”I can’t do this anymore, Menas, I just can’t. You know as well as I do - it’s over.”
Lady Alice Thurdanhelm turned from the room and walked out on her husband, holding back tears until she was clear of his presence. He didn’t call out, didn’t respond.
Well, at least he agrees. He knows our marriage is finished, she thought through quiet sobs.
She made her way out of the manor house to the open streets of Zimar, trying to steel herself before returning to her caravan. It was time to head back to Oppara and restart her life.
”Lady Thurdanhelm! an Ulfen man with blonde, braided hair shouted to her. ”We’re over here! Are you rea- . . . Lady Thurdanhelm, are you alright?” Concern filled the man’s voice as he noticed her tears.
”Yes, Yuln, I’m fine. Load up the caravan. We’re leaving.”
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In the small city of Fishcamps, in a modest hut in the middle of the ngiht, an Ulfen man tosses and turns in his bed, dreaming fitfully. He seems a woman in his dream, fear clear in her eyes. She holds the hand of a small doll.
”I’m sorry, little sister! I’m sorry for letting you wander off! Why did you do that to mom and dad, though? They looked for you everywhere! Why?”
The woman bursts into heart wrenching sobs, and the doll looks up at her.
”Mom, what are you talking about? It’s me. It’s Linge. Mom, listen to me!”
The man wakes with a start, dripping in a cold sweat.
My wife, my daughter. Oh, what has become of them?
The man rises from his bed and lights a candle sitting on a table in the center of the hut. The only other thing on the table is a letter, which the man now picks up and reads, clearly not for the first time.
Joakim, we need your aid and your expertise. The people of Whitethrone are oppressed, and few know how to get in and out of the city unnoticed like you do. You can help us smuggle people out and supplies in. Please, we are desperate. Come meet us - you know where to find us.
The Heralds of Summer’s Return
Despite the hour, the man puts on his traveling cloak, picks up a dagger and sling, and heads out the door.
”Svana, we require your assistance. You knew this day would come, knew you couldn’t hide from us. You knew that one day we would call you away from your foolish, noble husband and your blissfully ignorant daughter, away from your peaceful life in Taldor, to serve your true master. You know whose blood runs through your veins, and most of all, you know you have no choice. Come now Svana - the winter witches are moving, and we require your assistance.”
Svana could still hear those awful words, that screechy voice ringing in her head as she returned to her home in Oppara. She had known this day would come, and worst of all, she knew they were right - she didn’t have a choice.
She walked into her home and found her husband sitting near the fire, reading a book.
”Heric, we need to talk. I need to make a journey, and I need to make it alone.”
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”We will need the fey, the winter-touched. Their support is crucial.” The man’s deep voice sounded confident, as if he was saying something incredibly obvious.
”Oh, we know you need them,” a piercing voice responded. “But why should they follow you? Why support the queen?” A small, icy humanoid creature with thin, leathery wings, small horns, and a mischievous smile asked the question of the man. Her partner, a large and lanky moss-covered humanoid with an elongated, toothy snout simply nodded in agreement.
”Can’t you see, Izoze, that the fey will be revered under Elvanna’s regime? That they willb e able to move across the whole of Golarion without worry, without torment? They whole world will be their domain, just as the whole world will be ours. All they must do is accept a bit of ice in their hearts.” As though that last bit were a sort of joke, the man laughed a hearty laugh, and was quickly joined by the other two.
These laughs woke Glim from his dream.
A dream, just a dream. Spending time on the surface seems to be driving me a bit insane.
Glim slipped from his bed and headed out the door into the common room of the Silver Stoat, and from there out the door into the streets of the village of Heldren. It was quite cool, but perhaps a bit of a chill was what he needed to forget that evil laugh from his dream. At least he hoped so.
“Oh, my dearies, I thought I sme- . . .” The old crone paused briefly before continuing, “I thought I sensed some children heading my way. I hate to be a bother but can you sweet children help me take these back to my cottage.”
Before Honsul knew what was happening, he was following his sister into the old woman’s cottage. Had he been more aware, he would have looked through the windows of the cottage and seen snow falling heavily outside. Perhaps he would have noticed the bearskin rug on the floor, out of place in southern Taldor. Perhaps he would even have noticed the magical aura that clung to each and every surface of the cottage. But he did not.
Moments later, he saw his sister’s unconscious body hit the floor, and then saw her tossed into the cauldron in the center of the room before losing consciousness.
When she became aware of her surroundings once more, Gritil did not see the old woman - only her brother’s body lying unconscious on the floor. But she did notice the snow falling outside the window, and the bearskin rug on the floor where her brother had fallen. And she certainly noticed the magical aura surrounding her. Something was wrong.
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Winters in the Lands of the Linnorm Kings were long and harsh, but that day was particularly frigid. Snow fell sideways and the wind whipped it through the air so few could see farther than their own hand in front of their face. That’s when he found her.
Sigvar was trudging back to his cottage, whistling to himself, when he noticed movement near his front door. Moving quickly, he rushed to the door and saw a child wrapped in heavy blankets and crying. He brought the child inside, started a fire to warm the hut, and went to get more blankets to warm the child up. But when he returned, he found the girl wasn’t cold at all - she seemed perfectly content, and was now smiling happily up at Sigvar.
