Excerpt 1

it is amazing to be outside again. Less amazing perhaps now that we can see how obviously we are covered in blood.  Turns out sliding down chains dripping with blood into great pools of blood makes it difficult to re-enter society unobtrusively.  Since Klajdu has only a crimson loincloth and plate armor, oddly enough he’s the only one who looks relatively normal now in the light of day.  Pretty cold light of day actually.
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Washing clothes in a stream and trying to warm by the fire, led to a long discussion about why exactly it’s so cold. We’re moving again.
With the world saved we’re heading back towards the dragon burial ground.  Hopefully Douven will forgive the lateness of our once-urgent rescue mission.
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Not so much.  Found the pieces of Douven today.  More material for the nightmares. I’ll look forward to those. Didnt find much and it was so damn cold that we stopped looking.  Back to winterhaven and a hero’s welcome.  No going underground for a good long while. Drinks will be on some guy we don’t know, and should stay that way for the foreseeable future.
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Didnt exactly get the relaxing jubilant return I was looking for.
Winterhaven was happy to see us, and lord Padraig gave us our reward. But saving the world seems more complicated – the town is still very low on food and the caravans never turned up. Maybe we can resurrect the kobolds to then curse them and kill them again.  I’ll look into it.   AND on top of this we lost Mu and Kalystra.  Some tiefling thing
about Distress’s brother. They went north.  Not sure why Mu went with her but I’m not really sure why she does anything.  That and I was drunk.  Gogol seems to be happy. I guess the girls dig bloodstained priests of Pelor. Who knew.
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OK now Gogol has set himself up in town.  Renting a house or bought a house.  Not sure. They werent exactly forthcoming about what was going on and I couldnt follow the elvish when they talked just the two of them.  At any rate he’s boarding with that elven flower girl we met earlier.  Klajdu thought at first she was coming with us.  Much
excitement as we got this straightened out.  Cant describe without a diagram and I didnt buy enough paper.   Now our party is down to 3.
Time for a drink.
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Woke up to a hangover, door rattling in its frame from the snoring next door, Beulah cursing me for leaving one of her arrows in a flagon downstairs and spoiling the fletching (what’s a fletching?).  Then things went from great to excellent in that we got downstairs to find Padraig wanting to send us down to Fallcrest to investigate the missing caravans.  Managed to not let it slip that this is probably where we were going anyway.  Happy to take his easy money. It is colder than yesterday so we stopped by the market after. We’ll come back to Fallcrest all clad in Winterhaven furs and spun wool caps. Hopefully my aunt wont try and kill me this time if she doesnt recognize me.  
Beulah says Im doing a good job trying to look poor and ignorant.  I cant tell if it’s meant as a compliment.
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By the gods this is a strange crew now. I appear to be the normal one.
Beulah likes to put arrows at the nock when we’re just sizing people up at a distance and Klajdu insists on wearing his loincloth on the outside of his plate armor.  It really spoils what would be quite an excellent paladin disguise. Although he brought up the excellent point that the talking pretty much spoils it too.   Somehow a farmer lady
let us sleep in her barn for the night and we ran into a farmer earlier hightailing it out of Fallcrest. Apparently there is even colder weather there and some trouble.  Trouble between merchants and the lower town. Bigger trouble than normal I mean.  Rumors of divine interference, rumors of the witchlight fens. All the old fallcrest stories back with a vengeance.
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Excerpt 2

Curses are not sufficient, or at least not the written ones.  The idea of easy money for this quest has gone by the board, with us very nearly with it.  Instead of sipping fine ales by the fire we sit huddled in an ice cave high in the Frostjaw mountains.  How high or precisely where, I could not tell you because we came in a flying boat.  Someone enchanted the boat to talk but then again I didnt feel like asking about our exact position — it’s conversational repertoire is meager and skewed towards hurling bolts of lightning.  The whole thing is a long story but I cant sleep so I might as well tell it.

Fallcrest in June was the spitting image of Fallcrest in January, but with more yelling and more things on fire.  With the harvest buried under a foot or two of snow it seems Lord Markelhay had ordered all food confiscated from the merchant stores and warehouses. His thinking was to institute food rationing so the town could make it through not just this freak summer but the fall and winter too.

Of course this did not endear him to the merchants whose capital was sunk into those warehouses. In fact if our silver-tongued friend the boat had not descended into the midst of things Fallcrest may have seen some sort of sloppy attempt at a merchant uprising.  But I’m getting ahead of the story.

