The Orphans of Cathorna

Session 18, 3 Apr 15

Session 18, 3 Apr 15

The quiet of winter settles after the journey west beyond Cillien. Sheep shuffle and bleat on the Green, ice grinds dully in the ever-narrower channel of clear water. Cold and tired but untroubled since dusk, little else holds the attention of the night sheriffs before they do their final rounds and stumble wearily home.
Frost rimes the morning as Cathorna resentfully emerges from warm beds to stoke fires and face the day. Talk is of the coldest winter in memory; 1626 brought deep snow and orc raids, but 1632 saw the river freeze over for the first time. It was also the year of Third Cathorna, the first and only time the Enemy breached the gate. Conversation quickly turns to other matters at this.
The hunting has been poor for Erfiren, the forest preternaturally quiet, the usual hibernation burrows empty, the few unfrozen waterholes little visited. As recently as a week ago he could find a few half-starved rabbits gnawing at roots, an occasional bush fowl roosting high in a tree. Of late he has turned to leatherwork to earn his daily coin, fixing belts and patching armour for coppers when he comes back with an empty bag. Cian’s fortunes are better, with plentiful cod coming out of the ice-narrowed lake, and surprisingly good production from the clan’s livestock. The chickens and goats are unseasonably productive, and Erfiren occasionally drops by on some pretext just as the O’Conchubhairs are sharing an enormous cheesy omelette from their skillet. In his shrine, Altraam has heard fearful whisperings from the more credulous Cathornans, convinced that ‘The Ice King’ was raking his bony talons across Cathorna’s back. Seeing no cause beyond inclement weather, he reassures them otherwise. Tomas takes advantage of the chill to experiment with some of his more volatile essences, and spends the better part of a week pursuing a promising lead on a more stable form of coal oil…

Neeshka remains lost to her friends.

Troubled by her slow recovery, Altraam spends two days calling upon Orome’s will to return her to the world. Erfiren manages Altraam’s chores for a day, bringing him food and water through the long ritual. Neeshka remains stubbornly asleep, though her breathing steadies and her skin loses some of the grey pallor that has persisted since her fall.
Inaction begins to chafe at the team after several days, and Cian calls on them to venture beyond the walls once again. The blank space on the map to the south could hide orcs, he insists, could hide ogres, could hide treasure! Moreover, the lair of the oft-mentioned Drughal had to be somewhere, and every black space revealed gave him less places to hide. There are nods and quiet words of agreement. Yeld agrees to join Altraam, Cian and Erfiren on a journey into the cold, cold woods.

Footprints in the frost
Altraam and Cian are late. A fruitless evening spent fishing for trail rations left them with nothing but frozen feet and empty bait buckets, and a late night as they completed their chores. Yeld arrives at the gates with the bulky five-man tent already bundled awkwardly to his pack. He gruffly dismisses the usual offers of assistance, making the usual request that he be allowed to punch Cian if he snores. Altraam arrives, wearing the recently reunited Boots Of Hopping On Both Feet (one of which radiates tracking magic, the other stealth). He discovers to his frustration that they seem to have a side effect: attempting to speak while wearing them produces only a convincing duck-like ‘quack’. He stumps off in a foul humour, returning shortly thereafter with much less silly footwear.
The equipment ritual proceeds. The journey’s length is estimated, and food purchased to accommodate. Hopes of forage on the trail are dashed by Erfiren’s gloomy recounting of recent hunts, and a little extra jerky is bought from Nedley’s. Cian briefly regards his pack, wondering if there is room for a (Medium)(Sly)(Unhygienic) whore, but decides he’d rather take an extra blanket.
Others are preparing to leave as they gather. Second rank, First Spear are about to head for Defiance Hill; seeing them huddling at the dock, Altraam quickly scribbles a note for his brother Tobias. “Have a care,” he warns. “The enemy are watching Defiance Hill. They seek eyes inside, but believe it will be difficult. And know that they are watching Beckett. Watch him, and trust no stranger.”
The gates swing open. “When will we see you back?” calls Lim as they file out.
“Six days,” Cian rumbles. “No more.”
“Good hunting.” The gates swing closed behind them.
They climb the steady climb to Cathorna Hill. The ruts hold puddles, frozen to the bottom. Frost crackles and melts with each step, leaving every footstep visible. The air is mercifully still, the sky masked only by high white clouds scudding fast to the west. Further north, heavy black thunderheads loom. A brief wind stirs the trees as they reach the top of the Hill, fading immediately to leave them in unfamiliar silence.
Erfiren feels a nagging sense of unease as they cross the High Paddock. The frost persists into the afternoon, showing no trail but their own, a narrow dark swathe across the open field….

