, was preoccupied talking to someone else.

Urtusk took a close look at once of the blocks, and suddenly many horrid spirits could be seen inside the ice. He became overcome with fear and went sprinting away through the ice blocks, back the way they had come. Kazimir put him to sleep with a flick of his wrist before he could run far.

Kazimir had heard of the spirits of little children being trapped in dolls as punishment.

Shanka explained that she had heard of such strange occurrences as the little girl between the blocks- haunts, she called them. They were caused by a tragedy in the area.

They discussed that this was strange because the hut and the ice blocks could not have been in the valley for very long, only since the unnatural winter came.

They went up to the hut and Njaldur convinced Tacey to climb up and inside. She attached a hook and a rope to dangle down from the doorway, so that the others could follow. While they talked about what to do, Tacey said she had a creepy feeling and wanted to come back down, so she did. But without her touching it, the hook floated off the ledge and dropped to the ground. Kazimir identified it as a use of the spell Mage Hand.

Tacey climbed back up, and Urtusk and Holt followed. Then, the doll suddenly moved and jerked it’s hand upwards. A burst of ice exploded from the doll, injuring Holt, Urtusk and Tacey.

Kazimir stepped back, down below the hut, but far enough to be able to target the doll, shouting an incantation that forbid the doll from casting a spell.

Urtusk flew into a rage, slashing at the doll with his sword, spirits suddenly seeming to swarm around him, slamming into the doll, killing it.

They found that the doll had a gem eye and a mirror eye. They decided to smash them both for fear they may have trapped in them the spirit of a child, or the mirror may be being used for divination magic to spy on them.

Then they set some alchemist fire to burn down the hut. All of the ice blocks melted away.

They continued on past where the hut was, eventually coming to a sign that read “Turn back before the winter devours you.”

They determined that it was not magic and pressed on, ignoring the warning. To their dismay, past the signs, an explosion of snow erupted around them, hurting Holt, Urtusk and most of the horses.

They traveled another half an hour before the weasel attacked. It was the size of a bear and came bounding through the snow out of the trees. Kazimir put it to sleep.

Urtusk stepped over it and swung his sword into it’s neck. Then he set about skinning it and harvesting it’s meat.

At last they came towards the center of the unnatural winter, where they had seen it’s center on the map from the lodge. A swirling maelstrom of snow came in around them, thickening so much they could not see towards what they walked..

Session 5
Weal and Woe

After Njaldur and Urtusk tie up Rokhar, Kazimir set about healing Shank and Holt. Rokhar pleaded to them that he was under orders from the Wintertouched Fey.

“Tacey,” Njaldur asks. “What’s with this guy?”

“I just met him. I say we kill him,” Tacey says with a grimace.

They don’t kill him, but take off his cloak, which looks high quality, made entirely of white fur and emanating a magic aura. They gave it to Kazimir, as seemed fitting, after finding that it protected the wearer from the cold, and Kazimir was the only one without a natural resistance. He also seemed to have the finest taste in clothes. Njaldur raisesed his voice to reject, but thought better of it, deciding an Ulfen Warrior was not likely to sport an all white cloak, for the blood that would undoubtably stain it.

They went out into the main hall and moved the bear rug. Rhokar told them that the Lady Argentea was being held beneath it. They found a cell underneath the lodge, where lady Argentea was kept in a dank cell. Down the ladder them climbed to save the damsel.

What they found in the cell was a disheveled looking woman in her late twenties, attractive and confidant despite the state of her apparell and surroundings, which were equally filthy.

“I am Lady Argentea, and I can reward you for rescuing me. I am willing to arrange you a payment of five hundred gold pieces.”

“How about one thousand?” Interceded Njaldur before anyone could accept.

“You don’t have to listen to him,” Spoke Shanka, who was unusually talkative at that moment.

“Now you speak up!” Exclaimed Njaldur as the negotiation fell quickly through his fingers.

They agreed to five hundred gold pieces. Lady Argentea told them of how she was captured. On the way back from her wedding, where she had led her spurned groom to be, she was waylaid by the winter touched fey and Rhokar’s thugs.

Meanwhile, Shanka spoke with Tacey to discovered the story about Njaldur and how Tacey came to be with Rhokar’s bandits. Tacey said that after she was left high and dry by Njaldur, the High Sentinels took her there, and there she stayed until Rhokar came with the Wintertouched fey and killed the High Sentinels.

They went on to explore the rest of the house. Kazimir and Holt went upstairs and found a large map on a table that seemed to be showing the surrounding area, and the snow spreading out from a central point, out in the valley beyond the lodge.

Holt and Kazimir also found a wintertouched fey trapped in a cage in the closet. “Let me out!” it demanded.

