Pathfinder: Reign of Winter

Cyric's Journal Entry 06
Reign of Winter Session 06

Reign of Winter (Session 06)

While it ran the risk of having the lady of the tower return while we were still present, we decided it would be best to take the fight to the enemy one floor at a time if at all possible. This would help us to shepherd our resources and hopefully prevent us from overreaching our grasp. And at least thus far, it seems to be working well enough.

After taking some precautions with the gateway mirrors and watching the dwarf dismember bodies, we settled in for the evening to rest – at least as best we could given the fact that we were sitting in a hostile fortification. But, other than a brief foray from an atomie, we were unmolested and managed to refresh ourselves enough to continue pushing forward.

It turns out that it was very good that we took a moment of respite, as our trip to the second floor of the tower quickly became a singular, rolling combat. As soon as we were through the portal we spied a rather surprised looking forlarren at the end of the hall. Those of us with sharp ears also heard the tell-tale flutter of invisible atomie wings in the area with us. And so, just like that, the battle was on.

We made short, brutal work of the atomie. The forlarren, which turned out to be a rather competent bard, was another matter entirely. She used music and magic to fairly effectively tie up both of the animal companions that travel with us. And to make matters worse, we heard further noise from both of the rooms off the main hall – so there was no question that it was only a matter of time until additional combatants joined the fray.

One door was opened to reveal a rather nasty Spriggan, already grown to his angry combat stature. Thankfully, he was trapped in a bit of a bottle-neck and wasn’t allowed to make full use of his size. Between the dwarf and the oracle, they were able to lay the brute low before he was able to deal anyone too grievous of harm.

While this was going on, we had been hearing casting from the opposite door. Then, the occupant – a stern looking woman wielding a great sword – slipped through an off door into the room we first appeared in. Thankfully, the rogue heard her approaching and was able to squeeze himself behind the door and get the drop on her when she entered. But she was made of stern stuff and she answered him blow for blow, nearly killing him before assistance could arrive.

With the woman and the spriggan both down, the forlarren agreed that discretion was indeed the better part of valor and accepted my offer to surrender. Smart lass, that one.

Then came the tending of wounds and a bit of friendly interrogation… during which everyone was surprisingly civil and cordial to one another. Perhaps some of my compatriots have finally twigged to the fact that not all of the people we are battling are truly evil. Some of them are simply being pressed into service by powers far beyond their ken to have any chance of coping with. Hell, for many of them it is likely either service or death – and not only for them, but for their loved ones as well.

But I digress. We garnered a fair bit of information from Mierul Ardelain, the forlarren bard. It seems she was a guest in the tower and didn’t seem to hold any great loyalty to the occupants. She gave us a bit of an overview of what else to expect from the tower’s occupants and warned us of the doppelganger posing as a noble woman in one of the rooms on the second floor. She also warned us of the mandrake in the kitchen – a nasty little plant man who would just as soon kill you as talk to you.

After letting Mierul go, we turned our attention to Sgt. Hestrig Orlov, one of the two people in charge of the tower’s defenses. It took a bit more convincing to get her to speak with us, but the fact that we had treated her wounds and had kept our word to the forlarren and let her go seemed to carry a fair amount of weight with the wounded soldier. She gave us the key to the higher portions of the tower and warned us about both Radosek and Jairess Sonn, a sylph who acts as the mistress of the witch crows and keeps herself in the eyrie. She warned us that both would be able to fly, or at least levitate, so that is something we will need to take into account as we prepare to deal with them.

We also sent Hestrig on her way in peace. Mig, the spriggan, we simply allowed to bleed to death, as there was little chance of a peaceful change of heart there. We also disposed of the mandrake, taking the plant’s body for magical components.

Then it was time to deal with the doppelganger. She wore the guise of Argentea Malassene, which I’m sure would have been terribly confusing had we not spoken with Mierul about her true nature. As it was, she managed to run the dwarf through with a rapier before he cut her in twain.

After that, we set about scouring the second floor, breaking the scrying mirrors, rooting out anything and everything of value, and determining the best place to hole up for the evening before progressing on to either the eyrie or to Radosek’s private chambers.

Cyric's Journal Entry 05
Reign of Winter Session 05

Reign of Winter (Session 05)

Before stepping through the portal, it was decided that we should likely better provision and outfit ourselves for the coming journey. To that end, we trekked across the expanding tundra to the city of Oppara, the capital of Taldor. On the way to the city, we took the time to question our captive about what awaits us on the far side of the magical rift.

It seems that the portal comes out near the village of Waldsby in Irrisen, some two thousand plus miles from our current location. From there, it is only a short jaunt through the forest before we will reach our destination, The Pale Tower, where we hope to find a means by which to close the portal before all of Taldor becomes an icy wasteland.

While in Oppara, not only did we purchase what we thought we would need, but we also turned over the ice mephit, Izoze, to Lady Malassene’s family for proper justice. Somehow I don’t think the diminutive elemental is likely to survive the experience, given her hand in the noblewoman’s kidnapping and the death of her guards.

