So last time we we rescued someone named Malina. This time, we’re headed off to a clearing with some sort of stone spiral that might be the next step. We head to the tavern, where we find Jeremiah. Like everyone else here, he seems vaguely familiar. Chuck walks up to him and tries to challenge him to a friendly wrestling match; Jeremiah refuses.
So the snow lion pelts sell really well, but after the last sale they didn’t come back. More recently a rogue recruited a band and went north as well. He also mentions a circle of stones, that he thinks was made by something inhuman. Jenny shows him Chuck’s medallion, and Chuck turns on him threateningly… and he freaks. He’s just sure that Chuck is “one of them” – the tall, antlered beasts that walk like men and haunt your thoughts. He gives us direction to Blue Rock Lodge, where the trappers stay at night when they’re out there. Corrigard was the first trapper, who’s missing; Keller is the one who followed him, the rogue – and probably used this an excuse to blow town and get away from trouble.
Jenny asks what they do to your head, and Jeremiah said that they just stay in your head until you go crazy.
We buy supplies: Oil of Flaming Arrow, six healing potions, twelve alchemist fire, and one silversheen. Jenny ends up chatting with another hunter, who confirms the legend of the elk but suggests that we leave our horses here. We decide to leave the horses here, and Jenny sells them off for us, netting us another 300 gold. We use that to buy cold-weather clothing and travel supplies, and some food supplies which Chuck plans to supplement by hunting. Chuck buys a pack that will let him carry Jenny (so we can move faster) and off we go!
Twelve hours of hard travel into the frozen north… we’re warm enough, so we’re feeling good about that. It is, of course, not long before we run into something in the forest. It’s an owlbear, and it looks angry and hungry, and we’ve seen it before it sees us. Durest leans over to Chuck: “Them’s good eatin’!” Chuck: “What? No.” Chuck takes Jenny off, and that’s when it spots us. It fluffs out its feathers and shrieks a hunting cry.
Chuck moves towards the owlbear; the owlbear moves towards Chuck. Jenny moves up a little bit and casts Silent Image, placing a second Chuck next to Chuck. Durest moves beside Chuck. Chuck charges the beast and power attacks, hitting it. It then attacks Chuck, claws him, grabs him, and pecks with his beak. Chuck: “OUCH!”
Durest runs up and attempts to grapple the owlbear, and succeeds. Chuck attempts to help Durest pin it. It tries to peck Chuck, but they’ve got its head and it misses. Jenny breaks into a romantic melody from the noble Lady Gaga. Durest attempts to pin the owlbear, but fails. The owlbear tries to peck Chuck again but it fails, and the Durest somehow manages to twist this thing around and pin it. Chuck promptly slits its throat.
Chuck looks around and decides that it probably happens onto us randomly. It’s pretty emaciated, but we collect what meat we can and fashion Jenny a crude owlbear-hide cloak. Chuck isn’t sure if the scarcity of animals is from sort of curse, or just winter.
We continue on and make camp for the night. It’s spooky nighttime time. Chuck takes the first watch; Durest takes second watch; and Jenny takes the final watch. It’s a lot colder at night. Fortunately, we have our furs and whatnot. Just on the edge of the firelight, Jenny spots a group of small lions, who seem to very hesitant to approach more closely. She throws rocks, and they go away. The come back around once or twice, but don’t approach the camp.
The sun is a welcome warmth. We continue traveling, with Chuck making sure we stay on the path. The second day is pleasantly uneventful, but it’s getting colder as we go and it’s going to be a very cold night. The forest has gotten denser, but the trees are more or less frozen and the snow falls continually.
Again, Chuck takes the first watch. He’s sitting by the fire, maybe dozing a little, when a giant snow spider walks into our camp and then stops, completely startled. It turns, looks at Chuck, and jumps him. He takes a little damage from the bite, and a bunch of Dexterity damage from the poison.
Chuck screams, and then rages, and then tries to smash. He hits, doing pretty decent damage, and takes off a leg. The spider reels back, hissing.
Durest awakens: “Chuck! Why didn’t ye yell? Are ye drunk, lad?”
The spider tries to bite Chuck, misses, and buries its tentacles in a sleeping bag and gets itself trapped. Chuck can feel his body trying to shut down, but focuses his rage and attacks again, dispatching the beast. A moment later, Chuck collapses.
Durest takes over the watch after rolling Chuck up in his sleeping bag and covering him in furs. Jenny wakes up for her shift to find that Durest has attempted to dress the spider and placed all the meat in a pile on the snow. He has also clearly experimented with spider-based armor.
Nothing happens in Jenny’s shift, and by morning Chuck is at least semi-mobile. He’s strong enough to carry Jenny, but his balance is definitely off. Jenny puts up with it. We travel about a half day, and then make an early camp. Jenny takes the first watch, and nothing happens. She’s baffled as to why this seems so difficult for the boys. Durest take the next watch and nothing happens. Chuck wakes up pissed, and is more or less back to normal; Durest goes back to sleep, and Chuck takes his turn on watch.
A couple of large, wolf-like creatures wander up. Chuck looks up at the sky and flips him off. They pace around the campsite, setting themselves up on opposite sides of the campsite. They’re wargs.
They promptly charge Chuck. But fail to bite him. Chuck yells, and Durest and Jenny jerk awake. Chuck rages, and swings his hammer, power-attacking. The warg yips and jerks back. The warg tries to trip Chuck, but Chuck shrugs him off; he bites Chuck instead, taking a chunk out of his thigh.
