Day of the Squirrel (26th), Satyr’s Moon, Year of the Titan
Lost in the forest
The quiet snow-covered forest stretched all around. The three southerners were lost. The heavy clouds hung low. Yucta Ockasiola could not get his bearings. Blundar Oddly was a man of the soft cities; he knew only legends of the northlands. Ockasiola prayed to Storm Bull. A bolt of lightning from the heavy clouds overhead struck the forest somewhere ahead. A rumble of thunder followed.
“Thank you, Storm Bull!”
The others shrugged. One way was as good as another. They began to walk, picking their way between the trees with Krassius Vror’s horse and the sled carrying the Icewyrm’s head. Then the heavy rain came down.
The apple glade
After an uncomfortable night the skies cleared somewhat and the cold wind blew through the trees. At noon they came to a clearing. In the centre was a gnarled apple tree, lush with bright fruit. Around it were bright red poppies. Yucta was suspicious, especially when he spied a skull among the flowers. He would not set foot in the clearing. Ockasiola and Blundar saw the fruit and greatly desired some. Their food had been icewyrm steaks for days. Ockasiola shot an arrow; it pierced an apple and knocked it off the tree. Cautiously, Blundar ventured into the clearing to collect the fallen apple. He took a bite, and declared it delicious. Ockasiola tasted some too. By this time Yucta had made it around to the other side of the clearing with the sled, and was moving on. As Blundar stepped from the clearing with an uneaten apple in his pocket there was a rustling sound. Eight thin figures stepped forth from the trees, gnarled like wood. They carried shining swords which they had unsheathed from the bark of the nearby trees.
“Trespassers, none shall take the fruit of sacred Donya from the grove” came a voice like rustling leaves.
“We are very sorry. We meant no disrespect to holy Donya” replied Blundar, dropping the apple and motioning Ockasiola to do likewise. There was a pause, then the figures stepped back into the trees, mollified by his words.
The cold dead men
That night Satyr’s Moon was a mere sliver. Yucta stood on watch and thought he saw a dark globe pass in front of the moon. The night was so dark he did not see the figures until they were almost upon the campsite — eight eerie dead men creeping unnaturally through the snow. Yucta heard a rasping whisper: “Give us the skull.” He shouted a warning and the others struggled to their feet as the zombies attacked. Ockasiola was slow and a zombie clubbed him badly. Yucta swung his mace at the attackers. He was confident he could send several back to Hell but eight against three? He didn’t like those odds.
The whirling blades of Kee-Ree nigh-Rahn-ax
From out of the night came a cry, and a fresh attacker launched himself at the zombies, whirling his blade so fast it was mesmerising. The newcomer was fast, very fast, and between the four of them the zombies were soon dismembered and twitching on the snow.
The stranger was Kee-Ree nigh-Rahn-ax, a demon hunter from the Eastern Lands. He was short, dark-skinned and always moving. His family had been killed by demons and he had dedicated his life to their destruction. In such pursuit he had been transported by a magical portal to these frozen lands. Certainly he seemed ill-dressed for these cold woods, though he claimed not to feel the cold. Nevertheless he was grateful to share the fire.
Over the next few days the land gradually rose and sheer mountains loomed ahead. Fortunately, there was a pass dead ahead. The four spotted a huge nest up on the cliff side. Although they moved cautiously, it wasn’t long before the owners of the nest — two enormous Griffins — came to investigate. A shot from Blundar’s Arbalest and a Flame Arrow from Ockasiola was enough to frighten them away however.
The hanged man
The pass led through a high-walled valley, a little warmer and greener than the cold forest they had traversed. Near the entrance to the valley a bloated, unrecognisable corpse hung from a tree. Civilisation, of a sort, then?