We then trudged our way back across the growing icy expanse to the portal in the troll’s cave. And sure enough, once we worked up the nerve to step through, we found ourselves half way across the world in the wilds of Irrisen. From the far side, the portal was almost invisible, little more than a cataract hanging in the air. I made a rough map, noting local landmarks and such should we wish to return. But, if we are successful at the Pale Tower, the hope is there will be nothing to return to once we are done.

Not long after, I heard shouting in the distance and upon investigating, we came upon a group of people being attacked by a woefully out of place giant mantis. Due to some rather timely intervention, there we no casualties, save for the far roaming, overgrown insect. The group was lead by Nadya Petska, a woodsman from Waldsby, who offered to help sneak us into town, as the crow spies of the witches are everywhere.

Unfortunately, some members of our group are far less than subtle, and we were set upon by a rather unnatural flock of crows. We managed to drive them off, but not before a couple of members of our group suffered some rather unpleasant abrasions to their eyes, leaving their vision impaired. Nadya said there was a healer in Waldsby who might be able to help them once we arrived.

After a short time, our motley band made it into the village. There were a few interesting sights to see, including a statue of a woman in a long gown reaching out to the west. This was only really curious because there had been a similar statue back in Heldren. It is possible that it was just someone from the same school of sculpting, but it would still be odd to see them so far removed from one another.

Another interesting bit was a manner house that had been burned to the ground. We would later find that the home had belonged to Tiovar Lycovich and his family. He had apparently lead something of an insurrection against the powers that be, and when it failed, he and his family were burned alive in their home. This should serve as a rather stark lesson as to the type of people and regime we find ourselves engaged with. We will need to be careful when seeking out allies in these hostile lands, not only for our own safety, but for their safety as well.

The healer that Nadya brought us to was a priest of Pharasma named Rolf Halsberg, who tended the graveyard in Waldsby. He was able to see to the eyes of my companions and was generously willing to share a bit of information with us about the village and the local goings on. It was clear that he was afraid to say too much – and with families being burned alive who could blame him. Unfortunately, this level of subtlety seemed to elude our dwarven compatriot, who ended up insulting and threatening him, which in turn lead to him losing favor with Nadya and forcing us to take our leave from the chapel.

We then went to Nadya’s home, where her two boys, Orom and Mioli were being looked after by the neighbor woman, Kashka. It seems Nadya’s husband had died some time ago, and her daughter, Thora, had been taken to the Pale Tower as a servant after making a joke about one of the winter witches. At first we hoped to perhaps rescue Thora when we assaulted the Pale Tower, but after a bit we realized that her child was, in fact, the little girl we had seen in the frozen clearing with the ice spikes and creepy doll. It was difficult telling her that her child was gone, and in the end I sought out the aid of Rolf Halsberg to help her deal with her grief, as I have never been what one would call “good” with people.

In Nadya’s home we also spied a rather surly domovoi, or house elf, by the name of Hatch. As it turns out, it was Hatch who had told Thora the joke about the winter witches that lead to her being taken. He felt terribly guilty about what he had done and wanted a bit of payback against those in the Pale Tower – a place he had formerly served himself until his jesting ways lead him to be beaten and left for dead in the snow. Now, it seemed that Hatch might be our ticket to actually being able to make it into the Pale Tower, as all of the gates are magical and require passwords and tokens to activate.

Hatch was also able to tell us a bit about the Pale Tower itself. The structure is relatively new, erected solely by the magic of the white witches. It is a stalagmite of ice, standing as tall as three houses, with a wall of ice surrounding the entire thing. Nazhena Vasilliovna, a winter witch, is the mistress of the Pale Tower – and is likely much more powerful than we are currently capable of dealing with. Fortunately, she and many of the guards are often gone from the tower, out searching for the other Riders of Baba Yaga. Unfortunately, her apprentice, Radosek Pavril, is likely running things in her stead. In addition, there is likely a skeleton crew of guardsmen, a female satyr performer, a few winter-touched atomies, a spriggan, a couple of elementals, a rich lady, and a troll who will likely be in residence. All in all, it sounds like rather long odds that we will be able to deal with all of this, but given the alternative, I see little choice but to at least try.

We were working on various plans to get into the Pale Tower, when an option literally came knocking on the door. It seemed the crows had reported back about our presence in the area and guards had been dispatched to question the townsfolk about us. They came pounding on Nadya’s door and we decided it best to play it off as though we had taken her hostage – as that would likely be the safest option for her family. We made short work of the guards and decided to don their gear as a ruse to get us into the tower. And overall, it actually worked rather well.

Our ploy got us as far as the courtyard before we were confronted by a rather irate frost troll. Thankfully, we managed to put her down before she slaughtered any of us. We searched the rest of the courtyard and the kennels before pressing onward. It was time to see if Hatch was right about his passwords. Luckily, for him and us, his memory was good and the door made of icy spikes opened into an area with many guard barracks and a hot spring.

