SUMMARY: Four strangers are caught in a supernatural blizzard and attacked by a spirit assassin. When driven off, it drops a note with just their four names. They ask a hermit druid to divine what targeted them. She tells them an ancient being in the Dragon Wood wants them. They decide to stick together until they know more. They travel to the temple where the two elven sisters have been assigned.
The northern lands around the city of Concord have been a largely peaceful region for the last century. The land is protected to the north and east by the Queen’s Wood and Concord to the south. To the west are the monster-filled swamps of the Fangs and the dangerous Dragon Wood lurks beyond, but both are generally quiet beyond their immediate borders.
Asger (AHS-gƏr), a hulking warrior from barbarian lands outside the Dragon Empire is traveling cross-country when the snows hit. It takes less than a minute before he’s lost in a complete white-out. He’s traveling to the nearby village of Wellcrest for the night and he knows he’s close. He can’t see any landmarks, so he heads out in the general direction and hopes he doesn’t miss it. He isn’t dressed for the unseasonable weather and he’d be hard-pressed to survive the night in the open.
Nearby, Zelu, a small goblin dressed in human-style clothing, is traveling west alone along a country road. The snow hits while he is at a crossroads. He’s also nearly blinded, but he can still see the road. His sharp ears pick up two women screaming, followed by a sound like metal scraping against rock. He begins casting a protective spell on himself and moving towards the screams.
About a hundred yards away on the road that heads off north from the intersection where Zelu stands, two elven twin sisters, Moira and Tiaga, are walking together when the snows cover them. They are huddled over against the wind and snow when a tree trunk hurtles out of the woods to their right. Tiaga dodges, but Moira is hit in her left shoulder and knocked off the road, over an edge, and down six feet into a small stream (a tributary that eventually feeds into the Fangs).
Moira hits an exposed branch on the way down and even with her leather armor, she’s bruised from mid-calf up to her hip. The water is shallow, but she’s completely soaked when she splashed into the water. She begins shivering immediately. She can see ice forming at the edges of the stream and spreading rapidly. She pushes herself to her feet.
Tiaga runs over to the edge and lies down, reaching to pull Moira out.
Moira sees a cyclone of snow form above Tiaga. Then the tip of a sword begins extruding from the cyclone (seemingly coming from nowhere). Moira yells to warn Tiaga just in time for her to roll out of the path of the slashing sword. It scraped loudly against an exposed rock.
The cyclone disappears, leaving no trace of the sword. Moira grabs the exposed branch that gouged her and starts climbing out of the slippery, muddy ravine.
Only a few seconds pass before the cyclone begins to reform in front of Tiaga. The sword begins to extrude again.
Tiaga doges again then casts a quick folk cantrip to give herself witch sight while it’s reforming a third time. With her mystical senses opened, she sees a figure about five feet tall made up of swords, knives, and other blades, tied together with wire to make a grotesque stick-figure. She also glances up at the sky and sees that the blizzard is clearly supernatural. Vague figures cavort and swirl in the clouds above, streaming overhead towards the south.
She can’t look long because the blade spirit begins to swirl again, causing another cyclone to form. It begins extruding it’s blade again.
Nearby but out of sight of the elven twins and the cyclone sword spirit, Asger stumbles out of the snow and onto the crossroads. He’s nearly on top of the small goblin Zelu before he sees him. Zelu is casting a spell. Goblin sorcerers are unheard of, but Asger isn’t a well-educated man and not prone to dwelling on details. The two size each other up briefly, then Zelu beckons Asger to follow him. Asger can hear the sounds of battle and pulls out his huge hammer. He runs off, quickly outpacing Zelu (which is just fine by the little goblin).
Asger bursts into the clearing just as the cyclone reforms yet again. He swings his hammer at the spinning blade, but misses. It passes through the cyclone without effect making it clear to all four that attacks against the cyclone have no effect.
Zelu finishes his armor spell on himself and begins casting it again to cover the other three.
