Reign of Winter

Aliens!? We are the Aliens!
8 Abadius 4714 – The Dancing Hut

After camping out over night, the ensemble of heroes press toward Spurhorn. As the group walks, Bescaylie tells the party a bit of the history of Triaxus and the current political struggle.

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Lost In Space
7 Abadius 4714 – The Dancing Hut

As the wave of disorientation fades, the party realizes that the Hut has transformed beyond even the party’s expectations. No longer in a standard room, the group finds themselves standing in a gazebo in the midst of a forested glen. Departing the glass construct, the heroes follow one of several small paths which cut through the fields surrounding the gazebo. As they approach a fork in the path, Hunter draws his bow to shoot a pair of giant moonflower plants that rise up menacingly. As he releases the arrow, he notices that at the last minute, his new hand twitches causing him to miss the shot. He tries again, and the same happens.

As Ingvar draws closer, the giant plants attack and Hunter notices that his hand no longer twitches and each shot is true. The party defends itself from the hungry maneaters and hacks the carnivorous plants to pieces. A few comments are exchanged in questioning his misses, but Hunter deflects the conversation by pointing out a building up ahead. Within the hacked up remnants of a flower the party finds the remains of an earlier victim. Searching these remains they find a few items of gear and magic which they salvage before moving on to the building pointed out by Hunter.

They find the double doors to the building forced open and carefully investigate. Inside is a long corridor with single doors on each side. Checking the north side first they discover a strange figure who is covered in thick cloth from head to foot who greets the party, apparently elated to see their arrival. He introduces himself as a simple traveler from Leng who is looking for aid for his master in the next room, both of whom were injured in an attack from the moonflowers. The traveler offers several valuable rubies as enticement to help his master. Vadoma decides to follow and help if she can.

Once in the next room, the party realizes it is a ruse as they are attacked by some strange alien creature which Ingvar describes as “a walking ape with a butt for a face” and by the Leng traveler himself. The creature attempts to take control of Aiwendil and Alabaster in order to use their magical abilities against the party, but in turn both are able to overcome these assaults and a brutal conflict erupts in the small room which only ends with the death of both of the alien creatures. The party finds several rubies on the body of the traveler, in fact one appears to maybe house some kind of spirit as a shadowy figure is seen moving inside a larger ruby.

With no exit in the building that can be found, the group departs and finds a small cabin further down the path. They find one of the windows open which allows Hunter, Svala and Tacey to enter the small cabin. As he enters the small room, three dead ravens animate and call out, “Baba Yaga has gone on, off to see her only son. But a trail she left behind, if only the breadcrumbs you can find.”

The birds fly up and pull several items from the shelves around the room and drop them at the heroes’ feet. The items are a stuffed two-headed eagle, placed next to an iron spur and a drinking horn. Next they take up a piece of elephant tusk and a hand mirror and drop them on a bearskin rug. Not yet knowing the meaning of these items, they collect and store them until they have a chance to study them, maybe even asking Zorka if they can find her.

Hunter goes over to the door to allow the rest of the party to enter the cabin, but opening it reveals it is actually the exit from the Hut as it opens out on the porch. Taking in the scenery it appears the Hut has arrived onto a large open snowy plain in the midst of a snowstorm; a tall mountainous landscape looms over the distant horizon. The rest of the party climbs through the window to the cabin and the group departs the Hut.

Unsure of their location as no features look familiar to anyone, the group picks a direction and heads off in that direction in hopes of finding some kind of civilization. It is not long that Aiwendil seems to feel some oddities in the flow of natural energies and eventually notices that the Sun looks much smaller in the sky. As the nature-based members explore the sky and the environment around them hopefully explain the changes, they spy a figure in the sky flying toward them; it appears to be a rider in armor on the back of a red dragon. Hunter begins to pull out his bow to take aim, but feels the strange tremors again. He keeps his bow out, but does not pull back on the string or take aim at the rider.

The dragon flies overhead and Aiwendil notices it is not a true dragon as it carries a glaive weapon in its forepaws much as a warrior would. The rider calls out something to the party but it is in an unknown language. Tensions are beginning to increase as neither side can understand the other until the rider calls out in draconic and Alabaster casts a comprehend language spell which allows communication. The party realizes the rider is hailing them to identify themselves and asks if they are lost? Alabaster calls back in draconic, that they recently arrived from a distant land and are looking for the nearest village.

The dragon lands a ways off and the rider dismounts. It is clear the warrior is a female as the elaborate metal armor hugs her form and as she draws near she removes her helmet to reveal a “fur-covered elf”. The rider introduces herself as Bescaylie and her dragonkin companion is Efrixes. Alabaster states they are a group of people seeking the lost Baba Yaga. Bescaylie claims no knowledge of anyone by that name within the Dragon Legion Alabaster questions about their location, they are informed they are in the xxxx Range Skyfire Mandate a days journey from the Spurhorn Citadel. After several more probing questions from both sides, the party comes to realize they are on the planet Triaxus.

