The Eternal Winter

Session 15
Pale Tower Liquidation

“Have you ever seen a map of the world?”

Beneath a high domed ceiling, the translucent globe hummed, as it rotated, suspended in mid air, above the summoning circle. Arching, crackling energy connected points on the map. Kazimir recognized the globe as representing Golarion. He was able to pinpoint the portal in Taldor, but there were many more. He said it would take additional study to determine how to disable the portal. Shanka offered to assist him.

Holt stabilized the dying Radosek. Searching him, they found a wand shaped like an icicle; potions, a scroll, an amulet, a ring, and a cloak. Kazimir could not identify all of the items, but said he would try again tomorrow.

Adjacent to the main chamber, two smaller rooms were furnished with beds. In one, a fine painting of a winter scene. In a chest, they found a chest containing rolled up canvases: paintings depicting spring, summer, and fall. They took these, nothing else of value. The other bedroom was unremarkable.

Tacey searched the alcove where Radosek had stood with the cauldron. She found a complete alchemical lab, along with enough useful items to open a small shop: tanglefoot bags, smokesticks, flash fire, acid flasks, liquid ice, thunderstones, etc. The cauldron was a powerful item, enhancing summoning spells.

The teleporter where Radosek had attempted his escape was in a larger bedroom. A curtain concealed a door of solid ice. Njaldur and Tacey went to work opening the lock. Inside, a storage room contained crates, urns, decanters. Success! The statue of a woman with an stern, icy countenance warned them they should have never come here, to leave before she returned. Nazhena Vasilliovna hexed Njaldur, draining him of constitution. Shanka said it was beyond her healing to help him. He shrugged it off, grinning as he measured the bars of silver, dipped his hands in a bottomless bag of coins, and eyed other valuable items: a ring of regeneration, wand of color spray.

“Totally worth it,” Tacey said, clapping his back, which set reeling in a round of coughing.

Next, they decided to question Radosek Pavril. First they bound and blindfolded him. Njaldur attempted to charm him with magic, but he scoffed, wondering why he was alive. He asked about Volstoy, if his goat was okay. Njaldur lied and said it was resting. He answered questions: when will Nazhena Vasilliovna return? Don’t know. Where does the portal go? To any other portal, just say the word. How to disable the portal? Don’t know, but Nazhena Vasilliovna left notes. When they openly discussed killing him with Nadya, he begged for his life. He explained that he has been taken from Taldur as a boy, when his father, a noble crossed Nazhena Vasilliovna’s mother. The boy was spared when the young Nazhena Vasilliovna begged her mother to spare him. She saw the potential in him, training him as her apprentice.

The party made plans. First they decided to spare Radosek. The group encouraged Nadya to start a new life in Taldur with her boys and Hatch. Someone would need to take Radosek as a prisoner. He might provide valuable information. There was an argument about whether they should all return to Waldsby with Nadya, Hatch and her boys. They thought the villagers should be given the option of traveling to Taldor as well. Holt and Tacey volunteered to go with them. Njaldur wanted to do some reading about Irisen. Shanka and Kazimir worked on disabling the portal. Urtusk smashed mirrors.

In Waldsby, most villagers were willing to listen to Nadya to take the opportunity to leave Irrisen especially with fear of reprisal by Nazhena Vasilliovna. She advocated for leaving to have a better life away from the heel of the witches. The half-orcs scowled. “If you stay here you will surely die.”

Kashka, Svens, and Jarals and their families were willing to go. Arbagazor Frimbocket wanted to be reunited with his twin brother. “Any world that I’m welcome to.” Garthur Kalinin did not want to give up his monopoly and spoke loudly that those loyal to the queen will be rewarded. More work for those that stay.

Katrina Goltiaeva loudly claimed that Nadya had brought doom on them all. Either stay there and face the witch’s wrath or die out in the wilderness. Emil was quiet, eyeing the party fearfully. Birgit Holorova tried to go back to the storehouse, but Holt made her stay. Rusilka Sighjalmsdottir was hesitant to give up her business but worried she won’t have any customers. She was convinced when told of the male dwarf barber in Heldren.

Verana Stolya was happy at the chance of a good life away from the evil land and told her daughter Milivsa that they’re going and to start packing up the shop. She told Gyrtak if he’s willing to go, he can make a new start. He was. Iziamir Polovar was one of the last to decide. He said it doesn’t seem right. We’ve all been here our whole lives. But Tula his wife asked about Taldor.

Rolf Halzberg, the cleric, said he will pray on it but he will go if most are leaving as he is there for the villagers and it would be nice to go somewhere clerics were not held in disdain. About 2/3 of the villagers wanted to go.

It took late into the night for people to get themselves packed up, even with the PCs help. “Such a long way to go.” In the morning, Nadya demanded a month’s worth of food for everyone leaving. Birgit refused, but was convinced by Holt.

Using the bars of silver they confiscated from the Tower, Holt and Tacey purchased magic studded leather armor (for Njaldur) and a belt of constitution (for Urtusk.) In addition, breast plates were purchased for Holt and Urtusk, better than scale mail.

Meanwhile at the Pale Tower, Kazimir and Shanka studied the portal’s mechanism along with Nazhena Vasilliovna’s notes determined how to shut it down. Turning it back on was another matter. Njaldur spent his time in the library, while Urtusk rummaged in the kitchen. Before he turned in, Kazimir fiddled with the mirrors he had taken from the Tower guards, as he magically attuned himself to their frequencies.

Session 14
A Swarm of Ravens, Thora, The Apprentice Witch, Goat

Njaldur said he would enter the aerie first and attempt to fascinate the raven mistress and her birds, thus delaying conflict until the others could arrive. The bard used a new spell to make Tacey invisible. She was pleased. Divine healing and protections were applied as the party queued up to the teleporter. Holt drank the elixir of fire breathing.

Into an airy chamber, stinking of bird droppings. A gash in the wall open to the icy air. Ravens roosting in the rafter and on wires. “Behold!” Njaldur said to the beautiful, blue-skinned woman. “Relax as I tell a tale so fascinating—” The woman, who had her eye trained on the portal, said, “The intruders are here. Destroy them!” Ravens formed a nasty, cawing cloud that encircled the bard. The raven mistress, a sylph called Jairess Sonn, drank a potion and took cover in the ceiling rafters.

Invisible Tacey hit the cleric with a cheap shot, and Njaldur stepped away from the swarm and used his wand on the ravens. The cleric, upset her friends were attacked, channeled negative energy at Njaldur. Urtusk appeared and stepped into the swarm, hacking at the birds with his axe. Njaldur said, “You got this, but you might want to try a hammer.” He moved away and used his wand on the cleric. Smarting, she healed herself, and called the swarm to protect her. Njaldur was blinded by the swarm’s raking talons, and the sylph flooded the chamber with an obscuring mist. Holt arrived and moved over next to Tacey. The swarm overwhelmed the half-orcs, attempting to rake their eyes. Holt heroically resisted; Tacey had no problem. Urtusk switched to war hammer and crunched the swarm. Holt breathed fire extinguishing the ravens in flames. The cleric cried out in anguish at their destruction. Holt said, “She’s up there!” Tacey fired a bolt but missed, but Urtusk threw a hand axe and struck her. Holt finished her off with another breath of fire. Her singed body floated to the floor.

Shanka arrived in a panic. She said to Njaldur that Thora was alive and Nadya was attacking Kazimir. Njaldur said, “I’m blind, they scratched out my eyes!” Shanka drew a dagger, said she was going back to help Kazimir. Urtusk picked up his weapons, and Holt stabilized the dying woman. Tacey followed Shanka to the teleporter.

Meanwhile, one level below. A little girl wrapped in a blanket appeared in the corridor. “Mommy, mommy,” she cried. “Help me.” Nadya turned to see her daughter. Her face turned ashen and she said, “Thora, I thought you were dead.” The little girl said, “I’m not dead, but he’s a witch like the others. He’s going to kill us all.” Her finger pointed at the Varisian merchant, the gentleman with the kind face. Nadya’s hair stood on end, as she turned her weapons in her trembling hands. Slowly, she turned, step by step, inch by inch — she raised her axe to strike her companion — but fell into a deep slumber.

The little girl shrieked, “Now, you die!” She raked at Kazimir with her bare hands. Claws tore into the flesh under his fancy hide.