We ended up fighting, and killing the guards. The hot spring, much to my chagrin, ended up being the lair of a rather hostile water elemental. We managed to destroy it, but not before it did some rather grievous damage to several of us. For now we will need to take a brief respite, being vigilant against further assaults and keeping a careful eye out for the scrying mirrors that seem to be so prevalent in this region.

Cyric's Journal Entry 04
Session 04

Reign of Winter (Session 04)
It seems that even once it was destroyed, magic still lingered in the eyes of the malevolent porcelain doll. One eye, the mirror, glowed with divination magic. The other eye, the sapphire, shown with necromancy. The mirror was smashed without question. It seems no one wanted others to be able to spy upon us. As for the sapphire, we noticed the image of a young girl dressed in the same manner as the doll still moving through the ice spears, offering her apologies for whatever wrong she had committed, ever begging to be left alone. I had once read of something similar, wherein the fell Irrisen witches would snatch the very soul out of a person and place it inside an item, usual a gem, thus trapping them forever and preventing them from moving on to Pharasma’s realm. relayed this information to the others and was more than a little horrified that there were some amongst us who were more concerned about the value of the stone than in setting this poor child’s soul free. But regardless, set her free I did, even though it was amidst protest.

I must say, I am growing somewhat concerned about the true natures of some of those I seem to have fallen in with. Do not misunderstand me, I realize that for many, greed and personal gain are their primary, driving goals in this life. I can even, to a degree, understand the desire to better one’s lot in life. But to measure gold against the soul of an innocent – the soul of a child – how can there be any room for discussion at all in that circumstance?

After spending an evening in the clearing, using the doll house as kindling, we moved further along the mountain towards the source of the cold. Our day was mostly uneventful, but that evening a dire weasel stalked us while we made camp. It took a rather large chunk out of the oracle, but we were able to drive it off and the leopard and bear were able to bring it down. Honestly, I’m not sure we needed to kill it. It was simply an animal looking for a meal in the cold. We happened to be the meal that was at hand. Circle of life and all that.

The next day we somewhat stumbled into the moss troll’s lair. Perhaps in the future it might behoove us to send out forward scouts so that we don’t find ourselves stumbling into similar situations unawares. Just a thought, but it might be well worth investigating. In this case, the natural grotto was populated by a winter-touched atomie, a small air elemental, Izoze, the ice mephit, and Teb, the moss troll. But, despite the varied array of enemies gathered against us, what most drew my attention was the swirling, icy vortex spinning in one corner of the stoney cavern. It was fairly pulsing with magic and seemed to be the source of the wintery weather encroaching upon the region.

But, as much as I might have liked to stop and study the portal then and there, we unfortunately had slightly more pressing matters to attend to – namely not dying at the hands of the moss troll and his icy cohorts. It was a rather fierce battle, but in the end we managed to make a good showing and dispatched or captured all but the winter-touched atomie, who turned invisible and fled the area. The troll lay dead, burned nearly to cinders, the air elemental was dispersed, sent back to its home plane, and the ice mephit was unconscious, bound tightly and wounds stabilized so that we could question her at our leisure about what her and Teb’s plans were.

Then we spent a bit of time thoroughly searching the area and examining the frosty vortex. Our search turned up a fair amount of loot, both on the bodies of the slain and in a buried lockbox beneath the moss troll’s sleeping rug.

Much more interesting than the material goods was the body we found frozen in the snow, or at least the apparition that was still lingering over the body. The corpse itself appeared to be an old man wearing a black cloak, his body rent by claw and blades. But the spirit that manifested was much more impressive to behold. Clad in articulated black mail and a magnificent stag helm, there was little question that this was the visage of the Black Rider, one of Baba Yaga’s three chosen, supposedly immortal, heralds.

It seems that the Witch Queen, Elvanna, current ruler of Irrisen, has decided to rebel against her mother, Baba Yaga, and has forcibly refused to cede the throne to her rightfully appointed successor. To this end, she has killed Baba Yaga’s riders, chained the Dancing Hut, and has begun to spread these winter portals across Golarion, perhaps across Toril, and has begun to spread the icy hand of winter across the face of the world.

According to the specter of the Rider, certain events must occur for Baba Yaga to appear and name the new queen of Irrisen. This is what Queen Elvanna is preventing, throwing the natural order of things into chaos. And this is what the Black Rider wishes us to help correct, lest the world suffer an ice age the likes of which has never been seen.

To prevent this, we must travel through the winter portal to Irrisen. There, we must journey to the Pale Tower, which is ruled over by Radosek Pavril, a white witch in the service of Queen Elvanna. Only then do we have a chance to close the portal and stave off the icy doom that faces us. To that end, he has given us a pair of talisman, a lock of frost giant’s hair and a plague doctor’s mask, that he says are keys to finding Baba Yaga. There will, according to the Rider, be more keys and we will be drawn to them.

