Reign of Winter

The Frozen Wastes
An excerpt from the journal of Nobel Black

Times were hard as we made our way to Whitethrone. This quest had come upon us unexpectedly, and as such we found ourselves unprepared in a land far from Taldor with an unnatural climate and dire landscape. Though I had spent much of my life in the woods, I was in no way ready for the frozen wastes of Irrisen. This was an entirely different kind of wilderness and it was a nearly fatal mistake to leave Waldsby in such haste.

We trekked for 7 days across the flat, empty plains with Nadya as our guide. For several days, we feared we would be lost entirely as we made our way over the vast expanse of whiteness with essentially no landmarks to speak of. How Nadya managed to keep us on course is not clear, but I have to assume she was doing so using the sun and stars. Otherwise the Ulfen people of Irresen have some supernatural means of orientation.

On day 4 I spotted some falcons high over head, which suggested trouble may be coming our way as it seemed out of place for several birds of prey to be out in this seeming void. Trouble did indeed find us when we came upon Irresen archers who fired upon us as Selene called for parlay. Fenn immediately halved their numbers with a fiery blast while Nesteruk and Selene drew their blades and closed the gap. To protect my comrades from arrows, I laid down an eerie mist that obscured us. Unbeknownst to me, a wolf had crept up behind us and was preying on Fenn and Nadya. With the mist in the way, none of us could tell what was happening. Hearing the commotion, Nesteruk pushed a slain soldier from his blade and grabbed me as he ran back through the mist. When we cleared the other side, I saw my friend Fenn bleeding in the snow and Nadya crawling into the mist to escape the wolf, which had evidently felt Fenn’s fire judging by the char marks. I quickly joined Nadya in the snow when the creature turned to me with its icy breath. Even mighty Nesteruk, still weakened by his curse, was brought down by the savagery of the creature.

It seemed that once again all was lost when the mist faded and out strode Selene like a wrathful angel. With blood still dripping from her longsword forming a trail in the snow like rose buds with each step, she paused briefly to size up the situation before taking the fight to the fiend. Nadya aided her with her bow while I stabilized Nesteruk and moved to help Fenn. Fearlessly, Selene pushed her shield into the wolf’s maw and buried her longsword in its thick hide putting an end to the melee. Without stopping to catch her breath, she set to work laying healing hands on our allies. She was glorious that day and yet moved earnestly on to the next task seemingly without need for accolades or celebration. Twice now she has pulled us from the brink of doom, a debt I vow to repay.

In the days that followed Nesteruk stepped up as well in a way we had not yet seen. He seemed almost at home in the wilderness, even one as foreign as this. Though the curse he bore sapped his stamina, he was ever the survivalist; hunting, skinning, and field dressing our food. We had run out of rations at this point and the thought of starvation was beginning to enter our minds. As luck or providence would have it, we stumbled upon an elk from the Realm of the Mammoth Lords. Nesteruk circled around behind it to force it into the rest of us while Fenn crippled it with magical weakness. We had enough meat for what we hoped would be the remaining several days of the trip.

On our last day before arriving at Whitethrone, we found ourselves in the ruins of a village long since razed. To our surprise there remained a temple to Desna still managed by 2 priests. They beckoned us into the temple and Selene acquiesced when she did not seem to detect anything amiss. However, nothing in this land seems to be as it appears. Upon entering the courtyard, we could feel a supernatural presence so powerful that even I heard the screams of children in my mind. Having some experience with haunts I moved back toward the priests. My suspicions were confirmed upon touching one as they changed before my eyes into undead monstrosities, twisted creatures that were spawned when the priests themselves undoubtedly performed some blasphemous act against Desna. They stood no chance against the conviction of Selene who stood by my side and shielded me from their diseased claws. Nesteruk and Fenn took care of them in seconds and Selene set to work trying to cleanse the temple. Unfortunately, we were incapable of consecrating a site of such profanity, so Selene vowed to return at some later time to see to the task.

Before we made camp, she attempted to leave a message in loose stones to any other potential travelers warning them of the dangers of the temple. This task too was unsuccessful due to stones being rearranged when she turned her back. She seemed to think it was the desecrated site itself perpetrating the act, but I could feel that it was my own hauntlings causing the mischief. Whatever they were, they seemed to revel in these kinds of pranks. Fenn knew but so far appeared to have kept my secret. My anxiety grew as we approached Whitethrone. The hauntlings had always been much harder to control amongst groups of people which is why I was so comfortable in the relative solitude provided by the woods of the Deep Green. Now we would be entering a city of thousands, something I had not done in over a decade. It was time I came clean before I compromised our entire endeavor.

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Exaltation of Sarenrae

I have seen my companion Noble write regularly these days and seems to be a good way of cataloguing and critiquing our performance through this grand adventure. I myself am not want to laud such achievements but I think doing this may also emphasize my service and humility in the power of Sarenrae and provide a therapeutic outlet for the events encountered.