Although the party is unaware of the current politics of the planet, they come to recognize the name of the citadel matches the items dropped by the ravens and asks Bescaylie if there is something that resembles a two-headed eagle or bird at the citadel. She replies that the commander has a pet two headed eagle. She also explains the citadel is presently under siege and that she is returning there after scouting the region. She states she will assist the party to enter the fort if they agree to help with its defense. With little choice at the moment, the party agrees.

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Take the Long Way Home
14 Kuthona, 4713 – Iobaria, Artrosa

Saying their goodbyes, Jadrenka and Marislova escort the party to the exit of the " Mother" statue and oversees their climb down the giant statue to ensure their safety. When they reach the bottom they head toward the camp where they left Erdija and find it has been abandoned. Hunter is able to establish her trail and the group sets out following her path.

27 Kuthona, 4713 – Iobaria, Deeprun Crevasse

On the afternoon of the second day, the party catches up with her and when questioned about why she left camp early, she explains that in fact she stayed at Artrosa for two weeks and has been on the road for three days since departing, deliberately setting a slow pace. As it turns out, this is the 27th day of Kuthona. She states if they set a regular pace now, they just might make I to Vurnirn in time for New Years celebrations. Immediately, the group reassembles as they had for the trip to Artrosa and set out to return to the Centaur City at a steady but and as brisk a pace as the terrain and weather will allow.

28-30 Kuthona, 4713 – Iobaria, Deeprun Crevasse

The three days journey from the Deeprun Crevasse to Vurnirn are uneventful as the city is in the final stages of preparation for the transition from year to the next. Based on their previous visit in town, they are able to make lodging arrangements and the party is welcomed as heroes as the first people in recent memory who have been to Artrosa and returned to tell the tale.

Year’s End 4713 – Iobaria, Vurnirn

The party takes part in the Year’s End festivities and celebrations. Due to the holidays, some merchants are closed for a day or two, but the party is able to sell and or buy most things it needs and repairs its armor for the trip back to the Rashalka Camp.

While researching the cookbook the group found, Alabaster finds a passage which outlines the ritual which binds Ratibor to the Dancing Hut and what is required to release him. He and Aiwendil begin making plans to release him upon their return.

New Year’s Day 4714 – Iobaria, Vurnirn

Word of the frost giants defeat at Aryrosa spreads fast and many who would not approach the party before now welcome them as celebrities. They are the guests of honor at the New Year’s Feast. Due to the holidays, some merchants are closed for a day or two, but the party is able to sell and or buy most things it needs and repairs its armor for the trip back to the Rashalka Camp.

1 Abadius 4714 – Iobaria, Vurnirn

With the holidays over, the party completes their repairs and restocking of provisions as well as selling and buying needed goods and treasures.

2-3 Abadius 4714 – Iobaria, The Hoofwood

Word of the giant’s defeat has reached Chieftain Kaag and has dispatched a group of centaur rangers and warriors to serve as escorts (and mounts) for the trip back through the Hoofwood. The trip back is uneventful and as the group arrives back in camp late the second day, they are met with elation and celebration.

4 Abadius 4714 – Iobaria, The Hoofwood (Rashalka Camp)

The party meets with Chieftain Kaag and relays the events that transpired in Artrosa. Although they defeated several monstrous creatures, they still recommend giving the witch site a wide berth which Kaag agrees. There is a feast that night for the victorious return an this time there is no demon attack as hangovers are slept off.

5 Abadius 4714 – Iobaria, The Hoofwood (Rashalka Camp)

The party meets with Chieftain Kaag and relays the events that transpired in Artrosa. Although they defeated several monstrous creatures, they still recommend giving the witch site a wide berth which Kaag agrees. There is a feast that night for the victorious return an this time there is no demon attack as many hangovers are slept off.

6 Abadius 4714 – Iobaria, The Hoofwood

The centaurs again provide an escort for the party as they return to the Dancing Hut. The trip is uneventful.

7 Abadius 4714 – Iobaria, The Hoofwood

Mid-afternoon, the group arrives back at the clearing where left the Dancing Hut. Aiwendil notices that there are a few more carcasses left behind by the Hut protecting its domain from natural predators, but none of these are as sizable as the giants from their arrival. Recognizing the aura of the Black Rider’s “mantle” the Dancing Hut kneels to allow the party to approach the entrance. Following the instructions from the cookbook, Aiwendil and Alabaster work together to conduct the ritual to release Ratibor.

Once complete, Ratibor is able to depart and he leaves to return to the lands his tribe once controlled. The PCs enter the Hut and return to the cauldron room where they place the two keys and stir. Once again there is a flash and a wave of disorientation and the party knows the Hut has moved again, but where to this time?

