Icewind Dale: Session 1

It was the first week of Eleasis when we passed north of the Spine of the World, towards Icewind Dale, and into the frigid expanse of windswept tundra that seemed locked in a perpetual dark winter. Ferocious blizzards made the mountain pass exceedingly treacherous.

Icewind Dale has not felt the warmth of the sun in over two years. In fact, the sun no longer appears above the mountains, not even in what should be the height of summer. Most dale residents blame Auril the Frostmaiden, the god of winter's wrath. The shimmering aurora that weaves across the sky each night is said to be her doing—a potent spell that keeps the sun from rising above the horizon, turning midday into twilight and trapping Icewind Dale in winter's dark embrace, with no sunlight or warmth to melt the snow and ice.

The Dalefolk, who live in a scattering of settlements known as Ten-Towns, call this prolonged winter the Everlasting Rime. The drop-off in caravans coming from the south and travel between settlements in this never-ending winter has left everyone feeling isolated. Although each town has resolved to appease the Frostmaiden with sacrifices of one kind or another, no respite from winter's fury seems forthcoming.
The weather was just as gruesome when our caravan arrived at Bryn Shander, with howling winds, bitter cold, foul tempers, and snowdrifts big enough to bury a herd of moose. The walled town was perched atop a cold, lonely, wind-lashed hill. Bright lanterns suspended over narrow streets twisted in the wind and added flecks of color to the town's otherwise drab surroundings. The caravan master paid us our wages, and directed Blaze the Dawngreeter, Bran Folo, Brutus, and me to The Northlook, an establishment most frequented by mercenaries and adventurers.

Bran proclaimed himself a bard, but the way he leered at me when he thought I wasn't looking was worse then normal, and he sometimes seemed like quite he scoundrel. Not that I was worried, especially with Brutus by my side.

When we arrived at the local tavern, we were immediately summoned over by a halfling, who introduced himself as Erling Diggle. He told us that the place was abuzz with news about a series of recent killings. "Before the murders, the only question on everyone's mind was, 'Will summer ever return to Icewind Dale?' he said. "Now the question is, 'Will I be the killer's next victim?'"

I guess nothing breeds fear and paranoia like a murderer with no face.

Just then we noticed, sitting apart from a drunken lot of dwarves huddled in the corner of the tavern, an elderly shield dwarf with a nasty scar across her nose had been eyeing us. She stopped smoking her pipe and gave us a look like she has something worth knowing, so we all sauntered over.

She introduced herself as Hlin Trollbane, a retired bounty hunter. She was unarmored, but carried a battleaxe and handaxe. Having overheard our conversation, she explained that she has taken it upon herself to investigate the recent murders because no one else would—not even the Council of Speakers.

"Three cold-blooded murders have been committed in the past month," she divulged, "a halfling trapper in Easthaven, a human shipbuilder in Targos, and, three days ago, a dwarf glassblower in Bryn Shander. Each victim was found with a dagger of ice through the heart!

"What's the connection? There's one suspect: a man named Sephek Kaltro, who works for a small traveling merchant company called Torg's, which is owned and operated by a shady dwarf named Torrga Icevein. In other words, Sephek gets around. He's charming. Makes friends easily. He's also Torrga's bodyguard, so I'm guessing he's good with a blade.

"His victims come from the only three towns that sacrifice people to the Frostmaiden on nights of the new moon. This is what passes for civilized behavior in Icewind Dale. Maybe the victims found a way to keep their names out of the drawings and Sephek found out they were cheating, so he killed them. Maybe, just maybe, Sephek is doing the Frostmaiden's work.

"I followed Torg's for a tenday as it moved from town to town. Quite the devious little enterprise, but that's not my concern. What struck me is how comfortable Sephek Kaltro looked in this weather. No coat, no scarf, no gloves. It was like the cold couldn't touch him. Kiss of the Frostmaiden, indeed.

"I will pay you a hundred gold pieces to apprehend Sephek Kaltro, ascertain his guilt, and deal with him, preferably without involving the authorities. When the job is done, return to me to collect your money."

