With the shattered gears and piles of scarecrow hay behind them, the four adventurers gave a nod to one another as they trekked north to the edge of the world known as Icewind Pass.
Among the four was the mighty goliath known as Beats, the whimsical halfling named Festoon, and two devilish tieflings: the bejewelled Malachite and the gibbering Niloc.
As their great northern wandering on the 29th of Leaffall took them further from the warmth of Brutus’ comforting hearth, they recalled the words of fortune-teller Zashiera:
“Let it be known among the pale-folk,” I spoke, “Beyond Icewind pass lies the Fortress of Frost. The last bastion of the unrelenting Frost Orc. It is there the Giants of Old lay their siege upon the orc to bring about the Giant’s reckoning upon Tiamat and her allies”.
“And if you find yourself upon the frozen edge of the world, it is there you will find yourselves!"
As Zashiera, seer of the south, my words will tell this tale true:
Within a day’s march the adventurers found themselves wrapped in the fur of bear, deer and wolf as they gazed upon the snow-covered horizon. Festoon gripped his satchel tightly as the whispering moss continually prodded him from within.
“Festoon! It is Brunnhilde! I sense your soul has stepped upon the Icewind snow! Closer, now! To the nearby cave where I am held captive! Please Festoon, you are my only hope!”
As Festoon spoke those words to his nearby allies, he was interrupted by the mighty roar of a polar bear upon a frozen rock. The adventurers stepped back with their hands upon spell and sword. But Festoon stepped forward.
“Rwar! Ruar, rauure, roaugh, rhoar – eh, roar!” spoke Festoon. The white bear retorted, “Ruaor, roar-re-ra-roar!”
And with a nod, the halfling druid turned to his party and informed them that they shall pass, so long as they free the beast from its giant masters. The same giants, he suspected, held the wild woman Brunnhilde against her will.
The bear led them to a nearby rocky opening framed by jagged icicles. Stepping closer to the cave, they could hear the rumbling bickering of two towering hill giants, mere peons of the Giants of Old.
“No stinkin’ Frost Giant can tell me what to do! I ain’t dying to break some orc or to kill some dragies! Those orcs be killing us all! I’ve got me my purty doll and that’s all me needs!”
“She be my doll! Not you’s!” the other argued, pointing to the captive Brunnhilde.
And within a moment, the flash of Beat’s blade of vengeance interrupted their bickering as it pierced the gut of their chained owlbear pet. Behind him, Festoon crept past towards Brunnhilde, locked within a cage like a pet. The roar of their polar bear ally echoed across the cave as Malachite unveiled her spiritual sickles and Niloc unleashed his chaotic eldritch fury.
In their defense the hill giants slammed their primitive clubs towards the party, knocking them back and forth with stupefied might. Yet, despite taking some injury, the adventurers overcame the cowardly hill giants as their gargantuan corpses tumbled to the ground.
All the while, Festoon had freed Brunnhilde from captivity. Weakened with starvation, she spoke with gratitude: “You have freed me … and I thank you all. But there is no time to rejoice“.
She continued with a bloody cough, “Can you hear the thunder? The Giants of Old continue their siege and we must assist them. For it is foretold in the whispers of the trees: Tiamat cannot be stopped without the might of the Giants!”
“Go!” she shouted with barbaric fury, “We must go to the Fortress of Frost!”
Yet, before they could leave – a crack within the wall caught Malachite’s curiosity. She crept towards it, inspecting it with her devilish eyes. “What lies beyond here?” she whispered, gently tapping the hollowed stone.
“Give it a swift knock!” shouted Beats, as he crashed a nearby great club into it, crumbing the wall and revealing a small icy pond. With a grin, Niloc cackled “What lies within such darkness?”
“A job for my duplicate!” Malachite called proudly, promptly sending her illusionary copy beneath the ice. Before her eyes swam a glowing blue fish that immediately its gaping mouth for a kiss.
“It’s a beautiful tiefling! Lost beneath the water!” sang the musical trout as it splashed its head above the surface.
“Such a whimsical crew I have found!” continued the singing fish, “Here I swim! I swim! Across the frozen seas, only to find a magical number of thee!”
Each member of the Innkeepers looked to one another in confusion but swiftly agreed with a nod:
“At last! A majestic voice to join my whimsical band!” called Festoon.
“A strange creature to echo my thunderous call to the Giants” bellowed Beats.
“Blue, shiny and a delight to my ears!” cackled Malachite.
“A curious creature. Perhaps a mishap of nature..?” grinned Niloc.
“When you’re done with that affront to nature, can we please save this world’s existence now?” beckoned Brunnhilde as she struggled to her feet.
And with an applause, the Innkeepers greeted their newest member: a blue, singing fish on the 30th day of Leaffall! What remained before them was a daunting task: the unbreakable Fortress of Frost.