As they prepared to set off the next morning, they were ambushed by four small air elementals. For all the damage they did, the elementals were quickly dispatched.
Moving onward, the trail they were following as it takes a northern swing. The temperature continues to drop the closer they get to the center of the Border Wood. The snow piles get deeper and deeper, until at the edge of the clearing they currently find themselves at, it’s an average of 2 to 4 feet deep and crusted over with a layer of frozen sleet. It looked like nothing has disturbed the snow here for some time.
Four low igloos stand here in the snow. A well-packed trail of large footprints passes between them, heading both north and west.
Heavy snow blows from the northwest obscuring all distance vision. as Six moved carefully into the clearing. He moves toward the first of the igloos to look inside. At that exact moment something slams into the side of Six’s head and the sound of a massive peal of thunder echos from the small object. Six is effectively deaened, but the others managed to fight off the effects.
A moment later a vial of icy blue liquid smashes into Nidhwen’s chest causing her to take cold damage. Then a large moss troll comes running from the barely visible cavern entrance and charges into Six. Colt moves to range and starts blasting at the creature, while Qari uses her fiery magic. Toby is then attacked by several of those tiny icy arrows being shot from winter-touched sprites. As Nidhwen was about to get involved in the combat another sprite leveled a color spray spell at her and she fell into unconsciousness.
Toby could see that the damage being done to the troll wasn’t as effective as it should be as it started regenerating anything that wasn’t fire based. Six was overpowered and fell to the trolls might and it turned his attention to the annoying goblin with the blunderbuss. Toby took the chance to rush to Nidhwen’s side to shake her awake and get the wand of cure light wounds from her pouch. Toby then moved to the fallen warrior and used the wand to bring him around.
For all his might, the troll was having incredible difficulty hitting the small goblin gunslinger. So, by the time it was about to turn its attention toward the fire slinging sorceress, Six was back on his feet with Toby for back up. The troll fell, but due to his regenerative abilities, he keep trying to get back up. At this time the winter-touched atomie, that threw the thunderstone earlier, and the pair of winter-touched sprites began to attack the weaker party members. Eventually the troll was killed and the rest of the party managed to put an end to the other flying cold fey.
The party takes a few moments to use the, now well worn, wand to sooth a few new hurts. They searched the bodies and found a few scrolls , several bottles, a thunderstone, a magical spear, and a key. They then turn their attentions to the igloos. Three of the igloos contain a winter blanket, a pile of furs, and a small wooden chest. They take up most of the floor space in the cramped igloos. A small hole has been cut into the low ceiling to allow smoke to escape, but no fire has been lit. A brief search of the chest reveals that it is empty.
The last igloo’s interior is bare. Several ice blocks extend from the igloo’s interior walls, forming small shelves and recesses. Toby moves in to get a better look and end up falling threw a hidden thatching and into a 20 foot deep pit. With Six’s ear temporarily useless he didn’t hear the halfling cry out , but he did head that way after he saw Nidhwen move away quickly. With nothing really hurt but his pride, the ranger searched the bottom of the pit before using a rope lowered by Six to climb out.
Following this, Nidhwen, Six, and Toby moved to look into the cave entrance.
Two bearskin rugs cover most of the damp floor in this cave, surrounded by crates, barrels, and other supplies. The ceiling rises fifteen feet overhead, where icicles of frozen condensation hang from sharp stalactites.
A thorough search of this area yielded enough supplies for almost a month of common meals and a locked box. Using the key from the troll, they discovered more potions, four blue quartz, a silver diadem, a near flawless diamond, a jeweled necklace, a painting of a city, three sapphire rings, a decorative filigree longsword scabbard, a scrimshaw sculpture of dancing sprites surrounding a piping satyr, 2457 gp, 3313 sp, and 1760 cp.
A bank of quill-like icicles spear outward in a ring seemingly grown from a heavy sheet of ice covering the ground. A second ring of giant icicle-shaped monoliths stand inside the outer ring, surrounding a swirling cylindrical vortex easily ten feet in diameter. Icy winds and driving snow blast from the vortex, creating the wintry weather in the clearing.
