Reign of Winter

Session 3
An Early Frost (part 3)

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…

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Session 2
An Early Frost (Part 2)
While this was found Six took to breaking up the ice around the guards’ body and claiming the breast plate for himself. Toby also freed the masterwork longsword, but as it was too big for him, he gave it to Six as well. Qari collected the bodies to the south of the site and gave them a fiery funeral.

It was plain to the meanest pair of eyes that the attackers left here via the trail into the woods.

At the edge of the massacre site, an obvious trail leads between a copse of trees and over a snowy plain toward the Border Wood. The heavy snow that covers the trail is littered with numerous overlapping footprints and horse tracks. Thus it is quite plain which direction the raiders went after the attack on Lady Argentea’s carriage.

After collecting up the spoils left behind, our adventurers set off down the snow laden trail.

As it enters the full expanse of the Border Wood, the trail passes through a small clearing among the taller trees before continuing uphill and out of sight. A large chest lies half-buried in the snow, apparently dropped or discarded by those who hastily passed this way.

Toby called for a halt and slowly closed in on the chest. Nidhwen moved up near it to get a better look. Toby pulled out a shovel and attempted to dig it out of the snow. However, as soon as the snow around the chest was disturbed a trap was sprung. Toby, Nidhwen, and Six were all knocked off their feet as a spiked log went sweeping down the trail. Six sustained significant damage from the log and needed to be healed. Toby picked his shovel back up and knocked the chest over. Underneath it, he found a cache of armor and weapons, probably stripped from the guards. In all, they found five sets of leather armor, three sets of studded leather armor, a masterwork chain shirt, two light wooden shields, seven longswords, two spears, a masterwork dagger, and three light crossbows.

Move onward, the snow becomes increasingly deep in this part of the forest, where a windswept gully carves a path through a tree-covered ridge. A soft cascade of snow falls from an overhead branch hissing softly as it strikes the ground.

The snow in the gully before them seemed to be almost as deep as Toby was tall. Six motioned the others to wait so he could scout ahead. As he got about 25 feet further ahead, a blue-white serpentine creature erupted from the snow and attacked him. This creature has the head of a ferocious dragon and two relatively small forearms that end in tiny claws. It managed to bit into the silent warrior and wrapped around him. Colt, Nidhwen, Toby, and Qari all knew they couldn’t reach him in time to assist, so they resorted to ranged attacks. With their combined attacks, the group managed to kill it, though Six was nearly felled by the dragon’s vicious and poisonous bite.

With the arctic serpent dealt with, Six managed to overcome the poison and the allies pushed on through the snowdrift. A little further down the trail they came across another clearing.

Feathered bundles and strange fetishes hang from the lowest branches of the trees in this part of the forest, swaying and shifting in the wind. All are stuck through with small pins holding pieces of leather bound around them.

Toby and Six moved in to more closely examine the bundles. They soon discovered that they were actually frozen corpses of dead crows pinned to the trees. Toby then noticed a tiny glowing light bobbing in a nearby tree. Six noticed another one soon after. As the heroes attention was directed toward these glowing orbs, a trio of winter-touched sprites began casting spells and shooting tiny chilling arrows at the unaware adventurers. While not very big these little fiends manage to deal several good hits on the allies. Nidhwen used her bardic abilities to fascinate one of the tiny fey. Colt used his blunderbuss and Qari used her magic to drop one while Six and Toby handled one each.

Following this battle, our heroes were feeling the effects of the several battles they had encountered in the snow covered forest. They made a camp in the little clearing and set up a watch. As luck would have it, they didn’t have any nocturnal interruptions.

The next day they quickly got ready and continued onward.

A narrow game trail winds its way through the trees and undergrowth here. Hoofprints mark the underlying snow leading in both directions.

Toby noticed a snowy white stag watching quietly a short distance away. As the others came into view, the stag moved forward and began to speak to the adventurers. It wanted to know what they had come into the forest for. Needless to say, the group was taken aback by the talking animal, but it seemed friendly so they attempted to ask it a few questions. As Qari moved in and began to look for magic, the stag charged forward and gored into her.