Lastly, the Black Rider offered us the Mantle of Baba Yaga. He said that it would aid us in our quest. Honestly, he had me simply by saying there was a chance to literally save the world. The opportunity to travel in the fabled Dancing Hut was simply icing on the proverbial cake. But again, I was shown that not all of my companions share the same enthusiasm for actually doing good works. One even suggested that we turn away and leave it to someone else to handle. I find this lack of concern for one’s world and the welfare of one’s fellow man to be particularly odious. After all, evil triumphs when good men sit by and do nothing.

Eventually everyone agreed to take up the Mantle of Baba Yaga, which settled over us in the form of a powerful enchantment. Now it is simply a matter of gathering what provisions we require and moving forward through this truly fascinating portal.

Cyric's Journal Entry 03
Session 03

Reign of Winter (Session 03)

The necromancer, Rohkar Cindren, tried to flee across the bridge away from the hunting lodge, calling out for aid from the ice mephit, Izoze. But his foot speed was no match for that of the snow leopard’s and the hunting cat was on him before he made it halfway across the rickety bridge. It was a precarious battle, during which I learned that Rohkar was a servant of the Gray Master, Norgorber. It is hard to have much sympathy for one who follows the shadowy ways of the lord of thieves and assassins, but once Rohkar surrendered, most of us deemed it would be best to bring him back to Heldren to face justice.

Once we had the killer in custody, we set about searching the rest of the hunting lodge. Hidden beneath a rug was a trapdoor into a cellar and there we finally found the object of our pursuit, the Lady Argentea Malassene. She was suffering from dehydration and malnourishment, but otherwise appeared to be unmolested. When we questioned Rohkar about it, the priest claimed that he had taken the lady at the behest of Teb Knotten, the moss troll leading the winter touched fey in the region, though he didn’t know why.

We released the very grateful noblewoman and tried to suppress a smile as she took out a bit of her righteous indignation upon the Norgorberite. We also found a caged winter touched sprite that Rohkar had been holding. It seems that his relationship with Teb and the fey was less than copacetic and that the tensions may well have eventually become violent had we not intervened. The cage fey tried desperately to deceive and bargain its way to freedom, but we were having none of it.

Then we set about clearing the hunting lodge of the dead and liberating whatever possessions the bandits happened to have with them. All in all, it made for a rather hefty bit of goods – including a few magic items and a spellbook that I will, of course, put to good use.

Our return trip to town was mostly uneventful. We found that the bandit we’d left tied to the tree had managed to extricate himself and had fled. And we were forced to endure more whiny and chiding from the winter touched fey, but compared to our trip to the lodge it was nothing too terribly concerning.

Once in town, we were pleased to find that Yuln Oerstag had mostly recovered from his injuries. He had lost a few fingers and a portion of his nose to the frostbite, but all in all could count himself far luckier than his companions had been. I must say, I was pleasantly surprised to see that Lady Malassene seemed genuinely aggrieved at the loss of her people. I had expected a much colder, more selfish reaction from one born to Taldor aristocracy – so her show of humanity was heartening and raised the noblewoman’s estimation in my eyes.

We then turned over Rohkar and the winter touched sprite to the town for justice to be served. That justice almost came at the end of a noose without so much as a trial when the scared and angry townsfolk heard that the Norgorberite might be one of those responsible for their woes. It was only due to the timely intervention of Lady Malassene that Rohkar wasn’t killed then and there. But I was pleased to see that she would be bringing him back to Oppara to stand proper trial – though there is really no question what the outcome will be. Perhaps, if we continue to serve as agents of the people of Taldor, we should seek some form of official sanction so that we might legally mete out justice without having to deal with the taking of prisoners. Just a thought…

We then set about divesting ourselves of the extraneous goods we had procured along the way – which we managed to turn into a tidy sum of coinage. We held on to the magical items we encountered, as Heldren simply did not have enough of an economy to support that level of trade. We then outfitted ourselves once again and set out to see about the unnatural winter that is plaguing the land.

We quickly found we were being spied upon by another of the winter touched fey – another sprite, to be specific – but a well timed ambush eliminated that threat. Otherwise, our return trip to the hunting lodge proved uneventful. Well, at least mostly uneventful. Both the dwarf and the oracle seem to have contracted a mild case of the Chillbane Shakes from the bandits and began to lag behind a bit until they could recover from their infirmity.

We found there were two horses in the stables outside the hunting lodge. One likely belonged to Lady Malassene and the other was an old draft animal. Both were hungry and a bit dehydrated, but with a little care they were salvageable. Of course, given that we were crossing a rather rickety rope bridge, it was necessary to leave them behind. So, along with the pack mule that Asa purchased and plenty of food, they were left in the stables while we pressed on. Hopefully we won’t be too long.

In the night we heard the rattling of chains from across the gorge. A bit of scouting revealed it to be a trio of skeletons stalking through the night. They didn’t seem to be coming any closer, so we decided they were an issue best dealt with in the light of day. Otherwise, the rest of the night passed uneventfully.