Holt responded by demanding information, towering over it and using voice full of violence and anger. “Why did the fey capture Lady Argentea,” he asked.

“I do not know what humans do,” the fey said. “I serve her.”

“Who is ‘her’?” Asked Holt.

“The Queen of the World. Let me out and I’ll put in a good word with her.”

Holt put an end to the evil creatures life with acid.

They went to ask Rokhar what he knew about all that. Searching him, they found a fake spellbook, and a holy symbol of Norgorber, god of secrets, poison and murder. He was pretending to be a necromancer, but was really a worshipper of the worst kind. He also had poisons on his person, and smeared on his blade.

Knowing his secret, Rokhar was more giving with his information. He told them that there was a portal from Irrisen to here, and that winter from spreading from it. He told them that cold iron can be used to fight them, but that fire works better. They had a troll named Teb Knotten, a bunch of little fey, and their leader named Hummelstrub.

They decided to send Kazimir and Holt, along with Lady Argentea and the captured Rokhar back to Heldren. They would deliver Lady Argentea to safety, Rokhar to justice, gather supplies and horses and return to the lodge. Using Kazimir’s magic they would make good time. After much debate to the logistics, and several auguries by Shanka, which returned woe, and weal and woe with regard to their plan, they decided and left for Heldren.

The wind began to howl.

While in Heldren, Kazimir and Holt spoke with the Mayor about the situation. They arranged for Rokhar to be taken with Lady Argentea to Oppara to face justice.

Yuln, the Ulfen mercenary asked them: “Do you have my blade?”

“No,” said Holt. “Njaldur still has it. There are still fey to fell with it.”

“Aye, well, it has changed hands. At least it is in the hands of a Stigrrson. Perhaps his father will buy me another.”

Holt and Kazimir went with Lady Argentea to the Silver Stoat to get a drink. There, Kazimir gave Lady Argentea her tea set as he was been ordered. Holt server her the papers that stated that she must repay her dowry for the marriage to which she did not commit.

They arranged for Njaldur’s share of his reward for the Lady’s rescue to be sent to his mother.

Holt had a romantic moment with Xanthippe, where they coyly admitted feelings for each other and exchanged a kiss in case Holt wouldn’t return soon.

Thereafter, they gathered supplies, including snowshoes from Tengezil, who has created a few more pairs at their earlier request. Then they rode back to the lodge again making good time with Kazimir’s wayfinding magic.

When they return to the lodge, they dispersed the gear. After that, they spent another night to recover and regain their magic allotments. During the night, two blue goblins snuck out from beneath the table in the main hall and were quickly smashed by Urtusk.

In the morning, Njaldur charmed Aryuh into drawing Izoze out of the woods beyond the bridge. Kazimir put Izoze to sleep with his strange magic, and they made quick work of the fey creature with alchemist’s fire and a blade to the neck.

Aryuh was told she could leave and she started to make her way across the bridge. Njaldur raised his bow to put her out of her misery, tumbling from the bridge, but Shanka gave him a stern look.

“She’s clearly an evil person. What about all those people she said she murdered, her parents and young brother?” Njaldur said.

Shanka’s look was the same, reflective like a sheet of ice.

Njaldur sighed and put his bow down. He put his hand in the air with three fingers spread, the sign of the Warriors of the Wicked Way, and Aryuh hurried out of sight, on her own, without weapons, into the unseasonal cold.

Session 4
Assault on the Lodge

“So, about that sword. I see you’re not using it. I’d certainly get more use out of it, so how about giving it over?” Njaldur looked hopefully at Urtusk, who stared back with his resting furrowed brow.

Urtusk reached out his hand holding a fish hook looted from one of the fey corpses. “Here. This is more your size.”

Njaldur sighed and shook his head.

They continued on through the unnatural snowfall, finding it easy to follow the path, because huge snow drifts had built up on either side of the trail. They gained altitude to the south, and it grew colder with each mile.

Two more hours along, Urtusk and Kazimir began to feel the effects of the cold. They saw smoke in the distance.

After some deliberation, Njaldur decided to sneak ahead to see who was before them. He found a trio discussing the ransoming of a noble woman. “I hope Rokhar let’s us kill her,” One said. They said that they’d rather be here then back at the lodge getting sick, as many of the other bandits were.

The group approached, trying to avoid a fight, but failed. Luckily the bandits appeared to have already been wounded from a previous battle. Njaldur stepped in and charmed the murderous one with a few hand gestures and a wink. She remembered him as an old friend. They took out the other two, leaving just Aryuh to speak.

The bandits were named Aryuh, Bevan and Caldur. They were stationed there to be a lookout for the High Sentinel lodge, which has new ownership. Aryuh didn’t think much of her compaions. She kept referring to her “list”, and how it was ok that Bevan and Caldur died because they were on it.