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Time Is Not On My Side
13 Kuthona, 4713 – Iobaria, Artrosa

The party follows the passages back to the zombie-prep room and then follow a long ascending corridor that leads them back to where they encountered the bebilith. Studying their maps they find an unmarked passage they neglected and backtrack through the “Mother” and “Maiden” statues to find the passage that leads them back into the “Crone.” Following stairs steps up and then back down and finally back up again they open into a simple square room where a cornfield extends in all directions with a starry sky under a waning moon. Waiting for them a single figure of a old woman who due to age stands stooped over propped on a staff. Drawing closer, the party recognizes her as Jadrenka; she is now an old crone.

Cantankerous and crotchety, she berates the party for being late as she claims she has been waiting for them for ages. Although a bit more surly than from the previous meeting, she converses with the party and determines that the threat from the coven has been eliminated as she makes a reference that she and Nostafa will have to start from scratch. Eventually, she gets around to giving the party a final warning:

”The cancer grows in the womb of the Crone." She motions across to the far side of the cornfield. “To face the Curse of Eons, you must have time on your side.” Her warning given, she fades from sight.

As in previous encounters, the room transforms, leaving behind a small square room chiseled from granite. On wall is carvings of a lifeless cornfield and decaying cornstalks and dead ravens lay scattered on the floor. As the party examines the rooms transformation, it grows colder and the room begin to fills with a thick heavy hungry fog and the dead ravens form a swarm to swirl about the party. Aiwendil makes quick work by summoning a gust of wind spell to keep the evil entities at bay until the party can make good its escape through a side door which stands in the wall in the direction Jadrenka was pointing.

A short set of stairs lead to a scarred, battered door hanging on bent hinges. The remains of a shattered construct lay strewn on the floor between two frost giant guards. The party quickly handles the two guardians. Going over to the double doors the guards were protecting, they find inscriptions written on the walls of the alcove. Alabaster determines that these are not magical in nature. They push open the doors and step into the massive chamber which houses the Eon Pit.

Inside the heroes are confronted by Vsevolod, a centaur cleric to Kostchichie who berates the party for disturbing his ritual to restore to avenge his master on the Queen of Witches. As the party steps forward to engage with the deranged cleric they are attacked by a huge beast which resembles a hybrid between a frost giant and centaur … except with eight legs. Ingvar, Svala and Tacey focus on blocking off the charging half-breed to keep him from trampling the party while Aiwendil, Vadoma and Alabaster work to magically isolate the cleric who tries to massive area of effect spells down on the party. With his hand restored, Hunter positions himself between both set of antagonists and peppers each threat with arrows.

The battle drags on for few rounds longer than the party expects but ultimately they are victorious over the cleric who constantly screams his vitriolic curses until his demise. Even up to the end, it is apparent that he has no knowledge of the party’s true purpose and is only concerned with the denial of his birthright and bringing glory to his deity. With his dying breath he calls out to Kostchichie for salvation and for a brief moment the party pauses to see if his prayer will be answered, but Kostchichie does not reward failure and fight ends quietly.

Confronted with Eon Pit, Aiwendil comes up with a unique solution and summons an air elemental and sends it down the pit to retrieve the key they seek. The creature returns in a much larger form as it has indeed aged and drops a single blue dragon scale at Aiwendil’s feet before he releases the creature. As he picks up the scale, the aged Jadrenka appears to thank the party for their service to Artrosa by defeating the frost giant threat. She hands a gold nugget to Svala and tells her this is the second key they will need in their pursuit of Baba Yaga.

With the battles over and the aid of Jadrenka assured, the party is able to truly relax for the first time in days. Jadrenka allows them to claim Vsevolod’s warchest as reward for their efforts and explains all that transpired before their arrival. They all retire to the bedroom chamber in the “Mother” to sleep and recover.

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Can You Lend Me a Hand?
13 Kuthona, 4713 – Iobaria, Artrosa

Wandering the halls of the Maiden, the party makes its way back to the large grotto the satyr described as the Artrosa, the party finds themselves back in the room where they slept and make their way through the coven room. They follow the small corridor which to this point had gone unnoticed on their maps and finds that it takes them to the “Crone.” They finds themselves in a room with a series of wooden racks with several wild animals and creatures in various stages of dissection being examined by three mutated creatures in smocks. Aiwendil figures they are a variation of a forlarren. Hunter unleashes a volley of arrows and the party attacks.

The three mutants put up a determined fight but ultimately are no match to the arrow onslaught of the ranger and a angry magic unleashed by the druid, both of which are both outraged at the level of perversion these three have conducted against nature. Examining the journals after the fight is concluded, even Alabaster determines that based on what he has seen here, not all knowledge is worth seeking out and the party puts what few tortured creatures that still struggle mercifully out of their misery.

Following the only corridor which exits the room, they come into a large chamber that is not much better. This room appears to be occupied by a large group of zombified panthers with a short porcupine-looking tender wearing a leather outfit made from human skin. There are more dead cats laying about in states of preparation to also be made into zombies. Hunter attempts to sneak forward but is detected by one of the hoarpanthers who roars to warn the others and the entire room erupts into combat. Although it is hectic and the party does have relatively little trouble in defeating the creatures, tragedy strikes as one of the hoarpanthers gets a critical hit on Hunter and takes off his hand. Although there is no real danger of him dying from the injury, it is no less traumatic as he is primarily a bowman.

