Agents Of The Winter Accord
Reign of Winter
Book 1
Agents of the Winter Accord


arzarrcal.jpg fenyx.jpg marcellano.jpg rasso.jpg reinn.jpg styvanus.jpg talavuc.jpg teladon.jpg

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A gunshot rings out and snow unsettles from heavily laden branches.

Between the thick trunks of towering pines a low fog obscured the thick snow on the ground. Burdened branches hide the movement beyond them, but the sound of crunching snow carries through the silent woods undeterred. Tiny bone and feather fetishes are suddenly disturbed by the hurried passage of a dark clad figure bursting through the curtain of snow-laden pine branches they are hanging from. In the fog, droplets of red bleed into the snow, giving stark contrast of color in the wake of deep footprints.

Panting heavily and clutching one arm, a blonde-haired woman stumbles through the knee-deep snow, leaving that trail of blood in her wake. The black of her uniform and breastplate armor stand out against the white of the forest. Blue eyes flick around her surroundings, scanning the treeline as she steps into the clearing. Taking a moment to pause, there is no respite. Instead, she flicks her good arm to the side, snapping out the cylinder from her revolver to shake empty shell casings into the snow. An injured hand, caked in blood, shakily begins to press new bullets into the six chambers as feverishly paced breaths of steam escape her lips.

Trembling fingers fumble a bullet and it tumbles down into the snow. The woman looks down for a moment, only to hear the creak of wood when she does. Her gaze snaps back up, and where there was once only snow now stands a battered and old looking doll, precariously balancing on top of the snow. The doll's mismatched white and blue eyes stare vacantly at the gunslinger in silence. Momentarily frozen in panic, the blonde woman shakily tries to reach down for the lost bullet while keeping her eyes on the doll. As she crouches, the doll slowly raises one wooden hand, then curls its tiny fingers into a fist, save for one that points over the blonde's shoulder.

Behind her.

Snapping the revolver's cylinder shut with only five rounds chambered, the gunslinger rolls onto her back and swings her firearm up to aim at whatever was behind her. As she crashes down into the snow, she can see an enormous, hulking figure moving swiftly towards her unhindered by the snow drifts. A tangle of moss, leaves, roots and snow-caked flesh, twice the size of a man, charges with a thick, knotty branch clutched in both hands like a club. She gasps, holds her breath, then exhales sharply as she sees the club swinging down at her.

A gunshot rings out.

Snow unsettles from heavily laden branches.


« Almas, Capital of Andoran | Mid-Day | Snowing, Cold | Oathday, Erastus 5th, 4715 AR »

"I will not have them in this chamber!" A voice rings out, angrily, down the corridor. Red-faced and one hand clutching the hilt of his sheathed saber, the fresh-faced Andoran lieutenant stares down his commanding officer in defiance while he walks at her side. In stride with the Lieutenant, a sleekly dressed woman of diluted elven lineage offers a an askance, cold, blue-eyed stare back at him.

Threading a lock of wavy blonde hair behind one tapered ear, she comes to a stop and turns to face the officer. "Lieutenant," is stated firmly, as if a reminder of his place. "Your objection is duly noted. However, I will not hear any more of this. The Winter Accord we signed in Absalom makes them our allies, until such a time as this situation is resolved. That is final." Even as the Lieutenant opens his mouth to speak, his commander begins walking again.

Chuffing out an abortive breath, he hustles to match her pace again. "Knight-Commander Reinn," he states in flustered tone, "I am not saying we should abandon the Winter Accord, but— " he flails one hand behind himself towards a pair of closed doors at the end of the hall. "The men are restless! There are two dignitaries from Varis—"

"Shalast." Reinn cuts him off in mid-sentence, "they are from Shalast, and while they are our guests in the Aerie you will refer to it until such a time as the nation is formally liberated." Stopping one last time, Reinn turns and steps in close to the Lieutenant. "You will do your job and you will do it dutifully, Lieutenant. If I hear word one out of you about this again, I will have you court-martialed and confined to a cell. Do you understand me?"

Seeing the fury in Reinn's eyes and feeling the force of her words, the Lieutenant backs down, though with reluctance. Simmering with anger and frustration, he relents and clenches his hands into fists. "I don't like this any more than you do," Reinn offers in a whisper, "But for the time being, we save more lives by cooperating than fighting." The appended do you understand me goes unsaid; it doesn't need to be.

"Now," Reinn states flatly, motioning to a nearby pair of double doors. "I have a briefing to attend to." She looks back to the Lieutenant. "Send that courier falcon."
"Yes," the Lieutenant mutters, "Sir."

* * *

The Golden Aerie is a pristine, alabaster tower that dominates the skyline of Andoran's coastal capital city, Almas. From this pristine tower, the elite Eagle Knights command their operations throughout Andoran and beyond. Typically home to the three branches of the Eagle Knights — the Golden Legion, Steel Falcons and Twilight Talons — it today serves as home to a conglomerate of foreign and local representatives of the nations that participated in the winter summit in Absalom one year ago.

Some participants of this meeting have been in Andoran for weeks preparing for the meeting, others have only just arrived. Of the recent arrivals, it was the appearance of a ship in Almas' port bearing the sihedron rune of Xin-Shalast that has caused tremendous uproar. Two representatives of the runelord Karzoug and his empire have been invited to attend this conference, and few within the nation known for its liberty appreciate their presence. Emissaries of Karzoug represent tyranny, oppression and the enslavement of the peoples of Varisia.
To now stand side-by-side with them and call them allies for the greater good has strained the patience of many.

