Once back at the town, the band of adventurers set in for a good nights rest in the Silver Stoat. The next morning, they set out to get some new items to assist them with handling the wintery denizens that have taken residence in the Border Woods. They ended up selling off almost all of the loot they collected in order to purchase a wand of cure light wounds. Colt also made a few more of his dragon’s breath cartridges. The next morning, they felt fully rested and set off once again to the snow covered woods.
They manage to return to the frozen stream without meeting any new dangers. They used a grapple hook to secure a rope to the other side to assist with crossing. Toby was the first to cross. He managed to make it over, but he cracked open a section of the ice. Next Colt, Qari, and Nidhwen follow, Six almost fell into the frigid water before he managed to reach the other shore.
Meanwhile, Toby and Colt explored the other bank. The goblin spotted a boot sticking up from the snow behind a tree. As they slowly closed in on it, they discovered the cold dead body of Old Man Dansby. He was a farmer from Heldren, and he told the town that when the snow came he lost half his crop and the rest to thieves. Most of the party knew him quite well, so his death shocked them. They pulled his body out of the snow and covered it with rocks, but not before collecting his possessions to aid in their quest (he has no family living in Heldren anymore). He had a composite longbow (+1 str) with 12 arrows, a dagger, a masterwork handaxe, and a pouch containing 14 gp, 25 sp, and 18 cp.
The trail begins to climb a ridge line to the south beneath snow-laden trees. The prints of boots and horses mar the freshly fallen snow of the trail.
Qari tells the other that she heard something from off ahead. Toby blends off into the trees to get a better look. The others fan out to cover him. He spots a bandit and sneaks up on him. Six and Nidhwen move up, but are surprised by three others as the battle ensues. Colt had climbed a tree to get height on them, but when he tried to leap to the next tree, he fell to the ground. Toby gets ganged up on before six can move in and assist. However, three of them are killed. The last one fled off into the woods.
After climbing at least a hundred feet into the hills, the snowy trail finally levels off. In a clearing among the trees, a large wooden lodge overlooks a ravine spanned by a long rope bridge. Smoke rises from the lodge’s two snow-covered chimneys, and a large woodpile is stacked against the outer wall. A small outbuilding stands east of the lodge, and a stone well nearly blanketed by snow is barely recognizable to the north. Several tracks lead southwest toward a detached stable.
Toby tries to go around the back of the house, but he trips a trap and a crossbow bolt flies at him. At the same time, a string of pots and pans fell from its perch on the porch alerting any within earshot to their presence. Six and Colt move up to the nearest door while Qari and Nidhwen take more defensive positions. Six knocked on the door and tried to open it, but it won’t budge. Toby and Colt attempt to climb up on the wood pile and peek through the windows, however they aren’t able to see inside.
At about that time, four bandits come around the building, two to a side, and attack. Toby takes the two on the northern side, while Six moves in to attack the other two. Colt moves closer to use his blunderbuss and Qari and Nidhwen use spell and arrow to keep at distance. Six is overwhelmed by his attackers and collapses. Colt and Nidhwen move to his assistance. Soon after, the bandits are killed.
After healing up a bit, They move around the side of the lodge. They take a peek into the stable.
Twin doors open into this low stable, where five stalls hold three horses and a mix of loose straw. A rack of riding gear hangs on the east wall, and a cast-iron tub sits empty in the corner.
Taking note of the three horses, they agree that they will come in very handy when it comes to making it back to town once they find Lady Argentea.
A wooden roof extends over this wide porch. Double doors provide access to the lodge itself. Two small glass windows are set in the walls to either side of the doors.
As Toby and Six mount the porch, they notice that the left door is slightly ajar. As they push the heavy door the rest of the open, they see a bearskin rug. It dominates the floor of this trophy room, and the heads of several deer have been mounted on the walls. Doors lead north and south, while two hallways go farther east.
Toby leads the way inside and hears a slight noise to the north. He opens the first door of the left.
A large fireplace takes up most of the north wll of this room, its radiant heat providing palpable relief from the cold weather outside. Cabinets and shelves line the remaining wall space, and four windows look out on the wintry landscape surrounding the lodge.
