As the celebration held for the victory of the forces of the forest over the lumberers died down, an eerie feeling settled over Avar Este. Most went to sleep, but Brynjar stayed up, worrying what mischief his brother had gotten himself into.
As the night wore on, he decided he had to go look for Rogarh and brought Ruzgar along; the wind had died completely and yet the rustling of leaves was clearly heard. The animals of the forest suddenly seemed unable to travel through the trees in their usual manner. As Brynjar examined the tree he had trown his sword at earlier that evening, a tree that now seemed to be bleeding from that cut, one unlucky bird flew straight into the tree-trunk. Brynjar put it out of its misery, but Uleriel, the Death of the forest, failed to show to collect its spirit.
Meanwhile Wynn was awakened by a weird chewing sound to find the camp, as well as the forest, totally devoid of life. Even Ruzgar was missing, and she could find no tracks of him or anyone else. Dread rising in her heart, she went further into the forest searching for some kind of explanation, coming across the cadaver of a skinned wolf hanging from a tree-branch. It was Ruzgar! There was no tracks to be found coming to, or leaving, the scene. Trembling with shock and disbelief, she cut him down and weeping hugged the cold dead flesh tight. Until it started to move… The animated corpse wrenched itself from her grasp and started attacking her. Horrified and dead inside, Wynn made no move to defend herself as her wolf-brother sank his teeth deep into her shoulder…
More puzzled than troubled, Brynjar sent Ruzgar back to Wynn and continued through the forest on his own.
Which was lucky, because Ruzgar managed to show up just in time to prevent the corpe-wolf from tearing Wynn’s throat out. Bare able to breath for joy and relief, it took Wynn a moment to realise that Ruzgar was actually in a deadly struggle against the animated corpse, and she joined the fight. After dancing around each other for a while, each of the combatants scoring minor hits the corpse-wolf bolts into the forest, thinking to force the wolfrider to dismount. But never more at home than in the deep forest, Wynn and Ruzgar followed with the ease of a surging wave, catching the corpse-wolf by surprise, charging and taking out its eye along with the tree-root it was hiding beneath. The skinned wolf, now desperate from pain and injury, managed to pin wolf and rider, clawing at them maniacally. Pinned underneath their heavy foe Wynn couldn’t manouver her bastard sword, but Ruzgar freed himself just enough to tear out the throat of their unnatural opponent, which in death became nothing but a mass of blood drenching Ruzgar and Wynn.
Wynn spent a long time just holding the brother she thought she’d lost forever close, before the two of them returned to the camp where people were just waking up, having noticed nothing amiss.
As Wynn and Ruzgar rinsed off the blood in the river, they were joined by Brynjar who could also tell of a strage night as he pulled leaves and wood-splinters from his flesh. Wynn tended to their injuries, and then – suddenly – Rogarh stood in the middle of the camp; similarly looking a bit worse for wear with a bandaged hand and a broken nose, which Brynjar immediately delt with none too gently.
Brynjar and Wynn then briefly relegated the stories of their strange nightly exploits, Wynn speculating hesitantly, that someone might be targeting them with evil magic because of their work in the forest for the Anwarinde Council…
Rogarh divulged that he had found out how to travel through the trees, but it was apparently not a completely simple or predictable process.
As the four companions licked their wounds, a call went up from the other end of the camp, and all eyes turned to the skies, where three huge griffins approach. As they neared the camp, a man could be seen riding one of them. Brynjar waved to him enthusiatically.
After landing, he introduced himself as Hrafn. He wore the arm-patch of the Anwarinde Council, and immediately started inquiring about the “odd trees”, about which the party had previously reported. Wynn referred him to Rogarh, who was busy findng his equipment, seeing as things kept getting interesting. The party travelled with Hrafn to the frost-covered tree, which he examined at length. He then tasked the companions with travelling to the far, cold south (at the edge of the world) to investigate the link between Awar Este and that region. The Council suspected, he said, that these trees were somehow linked to the nature spirits. To aid them in their quest, he would have the three griffins carry the party south.
