Icewind Dale 34-38: Ravisin's Revenge

As we were headed west, skirting the edge of the forest to the north, we heard a familiar bellowing sound as an ice troll burst out of the woods and charged toward us.

Erling moved west and Bran moved east, the bard mocking it viciously, “Oh my God, you're so ugly your mother must have cast Darkness to feed you!”

The troll engaged Blaze, Oosi, and Mendel.

Shivering from the intense cold emanating from the creature, Blaze conjured a flaming sphere and rammed it into the troll.

As it howled in pain, I targeted it with my hunter’s mark, sunk two arrows deep into its chest, and joined Erling.

“Mendel, get out of here!” Oosi instructed as the mage shivered from the creature’s aura of cold, and cautiously followed the half-orc’s orders, passing Bran.

“Blaze, surround the thing!” Oosi instructed as he flew into a rage, also shivering from the cold.

Erling landed a crossbow bolt into the creature’s back.

“You're lucky to be born beautiful,” Bran mocked viciously, “but of course, I'm a liar.” The bard lent his inspiration to Oosi.

The troll circled Oosi, away from the fire. Inspired, Oosi avoided its claw, only to be bit by the creature.

Blaze rammed the flaming sphere into the troll again and hit it with one scorching ray.

“Leave my friend alone!” Mendel screeched as he hit the troll with three magic missiles.

Still shivering, Oosi slammed his warhammer through the troll’s chest.

We arrived at Lonelywood without further incident and headed to the speaker’s house.

“Oh, hello!” Nimsy Huddle greeted us eagerly.

“Oh, hi!” Erling replied, jumping in front of the plump, middle-aged halfling. “Nice to see you!”

“Oh boy!” she replied. You come in interesting times.”

“Oh, no,” Mendel muttered.

“Why thank you,” Erling continued. “We think so too. We'd love to come and have a cup of your hot cocoa and chat for a bit. I see you have a nice hearth going. It'll be lovely to share it with a fellow halfling for a change.”

The speaker led us into the warmth of her big fireplace.

“Oh my goodness,” Erling sighed. “This brings me warm feelings of the Shire back to my memories. I always love coming back here Mrs. Nimsey Huddle.”

Sitting in front of the fire was another middle-aged woman, a human. She glanced up and looked at us before turning her attention to the fire.

“Oh my,” Nimsey exclaimed as she prepared our cocoa. “We really could have used your help a few nights back!”

“Yeah, it seems like that's the theme of the Ten Towns lately,” Oosi replied. “Not enough of us to go around.”

“What happened?” Erling asked, “What happened?”

“Oh, it was awful,” she began to explain. “My children were so frightened! A few days ago, I can't remember exactly how many—it's so hard to tell time these days—out of the forest to the north of town, these large white wolves came breathing ice-cold frost from their mouths! They froze and killed anyone they saw! They were accompanied by a man, I think—he seemed to be a man, but he seemed to be made of pine needles. And as the wolves froze everything in sight, he proclaimed that Lonelywood was now the domain of the Frostmaiden and all would be preserved in ice. There was panic and pandemonium! Some tried to fight, but they were quickly dispatched by fang and ice, and the man, he seemed unfazed by our weapons. The only thing that saved Lonelywood was Iriskree Harrowhill.” She pointed to the old lady sitting by the fire.

“Hey,” Bran said, sitting beside the human woman.

“She stood firm,” Nimsey continued, “and threw exploding bottles of fire at the villains and chased them off. If it wasn't for her, the town would certainly have been doomed.”

“Wow!” Erling exclaimed in amazement. “You threw those big balls of fire at this crazy creature? What was that? What did you throw?”

She looked at us.

“Hey,” Bran repeated. “I heard you got firebombs.”

“Leave me alone,” she snickered at Bran.

“We’re on the same team,” Bran persisted. “Come on, you know, we're just looking for some little pointers. We heard you had some success fighting this. If we're going to head out and fight, we need to know what you did.”

“You're going to help fight?” she asked.

“We are against the long night,” Bran explained. “But we don’t know what we’re up against”

“You don't know who we are, do you, ma'am?” Erling asked.

“I have no idea who you are,” she replied flatly.

“Ah, well that explains everything now, doesn't it?” Erling stated. “I’m Erling Diggle, at your service. We've defeated this Ravisin fellow once before, and we’ve come up this way for the purposes of helping defeat that evil nemesis, uh, north of here yet again. And so it's quite fortuitous that we've met in these circumstances, one might say. Uh, our destinies may be intertwined.”

“My party and I,” Bran implored, “we are here to help. We are fighting against Ravisin, and we're looking for allies. We want to end the endless winter. We fought them before and won. We've come to fight them again, but we need to know if you have an advantage. If you found something, we're looking for your assistance and we ask, honestly, for your help. Please.”

“I believe you're telling me the truth,” She looked at Bran, and then at Erling. “Your friend there, I knew a guy like him once. All talk. It was a pleasure killing him. What's your name, Bard?”

“I am Bran,” he replied. “Bran Folo. And this is my companion—”

“I'm Iriskree,” She held out a hand and shook Bran’s hand. “Pleasure to meet you.”

“It's a pleasure to meet you,” Bran returned, stroking her hand.

“Share a cup of cocoa with me,” Iriskree invited Bran, giving Erling a nasty look.

“Cocoa all round,” Bran proclaimed.

Nimsey brought out some cocoa and asked us about our adventures around the Ten Towns. As we spoke, Bran continued to ply Iriskree for information but learned nothing new.

“We have faced wolves like this in the past,” I noted.

“Uh,” Iriskree replied, “but they weren't just winter wolves. They seemed smarter and they were being directed by this wooden man—I don't—it's hard to determine what he was. He seemed to be a construct.”

“Did he have, like, wooden armor,” Bran queried, “or do you think perhaps he was some kind of mechanical...?”

“No,” she answered. “He seemed like a living plant.”

“It might have been Ravisin,” Erling inferred, “since she was brought back from her death by her god and resurrected to come, you know, harass this town again as an avatar.”

“Didn't we leave a wooden creature behind in Ravisin’s lair?” I hinted.

“Oh,” Erling recalled, “do you mean that little shrub? That intelligent shrub?”

“Indeed,” I confirmed.

“I can't think that's gonna be it,” Erling figured. “I think it's gonna be Ravisin. Ravisin was brought back, fired up with some extra power from her god, since she was, like, resurrected, to come, you know, to come do her worst.”

“Iriskree, what can you tell us about fighting these wolves?” Bran asked. “What is best for us to use against them, or what did you fight against them?”

“They seemed like they didn't like fire,” Iriskree shared. “I threw a concoction I created, of oil and old recipes I knew, that were rather incendiary.”

“Iriskree, do you have any interest in coming with us to combat these creatures that are attacking the town?” Bran asked. “Can we count on your assistance?”

“I think I'll stay in town and protect the town,” Iriskree replied.

“Perhaps you could assist us with some of this concoction that you were able to use,” I suggested.

“No,” she replied. “No, I don't think so.”

“So you won't assist us by helping us fight these creatures?” Bran asked.

“You seem like a tough group,” Iriskree justified. “I'm sure you could handle it if you decide to go out there.”

“That is why we are here,” I confirmed.

Bran continued to subtly interrogate Iriskree but learned nothing else other than that she claimed to not know who Macreadus was.

Meanwhile, Erling was trying to discreetly chat up Nimsey on the side. “What’s her deal? What's going on with that? What's up with her?”

“Iriskree doesn’t talk much,” Nimsey explained. “She runs The Happy Scrimshander, a little shop that sells the tools of the trade for scrimshanders. She keeps to herself and she stepped up and saved the town.”

Bran offered to buy some of the concoctions that Isirkree used to fight the creatures, but she refused, stating, “I don't sell that. I sell needles, knives, inks in a rainbow of colors, wax used to seal, and engraving when it's done.”

“And you won't use it to help us help the town,” I pressed.

“I used my supply to help the town,” She explained. “And I'm going to keep my knowledge and my supplies to myself.”

“Well, you know that's a very good idea,” Oosi said, stepping up. “You can be a second line of defense. If we don't succeed in killing this invasion, then you can be a second line of defense to save the town, if we should fail, which I doubt. And I for one, I'm happy that you're here, and you were able to hold them off like you did.”

“Thank you,” she nodded.

“Good for you,” Oosi added. “So whatever you see fit to share with us, we would be grateful for.”

“Well, perhaps I can, you know, come to the shop and see if you can,” Oosi pulled over a chair and pulled out some of his woodcarver’s knives and tools, “perhaps, you would, you know, you could sharpen some of these tools that I have. I've been, you know, using them and they seem to be getting rather dull. Is this something you could—you think you might be able to help out with?”

“Yeah,” Iriskree replied. “I got the tools in my shop to do that. Come by tomorrow.”

“Yeah, absolutely,” Oosi agreed, pulling out some of the finger-sized pieces he'd been working on, that vaguely resembled the creatures we’d encountered. “These are some of the pieces I've been working on, but I’ve been looking for some finer tools to get some—a little more detail into—”

“Oh honey,” Iriskree advised, examining Oosi’s work, “maybe you should find a new hobby.”

