Hollow's Lost Hope
Reign of Winter
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Book 1: The Snows of Summer
Chapter 1: Silence of the Hollow
Alltid

Featuring

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

Synopsis

As a light snow fell upon the deck of the Red Wrath, Teladon sat mediating in his chamber. Focusing on the sigils and elven glyphs that lay in front of him the magus focused on the power underlying the symbols. Blocking out the wearing aches in his sword arm from the previous nights battle, the elf ran his hands along his spell book. Concentrating, Teladon gazed over the hidden power and mysteries of the arcane that lay inscribed within the elven tome. Finding the incantation he was seeking, the elf looked past the script and into the primal power that suffused it. Slowly he began, quietly chanting the words of lost Azlant. Drawing the power of the aether tighter and tighter to him, Teladon felt the energy of creation begin to build within him. Finally, when the slight elf could draw no more, he invoked the fourteenth binding of conjuration. Instantly he felt the pain in his arm begin to fade as his broken wrist began to knit and his torn muscles began to heal. Sighing in relief, Teladon rolled his arm, feeling the restored movement. Knowing however that his time was short, the elf continued to scan his arcane tome, planning for the day ahead.

Several hours later, wrapped in furs and mask in place, Teladon glided his way down the passageway of the Red Wraith. After memorizing his remaining spells for the day, the elf had wordlessly gone to the galley where he had collected several of the wooden bowls that he had seen used during last night’s meal. Returning to his cabin, Teladon withdrew his fine steel dagger and spent the next hour smoothing the bowls and inscribing around the rim in flowing Azlanti script the words for ”Honor”, ”Bravery” and ”Warrior” Giving a nod of satisfaction at his work, Teladon picked up the bowls as well as a several candles and made his way out onto the deck.

As Teladon rose onto the deck he did so like a quiet sentinel roused into life. With silence the elf watched the Ulfen men say their own good bye. Though this was his first time among the northern men, it seemed oddly comforting to note that both of their rituals involved fire and water. As the men grieved and songs were sang, the elf watched as the boat was loaded into the water and then set on fire. Nodding to himself, Teladon stepped forward. This was not a place to make a scene, but honor must be shown, even to human barbarians such as these. Reaching the edge of the deck Teladon laid out one bowl for each of the slain crew. Affixing into the bottom of the bowl, Teladon placed a bit of candle. Once candle was in place, the elf rose and took a five foot step back. Then, with a wave of his hand he willed the candles into light. As each took to the flames, the list of virtues that Teladon had witnessed was illuminated. Quietly pausing to allow a speaker for the dead, the xenophobic elf gave a nod. That they were savages was of no concern, it was as honor dictated.

Watching as none came forward, Teladon waved his hand and called upon the second binding of movement. Levitating each of the bowls he carefully guided them into the icy water. Despite the cold of the morning, Teladon watched behind his mask and waited until each was out of sight. Summer to Winter, Darkness to Light, Fire to Water. Be one and seek out your brightness. The elf thought as he sent the souls of the men onward to a new life. Then as the last of the bowls disappeared down the river he turned and left the deck as quietly as he came.

Rasso misses the funeral entirely, sleeping through most of the morning. Marcellano spent much of the day getting rest, and thus missed the funeral as well. He did, however, make sure to get something to eat when it was offered in the galley, before retiring back in his room.

I can understand their grievances for their dead, but wasting one of the keelboats like that? They're foolish if they think they won't need it in the near future. They'll likely regret sacrificing it like that.. better to just tie the bodies with rope and weights, give a blessing to whatever god they worship, and toss them overboard. Its what we did with my Uncle.. its what we did with all of our dead.

Marcellano takes his time resting and keeping to himself, obvious to his less-than-liked status amongst the crew. The real journey begins soon… best to be rested.

The next two days on the Andoshan river that followed the attack on the Red Wraith were comparatively quiet. The passengers of the Andoran expedition were able to witness the full spectrum of Ulfen grieving, from the somber tones of the funeral to the raucous celebrations the following night, full of singing, drinking and story telling in memory of the deceased. No intruders spoiled these moments, no attacks fouled the grieving process for these sailors; time and foreign faces their only considerations.

Before dawn on what would be their fourth day since leaving Almas, the members of the expeditionary forces are roused from their bunks and informed that they are approaching their destination. In the dark of early morning hours, with the sky blackened by clouds and steady, heavy snow whistling through the air the dark silhouette of Falcon's Hollow can barely be seen.

What was once a busy community of farmers and lumberjacks has had the life choked out of it by the frozen grasp of winter. The two dozen some odd buildings in the town are buried past their windows in deep snow, some drifts actually swallowing homes past their roofs. Like the rest of the Andoshan, the water at the docks has frozen solid and is covered in snow. Ships lie abandoned at their moorings, covered with snow and hanging sheets of ice.

Falcon's Hollow has become a ghost town.

Nightmares had woken Ar'Zarrcal early that day and he was one of the first on the deck as they neared Falcon's hollow. He dressed warmly, in the heavy fabrics and furs of an outfit specially designed for travel up frozen mountains. Beneath that, iron and steel gripped the squat form of the dwarf. His armor incorporated several sizable plates of deep gray sculpted metal with an underlying mesh of chain links. complete with a helm sporting the serpent bodied, many winged icon of Lissala and hardened leather and chain gauntlets. The white tabard with the Sihedron he wore over the armor was all but concealed by the heavy furs. When the keelboat was launched, Ar'Zarrcal said his goodbyes to the captain, urging him in Skald to remain near this time. It had become clear to Ar'Zarrcal that the Ulfen captain had abandoned the first expedition party when trouble had reared its undead head.

It is noticeably colder here at Falcon's Hollow than it is anywhere else the team has been. From the deck of the Red Wraith, they can feel the blistering cold in the air that tries to steal their breath away with every gust. "Drop anchor!" Captain Brevin hollers to the crew, and soon the sounds of clanking chains and shouting crewman fill the dark. The anchor goes speeding down from the bow of the ship, crashing through the packed ice on the river and down below.

"We'll lower you down in the keel-boat, but the ice is too thick to go anywhere in it," the captain says to the expedition team, "you'll need to walk in to the town on the ice. Be wary on the way in, we felled near a dozen of the walking dead by the harbor. Some of their bodies are likely still stuck in the ice or buried under the snow."

As the crew prepares the last keel-boat for lowering down, the dark of pre-dawn shares little secrets with the crew, and beyond the range of darkvision and torchlight Falcon's Hollow is a snow-covered mystery waiting to be uncovered.

But for one lost soul, the mystery isn't in Falcon's Hollow…

…it's what's just arrived.
 