After resting for a couple of days to regain their strength and heal their wounds, Brynjar, Rogarh, Wynn and Ruzgar set out, riding on the backs of majestic griffins to the very edge of the world. The novel sensation of flying was enjoyed by all, although Wynn became more and more guarded as they neared one of the most demon-raided territories. The griffons landed the party right next to a tree exactly like the frost-covered tree in Awar Este. Rogarh familiarized himself with its spirit as Brynjar, Ruzgar and Wynn checked the perimeter. While they didn’t encounter anyone, Wynn did discover a hunting trail belonging to a pack of wolves.
Being in no immediate danger, the small group indulged in playful enjoyment of the deep snow; engaging in a short snow-ball-fight before setting off. The party was lead by a trance-walking Rogarh who tracked the presence of a nature spirit. Before they left the landing site Wynn cast a spell protecting the griffons from the discomforts of the extreme cold.
As the party pushed forward through the snow-covered wastes, Brynjar stayed close to Rogarh, while Ruzgar and Wynn stalked the perimeter. Thus the they were able to warn the others as a group of creatures moved to surround the party. Rogarh pulled himself out of his trance, and they made ready to defend themselves back-to-back should the creatures prove hostile. That question was answered as a hurled javelin graced Brynjar’s arm. Wynn immediately fired an arrow back. Then the wolves, for it was indeed a wolf-pack that had surrounded the companions, charged. Among them were a large warg; the owner of the javelin. The party quickly proved too effective for the wolves to prevail; Rogarh and Wynn dispatched with the regular wolves with ease, while Brynjar effortlessly delt with the warg, giving it one vicious cut before stabbing it straight through the mouth. When Rogarh unleashed his firebreath, the wolves retreated. Couching blood, the warg invited the party to follow the wolves to their camp, before Wynn helped it die. The party then followed the wolf-pack to a small campsite with hide-tents, where they were met by a huge white wolf walking on it’s hindlegs, wearing a belt and carrying a spear. He spoke a simple and broken common and invited the party into the camp.
The white wolf was the pack’s chieftain and he introduced himself as Alpha. He led the companions to his tent where they met the shaman, another tall wolf walking upright. They had a small, weak fire and crude furnishings.
With rising suspiscion Wynn discovered that both wolves were demon-marked, but she decided to give them the benefit of the doubt, since they had shown no signs of agression of trickery.
However: Rogarh and Brynjar were not completely at ease either, having spotted a huge polar bear tethered in the centre of the camp.
Rogarh sensed that the nature spirit was now very close; trapped just underneath the glacier on which the encampment stood, it seemed. After a halting conversation the party and the wolves agreed that they would work together to free the spirit with fire, in exchange for which the wolves would release the captured bear.
Wynn set out on a hunt with the Alpha and some of the regular wolves. She found that it was much easier to communicate with Alpha when she was riding Ruzgar; feeling his movements made it easier for her to read the non-verbal part of the white wolf’s communation. She taught a very curious Alpha about archery and he showed her a few tricks to surviving in the frozen climate of the deep south.
Back at the encampment Rogarh wasted no time in preparing the ritual that would allow him to free the nature spirit by melting the glacier. The wolf-shaman followed his preparations with great interest, so Rogarh went to some lengths to conceal his intensions from the wolf he felt he couldn’t fully trust. Elsewhere in the camp, Brynjar talked with the captured bear, who hinted that his brethren would be attacking the wolf-camp soon to free him, and to capture the territory from the wolves. Apparently both wolves and bears felt compelled to protect the area where the nature-spirit dwelt.
It wasn’t long until the attack began. Rogarh moved away from the camp with the model-glacier he had made, which would enable him to work his magic on the real glacier. The wolf-shaman followed him, as he was now getting suspicious of Rogarh’s intensions.
The Alpha and Wynn were called back from the hunt by a messenger telling of fighting at the camp. While they hurried back, Brynjar worked hard to find a diplomatic solution, trying to get the wolves and the bears to realize that they were in fact working towards the same goal. This was difficult partly because of the fighting going on everywhere, and partly because the wolves and the bears had no common language. Therefore Brynjar had to act as interpreter in the midst of the battle.
At the edge of the encampment, Wynn and Alpha happened upon Rogarh and the wolf-shaman. The shaman had puzzled out the purpose of the model-glacier, and was now determined to stop Rogarh from destroying it, by fire or otherwise, before his pack could get off the ice, to safety. Rogarh didn’t seem overly concerned with the safety of the wolves, even with his own brother in the middle of the chaos of the camp, but he did agree to wait with the ritual until the evacuation could be set in motion.
