Ahris

The first month of winter
baby, it's cold outside

Meta
Use this post to formalize a month’s worth of downtime activities, with what’s listed below as the starting point.

  • You’re sheltering in Lieux’s House of Wares, and it’s not costing much because you’re trading some work around the place for the lodging. Food costs, of course, and I’ll figure out how much and will post it as a comment here.
  • Ezra has contracted with the local blacksmith, Tewey, to restore the gladius found in the tomb, and make a nice breastplate for him, too. The sword will cost 5gp to restore, and the breastplate will cost 400GP. He offers to make a chain shirt, which will only cost 50gp, but he’ll take the job for 400gp if you’ve got the money. As for some training, he’s cagey about this, as he isn’t fond of apprentices, and anyway, they work for their wage, which is learning. He’ll take money, thank you.
  • Kit spends a few days here and there exploring areas SE of Renlen in search of bandit activity.
  • I assume that both Ezra and Morgren would spend time practicing martial skills, and probably sparring with each other.
  • Renli is in high demand in the church, and attendance at services is up, along with donations to its coffers.
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Riding the Storm Out
a harsh winter storm slams the region

The day after the caravan’s return to town a short ceremony is held to mark the work and sacrifices of those who were involved. Dahr Morleigh gives a short speech, eulogizes the dead, and formally adds the names and deeds of the crew to Renlen’s official ledger. For the leaders of the expedition a reception and feast are held that night at his personal residence, and prominent citizens shower the men in thanks, praise, and in some cases gifts. All are put up at the Last Bastion, the nicest inn in town, for the night, and given good food and all the fine treatment and services available there.

The next day dawns slowly, with heavy clouds obscuring the sun for most of the day, and bringing with them a steady snow, which lasts for three days. By the time it abates the town is blanketed in a solid coat of white and the Sconay Peaks are covered entirely in heavy snow. On the fifth day the sun shines through clearly for the first time over the winter landscape, giving only slight warmth through the crisp, dry winter air. The temperature is about 20 degrees lower than it had been only two weeks before, and it’s obvious to everyone that winter has set in.

Based on conversations at the ceremony and reception, and general knowledge of the town and region, the following issues are known:

  • There is concern over the ‘Frost Men’ and what threat they might present, and this is more pressing than the Wolfen, as it is likely that the snows will keep them away until Spring. Given the lack of knowledge of the ways of the Frost Men, it’s unknown as to whether or not they’ll come down into the lower elevations, where some farms and a mill sit, because of the snows. No one knows, although there are plenty of old rumors now given life by proof of their existence. How this will be handled – passively or actively – is also up for debate, with some arguing for further, strong reconnaissance of the mountains to varying degrees to test their plans and resolve. And while most people accept the Frost Men as a real threat or at least a challenge, there is definitely some skepticism – expressed respectfully – over their magical left eye snow blast. C’mon…maybe it was just a some trick, right? Surely. The yeti they can accept more easily than a magical eye blaster.
  • The Wolfen threat is virtually unknowable at this point, since all that is clear is that Amaschat has been burned, and that they are violent and at least somewhat intelligent. And, they are hopefully stuck on the other side of the mountains for Winter. But what if they decide to come over the pass? What if their mounts and motivation carry them south? Some people are more concerned about this boogie man than the more concrete Frost Men.
  • News from the east of the river – that is, from the more developed side of Lineon – is varied and provokes different responses. First, word is that Moizhian Ethrey, the colony’s leader, is back from the Old Realm after being there for several months. She recently presided over a large ceremony confirming the Realm’s victory in its long war and with that great achievement a ‘New Age of colonial development,’ soon to commence. She is generally respected by the socio-political establishment, and known for her firm, dispassionate leadership – very Elven. One thing definite that was announced is an upcoming tour of her chief lieutenants throughout Lineon, meeting with the various Dahrs here and there – sounds like an inspection tour to some, or a chance to show off for the locals to the higher-ups. Word is that the tour will start next Spring, as things slow down a lot during Winter.
  • A few land owners who control a number of farms outside of town complain about bandit activity, attributed to the ‘River Bottom Boys,’ a group of highwaymen who have hit travelers and remote homes and farms for the last year or so. They’ve also created similar problems for the (smaller) towns of Indoschan (south) and Derryn (east).
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Escaping the Wolfen
discovering a secret of the mountains

I’m writing this as a meta-style summary instead of narrative, as I think if I went with that the post would be really long.

