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.
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.