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…