Kazimir told her to take a nap, but she shook her head. When that didn’t work, heroically, he summoned a molten orb. Thora didn’t like that. Shanka, Tacey, and Holt showed up to help Kazimir. “We killing this kid?” asked Tacey. Nadya woke up and realized this creature was not her little girl. The doppelganger fled to the other portal with Tacey on her heels. Holt used his second fire breath to extinguish the villain as Tacey evaded the flames.

Nadya checked on her boys and Hatch. Lady Argentea had disappeared. Nadya apologized to Kazimir. An extensive search of the aerie found: dolls houses filled with treasure. The cleric carried a magic silver dagger and a shard key. Shanka provided healing aid to Njaldur’s eyes so he could see again.

With the key to the teleporter to the chamber of Radosek Pavril, the party lined up. Tacey who was made invisible by Njaldur, would go first passing the shard to Urtusk. Shanka clapped everyone on the back with guidance.

When Urtusk teleported in, Radosek Pavril was prepared. “Infiltrators, you think you stand a chance against -” A crossbolt interrupted his speech, piercing the side of his neck. It was the human bane bolt Tacey found in the White Weasel Inn.

Urtusk rushed forward with his axe. The witch apprentice stood before a cauldron. He spoke words, and a trio of ice elementals leaped out of the cauldron. A black goat called Volstoy tried to get in the way of the Kellid, but failed. Radosek Pavril levitated into the high domed ceiling, out of reach. The goat butted Tacey. When Kazimir arrived, Radosek Pavril took notice. “Ah, that one! What’s your name, Jadwiga?” Before he could answer, the apprentice witch of the tower was fast asleep, but still levitating.

Urtusk hacked and cleaved the ice elementals who protected the witch as the others arrived on the scene. Kazimir made the goat count sheep, and Tacey took the opportunity to kill it, but failed to finish the job. Tough goat! Urtusk wrecked the ice elementals. Tacey woke up Radosek Pavril with a cheap shot. Wounded, the witch flew over their heads into an adjacent room. He landed in a teleporter, whispering a rhyme, and ice was forming around this feet. The villain was going to escape! Urtusk threw a hand axe, but missed. Kazimir hit with a cross bolt; Njaldur missed with his bow. Holt started ranting about how law and order had been corrupted. Radosek Pavril, shaken by the stern lashing, caught fire: the divine fury of Abadar expended. But, the villain still breathed, as the rising sheath of ice smothered the flames. It was then that Shanka, the young Kellid, called on her ancestors. A phantom glowing spear struck the witch like a lightning flash. The witch fell unconscious, and his body toppled forward off the teleporter, the ice splitting and cracking on the stone floor.

The Pale Tower was taken.

Session 13
Justice for Thora, Lady Argentea

Urtusk smelled something savory. Rank mingled with savory. After he climbed past the dead spriggan into the kitchen, he smelled all savory. Behold! A cold iron pot simmered on the stove top. “It’s stew time!” he shouted. But then he spied a plate of cookies. Sweet! An especially tempting cookie shaped like a white dragon with icy frosting. He pounced on the tray, gobbling it down. At first, it was totally worth it, but then he began scraping his tongue between his teeth as the crumbs of ash filled his mouth, choked his throat. He felt sick, so sick he had no appetite, and yet he was very hungry.

Meanwhile, the others searched the captain and found some useful items: a nice greatsword, a magic cloak of resistance, an opal necklace, healing potions, and an elixir of fire breath.

Kazimir looked at the shrunken Njaldur who was halfling size and said he should be back to normal in a few minutes, which was also true of the enlarged Captain Hestrig Orlov but not the spriggan cook. Shanka stabilized the dying captain. Once she transformed to normal size, Tacey bound her up tightly, Holt administered a potion of interrogation down her throat, and Kazimir healed her. The captain awoke, her eyes snapped.

Holt asked her where Nadya’s daughter Thora was. The captain grimaced, frowning. She said the girl taken from Waldsby had been killed by Nazhena Vasilliovna — her soul imprisoned in a doll. Nadya Petska shouted, “No, no!” Urtusk held her back, her hand axe flashing, as she lunged at the prisoner. She spat, hacking at air.

Shanka and Tacey comforted Nadya as best they could. Soft, healing words. The hand axe slipped, ringing on the stone floor. Shanka later told of their encounter with the doll and how they believed it was Thora’s soul they had freed by smashing the gem.

Holt continued. He asked where Nazhena Vasilliovna was. The captain said she was away at Whitethrone. He asked who else remained in the tower. Radosek Pavril was in his chamber, which they could not reach. She said the ravenmaster, a female cleric, would kill them all. There were no other defenders here, she grimaced.

Holt said, “Nadya Petska, I leave it to you. Decide her fate.”

Nadya said to the captain. “It was you, who murdered Tjorvar Leikovich and his family. It was you who murdered my baby girl—-”

The captain said, “Nazhena Vasilliovna gave the order.”

Ignoring Shanka’s pleas, Nadya raised up her hand axe and buried it in the prisoner’s forehead.

An adjacent room was an expansive library. Njaldur and Kazimir were curious to explore the shelves. Most volumes concerned Irrisen lore and history. Curiously, two books were open on the table. One concerned the founding of the Pale Tower. It told a romantic tale of how the witch defeated the white dragon with her cunning. The other book was about Taldor, its customs and history. Kazimir was disappointed he could not find anything about siege engines.

Urtusk accepted the task of smashing any and all mirrors with his warhammer. It was likely they were instruments of scrying.

The next room, moving counterclockwise, around the tower. A wide hallway with an elegant red carpet leading to an alcove, flanked by icy statues of nymphs. Urtusk smashed mirrors; the statues suddenly moved, attacking Kazimir and the Kellid. Kazimir took a couple hits and was knocked out; but the party chipped away and eventually prevailed.

Another set of double doors opposite the library. Holt and Tacey heard nothing, Urtusk opened the door. A plant creature was chained to a wall. Holt recognized it as a Mandragora, a filthy creature like a cherub strangled with a thorns and vines. The creature broke free of its chains and shrieked. Holt and Njaldur managed to cover their ears in time. The others were nauseated, retching, could not act.

Surprisingly fast, the creature whipped vine-like arms, striking Holt. Thorns pricked his skin, but he shook off the mind poison. Holt stepped up and thrust his spear, and Njaldur struck it with cold iron. Tacey came next, leaping over tentacles and stabbing it in the back. Holt heroically finished it off. Kazimir knew the poison of the Mandragora can be used as a component for scrying spells.

In the adjacent hallway, they found another alcove with a portal. A door to Captain Hestrig’s bedroom. In a locked chest, they found three potions of feather fall and another potion to help with interrogation. They also found fancy jewelry and coins.

Continuing around the corner, past the nymph statue, they stopped at another door. Holt listened and was surprised to hear a woman humming softly, and the scent of perfume. Njaldur knocked. A woman, human, said, “Yes?” He said her presence was requested in the dining room. When the door opened, they were surprised to see the Lady Argentea. Even more surprising, she didn’t recognize them.

Urtusk pushed past her into the room, smashing a mirror, but he decided to put the vanity mirror in a drawer. Everyone else crowded in as well. Lady Argentea explained she was a prisoner here, having been abducted by fey. Her story mirrored the one the party knew. She said they planned to replace her with a double, but she didn’t know the reason. Njaldur spoke to her in private, while the others searched the last bedroom which belonged to the Mierul Ardelain. Inside they found a chest containing a fancy cloak and more potions: 2 to cloak your alignment and a mystery potion.

Lady Argentea wanted to leave the tower immediately. She asked to be escorted home. The story of her abduction by Rokhar seemed credible. Outside the party talked. Kazimir was a bit skeptical. Had they rescued the double or the real Lady? He wondered how her captors could count on her being rescued. (Equally distressed he may have given the tea set to an impostor.) Holt wondered why they treated a prisoner so well, with perfume and dresses. To dispel some doubts, Kazimir entered her room, detecting for magic to determine if she was under some disguise. He scanned her room and her person but found nothing. They told her to stay inside for the time being.

Nadya brought her boys and Hatch inside. Hatch confirmed that one portal led to the aerie while the second one went to Radosek Pavril’s chamber. To keep them safe, they stayed in the bedroom down the hall from Lady Argentea. The party lined up at the portal (rehearsing the password) as they prepared to enter the aerie.

