The Winter King

Iron Circle In Fallcrest?

As you searched through papers recovered from Nazin Redthorn’s stash, you find that he was preparing to send an Adept and a number of Enforcers to Fallcrest and meet up with a man named Armos Kamroth to work for him.

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The Ship of Dreams

Cold, exhausted, and hungry, the band of adventurers entered Fallcrest, only to find it nearly deserted. Lights and faint noises could be detected towards the halfling encampment near the river, so that seemed to be the most natural place to go.

As we trudged towards the river, it became clear that the town of Fallcrest was in serious trouble. Merchants and farmers alike walked past, eyes downcast and heads bowed to this infernal snow. A group of men and dwarves were breaking apart crates for firewood, and hoarding anything that looked remotely like food. It became clear, the closer we got to the river, that a town meeting was already in progress.

As always, tempers were flaring and the most unattractive side of humanity was shining through. Most were interested in just saving their own skins. Farmers competing with traders for resources, and the good Lord Markelhay was having a very difficult time keeping order and having his voice heard.

Then it got ugly.

Some porters and dwarves were circling through the crowd, clearly intending to start a full scale riot. Guards were watching everyone with distrust, and nervously fingering the hilts of their weapons. Some had drawn and cocked crossbows. This was clearly not going to end well, until someone intervened.

“The next person that moves will die!” shouts Archimedes…or something to that effect, anyway. As he says this, a giant likeness of his head appears over the heads of the crowd, shocking everyone into stillness. No sooner had this happened, than the snowstorm turned into a full blown howler. winds swirled through the camp, snow and ice stinging faces. Duric seemed a minitaure Father Winter, so white was his beard. Lightning and thunder began pounding their beat, a cacophony of destruction headed straight towards Fallcrest.

Duric turns his head, and listens. Beneath this wall of sound, he hears what can only be a war chant. Rhythmic voices, droning a doom for all present. The strangest thing…it was not coming from upriver, or downriver…it was coming from the sky!

Then it got uglier.

Grabbing Xanthe, Duric points to the sky. As he does this, a large ship with a tattered sail begins its descent towards the encampment. Crashing through the ice and slush that choked the slow moving river, the ship came to rest on the shore opposite the halfling camp. Fur clad warriors and bones dressed in mismatched armor poured over the side of the vessel! Fallcrest was under attack!

The ensuing battle was not pretty. Warriors though they are, Kiava & Co. struggled fighting off the horde of undead. Many villagers were lost. A dark day for Fallcrest.

As Gideon wiped his sword clean from the filth and dead flesh that adorned it, Xanthe and Elena walked through the destructive scene, recovering what arrows they could. Bob and Duric, however, approached the ship. as they got within 25 feet of the strange vessel, the dragon head shook free from the ice that covered it, turned and spoke:

“Return the ice scepter of the Winter King, or this winter you feel will last for eternity, and the cold and dead will continue to feast on the warm and living.”

As the boat finished its words, Those townsfolk that had escaped came pouring back into the camp, mourning the dead, blaming the company of warriors for this latest tragedy in an ongoing tragic affair. Only the clear head of Markelhay kept it from escalating to pitched battle once again. As the Lord Warden was speaking, Bob noticed movement towards the edge of the crowd. Turning towards it, he sees a hooded figure, easing its way towards the edge of the crowd. Thinking quickly, he waves his hands in a series of complicated movements, which causes an arrow to appear in the air directly above the escaping figure’s head. Seeing this, Archimedes makes a quick dash through the crowd, leaping onto the fleeing person and bringing them to the ground.

They had caught Marko Lancet, a half-elf rogue. Upon interrogation, it became clear that Marko, in fact, was the one with this mysterious ice scepter. He told his story of fleeing enslavement (not quite convincingly enough), and offers to help the party return the ice scepter to the cave from which he had found it. As the characters approached the boat, they are allowed to board, and begin rowing their way towards the Cairn of the Winter King, in the hopes that, somehow, they can bring this winter to an end.

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This Was No Disney Boat Ride

As the adventurers (you really need to think of a name for your party) pulled on the oars, the sentient ship rose into the sky. The ground fell away rapidly, becoming obscured by the snow and fog very quickly. Hours passed. Elena’s golden hair became encrusted with snow and ice, and the dwarf was no better. Arms turned to lead as they pulled on the oars. Time became immeasurable and there was no way to determine the direction of travel or how far they had gone.