Just before noon, the conference room at the upper-most level of the Aerie is filled with representatives and emissaries of the disparate nations suffering from this winter. While not all of the nations that participated in the Winter Accord last year are present, many are — as are many more who have joined the cause since then. Twenty-seven individuals in total, all filling the seats around an enormous circular table emblazoned with the seal of a golden eagle.
The gathering is a motley one, a mixture of many races and different training and traditions. Andoran, sensibly, makes up the majority of those at the table. Most of them are scholars and members of the intelligence offices of the Eagle Knights, here to record the meeting and bring to light pertinent pieces of information. Two Andoran military officers have been asked to join them, one a human and the other a visibly inhuman aquatic humanoid. Beyond this Andoran representation, the remaining 6 run the gamut from Cheliax to as far away as the Mordent Spire and peoples native to the crown of the world.

The reasons for these individuals, specifically, involves the Winter Summit held last year. The individuals in this room represent a hand-picked team of specialists from around the world put together by Knight-Commander Calisaria Reinn of the Twilight Talons. From what has been shared in correspondences and conversations, Knight-Commander Reinn appears to have new information regarding the worsening climate, and is planning to act on it. The men and women in this room are her choice of specialists for that action.

But until she arrives, what that action is, is anyone's guess.

Most unusual of the gathering was the merman Rasso, a direct appointment to this meeting by Garret Bryce, a member of the Steel Falcons. Rasso stands awkwardly in the room, scratching at his navy-blue dress uniform. The garment had needed special tailoring to accommodate his partially non-humanoid physiology. He is standing because he is the only delegate attending the meeting for whom using a chair is virtually impossible. Rasso's long shark-like tail and reticulated forelegs serve as a tripod to support his weight as he stands 'at ease'. His facial expression is one of passive unease. Gods damned monkey suit! This thing itches worse'n whore's c*nt in spring. Buncha fancy schmansy bullsh*t… The insignia on his chest mark him as a naval Special Operations Petty Officer Second Class. The kind of officer that spend most of their time in the field, fighting next to sailors. Underneath the insignia hangs a Golden Eagle medal for valor. Not even the decency to give us any booze!

It had been a year since the strange merman had last been in the Aerie tower. A time too short for one who despised ostentation the way he did. The one silver lining to this meeting for Rasso was that they'd sat him next to Captain Styvanus Rozier, a good soldier with whom Rasso had much in common. Elbowing the Captain, Rasso leans over and whispers to him in Aquan.

Captain Styvanus Rozier stood behind his chair near that very merman, stance wide and confident, his chin was high and his eyes active. Even at this event, he wore what appeared to be a slightly heavier version of the parade armor of the parade armor of the Eagle Knights. A heavy blue coat over a chain-link covered torso hid his equally chain mailed arms which ended in threatening gauntlets with spiked feather motifs. An insignia on the shoulder of the coat marked his rank as Captain. White breeches cover more chain mail and he wears sturdy blue boots of leather. Oddly enough, there was a well made shield emblazoned with the image of a blue eagle strapped to his back.

Styvanus kept his hands crossed behind his back and surveyed the room, smiling slightly at the discomfort his merfolk friend had in his uniform, and also the discomfort his merfolk friend caused to the various delegates around the table. The man certainly stuck out like a sore-thumb wherever he went but it didn't change the fact that he was a helluva soldier and sailor, and someone that anyone would be lucky to have watching their back. Styvanus was happy to hold that honor, no matter what Rasso looked like.

The Captain pondered his friends question, and took note of the exchange of glances between him and the Chelish marine across the table. He finishes with a smirk before turning his attention to the exchange between several cloistered sages awaiting the the Commander’s arrival.

Across the room, the envoy of the Mordant Spire stood in quiet contemplation regarding the affects of teleportation magic as they lingered in his gut long after his arrival to Andoran. It wasn't his first time traveling outside of Spire. Five years earlier, barely an eye-blink to an Elf, he had accompanied the spire emissary Giseil Voslil, his brother Arylon and a hundred other of his people as they marched to war among the ruins of Celwynvian. Now, Teladon found himself surrounded by humans and half-humans; a far cry from his home.

Five years, he thought, Five years since the sky fell and a second darkness overtook the world. Five years since Kyonin was destroyed, Crying Leaf was overrun and the elven bastion of Hymbria was attacked by the very fey they were once allied with. Now only The Mordant Spire remained. For century's the other elven nations had scorned the Spire, claiming they were xenophobic and un-trusting and yet now who of the great elven peoples remained? Since the return The Mordant Spire had prepared. They had saved the relics of their past and locked away thousands of years of knowledge in the deep vaults that stretched to the oceans floor. All in preparation for another cataclysm like the one that destroyed great Azlant. So much death. Teladon worried, surveying the room behind his steel wrought mask.

The Darkness wrought by our fallen kin was bad enough. But the world as we know it won't be able to survive if these unnatural winter storms continue. Continuing to stand, the elven warrior kept his back to the wall examining each of the other emissaries in turn. Eyes narrowing as he spotted the dwarf and human bearing the brand of the sihedron he frowned, the expression hidden by his mask. Teladon had heard reports of the attack on Crying Leaf by the Claimers army's. Even now, four years later the wood elfs continued to fight a war of guerilla tactics against the reborn runelord amid the burned husks of the Mierani Forest.