 
 
 

« Falcon's Hollow, Andoran | Pre-Dawn | Snowing, Very Cold (8° F/-13° C) | Moonday, Erastus 9th, 4715 AR »

 
 
 
 
 
The noises were hard to hear at first, until the crash of shattering ice made it clear that he was no longer alone. Within the pitch black confines of one of the many abandoned houses, the sound of activity in Falcon's Hollow sends a burst of adrenaline and alertness through a survivor's body.

Jolted from sleep by the sounds, Ordrud son of Oruk can already see the light of torches from the frosted window of his commandeered hideout. Lanterns swinging in the wind, silhouettes of movement, bright red sails. The vessel is familiar to him, even at this distance; rescue or reinforcements.

Progress, in either direction.

Ordrud could not believe his good fortune. Finally, fate was smiling on him. That Ulfen captain was back. Who else would pilot that ice-breaker up here? He buckled on his armored kilt and sheathed his sword in its scabbard on his back. He shrugged back into furs that he had abandoned while inside and prepared his snowshoes. His food stores were empty, so there was nothing there except to tighten his belt.

He watched the ship deploy the keel-boat. He knew that he couldn’t call to them from here. His hunters would hear if they were within a couple of miles. He timed their arriving pace to meet them at the land end of the docks. When he couldn’t wait any longer, he went out the second story window that he entered The Rouge Lady above their single story barn and carefully closed it. It had proved a good shelter, even without the posted entertainment. The cold bit but reminded him that he was still alive. He lashed his snowshoes to his feet and attempted to smooth his tracks in the snow, so they weren’t visible from the road. Then, he climbed off the side opposite the road into a couple feet of fresh powder. With purpose, he started to hustle toward the docks: across the head of the Lady’s dock and across the heads of the other docks. At this point, he was visible to keel-boat and probably the Red Wraith, too. He waved his left arm to get their attention but continuously surveyed for enemies. He didn’t want to fail now after surviving this far.

The approaching group from the Red Wraith sees a large humanoid about seven tall hustling toward them on snowshoe, dressed in thick furs over a multi-layered cold weather outfit; as dressed as a man can be for the temperature. Skis and a two-handed weapon handle protrude above his head and shoulders. He waves to the group and continues to silently close the distance.

Secretly pleased the way that the slits of his mask were lessening the glare from the ice and snow, Teladon stepped off the side of the keel-boat and onto to the icy river. As he did so the wind gusted around his fine tooled leather boots, kicking up a cloud of white powder. Lightly the wind continued to howl with its keening shriek and slowly each of the elven warriors steps were erased by the by the windblown snow. Moving across the snow and ice towards the town, Teladon listened as the Runelord emissary prattled on. Clearly he has forgotten the slight done by his people to my kin. Teladon thought when the necromancer called them friends. But mine is a people that does not forget and they do not forgive. In that moment, surrounded by outsides, the magus was even more grateful then usual that he had his mask. Gritting his teeth in the knowledge that he would have to spend weeks or possibly months with the humans, Teladon quietly sighed. Elders, if only you knew what you had asked of me.

Trudging along the windblown snowdrifts, Teladon pushed though the calf high snow towards the front of the group. As they neared the abandoned village of Falcons Hollow, Teladon placed one gloved hand on the pommel of his ancient blade. As a Spire Guardian he knew his strengths and weakness, and even if he was in the mood to talk, he would not do so with an outsider. No, he would let another speak but should the words fail, he would be ready. He always was.

Fenyx prefers to move amid the center of his new allies, for obvious reasons. Surrounded by immense drifts of snow in all direction, so much so that entire dwellings are engulfed in the frozen onslaught, the necromancer is on high alert. If they were able to steal onto the boat days away from the village, who knows what waits for us? The Shalasti ambassador regards his counterpart Ar'Zarrcal with a knowing look.

"Be on your toes, brothers," he begins, briefly turning to Talavuc as he continues, "and sister. Any of those accumulated mounds of snow could be hiding more of the beasts we encountered two nights prior aboard The Wraith. I will, of course, defer to our leader's judgement in the matter, but know that my services as an expert on matters involving the once-but-no-longer dead are at your complete disposal." Fenyx bows formally to the assembly, a flourish firmly midway between humble and grandiose.

"Assuming my prattle has not worn its welcome, I am inclined to offer that it might be prudent for some of us to clear the aforementioned debris while the rest wait eagerly with proffered weaponry." The necromancer reaches into the depths of his robes and retrieves a short metal rod. Several gestures, clicks-and-clanks later, he is holding a shovel and wearing a slight smile. The smile disappears, however, as his head snaps forward in the direction of the approaching half-orc. "This one seems a bit too lively to be a carcass - a survivor? And a big one at that."

Rasso having been roused from his bunk, takes the time to drink one of the potions that the Eagle Knights had given them. He follows it with a shot of rum, a large chunk of lard fried bread and a raw onion. He then takes a minute to summon his eidolon.

Seeing the bundled figure of Ordrud approaching, Rasso asks no one in particular, "Who in the Hell is that?"

Marcellano takes position to the front right behind and beside Styvanus. When he spots the large, cloaked figure waving at the group, he puts both hands on his musket and readies himself, but without appearing hostile, just in case. The journey's just began, and already we're finding people. Hopefully this isn't some kind of trick.

Talavuc climbed from the keelboat as it settled on the ice, wearing the outer fur parka that she had left off on board the boat until now. It was part of the entire outfit, but the relative warmth on the ship made it unnecessary, a little part of home. Now, the fur parka, dyed with muted designs, was a necessity. The hood kept most of the snow and cold away from her face. She glanced down at Naasvit, still a bit cantankerous from the "arduous ordeal" of that infernal boat, but oh so pleased to be off it. A twinge of jealousy hit her. Ahhh… To have such a wonderful winter coat of fur myself. She tugged on a strap of the mink's custom-fitted armor, which earned a yip and clack of teeth from the mink. "So fierce…" she mumbled, grinning and giving the mink a light stroke on the head before she turned to regard the rest of the group.

She nodded to the Thassilonian as he spoke. "I assume that we all will defer to his judgment. That was the understanding that I got during the meet over three days past." She started forward, examining the way as she did and giving a sharp whistle, similar to a bird's call, that shifts suddenly, dropping in tone a bit. The giant mink next to her's attention suddenly shifted and it began to keep up with her, sniffing at and probing the snow. It is quickly noticeable that although the animal leaves. However, as Talavuc steps, the snow seems to fall inwards and fill her foot prints perfectly, leaving no evidence of her passage. It is as if the snow itself didn't want her followed.

