Every journey needs a beginning so it is no surprise that this one also has a beginning. It begins in the small hamlet of Darden at the foot of the Liskam mountains. The village itself is rather typical of the area. Most of its 300 citizens live hand to mouth off the bounty of the forest. Logging, pig farming, hunting, and ceramics are the major industries. The forest itself is almost a fairy-tale forest of enormous conifers and sparse undergrowth. Darden is a beautiful place, but few people live here. Most people know of the small village as a rest stop and way point. It sees many visitors travelling up the local mountains.
At the moment, a halfling trade caravan has parked near town by a stand of spruce trees. A local merchant has also recently returned from the city. Yourself, you just arrived this afternoon and are working on finding a place to sleep. It is barely evening now but since autumn is approaching fast in this northern clime, the sun has almost set. Torches, candles, and lamps line the streets, all five of them. You are currently in a long log cabin that seems to be doing duty as a social centre, pub, kitchen, and town hall.
Looking around the room, you see a roaring fire at one end, which several women are bent over, a number of large kegs next to it, and the adult male populous of the town sitting at long tables enjoying what is in those kegs. There are torches on the walls and the atmosphere is warm and inviting. You’d heard on your way here that the folk of Darden were pleasant and hospitable; you are happy to see that this is right. If the population here is representative, the town is about 60% human with 20% half-elf, 10% halfling, and 10% elf.
A plump half-elf woman walks up to your table, “Would any of you like some ale? Or pork? Can’t have visitors going hungry. And if you be staying the night, talk to Adan Silverfoot, the wood elf over there with the green shirt. He runs the inn. So, what’ll you have, then?“
After getting to know your companions and enjoying a good dinner, you decide to talk to Adan Silverfoot about aquiring some accomodations for the night. “Hello, travellers. If you are staying the night, then you will probably want a roof over your heads. I run the town’s inn, The Eagle’s Rest. I guess you could sleep in the temple too, but to be honest, I have softer beds.” He smiles. “I charge 4sp a night, breakfast included.“
The rest of the night passes without incident, but with much pleasure. Tired from your journey, you retire to bed early. You are awakened by a pounding at your door. It isn’t much past dawn, but you feel rested enough. Opening the door, you find that it was Adan who was trying to rouse you. “I’m sorry for this rudeness, but have you looked outside?” he urgently pleads. You run to the window and throw open the shutters. There are four or five feet of snow on the ground. “We should wake your companions!“
After rousing everyone, you head downstairs to the inn’s dining room. “Eat, I have some soup and we’ll need to stay warm. This is most certainly not typical weather for the end of summer. In time of emergency and crisis, everyone gathers at the Great Hall. You were there last night. We should get over there as soon as possible. I have some snowshoes somewhere in the cellar; if you can find them, you are welcome to them.“
The door is stuck from all the snow, so you make your exit from a high window.
After reaching the Great Hall, you enter through another window. The room is packed with the residents of the town: men, women, children, and the occasional pet. The fire is blazing, making the hall warm with heat and light. As soon as you enter and shake the snow off, a halfling tells you that the town elder wishes to speak with you. He indicates a circle of men near the fire.
You approach the group of five men. They are all somewhat older, in their sixties and seventies. Two are human with the other three being an elf, a half-elf, and a halfling. They seem to be deferring to a short wiry human man with a long grey beard and blue eyes. “Thank you for coming. I know you have no obligation to. My name is Kendrick Gaines. I am the town elder. This weather has caught everyone off guard. The clerics in the temple think it is supernatural. Nevertheless, it is quite physical. And quite dangerous. Tell me, do you remember seeing the halfling caravan which is stopped here? You do? Well, the caravan’s next stop would have been Horath. Horath lies in the Triple Valley and supplies the nearby temple and monastery. It is usually a very profitable run for the caravan, but they have a schedule to keep. So, Tanelda, the leader, approached me about opening a path. A lot of people here have friends and relatives in Horath; they’d like to make sure they’re safe, too. So, between Tanelda and myself, we can offer you each 15,000 gold if you can find a way to open the pass between Darden and Horath. Like I said, the caravan is very profitable.“