Continuing on his gaze he looked over the two score gathering of humans from various nations. Idly he wondered if the humans found any irony in their claim of liberty and freedom, when that was a tenant that his people had lived by since they first inhabited this world. Humans. So quick to judge, to assume. They are like blind men seeing light from the mouth of a cave and thinking it the sun. Thinking back to his peoples stories of the Earthfall and the destruction of Azlant, Teladon gave an internal sigh. All of this has happened before, and all of this will happen again. Nations will rise and fall. Everything repeats itself. The elf mused internally as he ran his hand along the hilt of the scimitar he had been entrusted with by his Elders. Thinking of the runic symbol Acavna inlaid into the fuller of the blade the magus somberly nodded to himself. All things die… even gods.

Watching the gathering of unlikely individuals sat the proverbial fox in the henhouse, a marine from neighboring Cheliax, a man whom in another time may well be fighting face-to-face with members of the Eagle Knights rather than side by side, but even old salts like Marcellano Kain know the score that's been leveled on Golarion, even Cheliax knows to pick its battles carefully.
A round table? Marcellano mused in his seat, trying to get comfortable by leaning back, arms crossed.

The outfit he was wearing identified him as a Chelish Navy Marine to the others; a light, loose fitting black and gold shirt under a similarly colored tabard bearing a red and black cross in a golden circle over two crossed sabers - the symbol of the Marines. On his head lies a black with gold-trim Tricorne hat, his favorite hat that he always wore. At his side is a gold-hilted cutlass with a polished blade. What kind of mockery of a meeting place is this? No respectable leader would sit amongst servants and soldiers at a round table! A round table implies equality. A soldier is anything but equal to his superior. Bah. Apparently, it just goes to show how the 'officers' of Andoran think of themselves. Its a wonder they've lasted this long. Still, the room itself is impressive enough. I guess they've got one thing right.

Marcellano, unable to get comfortable, looks around at the other attendants. What in Asmodeous' name is that thing? Certainly not a Sahuagin… I've killed enough of those to know that. Perhaps some kind of Sahuagin mutant? I've heard of such things, but never one to look quite like this. Not a Locathah either… perhaps its some sort of extraplanar demon or daemon? No, while its certainly hideous enough to be as such, the people of Andoran at least are smart enough not to work with such filth.

The Marine continues to eye the Merfolk intently trying to figure out what it is. Though he has a scowl on his face due to the concentration, and barely notices the time as he tries to figure it out. Well, worst comes to worse, I'm sure a bullet'll penetrate that thick carapace of it, at least.
Seeing the Chelaxian marine frowning at him from across the table, Rasso gives him a big toothy grin and a wink. Sour pussed bastard must know how many of his buddies I've sent to watery graves.

Silent, thus far, has been the dark-haired woman seated at the table. Of dark complexion and stern features, the woman's nationality is indiscernible to most in the room. Her people come from much farther away, and her disconnect with their society is perhaps cause of her silence. Wondrous place… So very different from home. For the moment the foreign woman, Talavuc, paid more attention to the hall around her than the people gathered about. It certainly shows that survival is not the first concern for the people here.

Her thoughts flashed briefly with images of the stilt-legged wooden houses of home. The spirit-lodges would seem like hovels to these people, she mused and a slight look of concern crossed her face briefly. Her gaze fell across the shining symbol of the eagle, and she smiled each time. They respect the eagle here. This is a good thing. Almost instinctively, she reached up and brushed the eagle's feather pierced through her ear.

She pulled herself out of the reverie as someone bumped in her chair, a scholar by the look of him, and chided herself for her lack of awareness. She felt naked, defenseless, here. She only wore the usually outfit of her people, heavy by the standards of these southerners, but not armoring like the treated hides she so often put on. It made her feel closer to the spirits she served, clothed in the hides of their children. They were gifts given in the eternal competition of life, something that most would consider taken, but she thought better of it. Her spear was gone, only a thick walking stick sat next to her. A weapon, but not the one she would've chosen. The worst, by and far, was that Naasvit was not here. I bet he's sleeping in that stable they offered, curled up and enjoying the pampering. She grinned slightly at the thought, but it did little to dismiss the feeling. She felt vulnerable and it bothered her.

The murmured conversation in the room is broken when the double-doors to the conference hall are opened. The Andoran representatives not yet standing push back their chairs and rise to the sound, before realizing that it is not their leader that arrives, but someone else entirely.
A tall and thin human dressed in voluminous robes of ceremonial design is accompanied by a broad and scarred dwarven man, each of them bearing the multi-pointed star emblem of Xin-SHalast on their brows, the Sihedron rune. Whispers of disbelief usher through the chamber on their emergence, escorted by a pair of Eagle Knights of the Golden Legion. "Announcing, Fenyx Dagannauth and Ar'Zarrcal, emissaries of Xin-Shalast," one of the Eagle Knights states with a strained tone of voice. Both knights suspiciously watch the Shalasti emissaries enter, directing them to open seats at the table.

The dwarf, Ar'Zarrcal, surveyeds the spot granted to him and the other ambassador. He felt the Andorans had been wise with a round table, as it prevented a potential insult by way of seating position. Of course, it would be far wiser for them to merely dispense with this farce and submit to Karzoug and allow Shalast to take the lead in this, but he knew that they would cling to their traditions and freedom until the end. In time they would learn the error of such resistance. He had resisted once, until he was made to understand the true power of Thassilon and Karzoug. They too would serve.

