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…