Reign of Winter

January 13th, 2018

Into the Lands of Ice and Snow

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It is seven hours and three minutes after high noon. I’m not really sure how to begin here. Currently, we are sitting in a cave in the Somir Valley, recovering from our battle two hours and 10 minutes ago. A lot has happened to us since we left the High Sentinel Lodge at seven hours and twenty-one minutes after midnight this morning.

Firstly Alley, our catfolk friend and regular author of this journal, is not speaking to anyone right now. She has been talking about how cold and wet it has been for our entire journey into the Spot of Winter, as I have been calling it, and I think she finally had enough. It probably didn’t help that someone might have come into the cave covered in snow and shaken himself off right next to Alley while she was getting ready to write about our adventure. I mean, Mr. Snuggledoodles didn’t mean to cover her and all her bedding in cold white fluffiness! At least, I don’t think he did. Those two don’t seem to get along very well.

So, I guess continuing on where Alley left off, we are sitting around the campfire discussing our situation. I still can’t believe that all of the Harbringers of Baba Yaga are dead, and that Baba Yaga herself has missed her scheduled return! Illarion, as the Black Rider was once known, says that wicked queen Ilvanna is behind this whole affair. Ooh how I hate her! She’s such a buntface! (I got that one right, didn’t I Brienne?)

Now she’s trying to spread the eternal winter of Irrisen to all of Golarian, which wouldn’t bother me all that much except that then all the people would be very cold and wet all the time, and apparently some folks, especially catfolks, really don’t like that. Plus, the wicked queen’s minions would be all over, which means they’d probably eventually find me and probably turn me into a newt or something. I really don’t want to be a newt, and so we totally have to stop her!

The next morning, we arose at six hours and fifteen minutes after midnight to break camp. Kouri shared some of his very wise wisdom with us while we prepared our gear, and then we proceeded to the portal. We looked around at each other before assuming our standard marching order and entering the gateway, and suddenly we were on a ridge in what we believe to be Irrisen! Magic travel is so cool!

We could see a village to the east, and so we began to march in that direction. A storm appeared to be rolling in from the west, and based upon our rate of travel, our druid believed that we would be cutting it close to arrive before the weather. We had no time to dawdle!

Unfortunately, twenty-seven minutes later, we were forced to slow our pace. A group of travelers or traders was crossing our path, a group of five dogsleds laden with supplies or trade goods and a similar number of drivers. They were stopped, however, and it became apparent why as we approached. Two giant preying mantises were attacking the drivers!

Brienne, Mr. Snuggledoodles and Alley rushed towards the creatures while Kouri and Steve peppered them with arrows (Alley slipped in the snow and fell into a drift and missed the fight, although she claims there was a tree root that caught her snow shoe, but I didn’t see anything). As my protector wolf, er, I mean dog, was advancing, I also ran that direction, as Brienne says I am not allowed to leave his side. I tossed a fire bomb at one of the giant bugs, and soon the creatures were no longer able to harm anyone. Kouri and I ran to the wounded folks and made sure that they were stable, while the rest of my friends spoke with their leader.

Nadya Pestska is the head trader, and she is so nice! She’s also very pretty, with gloriously fiery red hair! It is obvious that Steve is smitten, as he asked if her people are okay, or if they needed anything, all the while making goo-goo eyes. She mentioned that she is hauling food stuffs for the Pale Tower, and its ruler Nazhena Vasillinovna, and Steve proceeded to tell her all about our mission to stop the spread of the Witch’s Winter. Brienne thinks he blabbed too much (“thinking with his clock again,” she said, although I don’t know what all of that has to do with what time it was), but Nadya seemed to take it well, and just warned us that such plans should be kept secret from most people in the region (duh – the witches have eyes everywhere).

As suspected by Kouri the druid (did I mention he is a satyr? – so cool!), the storm was upon us before we could make the village, and so we set up a protected camp with Nadya and her team at three hours and fifty-one minutes before noon. As we sat around the campfire, Nadya mentioned that one of her daughters was taken by Nazhena (she made a joke about witches within hearing distance – not a smart move), and that she hoped to buy her daughter’s freedom with the supplies she had gathered. She has had a bad history with witches, as on top of the trouble with her daughter Thora, her husband was killed by an ice troll minion. She has two twin boys of five years age, Mjoli and Orm, and I hope I get to meet them when we get to the village. Without her husband to provide for the family, she has taken up her husband’s work, and she uses her contacts with the Kellids in the lands of the Mammoth Lords to bring food stuffs into Irrisen.