Hlin explained more about how Bryn Shander, Easthaven, and Targos are sacrificing their people to Auril, holding lotteries to determine who gets sacrificed on nights of the new moon. She said she's concerned that if Sephek Kaltro is killing Ten-Towners who cheat their way out of becoming sacrifices to Auril, it's likely he'll kill again. She said Torg's dogsled caravan was last seen heading toward Targos. We also learned that they usually spend a few days in each town before moving on.

Blaze and Erling were apprehensive about Hlin's motives. Erling mentioned concern about inteferring with local laws and customs. I was intrigued and eager to learn more about this 'Kiss of the Frostmaiden'.

While we were debating amongst ourselves, Hlin introduced us to three stocky figures bundled in cold weather garb, who had been huddled in the corner. They had snowshoes slung over their backs and ice picks fastened to their belts. Two of them had thick beards. The third held up a gloved hand and introduced herself through a thick wool scarf in a raspy voice, "Well met! I'm Hruna, and these are my friends, Korux and Storn. We need help, and you look capable."

Only their eyes are visible through their cold weather clothing, but as Hruna spoke, she removed her hood, revealing a missing right ear. She was also missing two fingers. Korux who just stared in silence, was missing three fingers and his nose! Hruna explained that the three of them work in a mine located in the valley at the base of Kelvin's Cairn, that provides most of the iron for the smithies in Ten-Towns. "We're the survivors of a group of dwarves tasked with delivering a sled of iron ingots to Bryn Shander," she went on. "A yeti surprised us and killed a member of our group. The rest of us fled as the yeti tore Oobok limb from limb. Now we need someone to go back and get the sled for us. As payment, we offer each of you a gemstone worth fifty gold pieces. The friendship of the dwarves of Icewind Dale can also be a boon in these harsh times. You'll need snowshoes to make the trip in good time."

We decided to try and find the missing sled first thing in the morning, as it was late and we had traveled all day. Bidding good night to the dwarves, we secured our rooms.

As soon as we were done paying for our rooms, Erling, from atop his barstool, whispered in my ear, "I think I can get some intel at seedy bar called Bloodril's. Maybe you can send Brutus with me to check it out."

I suggested we should all go, but he said it was too rough place to bring a lady. I suggested he go with Bran, and I would follow behind with Brutus.

When we got there, Brutus and I waited outside, expecting Bran to put on a performance, but the two of them soon returned, apparently without any information. We returned to The Northlook and slept.

In the morning we purchased the snow shoes we would need, but first we went to investigate the shop of Runton the deceased Glassblower. After searching the place, we found a chit with his name on it, but little else. Could this be the chit that was used in the lottery?

We headed out into the tundra, towards Kelvin's Cairn. After a few hours we crested a snow-covered ridge and saw a frozen, dismembered corpse in a gully. Snow covered some of the more gory bits, but the headless torso and severed limbs were clearly visible. We found fresh tracks in the snow all around the corpse, and followed the telltale grooves in the snow left behind by a sled that had been recently hauled away.

Making haste, we soon discovered that the tracks we had been following belonged to goblins. Six of them groaned, grunted, and cursed loudly as they hauled the bulky sled toward what appeared to be a twenty-foot-tall wagon parked in the snow, which was just at the edge of my firebolt range. Harnessed to this much larger conveyance were two roaring polar bears that didn't look happy.

We quickly agreed to attack them before they could reach their wagon. Erling complained that he had no weapons to reach them, so I lent him my crossbow. Brutus charged ahead with the others following. I was content to pick the goblins off from a distance.

Brutus was devastating as usual, handling the goblins as if they were children. Blaze was brave enough. Erling had apparently never shot a crossbow before. Bran only hurled insults, but at least they seemed to do more harm than Erlings' shots. Meanwhile my firebolts dropped more than my share.
In the blizzard we missed one of the goblins, who managed to limp back to the wagon. I was furious with myself for not closing in on it sooner. A different goblin appeared and began driving the wagon away, but not before Erling caught him with a crossbow bolt. Unfortunately the bears continued on and were clearly too fast for us.

We collected some coin from the goblins, as well as their weapons, and returned with the iron-laden sled toward Bryn Shander, with mixed feelings. I complimented everyone for their heroics and skill, still furious at my own hesitation.

Once we returned, the Hruna and her companions were grateful. She gladly paid us each the promised bloodstone, and promised us a ten percent discount on any goods we buy at the Black Iron Blades adventuring supplies outfitter.

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