They revealed that they are working for Rokhar, a necromancer, who was back at the lodge. There was also a creepy flying ice creature named Izoze, Aryuh said. But the person in charge was someone named Teb Knotten.

They agreed to accompany Aryuh back to the lodge. She boasted that after they kill Rokhar, she’d be the leader and they’d be called The Warriors of the Wicked Way. Njaldur gave Kazimir and nod, and he put her to sleep, and they tied her up and carried her on Kazimir’s horse the rest of the way.

After about three hours they came to a spot to camp, not far from the lodge. They rested and made their plan of attack.

As soon as they approached the lodge, Njaldur in the lead, their plan fell apart when Njaldur triped a trap and got shot with an arrow. The mechanism that fired the bolt also set a bundle of pots and pans clanging loudly. Njaldur lept into a snowbank and attempted to hide behind a well, while the rest of the group charged in to flank the front doorway. Aryuh was dropped to the ground.

Bandits started firing arrows from the windows as Holt and Urtusk bashed down the front door. Kazimir began putting the bandits to sleep, one by one. Kazimir and Njaldur started whispering a chant to Urtusk: “Rage, rage, rage.”

Shanka stabbed at the bandits in the windows with her long spear, and Kazimir continued to cast an evil eye and drop bandits into slumber. Njaldur shot arrows with his bow, taking a moment to cast a grease charm into the lodge, on which the bandits begin slipping and cursing.

Once many of the bandits are dropped, a strange incantation came from somewhere inside the lodge. Unnatural energy swirled around the fallen bodies and they began to jerk and twitch awake, rising to their feet again, with a cold emptiness in their eyes. They re-entered the fray and the tide begans to turn against the heroes.

From behind Njaldur he heard a voice “Long time no see, Ruti,” and a bag of potatoes narrowly missed the back of his head.

Tacey?” Says Njaldur, as he pulled out his fiddle. “No time to talk, let’s catch up after the fight.” He turned and faced his audience, a bedlam of bandits and melee clashing in the front room of the lodge. He drew his bow to his fiddle and turnrf back to wink once at Tacey. “This one is called Tacey’s Two step” and he began a rapid song to inspire his companions against the zombies.

Kazimir struck at a zombie and critically wounded it, leaving Shanka to finish it off. An intense cold formed in the room as two frozen skeletons emerged from an upper floor and clattered down into the main hall of the lodge. Urtusk began smashing them indiscriminately from the others.

Kazimir let fly fire from his hands. Hesitant at first, but deciding to join in with Njaldur and his crew, Tacey stabbed her weapon through a window, taking out a zombie. Njaldur stoped his two step and entered into the fray with his longsword drawn. He downed a zombie of his own.

Tacyed moved into the lodge, but slipped on the grease from Njaldur’s spell and fell on her back. “I hate you,” she said with a deadpan expression.

Holt smashed his way through live and rotten flesh alike with his morning star. But when he reached the frozen skeletons, his ferocity was frozen in place, and the skeletons brought him down.

Zombies swarmed on Shanka and she attempted to fight her way inside to protect her companions, and they brought her down as well.

Kazimir was nearly felled as well, but was able to remain standing and fight on.

The source of the necromancy unveiled itself when Rokhar appeared, draining the life from one of his bandit minions to bolster his own. Kazimir noticed that as Rokhar’s cast more spells, he used furtive gestures.

Rokhar attempted to fight, but was slowly overwhelmed as his minions fell. The heroes fought him into a corner and he attempted to escape through a doorway, but Njaldur ran around through a side room to flank him, his bow drawn.

Rokhar surrendered and threw up his hands up. Urtusk and Tacey wanted to kill him, but Njaldur convinced the group to let him live.

Session 3
Fey and Fury

“Those were wintertouched fey,” Njaldur explained, gesturing to the bodies of the tiny blue creatures.  “It’s said that Baba Yaga once made a deal with them, and each accepted a sliver of ice into it’s heart, turning them evil.  They don’t care much for people, it would seem.”

They continued on through the forest and snow.  They were forced to stop again in the afternoon to rest and regain warmth from their fire.

“Look, if you’re superstitious about that sword not working, I can take it off your hands,” Njaldur jabbed at Urtusk.  The kellid drew a piece of roasted horse meat to his mouth and took a bite.  Njaldur let out a sigh and looked longingly into the fire.

After continuing on, they stopped when Holt spotted a strange lump in the snow before them.  He drew his morning star and closed in to investigate.