"Naasvit and I will stay in front and scan for bodies." She continued to move forward, the mink keeping pace.

As she moves forward, the figure on the docks draws her attention, earning a look from the mink as well. I hope this is one of the team who came before us.

As the group descends down from the ship onto the ice, the path outward towards Falcon's Hollow proves to be a treacherous one. Drifts of snow two feet deep cover thick river ice frozen solid by the polar chill in the air. Where the snow has blown down to a few inches, patches of the frozen river can be seen, and its slippery surface makes for uncertain footing.

Up ahead, the enormous figure in bundled winter gear is hard to make out. Part of his bulk appears to be armor over and under which his winter survival gear is fitted. But Fenyx is right on one point, his movements aren't like a zombie's. Too precise, too cautious, too animate. That doesn't preclude something more horrifying, however.

Halfway to the pier, Talavuc spots something in the snow. While searching for tracks in the powdery, windblown snow proves fruitless there is something below the snow that catches her attention. A moment of pause and a swift brush of her hand later and she can see the curled digits of a human hand reaching up from the snow, frozen completely solid. A few feet away, a gaping skeletal face stares blankly up through the drifts, empty eye sockets filled with ice and toothy maw locked in a perpetual scream.

These must have been the ones that attacked the ship previously. Now, they are grisly reminders of the town's ultimate fate.

Talavuc grimaces at the dead in the snow. Much closer to the walking dead from home. Her eyes slowly pan about, looking into the darkness for a few moments. I hope that some got out alive.

Though he did not look it, Ar'Zarrcal was eager to be off the Red Wraith, even if it meant climbing through formidable drifts of snow and traveling across potentially treacherous ice. Though he believed he handled himself well enough aboard the river vessel, he was a creature born of stone and rocks. His place was upon the terra firma, be it in the moutains or on the rolling hills, or even in the very caverns of the deep earth. He did not have some of the fancy snowshoes that some of his group wore, but his water-proof leather boots were designed for the cold weather and he trusted them to do their job.

No torch found the dwarf's hand, for he was content to utilize his dark vision where it was needed. When the Cheliaxian soldier lit up the area around him with magic, Ar'Zarrcal shied away from him. The light would hinder his own natural advantages. Still, he would remember that some of his companions might need light - if needed he might etch the necessary runes to aid them to see in the blackness.

"Let us be alert, but at the same time we do not need to foolishly provoke an ally who has been waiting for aid. At the meeting, we were told that one of the expedition was an orc-blooded soldier named Ordrud. I do not have a full grasp on the language of Belkzen, but if one of you do, perhaps call out to the figure by name?" Without thinking of the established heirarchy of command, he looked first to his fellow ambassador of Shalast, before turning to the humble and so far soft spoke Styvanus.

Ar'Zarrcal wished he could be of more use, but while he had studied some Orcish, he could speak little of it. He believed that they had bastardized the fine Dwarven alphabet with their harsh, clipped tongue. These biases had always kept him from a true grasp of the language.

Styvanus' pack was filled to the brim with supplies for the arduous expedition. The weight slowed him down a bit, but it was a necessary burden. He had secured his cold weather outfit under links of chain, his fine suit of chainmail was displayed like a flag of his country, white and blue . Spiked gauntlets adorned with images of eagles covered the lower half of his arms. He wore a layer of winter-colored animal furs, under an over-sized blue leather overcoat on top. He wore his cleats in preparation for crossing the icy surface.

He held his shield in his primary hand, and gripped his ever burning torch in the other. He kept a keen eye out for danger, expecting the tortured dead to rise up to greet them at any moment, he struggled to make out the large form in the distance in the predawn hours.

"We'll find out who it is soon enough, keep your eyes peeled, there's no need to alert anyone else to our arrival by shouting over great distance." He stated flatly to the dwarf, but with no ill will." Stay on your toes, weapons at the ready." He added, trudging forward calmly.

When the large waving humanoid approaches within the dim light of the everburning torch, he says in the Taldan tongue, "Andoran?" recognizing the heraldry on Styvanus' shield, "It's good to see you." He stops waving and walking to let the group close the last twenty feet on their own.

Eventually, they discover the identity of the survivor is much as they had presumed: a Half-orc that stands about 6-feet, 10-inches; large by either Human or Orc standards. His hair is surprisingly red, contrasting with his grayish skin tone and obsidian eyes. He carries a greatsword on his left hip the way an ordinary man would carry a longsword, and his fur-covered, cold-weather outfit, and backpack are well-worn and blood-splattered. He appears still wounded. Bloodied, by all soldierly measures.

"Name yerself stranger." Rasso is understandably nervous. "Who is it that walks alone in the ken of the frozen dead?" His tone isn't unfriendly, but it's not welcoming either. Both his claws are held ready at pectoral height, his red eyes focused unblinkingly on the orc-thing.

"Ordrud, spawn of Oruk, warlord of Death's Head," the orc answers flatly. "Are you rescuers or replacements?"

"Both I suppose. We had word of ye back in Almas. The rest of them all dead?" Rasso asks, lowering his claws into a more "at ease" position.

"Good to see you, Ordrud." Styvanus chimes in, moving to the front in relaxed posture. "If you've been camped here and know of a more secure location to set up a base-camp, then we could talk on what needs to be done now." Styvanus nods to the sizable half-orc, whom he hopes truly turns out to be an ally. I don't think I want him on my bad side. He thought to himself smirking slightly.

Styvanus bowed his head slightly before addressing the group." Ordrud, take the lead, We'll have your back." He begins, no deception in his unfaltering voice. " Rasso, stay beside our new friend. Let's get moving." Then he leaned over to Rasso, speaking lowly in the Aquan language. «Keep a close eye on him, friend. Hopefully his story is true, but let's not get caught with our guard down right off the ship.»

Talavuc approaches the newcomer, Naasvit in tow. The giant mink approaches the half-orc slowly, sniffing at him. She looks at Ordrud, examining him for a moment. "You're wounded. What caused this?" She keeps her spear light in her hand, at the ready, but not in a threatening manner. Naasvit continues to sniff at Ordrud before she gives another sharp whistle, similar to the higher of the two before. "Naasvit, manners." The mink turns bounds through the snow back Talavuc's side.

"Not to cut short the pleasantries, but perhaps we could discuss matters in a less exposed location? Preferably somewhere lacking a frigid gale - or is the village even less hospitable than it appears?" Fenyx meets the half-orc's gaze as he says the last bit, carefully measuring the brute's response.

