Sunday, 2nd of Coldeven
The newlyweds appeared the next day, and almost no one noticed. With the prospect of adventuring on a new quest, everyone was busy purchasing supplies, sparring in the yard, and readying in the most unnecesary ways. Dartan didn't feel it was time to go, so the group enjoyed a leisurely week of inaction, which almost killed the warriors of boredom.
After the week, Dartan had a sense that it was time to pick up the backpacks and leave. Jettok practically tripped, moving so quickly for the door. He reminded Kyla of a dog that needed walking.
The Knights walked out the door to Spellforge Keep, waved to Rowan, and left. Kyla cast a glance back at the guardian. He met the glance.
They walked and walked, and found the North Road. They traveled on it for many days. The air grew chilly.
Earthday, 6th of Coldeven
After camping at the roadsides and having many dull days of walking, it started snowing. They were slowly making their way north. They took out the cold-weather clothes they'd packed and put it on, then continued.
Before long, the ground around them was covered in a thin layer of snow. There were no houses or villages in sight... only sparse trees and hills. In the distance to the north, tall white mountains loomed like colossal forgotten monoliths.
Vek's keen eyes spotted something ahead, on the road. "What is that?" he announced. The group looked and saw it- a small gray splotch- people. A group of people, moving south towards them. The Knights readied themselves and waited.
At their head was a gnomish woman whose eyes were wide and alarmed. "Turn back!" she yelled, when she was within distance. "A demon has taken Finch!"
"Finch," Katya said to the others. "Isn't that where we're going?"
Rafflorn replied "Yep. Ho, good woman! What has happened in Finch?"
The group slowed to a stop, a cautious fifteen feet away. The woman puffed and caught her breath. "My name is Cirilli Treetrapweaver. I'm sheriff of Finch, the village yer headed straight fer. Well, just now, a demon descended upon us. Big white winged thing, looks like a dragon, 'cept it walks like a man."
Kyla asked "What did it do?"
Cirilli favored Kyla with a condescending glance. "Hell, girlie, we din't stick around to see! We ran. Ain't no point not running when demons come down from the sky."
Vek asked "Has this happened before?"
The gnome nodded. "Twice before. Same thing. Swoops down, we run, return a few hours later when the cold has our bravery up."
"When you return, what's the condition of the town? Is anything missing or destroyed?"
Cirilli said "Uh, nothing important. Some items from the general store gone missing each time, but that's it."
Katya was quick. "Is there money left behind for the items?"
The townspeople looked to one man, who blushed and stammered. "Could be the gold pieces left on my counter were left by that hideous beast, or could be I forgot them there in my haste to leave. I... I'm not sure."
Vek spoke up. "All right, well, we've heard enough. We're adventurers, milady. We'll go into Finch and learn for ourselves what this demon's problem is. Wait here."
The townspeople sat there as the Knights walked towards Finch. Before long, they saw it- a quiet little abandoned hamlet in the middle of the snow. They walked into the ghost town and looked around for signs of the creature. Snow fell all around them. The only thing breaking the wintry silence was their own tread on the ground.
They all heard it. It came from the shop to the right. With weapons drawn, they peeked in the large window. Inside they saw a large yet man-shaped biped plucking items from a shelf, examining them, and placing them into a small pile. It was scaled and white. It had long, tapered wings, which were folded against its back. A thick serpentine tail twitched and curled. It turned its head briefly, and they saw it- a cruel reptilian face with a fanged muzzle. Its bright yellow eyes darted along the contents of the shelves.
Kyla recoiled. "What is that thing?"
"White Dragon. Or, at least, its head is." Dartan answered. He was the only one who'd ever seen one, back in the Sunless Citadel. So long ago. The group readied themselves and then made their presence known.
"Hold, monster! What is your business in Finch?"
The creature whirled, hand outwards, and cried "Fear me not, citizens! I mean you no harm. I will only be buying a few items and then leaving."
After a brief, if awkward, introduction it was found that the half-dragon really didn't mean any harm to the people of Finch. His name was Taigiel. He came regularly to purchase goods, then he paid for them and left. The people were summoned back to town, but they gave the beast a wide berth. No one wanted to step near him, and no one wanted to turn their back to him.