From the lump slithered a tiny worm-like dragon- a Tatzelwurm.  Shanka lept forward, anticipating the danger, and stabbed the creature with her long spear.  Kazimir’s eyes seemed to sharpen and focus on the creature, then he gestured his hand, stunning the Tatzelwurm with a flash and crackle of light.  Finally, Urtusk leapt in with his axe and laid it low.  He picked it up and placed it on his shoulders as a trophy.

They continued through the snow.

Before them appeared a pure white stag.  It spoke to them, saying that none had passed through when it was asked of recent travelers.  Holt knew that it was lying and he told it so, which provoked it into attacking, along with an atomie and a familiar sprite, wintertouched fey hiding in the white surrounding them.  The fey flung insults, shrinking Urtusk’s axe with magic.

“Watch out, these miniature sword fighters can shrink you!” Njaldur called to his companions, as he drew out his fiddle and began to play a rapid staccato.

Holt, inspired by Njaldur’s music, landed a solid blow on one of the fey.  The stag charged in to wound Shanka, who withdrew only to be struck down by a tiny fey arrow.  Urtusk swung wildly at the fey, and Holt downed the stag too.  Njaldur stopped his inspiring song, while Kazimir drew his sharp gaze to help fell the final fey.

Their ambushers silenced, the group continued on to find Wishbone Creek frozen over.  A sign held by a snowman before it read “Tresspassers turn back!”  Holt threw an acid splash on it, melting it partially.  

“Can’t you read?! TURN BACK!” Shouted the snow man, as he exploded in a punishing wave of sound that bruised Urtusk.

They decided to rest before attempting to cross the river.  Moving off the path, out into the woods a bit, they made their camp as night fell.  Njaldur took first watch, lasting about half of the two hours before he began to play cards with himself for an hour, joking and singing to himself carelessly.

On Shanka’s shift she was ever vigilant.  She felt the restless spirits on the land, and near by their camp.

Holt’s shift was dreary, as he lamented the lack of profits and prospects in this endeavor.  But his ill accounting was cut short by a mass of icy snow plopping down onto the fire, extinguishing it.  Everyone woke to the sound and clamored for their weapons scrambling out into the camp to find frozen trees attacking Holt.  After a short few moments of clammering around in the dark, the frost firs were destroyed.

On Kazimir’s watch, he was attacked by a giant bee, but with a little help from the others, he was able to put it down safely and without suffering it’s poison sting.

In the morning, the group broke down camp and Njaldur took in the cold morning air, as Holt and Kasmir grumbled their way through their morning rituals.  “Thank the gods I’m a country boy,” sang Njaldur as he played his fiddle along along with breakfast.

They returned to the river and made to cross it.  Urtusk went first and made it safely to the other side.  As Njaldur crossed, the ice swam up from the river, forming into elementals that knocked him back into the freezing water.  

Urtusk draged Njaldur free onto the shore. His body temperature droped rapidly, they were forced to remove Njaldur’s clothes while he failed to land a joke.

Holt smashed an elemental, and Njaldur dazed another.  Urtusk threw a spear and slayed the second.  Then they brought the rest of the group and equipment across the river.

Kazimir drew a rod and gave it a twist, morphing it into a strange tool, and sparking a fire with it to warm Njaldur.

Then, near the side of the path, they found a body frozen and lifeless. He was a local farmer that Njaldur recognized as Old Man Dansby.

Session 2
Harried by Winter

Inside one of the emptied wagons they found some of Lady Argentea’s jewelry.  Inside another, the corpses of three courtiers.  They would have to be seen to proper burials, but Njaldur was more concerned with the jewelry and moving on.

They approached the ice statue in the center of the site.  On closer inspection, it appeared to be an Ulfen Mercenary captain frozen in the ice.  In his hand was a quality sword, which they plucked and gave to Urtusk.  

“This is no axe,” Urtusk replied, but begrudgingly carried it, after being convinced it’s fine make would help it strike true.

They went from the massacre site into the woods, following a clear trail of snow.  The winter came in around them, blowing snow and wind piercing through their clothing better suited for the Taldan summer.  Each hour they traveled their stamina was sapped, and they felt the cold slowing the blood in their veins.

After long they came to a clearing, at the center of which they saw a chest, strangely alone as if dropped in flight.  Njaldur and Urtusk went to investigate, Njaldur’s mind racing with the treasure perhaps therein.

A snap sounded, followed by the whooshing of a giant log adorned with spikes swung across the clearing, hung high from a tree.  Urtusk took the brunt of the trap, allowing Njaldur to stumble safely away.  Then they were free to loot the chest.  Inside they found many mundane weapons and gear, which would be worth at least a day’s work.

They continued on a bit further, but decided to turn back for fear that the cold would prematurely end their quest.  They returned to the clearing, and finally to the massacre site.  There they collected the cold bodies of the three courtier girls and went back to Heldren.

