Reign of Winter

Inside the Dancing Hut

The party explores the Dancing Hut’s Irrisen configuration with the help of Zorka. They find the following:

Cauldron Room

Library
Revealed by Zorka, hidden behind the bookshelf in the Cauldron Room

Map Room

  • Contains a translucent, three-dimensional map of Irrisen in incredible detail. It shows the entire country in real-time; the movements of large regiments could be monitored and tracked.
  • A swirling mass of white mist occupies the alcove behind the central iron throne.

Root Cellar

  • potatoes, turnips, onions, other vegetables requiring humidity control
  • millstone for grinding bone meal and spell components
  • a box in the corner sealed with iron chains

Loft
The center portion of the loft floor is open, crossed by wooden rafters and overlooking the bubbling cauldron below. The containers in this room hold mundane items like blankets, buckets, candles, cooking utensils, linens, rope, washtubs, etc. The window in this room looks out through the Dancing Hut’s beak.

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The Dawn Pipers and Other Fey

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Weary

Dassem sighed as he lowered Idril’s body to the ground. He was so tired of burying friends…

He had only known Idril for a short while, but the half-elf had fought bravely. Dassem regarded his now mended Bastard Sword sadly, it had been one of Idril’s last acts to mend it, in preparation for the fight with the dragon…

The dragon, Logrivich, had been a tough battle. It would have been challenging enough without that vile witch Granny Nan cursing him! That evil crone had laughed in his face as she sapped his strength, but with Ragathiel’s help, her laughter had died on her lips along with her.

Was it worth it? Another dead witch had done nothing to salve the wounds that his wife’s death, and daughter’s disappearance had left on his heart.

Dassem straightened up. His resolve was as strong as ever; the white witches would pay for their crimes against the innocent and good. He also continued to feel a strange urge to press on with their quest. If finding Baba Yaga was the best way to dethrone that bitch Elvanna, then Baba Yaga must be found.

Dassem glanced down and whispered a benediction of his Empyreal Lord:
“Brave Idril, may Ragathiel’s eyes fall on you, and his wings cover you, and you as well Zahna Ultor, my daughter… wherever you might be.”

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The Heralds of Summer's Return and Logrivich's Clock Tower

After a night of rest in the home of the forger Mortin, the party awakes early to enter the city of Whitethrone proper.

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The Howlings District

The next morning, Ringeirr unveils his infiltration plan: a cart of frozen fish. He suggests that the adventurers conceal their arms and armor in oil-soaked cloths under the fish. This should prevent attracting unnecessary attention from the authorities. Jaina dons the rimepelt in preparation of the rest of the party’s disguise: her slaves, helping her deliver a food shipment from the Fishcamps.

The walls of Whitethrone, as they loom closer, are bright white and adorned with odd totems. Although it becomes clear that this is simply some peculiar masonry, the intended effect is clear: the walls appear to be made from fused bones, and the totems are gigantic skulls looking outward from the city.

The party approaches the city from the northwest, attempting to enter the city through the Howlings Gate. Drawing nearer, it seems that it is less a “gate” and more “an unfinished section of the wall.” This doesn’t mean that it is unguarded, however, and the party is soon challenged by the gate guard, Greta, a winter wolf in her human form per the wolves’ ancient pact with Baba Yaga. Having entered the Howlings proper, Jaina now looks (and, most importantly, smells) the part – her normal features have been replaced by silver hair, ice-blue eyes, and pale skin. Greta greets Jaina as an equal, and though Jaina attempts to convince her to let her pass with her “slaves,” Greta respectfully refuses… without some monetary motivation. A small sum is paid to her for each undocumented head and the party is allowed to pass – but not before Brax is pulled aside and subjected to Greta’s interest. She tells him when her watch will be over and suggests he meet her back at the Gate – his mistress’s permission pending, of course.

The adventurers don’t make it a hundred feet into the Howlings before they are beset by blue brigands – a small troop of snow goblins calling themselves the Back Alley Boys and led by one Grindtooth. Luckily, Jaina convinces him that he has unwisely beset a winter wolf and her retinue and he prudently calls his Boys off.

