Prologue: Winter's Shadow

L'lef grunted and said, "Eh... I don't mean to be rude... but is there perhaps anyway that we could attain a map of the establishments between us and our desired destination?"

"That's not rude at all, that's sensible," Gareth said. "Guard, fetch me a map of the area between here and the marshes, and between here and Star's Rest from the war room, would you?" The guard silently left the room, and returned in a few minutes with two rolls of parchment. He gives them to the Grand Commander, who spreads them out on the table.

"The ruins and Star's Rest are somewhat equidistant from here, about
In case anyone's rusty on rules for overland travel, here's a handy link to it. Remember, one day of travel is assumed to be 8 hours of actual travel, with the rest of the time being used for setting up/tearing down camp, cooking, etc. Any longer than 8 hours is considered a forced march
100 miles in opposite directions," he says. "You can follow the Queen's Highway to Star's Rest, if you desire, or if you're confident in your survival and pathfinding skills, you can try to go across land. There are a couple of hamlets along the way, basically just small farming and hunting communities. They don't have much to offer, I admit, but if you feel the need or desire to sleep with a roof over your head, they are not too bad."

Pointing at the maps, he says, "Between here and Star's Rest is the hamlet Dunnestead - about 50 miles from here - and
between here and the marshes is the hamlet Mooreburg, about 70 miles from here, just on the edge of the marshes.

"The Highway goes both east and west, but does not go through the marshes. We learned that trying to keep a permanent road through Fuar Dubh is futile, as the ground is so unstable throughout the year. Ices up in winter, then come spring, it melts all to hell and any road structures we made get broken or swallowed up. There are some paths our rangers make through the marshes, but no permanent roads I'm afraid.

"That's partially why traders and caravans on their way to the eastern end of the island often prefer to go by boat rather than through the marshes. That and that it's full of beasts that would eat you as soon as look at you.

"Both groups, beware the weather. Winter is just coming upon us, and the weather can be hard to predict. Sky could be clear one hour, and within an hour could be snowing and blowing so's you can't see the hand in front of your face. Be prepared to find shelter if things get too bad to continue. Also, the Queen's army tries to keep the roads cleared of snow and ice as much they can, but they cannot be everywhere at all times, so occasionally the road may be obscured to sight by the snow. These maps should help keep you on track."

He hands the map of the area west of Scurdaeg to Corynn and the map east of Scurdaeg to Ezryn.

"Any more questions before you start making arrangements?"

"No sir." Corynn replies as he accepts the map. He's scratches the beard on his cheek again, clearly it's some sort of nervous habit, and glances around at the others in his group. "I hope one of these others is good at navigating, or don't mind sticking to the roads."

Unrolling the map that Gareth passed to him, Ezryn analysed it with a careful eye, using a sugar pot and a half-empty cup to hold the map open while his hands traced paths between the city and their destination. When he was finally confident as to where they were headed, the ranger looked up, offered the group he was a part of an encouraging smile and then stood. ”I have made my life travelling these lands for the last few years, I should be able to guide us to this location with little problem and can even offer some respite against the cold weather. The only question remains; do we travel by road or the scenic route?” Casting his memory back to an hour prior when he had been looking out across the land from the city gate, Ezryn tried to determine – from the weather patterns, the migrating movements of the birds and animals he had witnessed, and even the temperature of the air as it brushed his skin – what the
Dice Roll: 1d20+14
d20 Results: 5 (Total = 19)
weather would be like for the next few days so that they could plan their trip accordingly. ”My pack outside contains a tent large enough for all of us and my companion and I can forage for food as we travel but that will mean moving slower as I set snares and gather herbs and berries. If you are ready to travel, I just need to gather my gear as we leave the palace and we can be on the road within the hour...”

"Also, if you decide to leave this very night, remember to bring a light," the queen says. "For it is already dusking, especially with the snow."

The large blue adolescent held his hand out to Corynn, a pained expression showed upon the lad's face as his now dark and icy blue eyes
gazed directly into Corynn's. It was obvious the lad meant that he could take the map and lead the way, but subtly it seemed as if the boy's body language and posture spoke something else to Corynn entirely.

Well the dwarf is gone, Deresk thinks with a smile. That is one problem gone. These other two do not appear half-bad, though he likely won't see much of them for a while. Such is the way the spirits move he supposes.

He mostly ignores the city talk. He has found or made the stuff he needs, unless someone has gone through his pack since he has been at the palace. The map on the other hand, draws his attention. He has little to no experiences with these technologies. He relies on the bear to tell him where to go. But Gareth brings interesting points. He rubs the side of his mouth where the tusks are.

"The spirits give me paths to go." he says, looking at Corynn. "I can help with that and the weather. But are there bigger problems than the weather? Can we go peaceable, asking questions and seeking more answers than at the village? Or do we face more fighting and danger between here and there?

Glancing up towards Deresk once more as the half-orc responds to Corynn, and his head tilts to one side, watching him for a moment. Eventually, he rumbles out, "The spirits alone are safe from our world." Not necessarily their own, but predators and the cold, at least, worried them little. "Those who seek peace seldom find it. We may look the part here; that is good." And, he supposed, they would see if it would be enough, though... yes, having one guided by the spirits was certain to help.

Only then did his gaze shift back to Ezryn, his arched eyebrows giving him a slightly incredulous appearance. Berries? At this time of year? That would take some doing, although, certainly, stranger things had been seen in the north. He then turns his gaze to each of those to be travelling with him in turn, to L'lef, then to Corynn, and then to Deresk. "I am ready this night," he offers.

Corynn surrenders the map to L'lef but not without meeting his eyes with a dark look of his own. "I'm ready as well, but I don't like the thought of leaving this late in the day, it'd be better to have a nice, warm bed one more night and get an early start tomorrow morning." he says as he turns towards Deresk and Ruln, breaking eye-contact with L'lef. "As for dangers? I'd be very surprised if we didn't run in to some trouble along the way, heck, considering what an odd sight we're gonna be we're bound to attract some attention." Of course attention could be both good and bad, but he knew there would be some people who wouldn't want to have anything to do with them just because of that.

L'leff's eyes narrowed upon Corynn, for a moment as the man turned around. However, in a mere second the look had passed and the lad shook his head, while slipping the map into what appeared to be a belt pouch. With a nod the blue hulk of a boy said, "Well, I am ready to go as well. We can choose to stick to the road, but given our oddities... it might be best not to take the more treaded path."

His blue eyes were kept low and focused upon the feet of the others in turn, until his gaze fell upon the feet of Corynn. Upon reaching the man's feet his eyes immediately shot up to gaze upon Corynn's forehead.


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