I have been under much stress these last many nights after our mystical gating to this land of unrelenting cold. It is the grace of my goddess that it’s bite does not phase me. I am vexed that this land is so cold and far from the heat and love of my goddess. It is my continued duty to bring patience to all and attempt to redeem those that are able to do so. My compatriots felt some of my recent action in the dispatching of a restrained helpless evil creature was severe but my goddess though lenient is always one to dispatch an evil that irredeemable in nature. I do feel my hesitance to attack in effort to dissuade violence is a poor strategy in ways of battle but a consistent experience in my profession of honor to the spirit of the Dawnflower.

We successfully made our way through the ice tower and shut the portal that brought us to this place. This victory was two sided. The closure of the portal and dispatch of the evil witch in protection was a win for the forces of good but we were potentially duped by another Lady Argentia either we had rescued an imposter earlier or let this imposter escape. We also may have erred in leaving an apparent neutral party in the raven tender of the tower. They had no sense of evil within them but at the time I didn’t think that they may be under a form of duress which I would not be able to sense from her. I hope that my instincts be true and we didn’t fumble yet another potential obstacle in our duty to do good.

Now we ride onward to try and find the source of all that is going wrong in this region and seek the Baba Yaga centric causes of this potentially devastating winter land

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Scratch and Shiver
An excerpt from the journal of Nobel Black

With the Pale Tower in our possession, we went about exploring the rest of its grounds. The Aviary was now empty, the master of ravens having seemingly fled while we were disabling the portal generator. In the Aviary we discovered a rather eloborate dollhouse. Among several items stashed inexplicably within the dollhouse were a silver dagger and 2 dolls. The dagger was a fine quality and exuded some kind of magical property which we could not easily identify. The dolls were ordinary, hand crafted dolls, of no particular skill or craftsmanship. In fact, one had a sizeable scratch down the side of its face marring the doll. I’m not sure what it was about them. Maybe the fact that they were once special to someone; perhaps they were the solace of some abducted child or some small Fey servant to the tower’s master. Maybe it was that they had potential for more sinister uses such as the animated doll we had faced guarding Irresen’s border. Maybe it was that I so desparately wanted to find Nadya’s daughter in the Pale Tower that I couldn’t bear the thought that we were already too late. Whatever it was, I couldn’t leave them behind in this empty dollhouse in this empty tower.

We met Nadya outside and decided to head immediately to Whitethrone which would take several days travel north. There we could begin searching for Baba Yaga’s hut and ultimately the grand witch herself. We would first need to traverse the frozen miles ahead of us, avoid whatever patrols may already be out looking for us, and reach Nadya’s uncle who could hopefully provide us with the means to enter and move about Whitethrone undetained.

On the first day of our trek, we were assailed by a swarm of ravens. Whether it was related to the raven master of the Pale Tower I do not know as she was nowhere to be found. Fenn was glorious in his magical skill as always, fending off the creatures with blasts of fire, when suddently, as if a single mind, the swarm descended upon him and raked at his eyes. He reeled back and I rushed to his aid while our companions battled another swarm. In an unorthodox fashion, perhaps after watching Selene’s success bashing the swarm with her shield, Nesteruk drew a shovel from his bag and began to furiously pummel the birds with the flat of the scoop. Using the witch’s ice wand I skewered the remaining ravens on icicles as they unnaturally burst from the ground.

The next few days were tense. We continued our journey northward with extreme caution as, with Fenn blinded and Nesteruk still cursed with sapped vitality, we were significantly handicapped. By day, Nadya guided us across the harsh Irresen terrain and Nesteruk and I would help her hunt and gather supplies. Our trail rations were limited as we had never expected to find ourselves thousands of miles from home. By night I aided Selene as she tended to Fenn. There were several days in which it was unclear if he would ever see again, but after almost 4 days his sight returned and with it our morale.

It was just in time it would seem, as we were attacked that very night by boreal wolves. As one pulled Selene to the ground, I pulled a burning branch from the fire to defend her, knowing that the creatures couldn’t stand the flame. Fenn let loose his frustration from the previous days and turned the other wolf to burnt hair and gristle. We dined on wolf that night.

As we walked those long miles and set watch those cold nights, we all had time to reflect. I thought about the irony that Fenn and I had spent so much time trying to find trouble in the Deep Green and now that we’d left it turned out that trouble had been looking for us as well. I wondered about Nesteruk and his motivation. He was strong indeed but also often silent. He asked for nothing and seemed to live only for battle and bloodshed. Were his displays of bravery a means of releasing a constant indwelling rage, homocidal intent, or suicidal ideation? Selene continued to be our shield in all ways. She stood fast against the terrors of the wild, mended our wounds with skill and faith, and used her natural charisma to help guide us. However, at times her zealotry made her our spear which could lead us into conflicts best left avoided. She lived in a world of black and white, but what about the grey areas? Fenn was evidently of diabolical heritage and I was something else entirely; would she feel compelled to “cleanse” us? From where does her fervor arise?

