Frigid Help: An Anonymous Note (The Keep)t is said that in the dead of winter, strange creatures walk the nights, wandering through the dark. More superstitious people do not venture forth after the sun sets, wary of strange beasts. But for those who dare to, nighttime walks can be most interesting.
It is a cold evening at The Keep; snow has been falling at a steady pace all day, and the ground is heavily carpeted with the downy flakes. The sun is slipping behind a distant mountain, making the air even chillier. You would normally be tucked away inside your rooms, windows barred shut and a fire burning merrily, but for a strange note you found. It was slipped under your door while you slept, and one of your many companions brought it to you as you awoke. The letter was written on old, yellowing parchment, and the hand was unfamiliar to you. It read:
“I write to alert you of someone in need. It is heard that the magi help those who require assistance, and unfortunately you are my last hope. I beseech you to travel to the most southern of the caves of Nareau. There you will find someone who is in great need of your help. My many thanks.”
Do you want to travel to the caves? It is a long trek, and the weather is not agreeable.
Frigid Help: An Anonymous Note (Caves of Nareau)At first you weren't sure if you should undertake the journey: who could have left the note? But you questioned the other magi, and none knew who left the note. It was strange that someone could have gotten in the castle unaided and unnoticed. Still, the other magi urged you to go on the trip, as it is one of the duties of the magi, and you reluctantly agreed. At least the lands you were traveling to would be warmer than the castle.
So you are now on your way to the Caves of Nareau. With a last glance back at the warmth of The Keep you stride forward, beginning your travels. It takes a full week to make your way there, but at least the temperature rises as you do so, making the trip more comfortable. You walk past many of the caves, not venturing inside but passing by. Eventually the caves grow fewer and fewer, until at last you believe you have found the very last one. It lies under a think blanket of snow, and does not have the telltale glimmer that the jewel-bedecked caves have. With a last glance around the land, you pull your cloak tighter around yourself and head inside.
You notice immediately how cold it is inside – it is bitterly frigid, too cold not to be magical in nature. You tug on your thickest gloves and continue on. The walls of the cave are covered in thick frost and icicles, and your summoned light casts odd shadows on the walls. The ground underfoot is slippery and you proceed cautiously. The cavern seems to go on and on, and you afraid you will have to spend the night or turn back when the cave suddenly widens and ends. You seem to have emerged aboveground, but it looks nothing like the land around the Caves of Nareau. Mountain ridges form a great bowl, and the whole place looks like it appeared from the middle of winter. Piles of snow cover everything, and you can see a lake in the distance, completely frozen. You stand there for while, wondering why you were called here, when you see a movement. The creature that moved is the same color as the snow, and you start to see that there are many more, perfectly hidden. Something by your foot shakes a little, and you bend down to see a tiny little dragon. No, not exactly a dragon – you're not quite sure what it is. You have never seen one before. It appears to be some strange mix between a draconian and an elk? Tiny antlers spring from its head, and it gently butts against your leg and looks up at you with cool blue eyes. You dig in your pocket and produce a piece of bread for it to munch on, but the hatchling ignores you and takes a bite of snow instead.
Looking up, you see a splash of color in all the white. It appears to be a person, and you step away from the small hatchling to approach the human. It appears to be a woman, wrapped up in a long red cloak. Her dark hair is being thrown about by the wind, and the scowl on her face is making her quite unapproachable. “Are you the magi I summoned?” she asks, placing a gloved hand on one hip. You nod. “I wasn't sure who the note was from, but I decided to come anyway -” She waves you off, and continues: “I've been looking after these creatures for years. They're lovely things, a little vicious sometimes, but overall very nice.” You don't know what to say, so you nod. “There's a problem,” the woman continues, brown eyes fierce. “This place is thawing, or melting or something. I don't know how to stop it. I... I need help.” You nod again, and say: “Of course I will do everything to help. I have a few questions.” The woman sighs and rolls her eyes. “If you insist. But I must warm you, I don't think we have much time.” Pulling your cloak tighter around you, you ask: “What's your name?”