Once the combat is over, the party takes stock on what to do as they are not high enough level yet to restore or regenerate such a wound. With few options, Hunter attempts a divine prayer to his deity, Erastill who deems the prayer worthy of answering. In response to the prayer, Hunter feels compelled to return to the outdoors via the shortest route possible while Vadoma gathers the hand to try and preserve it as best she can using her healing skills.

A mental tug leads the party down a side corridor which opens into a small grotto with a cauldron sitting in the middle. A random collection of food and alchemical ingredients lay scattered about on tables, some of them marked with interesting titles. A steaming mist rises from the cauldron but Aiwendil in his elemental form notices a whisper seeming to come from the steam. Conversing with the voice he discovers a mihstu has taken up residence in this room. He is able to negotiate with the creature to allow safe passage for the party. Alabaster and Vadoma determine that several forms of potions, both good and bad, can be made by adding spices from the side tables and they use a few to make cure moderate wounds potions to heal the injured party members.

After a short respite, the group moves on as the passage slopes slightly upward and they come into a slightly larger, darkened grotto. The group soon finds itself under attack by shadows. Vadoma and Aiwendil are able to utilize their divine magics to eliminate the undead threat. With the undead threat eliminated, Hunter says that the mental tug feels stronger now and leads the group up a staircase until they come to a stone door. Pushing the door open, they find themselves looking outside.

Svala and Tacey devise a prop to hold the door open as the group steps outside and find themselves atop the “Crone” statue.. Sitting on a rock watching the party as they exit is a large black eagle. The PCs stay near the door as Hunter approaches the eagle and as he nears, it transforms into a tall thin man with a bow on his back wearing black leathers.

As Hunter approaches the man says, “Erastil, has heard your prayer and deemed you worthy of an answer. I am Blackfeather, Servant of the Supreme Archer and I bring you a gift from Old Deadeye himself.” He presents Hunter with a normal looking leather bracer and explains, “This bracer will restore your ability to be an archer. When you place your severed hand against your arm and wear this bracer about it, your hand will function as normal. When you remove the bracer, your hand will once more become detached. There are special limits placed upon the bracer, but The Stag God will convey those at a time and manner of his choosing.” Hunter nods in understanding.

With a final farewell Blackfeather transforms back into an eagle and flies off. Hunter takes his hand back from Vadoma and attaches it with the bracer. It flares with a simple glow for a split second and then his hand is functional once more. The PCs return to inside the statue to continue their search for keys.

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As Silent As a Tomb
12 Kuthona, 4713 – Iobaria, Artrosa

Waking refreshed, the party decides to return to the temple and investigate the two condtructed doors which led from the room rather than explore another unknown passage. When they get back to the temple, they check the southern door first. It leads down a long and meandering hallway which has several twists and turns before emptying into a large chamber. The door is several feet off the ground and a rickety wooden staircase leads to the main floor. Hunter spies the room’s occupants; two frost giants and a rather beautiful and very pregnant young woman, and tries to sneak up to them to listen to their conversation. Although trying to be stealthy, again, Ingvar’s armor proves too heavy for the staircase and causes it to creak loudly which alerts the room’s occupants and they turn to attack.

As the giants launch their spear attacks and rush forward, the young woman disappears. During the conflict she pops in and out as she tries to use a weakness attack on several party members with some success. However, in spite of the surprise nature of her attacks, the party is able to defeat the giants and kill the woman who is revealed to be a fat misshapen green hag in disguise. While searching the bodies and the room, the party discovers a strange cookbook which has several odd recipes in it. It is given to Alabaster to study to see if there is any information of value to the group.

With no exit in the room they climb back up to the temple to check out the last door. It leads to what appears to be a mausoleum of some kind with ten doors and ten statues. After some searching the party deduces that the sign above each door corresponds to the name engraved at the base of a statue. There is a brief disagreement between party members as some believe that breaking into the tombs to take items is nothing more than tomb robbing and others make the case that what if the keys they seek are in one of the tombs, or even some item which will help in searching for Baba Yaga. A compromise is reached to ask Jadrenka’s permission to search the tombs.

Finding a corridor on the other side of the room, they follow it up some stairs and realize they are back in the “Maiden” statue when they find a table and a small bowl of maiden statues in various poses. Continuing onward they discover a door they had not discovered the first time they passed through. Opening the door they find some more andrazku demons and coming down the corridor forward appears to be blocked by a frost giant. Using surprise, the heroes quickly dispatch the monsters. Rather than wander aimlessly, they decide to follow their steps to get back to the room where they left Jadrenka and Marislova.

