As Winter Comes

Small Victories

On our way back to the safe house we spotted one of the wyverns. It was flailing in the air and falling. The rider was clinging desperately to its back. It crashed down into the roof of a house not far ahead. After a moment’s silence we heard a heart-rending scream. It stopped suddenly and then silence.

Our group looked at each other but I already knew we needed to act. I started running towards the house, Donnacha was with me. I guess his military instincts kicked in the same as mine. As I expected the rider was still alive. We challenged him but he grabbed a small child and used it as a hostage. Donnacha tried to reason with him, but he was backing away from us with the child still clutched to his chest. He took a few more steps then threw the child through the air!

I’m ashamed to have ever been associated with such brutes, and I vowed that this one would not live to take any more innocent lives. I charged at him, weapons ready.

The battle was tough; Ragesian Wyvern Riders are well trained and vicious. My allies came to my aid quickly. I have Paelias and Rigar to thank for finishing off the animal whilst me and Donnacha lay bleeding. Thankfully, the child was not harmed and we took him with us to the safe house.

Rivereye was not doing well, and was quickly taken into care. The safe house was full of priests, injured civilians and people helping. We talked to Buron, the leader of the cell. Seems the attack was a show of force. Gate Pass has started rounding up wizards at the demand of the Ragesian army, but they were not prepared to hand them over. I’m glad the full assault has not yet started – we might still have enough time to get out of the city – but I fear for the people of Gate Pass when that attack comes.

We ate and slept as best we could. The next morning Torrent went to gather information on Shialas, the suspected Ragesian contact at Gabel’s school. She is thought to be involved with the case of intel that was stolen by the shape shifter.

Buron briefed us on an urgent mission that has just come up. They heard there is a terrorist cell in Gate Pass, who have a vicious beast to terrorise the city. Something that ‘strikes and hides like a cat’. They made their base in a warehouse in the industrial district. We were all keen to help protect Gate Pass against the Ragesians, and we agreed to go straight away.

We scouted the perimeter quietly. We decided the best entry point was a door we thought would lead to a side room. The door was locked but a swift kick took it down easily. Rigar used his magic to create a diversion at the main double doors – sounds of people shouting – and bought us some time. The first foes we faced were meagre opponents and I dispatched three of them without breaking a sweat. Further into the fight I took some heavy injuries, but Paelias’ encouragement and the support of my allies kept me strong.

The mercenaries fought desperately. They had a wizard with them who made life difficult with his vicious ranged attacks. In the midst of battle, a creature about the size of a dog – but with wings and a long thick tail – swooped down from the roof and lashed out at me. Before I could retaliate it vanished from view. Rigar blasted it with his magical rays, and created a zone which stopped it from moving. I knew it couldn’t be far so I focused all my energy and struck hard. My strategy worked and I slew the creature in a flurry of mighty blows.

Donnacha charged towards the ranged fighters but was caught off-guard. He didn’t see the trap and fell painfully into a hidden pit. He took a moment to get his bearings, but quickly managed to climb out and continue the assault.

The last enemy standing was the wizard. He began to flee as his last comrade fell, but we chased him down. He could not be allowed to report back to his employers.

We searched the area and uncovered a cache of notes. They said that Erdan Menash was going to be kidnapped. We need to hurry before it’s too late!

Over and out.


Flashback - Viv


Snowflakes fell fast that New Year’s Eve, too fast, racing at the earth like falling stars. Watching it come down like that, it was easy to believe what they were saying in the east, that such a punishing winter had to be the retribution of an angry god.

Washing a glass, Viv Finner looked out the window of her closed-down, boarded-up pub and saw the snow still piling in the streets. It would be a long walk to her brother’s house tonight, she decided, so she had better hurry. The Poison Apple Pub was a dive, but a popular one. A shabby, low-class establishment in one of the poorer districts a mile from the West Gate, it had a coterie of devoted regulars and reputation for not watering down the drinks.

Everyone knew the man who owned the place, Trehan Finner, was a magus. They knew it as much from the twinkle in his eye and his perpetual smirk as they did from the fact that he could put a rowdy customer to sleep with a handful of dust. But no one seemed to mind. Most Gate Passers didn’t trust magi as a group, but just about everybody who knew Trehan Finner liked him.

When the City Council announced they hoped to appease the approaching army by handing all of the town’s users of magic over to the Ragesian Inquisitors — the ruthless magus hunters known locally as the Scourge — in order to spare the town conquest by the Ragesian army, few people complained. But when the city guard came for Finner, the pub’s regulars were in an uproar. All over the district, everyone who knew the man could be heard loudly decrying the unfairness of it all.

Everyone, that is, except Trehan’s wife. Viv Finner did not cry when she found out her husband had been taken, nor did she panic. Instead, she quietly bundled up her children and took them to her sister-in-law. She told her eldest to be brave, and to take care of his brother, and told both her sons she might not see them for a little while. That done, the suddenly husbandless mother of two headed down the Emelk Way to the Chapel of the Aquiline Cross. She walked right up to the curate, announced she knew the Chapel was a Resistance safe-house, and asked how she could go about joining.

After hours of Viv’s refusals to leave or take no for an answer, the curate, a Knight of the Aquiline Cross named Buron Watcher, finally said that if she really wanted to help the Resistance, they did need a private place to meet a contact. Viv already knew Torrent, who was an occasional patron of the Poison Apple, and she volunteered her pub for the meeting. But if the priest had hoped that contributing her family’s place of business for the night would be enough to satisfy Viv, he was disappointed. On the way out of the temple, she stopped and said, “After the meeting, I’ll be back for another mission.”

