Beyond the North Wind

Session 1: The Ire of Tsathzar Rho

The adventure begins...

Last we knew, before IT happened, we were milling about outside The Soiled Dove, the best and only drinking establishment offering room and board in Mustertown, a slummy shanty town on the outskirts of the Great City-State of Khromarium. we were all going about our affairs—tending animals, hawking wares, making bets, begging, wooing, dealing, boasting …

It was the last burst of activity before the year-long darkness of Nightfall descends. Then IT happened…

The bone-chilling dances of the Plutonian festival were just three days past. This WAS Hyperborea, after all, and it WAS almost the dead of winter, when the sun goes away for an entire year and when those who don’t go insane or die of starvation have a good chance of being killed by the stir-crazy or the hungry alike). With only an hour of daylight each day and with all that the dead of winter means for the average person’s chance to survive another thirteen-year cycle, Tsathzar Rho, or “crazy old man Rho” as he is called by many, started hanging around the Dove asking for a few “hardy souls” to recover some object he had lost up in the foothills off to the northeast.

“Out of the Wolf’s Maw,” he had said, “Bring it to me, and you shall profit to unseemly extent for acting as mere … mundane bearers of a tiny, insignificant burden.”

Of course, there had been no takers, what with the “days” only an hour long and the threat of beast men and worse prowling the shadows. Only a fool would forsake the relative safety of insane civilization just as the year-long winter is about to hit.

But then, IT happened …

While going about our business in the yard near the Dove, a group of us heard a cackling laugh. The world went all vertigo, our heads swam gut-wrenchingly, and when the world came back, we were in a different place altogether, high up in the courtyard of some ruined mountain fortress, we were to find out. Tsathzar Rho had been no typical crazy old man, that was for sure!

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Well, past the obvious idea that Tsathzar Rho had cast a spell on us, we put our heads together and figured out a few things:

- An old keep lies atop this Wolf’s Maw that Tsathzar Rho spoke of…
- It is said that beast men inhabit Wolf’s Maw itself…
- The infamous Wizard-Demon Sezrekan had dealings at Wolf’s Maw…
- A nameless village lies near the Thornswild, in view of Wolf’s Maw…
- The Thornswild, the area about Wolf’s Maw, is known for man-eating plants with blood-sucking thorns…
- The Plutonian Festival before the year of Nightfall is always a time of bad omens…
- The Plutonian Festival often spawns lycanthropy outbreaks,
- Traveling during the Long Winter is nearly suicidal…
- Water + food + defensible shelter = winter survival…

Beyond this—as, for instance, what it was Tsathzar Rho wanted us to find—we were just an ignorant band of nobodies who had found ourselves in a bad, bad situation. Whatever this was, it was going to be deadly before it was over.

We weren’t long in finding out. Three towers marked the corners of the fortress, one attached to the central keep. One clearly held the nest of some great bird, vacant but perhaps not for long in the waning hour of wintery daylight left. Another tower was full of its own rotted innards but was marked over its door by a stone carving of a spider.

We soon stirred up trouble. Gaining entrance through a hole in the side of the keep, an impatient one among us woke the beast men who were sleeping there. They spilled out of the hole, their waker paying for his action with his life. Perhaps none of us even remembers the man’s name.

A battle ensued in which we beat back the beast men as they assailed us from outside a low rampart hastily built up across the open door to the spider tower. Meanwhile, one of our number decided to go through the magical field across the keep’s main entrance. The field turned him into a beast man, but this did not keep other beast men from slaying him, we later discovered.

Many secrets were held inside the keep itself, and a great bellowing as of some beast breathing hard came to our ears. Indeed, we had followed a trail of blood up to the keep’s door, and we expected something may be dying within. We were not disappointed as we disturbed the great Bull Lord who we guess must have been master there. A gaping wound in his side had failed to slay him, but we finished the job and gained for ourselves relative shelter against the howling winter storms outside.

What next, one wonders?

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