It is about 1am on Day Five. The party has just defended their cave camp against a Grimlock incursion on two fronts. Some assailants came from the underground Grimlock city; others attacked from outside.
Aside from gems, two magic wands were looted from the corpses. Corun Dum’man puzzles over these. He is able to determine that one, marked with the name “Tordk” in a crude written form of Draconic, is a Divine Magic wand. The other, identified as “Mine” in the same script, is an Arcane Magic wand.
The Wizard cannot Identify what spell the Arcane wand carries. His only option is to try casting every Arcane spell he can think of and see which one triggers the wand. Corun tries casting Polymorph on Elroy Wick with the wand. When the Bard does not turn into a tree frog, the Wizard crosses that spell off the list of possibilities. Wick isn’t sure what just happened.
Corun is on the third watch of the night, with Øskur Røgnvaldurarsøn. Goa Finnbjorn, Yorgenson Uberson, Magnus, Wick, and Armst return to their bedrolls and nestle closer to the fire for warmth. The rest of the night passes quietly.
In the morning, as stones are set in the fire to heat up for travel, Magnus expresses his intention to return to the Grimlock hovel city and attack it. Angered that their party has been attacked several times, Magnus is consumed with desire to exterminate the evil Grimlocks. Corun Dum’man is on board with the idea. It takes some passionate words from Elroy Wick to keep these two from enlisting the rest of the party. The Bard reminds everyone that North Point is under siege, and that Time is a commodity in short supply – much like their food and firewood. They cannot become distracted from their mission.
Magnus offers a loaded compromise. The Fighter suggests that the party figure out where the barbarian Grimlocks came from when they attacked from outside last night. If tracks indicate that the barbarians came from a cave higher up the mountain-side, then Magnus will let the matter drop. On the other hand, if the Grimlocks emerged from a lower cave opening, near the ice field, Magnus wants the party assault and raze the Grimlocks’ hovel town, then find the tunnel which the Fighter expects must lead down to that lower cave exit – or find a tunnel that could take them safely under these mountains to lowlands in the east.
The reasoning is faulty but the Bard will take his chances on the physical evidence outside. They take a look. A descending trail of tracks shows that the Grimlock barbarians came down the hillside last night. Magnus lets the matter drop.
The party packs up their camp. Øskur Røgnvaldurarsøn lends both Elroy Wick and Corun Dum’man an Endure Elements; Yorgenson Uberson warms up with one for himself. Armst, Øskur, and Goa Finnbjorn will warm themselves with fire stones. Lörydyr doesn’t seem to mind the chill.
The morning is clear, cold, and windy under a pristine blue sky. The ice field is a shocking bright white, slashed with greys and grey-whites of crevices and chasms. Thrusts of grey rock break the dazzling snow-white of the mountain slopes. The party members and Goa’s canine companion seem to be the only warm, living creatures for a thousand miles in any direction.
The first two hours of hiking the ice are wordless boredom. When the bundled rocks give up the last of their heat, hourly Fortitude Saves are required against the biting wind and its soul-stealing cold. After noon, clouds gather in the sky, and the globe of their world turns a bland grey-white.
A Spot and Listen check; the party notices a small rock-slide on the mountain slope above them, not far off the ice field. They do not see what caused it. Twice in the next two hours, party members face Fortitude Saves and make Spot checks; the latter giving some of the group a glimpse of what may be another cave off in the distance, on the hillside. The light overcast clouds have fused into a solid grey mass. It starts to snow again.
At the lead of the party, Yorgenson Uberson suddenly requires a Reflex Save. He fails to stop himself from falling as his foot punches through what looked like solid snow but was, in fact, a thin dome over a deep and deadly crevasse. Fortunately the party members are all tied together by a single lifeline. Magnus, following behind the Druid, held his footing and stayed Uberson’s drop to only a few feet into the meter-wide chasm that opened up with a rush of dropping snow. Øskur Røgnvaldurarsøn’s ladder comes to the fore, and the party bridges this new-found hazard.
The snowfall turns sinister, coming down faster as the party presses on toward the mirage of a cave opening somewhere up ahead. Another Fortitude Save against the cold; Halfling Rogue Goa fails, and is now Fatigued. Lörydyr nudges his mistress, urging her on.
An hour later, the thick snowfall turns into a full-on squall. Heavy flakes of snow collect in dense clumps on the party’s cold-weather gear. The wind taunts them mercilessly. Now every ten minutes the party must make their Save against the cold. Armst fails and is Fatigued.
Shortly thereafter, both Goa and Armst fail their next Fortitude Saves. Both become Exhausted, hardly able to move at all, and shivering perilously close to unconsciousness. Magnus loads his Halfling friend into his backpack and carries her weight with ease. Armst is bundled up in blankets and loaded onto the makeshift sled Øskur Røgnvaldurarsøn has made from his ladder.
Minutes later, Yorgenson Uberson succeeds on a Reflex Save to avoid plunging into another hidden chasm. This ice field is growing more treacherous as the afternoon wears on and the storm blots their vision down to tens of feet at best. The Druid and Druidbarian both make a Survival check; they are pretty close to the base of the hillside where they think they spotted the cave opening earlier.