Session 12
Pale Tower: Guard Room and Dining Room

The party explored the strange chamber. A pool of bubbling water was the focal point. While Njaldur inspected the pool, the water was warm and he joked about taking a dip, Kazimir noticed alcoves along the northern and southern wall. He recognized them as the portals to the upper level. Shanka used detect magic and sensed nothing in the pool, but within the icy walls a residue of magical energy.

Holt listened at a pair of doors on the western wall. He heard slow, steady breathing. At the second door, Njaldur heard two voices, playing a game. The bard “whispered” to Urtusk who
stomped over. Tacey crept to a door to the north.

Holt, Urtusk, and Tacey took the guards out who were unarmed and sleepy. A guard on duty nearly escaped to the portal, but Kazimir slumbered him as the portal activated encasing him in ice. He fell forward like a statue. During the skirmish, the sergeant called for aid from a water elemental which emerged from the pool. Njaldur and Nadya fought side by side. The ranger offered encouragement. “You are trying, that is good.” Eventually the others helped to finish it off. It’s mistake was leaving the pool.

A search found gold and more potions of endure elements. From the sergeant they took a MW light crossbow and MW cold iron longsword as well as another mirror (which Kazimir quickly stowed away) and a shard of blue crystal. Njaldur checked with Hatch and he verified the shard was a key to the portal.

The party split up, only one person could enter the portal at a time. Njaldur and Tacey were first. A sheath of ice encased their bodies and pulled them upward. Into a dining hall. A fey woman played a harp, sat at a crescent shaped dining table. Two tiny fey danced in the air, circling a ice crystal chandelier.
“Hey, who are you jerks?” one fey said.
Mierul Ardelain said to Njaldur. “You must be here to return the harp you stole.”
“Stole? I won it fair and square,” Njaldur replied.
“Perhaps I should raise the alarm.” She let out an ear-piercing scream.

Tacey took a shot at one of the dancing faeries, and he vanished. Njaldur pulled out his wand and scorched the fey bard so badly she screamed again. Tacey tumbled onto the table, loading and firing her crossbow. The visible faerie was hit; he laughed, drawing his little rapier as he disappeared. Njaldur sprang up, landing on the top of a chair, falling backwards but recovering as he shifted forward, stepping off onto the table. He extended his arm and fired another ray at the forlorn bard. She withered like paper in a fire. Fist pumping Njaldur as Tacey rolled her eyes. Enter Holt and Urtusk. They saw a flaming person sitting at a table. Tacey said there are invisible faeries. Holt smelled wintergreen.

Njaldur was flanked by the faeries, stung by a rapier; staggering him. Tacey flipped backwards off the table, drawing her shortsword. Urtusk reached up and swatted one faerie into a blue smear. Tacey prepared an alchemist fire.

An ugly little person with a cleaver appeared in the kitchen doorway. Njaldur said it was a spriggan. He tried to scare Tacey and Holt but they shook it off, but not the retching odor. Holt thrust his spear at the creature, but couldn’t penetrate its hide. The spriggan suddenly grew to the size a giant. Holt heroically stabbed him with his spear.

Kazimir appeared in the portal; very disappointed to find no human foes so he unloaded the screaming bolt from his crossbow. Shanka waved her dagger, seeking the last invisible faerie.

A tall woman stepped into the room. “I am Captain Hestrig Orlov. You shall not pass.” She threw a snowball, striking Tacey in the face. The last faerie appeared behind Njaldur and touched him. Njaldur shrunk to Hatch size. Tacey, though staggered by the snowball, hit the fey with an alchemist fire, and he vanished. Kazimir slumbered the spriggan, and Urtusk pushed past Holt to hack him, waking up the giant.

“Do you like horsemeat?” Urtusk struck up a conversation with the cook.
“Slice of garlic,” the spriggan said, clever with his cleaver.
“Salt and pepper. Turmeric.” Urtrusk said.
Holt added a splash of acid to the spriggan.

Captain Hestrig Orlov announced, “Spirits of my ancestors, enlarge me.” She grew in size like the spriggan.
Urtusk said, “Your ancestors are stupid.”
She said, “I am Captain Hestrig Orlov. I come from the blood of dragons, fool.” Shanka tried with her spear but missed. Njaldur drew his tiny, shortbow and fired an arrow at the captain who flicked it away. A blue flame as the last faerie fey exploded. Nadya shot the spriggan and Urtusk finished him, tiring of the conversation.

Kazimir gazed at Captain Hestrig Orlov and her eyes closed as she tottered, wobbled. Shanka, Tacey, and Njaldur all huddled around her, waiting for her to topple over. Short discussion about whether to tie her up, before Tacey fired a bolt into her forehead.
Captain Hestrig Orlov survived. The blood of her ancestors emerged as her eyes slitted and glowered. Her features twisted as her hands hardened with scales, fingers sharp with claws.
Kazimir gave her the evil eye. “Witch!” the captain hissed at him. She raked at Shanka’s cloak but just missed, thanks to the curse. “My turn!” Tiny Njaldur piped up, twanging his little bow, but no one paid any attention. Arrow sighed, piercing sweetnothingness. At long last, Shanka finished Captain Hestrig Orlov with her spear.

The battle was done.

Session 11
Pale Tower

Tacey twisted the crossbolt from the inn’s front door, inspecting the tip. “Hey! that’s mine,” Emil Goltaiaeva said. The half-orc said, “Do you have any more? What does it do?” Kazimir detected strong magic, good for killing people.

More searching found: 174 gp; healing potions; potions of endure elements; and a mysterious potion which Kazimir identified as to induce interrogation, perfect for Holt; the sergeant carried MW cold iron longsword and a MW light crossbow. Njaldur claimed the longsword as it was finer than the one he borrowed from Yuln Orstag. Kazimir took the light crossbow. They also found a couple of finely-made bolts, which Kazimir recognized as magical, screaming bolts. The sergeant also carried a curious item, a small clamshell case. "It’s a mirror, Kazimir said. “Don’t open it.” He stowed it away, but said no more.

Nadya Petska asked Urtusk and Tacey to help her remove the bodies from her home. She said they could feed them to the dogs. Before she left, she said to the innkeepers. “You two better keep your mouths shut.”

Katrina Goltaiaeva said, " Nadya Petska, you’ve brought this upon us all, inviting these strangers into the village. We’ll see who Nazhena Vasilliovna blames. You will wish you are dead." She spat, but Nadya had already walked out.

Holt noticed Katrina Goltaiaeva carried many scrolls: sleep, command, healing, and cause fear. She protested mightily about giving them up. Njaldur was still angry about her attempts to “poison” him. Shanka interceded, and Holt agreed to give them the guard’s gold as compensation for the scrolls.

Njaldur and Holt took the last guard outside. He was barely conscious. Njaldur asked him nicely for information. He explained that perhaps there was a better life for him. The guard glanced over toward the General Store. Was this the guard who was involved with the daughter?

He said, “I am not talking to you. You can’t do any worse to me than Nazhena Vasilliovna. She’ll kill you all.” Holt said, “Okay, we can just kill you if you have nothing useful to offer. My friend is going to speak with your sergeant. She could talk to you later.”
Shanka prepared a ritual to speak with the dead sergeant.

This changed his mind. He said there were about thirty guards, many of them out in the countryside looking for a black rider. The tower is guarded by a troll, the Raven Master, and some fey. He seemed to be telling the truth. Kazimir healed him, and they put him back in the inn.

The sergeant’s corpse said, “Before the sun sets this day, your corpses will be in the ground.” They dragged his body to the dogs. It was around 10 in the morning.

At Nadya’s home, they discussed plans. It seemed her boys would not be safe, but she wanted to go to the Pale Tower to get Thora. As Urtusk, Holt, and Njaldur were badly wounded, and Kazimir was low on his magic, some argued they should rest before besieging the tower. They all agreed they should not remain in Waldsby. Nadya knew a place they could camp.

Urtusk was impatient. All this planning, resting made him uneasy. He asked Shanka for her advice, and she in turn consulted the spirits. She withdrew under a yew for a few minutes, and when she emerged, she said, “Woe!” Urtusk raised his axe and trotted to the others. There would be no rest. Healing was done, scrolls and potions were divided.