Moira finally climbs out of the ravine and shoots an arrow at the blade. Against the odds she hits blade. Her arrow clanks against the steel and spins off into the woods. She doesn’t do much damage, but she nicks the blade and Tiaga sees the creature “bleeding” rust from the wound with her witch sight.
Zelu finishes his spell and shadows grow up from the ground to cover the other three. Before they have a chance to react, the blade spirit strikes again and hits Tiaga. But as soon as the blade touches her shadow armor, it begins to corrode. The creature screams and shoots up into the sky, where it flies out of sight.
However, it leaves behind a single small scrap of paper that drifts to the ground. Asger picks it up, but he can’t read. Zelu takes it and sees four names written on it.
A quick check makes it clear that it’s their four names. Except for the twins, none of them have met before and have no idea what they have in common.
As the adrenaline of the fight wears off, Moira starts shivering harder. They all need shelter, especially Moira. They decide to stick together for the time being until they can decide what to do next.
Before they leave, Asger smiles at Moira suggestively, making it clear he’d be happy to get to know her more intimately. When she refuses, shocked, he nods at Zelu, who similarly rebuffs him. After a moment’s hesitation, he smiles at Tiaga, who stares at him. He shrugs as if to say it never hurts to ask.
They know that the village of Wellcrest is nearby. It should only take a quarter hour to reach it. Tiaga casts some simple folk healing spells to heal bruises and cuts. She doesn’t need to call on her goddesses, the Three Sisters for more powerful healing yet.
The group sets off. Wellcrest is on the other side of the river. A few minutes down the road and they come to a long covered bridge.
A young teenage boy is huddled miserably over a spear. He’s keeping guard of the bridge. When they tell him they need shelter, he tells them the village is too small to have an inn, but Goodwife Janey has some spare rooms in her house. He leads them there. They don’t get the boys name before he heads off back to the bridge.
The goodwife isn’t particularly friendly, though they get the impression it’s her temperament, rather than any dislike directed at them specifically. She tells them where their rooms are, making the assumption that Zelu must be one of their servants, since almost all goblins are either wild or servants and he’s wearing decent clothing. Zelu’s used to the assumption and doesn’t bother correcting them.
Asger tries his luck smiling and nodding at Goodwife Janey and once again has no luck.
The four of them head off to sleep.
The next morning it has stopped snowing and the temperature is cool, but well-above freezing. The snow will be mostly melted by midday.
The four get to know each other a little and also talk about what to do next. They decide the first thing they need to do is learn more about the note and who wrote it. The twins are heading towards the Temple of the Winter Star, a small elven temple where they’ve been assigned. The priestess there, Tiranna, would almost certainly be able to help them, but she’s a close friend of their step-father and they know they won’t get along well with her. Plus, she’ll report anything they say back to their step-father.
They ask Goodwife Janey if she knows anyone. She tells them about a reclusive “wise woman” in the woods named Gammy Mae. She warns them she has unusual manners, but if they bring her gifts, she’ll help them. She often offers fortune-telling and augury services. She lives a few hours off the road in the woods and she’s on the way. Visiting her first would add about half a day to their journey to the temple. The four agree to visit her.
Before leaving town, they stock up on the limited supplies Wellcrest has to offer. For Asger, his plans to buy a warm cloak get sabotaged when he spends all his money on several skins of local ale.
The directions to the wise woman are adequate and the four travelers find her hut with little difficulty. Asger is soaked by melting snow from a tree and strips down to his small clothes.
The hut is in the middle of a natural clearing. It’s poorly made, with a crude thatch roof and crooked walls. The chimney is a simple hole in the ceiling and pungent smoke is currently pouring out.
Asger is the first to the door and he knocks. When there’s no immediate answer, he pushes the door open. Smoke spills out the front door around him. Asger immediately feels light-headed, though pleasantly so.
In the center of the one-room hut sits a wizened half-elven woman. Her age is hard to tell, but it’s clear she’s lived a hard life. Her face is gaunt, her skin is leathery, her hair is matted, and her body is stick-thin. She’s throwing handfuls of some sort of grassy herb into the fire. It’s clearly a drug of some sort.