When his wife returned from town, Sigvar told her what he had found. They agreed to ask around the village, but would raise the child as their own if no one came forward. Sigvar didn’t even think about the woman he had met years earlier, the one with white blonde hair and piercing blue eyes, the one who had so intrigued him - and he certainly didn’t see those blue eyes as they looked into the cottage, full of an evil joy at how easily he had accepted the child.
Paldo was out walking the streets of Waldsby with his brother, Grimthar. Sure, they weren’t related by blood, but Grimthar was his brother. They did everything together. And today, they had decided to practice their slings.
As they headed toward the far side of town, a good open space to work on their aim, they were stopped in their tracks by a regal looking woman, flanked by guards, walking toward them. They moved out of the way just in time and saw as the woman passed by. Just then, they heard a high-pitched voice, that of a child, shout something at the woman.
The woman stopped and shouted ”grab her,” and before Paldo knew what had happened, the guards seized a young girl, no more than seven years old, and hauled her off. Paldo recognized the girl, he thought - her mother was the trader in town, right?
What could the girl have done? Surely nothing - she’s just a child.
The regal woman and her guard left as quickly as they had come, and took the child with them. No one else had seen.
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 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 Alice Thurdanhelm. He told the village council that the noblewoman’s escort came under attack by bandits and strange, wintry creatures near the edge of the Border Wood. He alone escaped, and Lady Thurdanhelm 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.
Each of you can set the scene for where you are as this all is happening. The bodyguard arrived late last night, and you're now hearing of it the following morning.
It's still quiet and oddly still in the house of the apothecary's apprentice. But for the first time in days, timidly, shakingly, a thin column of smoke is rising from the chimney. Wounded men have arrived, and no healer could ignore their call.
Now if only animals could understand that.
"You know I can't bring you with me," Linge says as she puts her scarf and gloves on.
Horn bellows once again -the heart-wrenching cry of a youth told off by his mother without knowing why, and Linge sighs.
"You're not allowed in the village, Horn, and there's nothing either of us can do about it," she scolds him as severely as she can, but her heart is not at it. These last days, with the death of her mother, Horn's white fur has been more dampened with tears than any handkerchief in the house, and part of her feels guilty about suddenly having to leave him behind.
The same part that is scared about relying too much on him. Bears are not pets, and it's bad enough that he should look up to her as a mother-
She snaps out of her thoughts when Horn starts tugging on her cape, trying to drag her away from the door and almost making her lose her balance.
"Enough is enough, Horn!"
Grabbing the disobedient bar cub by his neck despite his protests, Linge guides him to the garden where she locks him up as she did everytime he misbehaved. Yet she feels a twist in her gut as she does so. It's not that Horn won't be okay, between his toys, his plate of food, and the fence that protects him from the outside world. It's just the look on his face is now one of betrayal and sadness rather than guilt or embarassment.
And although she knows that she has no other choice, that no villager would quietly tolerate a bear walking freely in the streets (even a small one), she inexplicably feels guilty as well.
"I'll be back soon," she says through the door. "I promise."
Horn lets out a final whine, and curls into a sulky ball.
Linge is walking fast, snow crunching under her boots. The noise is rather soothing, and she lets her thoughts drift away again. It was unnatural, completely unnatural, to have such a cold weather at that time of the year. At first, she had thought none of it; after all, disturbances sometimes happened, and Nature and seasons were anything but ruled by order and consistency. But things had become too worrying lately, too out of place. Spring ruined, and Heldren snowed in? Creatures attacking escorts in the woods?
Upon lying eyes on Horn, she had been shocked by his thick, incredibly fluffy white fur, but so far the only explanation she could have come up with was that he was an albino. It happened sometimes, her mother had explained, although it was rare. "My little anomaly", she used to call Linge's pet affectionately...
Yet Horn was found in the Border Woods, and something instinctive is telling her that this is no coincidence. That there has to be a connection.
She just can't see which one, or how everything is supposed to make sense.
The little bell on the apothecary's door rings when Linge enters.
"Good morning -I am so, so very sorry I wasn't there to help last night. Why didn't you fetch me? Is the man okay? What can I do to help?"
It takes Glim a moment to actually step outside the Silver Stoat. A moment in which to once again come to terms with the carnivorous blue nothingness that is the surface sky. Sure there are clouds and a sense of depth and span to the blasted thing, but it unnerves him just how endless it seems, makes him feel as if gravity will reverse itself the moment he steps beneath its oppressive vastness and send him hurtling up into oblivion.
He handles this mild moment of panic as he usually does; by standing close to the door post, back pressed firmly against the wall, and ignoring the sky as he tamps his pipe, draws out a small live coal from an iron box and lights the weed. A few quick puffs, the delightful pull of herbal smoke into his lungs, and he exhales with a sigh, risking a glance up before pulling the brim of his shapeless hat low over his pallid features and finally stepping out into the street.
