Passing through the portal the group finds themselves somewhere dark and cold. Only a few distant stars tinkle weakly overhead. A large sway of the sky is completely dark, empty of even faint celestial light.
Spazzlethrop lights his lantern illuminating a rocky debris field. The air is cold and dry, there’s no sign of water, snow, or ice. Almost immediately the group begins to feel the effects of the bitter cold, cutting through their winter garb and chilling them to the bone. There’s a slight warmth in one direction so – with nothing else to do but freeze – the group walks towards the warmth.
Soon a warm red light can be seen. As hoped, the group finds that this light is radiating from Ernhardur. What they did not expect was the massive skeletal form hunching near their deity. The two are conversing in draconic, speaking of a ritual and a missing component – the heart of a Somlacygot. Ernhardur grumbles that there’s no time to hunt for a Somlacygot and asks about workarounds.
Then the skeletal dragon interrupts – noting the sudden appearance of “mortals from your valley.” Ernhardur seems disinterested as the group makes themselves known while the skeletal dragon is rather pleasant to them. Ernhardur scoffs at being asked to lift winter but is silent at the mention of the sinister forces attacking the valley. When Sothiel’s plight is mentioned Ernhardur declares that there are more pressing matters at hand than caring for the weakness of a single mortal. The skeletal dragon notes that, “You’ve been here longer than you intended. You should return home and deal with this.” Ernhardur then opens a flaming portal in the sky and jumps through it, leaving the group with the skeletal dragon.
The group asks the skeletal dragon its name but it answers that it won’t tell. Instead, they can call it Eternal, Deathless, Ancient… At this point someone interjected “Old” and it stuck. The group proceeded to ask a lot of questions and Old answered most of them.
I’ll bulletin point Old’s exposition for easy reference.
- Worlds: There are many worlds. Incidentally, most worlds are sphere shaped and circle stars.
- What were those monsters: Harbingers of the Taint. They came to the group’s world ahead of the true corruption.
- What is the Taint: There are some immortals who want to see existence end. To accomplish this they created the Taint, a spiritual corruption that twists mortals with the goal of destroying stars. The group does not ask how this corruption destroys stars but Old notes that this all has something to do with entropy (and explains what that is in broad terms).
- When will the Taint come: In six months a purple star will fall from the heavens and corrupt the world.
- What ritual is Ernhardur working on: It’s not going to save the world from the Taint but is more of a form of damage control.
- Can the group end winter forever: Old answers that if they don’t like winter they should move to the south… There’s a warm land there that never knows winter. It’s full of beaches with sand and trees that bear fruit called coconuts.
- Can the group help their town: Yes. On their return they can track down the caravans that were sent out to barter for food.
- Can the group obtain the heart of a Somlacygot for the ritual: Yes but not yet. The group isn’t ready yet. But the group can find a Somlacygot in a certain swamp.
- What is this place/Who is Old: Old promises to explain later but states that the group needs some time to process first.
With Ernhardur’s departure the temperature is dropping rapidly. Old advises that they won’t survive long without the living dragon’s warmth and that they should soon leave. Old does give them a black lens that they can use in the Observatory to return here at any time but warns that they will need to be much stronger to survive in the cold here now that Ernhardur’s warmth has faded. Old then casts a spell and opens a portal to a town that will help the group prepare themselves for the challenges ahead.
Passing through the portal the group finds themselves in a grassy plain. It is a late spring afternoon. Twin moons – one silver and one gold – can be seen faintly in the sky above. (It’s worth noting that the group’s world has only one moon, at least that they know of.) There’s a bubbling creek and forest nearby. In the distance, they can see a small town.
Approaching the town the group discovers a naked human stumbling around blankly. They approach cautiously but can’t find a way to communicate with the human. Kendra does first poke (at Edward’s advice) and then feed (on her own initiative) the human. Poking resulted in the human stumbling away, feeding resulted in the human dropping to all fours and eating rations off the ground.
Meanwhile Bridgette snuck into the town and discovered that trollish creatures were lurking there. She climbed up on one building and shot at fire arrow at another to “smoke out” one of the creatures. Edward followed her and slipped into the building she was on top of. Instead, Edward found some copper coins (which he did not steal) and a diary (which he did read). The diary seemed to be written by a human. There were frequent mentions of a neighbor named Billy (who the diary often referred to as William) and of a mining town to the south (the author seemed to consider this the ‘big city’ compared to their ‘small town’).
Later, Edward searches the loft of the building and discovers a naked human child who quickly bites him. He shouts loudly about this turn of events while quickly retreating. Bridgette, hearing this, hurries into the building to investigate. Long story short – she then offers the child a cookie and the child bats away the cookie, so Bridgette punches the child in the face and knocks it unconscious.
Meanwhile Spazzlethrop used his staff and magic to herd one of the trollish creatures. He was quite proud of having captured it. At some point the trollish creature attempts to escape, bursting into the room where Edward was and snatching around the diary – only to be caught by Spazzlethrop again.
Edward moved on to explore another building and discovers another trollish creature hiding under a bed. He manages to communicate with it when Spazzlethrop – his troll having escaped – joins him along with Bridgette. The troll under the bed cannot talk but is able to write. He identifies himself as Billy and claims to be a human. He warns that a scary purple monster turned him into this form.
While this was all happening – Kendra, Caldus, and Bridgette’s wolf were trying to capture one of the trollish creatures. They were having a rough time of it when a second troll joined the fray and the two manages to escape. It helped that the group was distracted by the building Bridgette lit on fire finally spreading into a full blaze.
Later Bridgette rolled a Natural 1 and accidentally drops the unconscious child from quite a distance. Surprisingly this kills the “child” who turns into a cat. Edward has an “aha” moment and notes that the “strange purple monster” must have turned the animals into humans when it turned the humans into monsters.
At this a voice corrects, “I think you mean an incredibly handsome purple monster.” The group has a short dialogue with this mysterious voice. Kendra demands to know if the monster is really purple and the voice answers more amethyst. The monster then reveals itself flying above the group.
The group asks the monster many questions. Some it answered, some it mocked. For instance Kendra asked, “Is there really a warm place with coconut trees?” The monster pondered turning her into a seagull so she could find our for herself.
The monster pulled an amber gem out and peered through it at the group. That’s when it’s toying demeanor changed a bit. The monster was perplexed that they were not Tainted and asked where they were from again. It noted the strange timing that they appeared just after it had finished transforming the village. The monster seemed dismayed as the lack of Taint meant that it wouldn’t be able to transform them after all.
Asked to prove it’s power by putting out the building that was ablaze, the monster instead spreads the blaze to another building. It then attempted to blast the group with a spell – strange unfamiliar magic – but it barely harms them (another side effect of their lack of Taint). Edward takes advantage of this to intimidate the monster and convince it to flee.
The group further befriends the trollish Billy but the other villagers kept their distance. Not certain to do next the group decides to head towards the southern mining town.