"I agree with the necromancer, we shouldn't be standing around here, exposed like targets. Especially not with half of our group - myself included - shining like big lit-up bull'seyes." He keeps his musket nearly at the ready as he's saying this, keeping a watchful eye to the shadows. "Orc — Ordrud. It would be wise if you could show us to one of these buildings where we can talk more privately and set up a defensive location in case more of the dead show up. Know of a good spot?"

Ordrud sizes up the group standing before him, eyes narrowing in his scrutiny of them. Walking, talking fish men? Necromancer? They really are scouring Golarion for volunteers. "If we're not leaving," he states flatly, "then we should head to the Goose 'n' Gander. There's enough of us now to handle the hunters." Ordrud turns and heads into town leading the way. Over his head, he says, "The town has been abandoned. I can brief you. By then, the hunters may be back. You have anything to eat?"

As the group confers with the orcish arm of the previous expeditionary force, they stand amidst the field of ruin that was once the harbor of Falcon's Hollow. Bodies frozen in snow and ice are trapped in the throes of termination, their gasping mouths now packed full of snow and ice, riddled with arrows and cleaved in twain by axes and swords.

The wind picks up, causing brief whiteout conditions as the powdery top layer of snow whirls and snaps through the remains of the town with a howl on the wind. But something in that wind, in the way it howls seems unusual. While the branches of dead, stickbare trees clatter together, the ice up against the hull of the Red Wraith crunches and grinds, it's as if there's some other sound just behind all of the others waiting to be heard.

As the whiteout clears, everyone can hear it clearly and as plain as day. Faint noises that sound like whispers and voices on the wind blow and drift. They speak only in nonsense and hushed syllables, but their significance implies not an immediate threat, but perhaps a more far-reaching one. To Talavuc, the threat is as clear as day.

It is the Morozko.

At the sound of the hushed ethereal whispers reaches them Rasso looks to the others. "Anyone know what them there creepy ass voices were?"

"Those voices weren't here until you arrived." Ordrud replies to the fishman. I've been staring at that damn geese sign for two days. I hope it has all the food that I imagined. I'm starving. He thinks to himself to keep the horrors of the wind from his imagination.

"Well, at least I know I'm not going insane, and I'm not the only one hearing it. And yes, Ordrud, I can spare some food once we get inside. I've packed enough for over a month, for my self at least. I can spare a bit, as well as get some coffee brewing. Could use some in this damnable weather.."

Marcellano walks in silence from then on until they get to the inn, thinking about the old days back in the Shackles. Back in warmer weather. Glad I brought coffee on this expedition.. I knew it was going to get cold, but I didn't think this damn weather was haunted as well. I'm really starting to miss those heat waves back in the Shackles.

The whispers startle Talavuc. How dearly she had wished that this was not what had harried her people for so long, and yet part of her wanted it to be the same. Perhaps then, she might find some answers. "Morozko— We must get inside now. The dead walk these storms, driven by a desire to snuff out warmth. It is not wise to be outside."

"Agreed," Ar'Zarrcal concurs, "Let us seek shelter and then Ordrud, spawn of Oruk, can explain the situation here. He is but one part of the expedition we were sent to find. Let us hear his story where the wind does not whisper." He looked at the towering half-orc with obvious suspicion. His lips twisted downward into a deep frown as snow and ice got blown into his ragged black beard.

The mention of coffee did not improve the dwarfs mood. Alas, Ar'Zarrcal traded away his coffee, but by the strange arcane forces directing these winter storms, he was certain that far greater difficulties lay ahead. Worse came to worse, he could nearly boil some grog and force the liquid down his throat.

He trudged forward toward the buildings, following behind the lead of the half-orc. "You mentioned hunters. You will explain this to us, Yes?" he asked of the grey skinned brute though teeth gritted against the cold. His breath steamed in the air and he pulled his heavy winter cloak more tightly about his stocky frame.

"Yes." Ordrud grunts in curt reply.

An upset look crosses Talavuc's face as they headed for the abandoned building. It is obvious to everyone around her that the erutaki is deeply troubled by the current development. Naasvit, sensing his companion's worry, stirs about anxiously in the snow.

Trudging soundlessly through the windblown snow drifts into the abandoned village of Falcons Hollow, watching the group's back, Teladon shivered. Self-awareness told the austere elf that the shiver was not caused by the wind and the cold. Growing up within the Spire, surrounded by the old northern winds and the steaming cauldron sea Teladon knew something of the cold. No, the shiver was not caused by the temperature; it was caused by something far, far worse. Cocking his head into the wind, the elf tried to push his senses outward listening for the snow veiled babble, trying to understand what others might call madness.

Walking onward to the village tavern, Teladon continued to listen quietly. His training had taught him that there was far more happening at this moment then the others realized. None of the Elder Counsel would be able to call a storm of this magnitude into existence. Perhaps the legendary mages Nex or Geb could have done something of this sort, but here? Now? Shaking his head the standoffish elf continued to mull over the possibilities while subconsciously shying away from the light carried by the pale human and moving up to guard the right flank nearest to Talavuc. This is magic that much is clear. It also carries with it the touch of the arcane. Interesting, I had initially thought it might be druidic in nature, but now I don’t think so. Whatever it is, it’s exceptionally powerful, perhaps to the degree of an artifact.

Maintaining his steadfast march through the snow, Teladon was interrupted in his thoughts by Talavuc speaking from behind her fur-lined parka of a Morozko. Closing his eyes, Teladon gritted his teeth before taking a long deep breath. Just loud enough to be heard over the wind, Teladon leaned in towards Talavuc and whispered. "Morozko’s…" The elven magus whispered causing a puff of hot air to disperse from his mask . "Are they linked to something? It would be very old. Do your people have any stories of such objects?""

The sudden closeness of the elf made her feel a bit uncomfortable. Strange… Distant, this one… She doesn't reply at first to him, her thoughts running over his questions. Just as he seems likely to lean away, she speaks. "Morozko… The closest translation, is 'the hungry storm.' They have existed for a long time in the Crown. During the coldest times of the year, they occasionally strike down from the High Ice. They are raging storms that attempt to consume those caught in them in a flurry of wind-blown snow and bone-chilling cold. They have become more common over the past several years, ranging further and further south. With them came the dead, frozen yet moving, hungering for the warmth of the living." She pauses for a moment, a pained look evident on her face.

Teladon's mind raced. It must be an artifact and something that would have to tap into ley-lines or another form of immense power. This does not make any sense, if it was a artifact, it would likely be immovable and geocentric… Unless… It was a focused attempt by many individuals involving a large scale ritual… but that— that would require and a staggering amount of coordination. But, spells such as this do exists.. I know because one was used on my people to bring down the sky.