Has it been a week since he arrived in Heldren? Glim counts the days as he stumps along, puffing on his pipe and examining the road. Strange how the ruts and footprints in the mud had hardened so with the cold. Was it supposed to get this cold up here? Were 'seasons' so volatile? He'd no earthly idea, but the humans around him seemed upset.
Slowly the consternation that's seized the small village dawns upon the gnome, and as he steps into the square he moves aside to observe and listen, finding a shadow by a fruit stall where he's largely ignored and can pick up on traces of gossip and conversation.
"...wounded, as if he'd fought ten wolves - though I did hear Henson say it was sword cuts, but what does he know..."
"...we'll be having wolves or wargs or who knows what else haunting the Border Wood at this rate..."
"...I'm thinking it's a Qadirish plot, something funny being conjured over the border, you know how they like the heat, I'll wager they're sucking all our warmth south..."
"...dragged into the forest just like what happened to Grandma thirty years ago! But that was that reprobate, Ol' Harry, and I'm sure he's no longer around..."
Rubbing at his chin, Glim considers the knots of villagers, parses their worried tone, tries to piece together what's going on. Perhaps it would be best to wait awhile long here on the square's edge, under this rather comforting awning, and enjoy his pipe on this strangely brisk day while he watches and listens some more.
Nooo, mother! Well, isn't that ominous... :)
The road to the south was rough, especially on foot, but Sigrun didn't mind all that much. If going on a real adventure meant having sore feet for a while, she was perfectly fine with it. Besides, she'd heard the reports from her father. Cold weather, strange creatures - sounded almost exactly like back in Kalsgard, except that they were in southern Taldor, not the Linnorm Lands, and the strange creatures didn't seem to be friendly. Sigrun had heard whispers between Father and his Ulfen Guard friends about Irrisen and witches, the hated nemeses of the Ulfen back home. Mother, despite all her grand tales about the conflict, had been unusually quick to rule out that possibility, but Sigrun trusted her judgment. She did, after all, agree to let Sigrun go and investigate anyways. Hopefully she wasn't too worried, waiting at home for news.
Either way, as Sigrun entered town in the morning, there seemed to be a bit of a commotion...something about a wounded mercenary, apparently? Could this be related to whatever was going on in the Border Wood? Sigrun listens to the rumors swirling around as she makes her way through the square towards the Silver Stoat, passing but paying no attention to a strange gnome-like figure on the way.
As the light of the sun breached the darkness of their tiny room, Honsul wakes up with a start. Immediately, he rolls out of bed and finding the familiar and comfortable position kneels on the floor, Honsul begins his daily prayer beaming with joy.
“Oh, Everlasting Light, Dawnflower and Healing Flame - continue to guide me on your holy path of goodness. Blessed may my path be as I walk according to your light and may my path bring light to the world.. Thank you for your continued blessing and protection, and may I be a blessing and protection to others - now and forevermore.
As he prays, a beam of light begins to glow from Honsul’s forehead. On the floor in front of Honsul where the light touches, a figure begins to materialize. As Honsul finished his prayer, the ectoplasmic body of Gritil solidifies and becomes fully formed. The twins immediately embrace.
”Gritil! My light and my angel!” Honsul begins to rapidly express.”I’ve missed you! On what will we spread our light on today?”
Breaking the embrace (with just a bit of ectoplasmic residue sticking to Honsul’s body), Gritil replies “I’ve missed you too brother, but you know I must return to the light while you sleep. Remember, last night we overheard that there was a wounded traveler who showed up into town. Let’s go check that out.”
With that reminder, Honsul quickly changes clothes, puts on his leather protection gear and gets ready for the day and the two leave the house they share with their parents. As they head through town to the building they believe the wounded traveler would be kept, they pass by a couple of other townsfolk. After living in town with Gritil for a decade, her presence barely registers on people’s radar - once the initial shock of having an ectoplasmic resident passed, people were more than willing to accept that she was a divine gift from the gods and move on with their normal routines.
Upon arriving to the apothecary, Honsul and Gritil hear a woman’s voice loudly talking. Not feeling like they were technically invited inside, the pair sneak around to the window on the side of the building. From there, Honsul silently motions for Gritil to lift him up and (the much stronger) Gritil lifts Honsul up on her shoulder. Honsul, face pushed against the window is now able to view into the apothecary and see what’s going on.
At the edge of the woods, a slender girl paces in the snow, a troubled look on her Northern features. Her coat is undone, exposing her pale skin to the unseasonably cold air, and she glances nervously between the apothecary’s and the dark of the woods.
Snow in summer would not have terribly out of place in the Ulfen lands, but she was far from home now. The summer in Taldor has been so hot, too hot to even breathe, and this sudden and unnatural winter is both relieving and deeply disturbing; and now the news of an attack by strange, winter creatures. She can't shake the creeping fear that it’s something to do with her.
It couldn't all be a coincidence, could it? Should she just leave, or would the same fate befall the next unsuspecting village she set foot in? Shouldn't she try to find a way to stop this, if she can?
She ceases her fruitless pacing and exhales, leaning heavily against a tree. It wouldn’t be right to run away again, when her problems might well be following her. She has to find out for sure.
Steeling herself, Halleva approaches the apothecary.
