Hellfrost: Savage Winter

In to the Winterlands!
A new journey, a battle, and new friends.

Winter in Rassilon is a harsh mistress, particularly north of the Icebarrier Mountains, and the free folk who live in the isolated steads and towns of Helegioland, welcome what aid and goods come their way, particularly those they cannot make themselves. This is the service Ulfwald Deep-pockets provides, and while he is a canny merchant, who could probably make more money in the far warmer South, he makes this trip every year in the late winter and early spring. As honest a merchant as one might find.

Each year he started in Hellfrost Keep, the home of the Hearth Knights and the fortress guarding the pass between the Lower Winterlands of Helegioland and the rest of the Hearthlands. This year he received a message from an old friend, one who had traveled this route before, the message came on the wings of a bird as was his usual method. New guards were coming and needed to stay away from Aslov for a spell, so perhaps he could provide the distraction of a job and not to worry, they were quite capable.

It was an odd bunch, that was sent to him, particularly the Dwarf who seemed to think rather highly of the Engro’s rat slaying abilities. Indeed, he went on at length about them, each time the small fellow looked thoroughly embarrassed, and not in the way of someone being humble while heaped with praises. The follower of Tiw was a welcome addition, this route wasn’t needing guards in case it was attacked, it was needing them for when it was attacked, and a divinely blessed follower of the Lord of Battle was a welcome addition. The man who was a bear and a man and then a wolf was a touch unsettling, but his abilities demonstrated their potential value on the trip. The elf and the woman named Aqua weren’t among the ones in the message, but additional help was a sound investment, so he took them on as well.

The trip was easy going to begin with, as it usually was, and the new hires already proved their use by convincing a group of dwarves, who had wanted to travel with the caravan, to lend their axes to its defense. They had been hesitant on the account that defending the noble they were traveling with, one Hauld Austry Giantslayer, meant no aid would go to the other wagons, were they in need. They proved themselves an even sounder investment on the ninth day of their journey, when they reached Drakewood.

The woods were perfect for ambushes, and if ever there was trouble on the march, it would be here, of that, Ulfwald was certain. Sure enough, he proved himself right when two trees were felled directly in the path of the caravan. No sooner had his wagonmen reached for axes to cut the trees down, than did the cries of goblins fill the air. Ulfwald had to admit, he was stout, but his men were better with weapons than he was, even then. The dwarves availed themselves well, not only drawing the brunt of the attack, but their martial prowess was impeccable. The guards he had hired did an impressive job themselves, proving their mettle by slaying more enemies than even the combined might of the dwarves had been able to handle. The merchant was growing fond of these adventurers, and was quite thankful circumstances had led them to him, for had he hired standard caravan guards, he didn’t think they would have gotten out of that scrape without casualties.

Ebenezar came close, he was felled early in the battle to a goblin spear, but he had always been stubborn and clung to life long enough for Aqua to lend him her healing touch. Of the rest, no one was harmed beyond the scrapes and bruises expected of combat, and afterwards, the dwarves took far more kindly to Ulfwald’s new caravan guards. They told each other tales and shared their fire and food with them.

The group came along a party of Shield Knight riders on the 12th day, they were based out of Watchgap Fort, and warned of trouble. Goblins and their like were growing bold, more than their usual enthusiasm for spring raids. Ulfwald had thought something was off with the numbers that had attacked in Drakewood. Even after they encountered two more groups, though those were smaller and just kept distant, shooting arrows before riding off on their wolves, more like what the route was normally like. The Shield Knight Seargent, Sir Tameric, had words with Austry before providing them with their warning and wishing them good luck and safe journey.

Day 17 and the caravan had endured a few more hit and run attacks. Nothing spectacular, though Aqua had to put her healing talents to use a couple times. Now, however, they were near the steads he traded with, particularly that of one of his friends, Oswine Hamasunu. So he decided to make a detour, figuring, and justly so, that a real meal and shelter were worth the day it would shave off of his route. Hopefully there’d be no further surprises, for during introductions he found that Reinn, the follower of Tiw, was a high ranking member of his church, or at least highly honored. Enough so that he was effectively a noble, however low on the ladder his equivalent was.

Pushing those thoughts from his mind, Ulfwald found his mouth watering at the mention of the boar butchered this morning that would be used for their meal. Perhaps he could coax his guards to talk about themselves more, he even dared hope it would be a peaceful stay…

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New Additions!
Or: Of orcs, exposition, and handwaving!

When last we left our intrepid heroes…

The party had been ambushed by orcs! Only one member was caught unawares as the rest quickly responded. Unfortunately, despite a stalwart counter offensive, the young apprentice, Rudy, and the Elven Lorekeeper, Illunari, were struck by the filthy orc arrows and dropped where they stood. The rest of the group fought on, and were joined by a pair of travelers who had apparently been hunting that very band of orcs. Together, they dispatched the would-be robbers with relative ease. After looting the bodies they followed their tracks back to their camp and looted it before making use of the already made site for themselves, dining on the horse meat that had been the orcs’ dinner. The night was uneventfully.