Ar'Zarrcal revealed to those observing him as he walked to his seat with Fenyx that he was in fact quite tall for a Dwarf at just over four and a half feet tall. His grim countenance was a stark reminder that Thassilon had been reborn in violence and sorcery. Dressed in fine fur trimmed clothes of black and white marked with the Sihedron for this diplomatic function. His coal black hair and beard were a greasy and tattered mess. His hairline all but receded to the crown of his skull, leaving what remains to hang long and limp. Around his neck hung an iron Sihedron of some holy purpose, which his stubby fingers often gripped at. Where his clothing did not obscure his flesh one could see the handiwork of his conversion. The skin itself was darkened by fire and sorcery and branded with an assortment of arcane Thassalonian Runes.

Not overly fond of exchanging pleasantries, the rune-scarred dwarf had attempted to sit at the spot granted to him and keep his silence. Yet the chair was not all that well sized for him and he found himself growing uncomfortable and agitated. Thoughts tangled within his mind as he looked over the other ambassadors and representatives, struggling with understanding their current role in his master's plan as well as the future place they would serve within the hierarchy of Shalast.
Fenyx, on the other hand, remained silent and alert, his hands folded in front of him at the table and cool stare focused not on any one individual, but at the center of the table itself, his thoughts much his own.

A little twinge of discomfort struck Talavuc as she looked over the delegates, seeing those from the nation of "Shalast" and Cheliax. What are they doing here? Does the winter threaten their people just the same? She chided herself for not considering it. What am I, a child? It should be obvious. Of course it would threaten their people as it does us all. The thought of the terrible morozkos crossed her mind, the storms that she'd somehow survived on occasion… by hiding. As her gaze came across Rasso, it was not discomfort, but curiosity that she felt. I have never seen anything like him. I wonder where he is from? What is his story? She smiled to herself and remembered the time that she had related that feeling to Pavius. He had chided her for disregarding the tengu as a person and regarding him merely as a curiosity. He had also understood the feeling, though. She sighed and smiled sadly, looking in the strange man's direction, but obviously not seeing him. Pavius… I miss you.

With deliberate steps Ar'Zarrcal began to walk around the table, making it clear that as an emissary of the Rune Lord Karzoug he walked where he pleased. His gaze fell on the merman and he stared. His pinched face, with his sharp nose and deep sunken eyes took on a look of genuine curiosity. Slowly he completed near the completion of his circuit around the large round table. His milky, frozen blue eyes fell on the tall masked figure. His hands left the iron Sihedron about his neck and pulled at his black, pointed beard. This one was a complete mystery to him. He would need to rectify that immediately.

"I am ambassador Ar'Zarrcal of the Empire of Shalast, faithful herald of Runelord Karzoug the Claimer… Who are you and what faction do you represent here?" The voice that escaped the tortured form was surprisingly firm and powerful, yet lacking harshness or rasp to its tone.
Though difficult to tell from behind his mask, the elf cocks his head slightly. Through the slits Ar'Zarrcal can see that the elf's eyes look past him as if speaking to someone, or something ten feet above him and to the right. The elf's dry voice whispers from behind the mask, in the rhyming cadence of ancient Azlanti, a language lost on everyone in the room.

Pausing in mid-sentence, the elf gives a nod, as if listening to another voice and agreeing with was said. From the mask the dry voice whispers again. Remaining perfectly still, the elf continues to look past the dwarf, his eyes slowly following whatever it is that he is looking at. Then, as if a statue has come to life the elf crossing his arms, he shakes his head. Giving one final nod of agreement with the unknown entity, the elf swivels his head down taking in the rune-scarred dwarf visage for the first time. Closing his eyes ever so slightly the elf seems to peer into the dwarf. Whereas before the elf seemed be having an entirely different conversation, he now focuses all of his attention on acknowledged the dwarf's presence.

Ar'Zarrcal took a wary step backwards. His fingers fell to the iron Sihedron around his neck and he clutched it almost fearfully. He had recognized the language as ancient Azlanti due to it being one of roots to Thassilonian, but he could only make the words 'I', 'Runic', and 'Mordant'. His pinched face scrunched up further and he curled his lips downward in a frown. Though the eyes were visible through the strange mask the elf wore, they seemed to tell Ar'Zarrcal little of the emotions lingering in this emissary from the Mordent Spire.

A unsettling smile crossed the rune scarred dwarf's bearded face and he returned words to the masked elf. He however spoke the language of the reborn Kingdom of Shalast and the Thassilon Empire. There was a smug smile on his face when he finished speaking, but it quickly vanished. In the common, Taldan, tongue he added, "Is it not rude to speak in tongues not familiar to these Andorrans? Would it not be proper to use the language of our hosts?"

Members of the Eagle Knight's council sit awkwardly while the disparate groups talk amongst themselves and grow acclimated with one-another. As the conversations in near a half a dozen foreign tongues carry on, the hour of the day ticks by. Within the windowless conference room, it's hard to tell that the snow is driving hard and fast outside, that the skies are still shrouded with clouds, that all the talking in the world will solve nothing.
Without any fanfare or ritual, the double doors to the meeting hall open again as a pair of armored Eagle Knight squires bring the massive doors apart. Between them, a tall and graceful woman strides into the room with a commanding presence. Dressed in the blue, gold and whites of an Eagle Knight's uniform, this blonde half-elven woman is also decorated with enough medals on her uniform that she could probably melt them down and build a life-sized gold statue of herself.