As Paldo opens the door to his simple little house the sun is blinding but warm on his skin. "I don't miss the bitter chilly mornings that greeted me every morning in the north." Paldo thought to himself. His time in Taldor had been the most comfortable in his life, no longer needing to protect himself from the bone chilling cold. He scoffed at the rumors floating around town "Ha! Winter coming this far south indeed that will be the day." Despite his attitude he couldn't help but notice an unnatural chill in the air.
Noticing his neighbors huddled around each other whispering in hushed tones a look of fear in their eyes. Paldo sighed, "What is it that has you all spooked this time?" When they told him that a badly wounded man had come into town having been attacked by bandits he didn't think much of it, however the claims that "wintry" creatures were also seen peaked his interest. He sarcastically responded "You know just because something has white fur doesn't mean it's from the north, it's probably just a lack of pigment, I wouldn't lose any sleep over it." Paldo Wanted to find out more information but also suddenly had an urge to curl up in front of a warm fire. He poked his head back into the home that him and his brother occupied. "Hey! Grimthar! Wake up! There's a caravan of beautiful women lost in the woods and their bodyguard is wounded and in town. You should go find out more information so you can rescue them." Paldo cursed as his brother laid there motionless.
"Well... fine, I'll go but I'm not sharing any of them with you!" he said angrily as he grabbed his cloak and pulled it around him stomping off towards the center of town to find out more about this new stranger in town.
It had been late at night when Garran arrived in Heldren, most of the inn guests were already asleep. Garran was glad to be inside, the air outside had a bitter chill. The cleric huddled next to the fireplace to have his supper, brought by a surly innkeeper, who was non too pleased at being rousted at such a late hour.
With a quick prayer to Iomedae, Garran falls to sleep; he sleeps well, confidant in the power of his goddess.
His morning devotions are longer as he meditates and prays to Iomedae for strength and wisdom.
Garran is in the common room of the inn when he hears a name: Lady Thurdanhelm. Garran takes a sharp breath. He knows that name. The cleric leans over, now the conversation has his full attention. "Caravan attacked" he hears. Then something about a wounded guard.
Springing to his feet, Garran strides over to the two villagers who are gossiping. "This wounded guard. Where is he? I need to talk to him."
Sorry I haven't checked the gameplay thread in awhile. Now it will show up in my campaigns, so I'll see notifications.
You can each make either a Diplomacy check or a Knowledge (local) check, and then use the information below to continue based on what you've learned.
Diplomacy: 1d20 + 1 ⇒ (2) + 1 = 3 Off to a good start!
Sadly, by the time Linge makes it to the apothecary, everything has already been taken care of. She sits down in a corner, waiting for Councilor Ionnia to arrive, and biting her nails nervously. Being kept in the dark is worse than not knowing anything, especially for a healer.
A face at the window suddenly startles her. When she recognizes Honsul, she sighs in relief, and gets up to open the door.
"Hello Honsul. Do you want to come inside?"
In the distance, other citizens seems to head to the apothecary.
Maybe it would be best to leave the door open...
diplo: 1d20 - 1 ⇒ (18) - 1 = 17
Sigrun listens intently as she trudges through town. What she hears is quite concerning, though - it seems the rumors she'd heard in the capital are true. Snow, talking winter animals, and bandit attacks - definitely not what people are used to here. It's no wonder the local guards are having trouble. Soon, she also hears that there is a survivor, another Ulfen it would seem, from the latest attack, and that he's recovering in town. Maybe he'd have more accurate information than the townsfolk? Sigrun asks a passerby for directions and switches course for the apothecary.
Knowledge (Local): 1d20 + 3 ⇒ (17) + 3 = 20
Paldo walked the streets of Heldren with a smile on his face and a skip in his step. He wasn't worried about these silly rumors about talking white stags and white weasels. He was sure that people had either thought they had seen something they hadn't or had simply been wandering around after having too much to drink.
Paldo was sure the chill in the air was just a coincidence and even if he didn't fully believe it himself, anyone that he encountered that was worried he would simply reassure them that the gods were testing them. The town had been spoiled by so many warm days that it was time they experienced a little of winter's chill.
Paldo did wonder how bandits could have formed an organized attack with any formidable numbers given that the High Sentinels regularly patrolled those woods. However he did remember hearing that two weeks ago Lady Thurdanhelm had passed this way heading to Zimar. Rumor had it she was leaving her husband, so perhaps his jealously had led to foul play.
After hearing that Lady Thurdanhelm's bodyguard was recovering at the Apothecary, Paldo decided to head there thinking that if anyone could give him some legitimate answers it would be the bodyguard.
Upon arriving at the Apothecary Paldo is alarmed at just how many people have gathered here. "Either there is an unbelievable sale here I am unaware of or I am not the only one that wants to talk to this man." Paldo thought to himself.
Although it is difficult to see him around all the large humans, Paldo is sure that he sees Honsul, one of the towns other Halfling residents. Paldo locks eyes and waves as a crack forms between a tall pale woman with braided hair and another tall man with blonde hair that appears to be a man of the faith.
Paldo notices Honsul is talking to the apothecary's assistant, he thought"Ah yes the cute shy one… what was her name again… something beggining in with an L…" .