With the money they earned from selling the loot, those that did not already have them bought cold weather gear- thick tunics, coats, cloaks and boots to protect them from the unnatural winter in the wood.

From there they went to the Silver Stoat again to unwind.  They spoke of Irrisen- what Njaldur had heard and what Kasimir had saw in his travels.  Kasimir elaborated on ginger breading.  Njaldur asked about the tea set and how it might all be connected to Lady Argentea’s capture.  No conclusions could be made and they would have to save judgment for when the Lady was found, dead or alive.

Njaldur talked them into visiting Ionnia Teppin, the leader of Heldren’s town council, to request a reward for looking into the disappearance and attack.  Although she was annoyed by the request, and Njaldur’s conscripted diplomatic team fell fast from their negotiations, Ionnia agreed to gather two hundred gold pieces from the townsfolk.

Early the next morning they set out again into the patch of winter past the massacre site.  This time the Kellids did not seem so naturally resistant, and the others struggled as well with the biting winds and snow.  Visibility was low and any ranged combat would be difficult, they knew.

Midway to noon, they stopped to make a fire and regain lost warmth.  They spoke then of mammoths and giant sloths that are native to the far north.

They continued on and after a while Holt spotted feathered bundles hanging from the lowest tree branches around them on the path.  The black feathers swing and shifted in the wind.  On closer inspection, pieces of leather were stuck to them with pins, and the bundles were whole dead crows.

Tiny pin sized arrows leapt from the surrounding wood, and blue, winged fey flew out to waylay them.  The fey threw sprays of color form their tiny hands, disabling Shanka and then Kasimir.  Urtusk threw spears and swung wildly at them, roaring with anger, his attacks bolstered by his rage.  Missing twice with the new sword, he threw it to the ground and drew his axe, trusting it's blade more, however less finely honed.

Kasimir’s owl swooped in to protect it’s master, pecking and scratching at the fey.

Holt killed one with splashes of acid and used his blessing of Abadar to move swiftly across the snow.  

Njaldur stalked through the trees after a third.  Out on his own between the trees visibility was low, and the fey was tiny and hid easily behind bough and trunk.  His cloak blowing dramitcally in the wind, but his sword catching more air and bark than fey, Njaldur managed to do some damage to the fey.  Then Holt arrived, moving much more swiftly, and swinging his morning star true, killing the creature.

The last fey retreated out into the cold and snow, cursing them as it went.  Urtusk fell out of rage into a state of fatigue and Shank and Kasimir regained consciousness.  They were alone again in the cold and snow, surrounded only by trees and the grim crow fetishes.

Letter from Kazimir to Lady Jana Urvalane in Whitethrone

To Lady Jana Urvalane
Glaming Factory
Bluerime Street, Frosthall
Whitethrone in Irrisen

Lady Jana

Strange tidings on my journey in the south.  First, I must inform you that both Ivan and Petr abandoned me when we were in Nirmathas.  I couldn’t persuade them to finish our task and return to Irrisen; my path included booking passage on a boat on Lake Encarthan headed towards Kerse.  They decided that they liked the taverns and warm weather in Tamran.  Fortunately, my later journey on the waterways was not dangerous.

I am writing to you from a small village called Heldren which is less than a day away from the wedding delivery in Zimar.  Just before I arrived, news came through that Lady Argentea left Zimar unwed and headed back to Oppara.  Furthermore, it was discovered that her party had been attacked; her fate is currently unknown.  A small group of people – including me – is investigating the event.  I will make decisions about the delivery when we learn more.

Also, a strange thing occurred just after we learned of the attack.  A wise woman came into the inn where everyone was discussing the news and she got an opportunity to give a Harrow reading.  Now, we both know that, in the right hands, the readings can provide true omens.  We have both seen the Harrow deck used in this way with great veracity.

This reading was quite something.  First of all, each of the nine cards was placed in the tableau with perfect alignment.  Have you ever heard of such a thing, even in old stories?  Could it have been a sleight of hand trick?  Secondly, many of the cards had what seemed to be obvious connections to people in the room, and these same people are participating in the investigation!  At least five of the cards seemed to point at us, including one for me in the very center position.

In addition, there were two oddities.  The middle of the bottom row held The Mute Hag.  This is a dire omen and – given my mission and the calendar – might indicate the imminent return of Great GrandMother.   The other oddity is about the card that pointed at me in the center.  That position held The Foreign Trader which seems to point to me as that is the role I am fulfilling.  The strange part of that is that Foreign Trader doesn’t seem to actually describe me.  The cards do not make mistakes in a True Reading, though.  Was the old crone giving a True Reading or did she set the deck to try to match what she could see, to try to get our group into action?  Does she have a secret agenda?  Are these people in league trying to rob the delivery or perhaps kidnap the Lady Argentea?  Maybe the reading is True and nothing is amiss, other than the obviously dire predictions.