Mining kobolds
The familiar trail to the kobold mine brings no threat, no danger. Erfiren pauses briefly at the place where he shot a kobold at fifty paces last summer. Altraam eyes the landslide that buried a daen warrior, robbed for his dagger and bracers by Beckett. Cian eats bugs he finds on rocks.
The top of the kobold mine hill brings a surprise: a frozen kobold, half-naked at the base of a tree. Armed only with a rusty and dented dagger, he clutches a short stick in his claws, and seems to have frozen to death. He is left to lie, and Second Skirmish bang on the hatch to the mine.
“Skirmishers!” booms Ougan Reihak’s voice as he undogs the hatch. “In, in!” Cian, Altraam and Yeld descend, savouring the warmth of the smelter fire, recoiling at the sharp reek of burning sulphur. Erfiren, curious as always, pauses at the hatch, holding it briefly open and peering about. A chill breeze eddies about him as he does so, bringing the faintest smell of decay.
He wonders briefly if he imagines it, but as he looks north he sees the faintest outline of a figure in the swirling snow. As he stares he hears a whisper on the wind that a credulous villager might mishear as “Pain.” Suppressing a shudder, he closes the hatch, secures the latches carefully and descends.
“A wraith.”
Altraam’s proclamation silences Second Skirmish. Erfiren’s brief description elicits old tales, of fell spirits given strength by the deep winter, given freedom by the retreat of Free Men to their holdfasts. Erfiren’s description is scant, but Altraam knows of little else that brings dank air, ghostly shapes, whispered fear.
“Rathes?” Cian’s pronunciation is close enough “How do we fight them?”
“The right blade,” says Altraam. He shares old tales of spirits struck down by renowned swords, the daggers of heroes. Thoughts turn to the tools on hand; sturdy, efficient Cathorna steel, but workaday weapons, forged and wielded by commoners. The dwarves offer little; Altraam cannot recall tales of fell spirits hungering for dwarven souls.
“Wraiths, spirits. Pah!” Khelden has little time for Altraam’s ghost stories. “A locked gate and a little faith in steel is all I need to be safe. I’ll check the back gate while you frighten each other.” He takes up a lantern and stumps off into the old workings.
He is late coming back.
Erfiren glances at Cian. “Best check.” They take the spare lantern and head up the icy stairs cut into the old slipway.
The cavern beyond glitters with ice, familiar spaces subtly altered by inches-thick frost. They pass timber stockpiles, water barrels, heaped stone and fresh wounds in the old ore seams, reawakened by the keen-eyed dwarves. The pit, once home to a grass cat, has a ladder down it; the coarse hide-and-timber dividers in the kobolds’ living quarters are all gone, leaving broad, echoing emptiness.
Khelden’s lantern is found at the top of the old vertical shaft, now repurposed as a ladderway. By its light they find him in the upper gallery, poking at slurms and scraping goo off the walls. He head-jerks towards the entrance when Cian and Erfiren appear. “Come see.”
The entrance is completely blocked by snow. Piled to the top of the low cave entrance, it has slumped through the gate, half-covering the floor of the circular space. Erfiren’s hand unconsciously drifts to the spear wound in his back.
“Never seen the like,” Khelden says. “Entrance cave must be full.” He shrugs dismissively. Erfiren scrapes curiously at the mounded snow, prompting a brief avalanche from outside. He eyes it warily as they turn away and head back.
Ougan gestures at the hatch when they return and tell their tale. “That’s new too.” Icicles hang from the hatch, inches long. Ice obscures the latches and reaches down to the top rung of the crude kobold ladder. “More of your wraith’s doing?” He takes up the scuttle, shovels more coal into the fire pit.
Altraam stands. Gaze fixed on the frozen hatch, he calls out a challenge to the world beyond, daring the wraith to come forth and face him. A wind swirls through the cave as he calls. It gathers above the fire, drawing up the flames, swirling upwards and dying away. Into the silence he shouts again, mocking the weakness of the unseen foe.
The hatch creaks. Nobody speaks. Latches clang and the weather reaches through the suddenly open hatch. Snow and wind and darkness tumble into the cave, then something round and heavy bounces from the first rung of the ladder, tumbling and clanging to the floor and landing with a sick, hollow crack as the hatch clangs shut.
“What…who is that?”
Ougan’s question is shouted into silence as everyone looks upon a frozen disembodied head. It is familiar, and recently so: the ravaged face of Kel Porter stares emptily at Second Skirmish.
“Porter? But he disappeared months ago! Why is he here now?”
“We were reacquainted recently,” says Cian. He stands, circles the fire and picks up the grisly missile. “Can’t seem to stay away from us.”
Yeld laughs easily. “And he’s as frightening now as he was in life,” he says. He gestures at the head, the hatch. “This wraith: what has it done? Has it harmed us? Has it troubled us? No, all it’s done is exactly what it wanted to do: frighten us. Evil spirit or no, come morning I’m going out there.” He rolls his bulky pack to the fireside, pulls out a well-worn blanket. “And until then, I’m going to stay warm and get some sleep. Wake me for my watch eh?”