In meditation one morning, I sat facing Lucky to the north. Just like the first time we met, he stared back at me, the snow on his fur glistening with the first rays of morning sun. I was a vessel, I knew that. I had always known that, but a vessel for what? I could not know as I could not look that deeply into the part of myself where it rested. I was learning to bring it out and manifest it to varying effect. The hauntlings could move objects, produce sounds, and even forcefully rip things from the grasp of others, but they needed form if I was to begin to understand them. In that moment of contemplation, Lucky switched his gaze to the two dolls peering from the top of my pack.

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The Fall of the Pale Tower
An excerpt from the journal of Nobel Black

Having used the alchemists fire to burn our way in through ice wall surrounding the tower, we were met by an ice troll. After dispatching him, we left Nadia to remain in the courtyard while we made our way into the Pale Tower. Though the tower itself was meant to be a barracks for a company of Irresen forces, we found it strangely empty. The guards that we had seen around the wall now strangely absent. Our brownie friend helped us navigate the ice lifts which turned out to be quite disconcerting. Imagine being flash frozen and then instantly thawed and you’ll understand why I would have preferred stairs.

As we explored the second floor we began to become unnerved at the number of mirrors lining nearly every primary wall in every room and corridor. We remembered the large mirror positioned in the towns tavern and Fenn mentioned that they may be some kind of scrying device. Nesteruk moved to smash one of them but was stopped by Fenn. He was unsure what would happen should the mirrors be shattered and if they were indeed scrying mirrors than the tower’s master was already aware we were here.

We made our way through room after empty room before finding ourselves confronted by a familiar face. In a small unlocked room we found a small bed covered in fancy dresses and none other than Lady Argentia trying them on. She was happy to be rescued which made me instantly suspicious as the Lady we had known was a shrew. I signaled Nesteruk to ensnare her and drew my blade. Fenn asked her several questions about the nobility of Taldor of which she seemed to have knowledge. Even more confused, I was now concerned that we had unwittingly released an imposter back in Taldor. We asked Lady Argentia to wait in her room while we secured the tower. As I was still unsure of her intentions and identity, I tripped the lock on her door to keep her in place. We would later return to find her gone, having opened the lock from inside the room. Should we come across her again, I may just have to put my blade in her once and for all to find out who she really is.

In the adjoining room we were confronted by a blade-wielding sorceress. Fenn was quick to sap her strength with his magery, but she countered by increasing her size. Nesteruk was still winded from his scrap with the troll and seemed to be evenly matched with the sorceress as they matched blades, neither seeming to be able to connect. Fenn blasted her with flame while Selene shielded the rest of us from the the sorceress’s own flames as they spewed from her mouth. Though she was quite the adversary, our combined effort was eventually enough to wear her down.

Before leaving the floor, we uncovered an unnatural creature made of plant material chained to the wall in another large chamber. I could feel the vibrations in the air, but my companions seemed to be very bothered by the sounds emitted by the creature. The typically very kindly Selena was brought to anger by the very sight of the thing and uncharacteristically was the first to draw her blade. I felt pity for the helpless monster as he clearly seemed to be imprisoned and was in anguish. I beseeched her to leave the creature be and show it mercy, but her blood was raised and she refused to listen. She insisted the creature was evil and her code demanded it be destroyed. Nesteruk, always eager for battle, joined her in hacking the creature to pieces while Fenn and I stood aside unable to reason with our companions. It was nothing short of disturbing to see this dark side of Selene, and for the first time I realized that despite our time together I barely knew her. I wondered what secrets she holds. I wondered what she would think if she knew my secret, if she knew what I was. Would she stay her wrath for a brother-in-arms, or would she draw her longsword on me as well?

The floor above contained a large magical globe and the tower’s lord, though to be honest I was expecting a woman as my understanding is that the Irresen leadership are female witches. He refused to close the portal to Taldor and left us with no other recourse but violence. My hauntlings stripped him of his wand and enveloped him in my curse, preventing his magic. Though he took to the air, Selene was able to fell him with a throw of her shield as it connected to his chin sending him plummeting to the floor below.

While Fenn worked with the magical globe to close the portal, Nesteruk and I secured the rest of the floor. We uncovered a magically locked door that I was unable to open, but Nesteruk pushed me aside and smashed his way in. As he did so, a wave of energy ungulfed him and sapped his fortitude. We returned to our companions to find that Fenn had indeed closed the portal, but this meant that we could not return home, at least not easily. It mattered not, we still had a job to do. Baba Yaga was still out there, and we would now need to journey into the heart of the White Queen’s dominion to find Baba Yaga’s dancing hut.

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That Time with the Satyrs
A Nobel and Fenn Tale

“Come on. Let’s do it! There’s probably some amazing stuff in there.” Nobel was excitedly pointing to the blacktar satyr camp set among the trees at the bottom of the hill.