“Well, I need some better tools, is what I'm getting at,” Oosi insisted. “These are just—are rather worn. I was hoping, perhaps you could—”

“Come by the shop,” she replied. “Maybe we can get you some better tools.”

Mendel quietly asked me for the chwinga statue we found near Dougan's Hole.

“Oh well, what do you think of this?” Bran asked, pulling some scrimshaw pieces out from his inventory.

“Oh, these are very well done,” she admired. “Did you carve these?”

“I didn't, but we received it as a gift and we were very impressed with their artwork as well,” Bran conceded. “You know, we have a great appreciation for the art. Perhaps, maybe, you know, when this is all done, you could teach us this craft and we could all learn it. I'm very interested in it. I'm a great appreciator of beauty and things of art.”

“Yeah,” she seemed impressed with his collection. “These are worth something. It's good. It's good enough to sell.”

“How much do you think, perhaps,” Bran inquired, “it is worth out of curiosity?”

“You can probably get ten gold each for these,” she claimed, after examining them further.

“Ten gold?” Bran considered. “Yeah. It's a very nice piece, but I think it's too dear for me to part with right now. It's a craft I would love to learn. Perhaps you could teach me sometime.”

“Yeah, I wouldn't mind giving you lessons,” Iriskree offered. “Scrimshandering is a very relaxing trade. I think it's ideal for the retired adventurer.”

“I'm not ready for retiring yet, my dear,” Bran swooned, gently stroking her hand, and taking back the scrimshaw.

After fetching it from my pack, I gave Mendel the chwinga statue and he discreetly passed it to Oosi.

“I think I may have another item that may be of interest to you,” Oosi said, pulling out the chwinga statue. As Bran swooned, he continued, “We found this in our travels, as we were defeating these evil creatures of the Ten Towns. Mendel, come here.”

“Oosi, do you mind if I take that for a second?” Bran asked. “Can I have a closer look at that?”

“Why don't you tell this nice lady,” Oosi continued, “the history of this thing. Mendel here is an excellent historian of such things.”

“Well,” Mendel expounded, “we found that, in fact, where we slew those winter wolves, they were invading another town further to the south. Dougan’s Hole. They were snatching children from the town, and in their lair, we found this!”

“It is a friendly nature spirit,” I added.

“Indeed,” Iriskree took the statue and examined it. “It is the corpse of a chwinga.”

“Is it a corpse?” Mendel asked. “How can you tell that it's a corpse and not a carving?”

“I've encountered these creatures before,” she explained. “I had to kill one once.”

“You had to kill a chwinga?” I asked. “Why did you have to do that?”

“That's none of your concern,” she replied.

“I think all we need to know is that milady here is quite the accomplished adventurer within her own right I might add,” Oosi cut in. “And that's good enough for me.”

“That does make me sad, though,” Bran sympathized, “because we’ve had a peaceful interaction with the chwingas so far.”

“We have found them to be friendly nature spirits,” I added.

“Okay,” she acknowledged.

Hushing me with his hand, Mendel continued, “As you were saying, so you can tell the difference? Can you show me how you tell the difference, that it's an actual corpse and not a carving?”

“Well, you can break it,” she suggested and grasped its tiny stone legs.

“Do not,” I stated.

She released the legs and handed it back, saying “Yeah, I killed one before and this is what happens to them when they die.”

“Oh,” Mendel was fascinated, “they all turned to stone once they die?”

“Yeah, it's not really stone,” she explained. “It's this stone-like mineral. You can see it if you break it open.”

“Oh, I see,” Mendel praised. “You are very talented and very knowledgeable. And that's why we're eager for any help that you could offer us?”

Bran asked what situation she ran into that she had to kill the chwinga. “Can you tell us the story of that?”

“They can be…” she hesitated, “Uh, a nuisance.”

“A nuisance, yes,” Bran acknowledged, “but hostile? I find that surprising. That is not in our experience.”

Mendel retrieved the chwinga corpse and handed it back to me, while Bran continued to ply his charms.

“Well, look,” Iriskree offered, “if you and the half-orc come by my shop tomorrow, I'll give you a couple of bottles of my concoction, but don't bring these other yahoos.” She indicated Erling and I.

“I thank you very much, my lady,” Bran replied. “It's more than the help that we could possibly hope for and we appreciate all of your assistance. I'm sure we're both aligned with trying to help this town. Thank you immensely.

“No problem,” she warned, “but if I see you selling my formula, you will not last long.”

“It would never happen, milady,” Bran promised.

“Goodnight,” Oosi said, as Iriskree rose to excuse herself, “It was nice to meet you. I'll look forward to seeing you.”

She stiffened as Bran gave her a hug and a kiss on the cheek, adding, “Thank you again, milady.”

She left the building

After Nimsey fed us, we rested in her attic and the night passed uneventfully.

While we were drinking cocoa and eating breakfast, I heard an unfamiliar female voice speaking Drow in my mind, “Dre’zel has a message for you. Not only are you a traitor, you’re a murderer too. Because of you, they took my son from me. Surrender and the slave, Fri’zel, will be freed. Zapophis requires your execution to save face. Refuse and the torture before his death will be severe.

As Bran was grabbing an extra cup of cocoa for Iriskree, I informed my companions, “I just received a message in my mind.”

“Ah,” Erling wondered aloud. “What message might that be?”

“That my wife has a message for me,” I described, “that not only am I a traitor, but I am a murderer too because they have taken our son from her. Only if I surrender, will my enslaved son be freed. The house requires my execution to save face, or they will torture him to death.”

“Oh, so your son’s still alive?” Erling asked.

“According to this message,” I answered.

“Are you able to get any more information,” Erling asked, “or is this like just a one-way thing?”

“Frizzt, do we have any chance of saving your son?” Bran asked, “And liberating him, bringing him into the surface with you?”

“Perhaps if I surrender,” I suggested.

“That's not an option,” Erling said, and Bran concurred. “I'm not doing that again. I mean, that was ridiculous. No way. If there’s any way we could find out where he is, maybe we could just go get him.”

“I would surrender if I trusted this message,” I indicated, “but I do not.”

“What makes you question the message?” Bran asked. “You think perhaps it's not coming from your wife?”

“Indeed,” I confirmed. “Yes, I don't necessarily trust that this message is actually from Dre’zel.”

“Does she have the ability to do this?” Erling asked.

“The message was not from Dre’zel,” I explained. “It was from someone else that said, Dre’zel, my wife had a message for me. And the message was that not only am I a traitor, but a murderer too. That, because of me, they have taken our son from her.”

“Does it sound like something your wife would say?” Bran asked.

“It does not,” I indicated. “However, she may not be saying this voluntarily, and she may not be saying this at all.”

“That's a fair point, yeah,” Bran acknowledged.

“So if we were to take some action,” Erling asked, “would it be possible for us to even do anything? What would we do? Let's say, for example, we were spurred into action, what would we do?”

“I don't think that there's anything that we could do,” I surmised, “except for me to surrender.”

“'cause you know,” Erling swore, “I would absolutely help you save your son. You know that. What can we do to do that? You can't just… If they took your son and are bent on killing him, they're gonna do so regardless. It's difficult as that may be.”

“Well, they may not be bent on killing him,” I hoped. “They may only be using him as a bargaining chip for my surrender. If this is true, then my surrender may result in the release of my son, but Zapophis is cruel, and they may very well—”

“How can they possibly hope to parlay with you,” Erling asked, “Sending you a one-way message? Right? Like, this is just sort of abusive. If they want to negotiate, they would have to have a way to receive a response. Right?”

“Yes, and I don't know that I could not respond,” I clarified, “but I don't know what response to give.”

“Maybe you should ask to meet to discuss terms,” Bran proposed.

“Well, let's wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute,” Erling considered. “We have a couple of working theories about all these telepathic messages, right? One of which is: they're all coming from the same place. Is that right? So, if they're all coming from the same place, maybe this is an opportunity to draw them out. Like, bring your son. Let's meet somewhere and then let's kill them all and get your son.”

I reached out with my mind, “If I surrender, will you bring my son and my wife and son to the surface?” but I heard no response.

“I have tried to reply,” I informed my companions. “I don't know if my response was received. I asked if they will bring my wife and son to the surface if I surrender.”

“Well, if it's anything like the message spell we've been using to communicate with the speakers,” Erling suggested, “then they've got your message.”

“As long as I didn’t wait too long,” I added. “If I get another message, I will repeat this.”

“Well, if they do bring them up to the surface for an exchange, we're not going to let that happen, right? Guys, I'm not gonna do that again. I'm not even pretending. I'm not even playing this game. If they bring them up, we’re taking them out and we're getting Frizzt’s family and we're getting them safe. That's it. I'm not even playing this game anymore. I don't care what you say, Oosi, big as you are, we’re not letting this family down.”

