All the members of Kombat Advantage, independently or in small groups, arrive in Loudwater and learn of the blue-skinned goblins that have been attacking travelers outside of town and that the winter has been coming early.
An evening spent in the Green Tankard yields all sorts of rumors and wild speculation. Farmers are worried about their crops, which might freeze in the fields before the harvest comes in; woodsfolk tell stories of freak snowstorms occurring in the middle of the day and then vanishing as if they were never there; hunters spread tales of strange blue-skinned goblins lurking around the outskirts of the Dire Wood. Everyone has a pet theory about what or who is behind the problems, but mainly, the common folk are just worried.
Travelers say that the cold temperatures appear to be more pronounced in the area of the Dire Wood. Rumors even tell of blizzards in broad daylight. Some claim it is the work of evil faeries, but the town’s leaders believe that a more likely source of the problem is Draigdurroch Tower. No one has seen or heard from Draigdurroch in 30 years, and the tower’s cursed history is well known.
Their actions catch the attention of the town’s leaders. Sister Linora, the priestess of Chauntea, contacts the loose-knit party and ask them to help the town. They learn that the goblins might be related to the unnatural winters that have been occuring for several years now. Winter is getting longer and the growing season is getting shorter.
She explains that, although winter is a natural part of the cycle of the seasons and therefore not a bad thing in and of itself, its early arrival is clearly a perversion of the natural order and as such it is of grave concern to the Great Mother. The balance between the seasons must be preserved.
“We would be in your debt if you find the source of this unnatural winter. If things continue as they have, the crops will die in the fields and Loudwater’s next Deadwinter Day will be a lot more than symbolic. I suggest you start by investigating Draigdurroch Tower, near the Dire Wood. Considering the tower’s history, I can’t imagine it’s just a coincidence. I’m sure that Lady Moonfire can tell you more.”
As Loudwater’s civic leader, the half-elf Lady Moonfire is responsible for the town’s protection. She has been getting an earful from the local farmers, who are concerned about the early onset of winter. If the harvest fails, then the entire Gray Vale will have a lean winter.
She is also intrigued by the tower, and any artifacts it might hold.
“By Mystra’s lost spell, I’m certain that the tower must be connected to this somehow. Nobody knows what that dwarf Draigdurroch was researching or what triggered the calamity that encased his tower in magic ice, but any time powerful magic is involved, these things have a way of spiraling out of control. It appears the Dire Wood is drawing a lot of attention these days. Even if the tower isn’t the source of the problem, perhaps you can find a clue among the warlock’s notes or possessions.”
She gets a little starry-eyed at the word possessions, and Gord presses the issue.
“Oh, you know, shiny things. I mean, you see I have quite a collection of beautiful artifacts. I’d love to add to it. Also, as Draigdurroch was a warlock, like me, and a powerful one, I’d be interested in his books and, like, general research, and stuff.”
Gord asks if there’s anything else she knows about the tower and the missing warlock. She explains that about 30 years ago, a dwarf warlock named Draigdurroch came to the Gray Vale. Draigdurroch was part of a cabal of warlocks, and his particular research dealt with the creation of new types of eldritch pacts. He believed that the Dire Wood contained a particularly potent source of untapped energy. She then goes back to talking about beautiful artifacts, and can’t seem to regain focus.
Although nobody currently living in town has ever been to the tower, many have a good idea of its approximate location near edge of the Dire Wood, so the party is able to procure a reliable map. It’s less than a day’s travel to reach the tower from Loudwater, so the adventurers should not need to make camp along the way. However, given the situation, they decide to prepare for cold weather, and head to the town’s general store from some winter clothes before leaving town.
The Gray Vale is beautiful in the late summer, although a pronounced chill in the air even during what should be the hottest part of the day indicates that something is definitely amiss with the weather. The first few hours of the journey pass uneventfully, but as the heroes travel through the High Forest, the temperature drops steadily and a sharp wind carries with it the promise of winter, even though the leaves have not even begun their annual autumn change.
More time passes, until finally the sight of the stark white wood of the albino trees that mark the boundary of the Dire Wood informs them that Draigdurroch Tower should be within a few miles of here. However, none of the landmarks indicated on the map are visible for reference. The horizon is shrouded by a blanket of solid white. A cold fog appears to issue from the very heart of the dark forest and snowflakes begin to fall from the steel-gray sky. The way ahead is quickly obscured, as is the way they have just come.
The storm’s intensity continues to rise minute by minute until the party is caught in the middle of a full-on blizzard. To find their way through the driving snow, they must survive the harsh conditions while staying on the right path to reach Draigdurroch Tower. They use their skills and knowledge to choose the right direction and protect themselves against the storm’s hazards.
As the snow clears, the adventurers see a small, ruined tower. While its appearance is more that of an old watch tower than a warlock’s fortress, they decide to investigate, just in case. It’s also getting late, as they were delayed by the blizzard, and they’re intrigued by the possibility of resting in a sheltered location.
Beef stealthily peeks in a window. Some goblins loudly argue while standing around a table covered in playing cards, while another dips its mug into a boiling cauldron. Toward the rear of the room, a block from the sagging ceiling has smashed down onto the floor. A hobgoblin stands near a gong. A set of stairs on the eastern wall goes up to the next floor. Looking closer, he sees a pair of dice roll out from behind the stone block, and a small fist quickly snatches them up before retreating.
The party decides to take the tower, lured both by shelter and by the sudden promise of ale. One the ground floor, they engage in battle and eventually defeat the frost-touched hobgoblin Big Grigbad and his blue goblin minions. They aren’t quick enough, however, and one goblin manages to hit the gong, alerting the rest of the tower to the arrival of the intruders.
Using Posket as a scout, they carefully ascend the stairs to the next level. The floor in the center of this room is a sagging ruin that looks dangerously unstable. To the west is a pile of broken stones and bones. In the southwest corner is a low wall covered in a faded tapestry. In the shadows of the southeast corner stands a wooden platform of recent construction; it is nearly 10 feet tall. North of the platform, a spiral staircase proceeds up to the next level.
They exmaine the room more closely, and notice a flicker of red light in one of the skulls focusing on them from the pile of bones. They also note flitting shadows on the wooden platform above and arrowheads poke out from behind the tapestry-covered wall.
As one might expect, there are goblins hiding, both on the platform and behind the tapestry. Additionally, the piles of bones become animate as ice skeletons. The party experiements with knocking the goblins prone, but for the casters that only makes them more difficult to hit. Eventually, they dispatch the enemies on this floor and reward Posket with a piece of the tapestry. They move up to the next floor with only Posket’s description of “sleepy dogs and smelly blankets.”
Sunlight fills this room. The roof is gone, and the spiral staircase continues up to nowhere. Much of the southern half of the room has fallen away. A large stone throne sits to the west with a pile of soiled bedding directly across from it. A circle of runes, interrupted by a gap along one of its sides, glows faintly on the floor. A shadow on the wall behind the staircase moves cautiously, giving away the position of a hidden foe. There are no sleepy dogs in sight, and Kombat Advantage engages, a bit confused. As the battle begins, frost-touched wolves emerge and defend their master, the goblin underboss. His bugbear companions fight bravely, as well, but Kombat Advantage manages to best their foes once more by using the false floor pit trap to their advantage.
After clearing the tower and recovering several gems and mundane weapons, the adventurers make camp and rest for the night. In the morning, they arise and finally see the icy spire of Draigdurroch’s tower in the distance.
To be continued.