Welcome to another end of the week in which our party discovered more ice – who would have thought it? But its what lays impaled upon the ice, around it and what makes it is what has the party both intrigued and worried. The party commence their journey through the ranges this week and onto the home stretch as they push from the cold north east past the Kunagi ranges and onwards to the Harimasu lands beyond.
The Inn of no Vacancies
As the party walk back into the village they are see many of the people that call this place home are busy repairing doors, windows and shutters that look as if they were torn open or broken into forcefully but despite the party offering help they receive a brief, fake, smile and their help is refused.
As the party move through the village they see that the inn seems to have received the worst of the attacks that happened the night before as the owner, Hugh, and a few other villagers were busy rebuilding a wall. Upon seeing the party he moved towards them looking nervous.
“You cant be here, the spirit-folk somehow knew that I had spoken to you and I woke up to one of the inns walls being ripped down.” He paused as he nodded to Jason “when this is over please do come back, but I can’t lose the inn, not after all it has cost me.” As clasped Jason on his should and nodded a sorrowful nod to the party, Kyoko, Hana and Kuang he looked at the wall as it was put back into place and stood there with his hands on his hips.
Following his gaze the party noticed that the wood itself looked like something large, wide and sharp had bit into the wood on one corner of the wall and ripped it out with very little effort – no evidence of blade, club or other known weapon seems to have caused the damage. Moving up towards the wall while Jason took the princess, her cousin and the general to get more supplies for crossing through the ranges the party noticed that large shards of extremely hard ice were imbedded into the wood along the mark where the wall had suffered the blow that tore it from its housing. Taking a shard of it the shard of ice seemed to permeate cold through the holders hands and only several layers of cloth, or two bags could stop the chill from numbing the flesh. Whilst holding and examining the ice Ester appeared behind them “It wont melt. We tried everything the first time we found it -in our well – we call it forever frost, or permafrost for those who found that the name sounded too much like an attempt at poetry. Don’t hold it for too long as it will bond to your flesh and start to freeze your insides. Shen found that out when we had to cut off his frozen finger before it spread to his hand.”
Jason arrived not too long after and after Ester did and after some some quick goodbyes they jumped into the back of the wagon and were heading off – towards the Kunagi ranges whilst the weather was still on their favour.
The dusting of snow between the ranges was miraculously thin on the frozen mud of the road yet it piled up next to the rocky cliffs and trees either side of the road where the wagon squelched behind an anxious draft horse.
The weather had turned slightly to the worse, small flurries of snow had begun to drift down upon the wagon but it it wasn’t the weather that was cause for concern, the sheer number of tracks from spirit folk and the creatures that called this valley and mountain ranges home were the source of growing concern. It was beginning to be unusual to see a section of snow that didn’t have discarded cloth, foot prints or even bones of a meal and they all seemed to be heading in the same direction. The trees offered some protection from the snow regardless and while the party wasn’t used to this level of snow and cold but the wagon was kitted with double walls and a level of cloth and material on the inside that made the inside comfortable if not cosy.
The old grey stallion whinnied and the wagon came to a stop as the horse spooked and started to retreat backwards causing the wagon to lurch before the wheels met snow by the side of the road and stop abruptly. “It may take me some time for me to be able to convince this old thing to move forward. But what ever is spooking it isn’t far from here and I’d rather be prepared than having to make a quick exit from this valley.” Jason called as he tried to pull the horse into line.
Leaving the wagon and moving forward as quietly and stealthily as possible the party moved further into the valley as a strange and foul smell crept down from the wind that swept down into the valley from the peaks above them. Up head the snow had been disturbed and great furrows had been embedded into the frozen soil, similar to the ones that they saw on their approach into the village before the ranges. A wide crescent of fresh footprints gave a wide berth to the marks and from the looks of them the creatures that made them were scared, terrified even. Looking around for traces of what could have caused the owners of the footprints to act as such they eventually drew their investigation to the valley walls above them and there they saw the cause.
A great rupture of spikes made from the same ice that they had a shard of burst forth like lightning made from ice. The dark blue of the ice as it erupted from the stone face extended into the middle of the valley, a good sixty feet from the wall and at the end of each of the spikes that had erupted forth resided a skewered creature. Oni, ogres, Nat’s and even bears the size of the wagon they travelled in lay skewered on the ice, pushed on with enough force to pierce even the stone-like hide of the Nat. Looking at the ice as it had exploded out the trees themselves had their upper branches frozen, splintered and a few shards of frost encrusted splinters of wood lay just under the surface of the snow.
The ice must have been so cold that there was very little blood from the creatures that hung their, rigid and dead and what blood there was hung like frozen spears of ice suspended fifty feet in the air above the area where the scrape was. Something or someone would have had to have done this and to best that many creatures at once would indicate something both large and strong beyond anything that the party would have faced thus far.
Returning back to Jason they found him having blindfolded the horse and moving towards them and when he saw the gruesome display the colour drained from his face. “I have known some of the creatures of the ranges to be vicious but to be cruel like this is another level. We can make it through the ranges today if we hurry but it will get dark early inside these ice covered walls so we can’t dally any more.” he urged as he ushered them into the back of the wagon to join Kuang, Kyoko and Hana. “Hold on, we won’t be slowing down for some time and I pray that the old horse makes it.”
Kyoko is quiet but stays in the wagon with Kuang and Hana once they are moving – she seems alert and has procured a bow from somewhere which she seems to know how to use well enough. She watches the walls of the valley and keeps an eye on the path behind them – calling out if she see’s movement to alert the party.
