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.