At this point Brynjar had managed to stop the fighting and with the help of Alpha wolves and bears alike started moving off the glacier. The bears agreed to help the wolves, if Brynjar would see to their captured comrade.
At this point Rogarh deemed the situation safe enough to commence the ritual, a notion the wolf-shaman and the wolf-guards with him didn’t share. Wynn and Ruzgar put themselves between Rogarh and the wolves as Rogarh drew his falcatta, heated in his fiery aura and cleaved the glacier in two!!!
Wynn and Ruzgar were overpowered by several of the wolf-guards while one of them attacked Rogarh. He ignored it, leaving his fire shroud to deal with it quite effectively. After a short time Wynn managed to stretch out and pull the badly burned wolf off Rogarh, giving him space to complete the ritual and melt the glacier, since cleaving it evidently was not enough to free the nature spirit.
Down on the glacier, Brynjar was in a race against time to get the hurt polar bear, whose safety he’d been charged with by its brother, the leader of the polar bears, of the tilting, melting glacier. He pulled out a rope and tied himself to the polar bear, and then dragged it towards the edge up a rising incline. With the slope became to steep for him to scale, he managed to grap hold of the edge. Giving himself over to his barbarian rage, he used his surging strength to swing the polar bear in an arch over the top of the now vertical wall of ice!! His energy spent, it was all he could do then to hold on. But he was still tied to the polar bear by the rope… So when the bear flew far enough to pull the rope taunt, it pulled Brynjar with it – until they landed on safe ground, first the bear – laughing with an deep vibrating noise – and the Brynjar; landing comfortably on top of the varm, grinning bear.
The glacier melted. Underneath was revealed a smooth rock surface with a piedestal in the middle. On this rested a crystal which was, beyond a doubt, the prison of the nature spirit. Scattered in a ring around the piedestal were demons frozen in position. But they to seemed to thaw and renew their advance on the crystal. The party knew at once that they must not be allowed to succeed!
Rogarh, Ruzgar and Wynn charged into the newly created crater. Rogarh headed straight for the crystal to free the nature spirit, while Ruzgar and Wynn ran interference to block the demons attempting to stop him.
Meanwhile Brynjar was figuring out a way to get word to the griffons that the companions were going to need extraction – soon! He lit one of his javelins on fire and hurled it into the air. When it didn’t quite attain the desired altitude, the dire polar bear, leader of the bears, stepped in and threw it high for the griffons to spot. after planting torches in the ground as a signal, Brynjar joined the fight against the demons.
Suddenly the companions understood that it was not the nature spirit that had awakened the minds of the area’s animals – it was the demons! So who would the bears and wolves choose to side with?
The wisest, most articulated of the animals sided with the party against the demons, but the rest squared off against each other; some wanting to help the companions, some wanting to aid the demons.
Battling the demons was gruelling work; Ruzgar and Wynn took several grievous blows, but killed three of the demons in return! Brynjar and the wolf-shaman defended Rogarh with fury and magic, while he struggled to free the spirit from the crystal. He finally managed to glimpse the face of the spirit, all edged in icy blue. Finally he decided to open his own body and mind to the spirit, allowing it to possess him, rather than staying trapped in the crystal. Feeling the cold of winter grib his very soul, Rogarh collapsed.
Then the griffons arrived! One of them grabbed the unconcious Rogarh, who was held aloft by Brynjar, gingerly, while Brynjar grabbed the saddle-straps of another. Wynn took hold of Ruzgar and similarly grabbed onto a down-swooping griffon, but weakened by bloodloss and tired from battle she lost her grip on his blood-sleek fur and dropped him back into the chaos below. Unable to catch him again, she let go herself and joined him. Seeing his comrade fall back into the fight, Brynjar decided to lend a hand. He dropped in after Ruzgar and Wynn, and this time he took Ruzgar in his strong arms and rejoined his griffon, while the Alpha wolf boosts Wynn to mount the last griffon as it flew by. Brynjar almost lost hold of Ruzgar too, but the wolf-shaman’s magic helped the wolf back into his grasp. The griffons then quickly gained altitude and headed back north with their battered passengers.
The four companions used the quiet time of the return flight to finally catch their breaths and heal their wounds, although Rogarh still remained unconcious.