Ringeirr leads the party through the streets toward the fishes’ destination, but abruptly stops the cart and loses the color from his face, motioning his companions into the shadows of the houses. He points down the covered alley before them and says, “That’s one of the mirror men. They’re spies of the Queen and have some magic way of speaking to the White Witches, letting them see whatever the mirror men see. We must hide, get it to ignore us, or kill it. But if it becomes suspicious, don’t let it escape alive – or we’re done for, all of us!” Ringeirr and the nimbler party members climb atop the houses and alley, while the spellcasters turn themselves invisible and retreat to the treeline, using prestidigitation to clean their tracks from the snow behind them. The mirror man continues its patrol down the alley and out into the town, seeming not to notice the party at all. They breathe a collective sigh of relief and continue down the street, delivering their fishy cargo and bringing their cloth-wrapped equipment inside. The grateful townsfolk gladly allow them to stay inside until nightfall, when it will be easier to move about the district and contact Mortin, the forger. Meanwhile, Brax decides to make good on his promise to meet Greta after her shift.

Still believing him to be Jaina’s slave, she leads him to a small tavern in the district. Their mutual pride soon leads them to some good-natured competition in the form of a drinking game, with Brax ordering round after round of orcish liquor. Eventually she begs off, admitting defeat, but Brax has not exactly kept his wits about him either. The food, ordered by Greta, finally arrives and begins another culinary wager – this time with the spiciness of the food. Brax doesn’t last long in this competition, prompting a laugh from Greta, but she eases his suffering with a kiss and a cool drink. As they get to know eachother, Greta (drunkenly) confides to Brax that she has no particular love for the Jadwiga and certainly no allegiance to Elvanna’s Winter Guard. With very little subtlety, she implies that would love to travel, but would need a way to permanently maintain her human form. From there, the conversation returns to lighter topics and the date ends well – just in time for Brax to run into his fellows and “mistress” in the street.

While Brax was winning over the enemy, Ringeirr was leading the party through the streets of the Howlings toward Mortin’s house. They chanced upon two drunken winter wolves airing their disagreements in the street. Though they briefly changed their attitudes when they saw Jaina, they soon returned to scuffling, this time over her attention. Soon enough, there was a victor, and Jaina teasingly agreed to meet him later at an inn. Glowing and satisfied, the wolf strutted away, doubtless looking forward to what he thought the night had in store for him.

Coming to an intersection, the adventurers were nearly bowled over by a man sprinting through the streets. Knocked the ground after colliding with Dassem, the man scrambles to his knees and pants, “My name is Jorhan…. My master… is in a rage.” No sooner does he speak than a wolf rounds the corner, stopping to eye them and his servant. Seeing Jaina as one of his own kind, his demeanor becomes friendly and he introduces himself as Korgin. “This man is part of my household – or was, until he decided to question how I manage my affairs,” he says with a snarl toward the cowering Jorhan. His manner becomes affable again as he continues to address Jaina, “I’m sure you understand. Sometimes you just can’t break that defiant streak, and they’re good for nothing but a bit of sport.” Jaina laughingly commiserates, but offers nonetheless to buy Jorhan from Korgin. The wolf agrees, seeming to be just as glad to get paid for the man’s life as he would’ve been to hunt him for fun. After Korgin leaves – and much to the chagrin of Jaina – Ringeirr tells Jorhan that he is free and must hurry back to Korgin’s manor, gather any other slaves that remain, clear the place of valuables, and go to a safehouse owned by the Heralds of Summer’s Return. He attempts to placate Jaina by assuring her that while some of the wolf’s wealth must go to the Heralds, he will see to it that they receive a fair portion.

After Brax rejoins the group, Ringeirr tells them that Mortin’s house is not far now. As they pass through the crossroads, they are noticed by a pair of ice trolls bearing the insignia of the Winter Guard. The trolls, however, are distracted for the moment by an argument with a pair of winter wolves. Ringeirr hurries the party down the street, knowing that once their argument is concluded they will probably be pursued and questioned by the winner. Ringeirr pounds on Mortin’s door, imploring him to unlock it and let them in. When there is no answer, he swears and asks the party if they can break the door down. After some deliberation and a failed attempt to shoulder in by Brax, a crowbar is produced and Dassem is able to pry the door open as the trolls round the corner, coming down the street. They lose interest as they see the party enter Mortin’s house and continue their patrolling.