The following day, the party arrived at The Citadel, a massive fortress, unlike any others in Rassilon, and got rid of the idol of Vali, the object that had caused them so much trouble, and hopefully for good. With renewed energy, the group made their way to Hellfrost Keep, the addition of the Elven Wood Warden’s survival skills, as well as those of other members of the party, kept their journey uneventful. Much to the dismay of the Paladin of Tiw, Reinn. They arrived, off loaded their gear, and decided to relax before they planned on meeting Ulfwald Deep-Pockets.

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Last time, on Hellfrost SW!
Brave Sir Robin, he boldly...

The riots are over, for now, and the cult of Vali has been beaten back, for now. Or at least we hope. The fact of the matter is that somehow the people, who aren’t exactly in the most reasonable of moods, have learned that some of their problems have been tied to the cult of Vali. They’ve also learned that the cult of Vali launched an attack on one of the few temples trying to good by the people. They also learned the reason they launched an attack was on account of an idol that some filthy outsiders brought to their doorstep. Do you see where I’m going with this? If not, perhaps you should try another vocation, I hear farming is good for those oblivious to mob mentality, they just bring pitchforks when asked.

The point being, it’s getting a bit too hot in Aslov for our heroes, as the adventurers who brought the idol, and anyone associated with them, are currently the favorite focus of blame for a disgruntled populace. Thankfully, Reaper Branwen has spent enough time with the people and the politicians to do something neither have been able to do, figure out what both want and fear, so in comes a plan to kill a few flies with one blow. The adventurer’s will take the statue to The Citadel and hand it over to the Reliquary, an organization dedicated to keeping magic items out of the hands of anyone but themselves. Then they’ll take a trip to Hellfrost Keep, join up with a merchant caravan, keep it from being raided for about a month and then come home to a, hopefully, more peaceful Aslov.

Rudy’s Master is likely dead and gone, leaving the boy without a safe home unless he wishes to spend his days with farmer priests. Spider’s guild thinks his continued presence might be bad for business and the clergy, for once, actually have the right of things. Davhal doesn’t have much better to do. Bertram could likely slip away with ease, but where would the fun be in that? Illunari isn’t exactly feeling the overpopulated and exceptionally filthy city to be very home-like. And, of course, Reinn is kind of on his gods naughty list and needs an excuse to get out into the open where he might find a fight worth having. All in all, leaving is probably a good idea, if only for a time.

However, even the Hearthlands are not without their dangers, and barely into their second day of the journey they were ambushed by orcs, I mean, fluffy bunnies. Will they make it? Or will the dice, against all odds, see them die to a Dwarf? Who knows, surely the GM didn’t set that encounter there to toss some action into the game between plot lines. No one practices that sort of GMing these days…

Too bad no one packed a holy hand grenade.

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The Story So Far
Idol of the Rat King

Aslov has not been a peaceful city for some time.

Overcrowded with refugees and the poor, it is a den of disease, starvation, and desperation. The wealthy hide away in the upper city, away from the packed lower city, and the tent city outside the Hellfrost Gate, but even they cannot escape the stench. Rats choke the streets of the slums near the Brown River, the sewers are full of them, that the Vermin King, Lord of Pestilence and Greed, has found a foothold here is no wonder. They prefer, however, to work in the shadows, not out of sight, but mostly out of mind.

Last night, as riots raged in the streets of the lower city, a struggle of a different sort went on at the Temple of the Fields in the upper city. It was assaulted by scores of vermin, swarms of gutters rats, huge rats the size of large dogs and small ponies, and even rats that walked like men. The temple Reapers, as well as a number of citizens of the city, managed to fend off the diseased tide, and even avoided casualties themselves, albeit barely.

The cause of the attack could have been attributed to a number of things. Eostre, Animal Mother is a polar opposite to Vali, Bringer of Famine, which alone is reason enough to target them. An investigation into the disappearance of one of the high priests, one of the few holders of a scroll of Feast, had taken a group of adventurer’s into the sewers of the city and the trouble they stirred up could just as easily awoken them to more overt action.

The Truth, however, was discovered at the hands of an informant, Ferrel, whose leash was the life of his wife. When presented with the death of his beloved, he gave up all he knew, and was led to a safe place when the rats came to kill him. According to the beggar, the cult had been stirred to action by the presence of a powerful item, one holy to Vali. An idol brought to the city by the very adventurers who had been hunting them, one taken from the slain hands of one of their priests, one that was crucial to the summoning of something only known as “The Plague Lord”.

With the attack over, the idol safe for the time being, it now presents something of a problem to the Temple of the Fields, as well as Aslov itself. The defeat may have weakened the cult, or it may have barely put a dent in their plans, either way, it is clear that the idol presents a problem, one that needs to be resolved with haste.

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