Reign of Winter: Monkey Monk and the Funky Bunch

Amidst the Storm

“This is boring.”

Teb Knotten raises his head from his bunk to inspect the tiny fairy sitting on his shelf. “What did you expect, Hommelstaub?”

“Well, I mean… it’s an invasion, right? Can’t we… I don’t know, maybe invade something?”

“We’re holding the beachhead.”

“Beachhead,” Hommelstaub snorts. “We’re sitting around with our dicks in our hands, waiting for orders.”

“You’re welcome to take on Oppara single-handed, if you like. I’d recommend using your sword, though; your dick isn’t likely to make an impression when you swing it around.” Teb scratches at his prodigious nose.

“Not right now,” the fairy sulks, “it’s damn near rotted off from lack of use.”

Teb rolls his eyes; then shifts to his side, turning his back to the fairy.

“I should get a piece of that Vosi,” Hommelstaub mutters, more to himself than his companion. “I bet she’d be fun…”

“I thought sprites and atomies didn’t get along?” Teb asks over his shoulder.

“I want to take her behind the hut, not home to mother. Any port in a storm, you know?” Teb sniffs. “Oh, c’mon,” Hobbelstaub continues, “even you have to appreciate that thing she does with her hips just before she takes off.”

Teb snorts. “You all just look like food to me.”

“That’s cold, man. After all we’ve been through together? Cold.”

“I’m not the one with a sliver of ice in his heart,” Teb retorts sleepily.

Hommelstaub crosses his arms and hunkers down on the shelf. When he raises his eyes again, he finds the troll staring at him.

“It’s true, then,” Teb says, “they really do?” Hommelstaub eyes him sullenly. “What’s it like?” Silence. “Does it hurt?”

“I don’t like to talk about it,” the fairy mumbles into crossed arms. Teb hmms pensively.

“Are you two quite done stroking yourselves?” comes a scratchy, shrill voice from the cave’s entrance. Teb and Hommelstaub both turn at the sound. They stare mutely at the small, blue figure that wings her way in.

“Rokhar is dead,” Izoze says.

Teb raise himself to one elbow. “How?”

“Sentinels.”

Teb’s brow furrows. “You said they were all killed.”

Izoze shrugs. “Must’ve missed a few.”

“Trouble?” Hommelstaub asks.

“Tough to say,” Izoze responds. “Rokhar wasn’t the sharpest icicle ever to hang from an eave. I’m half surprised he didn’t fall into the ravine. The rangers had help, though. Locals, I think. But a strange lot.”

“How many?”

“Three rangers. Couldn’t get a good look at the others, but it wasn’t more than a handful. The Sentinels seem content to stay in their lodge, and the others went back to that little shit hole.”

Teb sighs. “Well, I suppose it’s less cleanup for me in the long run.”

“What about the prisoner?” Hommelstaub interjects.

“Rescued, I believe. They took her back to the village.”

Hommelstaub looks to Teb Knotten, who remains silent.

“Teb,” the fairy finally ventures, “Nazhena will be—”

“You let me worry about Nazhena,” Teb interrupts testily. “That blue-blood bitch was just a sideshow, anyway.”

Teb swings his legs off the cot. “Go gather everyone,” he says, “it’s time to talk strategy.”

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Waiting In the Dark

It’s been quiet for awhile now. As quiet as it gets, anyway: faint moans still seep through the floorboards above, and she can occasionally hear a shuffling and dragging sound. But there are no more screams, at least. No more whimpering or horrified shrieks. No more pleading.

Argentea isn’t sure how long she’s been without food. Since before the last clash up above, at least. Was that a day ago? Two? It’s hard to keep count, with only the thin, weak light between the floorboard cracks. She’s hungry, that much she knows.

Her eyes drift to the stairs, barely visible in the gloom. They trace it up to the ceiling, where she knows there’s a trapdoor. She’s been waiting for it to open, with both anticipation and apprehension. If food is to come, it’ll be through that door. But if it opens, will it be for food? Something happened up there. Something bad. She can only speculate as to what.

There’s another thing she knows: she won’t last much longer without food. Already she feels weak, listless. What food she had been getting provided little nourishment. She suspects that no further food would be coming, barring some dramatic changes in the situation upstairs.

She realizes that she needs to seriously contemplate the possibility of death. She finds, oddly, that it doesn’t bother her as much as she’d expect. Except, of course, that she knows things that Oppara needs to know. Things she learned in Zimar. Dreadful things.

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Robyn's Adventure Log

Winds howl and swirl, whipping the ever-falling snow into a fury, yet it is still more comfortable out here in the wilderness with new companions than back in town. We seem to be no worse for wear, though I’m not sure how Maeller got soaking wet. We’re still miles from the river.

The monkey is not in sight… but I suppose he’s Harmall’s problem.

No one has spoken in hours, which is odd. Hopefully we’ll get to the lodge soon… the singer is now coated in ice. Why don’t we just stop and build a fire?

Wonderful.