Surprised by the animal’s sudden attack, the allies rushed to counter. As Six moved in to assist, he suddenly shrunk down to the size of Toby. A few seconds later Toby shrunk as well, ending up at barely half of his normal height. The next spell shrunk Six’s cold iron longsword down to the size of a toothpick. Baffled by the strange magical assault, the others focused on attacking the stag. As the stag fell, a tiny blue-green humanoid appeared and began scream curses at them and attacked in rage. However, the twisted little fey’s spells had no effect on Nidhwen. With the final blow to the creature, it turned into a brittle pile of dirty ice and snow.

Six was extremely perturbed by the creatures spells and bid the other to turn around, so he could pee on the creatures remains. Once both he and Toby returned to normal size they continued onward, however, the cold iron longsword would remain shrunk for a several days.

A human-sized snowman stands in the middle of the trail before a frozen stream. A crude wooden sign leans against it and bears the words “Trespassers Turn Back.”

As they moved further forward the snowman stirred to life and screamed at the party. “Can’t you read? The sign says turn back! Now get lost!” The last few words erupted from the snowman with a sonic burst that damaged all those near it.

A solid sheet of ice extends across this frozen stream, while snow-covered rocks line its banks.

Toby pulled out one of the spears and began to tap the ice as he crossed it, attempting to ensure that it was sturdy enough to support their weight. When he was about halfway across a pair of ice elemental erupted from the ice on either side of him and dealt a terrible pair of blows to him. Toby dropped to the ice, bleeding out from the massive damage he sustained. Six, Colt, Nidhwen, and Qari rushed to his aid with gun, hammer, crossbow, and magic. Colt loaded in his only dragon’s fire cartridge and blasted both of them with its fiery power.

Luckily, the pair of elementals were destroyed before the brave halfling was beyond help. However, it was apparent that they would need to return to town and procure healing items if they wished to continue further.

The trip out was thankfully uneventful, but wounded as they were, they only barely managed to make it out of the forest before night set in. The next day, they drug themselves up and made slow progress back toward the town of Heldren. At about three hours before dark they came within sight of the small town.

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Session 1
An Early Frost (Part 1)
The sleepy village of Heldren has rarely seen so much excitement or concern. Hunters from the nearby Border Wood speak of unnaturally cold weather at the height of summer that descended on the forest just a few days ago. Heavy snow followed, and those who returned spoke of an uneasy presence in the woods, as well as new dangerous predators. No one knows what this event means, but the town’s soothsayer, Old Mother Theodora, claims dark times lie ahead.

As if in proof of that dire prophecy, a badly wounded mercenary arrived in town yesterday, claiming to be a bodyguard of Lady Argentea Malassene. He told the village council that the noblewoman’s escort came under attack by bandits and strange, wintery creatures near the edge of the Border Wood. He alone escaped, and Lady Argentea was dragged away into the forest. Now the townsfolk cast fearful eyes toward the snowy forest, worried what else might emerge to threaten their peaceful village.

The dozen or so round tables spaced almost haphazardly around the center of the Heldren’s only tavern, the Silver Stoat, are unusually full for the last morning hour. With the hunters not able to, or too afraid to, go out and ply their trade they have taken to hanging closer to the town. Among the hunters, a few stand out from the rest.

Tobias Alderwood – A young halfling male, long time native to the Heldren area, had recently sold off his families land and headed into town in order to discover the fate of his uncle. He claims that his uncle recently left and has since disappeared without a trace.

Nidhwen – A young elven beauty stood singing on a small platform in the corner. She arrived in town several months ago from her family’s homeland. The girl is a niece of the town’s apothecary, Tessaraea Willowbark. Some of the townsfolk claim that she is unlike any other elf they have ever meet, as she likes to constantly talk.

Six – A tall male covered from head to foot in chainmail armor steps into the tavern. He had been seen a few times around town, but he never says anything and generally keeps to himself. He seemed drawn to the music, and he dropped a gold piece into a small pot at the edge of the platform.