"This is the way it's always been, I'm afraid..." Taigiel said. "I was born in a small town not far from here. It seems that my father was a man who swept into town one day and charmed the people of the village. He charmed my mother well enough, which is of course why I'm here. He disappeared, and I was born. My mother loved me. She loved me despite my deformities, and did her best to hide my appearance. She managed to do this for ten years. When I was discovered, we were cast out from the village, into the tundra. Mother died. I was ten, but I wasn't dying of cold and could defend myself well enough, so I managed to survive."
From a crowd of people walking by, a voice murmured "a monster..." too loudly, on purpose. Taigiel sighed.
"Everywhere I go, it's like this. I was confused and lost. Then, I discovered my roots- I found that my father is Acessiwal. He's a white wyrm. Lives further north, in a place called Coldheart. Attempting to communicate with him was fruitless. He only urged me to join him and rule by his side. I wandered from place to place, lost and alone. I grew and fought a private war with ice orcs, goblins, and other evil things. One day, feeling particulary depressed, I walked until I stepped into a temple... just by chance. A temple of Heironeous. There, I sat and heard a voice. It bade me cast aside my despair. It bade me stand and kill my father. Then, when his reign is done, I will be free of his curse and be accepted."
The others looked at him, wondering how to ask if they could join him in his quest and travel with him.
Taigiel continued. "I... I can't do it alone. If you are adventurers of as much skill as you claim, I ask if you would join me and help me topple my father. I can only offer you what we find within his caves, and the knowledge that you did something good."
Vek spoke up immediately. "Certainly, that sounds good, yes." Taigiel blinked in surprise.
When the preparations were finished, they slung their packs around their shoulders and looked north. "I'm not certain of exactly where Coldheart is," Taigiel said, "but it's beyond the end of the north road, beyond Latona, over the ice. It will be a hard journey. The way is deadly cold and filled with terrors. Plus, I would not put it past my father to throw some enemies our way..."
Just then, a scream from the center of town, followed by others. The Knights and Taigiel ran to find three skeletal ice sculptures walking sluggishly through town. They spotted the group and something in their eye sockets glittered. They moved forward. "Ice golems!" Taigiel shouted.
Dartan, of course, rushed right in. His sword flew out and smashed against one. It barely put a dent in the thing, which grinned its maniac ice rictus smile and slashed him across the chest. He cried out in pain.
"My spells do nothing!" Katya yelled.
"Hmmph: spells!" Jettok unsheathed Skullsplitter, his great axe, and said "Want to create a pretty light show, call a mage. You want to chisel something, YOU CALL A DWARF!" He dashed forward and swept his axe clean through one's leg- shattering it into gleaming shrapnel. The warriors followed his example, and with time, the golems were defeated.
The party had taken heavy damages from the assault. They packed more strength than the group had anticipated- and they had all gone straight for Taigiel. The half-dragon bled badly as Kyla did her best to patch him up.
Cirilli approached the group. "This was no accident. They want this... thing. Acessiwal wants it. Well, we need none of this. Take your friend and leave Finch."
Cast out, the group left Finch and walked north. They camped out that night. For lack of suitable shelter in the blowing cold, they weighed their options. Taigiel's best suggestion was that they tunnel under the snow's crust and form a subterranean igloo. Eventually, Rafflorn got the bright idea to teleport back to Verbobonc, purchase a heavy tent and whatever other items people might ask him to get, and teleport back so they could spend the night in relative comfort. It worked.
As the Knights settled down in their tent, listening to the wind howl outside, Jettok said "Wow, that Teleport
certainly is a handy spell. Ha ha... Too bad we can't use it to teleport straight into the dragon's lair, so we won't have to freeze to death for a week just traveling there. Just teleport in and kill the big bastard, wouldn't that be something, ha hah..."
Dead silence filled the tent. Rafflorn licked his lips, thinking very hard, very fast. He exchanged an excited glance with Taigiel. Every Knight looked at Jettok, their eyes shining. He looked back at them, defensively.
NEXT TIME: A good idea in theory...