"Honsul my friend, what brings you here? Not hitting on the help I hope? This town seems to be a buzz with rumors and speculation don't you think? Have you heard that one of Lady Thurdanhelm guards is here and quite wounded?"
Honsul’s Diplomacy: 1d20 + 9 ⇒ (18) + 9 = 27
Gritil’s aid another: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (16) + 6 = 22
27(Honsul’s Score) + 6 (Gritil’s successful aid another) = 33 Diplomacy
Turning red, Honsul stammers out a response to Linge as he comes around the building and enters into the apothecary - ”Oh, good morning Linge! We heard that a noblewoman, Lady Thurdanhelm’s, guard had turned up in town wounded, and that it might be connected to the unseasonally cold weather in the Border Woods. We spent a lot of time there exploring as children, and so we wanted to see if we could perhaps help out with the Lady’s disappearance.”
As he finishes speaking, Honsul and Gritil notice that the eccentric halfling Paldo has appeared and Honsul responds, ”Good morning Paldo! Yes, we were just telling Ms. Linge here what we had heard as well. I’m highly surprised that the High Sentinels have not helped out yet! I think we have to wait for Ms. Teppan to arrive before they will let anyone talk to the wounded guard. If it really is as cold in the Borders as they say, perhaps you would also be quite a bit of help Paldo.”
Diplomacy: 1d20 + 1 ⇒ (3) + 1 = 4
The suspicious villagers clam up when Garran asks about the wounded caravan guard. With a sigh, the cleric makes his way out into the village. He looks around the central square wondering where to go next.
There seems to be a group of folk forming over there...
Garran strides across the town square toward the collected people.
Kn. Local: 1d20 + 1 ⇒ (14) + 1 = 15
Halleva hovers near the door of the apothecary, anxiously awaiting the arrival of the councilor for a chance to hear about the attack. She is unfamiliar with most of the villagers, but notices, with a little thrill of trepidation, that many of the people gathering here have distinctly Ulfen features; she can't quite piece together what it all means, but every part of it disturbs her.
Diplomacy: 1d20 - 4 ⇒ (12) - 4 = 8
An hour passes as Glim smokes from his pipe, a slender flute of milky pale bone that the vendor in the Goblin Market deep underground had sworn had come from an aboleth. Glim had his doubts, but he enjoyed its smooth texture all the same, and was content to puff and watch the townsfolk walk to and fro as the morning slowly idled by.
Still. Even he could tell that the humans were roiled up like a nest of cavemites that have been poked with a stick. With no sign of his brother or his acolyte, Glim finally gets up, still puffing on his pipe, and begins making his way back to the Silver Stoat, deciding it's time to feed his prize koi beetle.
But it's all too easy to get caught up in the flow of foot traffic and be diverted by the apothecary. He doesn't even try to fight it, so that perhaps five minutes later he fetches up against the sparse crowd that's formed outside, the brim of his floppy hat pulled low over his face, to gaze with some mild interest at the going's on.
Moments later, a woman with gray streaks in her pulled-back brown hair and stern eyes approaches, moving with authority as she heads to toward the entrance of the apothecary - this is clearly the councilor. Noticing the size of the group, she hesitates for a moment, but nods her head as if she's convinced herself of something before waving you all inside.
Before entering the side room where the injured guard is recovering, Councilor Teppen speaks to the group.
"Greetings - as you by now all must know, we have a guest in town who has gone through a terrible ordeal. He was part of the guard of a Taldan noblewoman named Lady Thurdanhelm, who was traveling from Zimar to Oppara. As her caravan skirted the Border Wood, it came under attack by bandits and strange, wintry creatures. Lady Thurdanhelm was carried off, and this man - Yuln Oerstag - was the only one to escape. As a native of the north, Yuln recognized some of the icy creatures, and is willing to share with us all that he thinks we should know.
"It is here that we run into problems. As many of you know, Heldren is barely large enough to marshal a decent malitia to protect the town, and I wouldn't dare send any of them away from their posts at a time like this. But you all look capable, and you've obviously come here for your own reasons. Would you be willing to attempt to rescue Lady Thurdanehelm, and investigate these strange events that have overtaken our town? If so, I will allow you to join me in questioning the guard."
Glim puts out his pipe and stows it away as he follows the others inside, his mild curiosity getting the better of him. As he enters the small room and stands shoulder to hip with the other humans, he feels a strange, mounting sense of excitement; this is the closest he's felt to zwigzang, or 'communal feeling', in over six months. Of course it's a pale imitation of the real sensation, that true bond that comes from having your proper place in a society or guild, but still - he listens intently, imagining that it was Guildsmaster Zembera addressing him, and not this human councilor.
When she's done speaking and asks for volunteers, he raises his hand. Then blinks, surprised at his own action, and realizes that he's been carried away by his own daydreaming. It's too late to retract, however; the councilor human nods in his direction, and he pulls his hand back down furtively, feeling betrayed by it.
What does he know of woods and wintry creatures? Nothing. Still, as he follows the others to the bedside of the wounded warrior, that strange sense of excitement and zwigzang comes stealing back like tunnel-mist; what else does he have to do but wait in the Silver Stoat for his brother to get him in further trouble?