“What if they catch us?” said Fenn.

“They won’t catch us. They’ll be busy with that boat of travelers.” The boys had been sitting on the hill looking over the river and forest for most of the afternoon, and like most young men they were looking for some excitement. They had spotted the satyr camp about 30 minutes prior, but some mischief had come to Nobel’s mind the moment he saw the boat coming down the river. Blacktar satyrs were well known thieves, usually luring travelers and passing boats with their enchanting blacktar pipe smoke and pan flutes before making off with the helpless saps goods. Now a large boat carrying about half a dozen people was headed this way and Nobel was not going to let this opportunity pass. He suggested they sneak down to the satyr camp after the satyrs left for the river bank. “Besides,” Nobel signed, “I’m too sneaky.”

“Just because you can’t hear them doesn’t mean they can’t hear you, idiot.” replied Fenn aloud.

Nobel gave him the finger and then ran down the hill toward the camp.

“Why do I always follow you into these things? And I’m the smart one, why don’t I get to make the plans?” Fenn said mostly to himself as he trudged along reluctantly. By the time he got to the camps edge, Nobel was already leaning so far into an old wooden chest that his feet were off the ground. He’d already thrown half of the trunks contents onto the ground around the chest.

“Oh that’s super stealthy. They’ll never know we were here now.” whispered Fenn.

Nobel came up out of the chest and rolled his eyes. “I was going to put it back” he signed. He held up what appeared to be a loop of green rope with 3 knots in it.

“Is that for the satyrs to hang you with?” signed Fenn. Now that he was in the camp he could hear the pan flute music and realized just how close the satyrs still were. He was happy to keep his mouth shut for a while and let his hands do the talking lest his lips make any more noise then Nobel already was.

Nobel looked disappointed. “It’s a holy symbol of Magdh. I wonder where they got it?” he signed.

“Is that your dream girl again? The one that looks like a bear? Maybe she left it on the forest floor in one of her magical steaming bear droppings. Lucky you!” Fenn signed with feigned excitement. He pocketed a few strange looking coins lying in a pot near a small tent.

They continued to rummage through things over the next few minutes in silence. Fenn had found a backpack and was filling it with anything that looked valuable. He suddenly realized that he could no longer hear the pan flutes and was not sure when they had stopped. A cold sweat broke out on his face and he rushed to grab Nobel and leave, when he turned to see Nobel, his back still to Fenn, staring at 2 very angry satyrs. Nobel was attempting to speak with them in Sylvan, his hands raised in deference to pacify them. When Fenn walked up and touched his shoulder, Nobel turned and glanced at him. They nodded and Fenn gave him the thumbs up. Nobel suddenly dropped to his knees, hastily grabbed a handful of dirt, and threw it in the face of one of the satyrs who reeled back, clawing at his eyes. Simultaneously, Fenn threw the back pack he had been filling at the same satyr, hitting him in the gut and knocking him over.

“I thought you were going left!” shouted Fenn exacerbated.

“I looked to the right one! You were supposed to go left!” insisted Nobel.

“But I’m already on your right! If we switched over-”. Before the argument could continue, the remaining satyr pulled his knife and lunged at the two. Fenn instinctually covered the area in a blanket of darkness and yanked Nobel’s arm.

They raced back up the hill with the satyrs close behind, having quickly recovered from the ploy. As they reached the hill top, they realized there was no cover save for a single tree. Fenn pointed up the tree. Nobel gave him a bewildered look but scrambled up the tree nonetheless with Fenn close behind. By the time the two satyrs reached the crest of the hill, Fenn and Nobel were hiding in a high branch, obscured by leaves. The satyrs scanned the area, and finding nothing, started to pace around the tree, looking for the thieves among its branches.

“What’s your plan now, oh great and powerful mastermind?” signalled Nobel.

Fenn responded, “Can you fly?”

Nobel silently mouthed “What?”. Fenn didn’t respond. Instead he was eyeing the two satyrs intently as they paced around the tree.

“Okay, get ready to fly.” whispered Fenn as the satyrs neared the tree base beneath their branch.

“Fenn, you realize that I can’t fly, right?” signed Nobel desperately, though Fenn was not even so much as glancing at him, his eyes held tight to the satyrs. “Wait, can YOU fly?”

Just then Fenn leaned toward Nobel and pushed him from the tree. The cacaphony of Nobel’s screaming and breaking branches drew the attention of the satyrs who looked up only to be crushed by the impact of the full weight of the falling human. Fenn crawled down from the tree and helped the stunned Nobel to his feet. The satyrs had been knocked unconscious beneath him. One of them had a leg that did not seem to be bending in the proper direction, even for a satyr.

“See, that’s why I should make the plans.” stated Fenn proudly. “And look on the brightside: you got to at least keep your magical bear dropping to remember this by.” He pointed to the three knotted rope around Nobel’s neck.