The next morning we set out across the bridge. After some brief discussion, we decided to clear the skeletons from the area and made short work of them before pressing on through the bitter cold.

A bit later in the day we spied an odd looking copse of fir trees. Somewhat strange was that the trees appeared to be moving. Thinking back through my lessons, I was able to place them as Frost Firs, a sentient plant species distantly related to the Treants and most commonly found in the icy northlands. The Frost Firs are, amongst other things, known as being fiercely territorial. We tried to peacefully hail them, but they reacted with aggression and violent hostility. This, unfortunately, lead to both of them being killed. We followed their trail back to their grove, where it appeared there were six saplings. I fear that the saplings won’t survive long in this climate should we manage to set the weather straight. But honestly, that is a worry for another day. For now, we simply left them be.

That night passed mostly uneventfully, save for the fact that I was plagued by some less than pleasant dreams – which is unusual given the nature of my meditations. I am unsure of the source of this malady, but I doubt it was a natural occurrence.

The next day we began our ascent into the hills in earnest. Part way through the day I spied a specular highlight refracting off what may or may not be ice further along. Of course, with the unnatural winter, ice wouldn’t be that unusual. What made it a bit more curious was that the light seemed to have a distinctive blue cast to it. But, since none of us were in possession of a spy glass, I simply filed it away as a curiosity to keep in mind and we pressed onward.

A bit further on the trail opened into something of a clearing. I say something of because the clearing bore two very strange features. The first was what appeared to be dozens of Cheval de Frise made out of ice. The second was what looked to be a ten foot tall child’s dollhouse at the center of the area. There seemed to be some form of magic circulating throughout the Cheval de Frise, which Asa quickly learned, much to her chagrin, was some type of fear inducing necromantic effect. After the rogue ran off screaming, the rest of us were much more careful in how we approached it.

It seems that the magic had the ability to show you your deepest fear or regret. Interestingly, if you could manage to contain your terror, you could also spy the fears of the others around you in the reflections of the shards of ice. After gleaning this fact, I also noticed that there was a reflection of a little girl being chased by some unseen monstrosity. Perhaps the girl’s fear was the source of the apparition? Something to ponder for another time, I suppose.

Once everyone had gathered themselves, we approached the dollhouse. After some debate about simply burning it down, we opened the door and inside spied a creepy little porcelain doll. One of the doll’s eyes was a gem and one was a mirror. Laying nearby was what appeared to be a bloodstained toy knife.

The doll itself was radiating moderate necromantic and divination magics, while the knife was giving off a faint illusory aura. Asa wanted the knife, so I fetched it for her with a cantrip. I likely wouldn’t have had I known her intent. It seems that her reaction to the unknown is to smash it with a big rock – literally. While we were all busy being a bit shocked by that, the door to the dollhouse slammed shut. When we reopened it, the doll was gone. But it wasn’t long until we discovered where it had absconded to.

The now animate doll flew above the house and assaulted us with magic. It charmed Asa, but I managed to incapacitate her without doing any lasting harm. It was a pitched battle against the diminutive construct, as it took magical weaponry to harm it and it was more than a bit resistant to spells, but eventually we managed to put the creature down.

We will likely need to rest here for a bit, search the dollhouse and the doll itself, and perhaps destroy both before moving on…

Valbrand's Journal
Or rather, Valbrand's letter home.

Dear Little Sister,

I am sick to death of cold. Over the past few months that I have been traveling the world, I have been looking forward to finally reaching the year-round heat of the southlands. A few days ago I arrived in the farthest reaches of Avistan, the seat of the crubmled empire of Taldor, a land of sun-warmed plains and hot ocean breezes. The aching bones and twisted muscles of my lamed leg were finally starting to warm up and regain some of their old flexibility in the southern heat when I followed a call to free a captive noblewoman. Which led me into a frozen forest as bitter as one of our own winters at home. So instead of drinking too-sweet wine in hot winds and lying on a ground glowing with warmth, I find myself trudging through the snow and ice in pursuit of bandits again. Only this time the bandits are accompanied by a necromancer and frost-twisted fey. Have I been hallucinating and am actually just a few miles from home on the Irrisen border? I wonder sometimes. There are certainly enough other Ulfen here to make that joking theory feel plausible.

I’ll write with more when I can feel my hands again.

With Love,

Cyric's Journal Entry 02
Session 02

Reign of Winter (Session 02)
After our less than stellar showing against the winter-touched sprites, we decided it would be best to camp and rest for a bit. Personally I was simply hoping to shake the chill the little bastard’s arrows had left me with. But it was also a chance to regain a bit of our strength and magics before pressing on to the villain’s lair.