Bran indicated that we all know he is not letting anyone go from this party. “So if it comes down to making a throw for Frizzt, or for his family, or whatever, I'm gonna fight to keep them all.”

“Fear not little man,” Oosi replied to Erling. “We will not let the innocent succumb to such a terrible situation. If you're so passionate about it, I stand behind you.”

“I have not received a response,” I updated my companions. “If they reach out to me again, I will respond quicker. And I appreciate your companionship and support. Thank you.”

Oosi and Bran visited the Happy Scrimshander, a little shop.

“Good morning, my sweet,” Bran presented her with a warm cocoa. “You asked us to come.”

“Hello,” she greeted them. “Thank you, thank you. That's very sweet of you.”

As promised, she gave them two bottles.

“You ignite the fuse here,” she showed them, “and you throw it, and it will burst. It'll explode into a fiery ball.”

“That sounds pretty self-explanatory,” Bran replied. “I would love to know what's in it but…”

She turned to Oosi, who had his woodcarver’s tools out. “For two gold coins, I can replace and improve what you've got.”

Oosi purchased the new tools.

“Milady,” Bran took her hand, “I hope that we may get back a bit if we don't. I thank you for your assistance—”

“Well, he might not come back,” Oosi interrupted, “but I definitely will.”

“Pray for us,” Bran continued. “I hope that we will return in one piece.”

“Okay thanks,” She pulled her hand away. “I look forward to seeing you again.”

When we regrouped, we headed into Lonelywood.

After traveling for four hours, we arrived at the location, but we didn’t see anything there.
“Perhaps we should keep exploring and looking for tracks,” I suggested.

“I mean, this is the place, I'm pretty sure this is it,” Erling insisted. “Yeah, I mean we can absolutely. Look, I have no problem with that, but I'm pretty sure this is the place.

“You want me to try detecting magic?” Mendel offered.

“Yeah, I guess,” Erling agreed. “Maybe it's, like, you know, under an illusion or something, and we can't see it.”

Mendel took out his spellbook and cast detect magic as a ritual.

He began to walk around in expanding circles.

Recalling that there was some mention of the phases of the moon being relevant, Mendel reminded us that tomorrow was the half moon and that the full moon was six days ago.

Bran remembered that there was an inscription that said "Unlock the tombs of the half moon."

Erling recalled that “Seven moons in a certain point in the sky, the doors can open one time a month. Gaze upon your own face and have seven questions answered."

“Do you think that this place is somehow hidden?” Mendel asked, “As opposed to we just haven't found it?”

“No, I don't think so,” Erling insisted. “I think I'm pretty sure I found it. I'm pretty sure this is it.”

“Then where is it?” Mendel pressed.

“Frizzt, do you think we came the right way?” Erling asked.

Erling and I began looking for tracks.

I soon found some wolf tracks and alerted my companions. “The only tracks I see are these wolf tracks.” I explained that there appeared to be eight of them, walking, and one had a thorn in its paw. “Perhaps we should follow them, without any better leads. What other option do we have except to wait here?”

“Maybe we should mark off some clues on the trees as we go by,” Bran suggested, “to find our way back. Maybe it will give us a little advantage.”

“So what was this Ravisin doing out here?” Oosi asked. “It turned a moose into a beast, as I recall you guys explained, right? And other people said that other creatures were turning into these beasts of some sort?”

“It seems that this druid was awakening creatures,” I informed Oosi, “That was what we had heard.”

“So what?” Oosi questioned, turning to Mendel. “I'm sorry, what does that mean?”

“I don't know,” Mendel replied, “I wasn't here.”

“Oh, I thought maybe you knew what the magical term was,” Oosi clarified.

“We think it means that it's granting them more awareness and fealty to her,” Blaze explained.

“There was a tree that was able to speak with us and tell us about how he was awakened by Ravisin,” Bran explained. “We thought perhaps at the time, that maybe the lake monster was also awakened by Ravisin.”

“Right, so this Ravisin’s back and possibly awakening more beasts,” Oosi surmised, “Awakening more animals. Can you tell me about the one that you encountered that was awakened? Did it have any other abilities other than being aware?”

“It could move about,” I explained, “though it was, for all intents and purposes, a bush that was able to move about.”

“There are spells that could do things like that,” Mendel offered.

“Was there like a moose that everyone keeps referring to,” Oosi asked, “that you fought. Was that awakened?”

“Yes, there was a white moose,” I confirmed. “We do not know that it was awakened other than it was unnaturally vicious and hostile towards the people of the town.”

“Did it have any special abilities?” Oosi asked. “Like did it demonstrate anything out of the ordinary?”

“Not that I noticed,” I confirmed. “To my recollection, it did not exhibit any special abilities other than potentially being more intelligent.”

“Okay,” Oosi replied. “Just trying to understand what our enemy is. What we should expect to encounter. Alright, so I agree—”

“We’ve met a lot of talking animals,” Mendel recalled, “like those wolves and that mammoth that almost stomped on me.”

“Do you think it could be connected?” Oosi asked.

“Who knows,” Mendel replied. “Could be.”

“I agree with you, Frizzt,” Oosi stated. “We should go follow them.”

“We did encounter a representation of the Frostmaiden,” I recalled, “who warned us to stay away from Ravisin. She mentioned that she had to expend valuable energy resurrecting Ravisin, her favorite agent, or something like that.”

“This was quite some time ago, right?” Oosi asked.

“Yes,” I confirmed, “this was before you joined us.”

“Right so, you know, if she's a goddess,” Oosi suggested, “how long is it gonna take for her to just replenish that energy and be at full strength?”

“I have no idea,” I acknowledged.

“Lead us on,” Oosi instructed. “Let's go follow these wolves and see where that takes us.”

We followed the tracks for four more hours when the tracks, which had been meandering naturally, began to take on a formal parallel formation. “This is highly unusual,” I stated, showing the formation to my companions.

“Maybe they are awakened,” Mendel suspected.

“We should be on our guard,” Bran agreed.

“That’s an astute observation,” the barbarian praised.

“Should we continue to pursue them?” I asked.

Oosi pointed out a clearing up ahead in the forest that he, Mendel, and Blaze spotted.

Using my eyes of the eagle, I saw the hint of a shoulder of a statue through the trees, similar to the statues from Ravisin’s grove.

“I think I see a statue in that clearing,” I whispered. “It resembles the statues from Ravisin’s circle.”

“Alright, well, uhm, why don’t you and Erling just kinda sneak up and just take a quick look,” Oosi instructed, “you know, reconnoiter it. Will kind of hang back here.”

“Why don’t we, like, split up,” Erling whispered, “like you go twenty feet over on that side. I'll be on this side and we kinda come up at it from a couple different angles.”

As Erling approached from the south, I approached thirty feet away, from the east.

“Before you go,” Bran asked Erling and me, “what's the signal for us to advance? Are you gonna just wave us up?”

“I'll flash my light,” Erling confirmed. “I'll flash my light three times.”

We advanced until we saw the familiar clearing thirty feet ahead.

Let's stay within thirty feet of each other,” Erling suggested, “and we can stay in communication.

“Indeed,” I agreed.

“This is definitely the place,” Erling confirmed. “You want to circle left, and see what's going on down to the left?”
Elven Tomb
“I will follow you,” I replied.

I'm by the door,” Erling informed me when he reached the door to the south of the moon dial.

I'm right behind you,” I replied. “Should we call the others up? It seems like the place is unguarded.

“Maybe you should just take a peek inside that courtyard area and then call them,” Erling suggested. “See if anything’s lurking about there. Can you see into that courtyard area with your darkvision?”

I can see into the courtyard,” I explained, “and it appears empty. I can also see into the entrance, where it is broken, and I don't see anything standing guard.

Okay,” Erling replied. “Maybe I should signal the rest to come here.

Erling withdrew from the clearing and flashed the light from his crystal three times.

“I think that's our signal,” Bran informed his companions, leading them toward the clearing.

“Did you find anything?” Oosi asked Erling.

“Ah, no,” Erling replied, “everything looks clear and that broken doorway seems broken and empty.”

“Right,” Oosi instructed, “let's get to it then.”

Bran checked on the sarcophagus to make sure it was still closed, which it was.

“Should we go investigate that?” Mendel asked Oosi, pointing to the sarcophagus and five pillars that formed a half-circle around the eastern half of it. “I'd like to check it out. Do we have time?”

“Yeah, go on ahead,” Oosi replied. “Check it out and we're gonna secure the entryway.

Bran gave Mendel a hand up to the sarcophagus landing where the mage inspected the symbols of the columns, from south to north: a hand, a feather, a flame, a pine cone, and a twig.

Bran motioned to Mendel that there was a raised brazier on the other pedestal to the north.

“Maybe we need to combine these things somehow?” Mendel suggested. “Did you try that?”

“I think we tried putting things on top of the pedestals,” Bran replied. “I don't recall us trying to put it into this brazier.”

“Where did the wolves go?” Oosi asked. “Could you tell where the wolves’ tracks stopped?”