So it is that he links his hands behind his back and assumes a severe expression, as if about to interrogate a young apprentice on their submission.
"I'll help." Suddenly embarrassed by her unusual spontaneity, Linge flushes. She glances rather sheepishly at her mentor. "Mr.Oerstag still needs help, and you taught me well. Lady Thurdanhelm may need a healer, and I know...Someone who won't be bothered by the snow."
Although she isn't used to taking the lead, she does her best to keep her voice steady. She knows she can do it, and even in this awful weather, she'll walk fast. She'll go get Lady Thurdanhelm because it's her job, and she can't let a potentially wounded woman alone in the woods.
"I'll go," she says, smiling shyly in the direction of the strange, grey-skinned gnome.
The side room is as quiet as ever. The distinct but familiar smell of medicine hangs in the air, and Linge recognizes a whiff of aloe vera.
Under a thick blanket, there is a vaguely humanoid form, almost mummified in bandages.
"Good morning, sir," she says gently, lighting a candle which had gone out. "We've volunteered to seek Lady Thurdanhelm -are you warm enough? I can get another blanket, or make you some tea. Could you tell us more about the creatures you've encountered?"
Another Ulfen? Good, hopefully he knows more about what's going on than these townsfolk.
Sigrun arrives in the apothecary just in time for the Councilor's words, responding, "I was sent here to find out what's going on. Just arrived in town - good timing, I guess." Once inside, she keeps her eyes trained on Yuln, but stays silent for now while others start to ask questions.
Greeting Honsul and giving a courteous nod to the noticibly shy woman he was engaged in conversation with Paldo responded to Honsul, “Well I came as far south as I could to escape the bitter cold to the north where I was raised. I was never fond of it and honestly I would do my best to avoid it if given a choice. That being said, I don’t know that I believe these rumours but luckily for you my curiosity outweighs my discomfort with the cold. Didn’t I hear a grimm old tale floating around town that you were lost in that woods for a period of time when you were young? Something about an old hag living in the woods that kidnaped you? Perhaps she has something to do with all this?”.
Before Honsul could answer Paldo’s inquiry, all heads in the apothecary turned as Council woman Teppen entered. As he listened to Teppen speak of the “wintery creatures”, he found himself rolling his eyes and shaking his head. Catching himself in this sarcastic display of disbelief he hoped no one had noticed, as the Council woman seemed to believe every word she said. Paldo knew that despite his disbelief he would still join this group of mostly strangers “These tales of winter’s chill reaching this far south seem quite the strange occurrence and I would like to see them for myself, you can count me in.”
As the council woman leads the volunteers to the room with the guard, the others that stand several feet above him block his view as he darts his head around trying to get a good look at the injured guard. Eventually edging his way between two others, he feels his throat instantly dry up and it is difficult to swallow. Paldo is no stranger to frostbite and recognizes it instantly. Suddenly Paldo finds himself wondering what he has signed up for...
Garran hurries to join the obviously important woman at the apothecary shop. He is quick to answer her call for aid.
"As a servant of the Inheritor, it is my duty to protect your town as I may. And rescue Lady Ala... Lady Thurdanehelm." The ulfen man's face redens a bit at the slip of the tongue. He hurries on to cover the misstep. 'I may be able to aid with the guard's wounds as well."
Once in the room with the ulfen mercenary, Garran moves quickly to the fellow's bed side to examine his injuries.
Heal: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (3) + 7 = 10 If it looks like a cure light wounds will help, Garran converts protection from evil to CLW and casts it on the man.
Conditional CLW: 1d8 + 1 ⇒ (7) + 1 = 8
Halleva balks at the idea of investigating the occurrences and hangs back as the strange mix of humans, halflings, and others file into the side room. She ran from the North to get away from winter and all the creatures that lurk within it.
Some of her white-blonde hair seems to stand on end as anxiety builds in her chest, and she fights the urge to run again, right out the door of the apothecary and into the snow. She takes some deep breaths, trying to calm herself; if this unnatural winter has something to do with her, or — she feels sick at the word — her mother, won't it just keep following her? And isn't it her responsibility to find out for sure?
She pushes open the door to the side room, slipping inside a few moments after the others.
Upon hearing Paldo mention the "Incident in the Woods" fear drives Gritil to shunt herself back into Honsul's consciousness. However, as soon as Gritil disappears from the Material Plane, Councilor Teppen enters the apothecary and begins speaking. At the same time, a conversation erupted in Honsul's mind.
"Come on Gritil!" Honsul whispers inside his own head. " I know you are afraid, but you won last time! You defeated her. "
In case you forgot Honsul" Gritil's voice reverberates back, "I died during that encounter and you almost did too! "
Which is exactly why we have to help out! What if another witch has returned? And look, we will have a whole group with us. They can do the brunt of the fighting - we can just aid them!"
"You're right... wait where is everyone going?"
Honsul and Gritil notice that others began to move into the other room. Not exactly sure what is happening, Honsul follows them into the new space where they see the heavily bandaged blob of a man.