The woman is apparently named Nyiara. The creatures have been a family secret for generations, and she is greatly concerned for their wellbeing. It appears that no one knows how these beasts came to be here, or how the strange valley was created. You have gleamed some information from Nyiara, and are now talking over strategies with her. “They can't travel at all?” you ask. She shakes her head. “Nope. Even the least bit of warm air and they begin to deteriorate. We've got to get them to somewhere that will be cold forever, but I can't for the life of me figure out where.” The two of you are resting at her home, just a few miles away. Your attempts to use your magic to fix the problem have failed – whatever spell was used to create the spell in the first place is very strange. It refuses any of the power you try to send it, and won't accept new spells. You are almost at a loss. Finally, after many warm beverages, you have an idea. “I believe I know a solution,” you say. “The Keep is constantly being made larger. It would be simple enough to create more caves, magically kept cold.” She shakes her head immediately. “They couldn't stand the journey. I've read a bit about those spells that keep things cold – of course I did – but they aren't portable or anything.” You shake your head at her. “No, they aren't. But ice gryphons are. And phoenixes. They would have to remain by the icists constantly, though, even while at The Keep.” She stares at your for a moment, then a huge smile lights up her features. “Of course! The Keep has plenty of phoenixes and gryphons.” She springs to your feet and fetches your cloak. “Hurry up, get going. The sooner the better. Bring plenty of those companions.”
You have plenty of time to consider the situation as you journey back to The Keep. Many of the ice creatures are just beginning to return for the winter, and it may be difficult to get the number of companions you require. If you can't raise a company of twenty ice gryphons and ten ice phoenixes to act as permanent companions to icists, these strange snow beasts may be in serious trouble.
You need to find twenty ice gryphons and ten ice phoenixes in order to transport the strange snow beasts to The Keep. These companions will remain with the icists, ensuring that they are comfortable during their travels and at The Keep.
Frigid Help: An Anonymous Note (Caves of Nareau)Finally, after much travel, you have gathered all the necessary animals. It was rather strange to journey back to the Caves of Nareau with so many creatures, but you have done so with great speed. Nyiara is so pleased with your return that she hugs you, and leads the creatures from the castle to the valley herself. The strange beasts, which Nyiara calls icists, quickly gather around the other ice creatures excitedly, and greetings are exchanged. The cold of all these companions evidently are making the icists feel much better, as they are becoming animated and energetic. Nyiara has decided to go with you back to the castle, to make sure the icists made the trip easily.
The journey back to The Keep is uneventful at first, with the huge group traveling swiftly. Problems begin to arise when you notice someone is following you, or several people. Glancing backwards every so often, you see a flash of movement, but never got a good look at them. They reveal themselves just as the company is about to exit through a tight pass. It is a band of ruffians, armed with bows, swords, and most importantly, torches. They have surrounded your company quickly, blocking all exits. The ice creatures remain perfectly still, eyes locked on the huge, deadly torches. You step forward to who you assumed was the leader, drawing yourself tall. These were typical mountain bandits, dressed in filthy leather and long beards. Cruel swords hung from their belts, nicked from time and lack of care. “What do you want?” you ask, looking in the leader's small eyes. The man spits on the ground and waves his torch a bit, as if to remind you it is there. “How much gold you carrying?” he asks, mouth splitting in an awful smile. "I think fifteen thousand is a reasonable price. Give it to me or go back."
With a sigh, you look at Nyiara. "I'm afraid I don't have that much gold." The leader of the bandits scoffs at the two of you. "You're a magi, I can tell by those robes. You'll get the money or not pass. Fifteen thousand gold."
You groan inwardly, reaching towards your pouch for the money. “Fifteen thousand. Here.” The man hands his torch to a lackey and counts the coins eagerly. With a mocking bow towards you, he places the gold into a bag and backs away. “And may you have a lovely day,” he says, grinning. The bandits slowly retreat, leaving you free to continue on your way. “I'm sorry,” Nyiara says. “If I can pay you back anything at all -” You shake your head. “It's alright. Let's just get to The Keep.”
Companions and magi alike have gathered to watch you arrive. Master Belmos strides forward to meet you, introducing himself to Nyiara politely. “We have been working to create more caves,” he says, gesturing to the north of castle. “Let's get these... creatures settled.”
Soon the icists are content in their new homes, after being checked on and reassured by Nyiara. Nyiara herself has decided to take the test, and has passed and is beginning her studies as a magi. She is very pleased by this, not only because of her interest in magic, but because she can remain by her icists. You have retired to your rooms and built a huge fire up before crawling into bed with a good book. Of course, you now have a new egg that will hatch into your own odd little companion.