A Song of Frostwane

You all find yourself back at Wiltspar following one of the most epic battles of your life. It is comforting to be back around a place that is so familiar to you, a place that has begun to feel, maybe, a bit like home. Firebrook takes his weakened sister off to the Sanctuary to aid in her recovery. The rest of you head inside of the tree and are greeted by a cheerful Penelope. Chauncey ducks his head further into a book he's reading to keep from having to make eye contact with you. "Aurifar is upstairs. He said you would be looking for him," Penelope says helpfully.

You travel up the spiral staircase to Aurifar's Residence. The door is unlocked, and when you enter, you can see the humble but cozy living space of the Divination wizard's abode.

You call out his name, but only silence answers. You can see there is a doorway into another section of the house, but that is locked. There is a small seating area around the fireplace, and a book rests on the low table.

The book, titled "A Song of Frostwane," caught the eye of the Talons, and they all took a moment to reminisce about their favorite holiday traditions together. Vance recounted his memories of Frostwanes in colder locales where he and his troupe used to put together make-shift sleds and ride them down the hills in the northern countrysides for hours. Drez and his family would have a Frostwane picnic and enjoy the majesty and serenity of the frost season in nature. Nohki talked about how his mother used to make a delicious Goodberry pie with some of the cinnamon she dried from the heart of the Amazon Lily before they would go off to decorate the forest trees for the holiday. Xerxes talked about his traditions in the warmer climate of Tharuunden. Although they didn't get snow, it was the coldest time of the year, and his family would let them chop a little extra firewood for the stove to keep warm. He would also meet up with his uncle to go shopping in Keystone.

While chatting and waiting for Aurifar, Vance picked up the book and flipped it open.

On the first page, you note that the words in this book are handwritten instead of typed like most other books you've happened across. It reads, "Our story starts in a most peculiar place: At the end, which is also the beginning. And this ending--or beginning-- is set into action when an inquisitive little half-drow named Vance toys with belongings which are not his own. A book about a very special Frostwane in the little village of Clefshire in the year 351 EoW.

And suddenly the air is knocked from your lungs as you feel yourself falling forward. And then you all feel it. And with a jolt, you are crunching the snow under your feet and cold air is pressing around you. You also feel the lack of something important and familiar in your chest-- that longing for something more that you have felt every day since you first acquired your special power is gone, and you are left feeling strangely empty.

As you get your bearings, you begin to hear music coming from a nearby tavern, and smell something sweet and delicious in the air. You see a light on at the adventurer's guild, which looks a bit more plain that you recall any of the previous guilds looking. You see a human man resting against the railing at the entrance of the guild, a pipe in his hand. When he blows smoke out of his mouth, they take different shapes: a wreath, a star, a puppy with a ribbon.

After taking stock of their surroundings, the Platinum Talons decided to visit somewhere familiar: the adventurers' guild! They headed to the entrance and were immediately greeted by the human man on the porch. He introduced himself as Adrian Grayforge, the owner of the very first adventurers' guild. Vance then spoke about the other AGs that they had visited, which seemed to confuse Adrian, as he believed he was the first adventurers' guild to exist. Xerxes elbowed Vance and whispered that this adventurers' guild might be the first and only one to exist in 351 EoW.

Adrian ushered them excitedly inside, explaining that there were not many adventurers who made it all the way to Clefshire, and he was very pleased to have customers during Frostwane. He introduced them to J3551CA (pronounced Jessica), his secretarial construct that he built to help him run the adventurers' guild. He told the Talons that they had only one quest available at the moment, but that it was for a hefty sum.


Every Frostwane, four damn ghosts interrupt my sleep all night long. The first is the ghost of my departed business partner Marley Jacobs, followed by three randos. I am TIRED of their shenanigans and simply want to sleep this Frostwane. 2000 GP to any adventuring team who can banish these nuisances for good.

Sincerely, Ebner Grooge

The party then visited the Tavern, named The Drunken Clam, to learn more about Grooge and the town. They met a waitress named Siuella who hailed from Hope, Terriah and served them Goodberry Pie. Vance was able to learn that the secret ingredient of the pie was connected to Silver Figs, sending Nohki on his own personal quest to collect some while they were in Clefshire. They also learned that Grooge was a "jerk."

They then headed to the bank where Ebner Grooge worked. It was Frostwane Eve, so it was not surprising that the lights were all off save for one at the top of the aisle where an elf was writing in a large book in front of him. Usually, elves do not look old, but this one did. His hair was white, and was only along the sides of his otherwise bald head. He had wrinkles etched between his brows and lines around his lips that kept his face twisted in a permanent frown. Just ahead, standing in front of the desk was a younger elf, a hat clutched between his hands.

"Uncle Grooge, would it be all right if I head home early tonight?' The younger elf asked. "The misses is making a roast quail for the family and I'd hate to miss it. You're more than welcome to come, of course."

The older elf, who the party realized must be Ebner Grooge, grumbled, "Barnaby, I'm not paying you for the full day if you leave before the work is done."

"It's all done, Sir! All i's is dotted and t's is crossed! And it is Frostwane Eve, after all," Barnaby replied.

"Just another day, Barnaby. Just one that lazy lumps like you use an excuse to cut out of a honest day's work," Grooge snapped back without looking up from the work he was attending to before him.

"I'm sorry, Sir, but I promise it's all settled up."

"Fine, Barnaby. See you tomorrow then."

The younger elf frowned, a note of confusion on his face. "Tomorrow? On Frostwane? Isn't the bank closed?"