As the group treks across the harbor through the howling wind and biting snow, the building Ordrud mentioned comes into view. The ice-encrusted shingle of the tavern bearing a wood-burned depiction of two geese facing one-another with wings flapping has an inviting script of gold leaf that reads, The Goose 'n' Gander. Even though much of the sign is spotted with frost and clinging snow, the expedition team can make out enough of the name to understand it.

With Ordrud on point, the group approaches the four and a half foot high snowdrift in front of the double doors. Ordrud's snowshoes crunch and pack down the drift as he climbs up it, then crouches down to work the door latch. Like much of the rest of Falcon's Hollow, nothing is locked, nothing is secured, but no one is here. The doors swing inward to the dark recesses of the inn, and as Ordrud hops down from the snowbank he tracks in a heap of snow. For the others, the approach is more arduous, having to climb through waist deep or higher snow, over obscured front steps, and then plow through into the pitch black foyer of the tavern.

Once sunrods and ioun torches are brought inside, the abandoned splendor of the tavern is revealed in glittering fashion. The interior walls and most furnishings are coated in a thin sheet of frost. high overhead, a chandelier made out of deer antlers and bones sparkles with otherworldly light from the way the team's light sources play off of the refractive ice crystals.

Being inside brings reprieve from the driving wind but only insulates partially from the cold. Windows covered with frost conceal the outside, thought he dull glow of lights on the Red Wraith are seen as an amber blotch through some. The expedition team can see their warm breaths on the air still, and feel slippery frost underfoot. It's been a long while since anyone was here.

Dozens of round tables fill the open tavern floor, its full bar remains stocked, stools and chairs empty of anyone. A pair of hearths on either side of the ground floor are cold and dusted with snow that has come down the chimney, yet fresh firewood crusted with frost is stacked ready to burn beside it. A curving staircase near the door leads up to a balcony that overlooks the dining floor and leads to the inn rooms.

On some of the tables there are bowls and plates with utensils, mugs half full of frozen ale, half-finished meals preserved by the cold. But there is no sign of struggle, no sign of panic, no sign of anyone or anything.

It's like they all just got up and left.

Once Ordrud makes it inside, he removes his snowshoes and secures them to his backpack. "I'd hesitate to call this welcoming, though it does afford us shelter." Fenyx murmurs on entering, "Perhaps there is some stronger drink yet about to help those with trouble shaking the chill?" The necromancer begins shutting the inn's doors once everyone is inside, leaning into them with what scant weight his frame affords him to accomplish this.

"I might encourage us to see what amenities the inn still avails the road-weary traveler. Food and drink and warmth seem likely. Perhaps we could set to securing the inn and exploring the rooms beyond whilst I get a fire going? If that is agreeable to everyone, of course." The lanky wizard utters a barely audible incantation and begins making gestures akin to one shaking loose grime or debris from their hands. As he does so, chunks of snow caked onto his robes dislodge into clumps on the floor. "Also, for any that might be interested, I am fully capable of making any food we find a little more palatable."

"I've been imagining the comforts of this place for two days," Ordrud says to no one in particular. While the necromancer cleans himself, Ordrud returns the shovel to his backpack and heads to the bar to search for good liquid insulation. Before the necromancer starts to make a fire, Ordrud suggests, "the smoke from the chimney could be seen for miles. Let's not start a fire yet. Besides, I don't know how much time we have before my hunters descend on us after seeing the lights of the Wraith. We can do a quick search of this place for anything useful, but we should otherwise be ready to go and fight. It may take me a bit to get you up to speed with the demise of my team." He concludes with a shot of the best liquor that he could find and continues, "Ahh. I would really appreciate anything to eat at this point." He pours himself another shot.

Marcellano helps Fenyx shovel some of the snow out of the way with his own shovel, before restrapping it onto his backpack.

"Its more welcoming than outside, at least. And I think we should scope the building before we get comfortable - you never know what might be in here. Perhaps we can find survivors, too, though that much is unlikely. I'll go check upstairs."

Marcellano heads towards the stairs and goes up them, musket at the ready in case of movement and disappears out of sight, only the loud thunk of his footfalls giving any indication of where he is within the inn.

Ar'Zarrcal was easily the shortest of the group and while he offered no words of appreciation, he was pleased to be within a warm shelter and out of the blistering cold. His steely gaze moved immediately to search out the interior, not needing to rely on the glow of the lights his company brought with him. It was clear that nothing living had been here in some time, but he offered no word to halt Marcellano's exploration. Such directives were the domain of the Andorran captain, at least for now.

Instead Ar'Zarrcal followed the Orc-blooded Ordrud to the bar and fished out some oldlaw or some other whiskey to warm his belly. He grumbled in disgust to find it partially frozen. Breaking open the top of the bottle, he used a knife to chip off pieces of the frozen liquor into a frosted clay mug. Moderation was taken for now, filling only one mug to the lip with a combination of ice whiskey and the liquid product. Moderation for a dwarf at least. He was eager to here Ordrud's tale. Suspicion still clouded the rune-scarred dwarf's frozen gaze.

"Ambassador Dagannauth, on this I agree with Ordrud. It would be best to avoid a fire for now. The warmth and smoke could attract unwanted attention."He fished with his fingers into the cup and pulled out a large chunk of the frozen drink. He licked his lips and placed it in his mouth, letting it melt slowly on his tongue.

Talavuc gives a low whistle of appreciation at the new surroundings and the mink starts searching about the place with sniffing noise and clattering claws. "I wouldn't drink alcohol at a time like this. It may make you feel warmer, but it doesn't last long and will actually help to make you colder in the long run."

Ordrud replies, "Thanks, mum." Then salutes her with his shot and downs it. He secures the bottle top and puts both it and cup into his backpack before the alcohol scavengers arrive.

Talavuc heads into the room, nose wrinkled, scanning for a place to sit that isn't covered in frost. "How did your team die, Ordrud?"

The erutaki's blunt question is interrupted by the clomping return of the armored marine, having completed his survey of the building. "The place is clear, as far as I can tell," is the Chelish marine's assessment. "Didn't see any recent signs of activity, either, although some of the bedrooms upstairs looked like they had been rifled through a while back. "

Marcellano looks considerably more at ease now that he's checked to make sure the building is clear. He sets down his pack and goes through the remaining alcohol to see what kind there is, either not having heard or blatantly ignoring Talavuc's warning. He leans his musket he leans against the bar, although he keeps close to it. "Lets see…"

Rasso, having taken up a post near the door, stares through the window out into the town. Talkin' wind. Aint no time fer drinkin'. Besides I already done that this morning. He thinks, grinning. The mild buzz of the rum he had brushed his teeth with, and drank with breakfast has yet to wear off. His red eyes remain unblinkingly trained outside, while one ear is turned to listen to Ordrud, should he actually get to spilling to beans.