Once inside, a furious Ringeirr slams the cowering wizard against the wall and roundly berates him for leaving them to the mercy of the Winter Guard. Mortin stammers an apology and says, “O-of course I’ll be happy to p-produce papers for you at no charge!” Some of the party, wishing to be able to openly display their weapons and armor, opt for more complicated Stilyagi papers. The spellcasters, having no need to display such items, go with the much simpler slave papers.

“Get some rest, comrades,” Ringeirr says. “We will stay here tonight and enter the city in the morning.” He says the last with a pointed look at Mortin, who appears to think better of objecting and nods his miserable acquiescence.

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Leaving the Fishcamps

After his rescue from Enarxion’s unjust imprisonment, Ringeirr Malenkov invites the party to his modest hut, allowing them to rest as they and Nadya update him on their errand. He confirms their current intelligence but also reveals that he has been working with the Heralds of Summer’s Return, an underground cult of Milani dedicated to ending the tyrannical rule of the White Witches. Ringeirr’s interest lies more with serving his oppressed countrymen than fighting , but he smuggles the desperate out and military supplies in. His contact within the Heralds is Solveig Ayrdahl, the cult’s leader. Nadya asks her uncle for his help getting into Whitethrone; he is more than happy to assist not only his niece, but also the greater cause of striking a blow against Elvanna. He agrees to help the adventurers enter the city and find Baba Yaga’s hut.

Ringeirr explains that it has become more difficult to move in and through the city recently. After seizing power from her mother, Queen Elvanna purged Whitethrone of Baba Yaga’s Iron Guard and replaced them with her own Winter Guard, fiercely loyal to her alone. The city is currently under martial law, making entrance through the main gates impossible without papers. Even citizens are routinely checked by the Winter Guard. Luckily, Ringeirr knows a talented – if eccentric – forger who lives on the outskirts of the Howlings district. His name is Mortin, and as a wizard, he is capable of stamping the papers with the arcane marks of the city’s noble Jadwiga clans. Ringeirr explains that there is a certain privileged group among the Jadwiga called the stilyagi, nobles known for their outlandish behavior and adoption of foreign styles. Unlike commoners and slaves, who may have only a dagger on their person, the stilyagi are permitted to openly display weapons and armor. But even they are not protected from inspection.

Before turning in for the night, Ringeirr explains that the security of the Howlings district has been entrusted to winter wolves instead of the Winter Guard. The wolves have an ancient pact with Baba Yaga which allows them to assume human forms in the Howlings and they have easy access to the district through the Howlings Gate – actually a section of the city wall left unfinished. It is through here that Ringeirr proposes to make his entrance. After being told about the rimepelt acquired from Norgrimm, he suggests that one of the party pose as a wolf escorting a food shipment from the Fishcamps. This should make entrance to the Howlings much easier. He asks only one favor in exchange for his service: while sneaking into the city, he wants to bring food to the people in the district. The party agrees and everyone calls it a night.

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Nazhena's Hunters and The Whitethrone Fishcamps

As the party continued its trek to Whitethrone, a snowstorm blew upon them on a bare plain. With nowhere to run for cover, the adventurers plodded on, only to have the sound of the storm pierced by a lonesome howl. As they continued to travel, it became apparent that that they were being hunted as the howls closed in. Finally, the beast revealed itself: an enormous winter wolf, capable of speech, named Norgrimm. He informed the party that he had been sent at the behest of his mistress, the witch Nazhena Vasilliovna. He gave them the opportunity to lay down their arms as four soldiers materialized from the snow, bows drawn. Nadya, shaking from terror and paler than normal, advised her fellows to consider it. The adventurers flatly refused; Dassem moved between the wolf and the party. This was fortuitous, as the wolf showed no hesitation in charging. His icy breath dealt a heavy blow to the travelers, but ultimately he stood little chance against Dassem’s righteous blade and Brax’s demonic rage. Lykta, Skugga, and Nadya focused on the threats from the falconers and their pets, driving three of them away and securing the fourth for questioning.