“The wolves seemed to have entered this clearing,” I explained, “but their tracks disappeared right out there as if they flew away.”

Spying a wolf to the south, I whispered, “I think the wolves are watching us. As a matter of fact, I think I see one to the south right now.”

I quickly turned and sent an arrow into its skull. As it fell, there was a flurry of sound as the other wolves scurried away into the forest.

“Why did you kill the wolf?” Oosi asked.

“Why did I kill the wolf?” I replied. “It was stalking us. Did you wanna take a prisoner?”

“No, why would I do that?” Oosi replied. “I just prefer not to kill animals if I don't have to. That's fine. It may have been awakened anyway. Maybe we should check it out and see if it had any of those all awakened signs.”

“I'm not aware of any way to tell that it was awakened after it's dead,” I explained, “but these wolves were not moving in a natural formation. There's no reason to think they were ordinary wolves.”

“Perhaps we should try lighting that brazier,” Mendel proposed. “Can we find those ingredients nearby? Should we try? Do we have time to look for them? I don't know what we're going to use for a human hand.”

“I'm not sure,” Bran replied. “I'll run my hands through, but I'm not giving up my hand a second time.”

“If we have time,” Mendel indicated, “I want to take a look at that brazier.”

Mendel and Bran went to the gazebo and examined the unlit brazier buried in the snow.

As Mendel was looking around for something to set fire to in the brazier, Bran suggested, “Perhaps it has to be done in the order, though. Maybe we should only be using twigs and pine cones at first, or feathers.”

“I agree,” Mendel replied. “Can you find me some twigs and a pine cone?”

“I'll look,” Bran offered, searching the nearby trees and returning with twigs and pine cones for Mendel. “And if we get to that point, I have a harpy feather that we might even be able to use as the feather.”

“Oh, really,” Mendel replied. “And how are we going to do this in order? You want me to put the twigs and then the pine cone in the brazier?”

“The pedestals, when we read them off, they were kind of in an order,” Bran explained. “We always seem to get it in the same order: twig, pine cone, flame, feather, and then hand. So I wonder, perhaps, if that twig and the pine cone then have to be burnt, because that becomes flame. Then we add the feather—”

“But Bran,” Mendel objected, “those pedestals are not in an order from north to south. It could be any order. For instance, maybe it's from east to west, which would mean a flame, then a pine cone and a feather. Then a twig and a hand.”

“I think these are in an order,” Bran insisted.

“But what makes you think that the order of ingredients goes from north to south?” Mendel argued.

“Well, do you think we should start with the human hand?” Bran quipped.

“I think we should start with the flame,” Mendel proposed, “which would be the furthest to the east.”

“And then in which direction do you go?” Bran asked.

“Then we could add the pine cone and the feather,” Mendel continued. “And then twig and your hand.”

“Maybe the hand is just grabbing the feather out of the flame after it's thrown in,” Bran proposed.

“Perhaps,” Mendel acknowledged. “I don’t have any better ideas.”

“I think we should put the twig and the pine cone in,” Bran maintained. “Then light them on fire. Then light the feather. And then I'll quickly grab the feather out. That's adding a hand.”

“As you wish,” Mendel agreed.

Mendel put the twig and the pine cone in the brazier and then used prestidigitation to set them on fire.

Bran added his harpy feather to the brazier.

“Put your hand in quick,” Mendel suggested.

Bran passed his hand through the flame.

“You gotta hold it longer,” Mendel shrieked with excitement. “There was a spark of magic? Did you see it?”

Bran snatched the feather from the flames, burning his fingers.

Mendel grabbed the feather, placed it in the flame, and held it in the flame as long as he could.

“Did you see it, Bran?” Mendel squealed. “Did you see the magic? It was starting to happen!”

“I saw something starting to happen,” Bran acknowledged, “but something’s not right.”

“My hand is killing me!” Mendel whined. “Maybe there's something wrong with these ingredients.”

“Maybe the harpy feather didn't work,” Bran suggested, as the feather was consumed by the flames. “I was saving it just for that.”

“Oosi, come over here,” Mendel cried. “Do you have any feathers that we can use? Look, on those pillars, there's symbols of a twig, a pine cone, a flame, a feather, and a human hand. And there's a Brazier here, and we're hoping that if we can get this right… There's some magic here. We almost had it, but we're missing something. Maybe this harpy feather is not good enough.”

“Mendel, if you cast detect magic,” Bran asked, “are you able to sense anything additional?”

“It'll take me ten minutes to cast detect magic again,” Mendel stated. “But I could sense something was happening. I could see it! I could see the weave of magic starting to stir.”

As Bran slowly placed Oosi’s feather back in the burning brazier and held his hand there, Mendel cried, “I don’t think that's a good idea. I don't think it was the hand.”

“What the hell are you doing?” Oosi asked. “You're sticking your hands in the fire.”

“We’re playing chicken,” Mendel quipped. “Who can stick their hand in the fire longer? I bet you can't.”

As Bran grabbed the ingredients, the fire flared up and engulfed his entire hand, licking up his forearm. “It burns!” he screamed with a look of agony.

His hand was consumed by the magical flames, and as he withdrew a stump, we heard the stone sarcophagus lid shift.

Mended ran to the sarcophagus.

“Frizzt, what the frak is going on over there?” Erling asked. “Think we should sneak up over there. Sounds like someone getting murdered.”

“Take Blaze with you,” I suggested, an arrow aimed at the entrance to Ravisin’s lair. “I will keep my eye on the entrance.”

“Come on, Blaze,” Erling said. “Let’s go up there. Somebody might need our help. Sounds like they're getting murdered over there.”

“Blaze, can you fix this?” Bran screamed.

“Oh my God, what happened?” Blaze ran up to Bran and cast cure wounds. “I'm sorry, but there's nothing I can do about that.”

Meanwhile, the lid of the sarcophagus was shoved aside by a skeletal hand, wrapped in twisted cloth. The lid hit the ground next to the sarcophagus with a heavy thunk and up sat what seemed like a slim mummy with pointy, wrapped ears.

Mendel withdrew from the growling mummy, pleading, “We rescued you. We freed you. You're free now. Free to help us.”

The mummy’s mouth creaked open, scarab beetles crawling out of it, and growled, “Free!”

“Yeah, yeah,” Mendel confirmed, “you're free buddy.”

“Yes, I freed you,” Bran said, walking up to the edge.

“Yeah he did it,” Mendel agreed. “The stumpman.”

The mummy stood up from its sarcophagus.

“What was your name?” Bran asked.

Sahnar,” it growled in Elven, approaching Bran.

Who is your master?” Bran asked.

Sahnar,” it repeated, cracking its neck back and forth. “Has no master.

Who put you there?” Mendel asked.

I died,” Sahnar replied to Mendel.

Who killed you?” Mendel asked. “You poor thing?

Sahnar looked back to Bran, and said, “I will aid you.

We seek to defeat an evil woman that has taken over your tomb,” Bran instructed. “Come and assist us.

We will crush her!” Sahnar stated.

“Alright,” Bran turned to us, ignoring the pain. “We have our new friend. Shall we proceed to the tomb?”

“Oosi,” Mendel translated, “The mummy said that he will help aid Bran, and he has no master. It’s probably somebody that this druid person double-crossed. Let's not look a gift horse in the mouth.” Turning to Bran, he added, “You did it, Bran! You did it! I didn't think you could. Maybe we should send your friend in there, to the clearing.”

Sahnar,” Bran instructed, “do you see the broken opening in the wall up ahead?

Yes,” Sahnar creaked.

We think the evil person is in there,” Bran instructed. “Come with us.

Very well,” Sahnar agreed.

As we approached the opening, two winter wolves emerged followed by what looked like a man made out of pine needles.

I targeted the first wolf with hunter’s mark, and sank an arrow into its chest before missing twice as I withdrew to a nearby bush.

Climbing onto the upper landing, Mendel cast web on the area surrounding the entrance, engulfing the three creatures.

“I've seen more threatening squirrels than you,” Bran viciously mocked the first winter wolf and gave his inspiration to Oosi.

The pine-needle man was hit by Blaze’s spiritual weapon but avoided his sacred flame.

The first wolf broke free from the webs and blasted Oosi and Erling with its cold breath.

The pine-needle man broke free from the webs and a volley of pine-needles exploded from it into everyone but me. Then it raised its head to the sky and called out loudly in a voice that sounded like creaking wood, “Scions of Ravisin, come to her defense!”

Erling scrambled up to the ledge with Mendel and hit the pine-needle man in the trunk, but it did not appear to have any effect on it.

Oosi flew into a rage and smashed his hammer into the pine-needle man, but it similarly did not appear to have any effect on it, so he swung wild toward the first winter wolf. “Arrows and hammers are no good!” He warned.

From the trees and bushes around us, needle blights emerged, and to the east came a sound of larger creatures approaching.

Mendel rocked the pine-needle man with three magic missiles.

A polar bear emerged from the southern door, roaring and gnashing its teeth as it engaged me.

Two more polar bears tried to exit from the main door. The first got stuck in the webs. The other pulled itself free and retreated inside.