As the halfling opens the door, he discovers a half-orc woman standing over a large pot of bubbling soup. She turns around in fright and backs a step away. Toby does his best to calm her and find out why she’s here. She says her name is Tacey and claims to have been traveling through the woods when the snows came and had to take shelter here. They forced her to work the kitchen. The heroes believe her story and after finding out that there were about 10 to 15 bandits, four of which are sick from the cold, they tell her to stay here and she’ll be safe.
They search several of the other rooms and discover a few chests that they agree to come back to later. They then arrive at the room that Tacey told them the sick ones were in.
Four bed, two chests, and a single table with four chairs occupy this room. Three windows look out to the east, west and south, providing a grand view of the snowy gorge outside the lodge.
The four men in here never really stood a chance. They were naked except for a loin cloth and a short sword each. Qari managed to nail one of them to the far wall with a well placed crossbow bolt. They didn’t linger in this room for very long. The only place left to go was up a flight of stairs to a wooden balcony overlooking the great room.
Toby leads the way up the the top. Six, Colt, Qari, and Nidhwen follow. He opens the door and finds an L-shaped table with many chairs taking up most of the floor space in this loft. A second smaller table sits near the entrance, and several windows look over the snowy grounds of the lodge. In the southwest corner, a large map hangs on the wall opposite another door in the northeast wall.
As soon as the halfling ranger opens the door, a pair of blue flame covered skeleton move in to attack him. The aura that surrounded them inflicted cold damage upon the halfling just for being near them. He retreated and Qari moved in. She unleashed an empowered burning hands spell, and the two skeletons shattered into piles of crumbled bones.
Before they could celebrate her spectacular show of arcane prowess, a potent wave of negative energy poured of the area. Toby, Colt, and Qari all collapses, having been knocked unconscious by the power of the attack. Six quickly moved to cover his allies while Nidhwen moved to use her magic to revive her friends. The cleric lept the stairs and landed on top of Nidhwen. Six gave chase and managed to kill the villain. Nidhwen put the healing wand to good use and soothed the wounds of her fallen allies.
Toby and Six search the man and discovered variety of items; a scroll of animate dead (10 HD), a masterwork suit of studded leather, a dagger, a light crossbow with 10 bolts, a masterwork short sword, a cloak (Qari identified it as a cloak of the yetiand kept it for herself), a masterwork set of thieves tools, a ring of keys, a spell book (containing alarm, chill touch, expeditious retreat, feather fall, identify, locate object, and ray of enfeeblement), a wooden holy symbol (which was identified as belonging to Norgorber) and 15 gp.
Nidhwen moved back up the loft room and searched the closet while her others looked at the items. Dozens of small boxes, bottles, and papers fill this musty storeroom. A small iron cage sits on the top shelf, emanating a flickering light like that of a candle. She finds herself to short to reach the cage, so, Six assists her with pulling it down to the table.
The cage contains a very small and weak looking sprite, similar in nature to the three that they fought in the forest the other day. However, this one can hardly move for the exhaustion that afflicts her. Nidhwen takes pity of the poor fey creature and gives her some of her rations. It seems that the little fey is a runt compared to the rest and was hiding out. She tells her name (Vrixx) and that the “bad man” Rohkar caught her when she snuck inside to get some food a few days ago. He tortured her and used a flaming brand in the shape of the unholy symbol on her tiny back. When she turned, the young elven bard discovered that one of her wings was half gone as well, seemingly melted away. Nidhwen asked for the key so she could let the poor little fey out of the cage.
As this was happening upstairs, Toby and Colt used the key ring to unlock the chests and claim their contents. They found a number of flasks of alchemist’s fire, three oils of magic weapon, a gold ingot, a spyglass, a silver ring, three shards of tiger’s eye, a fine pair of elven leather riding boots, a silver dagger, a leather folio (two scrolls of magic weapon, a scroll of endure elements, and a scroll of unseen servant), a mostly used up healer’s kit (only 5 uses left), a potion of lesser restoration, and a blue quartz (Vrixx claimed that Rohkar took it from her when she was captured). When Toby went back to tell Tacey that all was safe, he discovered that she had bolted.
Having seemingly cleared the lodge, our heroes still have yet to find the missing noble woman. Will they find her in time to keep her from further harm…