I don’t seem to have much more news other than that these southern lands are hot and humid.  The humidity is good for the skin, but I am not sure that my owl Katja is enjoying the heat.  She does like the additional quarry, though!  Oh!  There is a building in this small village that boasts gingerbreading.  I didn’t expect to see that so far away from home, even though there are so many hardwood trees in this area.  Veritable forests!


Kazimir Velikas

Letter from Kazimir to Lady Aphyria in Oppara

To Lady Aphyria, Mistress of the Pallid Towers,
Oppara in Taldor

Greetings to you, fair lady, and news.  You sent to Irrisen for a fine porcelain tea set to be given as a gift at the wedding of Lady Argentea Malassene in Zimar.  I am the courier who collected the set in the far north and I am engaged in bringing it to the proper recipients.

As I reached Heldren, a town a short distance from Zimar, I learned two pieces of news.  The first is that it seems that Lady Argentea left Zimar early and unwed and headed back towards Oppara.  That created some consternation over the late decision and the dowry.

The second is that Lady Argentea’s party was attacked on their way back to Oppara.  So far, there is no sign of the lady herself, but many of her party are slain and there is evidence of supernatural involvement.  A small local investigation is underway that I am a part of.  We are hoping to find the Lady alive, even if captors have taken her.

Given the unknown provenance of the future, I cannot say exactly where I will be going.  I might get the opportunity to deliver the porcelain to you in Oppara.  There is also a chance that it will be left at The Silver Stoat in Heldren.

My sympathies go to you for these unsettling tidings; I hope that there will be better news in the future,

Kazimir Velikas

Session 1
What Stirs in Heldren

I could start this story by telling you about a pair of Bearpelt clansmen, one followed by spirits the other offering to oversee her exile. I could tell you about the Varisian merchant coming south from Irissen. Maybe, I could start with telling you about my half-brother coming back to Heldren from whatever poor debtors town the Temple of Abadar assigned him. But I’d rather start with the day that all of our lives became a story worth telling.

The Convergence

The young half-orc entered the smithy and was greeted by Isker and Xanthippe Euphram, father and daughter, smith and apprentice. They exchanged pleasant greetings and asked why Holt was back from the city.

“Heldren has always been good enough for me,” said Isker. “We could use your help around the forge, Holt. You were always a good worker.”

To that Holt politely declined, citing his duties to the Temple of Abadar.

“Well I better get back to these horse shoes,” Isker said, leaving his daughter to speak with Holt.

Xanthippe asked why Holt was back in Heldren, and he explained his task. He was to wait here for a woman.

“A woman?” Xanthippe raised her eyebrows.

“Yes, but for business.” Holt explained that a noble woman had passed through here for a wedding, and would likely be back through on her return to Oppara. Holt was to serve her legal documents, for the wedding never happened and she was to repay her dowry.

“Maybe you’d like to get a drink at the Silver Stoat later,” Xanthippe asked.

“That’d be nice. We can catch up,” replied Holt.

Around nearly the same time Holt was trying to flirt with his teenage sweetheart, a Varisian merchant was making his way into town on horseback. Coincidentally, that was the first time a snow owl had ever been sighted flying near Heldren, white fur standing out like the unseasonal cold gripping the border wood. Heldren wasn’t the kind of place you’d find those wintry things, especially not in the middle of summer.

This Varisian took his time looking over the town. Heldren not being a large place, he quickly found the Silver Stoat and the livery next door. Hesitant, because he would not find a place to stay the night, and therefore might be stuck with his horse stabled here, he spoke with the woman working there.

“That’s a fine horse.  Northern breed?” She asked.

It was.  The merchant, by the name of Kazimir, was on his way through Heldren to Zimar for a wedding.  He had some trouble on the northern road and was a bit behind schedule.  He noticed the carriage in the back of the livery stable.

“An merchant left it to me once.  It broke and I helped calm his horse.  He let me keep it as a gift.  We use it for weddings occasionally, although not much else.”

Kazimir was then directed to the Silver Stoat.  It doesn’t have rooms, but it has food and drink, and the owner will let a paying customer sleep on the floor near the hearth.

On his way to the Silver Stoat, Kazimir noticed something strange about the building across from it and the livery.  It housed the carpenter and his work, but the facade of the building employed a style Kazimir had not anywhere but the city of Whitethrone far to the north, in Irrisen.  The style was known as gingerbreading, and it consisted of intricately stylized carvings along the wood of the building.

Taking note of the Carpenter’s taste, as well as the ancient statue in the center of town, Kazimir turned and entered the Silver Stoat.