“Maybe we should just learn how to actually fly.” replied Nobel, rubbing his bruised body.

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Night of the Demon
A tale of terror as told by the people who witnessed it

Kresnev, Mikhail, and Pietra sat in the corner of the Stag quietly drinking their ale. Business was slow today as many decided to stay home and lay low after the events from the preceding night.

“Poor Nadia”, said Pietra. “After all she’s been through, and now to be set upon by monsters.”

Kresnev snarled through his grizzled beard, long and thick from his 50 odd years in the cold of Irresen. “More like demons. You saw them as well as I when they first came to town. They speak some strange tongue as demons do and the fey-looking one didn’t seem to even speak at all, just gestured with his hands. No doubt casting some kind of unholy incantation.”

“At least he and the woman looked human”, said Mikhail. “The other two didnt even bother to hide their appearance with a glamour. The red one looked just like a devil and the…the tusked one…” Mikhail swallowed hard, suddenly gripped by fear all over again.

Nadia had fallen on hard times. She had always been somewhat of a leader in the community, bravely testing the wilds of Irresen for game and other resources. When Pietra’s daughter of 8 months had become ill with some of the other children one season, it was Nadia that had been amongst a small crew on a 4 day journey to another village for medicines, despite a raging blizzard. Tragedy had recently come to Nadia though when the White Witch of the Pale Tower sent for Nadia’s child. It was presumed that the child had been caught publicly criticizing the White Witch who has many eyes and sees many things. One might have expected her to mourn and hide away in her home, but instead she took off 2 days later with a local hunting party. Each of us grieves in our own way. When she returned she brought more than just fresh game with her. Four unusual strangers, clearly foreigners, were in her party. She claimed they were her cousins, but not even Thom Scheely, the local halfwit, would have bought that load.

“I seen what happened”, continued Mikhail. “The witch’s men came to Nadia’s looking for the strangers. They were pounding on her door. It woke me from my nap beside the hearth. After what I saw I might never sleep again! Out of nowhere this beast comes screaming out from Nadia’s threshold and takes one the men’s head off with his bare hands before any of them can even react. Next thing I know, a piercing light comes pouring out of the open doorway and windows to Nadia’s house displaying a silhouette of one of hell’s own knights!”

Kresnev clenched his teeth and shook his closed fist, the other still holding his flagon. “The strangers must have opened some kind of portal to a demon realm. How could a man have torn apart 6 men-at-arms with his bare hands? You saw the bodies. Missing heads and one with his forequarter ripped clean off at the chest, through his armor! A blood bath!”

In truth Mikhail had not actually seen most of the battle. At the sight of the bright light and horrible roar, he had pissed himself and dropped to his knees beneath the window, praying for salvation, but he wasn’t about to mention this to his comrades. “It was a beast for sure, with horrible tusks like the green skinned stranger, only it walked on all fours and lapped up the spilled blood when it was over.”

“How dreadful”, said Pietra, her stomach growing increasingly nauseated by the account. “And now Nadia has disappeared as well.”

“Probably burned alive by now judging by the frozen over piece of charcoal lying in town square this morning”, said Kresnev. “Killed ‘em with hellfire even as they ran for their very lives. It’s obscene!”

The three finished their drinks and got up to leave. As they tightened their furs against the cold outside, they silently hoped that the tumult had passed. Irresen was hard enough without these kinds of affairs. Little did they know that the legend would only grow, for Nesteruk the Marked, the Indestructible Rageblade, primal avatar of fury, and slaughterer of the wicked, had come to the snowy north and the witches of Irresen would know his great anger.

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The Winter Without End, The Promise Made in Blood
An excerpt from the journal of Nobel Black

The snow grew as deep as our chests before we came to the source of the unnatural cold. A vortex of snow and ice rose into the sky from the valley floor. Nearby we found a cave dwelling containing a painting of Whitethrone, capital of Irresen. As we approached the vortex, a figure in black armor exited the swirling cloud of ice before collapsing at out feet. He explained it all: the winter, the fey, the Irresenian invasion. Then he set us on a quest on which everything may rely.

He was called Black Midnight and was the outrider for the great witch queen Baba Yaga, the herald of her centennial return to Golarian. It seems that the legends of Irresen are true. Baba Yaga truly does return every 100 years and replace the ruling witch of Irresen with one of Baba Yaga’s own daughters before taking the current ruling daughter away to places unknown. One can only guess what happens to her sons. No legends that Fenn has ever heard or read have spoken of any sons.

This time something was wrong with the transfer of power. The current witch queen was reluctant to relinquish her power and was making moves against Baba Yaga herself. The queen had opened up portals in an attempt to expand the borders of Irresen and thus expand her power. She was not yet powerful enough to face her mother, but if she could cast Golarian into an eternal winter her power would grow to perhaps rival even the legendary Baba Yaga. Our portal was but one of many scattered throughout Golarian and closing but one would not stop the expansion of frozen wastes into our homes for long. However, unspeakable beasts were ravaging Taldor as they spilled through the portal and the winter was killing the crops and starving the people. If we could reach the Pale Tower, we could close the portal. The only problem, we would have to go through the portal to close it, so there wouldn’t be any coming back.

