Thursday, February 22, 758 BC
Alyonka, Boudica, Gennifer, Gus, Jezzy, Khatun Javach, Torbjorn, and Xevok endeavor to walk into the snow-covered plains and head straight for Suria, but the desperate fight against owls begins anew as the beasts begin burrowing up from the ground like worms. Arranging into flocks so that the outer owls can protect the inner ones, they begin dive-bombing Torbjorn and Xevok to disrupt their concentration, causing both the spirit guardians and the levitate spell to fall. Despite the loss of their primary protections, the travelers manage to fight off the owls with a combination of bullets, spears, and spells.
As Torbjorn angrily trudges away from the site of the owl massacre, Alyonka considers gathering an owl corpse so that Jezzy can remove the head and skin it to be kept as an owl skull memento. Jezzy refuses, saying she will gladly work with any bird other than that, and the idea is swiftly abandoned as the travelers leave Kilu to cross the plains.
In the mid-afternoon, flocks of ravens begin following the travelers, which they take to be a good omen. The rest of the afternoon is uneventful, and the travelers make camp and seek refuge in Leomund’s tiny hut for the evening. The ravens flock around their campsite, as is their habit.
After dinner, Alyonka asks if anyone wants a tarokka reading. Torbjorn speaks up, wondering when his father will die, and will he return home in enough time to see him again. Alyonka assembles a basic cross:
- The first card is the Five of Glyphs reversed: The Druid. As the Focus of the reading, it could refer to Torbjorn or his father or the question, indicating some manner of inner turmoil, mental illness, or obsession. Perhaps his father is mentally ill, or Torbjorn’s worry over his father is eating at him.
- The second card, representing the past, is the Six of Swords: The Berserker. Was Torbjorn’s father a terror in battle? Did something from his past catch up to him?
- The third card, the present, is The Seer of the high deck. Representing an unexpected ally, perhaps someone can help Torbjorn find his father before he goes.
- The fourth card, the future, is the Master of Glyphs reversed: The Priest. Reversed, it represents the forces of evil or enemies of the cause who are going to somehow get between Torbjorn and his goal.
- The fifth card, the outcome, is the Two of Coins: The Philanthropist. Representing unselfish devotion, it indicates that Torbjorn will certainly try his hardest to achieve his goal before time runs out.
Alyonka apologizes for the lack of clarity in the reading, but acknowledges that such is the nature of the cards.
During first watch, the travelers are awakened as Torbjorn and Xevok hear the lone, mournful hooting of an owl echoing across the plains. However, when nothing goes wrong, the travelers return to sleep.
In the middle of the night, Alyonka and Boudica are awake when three travelers stagger towards their camp and the mob of ravens around it. As they approach, it is clear by their unseemly movements and state of dress that they are a likely staggering undead. The birds clearly try to lead them away from the camp, but the zombies are more intent on the tiny hut, instead staring at it and circling it. After some discussion, Torbjorn awakens and takes care of it by invoking Thor to smite them, blasting the walking dead with holy light. As she is roused by the noise, Javach idly wonders what has transpired that make the dead walk Isiksivik.
The early morning hours are otherwise uneventful, and the travelers awaken without incident on the morning of Friday, February 23. During breakfast, the travelers spy two hunters wandering across the plains, armed with bows and ice axes, coming close to the tiny hut. (The hunters investigate, but do not hunt, the ravens.) Boudica steps out to greet them, which surprises but does not overly disturb them. (She is swiftly joined by Alyonka and Jezzy.) Their voices and stature mark them as two human women, the hunters introduce themselves as Niqpal and Uniq. They indicate they are on the hunt, but are otherwise circumspect, as they do not know these strangers and are far from any settlement. When asked, they do not know why zombies cross the tundra, other than to note that it is a bad omen. With nothing further to discuss, the hunters leave the camp, although the travelers note that they walk in a wide arc and return the way they came.
After breakfast, the travelers continue on their way In the late morning, they pass by a group of eight hunters armed with spears. They wave at each other but continue on their way — Jezzy recommends against speaking to them, given how strangely the previous group was acting, and Torbjorn notes they do not have much time to waste.
In the early afternoon, the travelers spy a lone polar bear. It trundles along behind them briefly before giving up and heading north. Boudica considers speaking to it, and is again rebuffed by the others. Javach asks if she is a devotee of the Old Ways, and if she can speak to plants as they do. Boudie reckons she can, although she hasn’t really tried it before.
In the late afternoon, they pass a herd of eighteen caribou, and again, deign neither to linger nor to attempt to inquire with them.
When the travelers make camp for the day, Xevok invokes Leomund’s tiny hut and the travelers gather for the night. Other than the lone hooting of an owl around dinnertime — which, fortunately, does not summon the beasts — the night is uneventful.
The next morning, Saturday, February 24, the travelers rise and continue their journey. Around midday, they come upon a circle of skeletal trees, the wood old enough to have petrified. Recalling the conversation from yesterday, and noting that vegetation of any size is often rare out on the tundra, Boudica asks if she ought to talk to them. The others agree, so she approaches.
As she does, the “trees” shake themselves off, revealing themselves as the limbs of enormous creatures, partially submerged beneath the snow. Covered in skin like petrified wood and comprising writhing tentacles and thrashing limbs, the “trees” are revealed as the stinger-bearing limbs radiating off the center of their undulating masses.
Jezzy sees what’s about to happen and strafes left, firing her pistols at the beast as the first of the “trees” rushes forward, releasing some horrible wave of howling psychic energy that incapacitates Gus and causes Gennifer to fall to the ground, wracked with seizures and bleeding from her eyes, ears, and mouth. Torbjorn invokes an ice storm to harry and delay the other tree-creatures while Alyonka begins hammering the monsters with fireballs. Boudica rushes forward to engage the one that met the others, and Xevok begins savaging the creatures with lightning bolts. Javach hammers them with fire bolts as the other two tree-creatures try to awkwardly leave the hail-strewn area in which they find themselves to flank the others. One rushes forward and savages Xevok, dropping him to the ground. As Boudica, Torbjorn, and a newly-recovered Gus finish the first of the monsters, Torbjorn moves to interpose himself between the creature and Xevok, while Javach summons a floating blade of night-black energy — almost appearing as a tear in reality — to attack the monsters. Jezzy continues firing her pistols, trying to stay out of harm’s way.
In seconds, the field is silent as the three enormous monsters are reduced to piles of viscera and petrified wood. Jezzy rushes forward to check on Gennifer, but finds her unmoving and unbreathing.
Jezzy falls to her knees and howls.