Kouri next decided to sing us a song of a long, cold winter while we waited out the storm. It must have made Alley mad to be reminded of the cold, because she stopped making her seductive (Brienne says whoreish) faces at him and rolled up in her bedroll, ignoring us all. Therefore, she missed out on Steve (or Akuma?) telling us about his past.

I guess I should call him Captain Steve, from now on, as he was ranked as such in some ranger squad in Tian Xia. He comes from a fishing village, and he might have been happy there if not for witches killing his mother. Apparently, his birth was part of a powerful ritual to create a demonic minion! The witches used a special ceremony to summon a demon, who then impregnated Steve’s mother against her will. These were really, really wicked witches!

I guess the witches were disappointed in Steve when he was born, because they killed his mother and left him to die. He is now chasing his mother’s killer for revenge, as well as to retrieve her locket. It apparently has sentimental value, as it was given to her by a pirate captain, and contains a picture of his true love, a beautiful, red-headed lady. I have no idea how that relates to Steve’s mom, as the story was quite confusing, but I’ll just move on.

Brienne decided to tell us about her father at this point, who also had a run-in with witches. He made romantic gestures toward a witch in his youth, and was rebuked. He became angry, and thought to strike her in retribution. She instead cursed him, and turned him into a woman! She said it was so that he could know the annoyance of unwanted advances. Witches can be cruel, but in my opinion, this one may have actually been justified.

Brienne continues to say that her family was from the Lands of the Linnorm Kings, but that her father moved them to Korvosa after he/she was cursed. Brienne left when the Mad Queen, Ileosa, was slain. She had been in the Queen’s service as a Grey Maiden, controlled by magic and torture, and so it is good that she was able to escape! No wonder she doesn’t like bad magic.

Kouri then jumped in and told us about his upbringing. His father was, of course, as satyr, and his mother a druid. It is unusual for a satyr parent to leave a child behind, but Kouri’s father did indeed leave him with his mother to be raised. His mother later married, and he had a half-brother and two half-sisters as a young man. Unfortunately, due to his fey lifespan, he outlived them all. So sad! That is when he moved to a monastery, where he met his hawk friend.

Finally, after all the sharing, everyone pestered me into talking about my past. I mentioned my mother was a witch and my father a sub-commander in the Iron Guard, the loyal troops of Baba Yaga. I told them how Queen Ilvanna had my parents killed, and that I was forced to flee with my nanna, Gunhild. She was killed in the pursuit, and then I found Mr. Snuggledoodles, and I fled all the way to Whistledown in Varisia, where I met Brienne. After we were almost killed there too, we took a ship to Taldor, where we met everyone else.

This is when Steve decided to blab some more and tell Nadya about the death of the Riders and the peril that Baba Yaga may be in. The group then told her how Ilvanna may be attempting to keep Baba Yaga from returning so that she can maintain her crown. So, now Nadya knows all of our plans. Hopefully she isn’t a spy for the witches. They have eyes everywhere.

Kouri sang another song, this one about the glory of springtime after a long winter, and we hunkered down for a quick nap while the storm raged on.

The weather finally broke at sixteen minutes to noon. Nadya’s people packed up their camp, and we continued towards the village. However, we didn’t get far before more trouble emerged. A swarm of ravens appeared in the sky, flying towards our caravan. Ravens are the yet another of the witch’s means to spy on the people of Irrisen, and so we took shelter under white tarps in hopes that the evil birds would pass us by.

We were not to be so lucky. The ravens must have heard Brienne’s creaking and stomping, as they turned toward us and began to peck and scratch at the tarp. Knowing they would soon penetrate the flimsy barrier, Captain Steve rallied us to attack, surprisingly inspiring us with his words. The warriors waded into the fray with blades swinging (well, all of them but Alley, who go tangled in the tie downs for the tarps), and I contributed with a bit of bada-boom! The birds were mostly destroyed, but some did manage to flee, likely to warn their wicked masters of our location.

