Reign of Winter

Summary 12: The Witchdaughter's Nightmare

Chapter Three: Maiden, Mother, Crone



BLACK MIDNIGHT
’s Chamber of Night remained and the Horde entered.  Wavering darkness devoured the room beyond.  Pale moonflower blossoms littered the walls and ceiling, all dimly lit by a blood-red orb dangling from a black iron chain in the room’s center.  ROZUM, a hideous albino Raven with red eyes, emerged from the shadows to greet BABA YAGA’s chosen.  With two of three amulets in hand, the Oracle wasted little time and challenged the Horde to a battle of wits.  His riddle was as follows:

I mark night’s coming,
I will mark your end.
I run not in fear,
I have not a friend.


A secret path revealed itself to the north and the Horde was invited to feel their way to the grotto and drink from the silver chalice.  Hundreds of tangled roots dangled from the raw earthen ceiling in the next room.  The cavern was filled with dark placid water, a narrow stone walkway leading to a circular platform in its center.  Upon the platform was a stone table set with five sliver chalices.  About the grotto’s perimeter, just above the waterline, five deep alcoves had been dug into the murky walls.  Though shadowed by darkness, a faint glitter sparkled from deep within each alcove.  A Glowing Hand was placed upon an arrow and fired at one of the alcoves, but the supernatural Darkness was much too potent.  Wanted to investigate the figment closest to them, and expecting a Sea Serpent to rise, SHANG-TSUNG braved the waters first.  Suddenly, before even making contact with the water, the Samurai was robbed of all air within his system.  Suffocating, SHANG-TSUNG struggled to remain conscious as he was flaying about in the pool.  To counter his predicament, SHANG-TSUNG thought it’d be wise to replace air with water.  He couldn’t have been more wrong.  Now suffocating and drowning, the Elder was pulled out of the drowning pool and given time to catch his breath.  Out of spite, the Samurai fired an arrow at each figment and struck metal on his fourth shot.

Meanwhile, OTAK approached the chalices, all filled with dark red wine and etched with strange runes.  The Half-Orc flicked one of them to determine its quality.  Suddenly, a beam of light rushed out towards an alcove and revealed the treasure within, an apple.  The shadows claimed the fruit moments later prompting the half breed to finger the other goblets.  Doing so revealed ghostly images of a mirror, an hourglass, a dagger and a key.  Pondering over ROZUM’s riddle, the Horde agreed to peruse the hourglass.  SHANG-TSUNG drank from the hourglass chalice and three large stones rose to the water’s surface, making a path leading to the alcove.  The Samurai crossed over whilst fighting off the poison he had just consumed.  The Elder crawled through the mud and felt his way to the hourglass, but the thing was held in place via chain and padlock.  And to make matters worse, the stone path submerged into the water behind him.  The Horde came to the conclusion that the key was needed to free the hourglass.  UPANIX drank from the key chalice, producing another stone path, and OTAK followed it to key, it took was chained.  SHANG-TSUNG took out an adamantine arrow, hacked at the chain, and freed the hourglass within seconds.  UPANIX consumed more of the deadly toxins to reproduce paths for his allies; luckily, the Half-Giant was clearly immune.  The Horde presented ROZUM with the hourglass and the Bird approved.  The Raven grasped the hourglass with its talons and surrendered his amulet.  ROZUM cawed one last time before vanishing into the darkness.

You have taken upon yourselves a great burden.  For that which you desire, the Changeling holds.  Know this as well, you will find the Crone only when the moon wanes.

With nowhere else to go, the Horde searched the hallway for the RED SUN’s pictogram.  The Ochki located the glyph on the wall across from the door leading to the Master Cauldron.  The Red Rider’s name was spoken through the Kepka’s Tongues effect and revealed another door, but this one wouldn’t open.  Several attempts had been made to penetrate the portal, but the Arcane Lock was much too powerful.  The Horde returned to the cauldron and placed the amulets within, again, nothing happened.  Moments later, the Ochki picked up three traces of magic upon the shelves, twas the amulets.  Stumped, the Hut library was summoned in hopes to identify the runes upon the amulets.  The search for knowledge took hours on end and the Horde succumbed to fatigue.