Honsul (and Gritil) want to reach out to comfort the man, but they are unsure how to aid him. Noticing that others are caring for him, Honsul takes up a position on the other side of the strangers bed and simply offers a warm and friendly smile.
Garran, you don't think that your cure spells will do much good in this instance. He's recovering, and healers have done all they could do at this point.
We've volunteered to seek Lady Thurdanhelm -are you warm enough? I can get another blanket, or make you some tea. Could you tell us more about the creatures you've encountered?
"I'm doing as well as I can, thank you young lady. The good people of your town have been quite good to me." The Ulfen man quickly skips past the pleasantries and continues, discussing their attackers.
"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 south.
"The winter-touched are 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."
Glim rocks back and forth on the balls of his feet, hands still linked behind his back, and something of the man's description of the events lights a flicker of excitement in the svirfneblin's heart.
White witches? Winter war? Cold fey with ice in their hearts? It all sounds so fantastical that Glim feels as if he's listening to a hearthside tale of wonder and adventure.
"My solemn apologies for interrupting," he says, voice surprisingly deep and gravelly for his small stature. "I am Glim Murnig of clan Deepdarrow, member of the Alchemist Guild in which I was fifth in the chain of seniority, and winner of the Annual Koi Beetle Tournament in Dwimovel three years in a row, though admittedly my last victory is now fifteen years passed." He pauses, chin to chest, as if considering his own words, the very nature of his own identity. Frowning, he perseveres.
"I am but recently emerged from the depths of the earth and thus unfamiliar with these matters. These bandits and winter fey. Were they clearly seeking to capture the stolen human noblewoman, or was it primarily a raid on your group in the hopes of stealing your goods, and her kidnapping an incidental bonus? Can you direct us with exactitude to the location of this ambush?"
Glim then steps back, darting slightly embarrassed glances at the others, suddenly self conscious for having spoke up.
For a moment, Linge remains speechless. She hasn't heard anything about Irrisen, the White Witches, or what the main refers to as "the Winter War", yet his words struck a chord with her. Stories of cold-blooded feys whose heart was frozen in their chest, a corrupting, creeping frost fueled by an ancient and powerful magic, and shadowy wolves hunting the innocent traveller in the forest, it all sounded just like...
Well. It sounded just like her late mother's fairy tales.
The more they catch up with her adult life, the less enchanting they seem. Although the room is quite warm, Linge feels a chill go down her spine, making her hair stand on end.
Distractingly, she hears the gnome ask a question (something to do with Koi Beetle, though she has no idea what it is), and adds:
"Those feys- what are they, exactly? And what's the Winter War?"
On the other hand, Sigrun knows all about the White Witches and the Winter War, but despite the look of recognition in her eyes and the growing look of concern on her face, she doesn't interject quite yet, preferring to let Yuln finish his story.
Still, the presence of these creatures is...quite disturbing to her, to say the least. The people back in Oppara had talked of rumors about cold and winter creatures, but fey, directly linked to Irrisen? Something strange must be happening here - it seems everyone's worst fears were right after all. For a moment, she wishes that Father and Mother were here to take care of this mess, but her resolve quickly takes over. No, they wanted me to do this. I can take care of it. After a moment lost in thought, she focuses back in on the conversation.
"It seems the reach of the Winter Witches is long." Garran comments. He stands with arms folded across his chest while Yuln answers the questions put to him.
Then Garran adds a couple of his own. "These brigands. How were they armed?"
Then he adds: "Can you tell us the best way to deal with these winter touched? Fire perhaps?"
Garran's father had come from the Linnorm lands originally, but he had told tales of the Winter Witches. Garran had not thought of them as more than child's tales. It wasn't that he thought they weren't true; more that the tales had seemed impossibly far away. Now he would soon encounter agents of the White Witches himself. Or someone posing as such. Garran decides to keep an open mind, rather than assuming that the identity of the attacker is absolutely known.
Were they clearly seeking to capture the stolen human noblewoman, or was it primarily a raid on your group in the hopes of stealing your goods, and her kidnapping an incidental bonus?
"I don't know what their aim was, but they didn't loot us; they took Lady Thurdanhelm and escaped. I can tell you this, though - 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."
Can you direct us with exactitude to the location of this ambush?
"I can direct you there, yes. They took her deeper into the forest, back through the ice and snow. Beyond that, I don't know where they went. I followed as far as I could, but the winter-touched were too many and too hard to fend off in the snow alone."
Those feys- what are they, exactly?
"As I said, they're tiny sprites no taller than the length of a man's forearm, but they've taken a sliver of ice into their hearts, and their touch bears the harsh bite of winter."
And what's the Winter War?
"The Winter War was a conflict more than 1,000 years ago between the witch queen Baba Yaga and leaders of the Land of the Linnorm Kings in which the witch queen stole the lands now called Irrisen from my Ulfen ancestors."
These brigands. How were they armed?
"As you would expect - with nothing more than swords and bows. It's the winter-touched that overwhelmed us."
Can you tell us the best way to deal with these winter touched? Fire perhaps?
"You fight them with cold iron and burning flame. Both things burn them, and both are weapons they fear."