Then. It got bad.

Ice had turned the mainsail into a solid sheet, and the lines were now three times their normal size, encrusted with the heavy frozen snow. The main line holding the sail snapped! Elena and Kiava climbed the mast, struggling to hold on for their lives, while Xanthe tossed them the broken line. Fumbling and cursing, they were able to make the line fast, stopping the downward spiral of the ship, but Kiava slipped as she tried to climb back down, slamming hard into the bottom crossbeam, knocking the wind out of her and bruising ribs in the process.

Then. It got worse.

Storms loomed on the horizon, and the cold became unbearable. As the party struggled to row, one storm broke away from the rest and bore down on the ship with clear evil intent. Battle ensued! Never before had they faced a living storm, but dealing with the lightning strikes and crashes of crushing thunder was nearly insurmountable. On top of that, the ship was plummeting to the earth, as the party had to abandon their oars to fight of this foul “creature,” if that is what it could be called. With only seconds to spare, they managed to defeat this evil and retake the oars, halting the fall and regaining their path.

But the storms weren’t done.

Hail began to pummel them from above, causing many cuts and bruises. One very large hailstone smashed into the dragon head at the prow and the ship began to buck and tumble. As Bob endeavored to “fix” this magic vessel, Duric was tossed overboard, and was just able to catch the rail as he flew wildly through the air. The party struggled to pull this now MUCH heavier dwarf back to safety, Bob was able to intone a spell that cleared the muddled ships “head,” which righted their vessel and they continued to row.

Hour after suffering hour, they knew not how long they rowed into the frigid blowing wind and blinding snow. Then, suddenly, the ship began to lose altitude, the clouds broke, and their were faced with a frozen mountainscape, harsh and cold, with no discernable wind whatsoever. The ship turned and dove towards a dark impression on the side of the tallest visible peak and came to rest at the mouth of a cave, gaurded by a 40 foot pillar of frozen skulls and ice.

“Behold the Cairn of the Winter King. Return the Ice Scepter to the king or be face with a forever winter.” The ship spoke, and then fell still.

More to come…

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A Warm Welcome

As the longboat glided to a rest, Marko Lancet stepped from the boat as if walking in a dream. “I can’t believe I’m back, but there it is. There’s that horrible statue. I’m really here…or maybe I’m not. Maybe I died. Maybe my head is in that tower of ice.” As his words trail off, he breaks into a shambling run towards the cairn, a 40’ spike of ice and skulls. Archimedes, upon seeing this, leaps over the side of the ship and tackles Marko, bringing him to the ground. Archimedes begans shoveling snow into his face, “Snap out of it! We need you whole!” Marko rolls over, gasping, “Alright! Alright! I’ll help, if I can.” The rest of the party disembarks with much less drama, but with no less wonder at the sight before them. A shallow depression in the mountainside is protected by a massive, frozen pile of skulls. Every race is represented…giant, human, dwarf, elf…and towards the top the skulls become more sparse, until at the very tip of the morbid obelisk, the grinning deathmasks are suspended in the ice, seeming to float. As they approach the cairn, they begin to feel the oppressive malevolence that seems to emanate from the cairn itself. Shuddering, they turn away from it and focus on the depression behind it.

The snow has piled up at the base of the cairn, but has blown clear of entrance into the mountain. Old stone tiles line the walkway towards two massive doors, coated in ice and snow. Marko shrugs, “These weren’t here before.” Duric raises his hammer and pounds it into the door. A resounding boom echoes through the valley as the ice falls away from the doors and they swing open.

Thinking quickly, Archimedes packs snow and ice into his armor, turning himself into a real-life Snow Elemental. As the snow hardens, it reinforces his armor giving him some added protection. Because he is clutching the ice scepter, he does not freeze. Reluctantly, Duric “assists” Archie in gaining complete coverage, shaking his head and mumbling something about crazy circus performers.

Much to their surprise, warmth and the smell of woodsmoke erupt from the entrance, as well as the aroma of the best kinds of food. As they cautiously advance down the corridor, they are greeted by a booming voice: “Welcome! Welcome! I suspect you are weary and sore from your journey, sit, eat and drink! I assume you have something of mine, no? Ha, Ha! Please, hand it to my servant and you can tell me about your travels.”