Black Midnight asked us to take 2 magic keys that would allow us to use Baba Yaga’s magical hut in Whitethrone to find her wherever she was as she was the only means on Golarian of stopping all that her daughter had put in motion. We tried to heal him but his life was fading before us. His glamour began to disperse revealing an old man in a black robe, not the armored behemoth we had initially perceived. He again asked us to swear to this task: take the keys and find Baba Yaga. Knowing that this was the disturbance that my master, Arana Snakeroot, had sent me to investigate, I agreed to fulfill his wish. My companions also solemnly vowed to take on this task, for if not us, then who?

With our oath sworn, Black Midnight did the unexpected. He sealed the oath in a sacrificial blood rite by slitting his own throat with a dagger and spilling his lifeblood on the keys. A wave of both power and importance washed over me. We have not discussed it, but I believe my colleagues experienced it as well. I believe it changed us. Fenn seems even smarter and more confident in his magery as if he had unlocked some secret knowledge within himself. Nesteruk seems to have become more contemplative and insightful, the rage in him more focused and measured. Selene too has been different but in a way I cannot describe. Her vigor for rooting out evil has been stoked, yet I wonder if her zeal is true or simply a mask she hides behind, a story she tells herself to give her purpose. I sense something off about her in a way that perhaps only someone such as ourselves, who have been forever marked by powerful forces at birth, can feel in each other.

As for me, it was as if the spilling of blood called out to aspects of my own blood. I feel as if my magic flows more freely and with more potency. I have learned to channel the hauntlings further into unnatural silence and have even begun to commmand them more fully even as an extension of my own hands rather than using them solely to mitigate luck or produce parlor tricks. My connection with Magdh and the fey seems to have been enhanced most of all. Whereas my quick witted nature and love for dramatic flare had previously been the only signs of the Black fey bloodline within me, I now find that I am becoming increasingly more fey in appearance. My white hair has become nearly platinum and Fenn informs me that my blue eyes have become so vibrant as to almost look like sapphires.

I wrapped the bloodied keys in a piece of Black Midnight’s own robes and placed them in my pack. Then we honored him in the best way we knew how for one who had dedicated his life and death to the service of the winter witches. We placed him in a nearby pit and entombed him there within a block of ice made by my own magic. Selene said some beautiful words about sacrifice before kneeling and touching her shield to the icy grave, a sign of respect. Even Nesteruk wept silent tears at this lonely wake, no doubt moved by such a noble and selfless act, though we all pretended not to see. As the moment passed, I looked to Fenn and we exchanged meaning without words as we had done so many times in the Deep Green in our younger days not so long ago. Could we take on this task, this burden? We had known so little other than misery and heart break in our short lives, all of us. Now we group of outcasts were being asked to save Golarian and perhaps worlds beyond if the tales of Baba Yaga were true. Fenn met my gaze with a shrug and smiles finally broke our grim visages. With new dedication and purpose greater than our individual broken lives, we set off through the portal and into the icy wastes of Irresen.

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First Taste of Witchcraft

We continued after a rest at the hunting lodge. The horses, freshly purchased mind you, were forced to stay behind. A poor excuse for a rope bridge was own only means to advance. Cross we did. The path led to a clearing in the trees where I bravely put down two treants while my companions struggled to find their weapons. Bear traps lie ahead filling us with confidence that we were on the correct path. Naturally, we made the half-orc carry them.

The path continued to an area with boulders and female child running between them. The child was afraid of something. We tried to call out and help her, but it was no use. We eventually saw a strange hut with chicken legs for supports. The child was inside. Fear gripped the party, but I stayed calm per the usual. What we thought was a child was actually a magically enhanced doll of some sort. It attacked us. I stayed out of the fray allowing my companions a shot at glory. Post-battle we burned the hut learning it has a connection to the unnatural cold.

When we were ready to continue, I noticed a possibly dangerous glyph presumably left by the witches, but I allowed Nobel to inform the party. Later, we finally caught up with the giant weasel which had been harassing us and the local villagers. Again, I bravely put it down. Before us now lied a great valley. As we venture forth, the wind dies down revealing two angry elementals. I took further glory as my magical abilities destroyed our foes. As poor as the whole situation seems, we have no choice but to continue forward into the cold.