Asger “nods” at the old woman and she smiles back. He shuts the door behind him.
The others watch Asger enter, then shut the door. They wait a moment to see if he’s coming back out, then walk to the front door. The sounds from within stop them from knocking or entering. When the sounds stop a few minutes later, they enter.
Asger is sitting half-dressed next to the fire. He’s swaying and smiling, clearly intoxicated by the smoke. Gammy Mae, the wise woman, has a skinny hand resting on his thigh. She’s finishing pulling her clothes back on.
She looks up at them. She smiles at Moira and Zelu, but her eyes harden when she takes in Tiaga’s priestly clothing.
“You and your goddesses are not welcome in here. The others can stay.”
Taiga decides not to cause a scene and waits outside.
The wise woman speaks to Moira next: “You’re the twins with the runes? I know your ”/characters/bion-greenoak" class=“wiki-content-link”>father. He passed through here a few years ago heading west. A good man."
Moira eagerly asks her more questions, but Gammy Mae knows little else. The two twins are eager to find their father, who left long ago and is believed to be a follower of the High Druid. Their mother (who had become increasingly orthodox after marrying their step-father) didn’t like to talk about their father.
Gammy Mae asks them why they’re there. They show her the paper with their names and tell her about the sword spirit. She asks for payment and they give her food, simple supplies, and ale.
She takes the paper and casts a spell. Moira recognizes it with excitement as a druidic spell. The fire flares and a strong breeze noisily rattles all the trees around the clearing. The walls and thatch roof seem to crawl, as if growing.
After a few moments of muttered chanting, Gammy Mae gasps and opens her eyes. They’re bloodshot.
“There is an ancient being in the ”/wikis/dragon-wood" class=“wiki-page-link”>Dragon Wood. It wants the four of you. I touched it only lightly but had to flee before it noticed me. I couldn’t learn any more. You should stay in the Queen’s Wood or at least stay east of Oldwall. Don’t go any closer to Dragon Wood. It’s dangerous."
The three thank her and leave the hut. They tell Tiaga everything Gammy Mae said. They decide they have no choice but to continue to the temple and ask the priestess Tiranna, even if it meant the story would get back to the twin’s step-father.
The rest of the journey to the Temple of the Winter Star is uneventful.
The temple is at the very edge of the Queen’s Wood. The shrine itself is up on a tall hill with a clear view of the sky. At the bottom of the hill is a long building with living quarters, storage, and a common eating area for residents and visitors.
When they arrive, the temple is notably quiet. The last time Moira and Tiaga were here, there had been a small, but steady stream of supplicants. Some had been elves, but many had been local humans and halflings. Moira and Tiaga were well aware that the growing orthodox movement in the elven religion (to which both their step-father and Tiranna belonged) was much more exclusive and didn’t welcome non-elven worshipers.
Gilan informs them that the priestess is out on duties and isn’t expected back until the morning. He is surprised to see a human and a goblin with the twins, but doesn’t say anything. He offers to show them to their rooms.
Before Gilan takes them to their rooms, Tiaga asks to perform a service. Gilan leads them to the shrine.
There’s a long history of tensions between the three races of elves and the orthodox movement attempted to widen the divide by stressing that each race had it’s proper place and that speaking for the gods belonged exclusively to the high elves. The twins’ father was a wood elf and their mother was a high elf. Their step-father was also a high elf and their family went to pains to present the twins as high elves.
Tiaga begins her service. She wants to send a message to Gilan that she isn’t like Tiranna or her step-father. She quotes sacred poems and gives interpretations that favor an older view.
The service goes fine, but Gilan is noticeably uncomfortable. He is overly formal as he leads them to their rooms. It’s clear that he expects trouble and is worried he’ll be caught in the crossfire.
The four go to sleep in their separate chambers and wait for the morning when Tiranna is expected back.