The adventure continues! Last time, our heroes escaped from a prison barge and fled into the woods. There they scavenged for food, clothes, tools, and weapons while evading beasts and the deadly High Templar. They ended the night at a ruin where they rescued an old (?) man named Yurikai. But things are about to get much more complicated.
Play time: 4 hours
- Drew the human fighter
- Ray the human bard
- Ward the human ranger
- Rainen the dwarf ranger
- Hugo the human cleric
Nikita the Flameskull
During Rainen’s watch, a floating black skull wreathed blue flames approached her and asked if she had freed Yurikai. The skull had a cackling voice not-at-all similar to Skeletor. He introduced himself as Nikita the Marvelous, a witch-lord of the north killed by Templars 10 years ago. He was then partly resurrected by Dama Zhadna as her servant (his soul is in a bottle in her house).
Rainen conversed loudly to wake up her companions so they could join in. Nikita revealed that he was in the area because he could smell a High Templar nearby and wanted to investigate. This made the party nervous, especially when Nikita confirmed that they were no match for the Templar.
Nikita also explained that Yurikai was a witch-lord too (a more important one), and Yurikai had been imprisoned by Marta Morov, who lived in Frostwyck to the south. The group encouraged Nikita to go distract the Templar while they headed to Frostwyck. Nikita seemed amused by this idea, so he agreed.
Kurgan of Lady Anfisa
Continuing east in the early morning hours, the party found themselves in a frozen bog, walking on crackling ice. In the middle of the bog, they came upon a small island topped with a stone kurgan (cairn). Two dead bodies lay beside it.
Drew and Ward went to investigate, and recognized two of their fellow prisoners still tied at the wrist, still dressed in gray tunics, and frozen to death. One of them held a gold coin in his hand. Rainen then climbed on top of the kurgan to inspect it, which elicited a moan from inside.
Moments later, the party was battling the undead corpse of Lady Anfisa, her partly mummified remains still wearing her armor and weapons. During the battle, she summoned several skeletons to burst up through the ice, as well as her mummified wolf-hound. But the party swarmed the undead warrior, and destroying her dropped the rest of the enemies as well. Cheering, they stripped the dead hero of her gear: chain mail, a longsword, a shield, and a curved dagger with a socket in the pommel.
As they went to investigate inside the kurgan, Ward saw a thin figure in gray rags flee into the forest, and Hugo sensed that whatever magical item had been inside the kurgan was now running east. Gone!
Inside the kurgan, they found a few coins and knickknacks, including a bronze samovar (tea set) and an old balalaika (guitar).
Outside, the group tried to clean up the scene so if anyone found the bodies and disturbed kurgan they would not conclude that five escaped convicts had been there. While doing so, one of the dead prisoners sat up and introduced himself as Leopold, a friendly ghost who died as a Temple soldier long ago and was trying to do good deeds so he could Move On.
The suspicious party asked about the figure in gray who had just fled. Leopold said it was an ugly inhuman character, and then gave them directions to find the main road. The ghost hopped back and forth between the available dead bodies during the exchange, and then abruptly left.
As the party headed eastwards, Drew looked back and saw in the distance a tiny blue light racing southwards. And he heard a heavy crunching noise following it. They decided to trust Nikita, more or less, and continued on.
Eyes in a stump
Along the path, Ray spotted a hint of gold in a distant stump and led the group to investigate. In the rotted stump, they saw a dark bubbly fluid that blinked open a golden eye. The eye watched them, then blinked closed and was replaced by another, slightly different golden eye. This strange blinking continued.
Ray tried to speak to the eyes, to no effect. He then tried to touch the dark fluid with the newly acquired dagger with the pommel-socket. Upon contact, the eyes abruptly closed and the fluid drained away into the earth. Gone!
On the road again
Soon after, the party found the road (a pair of wheel ruts) and started south. Homeward! Only 989 miles to go!
After a while, Ward spotted something odd in the grass. Looking closer, he saw it was a rotted human hand. The hand hopped up on its fingers and skittered into the forest. No one wanted to follow it.
Later, the group spotted a tall wooden tower at the edge of the road. Believing this to be Frostwyck, they quickly got their stories straight: They were a group of traveling performers, and mercenaries, with a priest. With that air-tight identity in place, they approached the tower.
The tower turned out to be just that, a solitary watch tower beside a shed, with two Temple soldiers armed and watching them. The soldiers stopped them and asked for their identification. Ray explained that they were entertainers who wandered the woods. The soldiers pointed out that there was nothing in the area except the prison fort Ostrog Naskaya.
Then Hugo took the lead, demonstrated his clerical powers, and said he was going to Frostwyck to visit Brother Vanya (a named dropped by Nikita). This convinced the guards to let them proceed. But the soldiers also mentioned that no one had come from Frostwyck in over a week to trade at the fort, which was strange.
Past the fort, the party found a path leading east off the road. Hoping to find more information, Rainen and Ward jogged down the path and found it curved south toward Frostwyck. But when they tried to return to the road, they found themselves unable to make any progress. They kept turning around, unable to go north.
After waiting an hour and a half, the rest of the party left the road to find their friends, which only took a few minutes, and then they all found they were trapped in the woods, unable to return to the road. Hugo concluded this was witchcraft. So they followed the path!
The path led to a clearing where they found a log cabin, vegetable garden, wood pile, and two large men dragging a dead animal toward the house. Ray called out to them. The two men immediately pulled an axe and knife and told the strangers to go away.
The party pushed their luck, trying to pry some info out of the woodsmen. Rainen found a second path that led south to Frostwyck, but she also angered the men into hitting her with a block of wood. Hugo asked about local witches, which made the men clam up, except to admit that they too had been trapped by some sort of curse for about a week now. So the party headed down the path.
Finally arriving at a small settlement of log cabins, Ray and Hugo decided to go ahead with some money to buy new clothes and gear. But upon entering the village, there was no sign of any shops, just 50 log cabins arranged around a large circular pond where 20 or so people were fishing.
Ray struck up a conversation with one fisherman, who was very unpleasant. The fisherman explained that there were no shops, but everyone here was willing to trade food or fur for metal tools and weapons. Money was no good (you can’t eat gold!). The fisherman also confirmed that many villagers had tried to leave Frostwyck in several directions, but no one could go more than 3 leagues from the town before being magically turned around.
Ray tried to barter the ivory comb he stole from the prison barge, but the fisherman simply pocketed it and asked for something better like a shovel. Ray stole his comb back and gave up on the man.
Hugo then spotted a crude bell tower by one cabin. Here they found Brother Vanya, a kind young man who instantly fell to sobbing when they asked about the village. Vanya said everything was terrible: witches, spirits, nightmares! And Sister Xenia was gone too!
Hugo got Vanya to give them his extra priest clothing, which they distributed to the group. Then Vanya pointed them to an empty cabin where they could spend the night (or forever, since no one could leave Frostwyck anymore).
Hooray for the first long rest! Everyone levels up to Level 2 for next time.
It was a ton of fun playing all the weird characters: Nikita the flameskull, Leopold the ghost, the cartoonishly German soldiers, the grumpy woodsman, the mean fisherman, and the sad Brother Vanya. I think I gave the group a lot of weird mysteries and problems to solve. I look forward to seeing how long they are in Frostwyck, and what they discover!