Hatch came to Nadya, claiming that in order to join them, that he must be thrown out of the house. She sent the boys to their room to begin packing. Reluctantly, Nadya said, “Hatch, you are no longer welcome here.” Hatch was frozen in place, his eyes met hers. “Go! Never return. You are banished from his house.” She picked up a broom and swept it at the little old man. He backed up, crossing the threshold, and all the bristles unraveled from the broom as the handle split in her hands. Flakes of the little man’s beard also fell into the snow, gathering into a dust ball as Hatch assumed the form of a tiny, black cat.

On the guards’ sleds, they headed out just before midday. The dogs seemed to know the way. Njaldur thought they could don the guards’ cloaks at least until they breached the tower’s wall. After an hour of travel, Urtusk spied a large crow tracking them. The crow said, “Visitors to the Pale Tower. Looking for Nazhena Vasilliovna. Help you I will for treats.”

It was too late to put on their disguises, they halted the sleds. Nadya Petska said it was a witch crow, bad luck. A witch crow broke into the hunting lodge and nearly stole one of the Baba Yaga’s keys. “It wants magic items,” Holt said.

Njaldur pulled out a potion, endure elements. He had his hand on his wand of scorching ray. The crow swooped down, but passed over, and vanished. Its voice said, “Cheap baubles. Greedy humans.”

Njaldur tried a scroll, but the crow was not happy. Holt pulled out his wand of magic weapon and offered it. The crow took it. In return it revealed three truths: 1) White Witch is away! 2) Few guards, many are out looking for the black rider. 3) Guards will not lower gate unless flashed with mirror. It laughed, “Grandmother crow will feast after your visit,” and flew off.

Holt said to Kazimir. “The mirror the sergeant carried —” Kazimir shook his head. “No, but I have another mirror.” Nadya Petska said that the they were close to the tower so they all donned the cloaks and helms of the tower guards. The two boys huddled on the floor of the dog sleds. One rode at the front with Urtusk, and the other with Tacey.

The forest fell away to an icy plain, and they rode into a sharp, biting wind. The dogs barked in excitement. A cloud of black forms winged their way toward them, but the swarm of crow passed overhead and circled back, escorting them home. Born from the tundra, the tower erupted upward, a crown of icicles at its peak. It dominated the plain, all eyes could not help but be drawn to its center. Oppressive at first sight. The dogs raced over a trampled track of frozen ground. With his spyglass, Holt spotted a few guards on the wall of ice with no visible gate.

Within sight of the guards, they halted and Kazimir flashed the mirror. The guards did not appear alarmed, and as they approached the tower a section of the wall faded away. They entered a large round courtyard, facing a large ice sculpture of a dragon. Four guards manned the battlements, which could be reached by ramps. Shelters were scattered about, for dogs or men. A pair of large double-door. Squeezing into the courtyard, a large blue-skinned troll. She spotted Orm in Urtusk’s sled. “Hey, what did you bring me to eat? Children?”

Urtusk nodded, fingering his axe, and Orm stepped off. Shanka moved closer, and Nadya grabbed the boy’s hand. “Stay with mommy,” she whispered.

“Hey, who are you?” the troll said.

Holt who had readied an alchemist fire, chucked it. At first it looked like it would miss its mark, but upon further review, it struck. The troll screamed. Raging, Urtusk hacked into her with his battleaxe. “I’m the new guy!” Kazimir slumbered one of the guards. Shanka prepared an alchemist fire. Tacey shot her hand crossbow at a guard but missed. Njaldur used his wand to scorch the troll, who was still standing.

“Intruders!” she roared. She swung her axe at Urtusk, and whiffed, then tried to bite him but nothing but air, and a claw missed, too. Not her day.

Nadya Petska fired an arrow through a guard’s throat. “Where is my daughter?” she said. Holt splashed acid on a guard. Another guard bolted for a door. Kazimir pulled out his mace and got in his way. Tacey shot a bolt in his back, and Kazimir knocked him out. Shanka threw another alchemist fire at the troll. Her throw looked high, but it exploded on the troll’s back. The troll toppled over, but within seconds it was back up, some of its wounds healing before their eyes. As it was winding up to smack Urtusk with its axe, Holt splashed acid on the brute and she fell. Urtusk took his time chopping it up into sizzling pieces.

The unconscious guard was healed by Kazimir. Holt and Njaldur interrogated him, and he cooperated though he knew nothing. A set a of double doors and two side doors on the battlements. He said they both led to the same room. They decided to knock him out and tie him up.

Nadya Petska told the twins to stay in one of the kennels. Hatch who had taken the appearance of a black cat was to protect them. They protested, but Tacey said they could guard the prisoner. Orm said, “I want an axe like Urtusk.” Mjoli said, “I want a crossbow like Tacey.” Each was given a dagger. While searching the other kennels, they found a bag with 500gp.

Since Hatch wouldn’t be coming inside, the party asked him to share the passwords. He transformed into the tiny, beardless man. To get from the first floor to the second floor dining room: “A gathering within the hall. Take one, take us all.” To go down: “Spiral downward to the ground, every ounce and every pound.” To get from the second floor to the aerie: “Take wing, soar and fly. Let me view the winter sky.” To go down: “Down a level to the halls, leaves this cage without walls.” Mirrored hallway. He doesn’t know password. He also said that some guards may carry a key that allows them to move freely.

The party entered from multiple doors. Urtusk, Holt, Kazimir and Shanka entered the main double doors, while the stealthier members opened the side doors. Within they a curious gallery. No guards, but ice sculptures of guards, helmet and pike-wielding against the walls. The air was steamy. From a dais, steps led down to a pool surrounded by foggy mirrors.

Session 10
Party at the White Weasel, Hatch

Leaving Holt and Kazimir at the White Weasel Inn, the others walked to check in with Nadya Petska at her home, just outside Waldsby. She greeted them warmly at the door, with twin ginger boys hugging her legs. They learned that Birgit Holorova was pleased with the amount of extra food she acquired during her trade with the Kellids, and she was hopeful her daughter, Thora, would be returned from the Pale Tower.

Shanka had confessed to the others that she suspected the soul of the girl trapped in the doll may have been Nadya’s daughter, but they were unsure if they should tell the mother. The twins, Orm and Mjoli, were in awe of Urtusk, testing the hardness of his arms, scrambling up and down his limbs. But when the half-orc Tacey walked in, they stared even harder at her. “Why are you green?”

Tacey stared back. “Green is better.”

Then they spied Urtusk’s tiny battle axe, slung from his belt. The Kellid handed it over, and they took turns chasing each other about the house.

Urtusk pressed Nadya for information about the Pale Tower. She told him that it was four or five hours march to the north. Nazhena Vasilliovna, the white witch, and her apprentice Radosek Pavril ruled from there. She only knew the guards who came to Waldsby, perhaps a dozen men. She offered to guide them there. Njaldur said they would help retrieve her daughter, if necessary.

Shanka sensed someone spying from the kitchen. She kneeled down in front of the sideboard.

Nadya said, "No worries. That’s just Hatch. "

“Is it a cat?” Njaldur asked.

“No, Hatch is our Domovoi. He protects our home, tidies up. But, he’s very shy around strangers.”

“Can we trust it?” Urtusk asked. “He isn’t a fey spy for the White Witch.” Shanka dodged a ladle that flew off the hook.

“No, no! Hatch is family. And he has no love for Nazhena Vasilliovna.” Nadya explained. She whispered this. “He once served her in the Pale Tower, years ago. Ever since Thora was taken he has not been himself. He loves her dearly.”

Shanka and Njaldur asked if they could return later to talk to Hatch. Since he was shy (and upset), they thought they might coax him out of hiding. Njaldur remembered some candied nuts among their food stores.

Meanwhile, Holt and Emil Goltaiaeva made a deal. The innkeeper expressed interest in purchasing their food supplies and the cask of Three Devil Ale.He offered 45 gp for the food (the party kept a 5 day supply) and 5 gp for the ale. As this was a reasonable offer Holt agreed. After he conferred with his companions , the transaction was done. Emil Goltaiaeva said he planned to throw a big party in the evening, get out his fancy decorations. He intended to charge a rental fee per cup.

