Our story begins in the small town of Heldren in the country of Taldor. Inside the Silver Stoat Inn and Tavern, Torbald Sulver is about ten drinks in beside his sailor friend, Visvaldis Polaris. As the Ulfen ranger continues lamenting his ex-wife, "that bitch," his boss Isker enters the establishment and approaches the two about some gold to be made by investigating a crime scene. It seems a noblewoman named Lady Argentia was attacked by wintry bandits, and only one wounded mercenary made it back.
The two men decide to take on the assignment (Torbald needs to make some payment on his huge bar tab and Visvaldis has no money left after the captain of his last ship ran out of funds), and take Isker's advice to stop in at the nearby apothecary to speak to the survivor. They make their way there, finding more than just the mercenary in Tesserae's shop. Already there are an eccentric elven woman named Azula Grimm and her strong-and-silent bodyguard, a big man covered in scalemail and known only as Reginald.
While Azula and Reginald look on, Torbald and Visvaldis question the torn-up mercenary. The man talks about how they were overrun by fey attackers he describes as winter-touched. He was helping to escort Lady Argentia from Oppara to meet her betrothed, but he's the only one who made it back to Heldren after they were ambushed in snow. This seems extraordinarily odd, given that it's still summer in Taldor. When the two ask Reginald if he'd like a share of the gold to come investigate with them, the bodyguard turns to Azula for approval. The odd elf with the white streak in her black hair agrees that they wil accompany the other two on the condition that Torbald borrow Reginald's soap and rid himself of the stench of sweat, alcohol, and bitterness that makes him reek. Visvaldis assists with his hydrokinesis, and the bounty hunter is sufficiently cleansed to unite the quartet for the assignment.
Setting off, it's a two-hour hike toward the forest. The air grows noticeably colder as the group approaches the scene of the crime, and finds snow on the ground when they reach a gruesome sight. They find two broken carriages and several dead bodies scattered on the ground. Upon inspection, they find the bodies pierced with ice needles that appear to be tiny arrows. Azula examines them, suggesting these to be the weaponry of tiny evil sprites.
Oddly enough, the attackers seem to have taken Lady Argentia with them, but not all the loot. They find some nice outfits, before poking around the second broken carriage unleashes two zombies that viciously attack. After the first one takes a chunk out of Torbald's face, Reginald takes the two apart with his big chopper.
Once the brief fight is over, the group finds a fancy box with some jewels and a signet ring. After chiseling away the weapon and armor of a frozen body on the southern edge of the scene and determining tracks continue farther into the forest, the group decides to report back to town on their findings.
The journey back to town is uneventful, and they settle in for dinner at the Silver Stoat. Reginald goes back into the kitchen and emerges with Azula's favorite meal for her to enjoy while Vis and Torbald munch on standard inn soup. Visvaldis entertains Azula with stories about the places he's seen in his travels, her positively reenforcing his continued tales with high-quality food off her plate. While they enjoy the evening, Isker returns with Councilor Ionia Teppen to hear their report of what they found at the scene. As promised, they are rewarded with a sack of gold, along with a follow-up request. Given the atrocities we found, they want us to return to the forest and attempt to rescue the noblewoman.
After sleeping in rooms of varying quality at the inn, everyone awakes to the sound of steel on steel as Reginald fulfills his morning routine. The group scarfs down a quick breakfast and hits the road again to the scene of the original massacre. This time, however, they continue down the trail into the woods. The snow quickly grows higher around them, making it harder to cover ground quickly. The day features its first near-disaster when Torbald attempts to disable a trip-wire triggering a swinging log but fails. The log instead whacks both Torbald and Visvaldis, forcing Azula to pull out her newly-acquired wand of cure light wounds.
A little farther down the trail, a tatzlworm emerges out of the snow and aggressively approaches the group. Visvaldis takes this moment to shine, power-washing the creature to death before it can close the distance. The next battle, however, isn't so straight-forward when the group is ambushed in a gulley by three little fey creatures. They charge straight into the middle of Azula's obscuring mist, proving difficult to hit but eventually falling to the group's efforts.
Shortly after the battle against the fey sprites, the group is astonished to come upon an elk who strikes up a conversation in common with the group. After a few sets of rapid blinks and Torbald wondering whether he needs to stop drinking or just drink more, the group eventually talks back to the elk. The creature seems to be unaware of any of the atrocities they have come upon, but has noticed the unseasonably cold weather plaguing the forest.
Once the elk walks away, the group continues along the trail to a frozen-over river. What distracts them, however, is the snowman leaning against a sign warning against trespasing. Fresh off their conversation with the elk, Visvaldis asks the snowman if it speaks common. At first, the snowman doesn't reply, but it eventually tells us not to dare going past him and trespassing. This really irritates Torbald, who starts yelling at it and demanding to know who it thinks it is. Visvaldis destroys the snowman with a water blast, and Torbald walks up to relieve himself on it, only to trigger another trap that hits him with a sonic blast of sound that gives him temporary tinitis.
Trying to plan ahead, the group decides to tie ropes between them and cross the river one at a time. Torbald goes first, only to be ambushed by two ice elementals that knock him unconscious. Visvaldis take a beating as well before he and Reginald both bring one down each with help from Azula's guidance. Walking gingerly across the ice, nobody falls into the cold water and the quest through the snow continues.
Farther down the trail, the group comes across a frozen corpse in a clearing. Torbald recognizes the body as Old Man Dansby, a local farmer who had been complaining laterly about his livestock and crops being carried away from his land into the forest. He seems to have been beaten to death by something blunt, his wounds looking similar to the ones the group sustained battling the ice elementals. Making a mental note to inform his loved ones of his passing, the quartet continues on into what is now heavy snowdrifts.
The trail continues, starting to climb above a ridgeline. At this higher vantage point, we notice three men who also notice us. These bandits don't want to join us for some of Reginald's tea, instead taking bow shots at us from long distance. One of the bandits continues the string of bad luck Torbald has endured today, burying an arrow in his neck and dropping him to the ground in one shot. While arrows continue to rain down among the others, Visvaldis uses hyrdokinesis to clear small sections of the path of snow so he and Reginald can approach the archers slightly quicker. Azula focuses on saving Torbald before he can bleed to death, succeeding in healing him enough to bring him back to consciousness. The archers continue their assault until the adventurers close the gap. Reginald chops two down while Visvaldis bludgeons the third to death with the water cannons that are his hands.
It has been an exhausting day, and Lady Argentia's wherabouts are still unknown. Up ahead, the group spies a lodge in the distance with smoke billowing out of the chimney. It's unclear who or what awaits within the lodge, and what new horrors could befall the heroes as they continue their quest. The only thing that seems clear at this point in the Taldor summer is that winter is coming…