Colt – In an isolated corner of the tavern, a small figure sits alone at a table nursing a large flagon of the local brew. Quite easily the most unique of the bars patrons, the olive-green goblin had been in town less than a month. He has a massive blunderbuss leaning against the table beside him.

Qari – Shrouded in a heavy cloak, a rather vocal sorceress walks into the tavern. Like the goblin, she easily stands out among the masses what with her red and charcoal colored skin and horns. The female ifrit was born in this area, but she never really felt welcome. So, she took to living on her own in an old abandoned building a couple miles to the south of Heldren.

The talk of the town seems to revolve solely around the unseasonably cold weather that has struck the Border Wood. Most suspect that magic is involved, and some even fear that Qadiran agents may play a role in it. Old Man Dansby claims that someone keeps stealing from his fields. His farm lies closest to the Border Wood, where half his crops have died from an icy frost and the rest have been carried off.

The halfling, Toby, was very interested in the nature of the threat to his hometown and began questioning a fellow halfling hunter about the summer snow. It was at that point that Qari arrived in the front door complaining loudly about how cold it was getting. After a brief conversation amongst themselves the two decided to go and speak with the wounded bodyguard.

As the two of them left the tavern, Nidhwen finished her song and moved over to thank the tall chain clad warrior, but the conversation became one sided as Six didn’t seem to want to speak to the young elf. He seemed to become a little frustrated with the bard’s constant question and moved to go outside and headed toward the blacksmith’s shop.

Toby and Qari quickly arrived at Willowbark Apothecary, where the wounded bodyguard was being tended to. Yuln Oerstag, was wrapped in bandages, and the Ulfen mercenary’s nose, fingers and toes have taken on a black hue from serious frostbite. They over heard the tail end of a conversation between the man and Elder Safander, Heldren’s village priest. The priest was going to gather some more healing supplies to tend to the man’s extreme frostbite.

When Toby begins to ask him about the events, he responds with the following.

My ancestors would ridicule my lack of valor for fleeing rather than fighting to the end. But I faced enemies that even the greatest warriors in the Linnorm Kingdoms have faltered against, though I think I killed at least one of them before they dragged Lady Argentea away.

Who attacked you?
We thought they were just bandits at first – outlaws who hide like wolves in the forest. They were no match for us. But then came the cold fey of the north. They appeared among us and the battle turned quickly. My people speak of the winter-touched all the time, but I never expected to meet them this far to the south.

What are the “winter-touched”?
Fey creatures who have sworn themselves to the White Witches of Irrisen, those who stole our lands from us during the Winter War. Tiny sprites no taller than the length of a man’s forearm. But don’t be fooled by their small stature. Legends say they have taken a sliver of ice into their hearts, and their touch bears the harsh bite of winter.

Where did they take Lady Argentea?
Into the forest, back through the ice and snow. Beyond that, I don’t know. I followed as far as I could, but the winter-touched were too many and too hard to fend off in the snow alone. I barely escaped, and rode to seek help here.

Why would they want Lady Argentea?
I don’t know. But if one of the White Witches took her, no good shall come of it. The winter-touched do nothing without the leave of those who placed the ice in their hearts. If they’re here, it’s because a White Witch sent them. And much worse will follow.

How do you fight the winter-touched?
With cold iron and burning flame. Both burn them, and both are weapons they fear.

Following this the effects of the herbs, as well as his own fatigue, left him feeling drained and soon he fell asleep. Toby speculated that they should go to Iskar’s Smithy and see if he had any of this “cold iron”.

Six and Nidhwen also arrived at the smiths at about the same time. Toby then negotiated to purchase a couple +1 cold iron sling bullets. Following that, he spoke with Six about the possibility of him joining in on the expedition to rid this land of the cold. He nodded his agreement and they went to the general stored bought some torches and lamp oil.