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Horror at the Hunting Lodge
An excerpt from the Journal of Nobel Black

Near the end of our second day in the frigid woods, with our resources once again nearly spent from our trek, we came upon a rather well built lodge in a clearing in the woods near a large gorge. A quick walk around the perimeter revealed 3 horses in the nearby stable and a crossbow trap hidden in the yard. Believing we had finally found the bandits hideout, we made our way inside cautiously as we expected to find the remaining bandit that had previously eluded us. Instead we found 10 armed men, some in full armor, expecting us. Though they had numbers, several of them appeared so ill as to be barely standing. Selene gave them the option of surrender, but as these things go, of course no one accepted the offer. Within 30 seconds we had the main floor cleared of everything but corpses. We then began our search for the “boss” to which one of the men had shouted a warning.

Upstairs Nesteruk found a small chamber into which he went, great axe thrashing wildly in every direction, to destroy skeletons of ice, his lust for battle not yet satiated. How he finds it wise to wield swords the size of polearms in bedrooms and narrow halls I may never know. Nonetheless, I was not about to lose my head to an indiscriminate axe blow so I ventured downstairs to prepare some sustenance for my colleagues from what could be scavenged in the kitchen. After all, it had been 2 days since we had anything but trail rations and the matter upstairs appeared to be well in hand. That’s when things got…weird.

Before my eyes, the meat I was preparing to fix into sandwiches began to twitch as if animated by some unknown force. Normally these kinds of occurrences would not bother me as I am used to my hauntlings causing strange occurrences, but this did not feel like my normal bad luck. I moved back toward the great room to spy my companions and was stopped dead in my tracks. Terror gripped me as I watched the corpses of the recently slain once again rise to their feet. A few were missing all or part of a limb and one had been nearly cleaved in two by mighty Nesteruk. They were coming for us just the same, and I had foolishly let myself be cut off from my companions. I didn’t dare shout a warning lest I draw too much attention to myself and quickly shut the kitchen door.

Some of the next few minutes I have recorded here as told to me by my brave companions. As I stood barricaded in the kitchen battling zombies hand-to-hand, the others had finished the skeletons and hearing the commotion came bounding down the stairs. Nesteruk and Selene waded into the melee while Fenn laid down a rain of missles from the stairs. The battle was going in our favor when a cleric or Norgborger appeard from nowhere and stabbed Fenn with a poisoned shortsword. Within a few seconds, Fenn was down. Taking heavy damage from the horde, Nesteruk and Selene fell back to the stairway to aid my fallen friend. Selene, shield in hand, proudly held the horde back from the stairwell as best she could. Though she could do little to push back against the zombies that pulled at her, she held strong and used her last efforts to selflessly heal Nesteruk so that he could continue the fight. Her god would have been proud at her sacrifice and I can honestly say that were it not for her we would have all perished. As Selene collapsed from her wounds, the reinvigorated Nesteruk was able to fell the sinister cleric. With the spell broken, the corpses collapsed to the floor.

I rushed to rejoin my allies and Nesteruk and I were able to stop the bleeding before moving them into some beds to recuperate. Inside the root cellar we discovered the captive Lady Argentia, who turned out to be the ungrateful, self-entitled shrew we have come to expect from modern nobility. In the cleric’s chamber I freed another prisoner, a faerie. Without word it simply flew away. I wish I had had a chance to speak with it. I have only been gone from the Deep Green for a short while but the sinister winter fey we have encountered have left me longing for the company of the fey of my home. Thankfully, Megdh saw fit to answer my prayers.

We rested for 2 full days before returning to Hendrel with Lady Argentia. We resupplied and set out again for the lodge in order to continue into the woods in search of the source of the unnatural cold. We rested one more night at the lodge as it was dusk by the time we returned from Hendrel. At dawn the next day, I meditated on the front porch on Megdh, the Deep Green, and my foolish error that had almost ended in the death of my friend Fenn and beautiful, innocent Selene. In my contemplation, I heard a voice in my head say, “Stick to the path I have shown you.” When I opened my eyes, an arctic hare sat before me. We stared at each other for several minutes. The hare was unafraid and gazed unblinking as if it could see into my very soul. Eventually I said, “So, are you coming with me along the path?” I could feel its happiness at that remark.

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The Adventure Begins
An excerpt from the personal journal of Nobel Black

After a very short journey from forests edge, Fenn and I came upon a small hamlet called Heldren. It didn’t take long for Fenn to draw a few distrusting eyes as the townsfolk, few if any of which would ever have seen a tiefling before, caught a glimpse of us, but it seemed like most had other things on their minds with the weather in the region being unseasonably cold. That is in fact what Fenn and I had come to investigate after my mentor, Arana Snakeroot, indicated there seemed to be some trouble developing in the witch lands of the north.

Fenn insisted we go to the local inn, the Silver Stoat, to gather information which I did reluctantly as Fenn knows I get nervous in crowds. Once inside I quickly acquired us a pitcher of house ale by insighting a small altercation between to 2 tables using my hauntlings to throw a flagon of ale from one to the other. With the crowd distracted, I was able to abscond with the freshly bought pitcher and met Fenn at a side table. Fenn had found a seat with a half-orc bruiser the size of a house named Nesteruk the Marked (apparently named for a birthmark on his back), probably because he was the only other patron more conspicuous than Fenn. Nothing makes you feel more comfortable than sharing mutual discomfort. The two were already speaking when I sat down so I opened with “Stop me if you’ve heard this one. A human, a tiefling, and a half-orc walk into a bar and two of them were ugly!” Neither seemed all that amused so I used the hauntlings to make my own laughter.