The caravan left at dawn, while Kit, Morgren, and Ezra stayed behind at the rockslide site to act as the rearguard. This was decided after Kit found Wolfen prints in the snow up the pass from the camp during the night. Not long after the caravan departed the three were attacked by three Wolfen who fixed them in place with arrows while two others snuck around to one side, up a hill, and then attacked from the flank.Four of the five attackers were killed, and then a group of 10 Wolfen, riding their mutant wolves, came barreling out of the pass. The team made a hasty escape on horseback, with Ezra blasting away at snowy hills trying to start avalanches, with some success.

The wolves were faster, and after a few twists & turns down the path it was clear they would catch the PCs shortly. Kit pointed out an overhang of snow coming up, and Ezra blasted it, even though it’d cause a collapse in front of them, blocking their escape. They did it anyway, jumped off their horses, and took off across the difficult, forested terrain. The horses ran off and the Wolfen were bogged down in the collapse.

After almost a day of easterly overland travel, and Kit noticing ancient remnants of trail sign, rock piles, and other signs of habitation, they came upon a clearing in which there were some ancient, collapsed walls and the footings of a few stone buildings. from this clearing was a sheltered path that led to a narrow draw of a valley, in which there were seven small caves – three along each long wall and one larger entry at the far end. Upon entering the canoe-shaped draw, seven human skeletons emerged and attacked, followed moments later by a minotaur skeleton. The fight was tough and draining, with Kit being dropped by the minotaur, and Ezra and Morgren working hard to save him and dispatch the large skeleton.

In the larger cave the found a tomb, which of course they dug up, and in which they found a single human skeleton, wearing what they eventually figured out was a mithral chain shirt and a Cloak of Protection +1. It also had a tarnished, but well-made gladius, which if given some TLC by a weaponsmith might make a good light melee weapon. The chain shirt also has the quality of protecting the wearer from the cold. While wearing it you don’t need to make any saves vs. cold temperatures, and you have resistance (1/2 damage) against Cold damage.

In that tomb and among the other six were also a number of gems and some ancient coins of various metals. The gems are probably worth a few hundred GP, but you’ll need someone to assess their value. The coins are worth a few hundred GP, too, if only for the metal – but they might be worth more to a collector. No one’s seen anything like them.

Ezra took down detailed drawings of the script and some weathered images from the larger tomb walls, as well – maybe there’s someone they could find who could help decipher them.

Finally, overnight it snowed a lot, and this snow had a strange, sparkly aspect to it, and when it accumulated on the men created a slight silvery sheen, which then seemed to get on their skin and either dry or sink in over time. The identification of the items came from an odd experience that the three men shared, as individuals: they got either headaches or dizziness, and could perceive something weaved into the items that went beyond sight. None of them could tell what it was or where it came from, but it happened to each of them.

They took the next day to move as quickly as they could to the south and lower elevations, and were watched by the blue men as they did so, moving out of the snowy areas just in time. Kit was confident that they could, if they moved quickly, catch up with the caravan before it made it back to town.

Remember, too: you are all 3rd level now.

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Over the Mountain
or There and Back Again...and Again...

After the teams rejoined and prepared for the night, Kit, facing away from the fire as was his custom in hostile territory, listened intently to his comrades recounting of the events of the previous day. Absently rubbing his shoulder he offered what happened on the other side of the mountain pass.

“Whilst transferring the oak from the damaged wagons to the new, we were set upon by a group of these Frost Freaks. Spirit of the Forest! Seriously, who spews frost from an eye?!? Talk about a ‘cold look’! Anyway, they were content to just watch us for nearly an hour. They waited ‘til we had our hands full and sprang from the trees. Timnil staggered and the stack of planks he was carrying fell right on him as he went down, an arrow still quivering in his face. Two came from behind Yurgen and myself and one’s spear thrust came at me. We dropped the planks and I twisted at the last second, but the spear scraped up my shoulder. Yurgen drew his axe and managed to cleave the spear haft of the second Freak. A horn hooted short blasts from within the trees and the attackers growled in frustration, but turned and retreated into the forest under some bow cover. We hunkered down behind the piles of lumber until the arrows stopped thunking into the planks, but it was then that the howling started…

Yipping and barking from both mount and rider the Wolfen dogs and their mutts came charging up into bow range flinging arrows in our general direction, but not hitting much of anything. Several of us returned fire. Brynn managed to stick an arrow into one of the three scouts’ arm, of all places, which rendered him useless at range. The scout leaders’ worg stumbled with a shaft in his rear haunch and that was apparently the last straw. They yipped, howled and limped their way back down the icy road from whence they’d come.