Arriving back in the bedroom, they ask Jadrenka about the message from the bottle. She does indeed confirm that she has the key they seek, but will only turn it over once they have the second key. They PCs also seek her permission to explore the tombs. She initially disagrees as she does not think it wise to disturb the former Wardens. Aiwendil assures her that they will not disturb any of the corpses nor will break a seal on any door. She studies the druid for a moment then agrees, but warns him that any disturbance will bring dire consequences. He nods in understanding.

With her agreement, the party double backs through the coven room and grotto to take the stairs to the mausoleum. Once they arrive back in the mausoleum chamber, Aiwendil transforms into an earth elemental and is able to meld through the stone to investigate each sealed tomb. Not finding anything of any real value in their search for Baba Yaga, he is able to recover two magical swords which he gives to Ingvar and Hunter.

Having fully realized that the three statues are linked through transportation, they discuss the need of fully investigating all rooms and passages in the two statues they have mapped before delving fully into the “Crone”. Since they know of one unexplored passage in the next room over, which is the Temple of Mestama where they fought the witchfire, they all agree to finish exploring the “Mother” and then retrace to the Maiden to complete that one.

This corridor turns out to be a long straight passage that slopes upward until they come into a massive chamber. Near the entrance, Alabaster discovers a rune etched in the floor and determines that it is part of some sort of binding spell. Further inspection finds several cocoons hanging from the ceiling and a broken one on the floor which contains the desiccated corpse of an andrazku demon. They also find a massive spider-type creature, a bebilith, feasting on another corpse.

The party attacks but almost immediately regrets it as the creature is able to withstand much of the party’s magics and attacks. This is a long drawn out fight and the bebilith gets in several damaging hits on several characters which forces Vadoma to absorb a large amount of damage from her healing connection with the group members. Eventually, Hunter, Svala and Ingvar connect with critical hits and are able to kill off the fiendish spider. The party uses several of their potions and Vadoma channels to heal the group.

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Where There is Smoke, There is Witchfire
11 Kuthona, 4713 – Iobaria, Artrosa

The PCs follow the corridor from the pit down and wind up in what appears to be some kind of temple, Alabaster is able to identify the runes in the room and states this is a Temple to Mestama, Goddess of Witches. It is not long after this announcement that the party is attacked by a witchfire. With a lot of the parties spells exhausted, this turns into a major confrontation and there are numerous injuries before they are able to counter the assault and defeat the foul fiend. Eventually, the party is able to muster the resolve to deliver a combined assault on the magical attacks and although decimated, they are victorious.

Although there are two doors, they resolve to investigate a natural carved corridor which leads down a short hallway before opening into a large chamber filled with petrified columns and stalactites which resemble a stone forest. In the center of the room appears to be a figure in a meditative lotus pose. Drawing closer Hunter can see the figure is a female with 6 arms; all crossed at the moment, and three faces, two of which have their eyes closed in meditation. As Hunter sneaks forward, the creature, sensing the groups presence, summons the party to come forward. She introduces herself as Ranisukalapadi.

After a brief exchange of pleasantries, and polite conversation, the figure states that although she has enjoyed the conversation the only way they can proceed forward is to defeat her in combat and she rises to prepare. The party is barely able to withstand the onslaught but after a protracted struggle in which they are hard pressed to deal enough damage due to her damage reduction abilities, Hunter gets three critical shots in a row with his bow. The upasundra sustains the hits but decides that discretion is the better part of valor and uses her dimension door ability to withdraw from the room, giving the party a hard fought victory before anyone dies.

The party presses on but struggles with exhaustion. The only corridor out leads to a small round grotto which contains a ring of carved menhirs, or standing stones. Unseen, the occupant of the room watches the party and overhears Svala and Ingvar mention Baba Yaga as they inspect the stones. Sensing the aura of the Black Rider’s mantle coursing through the party, she makes her presence known and introduces herself as Nostafa Startled by the sudden appearance of a night hag in their midst, they halt reaching for their weapons when she says she has a message from Baba Yaga for the party. She then hands them a bottle. Alabaster is able to detect the magic of the bottle and figures out it is a bottle of messages. He unstoppers the bottle and the cracked voice of an aged crone emits from the bottle

“If you hear these words, my own blood has betrayed me. Jadrenka has one key, the other lies in the Eon Pit. Follow my trail.”

Although confused by the PCs presence, Nostafa understands that Baba Yaga has given them a mission. As a loyal follower of Baba Yaga, the hag offers the party safe haven in the chamber for the night so they may rest and heal. Although not completely trusting, the party takes advantage of the offer and sets a watch and then eats and gets some much needed sleep.

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One Bad Mother...
10 Kuthona, 4713 – Iobaria, Artrosa

Alabaster examines the fresco and deciphers the patterns to be Iobarian symbols of motherhood. The PCs surmise that they are now in the "Mother” statue. Following the corridor leads the party into a large chamber decked out in rugs and velvet tapestries. Pulling back the tapestries, they find a very well maintained bedroom with silk sheets with a young elven woman laying atop the sheets crying. When questioned, she accuses the party of “coming to do ”/wikis/Jadrenka/new" class=“create-wiki-page-link”>Jadrenka’s dirty work."