Hatching a Plan

Njaldur and Shanka returned to Nadya’s home. Njaldur played a calming tune on his fiddle, while Shanka offered up the candied nuts. In no time, a wee little bearded man appeared from under the sideboard. Shanka asked him questions about his time at the Pale Tower, while he munched on the nuts. The domovoi was very protective of the family. He did not want Nadya to go to the Pale Tower, and he was very worried about Thora. He offered to lead the party there and help them. He explained within the tower there were no stairs to the upper levels. You need to know the passwords to get to the next level. A portal would encase the occupant within a sheath of ice, and carry them upward. There was more than one portal and different passwords. But he knew them. There was a goat, too, a filthy goat. And trolls. He missed Thora, wanted to help. Some resistance, but they accepted his offer.

Party at Below Zero

At dusk, the White Weasel was full, about twenty people. Emil Goltaiaeva sold thimble-sized cups at the door, and Katya Goltaiaeva rationed out Three Devil Ale. The party were given their cups at no cost, and they joined the party. Njaldur pulled out his fiddle and struck a tune. Tacey drank the local winteryew moonshine and started blathering about the “icicle” Tower. Arm-wrestling contests. Soon, the ale ran out. The party broke up, and locals headed for home. The innkeeper and his wife pushed them out the door.

Katya Goltaiaeva offered Njaldur some bark tea to soothe his voice. He drank some of the bitter stuff. She suggested that he and his companions leave the village immediately and never return. There was something in the tea, but it didn’t work.

Emil Goltaiaeva pulled out a heavy crossbow and aimed at Njaldur. “Everyone’s a critic,” the bard muttered, putting down his fiddle. The innkeeper said, they should all leave. And they did, returning to Nadya Petska’s house to turn in for the evening.

At Nadya’s, they found the packs they had left there neatly arranged, but they seemed a little lighter. Hatch, du Lump! Otherwise, the night passed, while Holt kept watch.

Pale Guards

In the morning, Kazimir, Tacey, and Njaldur went shopping: a scroll of goodberry and a masterwork shortbow for Njaldur. Meanwhile, at Nadya Petska’s house, the others heard the sound of barking dogs. Nadya thought it might be the guards from the Pale Tower. A knock at the door. “Nadya Petska!” Urtusk hid in the back bedroom with the twins, while Holt and Shanka tucked into the kitchen.

The guards pushed inside. Nadya asked them about Thora. She explained she had brought extra food from her last trade as promised. She wanted her daughter. The guard said he didn’t know. It was not his business. She could ask Nazhena Vasilliovna. His orders were to take her to the tower for questioning. More guards entered, looking around. Nadya said she would come quietly, heading for the door.

Outside, wolves howled nearby, as Shanka cast ghost sound. A guard searching found the back bedroom. Urtusk killed him with one bloody blow. The twins said, “Awesome!” In a rage, the Kellid stepped out to meet the others. Holt sprang from the kitchen and speared another guard. Nadya pulled out her hand axe. A flying pot struck another guard, compliments of Hatch. In little time, the last guard was dropped by Nadya. “Hatch, would you mind cleaning this up?”

Shanka stepped outside and killed the guard who was watching the sleds and dogs. Nadya could see more sleds and dogs near the market square. It looked like Tacey was fighting another guard. Urtusk, Nadya, and Holt borrowed dog sleds and raced aid their friends.

While running errands in town, Njaldur, Kazimir and Tacey heard the approaching dog sleds. Kazimir observed from a stable; Njaldur and Tacey hid in an alley.

The sergeant walked toward the White Weasel. Njaldur strolled out, with his fiddle tucked under an arm. He smiled at the sergeant. “Hello, friend,” he said warmly.

The sergeant returned the smile.

Njaldur continued. “Friend, if you are seeking the inn, I can’t recommend the place. Poor service. The innkeeper’s wife tried to bewitch me with her bark tea, asked me and my companions to leave the village. When that failed, the innkeeper threatened us with a heavy crossbow.”

The sergeant said, “Really?” He pounded on the door of the White Weasel. “Emil Goltaiaeva, open up!”

The innkeeper looked surprised to see Njaldur standing next to the sergeant. A pack of wolves howled nearby.

“Emil Goltaiaeva, there has been a complaint. Apologize to this man.”

Emil looked sour, sweeping bows. He explained that the fiddler was the worst singer he ever heard, was driving away business.

The sergeant invited Njaldur inside, along with a couple guards. “Official Pale Tower business. My men are bringing Nadya Petska here for questioning. And make my friend a drink.”

Njaldur sat at a table and began playing a tune.

“Emil Goltaiaeva, you don’t like this?” The sergeant smiled, tapping his toe. His reverie was broken when a man in a very fine cloak entered the inn. Cocksure, he had managed to get past the guard at the door by putting on airs and graces.

The sergeant slumped in his seat, slumbering for seconds, before he awoke startled. He stood up and drew his weapon, pointing at Kazimir. “Hey, hold that guy! You are under arrest. I am taking you back to the tower.”

Njaldur changed to a soothing lullaby. As the guards closed in on Kazimir, they all suddenly fell asleep, curling up on the floor. Only the sergeant and the inn keepers remained. “Wake up my men!” the sergeant shouted. Njaldur offered to help.

Meanwhile, outside the inn, Tacey fought a guard, but it wasn’t going well. Bloodied, she retreated into an alley. Then, a snow owl came to her aid and the pair flanked the villain until he was taken down.

Back inside the inn, Emil Goltaiaeva shook a guard, rousing him from his sleep. The sergeant missed Kazimir with his longsword sword, but struck his face with a spiked shield. Reeling, Kazimir took a step and splashed the sergeant and the guards with a molten orb. It exploded in shards, which clung to their clothing, sparking little fires they swatted to put out.
Katya Goltaiaeva read a scroll, accusing Njaldur. “It’s all your fault! You and your stupid fiddle have ruined everything. Fiddle Guy! Meet your death.”

Njaldur shrugged it off. He decided to help Kazimir by greasing the sergeant’s longsword but it didn’t work.

Tacey walked in. “You look like a jerk,” she said stabbing the sergeant.

The sergeant turned on Njaldur. “You were my friend. Now, I’m on fire.” He butted him with his shield and stabbed him in the gut with cold iron.

Tacey and Njaldur flanked the sergeant, and Njaldur ran him through. Kazimir webbed Emil Goltaiaeva and the two guards. Tacey killed one, just as he was waking up. Katya Goltaiaeva squirmed out of the webs to the corner, where she tried to put Kazimir to sleep, and he feigned a yawn and then hexed her back, and she fell asleep in the corner. Njaldur slashed the last guard, stepping back to draw his bow. The last guard roared, breaking free of the webs, and sliced open Njaldur’s side with cold iron, and the bard fell silent bleeding out. Tacey stepped over Njaldur and avenged him, disabling the last mook who fell back into the webs. Kazimir healed Njaldur, and Tacey held herself back from finishing him. Only the innkeeper and his wife remained. Seeing his wife helpless, Emil threw down his crossbow, pleaded for mercy.

It was given, for the time being.

Session 9
Nadya, Waldsby

Storm closing in, the party decided to head for the village. Urtusk pulled the sled with food, taken from the troll’s cave. If questioned, the party could pose as traders. Cold was unbearable. Shanka asked the spirits to help herself, Holt, and even the hearty Urtusk endure. Kazimir snuggled in his cloak, and the others already enjoyed Shanka’s divine protection. How could common people survive in this land?

Late afternoon, Urtusk heard dogs barking, and human voices. A hunting party, he said. They were heading in the same direction, just ahead. In twenty minutes, they came into sight. Five humans, who resembled woodsman, with a pair of sleds, each pulled by a pair of dogs. Alarmed to see the well-armed party trailing them, the woodsman quickened their pace. More alarmed when a giant insect stepped out of the woods, grasping one man in its pinchers, shucking him open. The leader, a woman with a long, red braid, ordered her men to protect the sleds and dogs. She stepped up, hacking at the giant mantis with a handaxe.

From a hundred feet away, Kazimir threw a web over them all, while the others rushed to aid the strangers. Tacey and Holt fired crossbolts that missed, but Njaldur struck true with his bow. The mantis broke free of the webbing and grabbed the woman. Urtusk yelled as he cruised through the snow. The insect dropped the woman and lunged twenty feet to bite her Kellid quarry. The barbarian wrenched free of its claws. The monster was quickly killed, slammed by the raging spirits of his ancestors.