“Attack our enemies,” Bran instructed Sahnar as he made his way to the door and withdrew his flaming longsword.

“Tell the mummy to get behind me,” Oosi instructed Bran, “to flank the tree, and attack!”

“Sahnar,” Bran instructed the mummy, “get behind the tree. Help us flank it.”

Erling was hit by a needle blight swinging a branch up at him as another approached.

Another came from right behind me and others approached from all around us.

Sahnar smashed the pine-needle man, and though its blow had little effect, it immediately began to rot.

“Oh, no!” the pine-needle man screamed out. “Frostmaiden, save me!”

Then the winter wolf was paralyzed by Sahnar’s dreadful glare.

Blaze hit the pine-needle man and the wolf with burning hands.

I withdrew to the north, carefully avoiding the polar bear and needle blight, and dropped down from the upper landing.

“Mendel, it's you and me now, buddy,” Erling proclaimed as he pierced the nearby needle blight with a crossbow bolt. “Mendel, arrows seemed to be effective. Hit it with something.”

“We can only hit that big one with magic,” Mendel objected.

These guys are coming at us any second now, buddy,” Erling warned, telepathically.

“But what about Oosi?” Mendel challenged.

He's a big boy,” Erling replied. “He can take care of himself.

“No, he needs me,” Mendel insisted.

The pine-needle man blasted needles out at everyone again.

Oosi smashed the paralyzed wolf with his hammer twice.

“Mendel, lightning bolt that tree or something,” Erling pleaded. “We’re almost dead.”

From the woods to the east, eight elk burst into the clearing.

Mendel cast mirror image on himself and jumped down to the northwest.

A polar bear charged at me, raking me with its claws as another polar bear emerged from the southern door.

Bran cast healing word on Erling and instructed Sahnar, “Attack the tree guy and then move to the door to block the polar bears.”

[“There's a herd of elk coming down on us from the east,” Erling told Bran telepathically.]

From the landing, a needle blight shot me with needles.

The pine-needle man withered and crumbled as Sahnar smashed again. Sahnar stepped into the webbing and paralyzed a polar bear with its dreadful gaze.

Blaze hit a winter wolf with his spiritual weapon and two other creatures with burning hands.

I continued to carefully withdraw from the polar bear and needle blight, moving west.

The second winter wolf broke free from the webs.

Erling killed the nearby needle blight with a crossbow bolt and fled northwest, screaming, “Guys, run! There’s a herd of frackin’ elk coming!”

Oosi smashed the winter wolf with two more blows of his hammer.

“Submit to the Frostmaiden’s embrace,” an elk said to me as they all closed in on us from the east.

Mendel blasted the nearest needle blight with three magic missiles.

The polar bear continued to pursue me and bit into my shoulder.

The polar bear by the main door broke free from the webs and fled into the cave.

The southern polar bear tore into Sahnar with its claws and teeth.

Bran blasted three needle blights with a thunderwave, destroying two of them

A needle blight took out one of Mendel’s mirror images.

Sahnar punched the nearby polar bear in the nose and paralyzed another winter wolf with its dreadful gaze.

Blaze summoned the radiance of the dawn, destroying four needle blights and the first winter wolf. Then he cast healing word on Bran.

Continuing to carefully withdraw from the polar bear, I entered the clearing and alerted my companions, “There are a herd of elks charging our way.”

Erling reached into his bag of tricks and pulled out a boar, which attacked the needle blight that was engaged with Mendel. Then the halfling disappeared into the woods.

Oosi smashed apart the last needle blight in the clearing, flanked the polar bear with Sahnar, and smashed it with his hammer.

The elks engaged us, one taking out Mendel’s second mirror image, and the other ramming Oosi, who sidestepped it with inspiration.

Dropping the web, Mendel cast expeditious retreat and, carefully avoiding the elk and needle blight, dashed into the forest.

The polar bear continued to shred Sahnar.

Another polar bear nicked me with its teeth

Bran quickly cast healing word on me and slashed the paralyzed wolf with his flaming longsword.

The last needle blight pierced Erling’s boar.

Sahnar punched the polar bear and it collapsed, dead.

“Come on, Sahnar the mighty,” Bran cheered. “Let's go!”

Blaze cast fireball, the flames engulfing three elks and scorching the last polar bear.

Drawing my sword and targeting the polar bear with my hunter’s mark, I ran it through. Then I dropped my sword and killed the nearest elk with an arrow.

The winter wolf, no longer paralyzed, bit Sahnar.

Oosi rushed up to the last polar bear, in the doorway, and smashed it with two blows of his hammer.

I was hit by an elk.

In the forest, Mendel heard Erlings’ voice from the shadows, “Mendel, keep moving!” and dashed further from the clearing, whispering, "Erling, where are you? Do you have any healing potions?"

The last polar bear began to tear into Sahnar.

Before inspiring me, Bran cast bane on the polar bear, the winter wolf, and the closest elk, but none of them were affected.

The needle blight continued to pierce Erling’s boar.

Sahnar punched the polar bear again and paralyzed it with his dreadful gaze.

Blaze hit the two nearby elks with burning hands, and smashed one with his spiritual weapon.

I was hit by the elk as I stepped away from it to get a clear shot, I targeted an elk with my hunter’s mark, and dropped it with an arrow between the eyes.

The winter wolf blast Blaze and me with its cold breath, with would have killed me if it weren’t for my boots.

In the forest, Erling popped out of the shadows, urging Mendel, “No potions. Focus. Focus on the elk!” and dropped the nearest elk with a crossbow bolt.

“What elk?” Mendel quipped.

“Come on, let's go,” Erling urged.

“Right behind you,” Mendel replied.

Oosi crushed the paralyzed polar bear’s head with his hammer and smashed the wolf with a backswing.

The boar stomped over the needle blight.

Mendel dashed back toward the clearing, close enough to see an elk attacking Blaze, and dropped it with four magic missiles.

Freezing cold wind and snowflakes blew from the cave opening and the sound of footsteps indicated something approaching.

“I feel a chill,” Bran warned. “It could be Ravisin coming, but let's clear out and make some space here.” He slashed the winter wolf with his flaming longsword and cast healing word on me.

Sahnar punched the winter wolf and frightened it with his dreadful gaze just before Blaze dropped it with his spiritual weapon.

“What are we doing?” Blaze asked. “Sounds like something is coming!”

“We should find Erling and Mendel,” I suggested.

“Maybe we should retreat, regroup, and then come back,” Oosi suggested.

“Agreed,” I reiterated.

Bran instructed Sahnar to follow as we fled, but the mummy shambled slowly.

The wind picked up as we ran into the woods, followed by an angry scream.

When we turned around, Sahnar was nowhere to be seen.

But the howl of wolves began to get louder as we fled.

As we continued through the snow-covered forest of Lonelywood, the howling of the wolves grew more distant and we eventually settled down to make camp.

While we were resting, I explained to Erling that there was never a time that ‘no one gave a hoot’ about his temporary condition. And that it was actually constantly on my mind, but I just did not know what to do about it without risking chasing him away.

Erling was grateful for the sentiment.

I also asked Erling exactly what was said to him telepathically, specifically what was promised and what was his reply, warning Erling that these creatures are masters of manipulation, and must not be toyed with.

Erling insisted that it wasn’t an issue and that he “was over all that.”

“I'm proud of you for overcoming their temptation,” I praised Erling.

In the morning, we discussed our strategy for re-engaging Ravisin, noting that we should spread out to avoid all of us getting caught in her blizzard or moonbeam and that she can summon many creatures as minions to do her bidding. Oosi wanted to draw her out, but we were at a loss as to how. Anticipating being attacked by wolves and other creatures, we considered rushing into the tomb and blocking the entrance from the inside. We shared what we recalled of the layout inside the tomb with Oosi and Mendel, noting that many of the doors were locked. I suggested I cover the clearing from a tree across from the entrance. We also discussed Bran’s one-handed options. Bran suggested using illusory sounds to draw the wolves away, and Oosi suggested he could speak with them.

Oosi began dancing around, casting the speak with animals ritual. Once he was done, Bran and Mendel cast minor illusion, creating the sounds of howling wolves. Mendel began pedantically lecturing Bran about how he needed to modulate the pitch of his howls.

After a few moments, we heard rustling in the trees and a wolf emerged. I climbed a tree on the opposite side of the campsite as it approached, head down, looking around tentatively.

“I welcome the spirit of the wolf into the camp,” Oosi greeted the wolf with his hands out. “I am Oosi. Come closer. You will not be harmed here.”

“Your presence is unwelcome here,” the wolf answered, staying in place.

“We seek to restore balance to the forest,” Oosi explained. “Why do you not want us here?”

“The Frostmaiden’s minions rule here,” the wolf replied. “The forest is not unbalanced. It's just—”

“The Frostmaiden brings death and despair to all in this forest,” Oosi refuted.

“That's the Frostmaiden’s nature,” the wolf stated. “The other wolves were not fooled by your howls. I came to warn you. They're ready for you.”