Kiava immediately suspected foul play, but, even with enhanced focus provided by her god, she could not see any glimmer of illusion. Still, the party suspected, and this Winter King and his offer of food seemed almost too easy. As they hesitated by the doorway, The large human barbarian grew impatient. In no time, the glamour faded, and battle began in earnest. What looked like a servant girl turned out to be a gnome spellcaster, sly and deceptive. The four large mastiffs snarled as their appearance changed to Direwolves, and the barbarian, Bortek, mounted one wolf and lept over the table and attacked.

This was more like it. The party engaged, fighting off the wolves as they attacked. A flash of light blinded most of the party, and suddenly there were three gnomes! Bortek swung massive sweeping strikes with his greataxe, each blow hitting Duric, Archimedes, and whoever else was in range. Xanthe tumbled through the battle, taking cover under the food-laden table, alternately firing flaming bolts and grabbing food and drink from the tabletop above her. Each party member kept peering at the table during combat, tryin to discern what was really going on. Towards the end of the conflict, Elena looked one more time between shots from her longbow and the illusion became clear. What was steaming hot food and sparkling wine became rotting flesh and bone and stone cups filled with blood. An eery message appeared in frost on the tabletop in frost: “Do you think you are welcome in my house?”

Xanthe, largely forgotten by the enemies in their midst, jumped up on the table and flipped through the air, landing with finesse on the back of the last, and largest, direwolf. Raising her crossbow, she fired a flaming bolt into the base of its skull, causing the the creature to collapse and breath its last. She slid from the beast, smiling in triumph. “THAT’S how you finish a wolf!”

Much blood was spilled, but finally the party triumphed. Bortek lay dead at their feet, along with the four direwolves. The gnome mage had disappeared completely. The party dressed their wounds and inspected the room. Four beds lined the east wall, looking very comfortable, warm, and inviting. Bob mumbled under his breath, and it became clear to him that these beds were cursed, and would not offer good rest. A room to the west opened into an obvious dog pen, the floor covered in rags and torn clothing. Holding their noses against the smell, the party assembled in this room while Bob walked to and fro, mumbling and gesturing as the clothing and floor became magically clean. Exhausted from their journey, the party collapsed and slept like they hadn’t slept in a month.

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What's Behind Door #1?

Waking slowly, the party steps forth from the dog pen and is faced with a grotesque scene. The wolves and barbarian that they had defeated the day before lay frozen on the floor. the warm fires had gone out, and the room was covered in a thick layer of frost, stamping against the cold, thy began inspecting the two doors that left the room. “This one is the closest route to the throne room,” Marko states as he indicates the westernmost door, “but I don’t know what we will face. This frozen tomb was cold and empty when I was here last.”

Listening at the door, they hear the faintest sounds of words and movement, at the very edge of hearing. Xanthe inspects the door, and is able to cleanly pick the lock with ease. The door opens into a dark hallway. Bob casts a light from his staff, and the party advances quietly up the hallway, which opens into an ancient dining room. Two large wooden tables stand in the center of the room and stairs lead up to a room to the north. to the east, a passage opens up into the unknown. Xanthe peers cautiously about, looking for traps. Clearly this room has lain abandoned for decades, if not centuries. A faint light is visible from the northern stairs, and Duric raises his head in recognition as dwarven voices filter down to them, grumbling about the cold and lack of food. as the party continue to inspect the room, footsteps are heard approaching from the hallway to the west! Looking down the hallway, a large group of tieflings and humans appear down the hallway. Shouting alarm, they attack!

Bob quickly casts shock sphere which causes two of the tieflings to crumple. Duric charges forward and attacks a third, bringing his life to an end quickly with a hammer smash to the face. Another gnome, this one male, tosses a dagger towards Archimedes which misses, then he disappears completely. Marko, with new-found courage, charges forward and stabs one human guard with his short sword. Archimedes wades in with his axe and begans to clear the path. as the party begins to quickly gain the upper hand, the gnome reappears right in front of Bob, stabbing him swiftly with his short sword. Duric and Elena rush to Bob’s aid, quickly dispatching the gnome spy. One human guard manages to escape down the hallway, turning to the left and his footsteps swiftly recede into the dark and quiet.

Not done yet…

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