Examining with wonder the corpse of the horse-sized wolf, Nadya called out to the party and pointed out Norgrimm’s differently-colored eyes. Recalling a story from her youth, she told them this traditionally meant the wolf’s hide contained magical properties, allowing its wearer to appear as a winter wolf. The wolves have a longstanding pact with Baba Yaga: in certain areas of Irrisen – to include the Howlings district of Whitethrone – the wolves may take a human shape, though they uniformly have pale blue eyes and silver hair. Nadya believes this pelt may be useful as the party infiltrates the capital city.

They pressed on, finally cresting a hill to be presented with a scenic view of their destination. Whitethrone sits perched on the cliffs of the northern shore of Glacier Lake. The high walls gleam, bone-white in the sun; the only sight more impressive is the icy structure of the palace, set out on the lake itself. Although the city depends on fishing for survival and trade, its elevated position above the lake makes fishing in the city impossible. This work falls to the slums on the outskirts of the city called the Fishcamps. It was to one of these that Nadya guided the party as they began to search for her late husband’s uncle, Ringeirr Malenkov. As they descended to the shacks, she briefly related to the party that Ringeirr had come to Whitethrone after his wife and son were taken by the White Witches. He found ways of sneaking into the city, but was never able to find them. He stayed in the area as a smuggler, and Nadya’s husband considered him the best at getting in and out of Whitethrone.

After entering the Fishcamps, the party split up and began gathering information. As Brax learned from a fishmonger that Ringeirr had been recently arrested, a commotion broke out at the docks. As the townsfolk and the party gathered around, a group of four men wearing symbols of a fish crossed with a hook were beating a fisherman on the ground, demanding money from him and saying, “This is what happens when you don’t pay us to protect you!” The fishmonger indicated to Brax that these men were the ones who had taken Ringeirr in. As he and Dassem confronted the ruffians, Lykta and Skugga began approaching from the outskirts of town, ready for conflict if it broke out. The Fishcamp guards were incredulous that anyone would defy them and initially refused to let anyone help. Eventually they relented somewhat and accepted Brax’s offer to pay the man’s debt. When he flipped the guard a single copper piece, the insult was too much and the guards moved to restore “order.” Luckily, the thugs were no match for the seasoned party and they were quickly put down. They informed the party that the town’s master, Marcian Enarxion, could be found in the camp’s guardhouse, a structure made of several cobbled-together shacks.

Dassem was elected to inquire at the guardhouse. His knocks were answered by a groggy ogre who told the paladin to go away after consulting a fellow of his kind named Borger. After the door was closed and barred, the party devised a plan. After setting his insidious bear trap, Lykta took Nadya to provide ranged support from the docks as Brax and Dassem waited on either side of the guardhouse door. Dassem knocked again, and the furious ogre threw open the door, shouting, “WHAT YOU WANT?!” only to find his leg sturdily clamped in the trap. Brax and Dassem dispatched him quickly, only for his Borger to cry his name – “WHUNK!” – and enter the fray with his cruel-looking ogre hook. At the same time, Dassem suddenly found himself flanked by a dandy-looking man who simply set about the business of trying to kill him. Unfortunately for the dandy, the arrows raining from the wharf, the teeth and claws of the bloodrager, and the swift sword of the paladin worked quickly against him.

The party hid the bodies of the ogres and bound the dandy. After being revived, the man indignantly identified himself as Marcian and attempted – briefly and unsuccessfully – to stonewall his interrogators. He revealed his scheme: that he paid the Winter Guard patrols for the privilege of enacting justice in the Fishcamps, then extorted the fishermen for “protection money” to recover his costs (and then some). Entering his room, the party was able to recover the extorted money as well as set the imprisoned Ringeirr free.

The party now sits cozily in the smuggler’s shack, bringing Ringeirr up to speed and preparing to ask for his assistance…

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