After several tense minutes they are finally able to calm her nerves and she introduces herself as Marislova and explains that she is Jadrenka’s ex-lover who is presently in the midst of a conflict with her. She wants to leave but “the Warden” is preventing her from leaving and is holding her against her will. When asked why she wants to leave, she states that Jadrenka is starting to abuse her emotionally and ignore her and no longer cares for her. She agrees to help the party if they will help her leave Artrosa, which they agree to do. She informs the group that the passages leading from the room take them to “the Mother’s hand” and to a room she knows as “the children’s nursery.” When questioned about “visitors” in Artrosa, she says she has seen no others than the party in several days.

Svala, Hunter and Tacey investigate the side corridor to the north and for the first time notice the frescos along the corridor are different. Following the hall leads the group to what they surmise is the nursery. Several small children run about the room and are playing various games with a half-naked woman sits with her back to the group as she watches the children play. As the group enters quietly, she asks, “Are you here to shoot me, again?” Turning she reveals herself as the young woman which Hunter shot earlier, but she now appears as a fully mature, adult woman, as well as pregnant. It is clear that whatever wounds Hunter inflicted earlier have healed. He lowers his weapon and apologizes for his earlier actions.

Accepting his apology she introduces herself as Jadrenka, Warden of Artrosa. When questioned she confirms that the elven woman they met is indeed her ex-lover, but it was she who broke off their relationship by accepting a gift from the debased nymph, [Krisjana]]. Because she feels Marislova betrayed her, she is under no obligation to care for her or help her leave. After a woman-to-woman chat with Svala, Jadrenka, agrees to at least talk with Marislova to try and resolve the conflict. When Jadrenka leaves the room, as in the earlier encounter, the children transform into korreds who hurl insults and rocks at the group until they all depart the area.

Returning to the bedroom chamber, the group is able to get the ex-lovers to discuss the state of their relationship and eventually convince Jadrenka that the nymph’s gift was actually a trick designed to hurt her which appears to have worked. Jadrenka agrees to take back her lover as long as she rejects and discards all gifts from the nymph, which she does. With the two lovers reconciled for the moment, the PCs decide to investigate further. Jadrenka informs them that she knows why they are here and that the keys they seek are indeed located inside Artrosa, however due to the presence of other guardians … and enemies, she cannot actively aide the party as it will be interpreted as a failing in her duties as Warden of Artrosa. She must focus on expelling the enemies, but she also states that she will not hinder their progress.

As the group moves down the corridor they find a locked trapdoor in the hallway with a face. Picking the lock, they discover a long chimney with a ladder leading down. For the moment, the party decides to continue down the hall and closes the door to investigate later. Coming into a large chamber the party finds a large group of frost giants and andrazku demons. The party attempts to sneak up on the monsters, but they are only as stealthy as Ingvar is … and Ingvar isn’t.

The monsters turn to attack but the party is able to form a defense and ultimately defeat the creatures. As the group investigates the room, they discover an open window at the far end of the room looks out over the chasm where they stood earlier this morning. As Elvira described, they are literally in the “hand of the Mother.” The sun is bright and high in the sky as if near midday. Alabaster and Aiwendil surmise that once again time appears to operate differently inside the statue than outside. They have been investigating for several hours and the sun appears to have only moved a few degrees in the sky from when they entered, or it is several days later.

Having exhausted their search of the rooms in the “Mother” statue, the party returns to the trapdoor and heads down. Arriving at the bottom of the chimney chute, they discover a torture chamber around a central pit. They are set upon by three redcaps seeking new victims to torture. The heroes are able to quickly block off the paths around the room, thus they can control the fight and destroy the evil creatures. With the fight over, they notice the fresco on the wall indicates that the party is no longer in the “Mother” statue. Tacey speculates this is the “Crone” as it is different from either pattern they have seen before. With the no other visible exit from the room, the party descends into the pit. Finding a door at the bottom they find themselves once more in the “Mother” statue, but in a completely different section.

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Well ... Knock on the Door
10 Kuthona, 4713 – Iobaria, Artrosa

As the party awakens they are met with a loud cry of a dragon off in the distance. As they stir and gear up a massive white dragon flies into view and Erdija whispers amongst the group that it is Sjohvor, the dragon she had warned them about earlier. The party begins to prepare for battle when they notice the creature is not coming back toward them but rather is flying off toward the west, away from them. Erdija suggests the party get inside Artrosa as quickly as possible before the dragon returns to investigate their presence. She will watch and guard the campsite for one week before returning to her tribe.

