Our heroes, the band of mercenaries known as the Whitecloaks who were hired by Sister Sarah to take her from Pax Invalva to the treacherous wintery reaches of Dunhelm, had been wandering for many weeks on their perilous adventure, when our story proper first takes its place.
The adventurers make a stop in the town of Garm in the northernmost reaches of the country of Uur-bek. Garm is a fairly small town in terms of citizenship, though it is rather large in actual size. Like many cities in these harsh winter lands, Garm has large stone walls separating it from the icy wasteland beyond. When our heroes arrive, it is two weeks until Garm’s grand Solstice Festival. The festival is a tradition that dates back hundreds of years when the Old Ways were still the primary religion of the region. When the church came to power, many Old Ways’ traditions were adopted by the church to make the transition much easier. This is no exception.
Due to the party extensively working for the church at this point, the church has been gracious enough to provide them with a seventeen-crown stipend for food daily and free board at any church they come across. According to Sarah, she had been here during her training into the paladinship; but when they arrived at the church, there was nothing but a pile of rubble. Out of the dark wintery solstice night, a lantern bobbed toward our adventurers. “You,” a raspy, wizened voice muttered. “Are you the travelers who I am to look after?” It was a man wearing thick furs, holding a wrought-iron lantern. “I am Father Anderson, priest of Garm.” Sarah explained to him that she thought this was the location of the church and he said that the church burned down around a month prior, and led the adventurers to a new church across town. It was rather large and made from new stone, four gargoyles looking out in every direction.
The inside of the church was warm and comfortable with the sweet smell of incense, and was quite welcoming to the party, who had spent so long in the cold reaches beyond the walls of the city. Half the party (Arthur, Wilhelm, Quivyrn and Randrafar) decided that sleep was much more a priority over food, and headed to bed in their church-provided lodgings, while Skyrlandus, Seamus and Pip headed to the local tavern to relieve their heavy pockets of their hard-earned stipends, while Aggronokos, ever paranoid, decided to take a closer look at the ruins of the old church.
After Aggronokos wandered around the ruins in vain for several minutes, he saw an unnatural-looking face staring back at him from the woods. Not a person staring back at him, no, just the face. The face had few features: a large Cheshire-like grin chiefly among them, with small, soulless beady eyes as black as the night itself. He attempted to call out to the face, but it turned and fled. The face was, however, leaving tracks in the snow. Aggronokos bolted after it, running all around the city walls until the tracks stopped at an old pine tree. There he waited, but in vain. He knew he had to tell his brothers-in-arms.
Aggronokos found it hard to sleep and decided after a couple hours to join his comrades in the tavern. When he entered, he found that his comrades were already quick to unload their coin purses for the sustenance of cheap grog and exotic northern meats. Seamus, an avid drinker, who was unfortunately not very good at holding his spirits, was already passed out in the corner, nearly suffocating in a large ten-course platter, gravy dripping down his large, amber beard. Aggronokos was quick to alert his more conscious comrades to the ghostly disembodied face he had witnessed before. They left as quickly as they came in to investigate such a strange occurrence, but to no avail. After hours of wandering around in vain, they headed back to the church to try to get some well-deserved rest just as Arthur, Quivyrn, Wilhelm and Randrafar awoke with a mighty hunger.
While his compatriots hurried to the tavern, Quivyrn stayed behind to speak with the priest about the burnt-down church. Father Anderson informed him that apparently one of the candles was knocked over during the night and the fire was ruled an accident. Satisfied enough with this information, Quivyrn wandered outside into the snow, when by the stable he too saw a strange, floating face. At first he didn’t believe his eyes. He hadn’t been informed by Aggronokos of his encounter, so such a sight was completely unexpected. Within minutes of just staring at him, the face vanished and Quivyrn took chase, once again turning up nothing like his ally before him. He too rushed into the tavern to inform his compatriots of the strange goings-on, where they’d all decided to return to the church and await the rest of the Whitecloaks’ awakening. Maybe then, they thought, they could find an answer to this mystery.