After checking on Timnil, we loaded up the rest of the wood, putting his body atop the first load. We bandaged the other wounded and pushed hard to get back to you guys. I figured you’d probably be getting harassed too."

The ranger paused as if reflecting over the last few days then tells the others, “Yurgen and I will take first watch tonight. We’ve lost some good men in this endeavor. We have over-extended our reach into the ‘wild edge’ and we’ve paid a heavy price for it. Life is cheap to some. Timnil has a wife and a baby girl. She will have to face this winter by herself. Alone she will care for her child. To look upon her face will be difficult when I help put her beloved in the ground.”

The ranger turns back to his companions, he holds a mostly carved figure of a Frost Walker in his hands. “Brothers, most of life’s events are beyond our control, some we have the power to change, and still others we should never let come to pass!” With a low, guttural growl he hurls the carving into the flames and moves off to relieve the others standing guard.

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Marstabashan, nearing winter, late afternoon
In the offices of Moizhian Ethrey

The elf sat and listened to her advisors as they discussed the various reports they’d presented during the meeting. There was so much to consider, sort through, and make decisions about. There were disputes over fishing licenses along the northern coast, especially between fleets from Lineon and Taynsel. There were confirmation hearings related to appointments into the Hehlen across the province, and a few disciplinary actions, as well. Her own report on the latest dispatches from the Old Realm also factored in, with an immediate need to find temporary housing for the troops that would arrive over the next few months. Those, in addition to a seemingly endless heap of small legal, procedural, and economic issues needed attention.

Ethrey held up her right hand, middle and index fingers only extended, giving the signal to her council that she was about to speak. Silence quickly followed.

“We have much work to do, and one piece of this business that I wish to resolve now is that of planning for how we will apportion, assign, and utilize the troops being sent to us. This is a bigger issue than bickering fishermen, would you not agree?” she posed to the group, her tone somewhat weary. Those around her relaxed at the clarity they’d been provided. The bureaucracy and local leaders would sort out the little issues while they would be left the important and complicated task of deciding how to use the regiment that was being sent to Lineon.

“Our task is to ensure that order is provided throughout the colonies, and the troops are being sent for that purpose. I believe that a token presence, in support of the city constabulary, will be adequate for Marstabashan and the immediate area. The Eastern Valley should receive increased patrols in order to calm the worries of the people and show them that their government is as it has always been. As for those areas west of the river…” she stopped in mid-sentence and let the others think while she looked each of them in the eyes.

“…that is where where we shall focus our efforts most,” she finished.

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Protecting the Pass

Ezra, Renli, Morgren and Durphyn arranged their positions so as to provide both good fields of view and adequate concealment. Between the four of them they could see deeper into the pass, toward Renlen, and across the steep valley to the south. The peaks above them to the north, they hoped, were too high and steep to enable an approach from that direction, and so they put their backs to those hills and settled in for what they hoped would be a boring, cold day.

Within an hour, however, this hope was dashed by the appearance of three of the blue-skinned mountain men: one hiding in the woods up the trail, one on a hillside down the trail, and one on the hillside across the valley. All three were concealed, and it was only their movement now and again, over a period of some 30 minutes, that enabled the four men to pick them out.

Morgren, trying to get closer to one of them, crept through the brush and rocks aside the trail and made his way across the road unseen. As he closed on the watcher to the north, Ezra made an overt move to try and instigate a peaceful interaction with the watchers, stepping out of his hiding spot and walking down the hill toward the trail, with arms wide open, making his presence and knowledge of the far watcher clear.
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As Ezra reached the bottom of the hill a great roar echoed off the valley walls and surrounding hills, accompanied by sounds of smashing and crashing from the chasm to the south. From over the cliff came, at surprising speed, a great, while, shaggy-haired beast, which roared again mightily and bounded toward Ezra, who blasted it with an sphere of crackling darkness.