Fenyx abandons his spot by the hearth for the time being. Seeing his Shalasti companion struggling to enjoy his whiskey, he begins rubbing his hands together quickly as he approaches. He grips the bottle with both hands, covering as much surface area on the bottle as his hands can grasp. He repeats the process with any drinks that are being actively consumed, melting all of the frozen libations in short order.

As he finishes with Marcellano's drink, he moves behind the bar to peruse the selection. He ultimately settles on the best wine and the strongest liquor he comes across—a Sarain Pinot Noir and a plain looking bottle of Vjarik. Fenyx seems uninterested in consuming any alcohol at the moment, however, and merely stores them in his backpack.

"Ah," Styvanus grimaces at Talavuc's wording. "What's your story, Ordrud?"

Nodding to the captain, Ordrud starts his story, which is occasionally interrupted by him sating his voracious appetite. ”We departed from Almas twelve days ago. Four Humans: Captain Talisa Gwynn, Braden Tavel, Andis Lohengrin and Cerasan Falentini; Girardin Shalewind, a Dwarf; Tycora Sandein, a Half-Elf cleric of Iomedae; and me. The first three days were uneventful traveling up river on the Red Wraith."

Taking another swig of his drink, Ordrud continues. "Upon reaching Falcon's Hollow, we found the residents had disappeared without a trace. We spent a day searching the town for survivors. None were found, but evidence of a raid and looting were. We could see a tornado of snow and ice spinning stationary inside the nearby Darkmoon Wood." It's here that the half-orc looks frustrated, and his recollection of the story is more grumbling.

"The next day, we set out north toward Darkmoon Wood and the Lumber Consortium camp, our first planned waypoint. It took nearly all day to hike the eight miles north to the woods. We found the lumber camp burned to the ground several months previously. We camped in the ruins. From here we could see a cyclone of snow spinning somewhere in the middle of the forest over the treetops." With his drink-laden hand, Ordrud motions in the direction he believes the storm would lie in.

"In the morning, we continued north into the Darkmoon Wood. At dusk, we were ambushed crossing a frozen section of the river by a ruined bridge. Five winged faeries about a foot tall, humanlike with sky blue skin and white hair that gave off a natural icy glow around their bodies jumped us from invisibility. I caught one of those buggers with my cold iron Feyswatter,” He grins patting his greatsword. ”They ran away from me, but then came this troll-giant thing swinging a tree as a club. Nine feet tall, hunched posture, knottled and gnarled skin covered with a variety of moss and shingle mushrooms. He too had a "wintry" appearance with his coloration of blues and whites. After I sliced him with a good solid, he flattened me with one shot. Everything went black."

"The fairies are sprites," Talavuc chimes in, "but strangely ones that should be native to Irrisen. They've got a number of magics at their disposal, most of it useful for trickery. The troll creature is a variety of troll known as a moss troll. They fear fire, as they won't regenerate from wounds caused by it. It could well have stalked you for days."

Recalling a bit of information, Ordrud closes his eyes. "Oh, yeah…" his expression shifts to a scowl. "The commander of this ambush, barking out orders to the troll, was a full-on winter witch in all her hoary glory. She was dressed in a robe of pure white fashioned from layers of different textured fabrics but no visible protection from the cold. She wore a black wooden mask on her face with gnarled branch horns, sculpted to resemble a woman's face. She stayed at a distance and opened with a storm of snow and ice to whip through the forest that cut visibility to near nothing. Then, she conjured spears of ice that flew through the air and struck the captain in the arm…"

It's obvious that Ordrud is chiding himself as he recalls the events. "After she summoned this enormous patch of writhing, inky black tentacles under most of the team, the captain sounded the retreat. I had just downed a curative potion, gotten up, and watched Girardin stoned from a single blow by the troll. Bradin was poisoned and had difficulty defending himself. Basically, we were screwed."

Finishing his drink, Ordrud sets the glass down on the bar. "After ten minutes of rabbiting, a group of nine Human hunters caught my tracks. They seemed intimately familiar with the woods and appeared to be working together with winter witch. They did not wear any sort of identifying uniforms or insignas and were all lightly armored or unarmored and were armed with muskets and bows."

By now, Ordrud has broken into the remaining food stores, stuffing his face hungrily between sentences. "Those bastards chased me for nearly two full days never getting closer than 100 feet. They were heavily dressed for the cold and pursued me faster through the snow than any untrained individuals could have due to the snow depth; two to four feet in most places. They fired on me without attempting to make contact of any kind when they spotted me. I heard them shouting directions to one another in a Taldan accent. I retreated west and then southwest along the edge of the Darkmoon Wood and then cut back southeast to return to Falcon's Hollow. I never saw any other survivors."

"After another night, I got back to Falcon’s Hallow," Ordrud notes with a wave around his surroundings, "and climbed into a second story window of the Rouge Lady across the street. I figured no one would go there without the entertainment. I didn’t have any food, but I was out of the wind and wasn’t making anymore tracks for the hunters. That was two days ago. I sure was happy to the Wraith again.” He continues to eat like he hasn’t seen food for days, pausing only to drink from his waterskin. His injuries are more apparent now, limiting his movements.

"A grim tale. So fairies, witches and men of ill temper await us in yon hoary forest? Greaaaatttt." Rasso says sardonically. Maybe I shoulda had some of those funny shoes fitted fer me frame. Getting caught up in deep snow aint gonna help me fight none. "What happened to the, uh, snownado?"

Ordrud shrugs in response, "Still there, last I checked."

"Our enemies are better supplied and know the terrain well," Talavuc points out, "This does not bode well." She looks down in thought, tracing the lines of the floorboards with her eyes. "It may serve us best to lure them here. Have the hunters searched this town for you after you escaped them?"

"No, the hunters haven't been to town in the past couple of days. The alcohol was to celebrate the life that I still have, and the second one was to honor my fallen teammates who I hope to recover." Ordrud replies to the female. He starts to pick through the remnants of his personal banquet, obviously on his last lap of eating.

"Which one of you is a healer? I'm running at half strength, right now. I've also exhausted both cure potions the Andorans gave me. Do you have a spare or two. I'll trade them for potions of endure elements that I haven't really needed."

"Am I really the only one with magical healing here?" Rasso says, looking around at the others. "If so that's a gods damned shame, because I'm shit at it. I also have need of me energies for fighting."

"I have a healer's kit and surgeon's tools, but the only magical healing I have is from the two potions given to me by our superiors, and, if the zombies on the ship were any indication, I think I might be needing those later."