The woman spoke Skald, directly to Urtusk, but he shook his head. In common, she said, “Strangers, we mean you no harm.”

Everyone breathed a sigh of relief. Njaldur said in perfect Skald, “We saw you were being attacked, and had no choice but to help you.”

She looked confused, but introduced herself as Nadya Petska, along with her companions: Sven Svenson; and his son, Sven Svensonson; his brother, Jaral; and his other brother, Jaral. She explained they were traders returning from the Land of the Mammoth Lords with food for their village Waldsby. Njaldur explained how they had traveled here through the portal, which puzzled Nadya. He went on to say they were also traders, having a sled of rations. Since the two groups were headed in the same direction they decided to travel together.

The storm approached and though they would not outrun it, Nadya urged them to march on until dusk. When questioned about her knowledge of the Pale Tower, the woman was guarded. When pressed, she said the white witch Nazhena Vasilliovna had imprisoned her daughter, Thora, for some offense. She feared for her safety. Shanka recalled the spirit trapped in the doll.

Camp was made in a stand of fir trees, as the sky churned up darkness and white blindness. Around the fire, they ate well; the party shared their ample food, including meat and vegetables from the south. A feast to the Irrisen folk. Nadya patrolled the area, and returned with an anxious look. “Someone is coming,” she said.

“A merry fire, and friends to share it with,” a figure said, pushing through the firs. She was radiant with pleasant features, but a chill fell over them. The creature’s skin was blue like the winter-touched fey, with horns and ears, and the lower half of a stag.

No one spoke, but room was made for the unexpected guest. She continued. “I am Mierul Ardelain, troubadour to the noble families of Irrisen.” She smiled. “Where I come from, when a name is given, a name is returned.”

Everyone introduced themselves. Mierul seemed interested in Kazimir. He said he had been to White Throne in his travels, to pick up a tea set. She accepted the story that they were all traders. “I see, you have half-orc slaves,” she said.

To break the ice she offered to tell a tale. Njaldur challenged the bard to a duel. Whoever was judged best would win a prize. Njaldur wanted her harp. If she won, she would get one of his magic arrows. She agreed, went first.

Her tale accompanied by her harp was of Queen Velikas. During her reign, silver mines enriched the lands; but a plague among the miners spread as far as the capital cities of Irrisen. A Kellid slave, known as a gifted healer, made a deal with the White Witch Queen. In exchange to save the Queen’s people of the plague, Irrisen would promise to never attack the people of the Mammoth Lords. Queen Velikas agreed. The Kellid with the aid of powerful spirits saved the land, and the Queen true to her word pledged that Irrisen would honor the deal. But, as the Kellid had not asked for her own protection, she was promptly sealed alive in a mine where her tormented soul lives to the this day. At the end, the fey bard’s face transformed into a devil. She screamed in delight. Everyone was quiet. In the midst of the snowstorm, they were all transfixed, consumed by the tale.

Njaldur’s turn. He played his fiddle, starting with a folk tune, before launching into an epic tale of the Linhorm Kings. He plucked and strummed the strings, but its was his singing which earned him the victory. Mierul begrudgingly conceded, at first asking for a rematch, before handing him her harp. She said farewell, limped off, just as the storm was letting up.

Holt kept watch. Uneventful, except he detected something in the distance, a shadow of a shadow. In the morning, Shanka shrouded the group in protection from the elements. Not the locals; they got used to it, or they died.

An early start in the morning. As they were moving along a ridge, Nadya shouted. ""Hide yourselves, eyes in the skies! Get the tarps. Cover the sleds." Something was coming. The sky was black, and moving like a angry storm, thousands of cawing crows. Njaldur asked everyone to huddle together. Over their heads, he tossed a white blanket of illusionary camouflage, and the crows passed over without spotting them.

At midday, they reached the village of Waldsby. Nadya and her people were greeted warmly by the townsfolk. They were curious about the strangers, too. Even more curious was the village. It was nearly identical to Heldren, in the layout, as well as being a logging town.

They passed the burnt frame of a large house. The two Svens made signs of warding as they passed. Shanka asked them who had lived here. Nadya explained it was the home of the last headman and his family. Three years ago, the headman was hung from the clock tower by the White Witch. He was an alleged member of a resistance group known as The Heralds of Summer’s Return. The house was burned down; his wife and children perished in the fire. Shanka with a look of pain and fury, whispered to Urtusk that they would return later to ensure their spirits are at rest.

The clock tower on the town hall had not moved in a century. In Heldren, the clock was in perfect working condition. In other respects, things were eerily similar. In the square, there was a large statue of the woman as though sculpted by the same artist, of the same subject. The locals claimed it was Queen Elvana, but it seemed older than her reign. The inn was called the White Weasel rather than the Silver Stoat.

Nadya excused herself to report to the storehouse manager, Birgit Holorova. She invited the party to stay with her at her home, as the inn in town did not have rooms. They did not have many visitors, except for the soldiers for the White Witch. Kazimir expressed some concern for the people. They might be punished for harboring them.

The innkeeper’s wife hailed them in the square, invited them inside for refreshment. Emil Goltaiaeva, owner of the White Weasel inn, and his wife Katya Goltaiaeva were gracious hosts. They asked many questions, answered few. Njaldur requested ice wine; it was rumored they had a couple bottles. They supped on bark soup and tough, stringy meat. A single log burned in the hearth. A large mirror on the wall opposite the bar reflected on the patrons. Townsfolk came in for their midday meal. The barber of The Beardless Dwarf, Rusilka Sighja Imsdottr and Garthur Kalinin, owner of the sawmill and logging license. Garthur was more interested in Katya, openly flirting with her.

After eating, the party decided to split up. Urtusk and Shanka went to the scene of the fire, Kazimir and Holt went to see the gnome woodworker, while Njaldur and Tacey stayed at the inn to make some friends.

Njaldur bought the last bottle of ice wine, sharing it with Rusilka and Garthur. The dwarf loosened up. Told him about the White Tower, how the White Witch was not there. Her apprentice, Radosek Pavril, was in charge. Recently, guardsmen had been looking for something, but he did not know what. The daughter of Milivsa Stolya, who runs the general store, was seeing one of the guards.

Kazimir was very interested in the gnome’s artwork, which was exceptional, peculiar to find artful pieces in a backwoods village. He explained he was a trader, traveling through, and he purchased a finely-made gameboard with carven pieces. Holt asked the gnome if he was related to Tengezil Frimbocket from his village of Heldren. He told Arbagazor about how in his village there was a gnome woodworker just like him, in his skill, style, and appearance. The gnome broke down. He explained that he had a twin brother, but they had been separated at birth. All these years, he thought his brother was dead. He said he wanted to write a letter that they could give to his brother on their return.

Shanka and Urtusk investigated the ruins of the house. They were observed by an old man who emerged from a simple building next to the cemetery. He watched as Shanka prepared a circle in the ashes. The old man, a priest called Rolf Halzberg, joined her as they chanted a prayer for the lost souls. When silence fell, some relief. As Shanka met his gaze, she promised to avenge these spirits.

Session 8
Chance Encounters

Duty done, the black rider and his steed dissolved in the driving snow. Nothing, before their eyes, but a heavy, heaving sigh.

The party searched the fey encampment, uncovered Teb Knotten’s cave. Among filthy hides, they found money and weeks of rations. The troll’s cave also served as a shelter to make plans. Tacey and Njaldur fingered the gems, while Holt counted the coin. It was divided up evenly. As for Baba Yaga’s keys, Holt nominated himself and Kazimir to be the keepers. The half-orc stowed the doctor’s mask in his pack, and Kazimir took the lock of hair.

Discussion about pressing on to Irrisen through the Portal, after resting and healing up in the cave. Kazimir explained Irrisen was no place for southern-bred horses. Even his Sorrow would likely perish in the elements. Urtusk saw this as an opportunity rather than a problem. But, the party decided to travel back to Heldren where they could also restock and inform the authorities of their plans. It was around midday by Urtusk’s reckoning, though the sun and the moon might collide in this white blindness. They headed out, hoping to reach the Lodge before evening.