Night passes.

Everyone is a little dry-throated from the fire, but warm and safe and well-rested. Nothing seems to have changed; ice still coats the hatch, but nobody is harmed, nothing has intruded. Cian monkeys up the ladder to the hatch and begins bashing away the thick ice. It falls in glittering slabs, shattering on the stone below. The latches are cold, but yield to daen persuasion. As does the ladder; the uppermost stanchion snaps as he pushes upwards.
“Kobold ladder,” rumbles Ougan. “Good enough for dwarves. Good enough for men. Not made for daen fatheads.”
The next few chunks of ice shatter slightly closer to Ougan, drawing a beard-muffled oath and a rueful chuckle.
The hatch opens with some effort. Snow trickles through, then tumbles down in a rush, covering Cian and making the now-loose ladder wobble disconcertingly. It ceases quickly, and weak daylight is visible beyond. Cold and wet, Cian shovels snow down past himself until he is able to climb through.
It is barely dawn. Snow is indeed heaped outside, but it covers only the hatch. The ground a few yards away has only a few flakes, the trees none. While the sky is mostly clear, the dark thunderheads still loom in the north.
Second Skirmish emerge into the pale dawn. On instruction, Ougan builds a fire while they discuss a plan. It quickly becomes apparent that there is a shortfall of understanding of the foe. Deciding to face it on home ground, Second Skirmish bid Ougan and the surly Khelden goodbye and return to the trail. Altraam stops along the way and gives Kel’s mortal remains the dignity of a marked resting place in the earth.

Trouble brewing
“Sooner than expected, Skirmishers.”
Klud is well-bundled up when he greets them at the gate. “Been odd sorta weather since y’left. All still an’ quiet ‘ere. An’ them big clouds in th’ north.” He grins. “But I’m sure you lot’ll ‘ave it sorted soon enough!“
Altraam fetches his chain, then visits the family store.
“Well, that’s quite the backpack Altraam!” Keeper admires the chain on its harness. “And quite the chain! Taking several dogs for a walk?”
“Build a fire tonight.” There is no mirth in Altraam’s reply. “A big one.”
Keeper’s face falls. “A…what? Are we expecting…”
“Trouble. Yes. Dark trouble.” Altraam turns and leaves the store.
Mindful of Altraam’s tales of epic blades, Erfiren decides to risk bringing his longsword. He also fetches his mother’s brooch, returning to the gate as soon as he is ready.
Cian’s preparations are a little more leisurely. Amrik’s store is closed, so he decides to visit his home with a little wine. Thoughts of bringing him a (small)(sly)(hygienic) whore are dismissed as impractical.
“Wrrrraiths, you say?”
Cian winces at Amrik’s pronunciation, almost as much as he winces at the hedge wizard’s appalling attempts at painting. His home is much like his store: jam-full of knick-knacks and curious, rough-hewn furniture and half-finished sketches, mysterious bottles and worryingly stained garments. After lengthy and circumspect discussion he offers that the mysterious entity’s real intent is simply to frighten them, and it is as likely to be a wilful, magic-armed intelligence as a baleful spirit.