Though her pub was closed, she had taken the meeting so seriously that she’d gone back and cleaned it up until it was as nice as it had been the day she and her husband bought it. Every glass was polished, every corner swept, even the rags were washed and bleached. Viv imagined brave fighters of the Resistance coming here, making plans to fight back against the monsters who had taken her husband away. Such champions, she had determined, would get the best of everything if she could help it. Finishing the glasses, Viv stole a glance at the melting candle she had lit when she’d started and realized how late it was. Time for her to get going. She planned to be long gone before Torrent arrived. She bundled herself up against the cold, lit a lantern, blew out her candle, and let herself out the back door.

On the way out, she paused and looked around the lantern-lit interior of the pub. Had she done everything? Was it all be suitable? Then she remembered what kind of place it was. It was local watering hole; not much to look at, but tended with love by its owners and loved equally by its regulars. People came here to laugh, to cry, to recollect, to tell ludicrous stories to old friends and hear their approbations or derision. They didn’t come because the wood was polished, they came to drink with people they liked and trusted and share with them the joys and woes of being alive.

It was, she decided — as she locked the door and vanished into the snow — a perfect meeting-place for heroes.

One New Year's Eve
On a dark and frozen night a chance at hope comes from an abandoned inn

Through the heavy snow and dark night a number of unlikely individuals converged at an inn in Gate Pass.

One was a warrior born soldier, a fair man, strong of stature and heart. I had heard of him. He was well regarded by his peers but do I sense a mission to prove.
One was a student and mage. His robes speak of precision and talent. He wears the sign of an impending change in his life. He has achieved much in his old world but now must find his place and prove himself in a new one.

One was the most intimidating of the lot. She has a lot of power that I think she chooses not to show. Her skin says more than her words did. A Ragesian living inside Gate Pass on a night like this. Maybe not rare, but certainly something unusual given where we now journey.
The last was.. well the story teller does best not to feature in the story. Let it be sufficient to say that I was there on a job and was glad to be at my destination rather than staying in the snow.

The night that drew in carried more than a storm. In the city that never stops celebrating its defiance and freedom there was nothing but stillness on this New Years Eve. The stillness was anticipation and fear of the Ragesian forces to the Western Gates who lay siege to the city and would surely attack within the week.

Our unlikely group found ourselves at the Poison Apple Inn. A sign on the door told of the owner being taken into custody. The Scourge of Ragesia had demanded that the city council round up known practitioners of the arcane. Through fear they had accepted to take some. This man was one, in his stead his wife had invited the Resistance to use the venue.

Torrent, a cleric who we suspect to be of the Aquiline Heart, bid us enter. After introductions we got to business. We were to get a briefcase of intel from the Ragesian Palace, take it from Gate Pass and deliver it to the Lyceum in southern Dassen. A warlock by the name of RiverEye Badgerface had worked in the Palace and now came to pass what he had seen on. A late wizard named Peppin was to be his contact. All we had of his was his signet ring and a code phrase to get us into the vaults; a heavily guarded bank. It would have to be enough. All of us were skeptical and on edge about all parts of the plan. As the bells of new year chimed we debated before agreeing to follow Torrents idea.

Before we could leave though, a sound of thuds like heavy objects falling on the roof sounded. Mercenaries of the Black Horse burst into the bar ordering all mages to surrender. It seemed like a strike planned to capture mages for the city council. The combat was complicated by the realisation that the roof was on fire and that the Poison Apple Inn was not the only building to be under attack. A brawl ensued between us and the mercenaries. Donnacha and Ta’waran diving into the fray and working together as if they had fought together for years. While the roof collapsed around us we made an escape to the street to be faced with a knight on horse back. A champion of the Black Horse mercenaries.

As quickly as the fight began it ended, the knight declared that we were not their enemy that night and rode away. We realised then that their foe was whomever was setting fire to houses in Gate Pass. Somewhere above us we could hear the sound of mighty beasts flying and battling each other. What else could be done in this situation; we got on with the mission.

Dashing through the streets we found time to help some of the citizens offering small bits of aid and helping the scared out of burning buildings until we reached the bank. It was a massive building which stood out amongst the rest of the city. It was 4 stout men stood in our way and there was no way we were getting passed the massive 20ft high walls.

To all our surprise, but I think Torrent’s the most, the pass phrase worked and we were granted entry. Inside we met a man who looked for all the world like Badgerface. He beckoned Rigar upstairs addressing him as Peppin. Once at a locker he asked “Peppin” to give him the password, a man who had met Peppin countless times before addressed Rigar as Peppin and asked him for a password we didn’t have. There was a moments confusion as the reality of the situation hit and everyone leapt into action; “RiverEye” trying to escape and all our group trying to put him down so we could question him.

Alas, with his ability to summon a Solon to his side, run straight up sheer surfaces and jump 30 feet with ease there was little we could do to hamper his escape. He slipped away leaving us to face the tower’s guards. As fortune would have it, the real RiverEye Badgerface was upstairs. He had been a prisoner to the imposter and vouched for us not being thieves there to break into the lockers.

The real Rivereye explained that the imposter was a shapechanged Eladrin. One of a team of 3 who had the case but believed they needed a password to open it before they could escape with it back to the Shining Lands of Shahalesti. This deception would buy us time to gather our recover for a moment at a Resistance safehouse and plan how to find and retrieve the case.

Oh, also, there was something about us rescuing a dire weasel from a burning house, but the less said the better.

- Paelias


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