The other one also attempts to trip Chuck and fails. He also bites Chuck, who’s definitely feeling it right now.
Chuck decides to finish off the first wolf and swings at him, hitting him with the hammer and taking him down. Jenny awakens and begins singing (“hungry like the wolf”) while the wolf attempts to trip him again and fails, and also fails to bite him. Durest tumbles out of his bedroll and smacks the wolf with his nunchucks. “Hwaaaaaaaah!” Durest is now flanking the wolf, and Chuck hits it again but only with a glancing below. Still the beast is almost dead. Jenny shoots it with her crossbow, and takes it down.
Jenny: “What, like that was so hard?” She turns to go back to sleep, but pauses to throw some healing on Chuck first.
We now have wolf meat and furs. Which is good, because it’s incredibly cold and the furs add just a little more warmth.
We press on, making another eighteen miles, and we’re almost to the lodge when we run into a giant grizzly bear. We exchange glances, then drop a pile of wolf meat and circle very widely around it. The bear is okay with this, and we pass by. We press on, a bit past the point where we really should make camp, and try to make the last little bit to the lodge.
But first, we come to the circle of stones. It’s in a clearing, and there’s a dead body in the middle of the clearing leaned up against… some sort of mound? Maybe snow, maybe a tree? And there are these rocks in a spiral pattern. Durest plunges into the spiral of stones and goes to look at the body. A man’s body sits upright by slumped against a mound of snow. The dude died of blood loss from a terrible wound on his shoulder. It looks like he had bandaged the wound, but then ripped it back open. Blood is seeping from both of his ears. There’s a bloody dagger in the snow nearby, and it appears that he stabbed himself in the ears.
Durest is all about the priorities, so he immediately searches the body. He has no tattoos, but he has a masterwork dagger and cold-weather clothing, but basically nothing else. We’re in the process of looking the thing over when we run into a snow lion.
Durest: “Quick, Jenny, make friends with it! You’re charming.”
He’s still gaping when the Lion attacks Chuck… and completely fails to connect with him. It’s smaller than a regular lion, sort of cougar-sized. Chuck rages and power attacks, and hits it hard. Jenny shoots at it with a crossbow, and connects but fails to kill it.
The lion runs away. Chuck charges after it and swings again, this time more carefully. He kills it.
The other two approach Durest, who is busy poking at the snow mound. It has bones in it, and there are piles of bones like the lions at the spot of each “rock”. The rocks aren’t rocks; they’re little bone piles. Chuck looks to see how they died; several of them have broken bones. They probably were hunted and slain, and then someone set them here in a spiral around this central mound.
There are tracks from the dead guy leading back towards the lodge. It’s not either of the two hunting band leaders: Corrigard or Keller.
We press on for another hour, and as we’re walking Jenny starts freaking out from her spot on Chuck’s back. Durest takes her knives, so she starts head-butting the back of Chuck’s head just as we reach the lodge. CHuck sets Jenny down and starts a fire in the lodge’s fireplace. But… it’s cold; the floor is covered in blood and rubbish; and Chuck notices some partially-eaten corpses in the beds. Jenny, meanwhile, is barely in control of herself; she’s basically just rocking on the floor by the fire.
Chuck looks more closely at the devoured bodies. It’s a single large room, and someone has tried to barricade all the doors and windows. There are beds in disarray, and there are scorch-marks as well as bloodstains. There is a fair amount of hunting equipment lying around, and a single door. Jenny, at the mercy of horrible voices in her head, goes and looks out the window. “Ohhh! So that’s what they meant by Antler person! I’m never going to have my harem, I’m never going to have my spiked chain back, but it’s out there!”
Durest races over to look out the window, but sees nothing. The front door and the window Jenny’s looking out of are not boarded up. We board them up and Durest says comforting things to Jenny and eventually we go sleep. Jenny takes the middle bed.
Chuck takes the first watch and starts pacing around the room, looking out the windows, trying to see antler guy. He notices a second door that we have not opened this entire time, and Durest is sleeping right next to it. Chuck goes and listens at the door, just hanging out and waiting to see what he can hear.
After a while he starts carrying stuff over to barricade that door, too. Finally he goes back to his bed and is sort of nodding off when there’s a loud noise: the bookshself that he placed in front of that door has been knocked over. Chuck screams and makes ready to murder things.
The door opens, and this frost-bitten, emaciated man comes out of the back. He’s a half-orc, with frostbitten, gnarled feet, and antlers starting to grow out of the back of his head. Durest snaps awake but not enough to move yet. Chuck moves over to the bookshelf and tries to push it over on top of him… but as skinny as the guy is, he’s uncannily strong and throws it aside.
Chuck: "That’s just great." Then he moves forward and bites Chuck. Durest rolls over, grabs the guy, and yanks him into the bed with him. Jenny rolls out of bed, and hides behind the bed and starts singing. With Chuck’s help, Durest flips the guy over, plants him face-down on the bed, and wrenches his arms up behind him. “Chuck! Get rope!” We get the guy tied up.
We finally get him calmed down, and Durest shoves a sandwich in his mouth. “What the hell happened to you?”
“I don’t know. The creature, it’s in my head. It’s out there. We thought we could come up here, but… it got in my head and I killed them. Some of them got away, but the ones inside… I killed them. I ate their flesh.”
Jenny: “Is he the one I saw out the window?”
Keller: “Yes! He’s coming for you. He’ll get inside your head.”