Diving right back in: the gang had just narrowly avoided a Wall of Fire cast by Company Black by swerving their sled over and into another competing sled. They find themselves tangled up with that sled and struggle to loose themselves. As the other team grabs poles to push them off Jung reaches across to the other sled and chucks one of their team off the back of the speeding sled and into the packed snow. Magnus expertly peels off and with a crunching groan the two sleds are wrenched apart. Company Black, still a little ahead of the Curios Company, begin to pull further away. The gang watches as they ready their longbows to rain down a hail of arrows on them if they make any more aggressive moves towards them. The taunting dwarf wagging a warning finger at them as he shakes his head “no-no” at them. Seeing the damage done to Gax in the last salvo the party decides that discretion is the greater part of valor and there’s still plenty of race to go. Insults are shared across the distance and everyone settles into the hard work of the overnight race.
The gang works very well together. Magnus continuing to manage the Dire Wolves as Wolrf sits beside him, giving the reigns a stronger hand as needed under Magnus’ direction. Gax and Siddron post up near the front of the sled scanning the speeding terrain and shouting observations to Magnus to keep the sled out off soft snow or perilous icy patches. Torrik works with Jung to find the most advantageous routes. Zattera braces in the center of the sled and uses his keen eyes, honed from years of scanning the horizon at sea, to watch further out for trouble brewing. They begin to make better and better speed across the icy wastes leaving all but a sled operated by a group of Brethoni (the human peoples that Magnus hails from, they are concentrated around Bard’s Harbor- the harbor city to the south of NorthWood on the coast) behind. At one point Zattera spots them in the distance speeding along themselves. As the sun sets the snow begins to fall. At first lightly but it builds as night deepens.
The race runs neck and neck between The Curios Company and the Brethoni and as they near the mid-point of the race – and the point where they must grab a flag to carry across the finish line – the two sleds come closer together. The race bottle necking at the flag point. As the sleds begin to converge they see a bird of prey wheel down and land on the arm of one of their competitors, the Brethoni begin readying their weapons and one of them signals to the gang. After a few tense moments the party realizes that the Brethoni aren’t preparing to attack them but rather preparing for some other threat. “Woolly Rhinos ahead,” the signaling one yells through the wind to them.
Meanwhile they prepare to execute plan: “Speedy Torrik”. Harnessing his feral nature Torrik is confident he can sprint for a short time and not just keep up with the sled, but make slightly better time than it. Jung and Wolrf tie two ropes together and then fasten it to Torrik’s waste… just in case he stumbles they can heave him back onto the sled. Magnus, Sidron, and Gax prepare for plan “in case Torrik face-plants on the snow and ice” and Magnus lines up a pass that will allow Torrik to try to nab a flag from the snow while then giving them a pass at another, they prepare a brace of Mage Hands and a Levitate spell just-in-case…
Torrik watches the snow whiz by at terrifying speed and taking a deep breath gets a three step run in and then… leaps from the sled. His feet crunch into the snow, his purchase on the uneven terrain not as steady as he had hoped. He stumbles, big steps it into a sort of forward fall and then gets his feet under him. He sprints at an insane blur to one of the flags and wrapping his stout hands around it heaves. Nothing happens! The flag has frozen into the snow! For an instant he watches as the sled speeds away from him. With urgency he gives the flag another pull, this time throwing his back and legs into it and with a crackling sound the flag pulls free, he sets off at a sprint towards the back of the sled. The sprint begins, Magnus still driving the Dire Wolves for all the speed they can muster as the Brethoni aren’t letting up either. Torrik runs. And runs. And runs. His legs and lungs burning from the sustained effort. Eventually he gets a hand on the back of the sled an in a mighty push swings himself, panting, onto the back of the sled. The flag held firmly in his exhausted grasp.
While Torrik is making his mad dash the rest of the gang watch a two part show. Part one is their companion risking life and limb to make a dash for a flag. Part two is the Brethoni sled working their own plan to nab a flag. Their sled bears down on one of the flags and they barrel over it, the crack of the wooded pole sounding out. At the back of the sled two of them hold the ankles of a companion who hanging down snatches the flag from the ice as they pass over it. Clearly this isn’t their first Deepwinter Chase!