"I can heal as well," Talavuc explains, "but typically do not pray for such magics. I carry a wand with such energies in it, should anyone need it. Considering how cut-off we are at the moment, I'd rather not expend much more from it than needed."

Marcellano takes one last swig of his drink before putting down the cup and picking his musket back up. "Alright, so the lumber camp's a bust, as you said. Didn't the Knight-Commander mention some kind of lodge? Perhaps that should be our destination? Those hunters have to have some kind of base of operations.. if you said they were as well-dressed for the cold as you said, then they probably ain't immune to it - so they need a warm place to rest. Or do we know of any other place they could be hiding? If we can hit them when they're not expecting an attack - especially from not so many of us - would be a good tactical advantage."

Never looking back at the others, Teladon continued his vigil. If they would not stand at the ready then he would have to. Listening as the others continued to eat and drunk, the elf just shook his head. Personally, Teladon had no issues with alcohol himself. He would imbibe along with the rest of his people during diurnal celebration of the zenith and in the winter months following the Ritual of Stardust, but here and now? This was not a time to celebrate. People did not whisper that the end was near; no people yelled it from the mountaintops. There was nothing to here celebrate and mourning through alcohol was foolish.

Back ridged and peering out from his mask, the magnus’s eyes continued to scan the snow covered street, never waiver in its movement. Thoughtfully, Teladon’s gloved hand ran along his mask in the same direction as the horrific scar that covered his face. When Arylon had fallen in the battle for Celwynvian, Teladon had grieved. He had made his offerings to the gods and anointed his brothers brow in holly sprig and juniper oil. He had said the hallowed words of remembrance and clutched tight to the knowledge that Arylon had taken the next step in his quest towards the brightness. The elven warrior would be lying if he said that he had been at peace with his brother’s loss. There had been anger.. there still was. Sighing, Teladon reached into his bag and withdrew a small bit of wayfar bread. Let them eat them frozen meat and cheese made from unclean beasts. Teladon had brought his own stores.. they would suffice. Lifting his mask just enough to reach his mouth the elf took a single bite of the elven bread, slowly chewing on it while gazing out of the window. Lowering his mask, the elf closed his bag and set it beside him.

There is nothing to celebrate here, only things to mourn. But even in morning there is no cause to abandon your duties. Teladon contemplated his other hand never leaving his sword. Duty is heavier them a mountain… but I will not shirk it, even here and now amongst outsiders. Let them see me and know the determination of my people.

Rasso looks askance at the stoic elf next to him at the window. "What's the bread made of mate?" he asks, as he stares into the snow.

Peering out from the frost rimmed window Teladon blinks slowly behind the mask. "It is lem-bas… In your tongue it is 'way-bread'." Still savoring the taste of his homeland, the reserved elf leans in towards the window. "It last forever and single wafer can sustain an elf for a day. It is a secret of my people; I will speak no more of it." Scowling beneath his mask Teladon shrugs his shoulders in frustration. It was only a matter of time before the others began prying.

As they both gaze out the window, neither Teladon nor Rasso can see much of anything outside. The snow whips about in blinding flurries against the dark of morning and even the distant lantern lights of the Red Wraith seem hazy and indistinct. At their feet, the shuffling, slender frame of Talavuc's mink Naasvit snuffles and sniffs along the floor, nosing around Rasso's right foot before continuing his search of the inn, occasionally pausing to scratch at a piece of refuse or dropped food on the floor.

The wind howls loudly outside, wailing against the walls of the inn and at times rattling the windows. Rasso and Teladon can hear the whispering neigh-voices on that storm wind, always to faint to be anything other than a susurrus against wood and glass.

A dark shape passes by the window Rasso and Teladon peer out of, but only Teladon seems to notice it. It was so quick, so brief, that maybe it was a trick of the light from the ship. To Rasso there's just the blizzard beyond the frosted glass. A moment later, Teladon sees it again, something move between the window of the inn and the lights of the Wraith in the distance, a silhouette or perhaps silhouettes.

Talavuc at the same moment notices Naasvit perk up, rise slightly up off of his front legs and twist his head towards the front door of the inn, nose twitching rapidly

"The witch you and your team encountered was wielding some potent magics, though nothing comparable with the ability of Karzoug the Claimer. The tornado of snow, however seems to be something else entirely and I suspect beyond the power of that witch. It sounds very similar to the magical storm of ice and snow which hit Rahadoum. The same one that destroyed an entire city before being disjoined by Rahadoumi wizards." Ar'Zarrcal sipped at his now unfrozen beverage and then nibbled on some of the cheese set out. He glanced over to the elf. The masked one seemed to still be keeping watch, but also listening. Perhaps he would have something to add in regards to the faeries. Elves and faeries were allied weren't they? Or was that Gnomes and Faeries?

Ar'Zarrcal then turned his gaze to Ordrud. He stared hard at the Orc-blooded warrior for some time and then finally spoke. "I can knit your wounds, should you accept the blessing and power of Lissala into your body and soul. She does not usually grant her gifts to nonbelievers."

He had prayed for a spell of healing that he had intended to save should he or his fellow ambassador of Shalast become wounded, but thought it prudent to aid the Orc. If he could bend that one toward the purposes of Karzoug, all the better.

"Woah!" Rasso interjects, "Before you go giving yerself over to the Runelord there, I'll fix ye up. C'mere." Rasso says, fishing out his bottle of fiend blood. "Where ya hurt?" he asks, before thickly slathering the blood on the indicated areas. A few seconds chanting in his burbling mother tongue, and the half-orc's wounds begin to knit themselves back up.

Ordrud nods to Ar'Zarrcal says, "Next time." He takes a big bite and heads next to Rasso while chewing. What is this thing? he asks himself instead of asking Rasso.

Ar'Zarrcal bowed his head in an almost solemn manner and it looked like he was about to perform a divine blessing, his fingers going to the heavy iron Sihedron he wore about his neck. Several of the varied runes that marred and tattoo'd his form also began to shed a faint luminesce, but Rasso's sudden interuption broke the gathering enchantment.

The icy blue eyes of the servant of Karzoug focused on Rasso, not with any great antipathy, but rather a mixture of confusion and curiosity. A cool and patronizing smile forced its way across the lips of the herald of Shalast when he heard the words and saw the material source of the Merman's healing. So Rasso feared the blessing and influence of Lissala over the Orc-blooded warrior, but not the very palaple taint of the infernal? Was he ignorant of the fact that he channeled the power of devils each time he used that encantation? Surely Ordrud would feel the influence on his body and soul, at least briefly. Far more corrupting than the gift of his goddess. Perhaps he merely wished to maintain a wedge between the Shalasti and the rest of the unit. That seemed plausible.