Morgren pounced on the man hidden among the trees, putting his sword to his neck. “Call it off!” he barked as the blue man tensed and turned to face him.

“What makes you think I can?” the stranger replied in even, heavily-accented Common before letting loose with a blast of ice from his left eye, staggering and momentarily blinding the Rogue.

Meanwhile the Yeti closed on Ezra, howling and roaring along the way. The half-elf backed up slowly while blasting it again. Over the next few moments, action was a blur – Durphyn fired on the Yeti; Morgren’s quarry escaped into the woods and the Rogue dashed to Ezra to attack the beast. Sword, bow, and spell blasted forth, concentrated on the white monster until it dropped dead in the snow, charred and bloody. The team took some damage and would need some rest, with Renli’s healing powers speeding the process of recovery.

The blue men disappeared into the rough terrain…only to return an hour later in greater numbers, two from the north and three from the south. This time the moved forward and began raining arrows down on the team, eventually killing two of the four horses before Ezra and Morgren killed one of the two to the north, and Morgren disabled the other as he tried to flee. Renli, channeling the power of Aiomaedyn, elevated his voice to a deep baritone, bouncing it off the peaks and cliffs around them, seeming to bring the wrath of the Father Over All down on the blue men, who turned and fled.

After performing some first aid on their prisoner, they interrogated him, learning little beyond the powerful sense that his people never had, would not, and do not tolerate outsiders on their lands – and that it seemed that “their lands” meant areas that were deep in the snows of winter. After Renli’s calculated use of magic to intimidate and persuade, and Ezra’s frank negotiations, the man agreed to advocate on their behalf for a two-day window of activity in the pass, so long as winter did not bring the deep snows to this point before that time. He would ask that his people leave them alone until then.

They also learned that the blue man knew of the ‘Wolfen’ attack on Amaschat, and that it seemed that the wolf-men had tangled with his people recently. With that, he took his gear and left, quickly disappearing into the woods and snow.

Durphyn butchered the two dead horses while the others warmed themselves by their fire, and all waited on the return of the wagons.

Later in the afternoon, just as the sun dipped below the western peaks, they caught sight of Kit trotting forward on this horse, and soon behind him they saw the first of the wagons, driving as hard as they could back toward Renlen. Although some 100 yards or more out, the four men could see that the others had been in a fight, with some men laid out on the wagons, and possibly Bolin, or another, either laid across his saddle or slumped over it – shadows and distance prevented any more detail.

At least they’d made it back this far, and none too soon, as the last light of the day illuminated clouds that were sure to bring heavy snows within days, possibly even tomorrow.

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Recovery Mission in the Pass
splitting the party by necessity

The caravan consisted of five wagons with a crew of two each and pulled by four horses each, and four riding horses. Morgren, Kit, and Ezra rode alongside sometimes in front of the teams on horseback, and one other rider, a teamster security guard named Bolin, provided an extra set of eyes.

Upon arriving at the landslide blocking the road, and discovering the spear stuck in the road, Volo, the leader of the teamsters, reminded everyone of their core mission.

“We need to get that wood. I don’t need to explain what that means to the Guild, and the coffers of Renlen. We need to focus on bringing all of it back,” he stated in a firm, no-nonsense tone. His crew was ready with shovels, picks, and boards to surmount at least part of the rock pile in order to get the wagons across, and got right to work.

Kit knew that scouting for security would be critical if they were going to get their work done quickly, and so he, Ezra, and Morgren ranged forward on horseback to check on the status of the abandoned wagons. Within 90 minutes they’d returned: the wagons were still there, complete with their cargo, and there were multiple booted footprints around them, and leading off into the woods and rough hills. Upon their return, as daylight faded, Kit also found tracks around the collapsed pass – these were days newer than those around the lost wagons.

“I will accompany the wagons forward to recover the wood, while a team stays behind to ensure that this pass stays open enough for us to escape,” Kit informed the group. They’d stay the night here and the men would continue working, in shifts, through the darkness to clear enough of a path to get the wagons through. Once that was open Kit would lead them to the other site while Ezra, Renli, Morgren, and Durfin, a teamster man-at-arms, stayed behind to keep their escape route clear.