While resting, we were roused by the sound of… babbling. It sounded like someone speaking, but the words came at such a clip as to be almost indecipherable. Curious as to what it was about, we started to move to see from whence the noise was coming, only to be hailed by a human woman boldly making her way into our camp, trusting in her cacophony to somehow keep her safe. The woman, an Ulfen by the name of Asa, and her somewhat begrudging travelling companion, a dwarf named Dran Cragback, had apparently been following our back trail from the village of Heldren. It seems the villagers had less than complete faith in our abilities to find out what had become of Lady Malassene and were continuing to send other would be heroes in our wake.

I suppose that in this case it turned out for the best, as several of our number, including the barbarian, the cleric and the bard seem to have been hit particularly hard by the unnatural cold we are experiencing and have taken ill. So, given the numbers of the enemy we are facing, it is probably good to have whatever extra support we can muster.

As we prepared to set out in the morning, Lana spied a white stag romping its way across the newly minted tundra. Taking it as a potential sign from her deity, Erastil, we decided to set off after the beast and see if there was something more to it than met the eye. Indeed, it turned out there was, but it was none of Old Deadeye’s doing.

Instead, we found that the stag was serving as the steed for a rather mischievous atomie, a deceptive little fey that was looking to have a bit of evil, potentially lethal, fun at our expense. While the oracle was having an extended conversation with the stag, some of us realized there was more to the beast than met the eye… and our new dwarf companion decided that venison sounded delicious. So after the stag caught a lethal chakram to the throat, I color sprayed the fairy and we interrogated it at length.

More or less the atomie confirmed what we already knew about the region from speaking with the sprites previously. There was a moss troll who ran things, a scary mean ice mephit who delights in doing evil, and then some stinky humans living in a small keep they had taken from other stinky humans. Nothing particularly new, but it is always good to independently verify one’s information.

Unlike the sprite, we made no promises to the atomie. It tried to dupe us with magic, but ended up split in twain by the blade of a cold iron long sword. Messy business. But it did give me opportunity to study the anatomy of the diminutive fey. On the whole it made for fascinating research, but the part that was truly extraordinary was that I was able to verify the veracity regarding the supposed myths about the winter-touched fey. The fairy truly did have a sliver of magical ice plunged into its heart. The ice did not seem to impair the function of the fae’s heart in any manner, but it did seem to suffuse it with an aura of supernatural cold. I have managed to harvest the ice sliver and look forward to having a chance to further study the process and effect of this most curious magic.

Deciding we had spent enough time on our side excursion, we began making our way back towards the bandit’s keep. Ahead on the road we spied what looked to be a snowman with a placard hanging about its neck. The placard simply read, “Turn Back”. Of course, that wasn’t going to happen. But perhaps we could have inspected the obvious trap a bit more thoroughly – or at all – before willfully setting it off. But alas, that was not the case. Instead, a certain oracle knocked the snowman’s hat off and set off the sonic burst trap, which signaled an ambush from a trio of bandits on the far side of the frozen river. To complicate matters even further, there were deliberately weakened spots along the ice of the river and a pair of ice elementals waiting to accost those who tried to cross. All in all it made for a nasty bit of business that we were quite lucky to survive.

But survive we did. In fact, much to my own surprise, I was able to even fell one of the bandits with the crossbow I had acquired. It has been some time since I actual directly participated in bloodshed and I find that I have grown no fonder of it in the intervening years. But sometimes needs are as they must and we were given little choice or say in the matter as the bandits were more than happy to kill us had we failed to adequately defend ourselves.

In the end we took one of the bandits, a fellow named Snork, prisoner and managed to glean some additional information from him about the bandits and their redoubt. It seems the keep we had been told of was actually a hunting lodge that they had taken from the Sentinels after said guardians untimely demise. The bandits themselves are led by a necromancer named Rokar and his men, in a bit of vainglory, are known as Rokar’s Raiders. It also seemed they had a new member, a female half-orc by the name of Ten-Penny, and that she wasn’t being treated particularly well – which meant that she might be a point of leverage we could make use of.

We also learned that the troll and the mephit did not stay in the lodge with the raiders, but we off across a bridge “where the winter is coming from” according to our prisoner. But there were likely a few skeletons that Rokar kept around. Nasty business, but not terribly surprising given the zombies we had encountered previously.

Finally it was time to approach the hunting lodge and see what there was to see. It turns out there wasn’t much to the place, but still, given the disparity in our numbers, it was best to take a slow, cautious approach. We scouted, watched, and rested – trying to get a feel for their numbers and their movements over the course of the day. Then, once night fell, it was time to move in and see if we could perhaps make contact with Ten-Penny, thus granting ourselves whatever advantage we could.

But, as they are often want to do, plans crumbled upon contact with the enemy. An unnoticed trap in the snow drew the attention of those inside sooner than we wished. But it turned out well enough, as we captured another of the raiders and made contact with Ten-Penny. It turns out she had no great love for Rokar or his Raiders and was more than happy to help us do away with them.