"Next time then." The dwarf said simply to Ordrud.

Satisfied with the results of his planar magic, Rasso gives Ordrud a pat on the back and leaves him to discuss more pressing matters of strategy or something like that with Styvanus. Returning to his spot by the window, he offers a side-long look to Teladon. The elf does not give any recognition that he even notices Rasso. Remaining inert, Teladon quietly whispers from behind his mask to the Merfolk a question. "Tell me Mer-kin have you ever fought an aboleth? They…" Trailing off in mid-sentence Teladon blinks, only now noticing the giant mink sense something as well. "Shh." Teladon trails off holding one finger up. "We are not alone. There is something moving out there. It is between us and the lights from the ship. I can make out at least one shape but I believe there are several." Unspoken was the second part of the statement: You were all foolish for not being prepares for this eventuality. When will you learn that Golarion is not the safe memory that it once was.

Talavuc nodded in agreement to Teladon, noticing that Naasvit was alert. "He senses something," she confirms, all the while admiring the legendary elven senses on display here. She had heard much of them, but seeing them in action is another matter entirely.

Ar'Zarrcal did not draw a weapon yet, but moved carefully to one of the other windows. He knew that the elf had good vision, but it likely paled next to his own. What was a little night compared to the endless dark beneath the mountains? Searching for a window that was not so frozen over to prevent a glimpse of what lay beyond, Ar'Zarrcal tried to pinpoint these dark moving shapes that the masked elf warned them.

It isn't the dark, so much as the snow, that hinders Ar'Zarrcal's vision. The blizzard cuts visibility down to hardly anything. Maybe the Mordant elf was jumping at shadows, maybe Naasvit smelled a piece of misplaced meat somewhere. Whatever it was, from inside the inn Ar'Zarrcal couldn't see anything other than snow and the darkness beyond.

Marcellano instantly quiets down and grabs his musket. He takes a semi-kneeling position behind the bar, takes his Ioun Torch and stows it in a pocket, then keeps silently keeps an eye out, mainly towards the stairs, in case someone decides to sneak in through an upstairs window. Well, that was quick, Marcellano chastises, if these are Ordrud's hunters, guess they've been waiting for him to make a move. That, or the elf's seeing things. Wouldn't put it past him… make a sick joke like that to try and get us on alert. Though, the druid's animal seems to have noticed something too… best to be careful either way.

Unlike the others, Teladon had been ready to act at a moment’s notice. Had the hunters that the orc-spawn spoke of burst through the door mid-conversation the elf would have been prepared for combat. While he couldn’t made out what direction the creatures were heading, it was logical that they were being drawn the Wrath like insects to a flame. Calming reaching for the pack that was sitting next to him, the elven magi carefully tightened each strap, knowing that any unexpected movement from his gear could throw off his blade forms. Unsheathing his blade with a quiet hiss, Teladon pointed with the blade towards the door. Eyes never leaving the window the emissary whispered, "No lights," Before moving up to the doorway.

Fenyx follows the party's lead, and stows away his ioun torch at the mention of potential danger. Expecting the worst, he makes ready for a perceived inevitability of conflict. Hands quietly trace well practiced forms in controlled gestures before his abdomen. He silently whispers an arcane phrase, "Со Мандрак наметка, ме заштити." A nebulous cloak of midnight seems to settle upon the man's shoulders. Its black tendrils reach around to envelop him fully before it disappears beneath his robes and skin entirely.

As the spell concludes, Fenyx crouches low and quietly shuffles over to a nearby table, placing it and as many chairs as possible between he and the entrance to the inn.

Rasso nods to the masked ambassador, "I assume whatever the somethings are they're headed fer the Wraith all lit up like a great floating brothel as she is. We aught to go save them, lest we be left stranded in this frozen asscrack for all eternity." Rasso heading to the front door, Rasso puts his hand on the knob. "Captain?" he asks, seeking confirmation from Styvanus before heading back outside.

Coming up on the windows with Rasso in tow, Styvanus looks worried by the sudden tense posturing. "Follow the elf's lead, no lights, stay low." Retrieving his shield off of his back, Styvanus gives a nod to Ordrud, watching the half-orc unsheathe his tremendous greatsword. At the same moment, Talavuc retrieves her spear from where she had propped it up against the wall.

Giving a nod of encouragement to Rasso, Styvanus moves towards the door, offering a brief nod of acknowledgement to Teladon. Hesitating for a moment, the Captain readies his shield and pulls his scarf up over his nose and mouth to shield himself against the blistering cold outside. Gingerly turning the latch of the door, Rasso pulls it open into the inn, allowing a torrent of wind and driving snow to blow inside.

As it becomes readily obvious to the others that something is amiss, Teladon sees something outside again. A shape moving in the dark, walking through the drifts of the snow. It's visible only but for a moment in a gulf between gusts of driving snow, but it looked like a human slowly stalking between the buildings, ten or fifteen feet out from the tavern. There were shadows that resembled more, but those could have been tricks of the eye.

Naasvit's head jerks in another direction and the mink hustles up to a window, leaping into a chair to press its nose up against the frosted glass. He makes a trilling sound, looking back to Talavuc, then hunches back and scrambles away from the window.

As the whiteout calms again, Teladon can see clearly out the window, and a silhouette of a humanoid figure can more clearly be seen this time. Where the light strikes him glistening with a multifaceted refraction of frost and snow. It's not heading towards the inn, but rather towards the harbor.

Towards the ship.

Creeping out of the tavern alongside Rasso, Styvanus gives a waving hand motion to the others to have them follow him out into the snow under the principle that if the snow obscures the attackers from their vision, it should do the same for them. As he moves through the shoveled trail that Fenyx and Ordrud made in front of the doors, Styvanus keeps his shield raised in the direction of the wind. Ice has already caked onto the shield's surface, crusted over his pants and clumped to the woolen fabric of his scarf.

Then, in the dark, as the wind dies down, Styvanus and Rasso both see figures in the night turning to face the inn. They are armored figures in battle-worn breastplate, partially consumed by sheets of jagged ice. Their eyes burn with a pale, heatless blue flame and their weapons are covered with a glistening sheen of frost. Even through the snow, they seem to have noticed not only Styvanus, but the others still inside the building obscured from sight.

Out the open door, Talavuc recognizes their appearance from legends of home. Ekimmu, the restless; creations of the hungry storm.

Talavuc was right, races through Styvanus' mind…

the dead walk the storm.

Previously Alltid
Continued In The Cold and the Dead
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