The group tidied up their work in Aslov. They sold one of the pack mules and the cart and outfitted the remaining one with saddle bags and packs. Bastet was offended that her father thought so little of her skills to send her cousin Icykeen along, but accepted him into the group.
Ashandarei sought out the merchants of Aslov, having no desire to look for members of the Reliquary of visit Thunor’s temple. Through successful bargaining he got the best price he could for the mundane items the group had accumulated along the way (fallen foes gear and equipment).
On the third Milcdaeg of Snaermonan the party left Alov, heading south on the trade route toward the Upper Guard and Darkwood beyond. A light snow was falling and the clouds became heavier as the day progressed. Icykeenwyrm stayed ahead of the group on point.
By early evening, a strong wind was coming up and the group felt it was time to make camp. A few miles onward, they came upon a series of craggy hills that looked to offer some protection from the cold. Upon investigating, they found a small cave and sent Bento in to investigate, he entered and came out a moment later. Realizing that it was probably safe, but that a snow leopard can reveal much information, Rodgar entered the cave.
Out of nowhere, the icy blast of a Hellfrost Spider’s spray of freezing liquid hit Rodgar square on, freezing him in place as the beast rushed forward baring it’s single large fan. Rodgar screamed out, and rather than try to break free, he quickly cast an electrical barrier between him and the spider as he felt the cold draining his strength.
The party rushed forward. Icykeenwyrm, with a speed none could match and the strength to go with it was quick to ripped Rodgar free and set him aside. Bastet, was reeling in fear; nearly paralyzed at the sight of this eight legged, white haired monstrosity. Her attempt to call upon the magic of the natural world was in vain.
The spider rushed against the barrier, unable to break through, then retreated back into the crevice it had come from, but not before Bastet could summon her courage and weaken it’s Vigor through her druid magic. Rodgar released the barrier, and Icykeenwyrm rushed forward, drawing his long sword into a sweeping blow that cleaved the weakened beast in two. Bastet would not stay the night in the cave.
The next day, the snow continued to fall, but the winds were light and travel was unhampered. On the third day, they came upon two covered wagons; a caravan of Engro traders heading to the Low Winterlands with their wares. They shared company for a hour or so and learned that the band had traveled from near Weem in The Vale, a journey of some 600 miles. Having recently passed through Darkwood, the used the protection of the Iron Guild mercenaries to keep them safe. There had been two attacks by zombies and skeletons during their passage.
By the end of the fourth day, they reached the upper guard and took refuge in the fortified manor house there. Rodgar searched for any members of Thunor’s church, but none were about. They paid for some rooms and ate at the tavern. During their respite, a member of the Iron Guild struck up conversation telling tales of his 20+ years protecting caravans on the road through Darkwood.
The party learned more of the legends of the Black Heath and Darkwood; that the three lieutenants of the Liche Priest, Angharad (female), Angtharinax and Taxmagulus, have ruled the Withered Lands since before the Blizard War. In the early days, the followers of [Scaetha] and others had waged open war against the liches and their dark hordes, but after the Golem uprising of 341-345 IR, the Paladins have only been able to the undead at bay.
As well, a expedition to Angtharinax’s dark tower some thirty years ago found it empty, the dread liche having vanished. Searches across Rassilon have turned up no trace of the liche lieutenant, and Scaetha’s followers are worried that he could have so fully eluded their surveillance.
The next day the group headed west some 25 miles to Fort Windross, situated two miles north of the Withered Lands near the edge of Darkwood and the beginning of the Black Heath. When they arrived they could see corpses in the field outside the drawbridge of the motte and bailey keep. A section of wall just west of the drawbridge was being hastily refortified by several soldires.
The sergeant of the guard, Wiglaf, recognized Rodar immediately and welcomed the party. He explained that this was the remnants of a battle against 30 or so undead earlier in the day, and the third such occurrence in the last two weeks. The food supplies that Rodgar had arranged from Dalsetter had already arrived and the fort was in good shape. Rodgar assisted with the repair of the fort as the others were given accommodations.
After a meal they were introduced to Sir Rocha ap-Serin, a paladin of Scaetha and captain of the fort. Rocha’s fear was that some new source of power in the northern Withered Lands was driving the attacks. He had planned to send sergeant Wiglaf with a squad of men to scout into the forest in the morning. Rodgar volunteered to lead the force, so that Wiglaf experience could be put to use defending the fort if needed. The rest of the party offered to assist.
Heading out in the morning of the 4th Monandaeg of Snaermonan, with five loyal soldiers of Scaetha, the group entered the mist enshrouded forest. Even in the dim light of the mist, Ash was easily able to follow the tracks of the 30 damned souls that had attacked the fort. After five or so miles they were beset by undead, 4 zombies, 7 skeletons, and 4 skeletal warriors clad in bronze breast plates and armed with short swords.
Chillfist, who had been thinking about the curse that Hela had put upon him and how this would affect his ability to deal with the walking damned, was slow to react and had two skeletons apon him in an instant, gouging him with their bony claws. A couple zombies were not far behind. Bento made quick work of one skeleton, and the soldiers held their ground to protect Bastet, move to Chillfist and caused his wound to heal in an instant.
Seeing the armour clad warriors, Icykeenwyrm rushed forward to attack with his long spear. His first blow missed, and in an instant the four were upon him.
Rodgar worked alongside one of the soldier to fight back several skeletons, three more soldiers moved against the zombies, and Ash quickly drew two weapons and moved to protect Chillfist. The battle was quick, but tense; an ominous feeling behind the ferocity with which the undead came upon them. In just over a minute they had dispatched the last skeletal warrior and as they did so, looked around for any further danger.
None seemed apparent, then a slight movement on a nearby hill, barely visible through the twisted leafless trees drew Chillfist’s and Icykeenwyrm’s gaze. What they saw froze them in their tracks, a hideous warrior being, clad in black plate male, armed with a jet black lance and massive great sword sitting upon some sort of demon steed. Eldritch energy swirled around him and glowed, sickly green, from the breaks in his armor. His steed was jet black with glowing red eyes, it’s bit and bridle made from twisted barbed wire.
The creature took one last, long look at the party, then turned and rode off over the hill.