Keeping the hastily-cleared pass open would be critical to their escape, and those staying behind knew this, considering it as the last of the wagons trundled out of sight in the early morning twilight.

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Chronicles of Renlen
Told to a group of children and others at an annual festival, years in the future

“…yes, that’s when we first learned of the Wolfen, when they burned Amaschat,” the storyteller explained to those gathered around him in the cooling air of the summer night.

“Our riders found them on the other side of the pass, and to their great dismay saw that the trading post and surrounding farmsteds had been burned – destroyed by some unknown force…” he said dramatically before pausing to let the image sink in. “Far up in the mountains, on the cold and shadowy northern slopes, they looked down on the sad remains of the tiny outpost, and they knew they needed to find out what had happened. Already they’d dispatched their fellows to bring together a work party to recover the oak from the lost wagons, but they needed answers – what if this threat spread? What of Renlen? And so they bravely forged ahead, farther from home and safety, closer to the unknown danger.”

Children shifted in their seats, some of them smiling, knowing what was coming next, while other, younger children sat still in wrapt attention, learning the details of the story for the first time.

“Yes, farther through the pass they went, encountering and exchanging arrows with an unknown figure who’d been tracking them, until the reached the exit from the mountains into the valley, where they were suddenly set upon by sentries – an ambush!”

“Yips and howls they heard, gnashing of great Wolfen teeth accompanied the volleys of arrows from their attackers. Quickly they responded, firing back and fighting on despite the vicious ambush and the damage they themselves took. One beast was shot dead, and after clever maneuvers by our men the other Wolfen was felled. But the danger was only increasing, as their loud cries – their call to war for the pack – had drawn the attention of the others, a mile away in the ruins of the town, and they were only minutes away. Flight! The men had to take flight back into the mountains, where they concealed themselves, and the next day snuck, cleverly, back into the valley, confirming the destruction of the town, the deaths of its residents, and the presence of more Wolfen and their Winter Worgs – their dreadful steeds….” the man pulled a carved image out of his pack, a wooden figure of a hunch-backed riding animal to show the children.

“They knew they were outmatched…outnumbered…and that they needed to warn Renlen, and so swiftly back through the pass they rode, seeking nothing but the southern slopes, and there met the recovery caravan, dispatching a rider to our town, and then – without rest of resupply for themselves – drove back into the pass with the teamsters, only to discover another problem, theretofore only hinted at by story and wild legend….”

A small hand went near the front of the group of children. The storyteller nodded to the little girl, encouraging her to speak.

“Is that when they found the Winter Folk?”

The storyteller flashed a sly, knowing grin. “Or did the Winter Folk find them?,” letting the question hang in the air.

That is a story for another day!”


Meta
And remember: you’re all 2nd level now.

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Views of the Sconays in the morning

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To the west

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Toward the Loy Valley

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To the east

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Sconay Mountain Way
a cold, windy night

Lacking the wagon and its roll-out shelter sides meant a cold night for the three men in the high pass. They were able to clear away enough snow, piling up some around the base of two close abandoned wagons, and did the best they could with what little they had. The wagons were in good enough to repair to move again, should they get some horses, and so dismantling or otherwise damaging them for wood to burn or use for a one-night shelter seemed like a bad idea. Plus, Morgren and Ezra, employees of the guild that owned an interest in them, wanted as little property damage as possible. 20 missing draft horses was already a high bill to pay.

Night fell, the temperature dropped to freezing, and a light wind came up, but fortunately not enough to keep them from lighting a fire. There was no food or other provisions or supplies left in the wagons, and so they had to make do with what they’d carried. Another task was ensuring some protection for their horses which, although thick in their own winter coats, were still shivering. Enough already-damaged canvas was cannibalized from the wagon covers to create makeshift blankets for the three animals, and along with the fire they were likely to make it through the night without much more than a chill – so long as the weather didn’t take a nasty turn.

The three divided watch duties and set about eating, sleeping. Wolves howled into the night as they tried to save the power of light and heat – their fire – as the wind picked up.

Daylight could not come soon enough for them, but given the season and their placement in the mountains, the night would be a long one. Good planning and vigilance, however, enabled them to get through to the next day and the slightest hint of a sunrise to the east.

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