At three hours and one minute after noon, we reached the village of Waldsby. For some very odd reason, the village is laid out as an exact mirror copy of Heldren, complete with its own clock tower! The clock does not appear to be working (frozen at ten minutes after twelve), and I plan to look it over as soon as possible. However, Nadya felt that it would be best if we laid low for a bit, claiming to be merchants ourselves, and she led us to her home while her crew took the foodstuffs to the village silo for temporary storage.

We definitely received some strange looks as we traversed the village. With my friends being dressed as obvious outsiders, they certainly stood out from norm. There was talk amongst the villagers of a squad of troops from the Pale Tower that had been through town recently, obviously looking for something. The villagers did not know exactly what they were seeking, but our appearance so suddenly after theirs did not seem to be coincidental to the locals. We’ll have to be on alert for witch spies.

Just as an aside, having come back to Irrisen, and being among the peasant folk, I have definitely noticed how much more subdued the populace is here. One of my aunts used to say that a populace controlled by fear is not near as productive as one motivated by reward. Something about a sticks and carrots, I think. I think I can see what she is talking about now. If we manage to find Baba Yaga, I should really talk to her about this. Maybe if the next Queen weren’t a wicked old meanie pants to everyone, and kept her family from being so harsh to the people, the whole country would be a better place for everyone!

Once at Nadya’s house, I got to meet her boys. Boy, are they fun! They like running about and throwing snowballs and hiding from their sitter, Kashka! They also have a domovoi, or house elf, named Hatch, which is also pretty cool. I played with the boys for one hour and thirty-one minutes while Nadya returned with new winter gear in the local style for my friends. We then went to the local general store to sell some of the loot we had acquired during our travels. Finally, Kouri and I worked on magically enhancing our party’s gear – I by adding enchantments while he improved the quality of the mundane items.

I had planned to rise and shine a bit late the next morning, as I was up late working on weapon enchantments. However, I forgot that they had a clock tower in town! I rose at six hours and eight minutes after midnight, and Archy and I made our way over to the town hall to check it out. Turns out the hall was empty, and so I just let myself in to look around. It turns out that the clock is in bad shape. It has not been well maintained, and some parts are rusty or broken, but I think I could get it back together with just a little work! I spend some time Mending the pieces that I could, and sorting the others into the proper piles to work on later, and I actually lost track of time! Me! I couldn’t believe it. Nonetheless, Archy let me know that Brienne was looking for me, and so we scooted on back to Nadya’s to see what the fuss was about.

Turns out, Brienne wanted a drink, as usual. Not wanting to miss seeing more of town, I accompanied Brienne a few of my friends to the White Weasel tavern, which was pretty empty that early in the morning. The large mirror behind the bar made me nervous, and I made sure to keep my face hidden as much as possible. The owners were not friendly at all. They tried to drug us and Compel Brienne to lead us out of town! They must have been worried about being associated with people that might be hiding from witches. I mean, they could have just said so… We left in a bit of a huff, with Brienne being downright threatening.

On our way back to Nadya’s, we found out that the guard patrol from the Pale Tower had returned to town, and that half were heading to the White Weasel while the other half were headed our way! My friends and I set up an ambush at Nadya’s home, and the guards were quite surprised to find themselves under attack from the get off. They couldn’t stand up to our assault for long, although it would have gone faster if Alley hadn’t tripped on a loose floorboard and hit her head. I swear, she spends half of our battles taking cat naps!

We quickly made our way to the White Weasel, leaving Alley behind to recover and rest. My friends stormed inside, with Kouri right away shooting the mirror behind the bar. Ker-smash! Take that, witches! Once the archers finished pinning the guard captain to the wall with their arrows, Brienne finished off the rest with her blade.

After the battle, while my friends were deciding what we needed to do, I spent a bit more time looking into this whole Heldren/Waldsby connection. I first examined the statue in town square, but it is maddeningly unadorned, and with no plaque or words carved on the base, I was unable to figure out who she might be. During my investigation, however, I scanned for magic and was surprised to discover a ley line! It appears to be running such that it would also pass through Heldren, which would explain the psychic connection between the two towns, manifesting in almost mirror images of layout, structures, and heck, even the people! I’m glad I got to the bottom of that mystery. It was driving me crazy pants!

Now, it looks like we are off to the Pale Tower before they send more guards looking for their missing patrol. It looks like Alley is done sulking, and so I am giving her back the journal. Maybe I’ll write some more at some point. I hope I did a good job!

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nickdquick

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