23 Sarenith, 4713 – The Hoarwood
After burying the Black Rider, the party spends the night in the cave by the winter portal in order to rest and heal. Making plans to secure as much gear and treasure as possible, the PCs depart early the next morning and jump through the Winter Portal.
After a brief flash of light with some slight disorientation, the PCs arrive in the midst of a deep thick woods in even more bitterly cold weather. Examination of the natural flora indicates the party is definitely in a different location and they can only surmise they are in Irrisen. They do not have any kind of bearings nor do they have any clues as to their immediate location they decide on a single direction and set off that way. However, they are not gone long before they come upon a group of humans being attacked by a giant mantis. It already has one of the humans in its pincers. It is very clear that the creature is not native to this environment.
The PCs come to the group’s aid and attack the mantis. In doing so the creature drops the person in order to defend itself from the new source of danger. The PCs are able to launch a fairly coordinated attack and easily defeat the giant insect while Vadoma renders healing aid to the injured human who introduces herself Nadya Petska.
She tells the group she is leader of a caravan of food and housewares heading to Waldsby. She recognizes the PCs are not from Irrisen from their dress and questions them. After some further introductions and exchanges, the PCs tell her they are from Taldor and are searching for the Pale Tower. She agrees to lead them to Waldsby and helps the PCs adjust to the climate.
As the caravan continues onward, Hunter eventually makes the connection that the spirit of the little girl they saw at the hut has the same last name as their new guide. He questions her about the girl and she says she does have a daughter named Thora who is being held captive at the Pale Tower by the White Witch. She hopes to use the goods in her caravan to negotiate her release. However after the PCs describe their encounter at the hut, Nadya soon comes to realize what has happened. Her daughter has been killed in order to create the guardian doll the PCs encountered. After a brief display of intense anger, Nadya recomposes herself and vows to aid the PCs any way possible “to defeat that White Witch bitch.”
The rest of the day is spent uneventfully and Nadya tells the PCs more about the land of Irrisen. In exchange the PCs tell stories of their homelands and adventures. As night falls the group makes camp with the caravan. During the evening, the group is approached by Mierul Ardelain. She introduces herself as a traveling bard seeking to rest a spell during the evening meal. The PCs recognize her as a winter-touched forlarren. Nadya has warned the PCs that laws in Irrisen give winter-touched fey special protected status so they do not take any actions and allow Nadya to do all the talking.
The bard inquires if they have seen the Black Rider and Nadya says the caravan has not encountered such a person. When she makes an off-hand comment about some of the strange garb of the PCs, Nadya explains that they are Jadwiga merchant cousins from the border town of Kizobran with their indentured servants. They are headed toward Hoarwood after a small stopover in Waldsby as they are going to open a shop in the regional capital. The bard acknowledges the story and says she has never been to Kizobran but hopes to visit after her stop at the Pale Tower. She has been hired to perform for the guards stationed there. After the party completes their evening meal, the bard sings a song about the destruction and rebirth of Hoarwood as payment for the groups food and time before she continues on her journey.
The next day after breaking camp, the group notices a group of ravens flying up ahead, Nadya states that ravens are often used as White Witch spies and commands everyone to stop and to take cover under some tarps. The group works quickly to do as instructed but the Ingvar is unable to hide stealthily and the ravens swarm to attack the caravan. Aiwendil is able to step out and scatters the birds with a gust of wind and then destroys most of the swarm with a flaming sphere spell. What few birds who manage to avoid the destruction fly off and are not seen again. After breaking down their camouflage, the group presses on toward Waldsby.
There are no further encounters but shortly after noon, the group realizes a storm is building and getting ready to set in. They increase their pace and race ahead in hopes of beating the storm before it hits the area. The caravan reaches Waldsby just as the storm is starting to hit the town and Nadya says the PCs can spend the night at her home to weather the storm.