A handsome young man, your narrator no less, found himself enjoying a midday nap out under a willow tree just beyond the low stone wall surrounding his mother’s house.

“Where are you, son?” Came his mothers voice, and he jumped up to answer her call, ever the dutiful son.  “What are you doing?” She asked when she saw him approach.

“Er. Uh.  Well… nothing.” He said, at a loss for a little lie that might irritate his mother less.

“Take these four silver coins and go buy some pig feed.  Do not go to the Silver Stoat.  Bring it back and feed the pigs.”

His real name was Rutilus, but he went by Njaldur.  And Njaldur had a keen mind when opportunity presented itself.  He took the four silver coins, but he had a better idea about how to use it.

As he passed the general store, the owner Vivialla saw him and how he jostled the coins in his hand and she shook her head because she was not as keen and didn’t recognize an opportunity like Njaldur did.  Her head was filled with the mundane tasks of a normal life, but not Njaldur.  

His head was swimming with stories and rumors.

The air was unseasonable cold.  Njaldur had heard folks say that Qadiran agents were to blame.  A boy was being nursed back to health after falling through some ice and nearly freezing to death.  People tend to get paranoid when kids get into danger, he figured.  Interesting enough, though, the kid had said that he had heard a “white stag talking”.  To Njaldur, who was no stranger to tales of the mysteries of the wood, or at least the stories told about them, a talking white stag sounded a more likely culprit than Qadirans still harboring a grudge.

Old man Dansby had reported crops being stolen from him.  Njaldur had taken an apple or two that had fallen to the ground, but never could that be construed as stealing.  Someone else was likely filching Dansby’s crops.  Maybe it was the giant white weasel Dryden Kept had sighted.

He finally came to the Silver Stoat and inside he went.

Inside, Kazimir chatted up the bartender, Menander Garimos and his wife Kale, about the goings on, including the strange weather.  Njaldur eyed the apparent wealth on his person, the colorful kapenia, but no visible coin purse, and slid casually by to greet his half-brother, Holt, at a table.

Holt let slip his current mission and Njaldur thought quickly of a way to intrude.  “Heard about that noble woman you seek going west to that wedding, but the wedding never happened.  Heard she was making her way back through here.  Abadar would smile on you paying for that kind of information, wouldn’t he?”

Holt awkwardly dodged the question, and moved his focus to the Varisian man making acquaintances.  They shared what they knew about the wedding. Kazimir revealed his wedding gift- a fine tea set.  Njaldur offered to play some cards for it.  He took out his Harrow deck.  “Do you know Towers?” He asked Kazimir.  “I do,” said the Varisian as he grinned.

Out near the woods, the Kellids made their camp.  Urtusk, the warrior, had caught a ptarmigan, which was odd for this time of year.  He had left the bird by camp and gone out to gather firewood.  Shanka, who was preparing the bird, watched as it’s feathers, laying on the ground around her, all stood and arrayed themselves like a forest, quivering in place, before falling inanimate again.

Urtusk heard a noise and looked to see an injured Ulfen man crawling towards them.  His fingers and ears were black with frostbite.  He picked the man up and carried him back to their camp.  The spirits of smoke and fire were coaxed out to warm him.  Some were kept in an ember pot, which they carry along to take him into town.  He needed warmth, shelter and remedy to begin healing.  As they went, the frostbitten Ulfen mumbled “The Winter Touched are coming…”

In the Silver Stoat, Njaldur threw his cards down in a defeated huff. Kazimir politely pulled his winnings across the table towards himself.  Njaldur drew his fiddle and bow, and playing a song about hungry pigs.

The door crashed open and there stood the two imposing Kellids, the rather large warrior holding someone in his arms.  Njaldur’s fiddle strings squealed and went silent.  Old Mother Theodora sprung into action, hobbling over to a table and ordering the Kellids like her own kin.  “Put him on the table here,” she said as she shoed at the mugs on the table, which were quickly moved to make room.

Njaldur noticed a patch on the frostbitten Ulfen’s shoulder- it signified the Hungry Ravens, a Ulfen mercenary group that operated in the area.  The group once held Njaldur and Holt’s father as their captain, no less.

Shanka studied him, and knew she had not the magic to repair his wounds.  Old Mother Theodora said “We can take him to Willowbark, she can help.  Then I’ll go and speak with Elder Natharen.”  Natharen was the local Erastilian.  Urtusk picked the Ulfen up and took him to Willowbark, the apothecary.  Then he returned to the Silver Stoat.

By then Njaldur has picked back up his fiddle and was playing it wistfully, a feeble attempt to lighten the mood.

The group of them discussed what needed to be done, and how they should act before the trail went cold.  Whatever harmed the Ulfen was still out there.  They decided to talk to him in the morning.