UPANIX awoke in a royal bedroom, the windows looking out to a snow covered city.  The Half-Giant walked over to a standing mirror in the corner and gazed upon it.  He saw a beautiful woman, proud and confident.  Suddenly, the woman’s demeanor was one of great concern.  The woman began aging, rapidly, and UPANIX felt the all the effects as well.  Aches, pains, deafness, blurred vision, disease and cancers ravaged the Half-Giant’s body as he retreated back to bed, suffering and wanting to die.  Several long hours pass in agony when suddenly, UPANIX felt a sharp pain as an old crone, cackling wildly, stabbed him in the gut.  While enduring the excruciating pain, UPANIX was flooded with images of the battle between the Horde and the Animate Dream, a woman consumed in fear and wrath.  The Half-Giant woke up in a cold sweat, his allies still asleep in their books.  The Specimen failed to get any sleep at all as the Nightmare left a deep scar in his mind.  MIYUKI was the last to rise as she spent most of the night studying a prayer book with the Pearl of Power in hand.  The Ochki was put to use to Identify the three amulets.  One acted as a Brooch of Shielding, the other, an Aegis of Recovery and the last, a Chime of Opening.  Meanwhile, OTAK had found a book with pictures and the three Iobarian runes were identified as follows: Dragon, Gold and Artrosa.  Also known as The Three Who Watch, Artrosa was a trio of three immense statues, all depicting a woman in a different stage of life; Maiden, Mother and Crone.  Artrosa was also found on a world map, located several hundreds of miles east of Whitethrone.  The Horde consulted the Karta and learned that they had indeed traveled east and were made aware of two new gold markers.  The first, a Gold Nugget, the second, a Dragon Scale, both in close proximity to them and Artrosa.

With the Chime of Opening in hand, the Arcane Lock upon RED SUN’s door was Dispelled and the portal revealing a cozy living space.  Two sets of stairs rose to a balcony, another door to the north on the higher level.  The Horde’s presence alarmed the room’s guardian however.  The Barbarian RATIBOR the Bold was surprised to see a door appear to the south, more so when others of his kind walked though.  Compelled to defend BABA YAGA’s Hut form intruders, RATIBOR did not feel the urge to fight the apparent house guests.  Pleasantries and information were exchanged and RATIBOR granted the Horde safe passage through the Hut’s front door and out to his native land of Iobaria.

SHANG-TSUNG was the first to step on the porch and was greeted by two ear-piercing screams.  A first from MIYUKI as she clenched her head in pain, and the other, from a Snow Owl perched on the rail, acknowledging a Frost Giant’s advanced.  Suddenly, the Giant ordered his brethren to strike.  From behind several rocks and trees, seven other Frost Giants launched their boulders at the Dancing Hut.  Two of the missiles collapsed two sections of the porch as the others bounced off the construct.  Severely outmatched, the Samurai backtracked to the living room and shut the door.  The violent tremors continued, but the Hut’s structural integrity held.  The Horde ordered the Hut to respond, but the oversized Chicken was unresponsive.  Meanwhile, RATIBOR took offense to SHANG-TSUNG’s presence when he made himself at home, using the front door.  The raging warlord charged the intruder dealt a critical blow via battleaxe.  RATIBOR, quick on his feet, continued his assault upon the Samurai and brought the Elder down to one knee.  OTAK, KRUSH and the fatigued UPANIX retuned the favor, but RATIBOR suppressed the pain.  The Samurai retaliated with a devastating iaijutsu strike, stepped away and allowed MIYUKI to collect his innards.  FATALITY wanted none of this and watched from afar.  Suddenly, the ground shook violently as the Dancing Hut animated to life.  Through the windows, a great fire storm was witnessed and many screams followed.   Another round of boulders met their mark, yet none penetrated.  Ignoring all other threats, RATIBOR maintained his focus on the Samurai and nearly sent him to the afterlife.  Surrounded, the Barbarian was overwhelmed and dropped.  Meanwhile, the Hut commanded a Giant to Dance Irresistibly as the Incendiary Cloud continued to ravage those caught within.  The Horde opted to lick their wounds and the Hut brutally clawed and slammed at its foes.

Within a minute, there were no more screams and the tremors stopped.  The Horde stepped outside to witness the massacre.  The dense wood was consumed in black smoke; the smell of burnt flesh filled the air.  Ecstatic, MAIN was the first to set finger on the battle field.  SHANG-TSUNG spotted a magical trinket amongst the gore and pocketed the Orb of Blizzards.  Meanwhile, the Snow Owl ZAPADA made acquaintance with his new Paladin master.  Honored, MIYUKI accepted the beautiful Bird familiar.  Having also acquired RATIBOR’s stash, the Horde opted to give themselves and the Ochki time to rest.  Once again, UPANIX relived the Animate Dream’s Nightmare from start to finish, without interruption.  Only this time, when he awoke, the Specimen did not feel any ill effects.  SHANG-TSUNG on the other hand, was white as a Ghost, gasping for air as he woke.  The Samurai too was attacked by the Witchdaughter’s Nightmare.  He shared his vision with the Horde, prompting the Half-Giant to reveal his experience from the night prior and just moments ago.
In an attempt to put the ordeal behind them, the Horde consulted the Karta and began their march eastward.