It seemed that Nesteruk was also looking to make a name for himself and Fenn and I definitely needed some extra muscle as neither of us was particularly good at “sword negotiations” and it sounded as if there were some strange creatures about with the new climate. He agreed to travel with us for plunder and the glory of battle. Honestly, he seems to have some aggression issues which we may have to deal with at some point, but he appeared to be a worthwhile companion for the time being. Additionally, he had lived off then land for more years than either me or Fenn, and would be essential if things got rough out there.

As we were sitting there, we were approached by a woman named Selene. She looked like a scrappy fighter but oddly seemed to be absent weaponry of any kind save for the shield she clung tightly to. She had seen me take the beer and was demanding that I pay the men who were now nursing their wounds after the melee. I explained to her that I was not stealing but rather rescuing the ale as it would have undoubtedly ended up wasted on the floor during the scuffle. “Besides, I don’t drink”, I said pointing to the only 2 glasses on the table sitting in front of my compatriots. Her moral compass seemed to be righted by this explanation and she too took a seat with us. She seemed oddly open for a complete stranger and shared with us that she was an orphan raised by holy men and women. She now journeyed to celebrate her faith in her goddess. We asked her to join our company when it dawned on me that having a charismatic and attractive woman may be useful since Fenn and Nesteruk were no lookers and I was not exactly the most silvertongued.

Around town we heard various stories of woe. A local farmer lost his crop to theft and freezing weather. A boy had fallen through the ice on a frozen creek and witnessed a talking white stag. The very day of our arrival a lone survivor had returned following the ambush of his caravan. We spoke with him and he indicated they had been assaulted by what looked like bandits aided by fey creatures. They sounded like winter sprites. What would they be doing here so far south? Was Taldor under attack? Was the rest of the Inner Sea experiencing the same troubles? Could we be misunderstanding the situation and the fey creatures were actually fleeing the north rather than invading? With these questions in my head, we set off on the trail of the abducted highborn lady that had been with the caravan when they were assailed.

Six miles south of Hendrel, we came upon the slaughterfield that was the caravan. A man had been frozen solid where he stood. His arm still clutched his sword and lay several feet from his body. The carriages had been overturned. While looking for survivors, Fenn and I stumbled upon 2 reainimated corpses of the caravan guard. Luckily, Selene and Nesteruk proved to be every bit as good as they looked and dispatched the 2 creatures handily with only minor injury. We gathered the remaining bodies and made a funeral pyre of the carriages to prevent further zombie attacks, before venturing into the woods to the south following the bandits icy trail.

The temperature steadily dropped as we ventured deeper and deeper into the woods. I have never been so happy for my magic despite its curses as when I first blocked out the winter chill with my power. I showed my worth by disarming a trap obviously meant to hinder anyone attempting to follow the trail, and Selene and Nesteruk continued to display their combat prowess on several occasions as it seemed like all manner of strange wintery beast had come hungry with the snow and ice. Our resources nearly exhausted by the days tribulations, we were assaulted by a group of sprites who knocked us unconscious. I wish I could say that was the first time it had happened to me, but I do hope it will be the last. Our company was happy to open our eyes once more to find ourselves having been largely unmolested by the sprites.

Unfortunately our trials did not end as we were attacked in the night by a witch crow. Though I could have aided my colleagues, I thought it would be best if they learned a lesson about preparation when they had to leave the warmth of the tent to swing wildly in the dark at crows. If any of us are to survive on our own in this savage world, we will need to be prepared for anything. Also, I was hungry.

We found the farmer frozen to death in a snowbank the following day and gave him a quick burial in the snow out of respect. Selene said a few words just as she had for the caravan corpses and we moved on solemnly. I think each of us was very afraid for what we may find around the next bank as the trail grew smaller and the snow grew deeper. It felt like death was creeping in all around us. And it just kept coming closer. We had a brief but wierdly sarcastic conversation with the white stag from the Heldren boy’s story. This proved to be pointless and I had to pull Nesteruk away from the beast as he seems intent on drawing blood from every creature we come across. Though fey are often capricious, I must say that the winter fey seem especially malign, even when not directly aggressive. This may prove only to further enrage Nesteruk in time. We bested some ice elementals easily before being ambushed by 3 bandits. Fenn and I were injured but were able to aim true and down 2 of them from afar while the last fled into the woods.

As our resources were once again taxed to the limit, I feared we may had taken on a task more than we were capable of handling. However, with icy death on all sides and almost certain death awaiting the highborn should be turn back, what little choice did we have but to press on.

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