A plan
Speculation that the wraith is attracted to the group is acted upon. Outsiders are corralled into disguising themselves; Allum Shallah agrees to dress as Erfiren. Cian chooses Slaine as most like him in build. His cousin glares, gestures to the training field, and the row of heavy rocks that serve to rank Cathornans by strength.
“This one!” Slaine gestures at the heaviest rock, its surface little worn, rarely troubled by hands other than Mahti Edhellen’s and Durgan’s. Cian assumes the position, grasps the foe. Flawless technique and an uncomfortably protein-rich diet join forces, and the rock is hefted to the required shoulder height. The ground reclaims it with a meaty thud, and Cian steps back.
There is no doubt, no fear in Slaine’s eyes as he grasps the foe. There is also no technique in his lift; after a minute of vein-popping, eye-bulging, god-cursing effort he yields, and steps back without a word.
“A good effort,” says Cian. “Now, let’s play dress-ups.”
Once the subsequent misunderstanding is resolved, Slaine is dressed in Cian’s usual garb. On Cian’s direction, he embellishes the deception by offering choice observations of Altraam’s character: “You! Priest-person! You are more female than male!” Well-pleased, he marches out with Altraam, Yeld and Allum, heading up the road towards Cathorna Hill.
Erfiren and Cian have a tougher time. Choosing to take the river to the Low Paddock, they struggle to get their little coracles to the channel, then again to climb the ice wall downstream. It takes a good hour to make it to the shelter of the willows, and half that again to deal with the worst of their waterlogged gear. As they prepare to leave, a dank wind blows fitfully from the north, briefly chilling them more than the icy Firen. It eddies and swirls across the ice, through the trees, dying out as it stirs the long ice-silvered grass of the Paddock. They wait for the feeling to ease before they set out up the trail.
The High Paddock is familiar ground. Second Skirmish disperse to familiar hides and lookouts. Altraam lays out his chain in the middle of the corral, and five fires are lit around it.
They watch.