Concerned with the appearance of BABA YAGA’s Dancing Hut and agents of KOSTCHTCHIE getting involved, the Centaur ERDIJA, accompanied by fellow members from Rashalak tribe, reluctantly approached the Giant slayers.  Fearing BABA YAGA had come to prepare for her homecoming, ERDIJA began negotiations in hopes spare her people and their homes.  When the Centaur was made aware of the Horde’s intensions, ERDIJA was relieved and sympathized with those currently being consumed by ELVANNA’s unnatural winter.  She also thanked the Horde for dealing with the Giant trespassers rumored to be at war with the Queen of Witches.  A conflict would have surly left a scar upon the Centaur’s holy lands.  As a gesture of peace and gratitude, ERDIJA offered to show them the way to Artrosa’s monuments, the Horde agreed.  Whilst they traveled the Dvezda Marshes, the Horde recounted their exploits to speed the lengthy journey.  After describing the incident with the Huldra SYLGJA, SHANG-TSUNG made it clear to ERDIJA that she’d suffer the Fey’s fate if the Centaur ever thought of crossing them.  Terrified, ERDIJA had just remembered that she was needed at home, twas getting dark after all.  Frantic, the Centaur gave BABA YAGA’s favored a description of The Three Who Watch and a route to follow before galloping off with her tail between her legs.  After scolding the Elder for poor tact, the Horde retired for the night.

On the stroke of midnight, the ground began to shake all of a sudden during OTAK’s watch.  As the Half-Orc gazed into the darkness and noticed several sets of demonic eyes approaching rapidly.  Powered by Righteous Might, four Andrazku Demons charged the encampment with orders to slay agents of BABA YAGA.  Both SHANG-TSUNG and UPANIX, deep within their Nightmares, were roused to avoid a coup de grace.  The Horde scrambled to get their gear and readied themselves for battle.  The Demons tore at flesh and painted the landscape in man gore.  Once the Horde reversed the pincer attack, the battle began swaying in their favor.  They rained their arrows, whirlwinded through the enemy ranks and sealed the deal with a Dual Gom Assault.  After a quick fix, the Horde wanted none of this and returned to the Hut to recover.

By the time they began making progress again, two days had passed and both SHANG-TSUNG and UPANIX were definitely suffering from restless nights.  Fresh out of Remove Curse Scrolls, the pair braved the road ahead.  They traveled north at the base of an imposing ravine, the rock faces flanking them nearly a mile high.  Suddenly, several hours later, the path ahead was concealed by a thick fog, the sound of a ridding horse echoing in wind.  Suddenly, mounted upon an Iobarian Great Elk, a Cold Rider charged through and grazed OTAK’s arm.  The Fey turned and surrounded himself in Obscuring Mist.  Readying their attacks, the Horde suddenly found themselves within an freezing Ice Storm.  The Cold Rider followed up with a spirited charge, tagged the Half-Orc once more and found refuge within the fog on the other side.  As the deep hatred for Fey festered within OTAK’s soul, the Half-Orc ordered KRUSH to bring the vile pest to him.  Using his keen scent, KRUSH located the Fey, grabbed hold, and dragged his sorry ass out of the mist.  The thing was pounded into pulp and when the mist lifted, the frightened non-talking stag was made into a hardy meal.

The next twenty or so hours were uneventful, save for another rough night, but ended at a wondrous sight.  Standing a mile high in the distance was an impressive monument depicting a nude and pregnant woman.  Several miles to the west stood another, barren and fruitful, to the east, one well beyond her prime.  Twas the Three Who Watch, Maiden, Mother, Crone.
 
CHALLENGE
XP
Trap: The Drowning Pool; triggered
600
Rozum; Awakened Raven Oracle; befriended
800
Ratibor the Bold; Human Barbarian
1600
Frost Giant Ambush
1600
5 Rashalka Scouts; befriended
1600
4 Andrazkus
1600
Cold Rider
1200
Iobarian Great Elk
400
Session total
9400
Campaign total
50280

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