In five hours, they reached the High Sentinel Lodge. Uneventful, but for one random, ill-tempered boar. Holt eagerly set his boar spear against a charge that never came. Kazimir put the beast to sleep; Urtusk put it down with his warhammer. Resourceful, he and Shanka harvested the meat. Willful waste makes woeful want.

Outside the Lodge, fresh bootprints going to and from the woods. Likely, the murderous bandit, Aryuh, they cut loose as bait for the fey guardian of the bridge. She escaped her fate. A stick in the spokes of Justice.

While Tacey fired up the hearth, Urtusk prepared the boar on a spit. Others gathered wood for the cold night ahead. They would leave at daybreak so turned in early. Ever indebted to Abadar, Holt no longer needed sleep. In the night, he could smell his companions, especially the northern savages with well-traveled sweat. Njaldur was a blend of hay and rosin. Kazimir was almost without odor, subtle, but there it was. Tacey smelled a little like mom, but he would never admit that. To pass the time, he counted his steps. From the main room to the galley, to the rear window overlooking the bridge to the game trail. From time to time, he checked out the horses, fearing Aryuh might steal one.

Midnight Caller

Midwatch, he heard glass breaking, soft but clear. He climbed the stairs to the upper room, but saw no one. Only the broken pane, with bits of glass. No rock. Sniffing, he smelt something like feathers and oil. Followed by caw, caw, caw! In the rafters above the main room. Some trick, he did not see anything there, no flicker.

Walking down the stairs, he sensed movement, near the sleeping merchant. Something, rustling in his pack. Baba Yaga’s key, the lock of hair, is pulled out, dragged by something unseen. Holt darted over the furniture to snare the lock, but it escaped his fingertips. The lock jerked up, into the air just out of his reach. Smell was quite strong, fowl odor. Strangely, not one but four identical crows, black with iridescent feathers of blue, appeared, interlocking wings and talons clutched the lock of hair. “Mine, mine now!” The crows croaked in unison, loud enough to wake the others.

“Wake up!” Holt barked, just in case. Kazimir rolled over, rubbing his eyes, and spied the crows. A sharp man, he glanced at them, and as one the crows toppled over on a beam, deep in sleep. The lock of hair hit the floor. The merchant yawned, turned over. Holt snatched up the lock of hair, least the crows awaken.

The others roused themselves and attacked the sleeping crows. Shanka speared one through a wing, and it popped out. With his sword, Njaldur struck another. With two remaining, Urtusk pierced the true crow through the breast with a dagger. Defiant, the birds awoke. “Mine!” the twin crows screamed. Then vanished. Flapping wings could be heard in the rafters.

Suddenly, the lock of hair appeared on the floor as Tacey was coming in. “Don’t let the crow get that lock of hair,” Njaldur said, pointing to the lock of hair on the floor. Holt gripped the hair in his hand. Instinctly, Tacey tried to grab the lock of hair, but couldn’t pick it up. Urtusk seized the moment, but also failed. His fingers passed through it. “Yes, protect the lock from the bird!” Njaldur repeated.

Urtusk blinked, staring at his hand in wonder. “Why, man? it’s not real.”

“I have it,” Holt declared, his spear ready. Too smart, the crow didn’t take the bait. Instead, the bird appeared to the half-orc, perched on the rail, with feathers furrowed, wings arched in agitation. Eyes, locked in amber, stared at the half-orc in vengeance. It smarted, like a pinch, leaving a mark. The crow screamed in fury and flew off, breaking through another pane.

Kazimir sat up, with a look of concern. He said that crows, filthy birds, like that one lived in his country. He spoke with contempt, with looks that spat. Unlike his normally polite manner. Holt had been cursed, he explained. He recommended the party keep their distance from him. But, it should pass by morning.

Holt vowed to remain vigilant. This witch crow coveted the Keys to Baba Yaga’s Dancing Hut, and it may not be the last time they would encounter the bird.

Casual Justice

Just before dawn, a scream in the woods. A woman’s scream, nothing innocent about it. Silence.

After breakfast, Shanka and Holt took time to meditate. The merchant read. The others went out to the woods to investigate the scream. Urtusk was puzzled by the large tracks in the snow, round with claws, that walked upright. From the depth in the snow, it weighed more than a large bear. They led to a shelter, painted with blood.

A defaced prayer book to Abadar was found. Inside the back cover, a list of names had been written. Some were crossed out: “Mom,” “Dad,” “Baby Ricky” and others not crossed out: “Rokar,” “Simon,” “Fiddle Guy.” “Property of Aryuh” was written inside the front cover. Neat. A signed confession. Justice had been served on a plate licked clean.

Holt was appalled. The offensive book was burned.

Shop Local Heldren

Fortunately, the horses were safe. The creature must have been satisfied with serving Justice. The party traveled on to Heldren without incident, other than the brutal cold that piled on Tacey.

Arriving in the village at midday, a crowd stopped working (any excuse) to greet them. All gathered inside the Silver Stoat, where Njaldur told the tale. He sang of the lost hunter, Dryden Kep, who fell to the giant weasel. And as he said this, Urtusk opened a sack and held up the weasel’s head to the amazement of all. The bard skillfully added some pictures with the words, Teb Knobben the troll and the evil fey, Hummelstaub, and the creepy living doll floated before their eyes. Children poked them with broomstick handles.

That fool, Perkin the halfling butcher, offered to escort us back to the portal. He boasted of his past adventures, emboldened by Njaldur’s display. But, Urtusk convinced the barber he was needed in the village, and he scuttled off. Tacey ordered a double, huddled by the fire, and snorted. “Fiddle Guy!”

The party had little time for showing off. But, Holt was impressed with Kazimir. He did well in selling the horses to Sophia at cost. The Church could use more men like him. In addition to food rations, Holt bought snow shoes, Shanka bought ink and paper to make scrolls, and NJaldur bought a wand to make himself useful when fighting. When Njaldur’s mother tried to convince him to stay, Holt told her the bard would be more valuable to the mission in Irrisen than to her on the farm. She agreed, a very agreeable woman.

Didn’t Make the Cut

Xanthippe didn’t show up at the Stoat. She seemed cold, though sparks flew at her forge. Holt stood in the doorway, and Isker excused himself. Xanthippe bent a bit of heated iron. Quick strokes, skillful. Holt could never do that. He tended to flatten and warp with the hammer, where she had this way of drawing it out, like a skillful confession in the hands of a master inquisitor. Holt interrupted her to say he had something important to say. She paused, looked up. Words, randomly failed. He handed her his report for Taxmaster Tarquill. “You’re the only one I trust. Make sure, he gets this. Thanks.”

Offhand Ogre

Traveling back to the Lodge on foot. Slow-going, cold. Not far from the Lodge, their destination, the party heard a voice, stepping on their tail. “Fe, Fi, Foe, Fum. Run, little ones, run! I found your foot prints.”

Something large was coming. Holt, Urtusk, and Shanka stood to meet it, while Kazimir, Njaldur, and Tacey stowed away in the trees. A blue-skinned ogre, Frablorg, sauntered into view. The party waited while he came into range. Holt became inpatient and closed rank, and the ogre chucked a javelin that pierced his chest. In spite of this, the half-orc continued forward, only to be struck hard by the ogre’s club as he came into reach. Holt in position, at last, thrust his boar spear into the ogre’s calf; but it failed, pushed aside by the tough hide. “Ha, Ha,” laughed Frablorg. Urtusk got busy, oiling his sword with magic. Shanka moved forward to heal the reeling Holt.

Njaldur knew what to do. From his outstretched wand, a scorching ray sizzled the ogre. Kazimir stepped up; the ogre fell to the ground, asleep. Urtusk did the rest with his magic weapon. Knee-jerk, he removed the head, dragging it back to the Lodge where he set it on a spike just across from the bridge, a message to any of Frablorg’s friends or family.

Nighty Nyeti Yeti

The Lodge was as they left it this morning. They prepared a meal and settled in for the night. As before, Holt took the entire watch. He made his rounds, making his way to the rear window where he peered out. During the night, Frablorg’s head went missing. But, he did not sense anything.

Later on, he smelled the scent blood near the rear window. As he peered out, a tall creature, about 10 feet tall, stood on the back porch. Holt met the gaze of the creature and with extra effort — at great personal cost — he was able to shake off a creeping paralysis. He retreated to the main room and aroused his companions. They were not pleased, when they found no sign of the creature, though no one ventured outside.