After a brief discussion the group recalls the cryptic messages from the ravens in the Hut and determine that they should climb the “Maiden” statue in order to search for a door on top or along the sides. Hunter climbs to the top and discovers a small grove of trees at the top and summons the rest of the party to climb up. Working in pairs, Aiwendil and Vadoma; Ingvar and Svala. The first groups ascend the statue with no major incidents. The last group is Tacey and Alabaster. As they reach the top, Alabaster slips and falls, almost dragging Tacey over the side with him. However, she is able to brace herself and prevent them both going over (with the help of a hero point) and plummeting to their death.

Arriving at the top, the party is confronted by a large guardian tree who protects the entrance to the compound. It demands a blood sacrifice in order to allow entrance to its doorway. After a brief negotiation, the group is eventually able to convince the guardian to pose a riddle rather than impose a demand for blood sacrifice.

Midnight, Morning Bright Sun—
Spoke thee with but one
Accursed now you be
For he befell the wrath
Of two times seven
Oh tell me, who is he?

Vadoma answers, “The Black Rider.” The tree calls that he needs his real name which causes Svala to respond with his true name of “Illarion Matveius.” Reluctantly, the tree acquiesces and allows the party to enter.

Once inside, the heroes find a long descending staircase. Following it down they come upon an ettin giantess witch who is having an argument between the two different personalities of the heads, each blaming the other for the intruders in the compound. At first the party believes it is referring to them, but later discover that others are present who do not belong here. Inb order to not make the same mistake twice, the ettin attacks, but after a brief struggle, the players defeat the giant witch.

Having spent the bulk of the morning ascending to the top of Artrosa, the party breaks for lunch before continuing their search of Artrosa. The PCs press onward and the first room they come upon has a satyr and a massive plant which Aiwendil identifies as a tendriculos. The satyr greets the party and introduces himself as Poryphanes.

Using his guile and natural charms, the satyr negotiates with the party to help him complete a task from Baba Yaga which binds him to the complex. In exchange for their help, he agrees to pass along the information he knows of “this statue.” The party asks what it would take to complete his task and he states that he must feed 100 life forms to the tendriculous and that he is currently 19 lives short. Understanding that if they refuse, he will attempt to feed them to the plant, the party agrees to help him. Aiwendil “summons” 19 small creatures which are in turn captured and fed to the giant plant. With their bargain complete, the satyr provides information on all locations and a general description of room occupants of the rooms in the statue. When pressed for details on capabilities of the occupants, and information regarding the other statues, he states that was not part of the bargain and then leaves with a cackle. After he leaves, the party decides to make haste and depart as well before the plant needs to feed again.

Following the information provided by the satyr, the group comes upon a room which was described as “the home of the coven.” Inside they find a large cavernous area which has been subdivided into separate rooms by leather and hide curtains (some of which might actually be human skin). Aiwendil assumes rat form and explores the area. He comes upon a beautiful maiden in the largest of the rooms. Suspecting something odd, he inspects the maiden and notices the unholy symbol of Mestama. He attacks (from behind) which accidently sets some of the hides on fire. Enraged by the attack, the maiden drops her disguise and is exposed as a large annis hag named Caigreal. The party comes together quickly and soon overcomes the large monsterous beast. Rather than wait for the rest of the coven to arrive, the party quickly gathers what they can and exits.

Next the group comes into a small grotto area which has a bright column of light coming from a hole in the floor. As the party makes its way through the relatively empty, but bright room, they come under attack from several tiny lurkers in the light. Still in rat form, Aiwendil is able to cover the hole which brings the room into complete darkness and is they are easily able to dispatch the creatures as the darkness hinders their powers.

The party next discovers the room that Poryphanes described as “where my bitch wife resides.” The room is thoroughly disgusting with blood and gore everywhere and a center pool of blood which appears to have two freshly killed frost giant corpses floating at the edges. As they begin to explore the area around the blood pool, the party is attacked by Kyrisjana, a depraved nymph who unleashes some significant damage on the fighters, with the bulk going to Svala. It takes a major group effort before she is overcome and killed by the party.

Taking a short respite to recuperate and heal, the party presses onward following the satyr’s directions and comes upon the “home of Artrosa’s Warden.” Hunter is the first one in the room and finds another beautiful maiden standing in the center along with a large bull. As she beckons him forward he fires off an arrow which hits the maiden in the stomach. She gives him a look of disgust and then disappears, leaving the party alone to deal with the bull, which transforms into a gorgon and charges to attack. Ingvar absorbs two blocks of the beast to halt the charge and the party is able to gang up on it and put it down after much effort as it is heavily resistant to much of their damage.

Again, after yet another heal session, and with a potential enemy now roaming the halls, the PCs decide to press on toward the next room which the satyr described only as the “Test of the Maidens”. The room is simply adorned with three small bowls on pedestals. After some examination of the items and of the images on the wall, Alabaster is able to deduce this is a ritual room and deciphers the proper order and placement of the ritual items in the bowls. With the riddle solved, the group is easily able to exit the room down a long corridor.