“Wait, can you tell me where is Ravisin and where they're ready for us?” Oosi asked.

“She lives in the stone,” the wolf revealed.

“Tell your brothers and sisters,” Oosi urged, “we have no quarrel with them and if they choose to stay out of our fight we will not harm them. Our quarrel’s with Ravisin and not your brothers and sisters.”

“They follow her,” the wolf maintained. “They appreciate her. They worship her. She gave them awareness. I don't care for her ways, but they will follow her. They are loyal.”

“I see,” Oosi acknowledged.

“What other creatures has she awakened?” Bran asked.

“She controls the elements,” the wolf explained, turning to Bran. “She's blessed by the Frostmaiden. The winds and the snows and the trees and the animals listened to her. You should leave. This is the Frostmaiden's domain. She's powerful.”

“We will try and restore balance to the forest,” Oosi maintained. “Would you join us in our quest?”

“I will not,” the wolf reiterated. “I will not fight against my pack.”

“I understand,” Oosi acknowledged. “Would you give us passage then, as we have no quarrel with you?”

“I'm not here to fight you,” the wolf stated, adding that the other wolves were nearby and would come when she called, along with many other minions.

“Very good,” Oosi replied. “Thank you, great wolf.”

As the wolf turned to leave, I tossed it some spare meat, adding, “We are grateful for your favor.”

Agreeing on our next steps, we returned to the clearing around the tomb where Erling and I found fresh tracks of six wolves.

We followed the track for fifteen minutes and they continued on, southeast from the tomb. We returned to the tomb, and circled wider around it, where we found a second set of tracks where the wolves had doubled back.

This set of tracks soon split into three, one heading north, one heading west, and one heading southwest.

We agreed to follow the track to the southwest.

The wolf tracks led to a small clearing with a cave; grizzly bear tracks leading in and out.

Earling and I could hear growling from within the cave.

Just then, two bears leaped out of the forest at Blaze, Bran, Oosi, and Mendel. Mendel screeched in surprise.

Oosi roared with rage and smashed the bear to the south with his warhammer.

“Oh my god, that stench!” Bran tried to mock the bear viciously, “I thought breath weapons were supposed to come out of your mouth.”

Erling disappeared into the shadows.

Blaze cast sacred flame, but it had no effect.

Two bears emerged from the cave, and one was immediately shot by Erling, who then avoided its attacks.

The other raked me with its claws and I carefully maneuvered away from it, while targeting the bear Erling wounded with slayer’s prey.

A wolf, off to the side in the woods, seemed to chuckle as it turned and fled into the woods.

Mendel backed up and cast toll the dead, but it had no effect.

Raked by the bear to their south, Osi smashed it back.

“For Erling!” Bran yelled, inspiring Oosi, as he drew his flaming longsword and circled the bear to the west, searing its flank and sizzling its fur.

Raked by the bear to their east, Blaze cast burning hands on it, singing it further.

A bear charged at Erling, who had been hiding in the woods, undeterred by another cross bolt in its hide, and bit the halfling. The second bear from the cave also closed in on Erling but was unable to catch the nimble scout.

I missed the bear I had targeted twice.

Mendel cast toll the dead on the bear after it bit into Oosi. Oosi smashed it twice with his hammer and it collapsed in the snow.

“I knew you could do it, Oosi!” Mendel cheered, as Oosi moved to surround the other bear, which had just bit Bran.

Bran grazed it again with his flaming longsword.

Blaze burned it further with another sacred flame.

Erling disappeared into the woods and the two bears from the cave surrounded me, one raking me with claws and biting into my shoulder. I carefully maneuvered away from them.

Mendel cast toll the dead, which had no effect on the remaining bear, but it collapsed after being smashed by Oosi’s warhammer.

“Where’s Erling?” Oosi asked me as I approached.

“Erling is hiding,” I explained, pointing. “There are two more chasing me.”

As one of the bears approached, Bran mocked it viciously, “One day I'm gonna make a ballad of this fight. You gotta tell me your name so that I can make sure it rhymes with slaughtered.”

Then Blaze put it down with a sacred flame.

As the second bear ran up to Oosi, I shot an arrow into its face.

Mendel moved up and cast toll the dead, but it had no effect.

Oosi whacked the remaining bear in the gut and it collapsed in pain.

After Erling joined us, Oosi prayed for the bears’ spirits and I checked inside the cave, where there were two bear cubs.

As we made our way back to the tomb, I told everyone about the wolf that had led us into this trap.

Before we reached the tomb, we stopped to rest and recuperate. Bran sang a song of rest.

Rested, we continued following the tracks. When they turned southwest, we backtracked toward the tomb and followed the tracks going north. When those turned northwest, away from the tomb, we tried the southwest tracks. When those also turned away from the tomb, we returned to the clearing, where we found that all the bodies from the previous day were gone.

I climbed a tree across the clearing from the tomb entrance, securing a rope to a branch.

Erling hid in the sarcophagus.

Oosi and Mendel approached the moon dial from the north while Blaze and Bran approached from the south.

“Mendel, don't stay on top of me,” Oosi instructed the wizard. “If we get attacked, you know, stay a few steps back so you don't get involved in the melee. You try and act like a fighter, but you're not. I wish you were, but you're not, so kinda, you know, give yourself some space to operate.”

“I was gonna rush right in there with you,” Mendel nodded, “but I'll take your advice. You are the seasoned warrior here. 'Cause rushing right in with my staff is exactly what I was gonna do.”

“I appreciate your eagerness,” Oosi insisted, oblivious to the wizard’s sarcasm, “but you know, just don't do that.”

As Oosi approached the entrance to the tomb, spikes dug into his feet. He backed up and warned Blaze.

Climbing onto the raised terrace, Mendel said, “If we're trying to draw her out, we can just wait for the spell to go away.”

“How long does this damn thing last?” Oosi asked. “Do you know?”

“I know when I cast web, it takes 10 minutes,” Mendel guessed. “I would imagine it's similar.”

“Alright,” Oosi agreed, “well then the waiting game it is.”

Mendel ducked and tried to hide behind the statues at the edge of the terrace.

[“What's going on over there?” Erling asked Mendel telepathically.]

[“Oosi said there's that spiky stuff,” Mendel explained, “like what Frizzzt lays down, in front of the entryway. So we're gonna wait until the spell goes away.”]

[“How long?” Erling asked.]

[“We don't know,” Mendel replied. “Maybe ten minutes.”]

[“Alright,” Erling acknowledged. “Thanks.”]

[“Blaze,” Erling communicated telepathically. “There’s spike growth in front of the door. That's why Oosi backed off. They’re thinking about waiting for like ten minutes for the spell to dissipate. I don't know how long it lasts.“]

Okay,” Blaze acknowledged.

Bran searched the door by the entrance to the moon dial.

After examining the area around the entrance to the tomb, Mendel took out his spell book, explaining to Oosi, “I'm going to cast detect magic and try to let you know if it's still there. It's going to take me ten minutes.”

Eight large owls took off in every direction from the top of the cliff face that the tomb was built into.

I took a shot at one but missed.

Oosi and Mendel were pounded by a sudden ice storm.

From inside the cave, we heard Ravisin call out, “Winter, splinter, come to my aid!”

Blaze cast healing word on Mendel.

Oosi roared with rage and ran toward the clearing and leaped to the tomb entrance, but landed in more spikes before jumping into the tomb.

“Your tricks won't save you, witch!” Oosi threatened, confronting Ravisin, who looked very different from when we encountered her.

Mendel cast mirror image.

The branch of a nearby tree came arcing down at Erling, swatting the halfling before he could leap out of the sarcophagus.

I sunk an arrow into the living tree.

Erling sunk a crossbow bolt into it, but was swatted again as he dashed away.

Over a dozen wolves rushed the clearing from the north and south.

An owl flew down toward me.

Ravisin shot Oosi with an ice knife, before withdrawing and slamming the door between them.

Bran entered the clearing, hit the living tree with alchemist’s fire, and cast healing word on Mendel.

Blaze stepped into the clearing and hit the living tree with two scorching rays.

From the cover of the tree, I shot an arrow into the eye of an oncoming giant owl, killing it before it could get close, and dropped the wolf nearest to Mendel with a second arrow.

Another giant owl swooped down toward Mendel but hit one of his three mirror images.

Three more owls swooped into the clearing and three more approached me.

Inside, Oosi charged the stone door to Ravisin’s chamber and slammed into it hard, but the door didn’t budge.

Mendel cast web over three of the wolves closest to him, restraining two of them, and dropped down from the ledge he was hiding on. The third ran up to him, biting him and knocking him prone.

The tree that had attacked Erling uprooted itself, and moved into the clearing, swinging its branches toward Bran.

Erling ran into the clearing and stabbed a nearby owl with his shortsword.

While the wolves closed in on the clearing, the wolf that we had spoken with stopped a nearby wolf and seemed to dissuade it from engaging us.

A wolf bit Blaze.

Erling leaped away from the approaching wolves and landed in the spike growth.