In the morning, they found the tracks on the back porch — exactly like the ones responsible for Aryuh’s demise. It was a yeti, Holt and Njaldur put their thoughts together. Rather than waste time tracking the beast, they decided to press on to the portal. Knowing full well, it would be tracking them. Holt vowed to remain vigilant as this would not be the last time they would encounter this creature. Around the head of the ogre, they found random, giant lizard tracks. Holt and Njaldur recognized them as an local beast, driven to a frenzy by the cold weather.

Nothing hindered their way other than the elements. They reached the fey’s campsite and stared into the edge of the Winter Portal. Each party member held their breath and plunged into the icy bath.

On the other side, they found the weather was clearer — though colder than a witch’s toes. The party found themselves on a mountainside thick with fir trees. In the distance, a small village with smoke rising from chimneys. Not at all what they expected. Except the weather, that was constant.

Session 7
The Fairy, The Troll, and The Black Rider

As they approached, they tied the horses together, except for Sorrow, who bore Kazimir into the eye of the snow storm. Visibility dropped gradually to less than a horses length between them.

Suddenly they were upon a bramble patch. After a brief search along the edge, they found a path through the brambles, channeling them into a single file line. After a few minutes of slowly plodding through, the path opened into a clearing.

Not far into the clearing, Urtusk came upon an igloo, and suddenly veered off to the right into the storm. Kazimir and Sorrow followed along to keep from losing sight of him.

Holt went first into the igloo Urtusk found, and was hardly surprised to find winter touched fey. He called on Abadar to lend power to his judgements, and sprayed acid at the fey. While he attacked, Holt spotted a pit trap hidden on the floor, which he managed to carefully move around. One of the fey tried to fly past him, but he swatted it out of the air with his morning star.

Outside, Tacey and Njaldur were hesitant to follow, and they bickered about the use of alchemists fire, Njaldur nervous with Tacey so armed at his back, and seemingly careless about his well being from before.

A sudden deafening burst of sound cracked through the air, emitting from an object that struck Shanka. The sound deafened Kazimir and Tracey. Shanka, brushing it off, moved in behind Holt to assist him fighting the fey. Njaldur came near the entrance as well, and dazed one of the fey with a small, quick sigil in the air, and a flash of light.

Tacey wandered into the unseen space beyond the snow, and emerging from it before her she found a tree.

An eagle with glowing red eyes attacked Shanka, it scratched and drew blood with it’s talons.

Urtusk and Kazimir continued looking around the area, finding more igloos.

The tree that Tacey found shifted into the shape of a Troll, which growls and looms towards her. She stumbled backwards in fear, and smacks at Njaldur, trying to get his attention.

A second eagle appeared and clawed at Kazimir.

A giggle sounded through the snow and wind. Urtusk, recognizing the laugh, watched the Troll grow larger before him. As he charged forward despite his smaller size, he saw that the others had grown too, in fact, Urtusk was shrunk by the same fey magic that had days ago shrunk his axe.

Shanka drew a stone dagger and swiped at the remaining fey.

The troll stabbed Kazimir with his spear, who dropped unconscious, bleeding out.

Njaldur spoke out through the snow: “Moss Troll! I read a tale of a long armed troll that lived in a boreal forest. It was afraid of fire since the day the Ulfen archers came to burn it’s home and drive it away- it could regenerate from their swords and arrows, but not the flames.”

Tacey threw a alchemist’s fire at the troll, but missed, splashing Njaldur.

Holt killed the last sprite and ran out to help the others.

The troll stabbed Urtusk, and then snapped its head in to bite on Urtusk’s flesh.

Njaldur grit his teeth and winged an alchemists fire at the troll, connecting and splashing it with flames. Then he shot a gloating grin back at Tacey.

Tacey responded by dashing past him, short sword drawn, towards the troll where she crouched down at the troll’s feet and swiped it’s legs from underneath it with her blade. With a sonorous thud it fell to the snow covered ground.

The fey creature, presumably Hummelstaub, appeared behind Urtusk and stabbed with a tiny frozen blade. The ice cracked, digging into Urtusk’s skin, nearly dropping the shrunken kellid.

Urtusk slashed back in retaliation.

Holt dashed from the igloo, past Tacey and over top of the troll and stabilized Kazimir with an efficient prayer. Shanka approached and lent her healing spirits to mend some of Kazimir’s wounds.

Holt dashed about looking for Hummelstaub, who used a combination of invisibility and an affinity for hiding in a snowstorm to avoid detection. Suddenly a rock cracked into Holt, bursting with ice and slowing the half-orc down.

Njaldur cast an enchantment on his feet that let him walk over the snow. He and Tacey move out to try and find the fey leader.

Holt gives a nice blessing to Njaldur’s bow.

Another freezing rock cracks off of Urtusk finally breaking the considerable constitution of the warrior, who fell into the snow unconscious.

Katja the snow owl, who was circling low over the igloos, spotted Hummelstaub above the nearest igloo.

Kazimir walked Sorrow over to the igloo over which floated Hummelstaub. He stretched and tried to climb up onto the slippery blocks of ice, but slipped and fell, sliding back down. Embarrassed, Kazimir wiggled his fingers in an arcane gesture, and sprayed sheets of fire from them at Hummelstaub, but to little effect.

Hummelstaub giggled and said “Hah! Fire doesn’t work against me!”

Then Njaldur runs into the igloo, aims up, out of the hole in the roof, and fires an arrow directly into Hummelstaub’s body, which falls with a thud onto the roof of the igloo and slides off to land in the snow beside it.

Victorious, they set about exploring the area. Inside a nearby cave they found food and piles of loot. Njaldur’s eyes gleamed at the sight, a song playing faintly in his mind.

They also found a great tree standing out beyond the igloos. Beside it was a massive swirling vortex. Just then, a black rider came through on a black horse. There was a jagged icicle in the back of the rider, and he was slumped in the saddle.

Illarion Matvius, Black Midnight – he was Baba Yaga’s black rider. He fell from his horse, and the group moved in to hear him speak.

“Something has happened to Baba Yaga. Elvanna has other plans, plans to kill Baba Yaga. The Red Rider and the White Rider are slain… as am I. Only Baba Yaga can undo what her daughter has done. You must find the dancing hut… find it and follow Baba Yaga. It is on display in Whitethrone. Take this mask and this lock of giant hair, put them in the cauldron to find her. Do you accept this geas?”

They looked at each other. For a short time they discussed it.

“How can we close this portal?” They asked.

“It is expanding, and it spreads endless winter as it does. If you enter it, it will take you to Irrissen. There, you can close off the portal at its source, the Pale Tower.”

“You’ve chosen well, asking us, the heroes of Heldren. I accept this quest.” The others agreed.

“Then I will turn the mantle of Black Rider to cover you all,” Said the black rider.

Then he drew a blade to his neck and sliced it open. A wave of energy pulsed from him and with it the keys began to glow with a magic radiance. Then the black rider fell dead in the snow.

Letter from Inquisitor Holt to Taxmaster Tarquill

Taxmaster Tarquill
Temple of Abadar, Zimar


Abadar, employ us.

I write you about the Lady Argentea Malassene of Oppara, the bride in breach of contract to the complainant groom.

In serving papers, I did not confiscate the Lady’s jewelry box to be held until the matter is settled by the proper authority. As my report states, the Lady suffered grievously from her kidnappers, and my compassion clouded my judgment. For the record, I also failed to accept the reward she offered, to avoid appearances. The Lady Argentea was asking the Mayor of Heldren to put up the money, and I could not allow this knowing the Lady’s credit is in question. Still, my companions are deserving of compensation and I will personally request remittance in the future on their behalf.

I also must report that I am bound to investigate the matter in Irrisen. Please see my report. Abadar has contracted me. It may take months or longer before I can return to my normal duties. Any penalties you impose may be withheld from my salary.

May Abadar’s blessings compound in your heart and your holdings.

Inquisitor Regnar Holt

P.S. My companions and I discovered a frozen corpse whose purse contained a single piece of the forbidden coin. This is an ill omen. I have confiscated the E******* piece so it will be kept out of circulation, and the remainder will be returned to the next of kin.


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