As she enters, the Andoran dignitaries rise from their seats and salute until she reaches her chair and gives a motion for everyone to be seated. Knight-Commander Calisaria Reinn does not sit, instead she stands beside her chair, one hand resting on the basket-hilted rapier sheathed at her hip. Reinn's eyes scan over those gathered at the table for a few moments as conversations naturally die down at her presence. Once the room has grown silent, she motions for the doors to be closed, then begins to pace a circuit of the room around the table.

"I thank you all for attending this meeting today," the Knight-Commander begins in a firm, projected tone. "Those of you seated at this table today represent our world's best hopes to push back the tide of winter that has crashed on all our shores." Reinn's voice resonates through the room, carrying the force of presence suitable for a woman of her station.

"One year ago, the Winter Summit in Absalom represented a first for all our peoples. It represented nations' capability to put aside their differences to work in concert towards a unified goal. No part of our world is spared this wintry fate, though some have felt it less than others… there can be no denying that this change in our climate has come." Turning towards the table, Reinn stands behind the two Eagle-Knight officers, looking at each of them for a moment, before continuing her circuit.

"Since the signing of the Winter Accord, each participant nation has endeavored to find the source of this winter weather. With our combined efforts, we have made several leaps in discerning the nature of the weather, despite its seeming ability to circumvent divination magics." Finally back at her chair, Reinn motions for one of the sages. He rises from his seat with a scroll case and unstoppers it.

Paper ruffles and scrapes as it is shaken from the tube, and slowly the old scholar rolls out a map of Avistan across the table for all to see.

"We have uncovered reports from the nation of Rahadoum in Garund that that city of Manaket was destroyed by the appearance of a tornado made of ice and snow. This tornado flash-froze the citizens of Manaket and created a permanent arctic blot on the landscape." Reaching into her jacket, Reinn withdraws a thin metal rod, then pulls on its rounded tip to telescope out a baton-like pointer. She taps it on the map where Manaket is visible to the far south on the edge of the continent of Garund.

"Wizards from Rahadoum investigated this site and believed that it was a portal from whence the winter cold was escaping through. Unfortunately," Reinn closes her eyes slowly, "the wizards were too eager to quell the cold rather than study it, and they invoked a powerful disjoining magic that sealed the portal and ended the influx of cold to that region." Exhaling a strained sigh, Reinn looks around at the attendants in their seats.

"That was five months ago," Reinn clarifies, "and now we believe we have determined the location of another of these sites. After pouring through reports that came in over the last three years from Andoran cities, we have discovered that there was mention of snow appearing in the Darkmoon Vale as early as Desnus. This was in 4713, and we were so distracted by the tragedy in Kyonin and conflicts elsewhere," a brief look to the Thassilonian representatives is given, "that it went uninvestigated."

Pointing now to Andoran, Reinn's baton traces a circle on the town of Falcon's Hollow on the Andoran border of Isger. "Pursuant to this, it has come to my attention that the town of Falcon's Hollow, just south of the Darkmoon Wood, has gone silent. For the last two months it has failed to submit taxes and lumber deliveries from up the river have been non-existant."

Nodding to the scholars, Reinn waits as they roll out a mp of the Darkmoon Wood that looks recently drafted. That it has been drafted in wintry colors is a dire sense of artistic license, as if to say, it will always be like this.

Should this team fail, perhaps it will be.

"One week ago, I sent a reconnaissance team to Falcon's Hollow. The team consisted of five Eagle Knights of the Twilight Talon branch. Knight-Captain Talisa Gwynn led the unit, along with Lance-Corporal Braden Tavel, Lance-Corporal Girardin Shalewind, Lance-Corporal Tycora Sandein, Lance-Corporal Cerasan Falentini and Sargent Andis Lohengrin. Accompanying them was a warrior-delegate from Lastwall, an orc-blooded soldier named Ordrud."

Tapping her baton on Falcon's Hollow again, Reinn furrows her brows and looks pensive for but a moment. "As of today, the team has not reported back with the sending scrolls they were given. We have reason to believe that their silence is related to the silence of Falcon's Hollow."

Collapsing her baton, Reinn places it back into her jacket and crosses her arms over her chest. "Those of you here, today, I ask for assistance. Golarion begs for your assistance." Looking down to the map, Reinn draws in a slow breath, then exhales it through her nose.

"Your mission is a straightforward one. You will depart Almas by way of the ice-breaker ship the Red Wraith and sail north up the Andoshen River to Falcon's Hollow. The journey will take three days." Blue eyes lift from the map to look around the table. "You are to ascertain the status of Falcon's Hollow, find Knight-Captain Gwynn's team, and if possible find out if the reported weather in the Darkmoon Wood is related to the winter portal in Rahadoum."

Sternly, Knight-Commander Reinn nods her head once, and looks to each and every individual at the table. "Questions?"

"Aye, I've one," Marcellano makes a gesture with his hand showing he wishes to speak. He stands up, then takes a moment to glance around at the assembled people, before looking back at the Knight-Commander. "First, who will be in charge of this expedition? It is best to know who is in command from the get-go so we don't have any issue with multiple people trying to play leader along the way. The clearer the chain of command, the faster and easier things get done."