Bran blasted an owl and three wolves with thunderwave, killing all of them.

Blaze moved to the center of the clearing and summoned the radiance of the dawn, killing an owl, four wolves, and the tree, and wounding an owl and two wolves. Then he cast spiritual weapon, killing another wolf.

I cast fog cloud in the air around me and the three nearby owls and swung down from the tree.

Inside, Ravisin’s door opened by two needle blights, which Oosi shoved passed, shouting, “You can’t run from me, witch!”.

Mendel hit a nearby owl with two magic missiles and killed a wolf with a third.

Erling dropped the last owl from the sky with a crossbow bolt.

The two wolves broke free of the web and charged into the clearing, surrounding Mendel.

Bran slashed one of the wolves with his flaming sword and cast healing word on Mendel.

Blaze cast dispel magic and the spike growth was gone.

Surrounded by owls again, I carefully withdrew and climbed back up the rope into the fog.

Inside, Ravisin summoned two sickles of ice and slashed Oosi. The barbarian smashed Ravisin with his warhammer but was struck by an icy blast as he struck, so he smashed one of the blights.

Mendel carefully withdrew from the wolves, cast expeditious retreat, and dashed into the tomb after Oosi. One of the wolves followed and tried to overrun the wizard, but Mendel held it back with his staff, squealing, “You shall not pass! You can’t get to Oosi!”

“Blaze, go help Oosi,” Erling shouted, stabbing an owl, “I'll take this on.”

Inside, the door shut and Ravisin withdrew, summoning eight giant wolf spiders all around Oosi, who was bitten by two of them.

The last wolf bit Bran, who cast healing word on Erling.

Blaze killed the wolf with his spiritual weapon and ran to the entrance of the tomb.

Dismissing my fog cloud, I targeted an owl with hunter’s mark, dropped it with an arrow, shot another owl, dropped down from the tree, and moved closer to the ledge around the clearing.

The last owl clawed at Bran, though the bard parried the talons a bit.

Inside, Oosi crushed one of the blights with his warhammer and smashed one of the spiders, before getting bit by two spiders.

Mendel dashed away from the wolf, drawing it further from Oosi, and tried to open a door to the south, but it would not budge.

Oosi was bitten by three more spiders and was hit by a ball of ice thrown by Ravisin.

Bran killed an owl with his flaming sword.

Blaze hit the last owl with his mace.

I ran up to the ledge, killed the last owl with an arrow, targeted the wolf in the cave with hunter’s mark, and killed it with a second arrow.

Inside, Oosi opened the door.

Mendel ran back to the corridor toward Oosi, and hit the spider on the door with three magic missiles, shouting “We're coming, Oosi! Blaze, this way!”

Erling dashed into the tomb.

Osi was bitten by a spider and then fell when another bit him in the face. But with relentless endurance, the half-orc spit out the poison and rose to his feet, only to be bit in the face again and fall again.

“Oosi’s down!” Mendel squealed as one of the spiders crawled down the corridor, toward him, “He’s right by the door.”

“I'm not gonna make that mistake again,” Ravisin stated, tossing a ball of ice at him.

Bran dashed into the tomb, inspiring Erling, “Come on, get up the stairs, let's go! Oosi needs us!”

Blaze hit the spider in the corridor with a sacred flame.

Mendel killed the spider in the corridor with three magic missiles, and another in the doorway with a fourth, and then backed out of the corridor, pleading, “Get up there! Oosi’s dying.”

Erling dashed up the corridor, shot Ravisin with his hand crossbow, and withdrew back down the corridor, followed by five spiders, two of them biting the halfling.

Bran cast thunderwave over his head at the spiders on the wall, killing four of them, and inspired Blaze, “Ravisin, you bitch!”.

Blaze cast burning hands, scorching one of the spiders and destroying the needle blight.

I targeted one of the spiders with hunter’s mark, killed the other spider with an arrow, and moved into the tomb.

Mendel cast toll the dead at the spider.

Stepping up, Erling reached into his sack and tossed a giant elk toward the door, commanding “Go get Ravisin!” and withdrew.

Inspired, Blaze avoided a spider’s bite.

Bran viciously mocked the last spider, “Eight legs? More like eight I.Q. you stupid, stupid spider.”

After dropping the last spider with an arrow, I moved up to Erling in the tomb and gave Erling my two potions of healing, urging, “Erling, my friend, take these. You look hurt.”

“Thanks, we gotta get in there!” Erling replied. “Oosi’s been hurt bad!”

I moved into the corridor.

The giant elk squeezed itself out of the corridor and into the room, ramming Ravisin.

Erling quaffed a potion of healing, instructed the giant elk to move further into the room so it wasn’t blocking the door and moved in behind it.

Ravisin summoned eight more spiders, four surrounding Erling. The halfling fell as two of them bit him.

Three of the spiders bit the elk.

Bran ran up the corridor and revived Erling with healing word.

“Blaze, fireball the bitch!” Erling shouted.

Blaze hit the nearest of the new spider with his spiritual weapon.

I targeted a spider with hunter’s mark and dropped it with an arrow, urging, “Erling, drink that potion. Protect yourself.”

Mendel cast toll the dead, but it had no effect.

The giant elk was blasted by cold as it rammed Ravisin again.

Erling drank the second potion of healing, and carefully withdrew down the corridor, away from the spiders.

One of the spiders bit Blaze, who swatted another as it crawled further down the corridor.

Another spider bit the elk.

The door slammed closed.

Bran cast thunderwave, killing two spiders, and injuring another, which Blaze killed with his spiritual weapon, before hitting another with sacred flame.

I targeted one of the spiders with my hunter’s mark and killed the other spider with an arrow.

Mendel hit the spider with toll the dead, before dashing to the entrance to make sure the clearing was clear.

Erling killed the last spider with a dart from his hand crossbow.

The door to Ravisin’s chamber opened, a spider clinging over the doorway while another crawled into the corridor, engaging Blaze.

Ravisin blocked the doorway, waving her arms in familiar casting gestures. The spiders vanished and a freezing cold wind blew through the corridor buffeting Blaze, Bran, and I against the walls.

“We’re coming, Oosi!” Bran yelled as he squeezed past Blaze and cast thunderwave, blasting her back into the center of the room. “Oosi’s down!” Bran yelled, following Ravisin into the room.

Blaze followed Bran into the room to find Oosi beheaded. Holding the half-orc’s head and body together, he quickly cast revivify.

“Ah!” Oosi gasped. “My friend. I knew I can count on you.”

Following them into the room, I targeted Ravisin with hunter’s mark, but my arrows were buffeting away from her by the strong winds.

Oosi rose and tossed his handaxe into Ravisin, nicking her before it bounced off her frozen skin, and moved to the rear of the chamber.

Mendel dashed into the chamber, and screamed, “Oosi, get out of there!” seeing the barbarian drenched in blood, and cast toll the dead, to no effect.

From behind Mendel in the doorway, Erling reached into his bag of tricks and tossed a dire wolf in front of Ravisin. “Kill her!” he instructed, moving next to Oosi.

Hissing and cursing, Ravisin held out her arms and an icy sickle appeared in each hand. She slashed Bran, dropping the bard.

Reaching down to Bran, Blaze stabilized the bard with spare the dying. Then he recast spiritual weapon and smashed Ravisin with it.

I shot Ravisin with an arrow that left a crack in her icy skin before bouncing off.

Mendel grabbed Bran, squealing, “Blaze should I get him out of here?” After a nod from the cleric, he dragged the bard out of the room and down the corridor.

Drawing his shortsword, Erling stabbed Ravisin before disengaging.

The dire wolf knocked Ravisin down, biting her.

Rising, Ravisin cursed, “The Frostmaiden take you all!” and an ice storm rained down in the room, pelting herself, Erling, the dire wolf, and me. Oosi and Blaze fell to the icy hail.

Targeting Ravisin with slayer’s prey, I sunk an arrow into her chest and moved to Blaze’s side.

Dropping his staff, Mendel pulled two potions out of Bran’s pouch and poured the potion of healing down his mouth, reviving him.

“Frizzt,” Erling called, “take care of Blaze. Make sure he doesn't die.” Drawing his second shortsword, he plunged it into Ravisin’s heart.

“You just killed this world,” she gurgled before collapsing.

The wolf tore into her, ravaging her body.

Revived, Bran entered the room and revived Blaze with healing word. “We have to burn the body,” Bran shouted. “She can't come back again.”

“I'll be right there,” Mendel yelled from the corridor, Bran’s fire potion in his hand.

Rising, Blaze revived Oosi with cure wounds.

“Should we rest here?” I proposed, as everyone caught their breath and licked their wounds.

“We should definitely bring her body,” Blaze agreed.

“We definitely need to chop it up and burn it,” Bran reiterated. “Blaze, I hope you don’t object, but I think we need to be a little more radical this time.”

“Good boy,” Erling pet the wolf.

“Do you know what's in there?” Mendel asked, pointing to the closed sarcophagi in the middle of the chamber.

