Reign of Winter: Monkey Monk and the Funky Bunch

Once upon a time...

It is an unremarkable summer day in Heldren: a small, quiet hamlet in sunny Taldor. Alder, the farmer, leans against the cart he’s parked in front of the town hall; his straw hat is pulled low to shade his eyes and he’s chewing on a piece of straw. His tomatoes and leeks ripen in the sun, unbought. The soft, persistent zoosh-swish of the nearby sawmill pervades the town square.

Old Mother Theodora hobbles into the square from the east, clutching a small burlap sack. Step by step, she inches her way across the dusty expanse of street. She reaches the Lady—a tall statue of pure white marble that rises from a plinth in the center. They say that she once was a beautiful woman, the Lady. They say that she was the town’s founder, long forgotten to time; or a forest goddess, fierce and beautiful. Some, over their cups, whisper that the Qadirans use her to spy on their Taldan foes, but no one takes them too seriously. Dust and wind and many turnings of the seasons have smoothed her features into obscurity, in any case.

Theodora eases her creaky bones down onto the Lady’s pedestal, letting out a long sigh. She mops at her brow, closes her eyes a moment.

A tall, blonde woman—she has some Ulfen blood, by the look—emerges from the Silver Stoat, Heldren’s only tavern. She starts across the square, eyes on Alder’s cart. She sees Theodora, though, resting in the statue’s shadow, and stops to exchange pleasantries. She offers the old woman a sip from her waterskin, which is gratefully accepted.

“Gods bless you, Kale,” the old woman says, “it’s a scorcher today.”

“It is,” Kale agrees. “Menander’s brought up some extra beer from the cellar. We’re expecting a lot of thirsty farmers by dusk.”

“I should think so. Knew it would be a hot summer,” Theodora winks. “Read it in the cards. When there were still frost on the ground, I laid out—” She stops suddenly. Sniffs the air. Her expression sours, her brow furrows.

“What is it?” Kale asks, looking over her shoulders.

“I…” Theodora hesitates. “I smell a foulness,” she whispers.

“Foulness?” Kale turns about. “Do you think Perkin’s got some bad chickens or something?” She turns back to Theodora… then follows her eyes up into the sky, out over the Border Wood.

A column of blue-white fire descends from the rapidly greying sky toward the wood. As they watch, a thin, high whistling rises. It starts out quiet, like the wind; then it increases in volume, drowning out the sawmill, the buzzing flies, and all the sounds of the day. As the whistle reaches its loudest and most piercing, the column of fire plunges into the woods… and falls silent.

Theodora opens her mouth to speak, but is interrupted when a thunderous boom echoes out from the forest. Moments later, a shockwave rumbles through the town, knocking Kale to her knees. Theodora clutches at the base of the Lady.

A few diminishing aftershocks shake the village square, and then Heldren falls eerily silent. Finally, Kale lets out a held breath… and it fogs in the air.

She turns to look at Mother Theodora, and a lone snowflake flutters to the ground between them and melts on the hot cobblestones. A wind rises up, blowing from the Border Wood. The temperature plummets.

“Quickly, to the Stoat!” Kale shouts, leaping to her feet. She puts an arm around Theodora to help her rise, as Alder scrambles to throw canvas sheets over his wares. The first flurries blow through the square just as the two women reach the weathered, wooden door of the tavern.

That Bandit.
That Freaking Bandit.

So The Border Wood was hit with a winter bomb. Or something. Who the hells knows what it was. Its not like it matters because as we stumble along back towards Heldren, most of us completely dead on our feet, all I can think about is that bandit. That Goddamn slippery, sneaky bandit. My new acquaintance with the elven blood apparently is not extremely skilled at rope use, even when he remembers to actually tie the knot instead of just wrapping the rope around and around prisoners, because the same guy went and escaped us TWICE. AND THEN had the gall to drop freaking DEAD when we caught up to him the second time. I don’t even know what to do, I am so beside myself with anger that this little shit managed to escape any kind of revenge for what he put me through. Oh and don’t even get me started on little miss sunshine and the “wolf who watches prisoners walk away.”

OK Harmall, deep breaths. They seem like good folks and as skilled as I am at the art of combat. Maybe I can get the storyteller to boost my morale with another obviously made completely up Historical Tale. Or perhaps I will go back and kick that fuckers corpse again…..

My First Week in the South
Winter Always at My Back

Cold weather, unsurprisingly, follows me into the Southlands. Crashing down onto trees in the night like an icy star.

What have I stepped in here?

Most surprising? — the clumsy minstrel is kind of humble – but I’m not sneaking into a forward position with him again. We were lucky to get out of that bandit camp with our skins in one piece.

Least surprising thing in this cart wreck is the wizard – on top of NOT explaining his attack plans – he acts like he’s been in charge of something (maybe an abused apprentice who up and ran away). Well. I suppose he just can’t help himself – he’s magic and thinks that makes him special wherever he goes. Let him think that as long as he serves his purpose.

Not sure what to think of the forest child and her animal. The dog, or wolf — or whatever it is — only does what it’s told and not a lick more. Got to keep my eye on that animal; wolves are unpredictable. The girl is a good healer though. I’ll say that for her — I could have died in the claws of that big lizard but for her. (Where in the Nine Worlds did that thing come from anyway?)

I guess I’ll stick with these folks as long as it takes me to kick all this shit off my shoes. (Could be more cash in it, after all.) ‘Specially since it’s a long walk to the next town . . . and besides – made three of the luckiest shots of my life since I met them. . .

A Cabin In the Woods

It’s nearly dusk by the time Teb Knotten finishes, and the snow is just topping the scraps of cloth and leather tied around his warty feet. He stands straight, then places his hands in the small of his back and stretches, releasing several audible pops and cracks.

Before him stands a small hut: hastily constructed of raw timber and bark shingles, but solid enough. He rests one elbow on the roof and with the other hand rubs at his knotted, aching shoulder.

“There, then,” he says, looking toward the tree line. “That ought to suit, eh?”

A small, high voice shivers through the trees: “I don’t like it.”

“Don’t like it?” Teb’s brow furrows, and he stands up straight. “What’s not to like, eh? It’s got… well…” He gestures vaguely toward the structure. “It doesn’t leak.”

“I want to go home,” the small voice replies.

“You are home,” Teb states firmly. “Home is wherever we tell you home is.” Silence answers him. He scans the trees, eyes narrowed.

“Urxehl’s thunderous fart,” he mutters under his breath. Then, louder: “Do as you’re told.” He tosses his hammer down into the snow and stomps off toward the path.

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.

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.

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.

Harmalls adventure log


Robyn's Adventure log.


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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