While the others are inside, Colt and Qari stand watch near the igloos. Suddenly a surge of wind blasts from the swirling vortex in the ring of icicles, gusting outward in a stinging spray of snow and ice. The sounds of the vortex seem to subside then as a gaunt horseman with curling ram’s horns and wearing coal-black armor lurches through the portal astride a black warhorse, surrounded by tendrils of cold, dark mist. The rider slumps in the saddle, a shard of blue ice jutting from his back. As rider and mount come to a halt in the snow, the horse suddenly dissipates into black smoke, and the horseman falls to the ground with a groan.
Not thinking twice, Qari moved as fast as she could through the thick snow to get to his side. As he sees her, he calls out to her Come please, I have knowledge of great import to share with you. With that the sinister appearance of his form drops away and his true form appears, that of an old human man, exhausted, pale from blood loss, and close to death.
Qari helps he sit up and looks at the shard in his back. It doesn’t take a cleric to know that he isn’t long for this world. She asks for help to heal him, but he informs them that it’ll be no help, for a curse also affects his body.
The following is a list of all he could tell our heroes:
Who are you?
Once I was called Illarion Matveius. Now I am known as Black Midnight. I am Baba Yaga’s Black Rider, harbringer of the Witch Queen’s return.
Who did this to you?
The servant of Queen Elvanna, ruler of Irrisen and betrayer of her own mother.
Why were you attacked?
Something has happened to Baba Yaga. Every hundred years, she returns to Irrisen to place a new daughter on the throne. But Queen Elvanna has other plans, it seems. Baba Yaga has not appeared as planned, and Elvanna intends to slay everyone loyal to her mother. She hunted down those of us who would herald Baba Yaga’s return and slew my associates. I am the last of the Three Riders and a threat to Elvanna’s plans.
What are Elvanna’s plans?
To take Baba Yaga’s place, and claim all of Golarion as her personal kingdom. Irrisen is a land of endless winter, created by Baba Yaga’s magic. Elvanna seeks to cover the entire world in ice and snow, using portals like this one.
How do we close the portal?
You can find its source in the Pale Tower, on the other side, but this portal is but one of many, Through them, Elvanna will spread a new ice age across your world, consuming it for all eternity. Closing this portal might save your kingdom, but Golarion would still be doomed.
What can we do to stop this from happening?
You must find Baba Yaga. Only Baba Yaga can defeat Elvanna. Only the Queen of Witches can undo what her daughter has done.
How do we find Baba Yaga?
You must use her Dancing Hut to follow her. The hut is a powerful artifact that can cross great distances, even travel between worlds. If you can control the hut, it can take you to Baba Yaga.
Where is the Dancing Hut?
Elvanna stole the hut and put it on display in Irrisen’s capital, Whitethrone, as a symbol of her power. You must go through the portal to Irrisen and find the Dancing Hut.
How do we control the hut?
The hut has many keys—objects attuned to the hut—that can take it almost anywhere. I managed to secure two of these keys, but Elvanna stole their power to prevent anyone from using the hut to find her mother. Once they are reactivated, placing the keys in the hut’s cauldron will retrace Baba Yaga’s path.
Feeling weaker and fearing his time is growing short he brushes away other questions. He explains that he is no longer able to carryout his mission and assigns it to them. He then produces the two keys to the Dancing Hut—a lock of white hair from a frost giant’s beard and a plague doctor’s mask. These two objects appear perfectly normal and mundane in every way.
Now that he has said his piece, the rider sits up and looks into the eyes of each of them for a moment. Each of the heroes feels something akin to a connection forming with the rider. Then with a sudden movement, the rider brings a dagger up to his throat and baths the two keys in his life’s blood. Even those that cannot see magic were almost blinded by the power that radiated off both the blood and the two keys. When the light dissipated the rider’s magic robes had melted away like ice in a fire leaving only an old man dressed in a simple black tunic. The two keys glowed silently with magic for a few more moments before they two faded away, their power now restored. Six picked up the man and lowered him into the igloo with the false bottom and collapsed it upon his withered body.
The Black Rider’s worlds seemed to grant each of them a boon, a +2 untyped bonus to one of their ability scores, but it also seemed to carry an effect similar to a geas-like effect to guide them alone the path to fulfill the fallen rider’s mission.
Now that the last of the powerful cold fey had been killed off or scattered, what would our heroes do next; cross over into the land of eternal winter, or return home and forget this entire event ever occurred…