“Yeah, I think it's her sister,” Erling replied.

Mendel searched Ravisin and the room but found nothing of interest or value.

Oosi grabbed her by the scruff of the neck and dragged her out, leaving a bloody trail behind.

We retrieved our dropped weapons and arrows.

I stood guard as the others brought Ravisin’s corpse to the brazier, and using a twig, a pine cone, and a feather, incinerated the corpse in the consuming flames.

We heard something crashing toward us from the thick forest. As everyone ran back into the tomb, I saw three ice trolls approaching, and quickly followed my companions, securing the door behind me.

“I was afraid you were done for!” Mendel expressed as we ate, “You were locked in here and I didn’t know how I was going to get you out!”

“Yes, I was at the gates of Valhalla waiting to get let in,” Oosi replied stoically. “Then I was yanked back into my body. Yes, thank you. Thank you for your worry, but such is the life of a warrior. We must be brave in these circumstances.”

Mendel went on and on until we all eventually slept until morning.

“Should we look in the sarcophagus?” Mendel asked in the morning.

Everyone else waited in the corridor while Oosi and I pushed the lid open, Oosi practically lifting the heavy stone on his own.

Inside we saw a corpse. By its feet was a backpack.

Oosi grabbed the backpack.

“They got it open,” Bran yelled out from the doorway and everyone came back into the chamber.

Inside the backpack, we found 260 copper coins, 90 silver coins, 210 gold coins, four skrimshander carvings, three scrolls, and two potions of healing.

Oosi took one potion and gave the other to Mendel.

Mendel began examining the scrolls. “Can you read this?” he whined in frustration, handing the first to Blaze. “It’s foreign to me.”

“Yes, I can read it,” Blaze replied. “It is a word of radiance cantrip.”

Mendel explained that the second scroll contained an earth tremor spell.

After Mendel, Blaze, and Bran were all unable to read the third scroll, Mendel took out his spellbook and began casting comprehend languages as a ritual. When he was done, he explained, “Looks like this is a moonbeam spell.”

“Isn't that what she casts on us?” Bran asked. “The first time we met her?”

“I believe it is,” I agreed.

“Maybe we can sell it,” Mendel suggested, “or trade it to a druid. I can't use it.”

“Wait, this is a druid scroll maybe,” Oosi began. “Maybe we can use it when we go… Uhm? Well, we need that other druid to help us find that jarl of jarls. We can use this as a payment or an enticement to get that druid to come help us.”

“That's a good idea,” Bran agreed. “It’s worth a shot anyway.”

“I believe that druid was willing to help us for 25 gold coins,” I considered. “This scroll is probably worth much more. But we can save it until our business is done.”

“Right,” Oosi agreed. “It might come in handy if she's with us. She said she wouldn't fight.”

“Does anyone object if we burn this body in the sarcophagus?” Bran asked. “I'm not a big fan of desecrating the dead, but I don't trust that these are not gonna come back alive and hurt us after the fact.”

“I have no objection,” I replied. “I think it's a good idea.”

“Alright,” Oosi suggested, “well maybe, you know, we shouldn't stick around if we don't want to fight those ice trolls that are in the area.”

After we divided up the treasure we had found, we prepared to leave.

“If those ice trolls are still out there,” I suggested, guarding the entrance to the tomb. “I suggest we deal with them.”

Mendel examined the seven-foot-tall stone-encircled mirror at the end of the southwest corridor. Finding nothing unusual about it, he pulled out his spellbook and began casting detect magic as a ritual.

Meanwhile, Erling and Bran examined the door at the end of the south corridor, finding that it was engraved with a white semicircle with its rounded edge facing toward the right.

Based on what we had learned previously, we all concluded that it was some kind of moon symbol indicating that it could only be opened at a certain phase of the moon, or with a moonbeam spell.

“It’s divination magic,” Mendel declared once he was done casting. “Maybe it can be used for scrying or looking into the future.”

“Looking into the future is a dangerous power for anyone,” Bran warned.

“Maybe she’s just vain,” Oosi wondered aloud. “Maybe that's how she communicates with the ice queen.”

“I think I could use this mirror if I spend some time attuning to it,” Mendel advised. “But that will take about an hour or so, and I don’t know if we want to wait that long.”

“I think we need to know where this is a tool that could be used by our enemies,” Bran insisted, “or something that we could ourselves.”

“So after I attune to it,” Mendel explained, “I should be able to tell you.”

Erling noted that the south door had no openings for keys or lockpicks.

Oosi tried to pry it open with a crowbar, but it did not budge.

When Mendel eventually attuned to the mirror, he explained what it could do, “This mirror can be used on the full moon to scry on any creature anywhere. Bran, you can probably attune to it too. Then you can try to see and hear any creature that you choose anywhere, and it’s easier the better you know them and if you have a strong connection to them. I suspect there's always a chance that they could find out that you're doing it.”

“So she could have been scrying on us this whole time,” Oosi pointed out.

“So who would we want to scry?” Bran asked.

“Well,” Mendel suggested, “Oosi did mention the barbarians we’re looking for, and then there’s also the guy that we're looking for.”

“Macreadus,” Bran confirmed. “Maybe the lake monster or Avarice…”

“We can’t use it now,” Mendel suggested, “but I don't think we should destroy it. We could always come back and use this if we needed to.”

Bran attuned to the mirror, eventually breaking Mendel’s attunement, confirming that he could not use it unless it was a full moon.

We decided to burn this sister’s body in the sarcophagus. We left as thick smoke quickly filled the room.

We headed north in hopes of finding Macreadus, Erling and I on the lookout for tracks.

We traveled for four hours before taking a break. I tracked down a little snow bunny and brought it to Oosi once he was done performing a ritual to speak with animals.

“The spirit of the bear welcomes you,” Oosi said, gently holding the trembling rabbit. “No, this bear is good. I'm not gonna eat you, you're okay. Mr. Rabbit, we're looking for someone here. Maybe you've seen them. He walks on two legs like us. Did you see anybody on two legs around here? Living in a big cave? You know, like a big house?”

Then Oosi turned to us and said, “It hasn't seen anybody on two legs here.”

Turning back to the rabbit, Oosi said, “Thanks. The spirit of the bear thanks you. Go in peace.” He put the rabbit down gently and let it run away.

At Bran’s suggestion, we continued straight north for another four hours until we reached the river, which was frozen solid. We pressed on for another hour, following the river northeast, until we were all exhausted, except for Erling and Oosi.

While everyone was setting up camp, I foraged for food, finding a couple of little rabbits, a bunch of berries, and some edible fungi, all in all enough to feed a person for eight days.

After eating our fill and packing the extra, we camped for an uneventful night.

In the morning we followed the river southwest.

After four hours, we stopped and ate, and then continued following the river.

Suddenly, Oosi’s armor began to glow and up ahead we saw a humanoid figure covered in black robes sitting on top of a snowy mound. The figure’s back was to us.

“Take cover,” Oosi warned us. “There's a dragon nearby.”

“That’s clearly not a dragon,” Bran replied.

“Maybe it's buried in the snow,” Oosi offered. “You should take cover now.”

Taking cover, I cast pass without trace and examined the figure using my eyes of the eagle.

“I'm willing to go forward,” Bran offered, “while you guys slip along to the side. Stay out of his view. If you circle around the trees and then go around here.” With his one hand, he indicated a perpendicular path to maintain our distance. “Stay out of range while I keep his focus and I try to discern his intent. You know, who he is, is this Macreadus. If it's Macreadus, then great, we're on the same path. If he's not, well, I might be dead, but at least you guys have an opportunity to go.”

“I wasn't thinking that we'd be sacrificing you,” I replied.

“I'm not willing to just avoid it,” Bran insisted.

“Alright, I'll go with you,” Oosi volunteered. “It’s a damn fool idea, but I’m not going to send you there alone.”

The rest of us spread out and took cover in the trees while Bran and Oosi approached the figure.

“I think it makes more sense to let Bran go by himself,” Mendel whispered to Oosi. “He's, he's, he's a more skilled negotiator. You’re…”

“Yes,” Oosi acknowledged. “We can’t show weakness.”

As Bran and Oosi approached casually with open arms, Bran announced, “We mean you no harm. We are just here to talk. Greetings, friend. We are looking for a tinkerer. Perhaps someone that perhaps might be able to aid us in a quest. Are you able to give us directions to this person?”

When they were halfway to the figure, it began to rise up and turn around, the snowy ground under it lifting and then falling away, revealing a gargantuan white dragon as its mount.

“We're not here to be antagonists,” Bran said calmly. We're not fighting you. We are looking for someone that was named Macreadus that could help us in our quest.”

The dragon snorted at Bran and he turned and fled in terror.

Oosi shivered briefly in fear but stood his ground.

“We don't mean anyone harm,” Oosi said as he backed up. “We're just passing through the area and we wanted to ask if you had any information about this area. That is all. We're not looking for a conflict with anyone in this area?”

The dragon raised its head, and growled, “Stop! Tribute or die! Magic or die!”

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