As the party travelled Dom’ realised their food supplies were low. One harsh blizzard could see them trapped for long enough to run out of edibles. Dom’ led the party to gathering surplus off the land and storing it for later use. The cold climate aiding the preservation of foods. However, they still had to balance their firewood requirements should it become harsher – and it would.

 

As they entered the woods a blizzard approached. Felghanis suffered that night. They ran out of fuel and he could not be roused. Being cold to the touch they worked at getting him warm and gathered around him & the fire. He had been travelling in just simple outdoor clothes and not the thick quilted cold-weather gear the rest of the group had been wearing.

“I just had to leave my uncle,” Felghanis managed to excuse himself.

“We’ll make you a suit out of skins,” Dom said.

Kalista chipped in, “I can sew and craft leather. We can do this.”

“Only question is how long until we have enough skins,” Dom’ cautioned. “Let’s hope there’s not another blizzard like that one.”

 

Crossing the forest to the margins of the moorlands took two days. Two days later they saw skulls pinned to trees. Garren! Keeping to the margins they trekked north and just before sunset found a partially razed cabin some months old with a cluster of skulls fixed to the boles around. The arrows were long, over a yard, and fletched with strange material that could only be compared to insect wings. Moving hastily away the made to set camp a half mile or so further north.

 

Barely had they stopped to begin the preparation of their camp when Dom’ spotted a bear out on the moors. A small black bear on its own for its first winter. The hunt was on. They stalked the bear and got within 40 yards when it scented them. Alassiel’s psi-crystal charged forward scoring a nasty wound on the bear. Dom’s hound went to the bear’s rear-flank and Dom slung stones at the beast. The bear seized the psi-crystal with a lucky grab and started trying to maul it. Hard as iron the psi-crystal was undamaged but it was unable to attack from the mighty creature’s grasp. They brought the bear down with a few more attacks and the psi-crystal sprung free. Much meat was had after the bear was skun and dressed.

 

Returning to their chosen camp site they set their tent and fire. Dom’ noticed wolverine tracks at a puddle and they set proper watches instead of relying on the psi-crystal and Dom’s hound. Later that night the wolverine was heard seizing the largest haunch of bear-meat. The camp awoke and the wolverine ran off with the meat; settling down a hundred feet away to eat it with loud pleasured growling.

 

Kalista charmed the creature with a spell but it still was wary and aggressive towards her companions. Then she realised that the spell would not last a few days, as she thought, and they sent it off to the bear’s carcass back on the moors.

 

Three more hard days they travelled but with the large supply of meat they did not need to forage for more than the first. They camped and Felghanis was seen with a strange book. Alassiel and Dom’ had both interest in the volume that seemed to absorb Felghanis’ attention every night. This night Felghanis leapt up in excitement.

“That’s what he’s looking for!”

“Who?”

“My uncle. He’s looking for Kanii’s key and the Bell of Thullemon.”

Kalista had heard of these things. “They’re undead related. The key unlocks the Halls of the Dead, it is said. And the Bell animates all the dead that could hear its toll.”

“Yes. Now you see why I had to get away from him.”

 

They talked more and Dom’ questioned Felghanis.

“How can this be? How can this man who employed my family be a necromancer?”

Felghanis tried to explain but Dom’ was suspicious.

“What is that book made of anyway? It looks like human skin!”

“It is. That’s what kind of man my uncle is.”

“It will attract evil spirits. We should burn it right now.”

“No. Without it I can’t figure out what my uncle is doing; what he is plotting.”

“Then keep it away from me. I will not sleep knowing it is within fifty feet of me.”

Felghanis resolutely setup his bedroll at roughly the distance Dom’ stated he needed for a clear mind to sleep.

 

 

On Dom’s watch he heard the crunch of snow underfoot. Reacting quickly he spied a humanoid shape in the pale light behind a tree. A large bow and long arrows with the odd fletching he could just make out using his fey powers. Dom’ shouted to wake the camp and the figure fled. When all were awake he checked the tracks. They were uncannily shallow in the snow and as he searched a break in the clouds revealed a small faerie ring marked with stones.

 

“We have to leave. It was a Garren.”

Felghanis wanted proof since there were no typical territorial markers. The tracks were as described.

Kalista heard the creak of bow string, “Duck!”

A long arrow streaked past Felghanis’ head and embedded in the tree without the arrow-shaft even shaking. He looked at the arrow trying to figure out if it would have pierced his skull had he not reacted.

“Run!”

They sprinted back to camp. Another arrow struck a tree in sight of the fire. They hastily packed their equipment and supplies. Then fled their campsite in the flickering light of their improvised hearth. Snowflakes were drifting about them and they were in the deep dark of night.

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