Either the weather is disturbing Marrok, or he’s picking up bad habits from the monkey. He’s roaming so far away in this blizzard that I can only catch brief glimpses of his grey form moving between the trees.

This is odd. The map shows nothing but slopes and hills along the trail, not cliffs. Yet this gorge is deep enough that the bottom can’t be seen through the snow. Well, I suppose it’s a good thing he is a hunter, not a cartographer.

In any case enough is enough. The singer’s skin is turning blue so it’s time to stop, cliff or no cliff.

The fire is warm, and Validar’s sleeping peacefully beside it. Maeller can’t seem to warm up, though. Ice still covers his clothing and his skin still has a sickly tone to it.

I thought wizards were supposed to be smart… this one’s gone off looking for the monkey.
Well, at least the snow is letting up. I can almost see the bottom of the gorge now.

*

At this point, Robyn hears something behind her. She turns, and sees a white hart.
The stag speaks to her, saying “You have much to learn, young one.”

It then charges at her, striking her solidly and knocking her off the cliff.

Everything turns into slow-motion. Robyn suddenly realizes that she hasn’t seen Marrok in hours and a feeling of dread comes over her. She cries out in despair, and grabs vainly at the air, as if that will keep her from falling.

The stag appears at the edge of the cliff, and Marrok appears next to it. The two animals turn to look at each other, and the white hart nods. Marrok leaps off the cliff toward Robyn, somehow falling faster than her. Just as they touch, the ground rises up to meet them, and everything goes black.

*

A rough, wet tongue on her cheek snaps Robyn back to consciousness. She wakes up, crying out Marrok’s name and giving the animal at her side a hug… before noticing that the wolf in her arms has fur the color of snow.

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Mother's Return, Part 2

Fennec lays on the warm bearskin, marveling at how soft it feels, how comfortable after days and days on the hard ground. Heat from the crackling fireplace caresses him, welcome after a long trudge through the unexplainable snow.

No, not the fireplace; Blackpine.

Or, rather, something that used to be Blackpine. Shambling with a horribly twisted ankle, a raw stump of an arm, and whistling moans escaping through the hole in his throat. And dead eyes; glass eyes; the ghosts of eyes. Until Belladonna carved her sigils in the air and the thing that used to be Blackpine burst into flames.

Someone is screaming. It sounds like Belladonna.

Elsewhere, through a thick fog, Mother barks orders. “Draw it into the doorway!” Fennec hears. And: “Keep it busy, keep your distance!” And: “Who’s got Taillifer? Get her out!” And he hears all of the swooshes and thocks and grunts and howls—some human, some not. He hears it all through a thick veil, like cotton worming slowly into his ears, deeper and deeper.

“There’s something else here!” That was Podney, Fennec thinks, but it’s becoming hard to tell.

“Watch your sides. Back to back!” Mother again. Even muffled, her voice is unmistakable.

Fennec realizes that he can’t feel his legs. He raises his head to make sure they’re still there… and that’s when he learns he can’t raise his head anymore. The warmth that covers him like a blanket; that’s not the smoldering corpse—still twitching—next to him: it spreads out around him in a viscous pool, dripping between the scales of his armor, pumping ever more slowly from the rend in his gut. Fennec knows he’s bleeding out; he’s trying to feel something about it. But mostly he just feels… calm.

“This one’s alive too!” Podney again.

“Drag it!” Mother.

The whimpering, he supposes, is what’s left of Belladonna.

A face looms above him, out of the blackening fog. Greasy strands of black hair, a hooked and crooked nose, and too many glistening teeth.

“Defensible positions!” Mother shrieks.

“Hello there,” the looming face whispers, its breath hot and fetid. Something shines below it: a star? Fennec can’t tell. He struggles to see.

“Leave them!” Mother shouts. She might be choking back tears, or the choking might be Fennec: there’s blood welling up in his throat.

“I have such plans for you,” the face breathes.

The veil descends, and all is dark.

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Mother's Return, Part 1

Mother had stood on the ridge, silent and still, for several minutes before Fennec drew up next to her.

“Mother…” he ventures.

“I know,” she says quietly.

Fennec coughs uncomfortably. “Mother…” he tries again.

“I know,” she says more sternly.

One last time: “Mother… why is there snow?”

She turns her good eye toward him, then looks back to the snow-covered valley spreading out from the ridge. “I don’t know,” she says quietly.

She watches the whorls of wind kick up little snow devils across the valley, scans the patches of trees and the distant treeline. The snow worries her: her rangers are equipped for the searing heat of Zimar and Qadira, not this unnatural winter. The tiny flits of movement through the trees, so subtle they could be imagined, worry her. And, as she scans above the trees, the conspicuously absent column of smoke from Red Run Gorge worries her.

“Get everyone up and readied,” she tells Fennec. “Let’s get back to the lodge. Hopefully Bullroarer will have some answers for us.”

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Robyn's Adventure log.

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Harmalls adventure log

……………..

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Disappointing Gruel

The door creaks, and a thin blade of light stabs across the lady’s eyes. Heavy, iron-shod bootsteps follow.