So, once more into the breach we went. There were a few raiders who hadn’t succumb to the cold themselves that we had to deal with, but many more had taken a chill and were laid up in their sick beds and offered little in the way of resistance. Then it was time to face Rokar himself, or at least that was our hope. We pressed upward to his room on the second floor only to encounter his undead servants. But a pair of skeletons is hardly daunting to such a rugged group. But they did give the necromancer a bit of a head start as he fled towards the bridge and towards the trolls lair. We set out after him, but we will have to see if we manage to catch him or if that will be a battle for another time…

Lana's Journal

Last night was the anniversary of my father’s death and being surrounded by several of my countrymen did nothing to ease the pain. It has been six months since my father was killed and Yuri falsely sold into slavery. The Mitchells testified to the Lord that Yuri owed them weregild, claiming he had cheated them in their breeding operation. The Lord accepted their claims without even giving Yuri a chance to speak in his own defense. Technically, Mitchell was named my protector until I marry, but the servant who observed the entire mess said the man’s laughter and shared mead with the lord suggested that they may as well have added “or until you kill her.” My only hope to free my brother and avenge my family will be to appeal to the Jarl, but I know neither the words to make such an appeal nor have the proof of what was done to my family.
After wandering south, Fear and I were sadly no closer to an answer until we happened upon the wizard Cyric Blackwell. The Ulfen we traveled with are not particularly helpful in my quest, though to be fair I have not shared it with them. Speaking ill of the Mitchells or the lord without proof could well end with me in chains, so I remain silent most of the time. The Ulfen seem very motivated to make money and drink. They have shown some enthusiasm for killing things, so I suppose that when we return home they may be formidable friends should our acquaintanceship become something more permanent. The wizard, on the other hand, and the gnome recently joining our company might prove to be exactly the help I need. Both seem polished and well-spoken; I suspect that with either of them speaking on my behalf I could get an audience with the Jarl’s second. Of course, then I just need proof of my allegations. My eyewitness testimony about the death of my father would be good enough to convict the assassins, but perhaps not enough to reach Mitchell and the lord. Cyric seems interested in learning more about the Jarl, so perhaps I can persuade him to help. The bard, it seems, may be the moral compass that my countrymen seem lacking.
Figuring out how to get Cyric and Nantambu to act on my behalf may take a bit of work, if the idiot Valbrand doesn’t get us all killed first. Apparently, he’s never worked as part of a team before. We were having dinner at the inn in Heldren when it became obvious the village was in an uproar about something. Our priest apparently has spent too long outside of the Thanelands and doesn’t remember how to keep from snooping. He discovered a noblewoman’s entourage had been attacked, leaving a single survivor to make it to the village. With the town ill-equipped to find the bandits that kidnapped the noble woman, or possibly because of the hint of a reward should we rescue the missing lady, we agreed to investigate the attack. Nantambu pointed out that there was likely only an uproar because it was a noble and that the road was often a dangerous place, but I suspect no one was listening. The other Ulfen in the party seem greatly motivated by the thought of reward, except Valbrand who seems to want to kill whatever he encounters. That may be why he walks with a limp, slowing us down every step of the way. For not the first time in my journey, I missed Baxter as we trudged through the cold forest to the spot of the ambush.
The fact that the forest is cold this close to Erastus and midsummer makes me worry for the future of this village. I suspect their crops will be poor this year, should the plants even make it to harvest. The cold seems guaranteed to be magical in origin, though most of my companions have simply shrugged and wrapped their winter cloaks a bit tighter. It is, I suppose, the practicality of our people. If it is cold, you handle it. Life does not stop for winter. When we arrived at the ambush site, it was clear unnatural cold magics had been used there. The corpse that had been frozen solid after being looted made that clear. And not for the first time, I suspected Valbrand might indeed get us all killed. I felt the presence of the unnatural, in the form of undeath, emanating from the carriage which was wedged closed with a spear. Cyric and Nantambu began to offer up a plan for addressing the issue with the least danger to our companions, but Valbrand rushed forward, pulled out the spear and freed the creatures within. Once they were dispatched and the area searched for clues and riches, we followed the trail to attempt to rescue the lady.
The bandits left a trail a child could follow and perhaps they meant to, leading us to a clearing with a deadfall trap. Thankfully, even my bumbling companions recognized it for what it was and were able to disable it. We spent the night in the clearing before heading on to the forest where we were assaulted by ice sprites. After the priest tried to light the forest on fire (thank Deadeye for the snow!) and my bow proved less than useful against the mischievous little bastards, we eventually captured one and questioned it, discovering that the local guardians of the woods had been killed and their camp taken over by an ice mephit and some brand of troll who lead the bandits. I long even more for my horse and for companions whose plan is more than charge into battle and burn everything to the ground.

Cyric's Journal Entry 01
Session 01

So, primarily out of curiosity, I find myself traveling with a group of Ulfen – at least the majority of them are Ulfen. I have spent some time in the Lands of the Linnorm Kings previously, but that was several decades ago, so I am enjoying the chance to hear the more recent additions to their oral history. I am especially interested in the tale of Sveinn Blood-Eagle, the current king of Kalsgard and the man most likely to reunite those lands under a single banner. It has been some time since the Thanelands have had a high king and have worked towards a unified end. It will fascinating to see the reaction from the neighboring kingdoms if this comes to pass.

