Dawn. Vorwulf was able to find a narrow crag in the cliff of Nizgal’s End which allowed for the party to climb down into the box canyon and they reached its mouth by late afternoon. Vorwulf and Magiia spotted something sticking out of the snow ahead as they trudged on. It was a broken shield painted with green and white quarters the charge a black ram’s head with spiral horns. It was the shield of the Achaánal that had been snatched by the Brown-Spine dragon a few days before. Vorwulf looked back into the canyon to try to spot any caves or ledges that would allow for a lair a creature of the size of the Brown-Spine could occupy. He didn’t see any. The ranger/dragon-slayer surveyed the landscape to the south-east to where the canyon mouth gaped as dusk began to redden the sky. They set up camp and Grom, the shaman, cast Impervious to Elements (cold) before the party settled into their bedrolls to rest for the night.
A scream ripped through the camp waking the slayers. When they leapt to their feet they saw one of the Hill-Landers stumbling away into the pitch black night simultaneously laughing and crying his fellow locked in combat with a bizarre looking monster. It appeared as an emaciated corpse floating just above the snow lacking feet; a pair of splintered antlers jutting from both sides of its hideous skull. The rest of the warriors panicked and cowered behind the Blackwings as they met the undead thing in combat. Grom was the quickest to action but his attempt to banish it as a spirit failed revealing the creature to be an undead thing rather than a spirit. Magi charged the creature and power-attacked with her axe chopping it into halves with a single mighty stroke. The corpse that crashed to the snow resembled the monster she had felled only in that it was a shriveled husk of freeze dried flesh and brittle bone.
Olf concerned with the fighter that stumbled off into the dark used his ESP to locate the man. Grom followed after. The pair found him not far off but still well out of sight of the campsite. He was on his knees stuffing his mouth with snow and gibbering madly to himself, tears frozen on his cheeks.
Gil (Grom’s player) [to the other players]: “Should I try to Dispel Fear on him? Would that do it?”
Cris (Vorwulf’s player): “I dunno if that’s gonna work.” He thought for a second, “Naw. There’s somethin’ else wrong with the guy.”
Grom cast Mystic Diagnosis on the maddened warrior and found he had been afflicted with insanity by way of a curse. So he simply cast Dispel Curse instantly curing the wretch. They led the cured and shivering Hill-Lander back to camp and because the monster had invaded camp on the second watch as soon as everyone had calmed down the group tried to catch what little rest they could before sunup. Vorwulf and another Hill-Lander warrior took the third watch while the others slept. The sun rose on the sixth frigid day of travel.
Jenn (Magiia’s player): “Aw man! We’re not gonna make it!”
Cris: “We’re not going fast ‘cause of the snow. We’re up to our waists in it. Sh*t.”
Jenn [to me, the GM]: “You know, I’ve been reading this book and this guy was trapped in a jail cell in a dungeon. And the other guy with him, all the other people [NPCs] didn’t know that they were in the game but he did. Because he was a player. So he knew there had to be a way out because the Game Master wouldn’t put ‘em in a place with no escape. So y’know. The GM’s got to have a plan. If we fail…”
Cris (Vorwulf’s player)[sarcastically]: “Yeah, Only the worlds gonna end..”
Jenn [shrugging]: “If the players fail the GM fails. The guy said it.”
Before the party started to get on the move Vorwulf used his land navigation to try to figure out how much farther they had to travel. Due to his excellent skill and familiarity with the Cleft-Rills region he surmised that it would take them about 3 and half more days till they reached the edge of the Hornwood. The group set about on their way eastward with Vorwulf in the lead and the rest of the Blackwings at the vanguard with Canohk the bard and Olf the healer following. The Achaánal clan warriors were taking up the rear. Just before noon the sun vanished from the sky hid behind black clouds. An icy wind and a peal of thunder heralded a sudden blizzard which blasted down onto the heads of the adventurers. Not wanting to let the storm bog them down the Blackwings gathered around the shaman trying to give him cover as he worked his magic. Despite the cacophony of slashing winds and snow he was able to complete the ritual of Calm Storm II after an hour it was completed and the air fell still almost immediately.
The slayers looked about them and saw the grey-white walls of the storm with an appearance of wet clay swirling about them at a distance of about 7 miles or so causing everything to be washed out by the sun which peeked out from behind the silvery clouds directly above them. It was at this time that they also noticed the absence of the bard and the 6 Hill-Lander fighters. They dusted off the snow and ice that crusted their cloaks and went to find their missing charges with Olf leading using his ESP to locate the missing 7. A few hours into following the Arborean, Grom stopped suddenly and yelled, he had gone snow blind. Fortunately Olf was able to restore his vision using his Bio-Manipulation psionic ability. They treaded on.
It was evening and already pitch-black by the time they caught up with the missing party members halfway down the slope of a southerly hill. All of them were shivering, blue-lipped and suffering from exposure. The healer and the shaman spent a few minutes restoring their health and healing the damage they had suffered from the time they spent in the blizzard. They turned northward and surmounted the hill digging in immediately. The shaman cast Impervious to Elements (Cold) over the party. It was inevitable that the blizzard held temporarily back by Grom’s spell would move back in and swallow them in a hell of ice and winds. The night was uneventful while they laid in their snow-cave those on watch listening to the storm as it howled back over them on first watch and roared until the end of the third.
Come the morning of the seventh day the spent much of the morning digging out from under several feet of fresh powder, soon after emerging Grom had a sudden idea. He cast Channel Animal Ability (flight) on all of the party members pretty much using up all of the magic that he could channel for the day (i.e. spells per day).
Cris: “Aw man! It’s like when this guy said ‘look I forgot I had this’ and used that rod of Quicksand!” (see The Dragonslayers III Pt. 3: Zombie Dragons Doom)
Gil: “Well, it only lasts for 7 minutes.”
The players did the math. They would be traveling at a speed of 100 ft. per melee round which came to a rate of 20 miles per hour. They calculated the travel distance for the 7 minutes which was approximately 2.3 miles and if they were able to fly at a x4 maximum movement rate (I ruled they could) using up all of their attacks per melee round each to increase their speed putting them easily at the edge of the Hornwood before the spell expired saving them a couple of days of tramping through the snow. They had decided to hazard the flight despite the presence of the Brown Spine Dragon which had seemingly been hounding them and the potential for it to “swoop in on them”. They would be helpless not only because a dragon simply outclasses any other flying creature in the air but the spell would transform their arms into wings disallowing for hand-held weapons. The cost paid for taking that chance wasn’t evident until it had already been paid. The dragon was trailing them and while they were in midflight had flew up stealthily behind them and swooped in snatching the last man and was nearly out of sight before the shaman had spotted it disappearing over the rapidly approaching trees of the Hornwood. The head count after landing confirmed that they were a man down, another Achaánal was gone. Vorwulf was busy contemplating the grey streaks and trails in the snow he had seen from above seemingly pointing to the Hornwood hinting that a number of something was headed in the same direction.
To Be Continued…