Thirty yards down the corridor, the group notices that the mosaic pattern on wall changes.

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Over the River and Through the Hoofwood
29 Neth, 4713 – Iobaria, The Hoofwood (Rashalka Camp)

In the morning Chieftan Kaag summons the party to his tent where he thanks them for helping in the defense of the clan from the previous night. He escorts them back outside and in a simple but formal ceremony in front of the clan, he present each party member with an amulet which signifies that they are recognized as clan members and “friends of centaurs.” Lastly, he introduces a guide for the party who will lead them to Artrosa, a young Rashalka scout by the name of Erdija

The first day is spent with the party learning about their guide and she about them. She is amazed by the group, as like most of the tribe, they are the first humans she has met and so she enjoys sharing tales. She soon establishes a report with Alabaster.

30 Neth, 4713 – Iobaria, The Hoofwood

As the party progresses through the woods they come upon a clearing. When they get half way across, they notice they are being watched and notice a large armored man sitting on a massive elk. Erdija warns the party that they are being shadowed by a cold rider. As the party passes through the clearing, the rider attacks. Hunter launches a volley of arrows as the rider charges and hits him with two critical strikes. The creature misses with swings of its icy glaive and is hit by the devastating attacks of Ingvar and Svala as he passes through the group and attempts by his elk to gore any members is also unfruitful. Having sustained a large amount of damage and dealing none in return the rider flees back into the forest and leaves the party in peace. The rest of the day is uneventful, but Aiwendil and Hunter keep eyes out in case the rider returns.

1 Kuthona, 4713 – Iobaria, The Hoofwood

Breaking camp, the group proceeds onward and exits the Hoofwood early in the morning. Soon they are on a regular path and by midday they reach the centaur city of Vurnirn. Erdija says she brought the group here because if their stories are only half true, they may need to find some human provisions. The group takes Erdija’s suggestion and decides to wait and rest for a few days, sell and buy goods to replenish their supplies, and to repair armor. Even though the town is built to cater to centaurs, the PCs are able to find some accommodations for humans. Erdija tells the group that although humans are more accepted in town more so than other areas of the Hoofwood, she recommends that they make no references to Artrosa while here as the mere mention of anything related to Baba Yaga could likely get the group expelled.

2-4 Kuthona, 4713 – Iobaria, Vurnirn

Much like the camp, the party are minor celebrities for the time they are in town as long as they don’t cause any problems. In the end they decide to stay three extra days. Ingvar cuts a deal with a local blacksmith and is able to use his forge to create armor and weapons for him and Svala. Tacey acquires some new gear from somewhere in town and since “no on came to look for it, don’t be questioning me about how I got it.”

5-9 Kuthona, 4713 – Iobaria, Deeprun Crevasse

With the party finally geared up and reprovisioned, they depart Vurnirn to begin their actual trek toward Artrosa. Erdija leads them down the steep path which leads down from the top of the cliff down to the rocky floor of the landscar known as the Deeprun Crevasse. They are somewhat surprised to find that parts of the forest has extended to the other side of the large canyon. Here the Crevasse is a mile wide, put Erdija explains that the width varies from a few hundred feet at some points to almost 4 miles wide at its widest point.

Reaching the bottom of the massive ravine, the floor is rocky and enshrouded with an extension of the Hoofwood which has reached the bottom in the vicinity of the village.
Now that the group is headed directly toward Artrosa, Erdija relays the history of Artrosa as has been passed down as lore amongst the centaurs. She also passes along what little she knows of the history of the frost giants, much of which she believes is nothing more than myth to scare young centaur children. One final story she relates is the rumors of a huge white dragon which makes its home within the Deeprun Crevasse near where Artrosa is located.

The boulder-strewn floor of the crevasse makes travel slow and the party moves along at a careful but watchful pace along the river’s edge. As they make their way further and further north, the trees of the Hoofwood give way to the icy tundra ground of the Ice Steppes. The temperature drops and the air becomes filled with fog and haze. The journey up the Crevasse is tiresome as the ground is broken and rock strewn and there are occasional signs of failed past expeditions but all in all the trip is uneventful.

Early in the afternoon of the fifth day, the group breaks into a wide part of the ravine as they come around a bend in the river and get their first glimpse of the imposing sight of Artrosa. Consisting of three massive stone rock statues rising over a half-mile tall, all three statues are that of a semi-nude female each with a hand extended as if warning away any visitors. The three forms all seem to bear the face of the same woman, but depicting her in three stages of womanhood; one maiden, one mother, one crone. Alabaster asks if anyone thinks the statues resemble Baba Yaga in appearance and Erdija replies that very thought is one rumor about the fortress.

The three massive stone rock carvings rise above the floor of the crevasse and catch the late afternoon sun which gives them a glowing appearance in contrast to the shadows at the bottom of the crevasse. As it is late in the day and there is no door discernable at the foot of any of the statues, the group decides to camp overnight and begin their search of the ancient site in the morning.

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