“Gruel,” a gruff and quiet voice announces. “It ain’t tasty, but it’s filling.”

Argentea eyes the looming shadow. It’s tall with broad shoulders and thick limbs, but a deceptively lithe waist. It cocks its head to the side, just a little, and the light carves a razor-thin highlight along one tusk. A half-orc, or worse, Argentea surmises.

The figure leans down and sets a tray on the ground, just at the edge of the blade of light. “Eat,” it commands.

Argentea leans forward, stretching out one hesitant hand toward the steaming bowl. “You’re new,” she observes. The figure snorts.

“I’m Argentea Mallasene,” she ventures.

“I’m not your chum,” the figure retorts, standing. “Eat your food.”

“I know,” the lady continues, “I’m just a prisoner. But I wonder if I’m the only one.”

The half-orc stops, half-turned. Its head swivels back to regard the prisoner, though its face remains lost in darkness. There is a moment of silence.

“I have my own room,” the half-orc replies, “and food, a fire, and comrades to keep me safe.”

“Comrades, yes,” Argentea muses. “And what strange ones they are…”

The half-orc fully turns toward her now. “What do you mean?”

Argentea daintily dips a chunk of stale bread in the gruel and nibbles. “Bandits, I get. I don’t like them but I understand it. But those pale, blue fairy things?” She shivers. “And your boss. Let’s not forget the company he keeps.”

Another moment of silence passes. The half-orc remains immobile. Argentea tries another piece of bread.

“I keep my distance from them,” the half-orc finally says. Argentea mmms agreement around a chunk of bread.

“Better to stand beside them than to become one,” the half-orc spits.

“Is it?” Argentea finally says. Silence reigns again. “There are crueler fates than dying in your body,” the lady adds.

“Eat your fucking food,” the half-orc growls, then turns on its heel.

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Just Wonderful

This is starting to feel like home. Cold, violent and horrible. I don’t think I wanna do this anymore. Perhaps I will sneak away in the night.

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Out of the Frying Pan and Into the Snow

With the Sentinels of the woods mysteriously absent, the bandits have grown bold in the last few days. Four drifters, brought by chance to Heldren’s tavern on the same evening, were suddenly united as they swiftly dealt with an immediate bandit threat to the townspeople.

The unlikely allies carried a disparate set of skills, but their diversity allowed them to handily dispatch the bandits, and even drive off a man-eating lizard — rare in these woods, to be sure.

On the merry band’s way back to Heldren, a shock-wave of cold and frost rocked the landscape, emanating from deep within the Border Woods. When they arrived back in town, the townspeople were all gathered in the tavern, discussing the unsettling event. The group met an amiable monk, and the four became five. They heard strange rumors of a noblewoman’s caravan overdue in town, and farmers complained of an unnatural frost creeping onto their fields — unheard of, for this time of year. A town meeting was called for the day after next.

The band of misfits set out on the road to see what they could learn of the strange cold blast, and to find any sign of the lady’s caravan. They encountered Dryden, a local woodsman and hunter who appeared to be on a weasel hunt, but the group was unable to find any clues or shed any light on what was going on in the Border Woods. They returned to town, empty-handed.

During the town hall meeting, it was revealed that the Sentinels had not reported in yet. There was a general consensus among the townsfolk that something had gone wrong, and the strange cold blast from deep within the Border Woods was at the heart of the matter. Farmers murmured over news of frost-ruined crops, and worried over the Sentinels’ absence, as well as the noblewoman’s overdue caravan.

The merry band volunteered to investigate, and a grateful town council clued them in to additional information about the missing caravan. Ambushed on the road, a sole survivor from the caravan had made his way to Heldren, and was recovering at the apothecary’s shop. He told the group of how his caravan had been ambushed by bandits along the road. With a dozen armed guards, he thought they had the situation under control, but they were suddenly overwhelmed by frozen fae beasts aiding the bandits. After dispatching the caravan guards, the icy beasts and bandits captured the noblewoman and made off. The caravan guard could not say what they wanted with the lady, or where they had taken her, but if the frozen witches of the north country were involved, they had surely taken her for some nefarious purpose.

Based on the caravan guard’s description of events, and with help from Dryden, a map was drawn up with the ambush site marked on the road and the Sentinel base camp marked in the Border Woods. The group gathered some cold weather supplies, and set out in the morning to investigate the ambush site. They arrived after a few hours of travel, and approached the carnage carefully. The headstrong young druid threw open the doors to the lone standing carriage, releasing a nasty surprise — two zombified caravan guards! After the ensuing battle ended, many treasures and even some masterwork weapons were found. The caravan guard’s captain stood frozen like a statue, further evidence of an icy evil in the woods.

The group followed the trail the bandits had left further into the woods, apparently en route to the Sentinel outpost. The further into the woods they ventured, the colder it became, and the more snow built up, impeding their progress. They found a cache with more loot left behind by the bandits, and encountered a serpentine frost creature, some lesser form of wyrm. After dealing with the beast, the somewhat battle-fatigued group discussed making preparations to rest for the day, before making their push to the Sentinel camp.

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