There was a great commotion in the Market Green so we headed there. As a side note. we passed a dwarven paladin and his mercenary friend as they made a woman cry, and with our usual knack for picking up the strangest people possible, these same two are now in our party.
Anyway, we got to the green to find quite a show. Sehanine priests and the Pelor priests were wailing about this and that. The merchants were protesting the lord’s actions, the farmers were protesting their farmer-ness.  The dwarf, who I suppose I’ll have to start calling Fitz, put forth the sensible idea that this was a business for adventurers (neatly stealing our line). I tried to set the stage for the merchants paying us for the adventuring, so as to make themselves look good to the farmers.  Some rough types in the crowd were moving a little too inconspicuously and, well,  it turns out that THIS was the perfect moment for a flying warship full of undead soldiers to land right there on the banks of the Nentir.

Almost all the townspeople turned and fled. Some found themselves doubly stricken then, confronting Klajdu as he barrelled full speed through their line into their pursuers. I laughed a little, but only a little.   Beulah took the first down as I remember, and thus with a shower of bones we found that amongst our foes were some of our old friends the skeletons. Klajdu must have bewildered a few with his occasional battleshout of “Agggh, Non-Premium!!”.  The mercenary and the dwarf (alright Carn’ibald and Fitz) proved to be capable of more than making ladies cry, and they laid some serious hurt down in the center of the line.  And a quick and relatively vicious half orc called Tungsten ended up on our side too.  I’m not quite sure where he came from and I dont think anyone else knows yet either (at this point it’s almost too awkward to ask).  But he sank his axes into many an evildoer and that’s pretty much the only ticket required for this ride.

I have to relate a couple choice images. When some voice from the crowd suggested that we try engaging with the undead diplomatically, Klajdu bellowed back the question “Which side of axe is diplomatic side?”.   Beulah was keen to test some new ‘healing’ magic she’s been trying to pick up but we all managed to beg off.  We do need to solve this problem eventually. For one thing it’s quite possible this guide we brought may need some experimental healing.

Oh, and I almost forgot. Klajdu saw one of the enemy rush into a tent and exclaimed “Ah! he goes to take battlenap!” It was a bit less funny given that there was a family in that tent no doubt quivering in terror but all’s well that ends well I suppose.

Which it eventually did.  Towards the end the boat issued a demand – “Return the ice scepter to the realm of the Winter King or else [something really really bad will happen]“.  I cant remember exactly what it was at the end cause of the killing and all, but it sounded bad.  For some reason and failing to draw on any lessons learned in childhood, I listened to a half-orc’s advice and attempted to parley with an enchanted boat. Nearly died as a result. See previous comment about the boat’s rather serious conversational shortcomings.  The big quiet mercenary came from nowhere and proved his skills a second time (third if you count the lady crying) by casting some healing, so Bala’s little pawn lives to curse another day, and pen this lively tale by dying torchlight.

So where was I?  Ah. The last undead falling. And then falling again. I say again because they had a nasty tendency to get up, as though they really were just taking battlenaps. Ask Beulah about her sticky charge-happy friend down on the left flank. But after they stopped getting up some lively and electrical debate with the boat ensued and apparently the boat just wanted to take people who have the Ice Scepter back with it, or at least it wanted people who think they have the ice scepter.  Tungsten (the half-orc) told the boat that he had the scepter and while this was the winning move as far as not getting struck by lightning, when the boat demanded that he board the rest of us retreated to a somewhat cowardly distance and had a chat.

Orest Naerumar offered the interesting fact that even he has never heard of anything like an ‘ice scepter’, which is pretty definitive given the tiefling’s background. Fortunately Nimozaran was out and the old wizard shared some stories from before the time of Nerath (!!). He said that the Winter King was a human warlord that united several barbarian tribes to the north (I need to ask him first thing on my return where exactly this was).  He also laid claim to a dwarven kingdom and erected a pile of skulls for some reason I didnt quite catch.   Which is fine since that same tower of skulls is now literally outside this cave. And the purpose is pretty clear.  It’s simply the world’s largest “Go Away” sign.  Which marks him as a relatively unpleasant fellow. Nimozaran went on to say that he made a pact with the “Prince of Frost” and ended up frozen by the same inside a block of ice.  The “prince of frost” sounds familiar to me in an unpleasant, twitchy, screaming sort of way that suggests that he is from the Feywild. And Nimozaran called him a warlord but if he makes pacts with archfey I think the old man may have been off by a couple letters there.  I am keen to try this scepter in battle to say the least.

So, during all this storytelling, one weasely looking fellow was spotted sneaking away and promptly pinned down by Fitz, Carn’ibald myself and others, and then kicked by quite a few locals for good measure.  Not exactly the best liar we’ve seen and inside of a minute we’d extracted the very same Ice Scepter from his pack.

He spilled a strange tale of having been condemned to work in the mines among the Frostjaw peaks, and having escaped somehow.  He found his way to the tower of skulls and ignoring its spiky toothless subtext, he went inside.  And after a time he pulled the Ice Scepter from the hand of the frozen Winter King and thus protected from the cold he departed and made the long journey back to Fallcrest.   How he did all this I have no idea and I intend to ask him when we have a spare moment.