He pauses a moment, before continuing. "Second, if we do find the Knight-Captain's Team, are we to follow her orders, provided she is still alive, or will whoever be leading this expedition take command of the recon team as well?"

He pauses one more moment, before adding one last thing, with a small smirk. "And finally, when do we leave?"

Turning her attention to Marcellano, Reinn threads a lock of blonde hair behind one ear. "Given that this is an Andoran mission taking place on Andoran soil, and given his expertise in leadership and tactical assessment, I will be placing Captain Styvanus Rozier in charge of this mission. Should Knight-Captain Gwynn be alive, I will leave it up to Captain Rozier how he would prefer to proceed as both he and Gwynn are of the same rank, if differing in title. She will understand."

Shifting her weight to one foot and rubbing one hand over her chin in thought, Reinn looks across the table and considers her answer. "Should the situation change, I leave it to you all to be responsible enough to delegate command or re-assess command if need be. Each of you are specialists and highly skilled, I expect you each to contribute to the cause equally."

Then, specifically to Styvanus, "Captain, I expect you to handle this with fairness and an open mind. Take into account all points of view and intelligence offered from your team. Their lives, and our lives, are in your hands." No pressure.

"As for your departure, this team will leave in five hours from the harbor. That should give you enough time to finalize any preparations you need to make." Then, nodding towards one of the Andoran intelligence officers she adds. "Lance-Corporal Vedik will see that each of you is outfitted with a cache of good to help protect you in this climate. See him before you depart."

Styvanus sits quietly, listening to the Chelish man's inquiries. Upon Reinn's attention turning to the young captain, Styvanus stood to his feet and nodded affirmatively to each of her points. He nod's to Lance Corporal Vedik when he is mentioned.

Beginning unassumingly, his voice carries well around the room. "Knight-Commander; Lance-Corporal." He recognizes them both aloud, then turns his attention to the team gathered around the table. "We're the hope of Golarion allies. Expect fairness and transparency here, We're the last, best hope. I encourage each of you to get to know me. My ears are always open. " His blue eyes meet the eyes of each of the party and he stops last on Rasso, his stern expression giving way slightly to a smirk. "Let's go do our job." Marcellano nods at both the Knight-Commander's answers, and Styvanus's words, apparently satisfied, before sitting down to await any other information before heading out.

"Sounds all well and good, Sir," Rasso says, nodding to Knight-Commander Reinn. "But I'd know a little more about who'll be watchin' me tail." He turns back to the others nominated for the mission. "Guess I might start with me own particulars. Name's Rasso. I'm a close combat specialist, with some magic to aid me. Mainly me spells enhance me own abilities, but I can do some minor healin' in a pinch," he says, snapping his claws together. 

"I've also got a decent ability to use wands, scrolls and the like." He stares at Marcellano and the two Shalasti representatives for a long moment. "Normally I'd soon as kill them what hold slaves as truck with 'em. But I know this is probably the most important damn mission of my life. So I hope we can all play nice." It's hard to tell whether his toothy smile is genuine or forced.
Taking a moment while the others talk, Talavuc marvels at the map of Avistan. Ahh… Always a sight to see. She smiles to herself and looks back to the commander, giving the woman her full attention.

She considers the second map unrolled for a moment again when Rosso stands and gives his introduction, forcing her away from her thoughts. She watches as he speaks and decides to introduce herself. She stands and looks over the collected people for a moment, again taking in the assembled parties.

"I am Talavuc, spirit-talker of the Miusunnit of Aaminiut, and a friend of the Pathfinder Society." The words felt a bit clumsy in her mouth, so different from her native language. "The spirits bless me with magics for my devotion and I carry spear and sling." She pauses a moment. "Beyond fighting, I know the ways of the wild. The harsh cold is a common thing for my people and I. I've survived in it for all of my life. It tests each person to see their fitness for survival."

She looks over to Captain Rozier, "I will give my all for this. Just as with Avistan, so too do my people suffer. Many have died in the unnatural storms and the dead that walk them." A pained look crosses her face for a second.

"I know of the terrible things that those from Varisia and Cheliax are capable of. I've heard the tales and seen the darkness in some of those lands." Her eyes turn to the Chelish marine. "But I also know that brighter things can come from such places. I will hope that you all are of such character."

She turns to Knight-command Reinn. "The map of this wood shows no paths, trails, or roads. There is no information as to the location of such things or shall we have to contact the locals, should they still live?" She pauses for a slight moment, not enough time to give a response, "Do the frozen dead walk here as well?" A look of deep concern crosses her face. She had not heard such stories, but it was better to be safe.

Rasso gives the spirit-talker a nod of acknowledgement. Never seen nor heard of a Miusunnit before. She musta come a long way.

At Talavuc's question, Reinn offers a look to one of the scholars at the table whom rises from his seat with a nod to her. The scholar, a wiry looking human with dusty brown hair and a pair of wire-rimmed spectacles leans over to point at the map of Darkmoon Wood.

"Ah, the trails in this forest are likely changed from what they once were." There's a tone of disappointment in his voice. "Though, the lumber consortium that works here has made some through-roads that cut through the thickest parts of the forest." Reaching into a pocket on his sleeve, the scholar pulls out a piece of charcoal.

"Here," he states, starting to scribble on the map. "These are the logging roads that the consortium used. They're likely still clear of trees, but— ah, snow — I imagine — will be an issue." Furrowing his brow and pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose, the scholar then circles an area on the map.