Old Mother Theodora walks behind Njaldur and raps her cane on his chair, nearly knocking him over.  She sits at the table and takes Njaldur’s Harrow deck.  She reprimanded him for using them so carelessly, and Njaldur rolled his eyes.  “I know,” he said. “Anger the spirits and all that.”

Theodora closed her eyes and a silence fell over the room.  The lights seemed to dim.  All the coarse hair on Holt’s arms tried to stand.  Her eyelids twitched half open.  Her hand slowly drew nine cards in a spread:

The Harrowing

The top left corner, indicating a positive force in the past, was The Empty Throne.  That reminds them that those who are gone will always been with them- ghosts to the living.  Ancient knowledge from a far-off source will serve them well.

The middle left card, the unclear past, was The Forge.  It represents strength through diversity, tempered by fire for a trial ahead.  Holt knew that this fate spoke directly to him.

The bottom left card, the negative past, was The Tangled Briar.  It spoke of ancient deeds and one who is powerful yet lost, looming over the reading, bringing that moment upon them.

The top middle card, the positive present, was The Theater.  It was the card of true prophecy- the puppets acting out a scene as the prophet acts out a scene.  The prophet is the audience and the prophecy is the show.  But knowledge of these visions may be a most potent ally.  This was no doubt relevant to Shanka, for she too had visions and played her part.

The center card, the unclear present, was The Foreign Trader.  A bargain made, a commitment formed, under the auspices of this card always concludes true, but the costs are never clear until it is done. Kazimir was paying particular attention to that.

The middle bottom card, the negative present, The Mute Hag.  The hag sees into the hearts of men from a great distance.  This is who opposes them and her power is terrible.

The top right card, the positive future, was The Juggler.  The card of those who toy with fate and destiny.  A tricky task that will be a disaster or the greatest performance ever seen.  Njaldur bristled at the thought of such a thing.

The middle right card, the unclear future, was The Uprising. A great upheaval is in the making. Its great strength and rage catches all in its grasp and does not let go.  Urtusk knew that this card was meant for him.

The bottom right card, the negative future, was The Cyclone.  It portended a great disaster awaiting.  Everything that it touches will be destroyed and it threatens to touch everything.

After reading the cards, Old Mother Theodora was awfully shaken by the strength of the reading.  Every single card was perfectly aligned, a nearly impossible occurrence.  The power of a reading where each card was in it’s strongest position was unbearable to Old Mother Theodora, causing her to faint.  Shanka saw to her and found her to be alright.  Shortly after she reawoke and was walked safely home.  Everyone else turned in for the night, agreeing to meet at the Silver Stoat in the morning to look into the attack outside of town.

On his way home, Njaldur stopped by the general store, the storefront now dark.  He knocked on the door.  “We’re closed,” Shouted the shopkeeper from her window above.  “I just need some pig feed,” said Njaldur goading, jingling the remaining coins in his hand.  Vivailla shook her head and ducked back inside.  Njaldur waited a moment and the door clicked open.  He went inside, paid for the feed and walked the bag back home.  After feeding the pig, he thought it best to sleep in the barn.

The Beginning

Ionnia Teppen met them all at the Silver Stoat, and led them all to the Apothecary to speak to the Ulfen mercenary.

Yuln Orstag was still worse for ware, but he was conscious.  “If your dad was there we would have held them off,” he told Holt and Njaldur.  But he wasn’t, and all ten guards, the lady and her servant were gone, except Yuln.  Outlaws waylaid them and took those they did not kill, beating them as they did.  The battle turned quickly because the outlaws had aligned themselves with cold fey of the north, the Winter Touched, sword to the White Witches.

Yuln also told them that there was snow and ice in the woods, and they had left him for dead in such conditions.  He knew that cold iron and burning flame could harm them.  He gave Njaldur his cold iron longsword.  

“I’ll spill much frozen blood with it,” Njaldur said, holding the blade up before his face.

“That’s just a loan, boy,” Yuln responded.

The group left the Apothecary and traveled the six miles out of Heldren to the massacre site.

They found a wagon turned over, and another wagon still upright, but something shaking it from the inside.  Around the area were many dead bodies, and standing between them a statue of ice.

The shaking wagon had a spear holding the back door closed.  Removing the spear let the doors burst open, and out of it came two of the undead, once living men, but living no more.  But they were vicious none-the-less and clawed and lunged at them.

Urtusk sliced at them with his axe and Njaldur ineffectually drew a daze charm in the air- it did not phase the creature he targeted.  Holt called out that they were immune to such charms, and only slashing weapons would do.  Kazimir used his crossbow to no avail, and Njaldur slipped in to steal a flanking position from his half brother.  After a few violent moments the zombies fell to the ground- cold and dead again.


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