Then as both of the sled teams are reveling in their successes out of the snow a hulking shape bursts forth and a massive woolly rhinoceros crashes into the side of the Brethoni sled with such force that it tips up onto one runner before settling back down. The Brethoni set to work with crossbows and pole weapons to repel the beast as the gang, respecting these fair competitors, offer what assistance they can from a distance. A few arrows are launched, Sidron looses some arcane fire upon the beast, and Gax uses Move Earth to scoop out a divot beneath the rhino’s feet causing it to stumble. The Dire Wolves catch scent of the woolly rhino and having a penchant for their flesh Magnus temporarily looses control of them as they veer towards the massive beast and the meal it represents to them. The Brethoni keep their beasts under control and surge forward into the snowstorm. Magnus and Wolrf wrestle the reigns and manage to get their team headed in the right direction. Gax continues to use Move Earth to make pursuit difficult for the rhino and they make their escape into the wastes, turning back towards NorthWood and the finish line.
As the night wears on lids begin to grow heavy and heads begin to nod from time to time. The chill air, the rush of wind, and the excitement and pressure of the race work together to keep everyone awake. Everyone except Torrik that is. Weariness begins to weigh on him like a warm blanket. He fights to stay awake and alert but this is a sleep that goes beyond the natural and suddenly it overtakes him. He stumbles forward, his eyes drooping closed, as he falls to the floor of the sled. As his body hits the sled it dissipates into a dark purplish smoke and he is gone. The rest of the gang look at each other in astonishment… A brief debate takes place, should they wait here for him in case he reappears or should they press on. Knowing per the rules of the race if they cross the finish line without him their race efforts are forfeit: you must cross the finish line with all your personnel (alive or dead) on the sled and one of the mid-point flags in your possession. Magnus settles the debate by spurring the Dire Wolves on.
Nearly an hour later the gang spot a sled on it’s side up ahead and slowing their pace a little approach somewhat cautiously. As they near the sled they see it is the sled of the Brethoni, it’s broken and damaged and two of their competitors lay dead in the snow. Wondering what their next move should be as they slide closer that decision is made for them as a Frost Giant springs an ambush on them, a massive rock sailing out of the snow and striking one of their lead Dire Wolves, crushing it into a mangled heap. The sled lurches awkwardly as the other Wolves are tangled in the corpse and it’s harness. The gang leap into action defending themselves. Wolrf leaps from the sled and begins his efforts to hack the harness free from the dead Dire Wolf so they can escape if needed. The other Dire Wolves, being mostly feral, snapping and biting at him as he does so. Suddenly in a puff of the dark purplish smoke Torrik appears in the center of the sled. His eyes a little glazed as if he has just awaken from a deep sleep. No memory of where he has been for the last hour and possibly equally surprising a warm crock and a loaf of bread tucked in his arms…
The rest of the gang handle themselves admirably against the now approaching Frost Giant who hurls another boulder at the Dire Wolves that luckily goes wide and slams into the snow near Wolrf. Arrows fly, spells are flung, but it’s Gax’s gentle spirit that ends the conflict. Casting Suggestion on the Frost Giant Gax instructs it to “Go home and go to bed!” The Frost Giant lowers it’s massive ax, confusedly rubs it’s head, and slowly turns and strides off into the wilderness. They see it pause once, scratching it’s head again before setting off to the North East.
Zattera and Jung carefully inspect the ruined Sled as Torrik and Wolrf work together to manage their Dire Wolves and cut the tangled harness and the mangled Dire Wolf loose. As our human from down south and our 1/2 orc probe the crash they find a few Frost Giant prints that the winds have yet to cover up. It’s clear that several Frost Giant’s attacked this sled and made off with what few supplies it had, as well as most of the valuables it’s occupants had on their persons. They do find a little spending gold left on the bodies and Zattera finds a contract on one of the corpses. He discreetly flips through the paperwork and finds it’s a contract for mercenary work the details are basically as follows:
The contract is for the group of Brethoni to locate and gather information on a Brethoni named Magnus Idunnsdottir, No actions are to be taken against the target, only information of their whereabouts and activities is to be gathered. The contract is signed by a Hild Idunnson. Zattera tucks the contract into his pocket, something to think about… Is Magnus
Idunnsdottir the same person as his new friend Magnus Brigidson?
Tune in again next week to see how the gang does in the race… How things fare back in NorthWood, is this the same Magnus, and What’s in that warm crock???