The Highwayman’s Lute caravan cut a wake through the accumulating snow as they pressed on toward Cold Harbour. Three days over increasingly dangerous terrain they plodded, as the Infinite Winter became more and more encompassing. Nod, bearing the Ring of Warmth, hunted game and collected fresh water to ensure they did not tap into their provisions.
Better safe than sorry when traversing such dangerous climes.
Having bid farewell to Nammosi, who had gone off to commune with her guardian spirit, the Lionshields were weary, but none as much as Elrian.
Elrian slept fitfully, plagued with unsettling drams of village he’d never seen and of haunting, unfamiliar faces, but come mid-day on their third day out from Kettlebree, his nightmares became reality.
The caravan approached the village of Stonehearth, a snow covered rural settlement that the wizard Salazar had recommended to Elrian, advising that he speak to the druid Harbard there. But when Elrian looked out at the village, he recognized it as the one from his dreams. He knew each building and its purpose. He called for the party to press on to the great Mead Hall on the edge of town, but a sense of uneasiness swept over them as they spied the corrals and animal pens littered with the corpses of horses, elk, cattle, and pigs.
There was no sign of life save for the smoke rising from a scatter of chimneys…
The Lionshields found a group of survivors holed up in the Mead Hall of Jarl Boris Hearthblade. Elrian could not get over the fact that the Jarl looked familiar to him. Even Jarl Boris sensed this and asked if Elrian had ever passed through Stonehearth before.
They discussed the horrors of the Infinite Winter, but when the subject of the druid Harbard was broached, the ruler had nothing but disdain for the caster warning that his obsession with raising the dead was unnatural and alarming.
Peron sensed the truth of this as he felt the presence of the undead resonating from a rise overlooking the village, capped by an elaborate tent. Thanking the Jarl for his hospitality, the adventurers made for Druid Hill.
Within the structure they found Harbard Graybeard and, once roused from slumber, the druid was excited for their arrival, alluding to the fact that he had foreseen their coming, particularly Elrian.
Harbard was full of little tidbits. He spoke of Dirk Flisten, whom had passed through recently, on his way to Cold Harbour. Harbard was barred from Cold Harbour, learning this when he had tried to venture north, to the village of Crawfjord in search of a shipwreck that housed a magical treasure — a Staff of the Magi.
Kari perked up at this, knowing this was the shipwreck he had survived years ago.
Elrian circled back to their familiarity. Harbard seemed happy to see El again, but Elrian knew he had never passed this way before… only in dreams. The druid told the half-elf that he had brought the boy into the world, that his mother and father were passing through Stonehearth, after a trip to Kettlebree, when she entered premature labor. She and the baby were dying, but Harbard saved them both.
This was all new to Elrian. His parents had shared a different story. He pressed Harbard for more answers. The druid took him out and pointed toward a lonesome farm house. “The answers you seek are there,” he said, “and I will see that you get them if you agree to undertake a quest on behalf of the Dwarves of Axeholm.”
The dwarves had escaped to Stonehearth after their loss of the Axeholm mine to the balor demon they had released from the earth. Now it seems they had awakened something else beneath Druid Hill.
The adventurers agreed to the quest and made for Axeholm House where they met King Gemmel Axeholm. He told them of how his miners had awakened the Frostmaiden, a great owl faced goddess who had been trapped beneath Druid Hill when she ran afoul of Umberlee, Talos, and Malar, the deities of chaos and destruction.
The King was ecstatic because Harbard had prophesied that four adventurers would come who would free them from the Frostmaiden’s curse, even leaving four potions, engraved with a rune representing each hero, for them. Perth was given to Peron. Nauthiz was given to Nod. Kaunaz was given to Kari. And to Elrian? Berkano.
Elrian stared at the bottle intently. What was happening? The only way to get to the bottom of things was to see this quest through.
The party made for Frostmaiden Cave…
to be continued