Linge wrote:Those feys- what are they, exactly?"As I said, they're tiny sprites no taller than the length of a man's forearm, but they've taken a sliver of ice into their hearts, and their touch bears the harsh bite of winter."
"Yes, um... Nevermind, Linge seems to shrink. She had hoped for more details about the creatures, but perhaps she simply didn't make her question clear enough... It wouldn't have been the first time.
And what's the Winter War?[b]"The Winter War was a conflict more than 1,000 years ago between the witch queen Baba Yaga and leaders of the Land of the Linnorm Kings in which the witch queen stole the lands now called Irrisen from my Ulfen ancestors."
It's a lot of information to take in, but Ranna did have stories about a witch queen, as vague as they were. As a general rule, she rarely talked about where she was from. Her daughter had to show her map when she was ten years old for her mother to tell about the Land of the Linnorm Kings, where her father was born. Where Linge's parents were from.
Now that she remembers it, she hadn't really mentioned Irrisen.
Thankfully, the Ulfen man clad in armor -a worshipper of Iomedae, apparently- has more precise questions about the feys's weaknesses. Linge listens politely, waiting to see if anyone else has a question.
Lost in the conversation about events and creatures unknown to them, Honsul quietly walks over to Councilor Teppen and asks:
”Excuse me Councilor Teppen, I was wondering what your plan is for Lady Thurdanhelm’s rescue is. My sister and I would never much like to be apart of the rescue. We might not be great at fighting bandits or winter-pelt fey, but we do have experience in these woods and with witches. Perhaps the High Sentinels are already on the case?”
Garran clasps his right hand around the scabbard belted at his waist. With his thumb he lifts the sword it contains out a couple of inches, then lets it drop back. "Plain steel, not cold iron. Sword's not my only weapon though." He smiles grimly. "There's faith too. And perhaps we can get some alchemical fire."
Yes, cold iron, of course. Father's favorite sword was made of cold iron, too. Nobody back home had thought to have her bring her any, for whatever reason. But, no matter. "Fire? With the right preparation, I should be able to charge my weapon with fire, but..." She trails off, not willing to reveal that she's never even tried it before. "Alchemist's fire sounds like a better plan."
Excuse me Councilor Teppen, I was wondering what your plan is for Lady Thurdanhelm’s rescue is.
The council woman looks at you thoughtfully.
"I'm hoping that you all will take on that mantle. I don't have any members of the militia to spare - the protection of Heldren is my top priority. But I wouldn't want to leave the noblewoman to her fate. Are others willing to go with Honsul and his sister?"
Glim scuffs the floor with the toe of his boot. "Hmm, yes, an investigation is warranted, especially in light of anomalous fauna seen in the area. Yes. Hmm. I will go, if you all would have my assistance in this matter."
"Of course." After all, that's why she's here.
"Actually sooner would be better than later, or it may be a retrieval, not a rescue."
Garran faces the council woman. "Can you spare us any equipment for the task? I have a few torches, but a hotter fire might be better if you have any to spare."
Halleva's upbringing in the Ulfen lands ingrained in her a healthy suspicion of the White Witches and all things touched by their magic, and she's been given even more reason to fear them since. It seems nowhere is safe from their grasp.
She hesitates, and then speaks up quietly for the first time. "What's brought them so far South?"
Glim thinks of the vials and vials of svartenfeur stocked on his shelves deep, deep underground, lost in the dark of his home and now gathering dust. How just one vial would set a fire blazing that no amount of water could quench, and whose heat was such that it would mar stone like acid might living flesh.
He sighs, and actively resists the urge to draw forth his pipe. Would that he had his tools, his lab, his reagents and tinctures and catalysts! Ah, the tools and weapons he could craft with which to fight these icy foes. But such is the way of the world. A hundred vials of svartenfeur when you didn't need them, and then zero vials when you did.
Can you spare us any equipment for the task? I have a few torches, but a hotter fire might be better if you have any to spare.
"I have nothing myself that would be particularly helpful," she says. "And I cannot ask the people of my town to give you their wares without compensation. You are free to talk to the local proprietors, though - they may be willing to make a deal with you."
As she finishes speaking, Yuln speaks up again from his bed.
"I don't have much, but you may use this longsword on your travels. It's made of cold iron - and I'm quite sure I won't be needing it any time soon."
The following potentially helpful items are available around town for purchase (this isn't everything, but they may be some of the more helpful items; obviously some of it is currently too expensive to afford):
5 cold weather outfits (8gp)
10 +1 cold iron sling bullets (86gp each)
Alchemist's fire (20gp each)
Potion of resist energy (cold) (300gp)
Wand of scorching ray (42 charges; 630)
Feeling like she doesn't have any questions left, Linge clears her throat:
"Well, thank you for your help, M.Oerstag. If you don't need anything else, I'll take my leave and gather my things."
However, just as she's about to walk through the door, she suddenly turns around as if an idea had just struck her:
"Forgive me, M.Oerstag, but before I leave, would you be in possession of something belonging to Lady Thurdanhelm? Jewelry, weapon, piece of cloth, anything? There's this," she almost seems to let something slip, and to regain her composure in a split second. "Dog I've been training that could maybe track her down.