"This here," the region of Cold Marrow is circled, "is where the undead have been encountered in the past. It's a blighted section of the forest where nothing will grow. The trees are dead and the land is parched. We're not sure what its present condition is."

Then, to the far west he circles a portion of the mountains. "Out here was an old monastery that the Pathfinder Society uncovered in 4709 when searching for a cure to the plague in Falcon's Hollow. There was a cult operating out of here, animated dead— all very terrible business. They're long since dispatched, however."

Grimacing, the scholar tucks the piece of charcoal back into his sleeve. "That's ah, the most we know about that topic."

Styvanus nods toward the female of the north, and watches intently as the scholar steps forward and marks the areas of interest on the map. " Thank you Scholar, I'm certain that every little thing helps."

He turns his full attention to the northern druid and offers a comforting smile. " Talavuc, thanks for your insight, and the words of wisdom. I'm sure both will prove invaluable in the days and weeks ahead."

"As for my own abilities," He begins." I'm a martial specialist. Nothing too fancy about that, but I shall represent the Andoran way in combat and negotiations. When it's appropriate, I'll defer to each of your specialties."

In turn, Talavuc furrowed her brow as the scholar pointed out locations on the second map he produced. She nodded to the scholar and looked up from the map, her thoughts drifted away a bit from the conversation, to the point that she almost missed Styvanus' words to her. She gave him a short nod of acknowledgement. This region is not prepared for the morozkos. It's a worrisome thing. She looked about the table, picking up Styvanus' appraisal of himself. I will have to see how ready each of my companions will be for this weather. A grim look crossed her face for a moment. The dead are here…

Through the entirety of the Andorran briefing the two representatives from Shalast remained silent. Once, Fenyx leaned down and whispered something to his rune scarred dwarven companion. What was said however was spoken at a hush and in the language of Thassilon.
As each gave in turn gave an introduction of their names and abilities Ar'Zarrcal kept his thoughts to himself. He seemed to have no inclination to speak further on the matter. All that they needed to know was that he and Fenyx represented Shalast and Runelord Karzoug the Claimer on this mission. He had fully intended to remain silent until the Erutaki spoke. Her questions proved to shed much light on the situation and information was revealed that should have been earlier provided. He thought that perhaps the Andorran's should have put her in command instead of one of their obedient military officers.

Stepping forward, he studied the map provided once the scholar began to circle and outline the logging trails.

"Will our transport take us up this river?" The dwarf pointed to the river marked Darkmoon on the map. "I do not see this Falcon's hollow anywhere on this map. Does the captain know the way?"
He turned back to look long and hard at the woman from the Frozen lands to the North. He would seek to illuminate her to the truth of Shalast, but not now, it would not do to dispel the propaganda of the meddling Andorran's in their own council hall.

Only after his questions had been answered would he address the rest of the group gathered together on this mission. "I am ambassador Ar'Zarrcal of Shalast, faithful herald of Runelord Karzoug the Claimer. My counterpart is ambassador Feyronix Dagannauth, practicioner of the arcane arts of Thassilon." The frost-eyed dwarf gave no further details at this juncture.
Listening to the representative from Shalast, the scholar defers to Reinn on this question. "Falcon's Hollow is just a few miles south of Darkmoon Wood, it's on the map of Avistan and northern Garund," she instructs, motioning to the other, larger map. "Captain Brevin of the Red Wraith knows the way."

"The vessel you came here in is not fitted to break the ice of the Andoshan River which is at present frozen. We have commissioned an ice-breaking ship from the north to serve as conveyance for you to expedite the journey." Crossing her arms over her chest, Reinn scans the maps as an afterthought. "The vessel is an oar-powered ship of Skald design with iron plating on the bow. It is designed to cut through the thick ice, though there may be times when the ship and its crew need to stop to manually hack through the larger pieces by hand. None of you will be expected to assist with this."

It seemed then that they would not be taking the Darkmoon river, but rather another river that traced its way to the South, where Falcon's Hollow lay beyond the bottom edge of the map provided.

Falcon's hollow seemed to be the place to start and if no relevant information could be gained there, the logging consortium's main camp looked like the next best bet. He studied the map in more detail, trying to memorize the locations that seemed of particular importance and interest.
Marcellano had been patient through all of this, remaining sitting and yet still unable to get comfortable, listening to the others' questions, comments, and introductions. After being mentioned indirectly multiple times, he waits until he has a chance to speak before standing up and addressing those assembled.

"I am Marcellano Kain, nephew of the deceased Commander Kyan Kain and former Marine aboard the Dominator. As representative to Cheliax, my superiors have commanded me to give the Knight-Commander my complete cooperation in this matter, and I aim to do just that." He pauses a moment, before continuing. "As a former Marine, I am trained in enduring and surviving harsh environments, performing emergency first aid in case magical healing is unavailable, and being an expert in both close-quarters combat and mid-ranged combat with firearms."

After another pause, he continues, "I plan on giving this mission my all. I hope, despite our current affiliations, ideological differences, and past prejudices," His gaze flickers towards Rasso for a split second, "We can work together to see this mission through, unless our respective nations continue to suffer under this outlandish weather. I plan to see this mission through the end. I hope all of you will do the same." At the end of his introduction, Marcellano gives a nod and sits back down.