I also find the group I am traveling with somewhat curious in and of themselves. The theory was that they were on an adventurous sojourn, seeing the world beyond the borders of their own kingdom. But they have wandered much further afield than most, especially considering the tender ages of the majority of those involved. As I write, I would put us at roughly two thousand miles removed from the Lands of the Linnorm Kings, as the crow flies. If they wander much further south, they will quickly find themselves in Qadira. But there is a servant of the Dawnflower amongst their ranks – which makes our time in Taldor even more interesting given this country’s persecution of his goddess – so perhaps heading to Qadira is precisely what they have in mind. Maybe afterwards we can see about booking passage on a vessel to Jalmeray. It has been too many years since I was last there.

When we first entered Taldor, I thought perhaps one or more of them might be seeking to become a member of the Ulfen Guard in Oppara. Maybe looking to serve one of the Bearded as a bodyguard until they could catch the eye of the Grand Prince or one of his loyal lapdogs. I suppose aspiring to die for the benefit of the Primogen Crown might appeal to some. But that proved not to be the case and our time in Taldor’s capital city was brief, at best. And now we find ourselves entering a small village, Heldren, on the edge of the Border Woods. I had hoped we could have a quiet repast and then venture into the Padishah Empire on the morrow. But alas, that doesn’t look like it is going to be the case.

It seems there is a damsel in distress, which is much like catnip to the younger, more eager members of our entourage. Not that I am opposed to lending aid when and where I can, but it seems that Taldor has more than its share of militant orders, any one of which would likely be better suited for such a venture. In fact, I had almost thought to bid my young Ulfen friends luck on their excursion and seek my own fortune’s elsewhere… at least until I began to note a most peculiar weather phenomenon originating from the same direction the noble woman, Argentea Malassene, was taken.

Despite it being early summer in one of the warmest areas of the continent, there is a chill on the air. Not a simple cool breeze, but a much more lasting cold. And from what I have gleaned from the locals, the woods are far more gelid than here in town. Many of the hunters have spoken of nearly glacial conditions, which is all but unknown in this far flung corner of the world. A periodic light dusting of snow from time to time in the dead of winter, certainly. But polar vortexes in the nascent weeks of summer, that is fascinating indeed.

So at the impromptu town meeting I readily tossed my proverbial hat into the ring along with the rest of my traveling companions when volunteers were requested. And to begin our investigation, we spoke with Lady Malassene’s sole surviving bodyguard. My first thought was that perhaps he might have had a hand in his mistress’ current plight, but after actually meeting the fellow, any thought of foul play or skullduggery was quickly disabused. He was a grog swilling grunt, nothing more, who simply lucked into living through the encounter that proved fatal to the rest of his brothers in arms.

However, the interview wasn’t a complete waste. We were not only able to garner a firsthand account of the ambush that lead to Lady Malassene’s captivity, but we also gathered valuable information in regards to the nature of their assailants. It seems that some of the darker fey in the region have thrown their lot in with the bandits and highwaymen. In particular, this poor fellow will likely loose several fingers and the tip of his nose due to the frigid breath of an ice mephit. Nasty business. But what in the bloody hell is an ice mephit doing this far south? And how is it linked to the strange weather in this narrow strand of woods on the Taldor / Qadira border?

I suppose there is but one manner by which to find the answers I seek with any measure of certainty. And so off we go, traipsing through the woods like a merry band of fools. One would think I was old enough to know better by now. But sometimes the siren song of the unknown is simply too much to overcome I suppose.

The hunters were not exaggerating about the cold. By the time we reached the woods I found myself bundling up against the frigid wind. An hour after that and I was leaning on my magic to keep myself from succumbing to hypothermia. I have been to the vast wastes to the north of the Realm of the Mammoth Lords and I swear this damned woods is every bit as bitterly cold. This question is how? Even an immensely powerful practitioner of the art would find it nearly impossible to effect such a large area. Perhaps something else then? A planar gate? Some fell artifact? The direct attention of the divine? All questions that beg to be answered.

After an altercation with some less than friendly sprites, we have divined the location of the abducted noblewoman. It seems she is being held in a large wooden house near a gorge. Unfortunately, we have also determined that she is not alone. It seems that, at minimum, there is a moss troll named Teb Knotten, who is perhaps in charge, an ice mephit named Izoze, a half orc, and maybe a dozen human bandits that keep residence there.

I can’t help but look around at our group and think what poor odds those are for us. I would like to think that our cleverness and cunning might help to balance the scales, but I swear the foolish Aasimar, who is so desperately trying to pass himself off for human, has some sort of a death-wish. I just hope that he doesn’t end up dragging others with him when he shuffles off his mortal coil…

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