Captain Kuang Ping
Kuang is never seen without his hand on his sword during their procession through the valley pass as his first order of business is to defend Kyoko and now Hana. Having seen the impaled creatures he looks concerned as if he may know something but truth be told he has forgotten what it is – but the identify of the creature is just on the tip of his tongue but he can’t remember it. What ever it is – he hasn’t encountered it personally and it is very rare.
Sasha (Hana Toshio-Harimasu)
Hana avoids the combat as much as possible and sticks pretty much exclusively with Kuang and Kyoko. She is by no means rude to the party but doesn’t leave the wagon.
Hugh this week is rattled, having something rip open his inn and leave shards of this everfrost lying around seems like a bad omen to him – perhaps he is right. Regardless its bad for business and he cant take another hit or loss so he, against his true wishes, requests for the parties to leave so he can protect his investment.
Jason is a bit annoyed about being pushed out of the town so early, but understands well enough the reason for it. That annoyance quickly turns to urgency as they begin to find the threaded and impaled creatures upon spikes of everfrost and he urges the party to move as quickly as they can so they can clear the ranges and get distance between what even lives in the mountains and themselves.
Environment and running the adventure
The cold air blasted along the rocky outcrops high above the valley below like a great exhale from the frost itself. As the mountains awoke, small creatures scurried forth from their dens to begin a day of foraging for food and keeping an ever watchful eye above and around them for predators.
The trees braced against the wind as flurries of snow and frost spattered their frozen trunks with the white powder, great long icicles growing from branches like teeth from the jaws of a many jawed creature that waited for the foolish or unprepared to wander within. As the wind jostled the branches high in the ranges a wagon crossed beneath down far below the edge of the lip of a crater that has been carved out by sharp ice over many years.
The groan of axle and call of great of burden could not be heard over the wind, the mountains song, but creatures spooked by the presence in the ranges dashed for cover, a fox cowering under the roots of a tree that clung onto the edge of the cliff. Scenting the air around it the fox moved out on soft deliberately placed paws, its eyes darting around as the sense of danger was strong and it had a burrow to return to.
Dashing across the snow, its twin tails leaving a wisp of a trail as it moved from hiding hole, to bushes, to ledge as it slunk towards its den. A final check to see if the coast was clear before it darted for the base of a tree where the entrance of its den lie. The Fox should have moved slower, or kept one eye on the sky or simply should have waited between the cage of frozen roots as no sooner than it leave the seclusion of the ledge a sickening thud followed by a crunch as a row or everfrost descend down upon it, piercing and severing multiple organs at once.
The warm red blood splattered across the snow, a similar contrast to the colour of red of the for from the fox as it died shredded by ice.
The creak of an axle, groan of a wheel and cry from a hawk high above the scenes below joined the wind in praising the strength of the mountain, a song for its power and its unquestioned rule.
Shapes behind the flurry of snow
The image of those creatures, large and small alike threaded upon those needle like spikes of ever frost was enough to rattle even the bravest of souls. As the party moved through the valley more large scrapes, cuts, and spikes of ice with threaded animals and creatures were encountered but all other evidence of the cause, natural or otherwise were no where to be found.
As the party turn a bend around a particularly expansive spire of ice a sudden flash of movement in the ice and snow gave them cause to pause and press themselves up against the spire of ice, well close to it at risk of freezing themselves. Focusing on where the movement was, their heart beats fluttering like mad, a tentative white rabbit with little stag-like horns appeared, sniffed the air a few times before quickly hopping from the bush it hid behind to another one further down the road.
This wasn’t the only such encounter that set the parties senses on edge as they continued, slower since they wanted to scout the way for the wagon a few hundred feet in advance, but after seeing, and continuing to see the threaded creatures on spikes of un-melting ice they were not going to take any chances.
Horned Rabbit – the Jackelope
The Horned rabbit (Jackelope) is a strange creature. Small, non vicious but adorned with razor sharp horns that could gut a non defended man these creatures dart around skittishly without warning and their white coloured fur makes them difficult to see amongst the snow and ice.
Giant Boar/ Giant Goat
Although two distinct animals the giant boar and giant goat play the same role in this adventure – something that may attack if threatened, whether they believe they are or are actually in danger. I’d say a low perception check would lower the distance between the party and the creature before they are discover each other – if its within 20 feet (which, lets be reminded is only 3.5 times the height of an average person) then the Goat or Boar is spooked and will charge at the party.
This one is simple – its hungry, maybe in a pack, maybe its stalking the Goat/Boar/Jackelope and it meets the party. Either it feels cornered or its just hungry but either way the party look mighty tasty to the Dire Wolf.
The encounter(s) should be suspenseful, moments of fear whether its something that summons ice, or one of the spirit folk or more undead creatures sent after them. What ever it is we want the party to guess the worse because, oh, its coming for them next week.
Between this adventure and the next I would assume that the party are at level 7, if not there already, as they will need it.
As always its up to you, but for me I’d have them finish the last combat with the feeling of a presence, something looming near by in the white.
This adventure flows onto next weeks which will be centred around an encounter between the party and what has been watching them and leaving little gifts for them so whether the party fight it tired from a fight or fresh faced is up to the party.
Another end of week write-up down and one more to go before end of month. Don’t forget that this week coming is the last week of the month where we finish our trip through the valley pass and things start to look brighter.. Well whiter at least. So in order to make sure you don’t miss a beat don’t forget come back every day and, as always, don’t forget to roll with advantage,
The Brazen Wolfe