Duel in the Dark
Darkness does not keep them waiting. The dank wind returns, blowing out of the cloud-burdened north. Snow flurries gust and skirl about the corral. From the vantage of the southern watchtower, Cian sees a tall, vague shape crossing the corral. Little more than an outline in the snow, it seems to blow across the ground towards him, just as he hears Altraam begin the words of a spell…
He vaults the stairs to the ground, grasps at the door. He manages to unlatch it, but something pulls it violently shut from the other side. Erfiren hears the commotion, crosses to the door side of the tower and sees the ethereal shape below. An arrow from above pierces it lengthwise, but simply sticks shuddering in the ground. On a hunch, he turns from the thing, vaulting the outer wall and running for the low cliff that is the corral’s eastern wall. Cian leaps out on the corral side ready to fight, but the creature seems to simply lose shape and drift away on the rising wind. Altraam’s chanting reaches a crescendo, but his words go unheard by the Valar. Seeing another of the ethereal snow figures approaching from the north, he quickly pulls out his horn and calls upon Orome’s light.
Altraam’s chain lies ready, lit by five fires. Second Skirmish run towards it, hoping to lure the spectral creature inside. It works: the thing reaches the chain and blows away with the wind the moment it crosses the hallowed margin.
“Over there!” Allum’s shout is whipped away by the wind as he points towards the gate. “Something watches us from there!” Unable to fight wisps of snow, Second Skirmish follow, hoping to find a more solid opponent.
It finds them first. Something whips past Allum and thuds into the snow. Cian is close by; a moment later something crashes heavily into his chest, leaving him gasping for breath. Through pain-clouded eyes he sees a twelve-foot tall bipedal creature, seemingly made entirely of snow. The red mist claims him and he charges headlong a the monster, Allum and Altraam at his sides. Weapons are drawn and they prepare to set about the thing, but a sudden stinging hail plucks at them. Guessing what is coming, Cian dives away. He is beyond the reaches of the deadly shower when it hits, but Altraam is caught within and pummelled to the ground, extinguishing his light.
Cian decides to gain some height to spot the source of the powerful phantasmal effects. He enter the old house through a breached wall and grasps an exposed beam. It gives way with a crack, dumping him on the floor. Cranky but unharmed he tries again, this time reaching the roof. Altraam recovers and restores his spell, heading for the centre of the corral to give the combatants the best chance of seeing their elusive foe.
Erfiren and Yeld have acted on their own instincts, scaling the twelve-foot muddy cliff to the convex slope above. Through the oddly swirling snow they discern a single figure, seemingly gazing upon the scene below. Erfiren crosses in front and circles to its right, Yeld taking the opposite path. As Erfiren approaches, he feels a tugging at his boot, hears a crackling; looking down he sees fingers of frost reaching up his leg from the ground. He presses on, but it gains strength, grasping his leg firmly moments later. Undaunted he draws his bow, takes careful aim on the figure, dim-lit by Altraam’s spell, and lets fly with an enchanted arrow. It strikes true, but there is little power behind it. He draws another, feeling the ice creeping up his leg. A second shot has no greater effect. The ice however is gaining strength, pressing painfully on his knee. His attacks have done little more than draw the attention of his foe, who turns towards him, raises a hand and hurls something at him.
It is his own arrow, encased in inch-thick ice, tapering to a needle point. It pierces his leather and gouges his ribs, leaving him groaning in pain. Through the black curtain of agony he hears Altraam’s strident tones, calling curses upon the foe.
The stranger responds in kind: “Who is your master? What is his name? I know mine! I know him!” There is a flurry of gestures and an enormous figure appears near Altraam. Denser than the other snow apparitions, it raises shapeless fists and brings them crashing down. Altraam avoids the blows with ease, mocking the stranger’s feeble efforts.
Cian has seen the true enemy, and sprints for the cliffs. He reaches the top just as Erfiren breaks free of the ice. The stranger looks about. He sees Erfiren, free and ready with his bow. He sees Cian, running hard at him, sees Yeld closing in with broadsword drawn. He makes a sudden sharp gesture and a powerful wind rushes down the slope. Yeld is swept off his feet and sent spinning towards the cliff. Cian drops low, digs in and drags himself relentlessly towards the foe. Altraam’s torrent of curses reclaims his attention, and the same hailstorm descends, this time dodged with ease. With the enemy distracted, Cian leaps to his feet and charges. Yeld runs in, Erfiren gets to his feet and peglegs towards him, one leg still weighed down with ice.
The enemy’s defiant calls cease. He eyes the three closing in, then gestures open-handed at the ground. Seeming to accelerate instantly he toboggans across the snow towards the cliff, narrowly dodging Cian and landing metres away from Altraam.
It is a mistake. Altraam’s net is quickly at hand; he runs, hurls, snags the enemy. His hands are trapped, but he does not slow, moving in a straight line for a break in the corral. Seeing him fleeing, Cian draws a javelin and flings it, scoring an amazing hit. The foe seems suspiciously untroubled by javelin and net, running towards the house despite the entangling net and encumbering javelin.
“The house! To the house!”
Allum’s cry is audible to all as he runs for the house. Seconds later there is a heavy impact and Slaine is thrown through the door, tumbling across the ground outside. As Second Skirmish converge on the house, they see the fleeing foe enter the house, moving oddly, perhaps confirming earlier suspicions that it is another phantasm, and the true foe is elsewhere. The house firms as a possible hideout when Slaine leaps back in and the ring of steel on steel is heard.
Altraam reaches the house next. He enters in time to see a slightly-built elf, ill-dressed for the season, leap from the door and run for the road. He hurls his trident, but misses. Allum sets off in pursuit, running hard, but falls behind the fleet stranger. Cian cuts across his path and flings two more javelins; one hits but has little effect, the other falls short and sticks firmly into the snow. Erfiren sizes up the shot from the clifftop. He allows for wind, for the drop of his arrow over the distance. He fires, hits! Again the strike is weak, and the arrow falls to the ground.
The stranger slows, turn.
“Others will come!”
His voice is high, almost hysterical. “I will not be the last! Others will come, but I, I will claim his reward!” He gestures defiantly at the pursuing skirmishers before turning and fleeing north.
Second Skirmish maintain their pursuit. The elf is running hard, but they are still in touch, until he disappears into the tree line encircling the High Paddock, close to the spot where the sprite tree sprang from the ground last summer. From the forest beyond they hear a heavy crashing sound. The canopy shudders, then a tall tree tumbles to the ground. In the space they see the shapeless mass of an enormous snow apparition, at least fifteen metres tall…
It pursues them. Walking in a dead straight line, it follows them across the High Paddock as they run for the far side. “Separate!” shouts Yeld. He grabs at Altraam and Slaine and drags them towards the corral while Cian, Erfiren and Allum remain in the tree line. It follows Yeld, Altraam and Slaine, pursuing them into the corral. It crosses the wall just as they reach the fire. Slaine grabs a flaming brand, roars a daen curse and runs at the thing. Altraam and Yeld are at his side. They reach its legs, swing wildly for the massive limbs, just as it raises enormous fists. They come crashing down as their own blows strike home. There is a sudden wind and the beast collapses into an enormous mound of snow, burying the three. The wind falls away at that moment, leaving them in utter silence.
There is brief, hurried digging. Three wet skirmishers are pulled from snow mounds and hustled to the fires to dry out. Allum is quiet; Slaine is awed and exulted by what he has witnessed. “I struck it down! With my flaming brand and my burning spirit, I destroyed the enemy-who-is-snow!”