Daylight is fast fading into night. The party leaves the ice field for the solid rock and snow of the mountain slope. Through gaps in the snow they can see the cave mouth above them; their options are to climb straight up, or hike up switchbacks to the left or to the right. They opt for the left-hand route. They will have to move quickly; the Fortitude Saves required against the cumulative effects of the cold are exceptionally tough.
Within fifteen minutes, the party has reached the cave mouth. The entrance is barely four feet wide and nine or ten feet high. Wick and Røgnvaldurarsøn shovel snow out of the opening to gain access. Not far inside, the cavern widens to a more functional twenty or thirty feet across.
As the party dusts snow off a load of firewood and prepares a fire, Corun Dum’man and Magnus, with Goa still snuggled in his backpack, continue on to scout the cavern. About ninety feet in, they find a steep drop-off. Striking up a torch, they illuminate a drop of about fifteen feet, and a blockage of rubble that seals this chute. Checking their route back to the camp, they find no debris or other indications that Grimlocks have been here.
Yorgenson gets a bright and hot fire blazing. The cave reflects the warmth back from its walls and before long, the space is as comfortably warm as a decent tavern. Outside, the blizzard rages. After two hours in the cave, a watch must be established near the opening to break the snow buildup and keep the cave mouth partially open for fresh air to feed the fire and the group.
It will be a safe night here. Healing from the Druid and Druidbarian get Armst and Goa out of their Exhausted and Fatigued states. Corun sits by himself, mired in scholastic attempts to unlock the secret spell of the Arcane wand. The party has reasoned that these were probably wands used by Troglodytes against their Grimlock foes, and so contain spells useful for that purpose. Grimlocks are vulnerable to sonic attacks, but for sake of safety Corun does not attempt to cast any thunderous spell from the wand that might bring a mountain of rock and snow down upon their heads.
Comes the morning of Day Six. Their provisions are over half consumed now. The party delays an extra two hours before digging out of their shelter and continuing on their way. The same party members blessed with Endure Elements yesterday are as lucky again today.
Several feet of new snow fell overnight; it is a challenge to cut a path onto and along the ice field. The sky is clear and it is sunny and not too windy, so it feels warmer. Yorgenson, Elroy, and Øskur make Survival checks, and quickly realize that the heavy snowfall, slope of the mountains, and the relative warmth of the day pose a significant risk for avalanche. The party stays quiet as they hike the ice.
After two hours, right before the heat has left the warming-rocks, Yorgenson Uberson points ahead. There is a junction ahead in the distance. The ice field continues to undulate east between the mountain peaks, but there is a fork, a glacier that flows away almost due south. While it does not lead in precisely the right direction, the party is warm to the possibility that the glacial offshoot may descend from this high altitude into temperate lowlands. They decide they will follow it and see where it goes.
Two Spot checks are required. Elroy Wick (with a Natural 20 rolled for Spot for a total check of 24) sees a hidden fissure up ahead. Thus marked, it can be avoided. The other Spot check notices a creature on the far side of the ice field from the party, nearly a mile off.
This insect-like creature is silver-white, scaly and with fins, Huge and long. Armst (Knowledge : Arcana = 27) urges his fellows to duck low and avoid notice at all costs. This creature is a Remorhaz; a fearsome arctic creature known to consume Frost Giants, elk, deer, polar bears – anything it can find for a meal. It is a deadly threat and the party takes Armst seriously; they lay low in the snow, barely daring to breathe, until they are reasonably sure the creature has scuttled off without having seen them.
When safe to continue on, the party skirts around the chasm Wick saw. Twenty feet wide, fifty feet deep, about five hundred feet long, a smooth gap in the blue-white ice. It is a significant obstacle.
For the next seven hours, as the party transitions from the ice field to the glacier that funnels away from the main sheet, Fortitude Saves are required every hour. Surprisingly, everyone resists the cold. Around 9pm, with no cave sighted on the mountain slopes and the sun descending in the west, the party comes upon a narrow, shallow rift in the glacial ice. The floor of the rift actually slopes up to the surface, and while open above and to the sides, it could work as a makeshift shelter for the night.
The party sets up camp in the freezing cleft in the ice, and huddles up to the fire as best they can. When morning comes on Day Seven, Endure Elements is renewed on its usual recipients and the party hikes on down the flow of the glacier. The weather is clear and slightly warmer than yesterday. Fortitude Saves against the cold are made hourly. Everyone resists the chill.
In the early afternoon, the glacier rounds a bend. The party is suddenly filled with hope – there is a green valley up ahead, continuing where the glacier leaves off ! No visible sign that the valley leads anywhere besides south. Still, the green of the trees and the dark brown of the hillsides are a welcome change from the stark grey-white they have squinted against for so many days. By 2pm the party reached the broken end of the glacier. They climb down to bare earth and rock. The tree line is not far down the slope.
(end of the session)