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”
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…