Taking the time to search their surroundings, Second Skirmish discover three things within the old house:
• A rough travel blanket of woven horse hair is crammed into a corner of a small room. It has no smell, and radiates very weak Change Environment magic
• A simple iron headband, wrought with three sharp inward-facing barbs, is found on the ground under the floorboards directly below the blanket. It rests atop the light drift of snow in this space. It radiates Telepathy magic.
• An iron dagger, perhaps of Edain make, stuck into the wall at about knee height near the blanket. A tin cup dangles from it by its handle. Every now and then, something like smoke seems to coil and writhe along the dagger’s length. It radiates Detect magic.

No less enthused by the night’s warm-up, Second Skirmish decide to press on with the original plan. Slaine and Allum are both offered a place in the trek.
“I must return,” Allum says evenly. “Tomorrow First Skirmish ventures up the mountain beyond Defiance Hill. We go to Plundered Camp to pursue giants.”
“I shall stay with Second Skirmish,” declares Slaine, eyeing Cian. “There may be rocks. Large, heavy rocks that only the STRONGEST of my clan could lift!”

No Huz to hunt?
Choosing caution over speed, Second Skirmish follow the forest line to the southeast towards the old Huz camp. As they emerge onto the flanks of the rising hills, they see smoke to the southwest, the faintest shimmer of heat somewhere near the tallest peak at the tip of the spur. They eye it warily, keeping to cover as they approach the old Huz encampment, recently the scene of the strange menagerie fed by ‘Walker’s elixir’. Seeking a better vantage, Erfiren goes to the bluff overlooking the hold encampment from the east. He steals closer, sees a little snow fort with ‘something dark’ inside it. Unwilling to endure a repeat of events atop the Milden Hills, he retreats.
Now certain the encampment is being watched, they survey their surroundings from a high point to the east. Perhaps a kilometre to the southeast they see another fire, then a third at the westernmost edge of the mountains, some two miles to their east. They find a safe place from which to spy upon the peaks, and Erfiren prepares his Eagle Eye spell.
It takes some time. But at the base of the near-invisible column of smoke he sees the blurred shape of an orc’s head, its body concealed behind a simple hide.
“Orcs,” he says as he removes the jewel from his forehead. “Watching us.”
“Huz?”
Erfiren nods at Altraam. “Huz.”
“Too many eyes,” says Altraam, scanning the horizon. “Too far from home.”
Cian nods. “Another time.” Second Skirmish takes a moment to check gear, then heads north, back to the Kobold Mine.
Traps and timber
A troubling sight greets them at the mine. They disturb two Huz orcs, busy constructing a swinging log trap across the approach from Cathorna. The orcs take to their heels, leaving behind the unfinished trap, a stack of cut timber, a well-constructed hide in a tree.
“Set to cover a retreat,” says Altraam. “They planned to return.”
All is made safe and Second Skirmish bang on the hatch.
“Skirmishers again! In, in!” Ougan is as pleased to see them as ever, and brews hot tea while they dry off. The snow pile atop the hatch remains, but a path has been worn through it by the dwarves.
“Best be wary when you emerge,” warns Cian. “There was an orc trap on the path. Disabled now. But where there was one, there’ll be another.”
Ougan nods gravely. “As you say, Skirmish. We’ll be careful.”
A quick check of the back door shows the snow is still piled against it, but it has begun to retreat.
A comfortable afternoon is spent resting by the fire, nibbling on grilled arocca (to stifled dwarven guffaws about kratak) and more substantial dwarven fare. With Erfiren suffering from his customary wound, Altraam calls upon Orome to heal him as best he can. The call is earnest but goes unheard, and Erfiren stoically resolves to press on despite the eye-misting pain. Or something. Talk revolves around the renewed threat of the Huz, the risks of an attack on their holdfast across the Laska, the consequences of not doing so. Minds turn towards the questions of ‘how’ and ‘when’, rather than ‘if’…
Come morning, the hatch is opened and they venture once more into the cold dark morn, turning north for Cathorna and the prospect of a warm, safe bed.

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