It was at this time that they remembered the goblin in the tavern, he had a firearm. If they could convince him to join in of the quest, it is possible that he could produce some of the explosive black powder. As it turned out, Colt was very open to the idea of being paid to make bombs and kill things…so he quickly signed up. He explained briefly that he could make some more black powder but it would cost about 100 pieces of gold. Toby, being rather trusting…but not really “trusting” the little goblin talked with the others about pooling their money to make five broken nail bombs.

The four of them scrapped up enough coin to purchase the seemingly random ingredients from the various store in town. Colt retired to the back corner in the tavern and opened up his kit and spent the next several hours scaring the life out of the other patrons with the constant bangs and chackling. When it was all said and done, he had created five “nail bombs”

Nail Bomb
This waterskin is filled with about a pound each of black powder and broken (or imperfect) nails. The opening has been filled with a bit of oil soaked cloth that is held in place by wax. The nail bomb has a 20 ft. range and explodes with a 5 ft. burst. Those caught in the blast radius must make a reflex save (DC 15) or take 1d6 points of damage. This damage counts as both fire and piercing for purposes of damage reduction.

Weight: 2 lbs.

Word seemed to travel quickly that they were looking to investigate the chilly troubles, and councilor Ionnia Teppen came to speak with them that evening. She thanked them for their bravery and offered them a loan of Yuln’s cold iron longsword. When the subject of payment came up she could only offer up a small purse of 50 gp at this point, but she would see if it was possible to pull together a better reward once they returned successfully.

They rested that night in the only place that was available to them…the Silver Stoat’s floor in front of the fireplace, and in the morning they purchased a couple sets of cold weather clothing from the general store and headed out.

As they traveled, they each noticed the steadily dropping temperature, hovering just above freezing, and a light dusting of snow covers the ground.

Near the forest, the temperature grows noticeably colder. The road ahead is littered with debris and the corpses of slain humans and horses. A carriage stands in the roadway, its team of horses missing or cut free, while another overturned carriage lies sprawled and broken next to the tree line. To the south, more bodies have fallen around what appears to be a statue of ice. A snowy trail leads deeper into the forest

Toby used his ranger training to sneak up to the massacre site and see if any enemies still lingered. Moving up to a small break in the trees near the over-turned carriage, he couldn’t see anything living in the area. Motioning for the others to follow, they began to close in. Toby picked his way through the dead bodies while Six and Qari followed a short distance behind. They all noticed that each body had been stripped of any armor and weapons. Nidhwen moved up beside the carriage and turned an eye toward the ice statue, and let out a squeak of shock. It was not all ice, it had a man inside it.

Unlike the other bodies, this man still possessed his armor, a breastplate emblazoned with Taldan heraldry. However, the body was no longer intact, several pieces had been carved away and now lay scattered about on the ground around it. One of these pieces contained the man’s arm, still grasping a masterwork longsword.

Six then heard some muffled sounds coming from the south. He waved for the others to listen. Colt moved in and taking cover behind a dead horse, discovered that the sounds were coming from the wagon. Six moved closer and saw a spear wedged between the handles holding them closed. When he removed it and kicked the door open, two zombies lurched forward.

Qari moved around and unleashed a bolt of fire at one. The two undead creatures attack Six, but luckily only one managed to hit. Toby then moved in and used his short sword, while Colt blasted it with his blunderbuss. The first zombie then fell, dead once again. Nidhwen began a song to inspire courage in her companions. Six then unleashed a powerful blow and destroyed the fell creature in one swing.

After casting the bodies from the carriage, the adventurers took to searching it. The discovered a jewelry box that the others must have missed. Inside it they found a signet ring, a pair of earrings, a set of pearl bracelets, assorted gold and silver necklaces, and a sapphire pendant.

While this was found Six took to breaking up the ice around the guards’ body and claiming the breast plate for himself. Toby also freed the masterwork longsword, but as it was too big for him, he gave it to Six as well. Qari collected the bodies to the south of the site and gave them a fiery funeral.

It was plain to the meanest pair of eyes that the attackers left here via the trail into the woods.

Join us next week to discover what perils these brave adventurers discover hidden down the cold covered pathway…

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