But spare moments were not in great supply since we got on the boat. I have no idea how much time passed but if someone makes me pull another oar or haul another rope or patch the enchantments on another deranged figurehead, I hope they like being on fire.   The torch is really out now and the snoring hasn’t reached full blast yet so I think it’s time to get some sleep.

Excerpt 3

A topsy turvy day, and if you’re of the type to measure your day in hours, you’d probably call it brief.
Right now I’m measuring the day in dire wolf bite marks, and it looks a bit long to me.
But back to this morning we go.  There is much to tell.

We wake, we shake off the nagging feeling that we’re out of our minds to be doing this, we grab a bite, we start getting ready. Marco Lansett points out that the big ice-covered door at the back of the cave wasn’t there when he left this place, we all turn to look at the door except for Klajdu who has skipped ahead and is there opening it.

Out spills flickering firelight and the smell of roast pig and the sensory overload of an entire banquet scene.  We’re scrambling into formation but especially given that we all just slept on this freezing stone floor, we’re a bit stunned.  In other words we proceed cautiously.  It’s strangely underpopulated, at least by humans.  There are three dogs, or if you will, chronometers.
There’s an old man who calls out a welcome to us,  there’s a woman next to him who nods sagely from time to time but says nothing.  The old man bids us come in and share his bounty. He claims to be the Winter King. When asked he doesnt have anything helpful to say about why he’s out and about instead of being dead and frozen in a block of ice.
He seems jolly enough but it’s all too easy.  Plus do I really have to give up this scepter so soon?  Klajdu steps up to the table and takes a bite of something, I pick up a cup of ale more out of reflex than any sensible impulse.  Beulah asked a question not entirely as politely as a true king might require, but it goes over just fine.
He’s a bit scruffy for a king perhaps. Things are a mite awry.  But you know, maybe the dogs ate his valet last week and he’s been roughing it.  Who knows.

Tungsten isn’t buying it though.  He cocks his head and says “something’s fishy about all this” and that’s all it takes.   The king says “Oh Bortek knew this wouldn’t work”, and the world goes back to trying to kill us.   It’s better this way.  Makes more sense.

The dogs are now dire wolves, each the size of a brick outhouse. The woman loses maybe half her height, grows some pointy ears and starts working magic that I don’t like the looks of one bit.  The ‘king’ leaps on top of a wolf while it’s still growing to full size, rides it over and takes a swipe down at us with a decidedly non-regal greataxe.
Occasionally I think he followed it up with a handaxe for good measure.
Klajdu, Tungsten, Fitz and Carn’ibald are getting hammered.  A dire wolf on either side, the elf/gnome/bitch blasting them with some horrible cold light that knocked Klajdu down (no mean feat).   Still, we’re holding our own.  Well everyone else is.  Beulah’s filling the false king and the wolves with arrows, axes and swords are sinking in left and right,  and I’m there trying everything i can think of and I cant seem to get the hang of this new scepter.
At one point I teleported a little too eagerly behind the enemy line (why cant i stop doing this?), and Shazia must have looked like a giant milk bone or something, at least until i cowered manfully behind the bed…
Carn’ibald did a spectacular leap and flip over the table, switching weapons as he did so I think. It was too fast for me to follow.  After such an impressive display unfortunately the blade failed to land at first but either it was a feint or he passed off the failure brilliantly because the next second it did hit.  Fitz wasn’t to be outdone and not long after he had his own spectacular jump, leap and flail going, coming down on the table in a great clatter of alecups and roast pig bits.  Much healing was needed and not very much was on hand.  Fortunately Beulah got to use the new healing she’s been threatening to use on us, and it was surprisingly excellent, even including a surly “There there” from her and a brief pat on the shoulder. All this in between twin strikes so she’s a pretty scary healer.  Im still afraid.  But aside from Klajdu getting knocked down once and aside from these great blasts from the damn witch, we started to get the upper hand.  Once the dogs started going down the witch thing multiplied and we had to deal with three of them.  At some point around this time I guess I started yelling loud enough because my curses finally started landing.   Fitz nearly got taken out but some well timed healing saved him.  Gods I cant keep all this straight.
When it was all over though we had a new surprise.  When the last witch fell her illusion faded and we saw that the cups of ale and the roast pig was just….   rotting…  ohgod.  Klajdu who’d taken a bite of… something.   Was it that?  god i hope not.  Ohno.  that’s much worse…..  Klajdu wasn’t looking good at all.  And that’s saying something cause this guy’s skin is grey on a good day.
So, some people are asleep already.  The fires are still going, and the beds turned out to be real which is a nice bonus. Over in one of the beds someone’s having a rough time of it actually.  I’m over on the floor cause I still feel a little guilty taking a bed – here I am carrying this scepter and I haven’t felt cold yet this whole trip.