Having never sat down, the masked elf takes in the entirety of the room. When his gaze does pause, it's not on a particular individual, but rather on architectural details, stone busts or even an absence of space. It is as if the elf is looking at this world with eyes far older than many in this space. Stepping forward, the elf's eyes settle on a soaring stone bust of a rampant Andoran eagle. Though the mask a dry, lilting voice echoes outward. Haltingly the voice speaks, as if unaccustomed to the tongue and dredging the memory of it up from the recesses of his mind.
"Who I am in unimportant." The elf states. Each word slowly ushering out the next. "Who I represent is." Echoes the voice from behind the mask as he continues to let his gaze wander about the room, never stopping in one place for long. "I am the emissary of the Mordant Spire." Eyes finally settling Knight-Commander Reinn, the elf gives the smallest of bows.

Not bothering to give a description of his ability, you get the feeling that the elf is a creature of few words. "There is a flaw." The elf's graven voice states. "Logic dictates that we cannot depend on locating the sending scrolls from your team. They may have be destroyed. If you wish to guarantee status updates then I will need more. And what of your scrying and divinations? What has that revealed? Have you been able to determine what exists at the center of the storm?" Crossing his arms, the elf then looks past the Knight-Commander towards the blue painted map, before back up to the ceiling.

Knight-Commander Reinn arches one thin brow as Teladon speaks. Blue eyes sweep from him to the map, then back again. "I expect something more mundane to track the team down," she notes with a point of two fingers up towards her eyes. Shifting her weight to one foot, she re-crosses her arms and furrows her brows.

"The storm also has no center, per-se. This weather is spread out across every nation in Avistan and most of Garund. We have one, singular report from Falcon's Hollow dating back three years, and it doesn't specify where in the Darkmoon Wood that the snow started." There's a little bit of a sigh at that. "There's hundreds of square miles of forest out there, and we could try scrying that wood in twenty-foot increments for the next few hundred years and still come up with nothing." Then, tilting her head to the side she adds, "We'd all be frozen solid by then."

Starting to pace, Reinn offers a slow shake of her head. "Regardless, divinations have largely been inconclusive. Either we're asking the wrong questions or someone has protected the information we've tried to get by means of mind-blank, misdirection or some other ward." Blue eyes flit back up to Teladon. "The parties of the Winter Accord determined that the snow is not natural, that a magical force is generating it, and that if left unopposed it will continue to spread until it has consumed the entirety of the world."

Furrowing her brows, Reinn considers the maps again. "That we assume there's a… core to the weather in the Darkmoon Wood like there was in that town in Rahadoum is sheer speculation. It's a hope, and one that I had counted on Gwynn's team to determine." With a shake of her head, she looks away from the maps and around the table.

"Every resource we can employ at a range has been employed. This information is the best we've been able to muster. If it were any easier, we probably could have solved the entire problem on our own by now. We need feet on the ground. Finding Gwynn's team is — " Reinn hesitates, as if it does not please her to admit something. "Finding her team is secondary to finding out if there is a source of the weather in the Darkmoon Wood."

"If you do find and secure them…" Gwynn's brows pinch together in worry, "if the people of Falcon's Hollow are safe or can be saved, that's just a bonus for us."

"Noted." The dry voice half-whispers from behind the mask, giving one slow nod of understanding. The rest of his body remaining ever still, the elf cocks his head to the right as if receiving some far off instructions or listening to the sounds of the wind rushing past the exterior of the Golden Aerie. Giving a nod, the elf turns his gaze back towards the Knight-Commander. "Are there any other places besides the lumber camp and the monastery that your team might have sought shelter at if they had come under attack? Anything defensible?"

"I wouldn't call the monastery defensible," Reinn remarks with a look at the map. "The Pathfinders who discovered the cult there unintentionally razed the structure in their battle with the cultists. If there's anything left, it's little more than ruins."

After considering the remainder of the map, Reinn looks back up to Teladon. "There's a lodge, actually. Not far from where that logging trail cuts across the river on the western bank. It's owned by the Lumber Consortium now, but at one time it was a sentry outpost for the Steel Falcons. It was decommissioned over twenty years ago…"

Tilting her head to the side, Reinn takes a thoughtful pause. "I'm not sure what condition its in but it might be worth a look."

"So, we have three places we know of to check - the Village itself, the Lumber Consortium's main camp, and a lodge that is owned by the Lumber Consortium, which we do not know if even still exists - am I correct?" Marcellano stands up and points to each location on the map as he mentions them, the looks at everyone to see if they agree with him or not.

"If we can agree on this, I think we should get going - the sooner we get there, the sooner we can find the fate of the village and of the recon team, as well as find the solution to this problem, if there is one to be found." He then looks over at the Knight-Commander for her response.
Offering a nod of agreement to Marcellano, Knight-Commander Reinn confirms Marcellano's assessment. "Correct. It sounds as though you have a direction to go in. The Red Wraith will be waiting for you in the harbor. It is the only vessel with red sails, it's impossible to miss, even in this snow."

Folding her hands behind her back and squaring her shoulders, Reinn tilts her chin up ever so slightly and regards the team. "The vessel disembarks in three hours, and Captain Brevin will know better the duration of the ship travel." Drawing in a slow breath, Reinn closes her eyes and exhales the held in breath through her nose.

"Andoran, your homelands, the entire world is counting on your actions." Blue eyes slowly open, and the Knight-Commander furrows her brows and offers one solemn nod to the table of disparate heroes, unlikely as some of them are.


Continued In The River's Claim
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