"I'll see you tomorrow, Barnaby," the uncle snipped shortly.

"Wait a tick, I promised the missus--"

Grooge lifted up his head and a light purple aura began to glow around him as he said: "Grooge Says, 'Get Lost.'"

The younger elf immediately changed his tune. "Oh, well, very well then. Merry Frostwane, Uncle Grooge." Barnaby took a few steps backwards to leave. "Oh, excuse me," he said to the party as he bowed his head to each member before hurrying past.

The party then introduced themselves to Grooge as the group who was there to help him with his ghost problem. Grooge was excited to have his quest claimed-- though notably his excitement was much less pronounced than the usual person's--, and finished up the work in his book before closing up for the night. He guided them to his home, and then explained the situation. His old business partner, Marley Jacobs, had been coming to haunt him every year since his untimely death a few years ago. Grooge complained about the whole ordeal: First Marley would arrive, and then three other ghosts, one more insufferable than the next, would come one by one. Grooge's request was that the party bust these ghosts so that they never ruined another one of his Frostwane eves. When they asked him why the ghosts were bothering him--what they wanted-- Grooge admitted to having some special abilities that the ghosts seemed particularly interested in, and that they wanted him to use those powers help the world.

Grooge told them to stay close by after he fell asleep, because that was when the ghosts first arrived. The party hung out outside the door of Grooge's bedroom until the sound of knocking began on the floor below and a thin elven man clad rose up out of the ground. The Talons entered the room quickly and watched as the ghost surveyed the room, his eyes landing with confusion on them. The Talons explained their purpose, and Marley, not wanting to give up too much, snapped his fingers to pause the environment, including Grooge. Marley explained that some necromancer was able to get him out of the Hells in exchange for helping to convince Grooge to use his powers to help him and his group. Xerxes guessed that the name of this necromancer was Thanastra, to which Marley confirmed.

As Marley made his dramatic exit, a new 'ghost' appeared, this time one with a very familiar face. Aurifar arrived through the window in a long white robe to convince Grooge to use his powers for good.

He snapped his fingers, and suddenly Grooge, his face twisted in anger, froze solid. The Platinum Talons asked is Aurifar knew them, and he said, in his normal vague way, that he did not know them, but that he knew that he would know them. He explained that he needed Grooge to join the Keepers of Destiny so that they had a chance at stopping the threat to Fynali before it got too far out of control.

The party let him know that they were hired by Grooge to stop the ghosts from haunting him. Aurifar told them that if they approached Grooge at any other time of the year, he was able to use his ability to stop them from bothering him, but that his abilities seemed to be weak enough during Frostwane that they could at least get to him.

The party said that they would help change Grooge, and asked for the protectors' help in this endeavor. They were going to pretend to still be on Grooge's side and stage a fight with the protectors to help punctuate the point for Grooge, and get the money even if he didn't change his mind. Aurifar said he would let the other Protectors' know, and that he didn't see them having a problem with the plan.

When he unfroze time, Aurifar brought Grooge and the Talons into the past to try and convince Grooge to care about someone other than himself.

And suddenly you are no longer in Grooge's bedroom. You are in a school house in one of the few small classrooms. You see a young elf, that you assume to be Ebner, sitting by himself as another group of small elven children sit together, exchanging presents. Ebner has one present in his lap. A elf girl comes over to him and asks him if he'd like to join them. Ebner looks like he debates it for one second before he grabs his own present and leaves quickly. The girl looks sadly after him.

"Look at the love and companionship you so often missed out on with your selfishness, Ebner Grooge," Aurifar said to him.

"Are you kidding me?" He retorted. "Look at what they're playing with over there! Some stuffed rabbit. And I think that one's a can opener! That's not a toy. I had a train in that box. It was one of my favorite toys!"

The party asked Grooge who the girl was, redirecting his tirade. He replied that it was a girl named Daphne who always tried to include him through school, no matter how many times he refused to join. She was a good girl, he said, but from 'bad stock,' and he would never have been able to consort with the likes of her.

Tired of all of the questions, Grooge turned on Aurifar and demanded that the party destroy him.

They then launched into a fake combat sequence, and the children in the scene vanished. Aurifar, not particularly a skilled actor, went down in a few hits and disappeared into the floor.

Once he was "vanquished", the school room around them turned back into Grooge's bedroom.

Before they could get too comfortable back in Clefshire, they were visited by another Protector.

The face was familiar as well: Tali, with her long ruby red braid, grinned broadly at the Platinum Talons, letting them know she was happily in on the charade. She wore a fur-lined pastel robe and on her head was a holly wreath set with shining icicles.

"Grooge, you tricky bastard, I'm back!" She boomed with great zeal. "Here to help you see the error of your ways. Think it'll stick this time?"

Grooge gestured to the Platinum Talons and commanded them to attack this new "ghost." Tali snapped her fingers to join in with the Talons conspiratorially.

"Hello, Fellas! Merry Frostwane! What a thrilling bit of sport we have at hand this year, eh? What do you need me to do?" The dwarf exclaimed with excitement.

The party filled her in on the plan, and Drez said that during this fight, Tali should try and hit Grooge and that someone from the Talons should "save" him. Vance added that he thought this was a good opportunity to help Grooge see that he could have friends and people on his side that cared about him, and that he might decide to use his abilities for good if he didn't feel so lonely. Xerxes and Nohki suggested that Tali use her illusory skills to create a fake Daphne at the front door for Grooge with a present.

Eager to get started, Tali brought Grooge back into the scene and created a Daphne Illusion at the front door. She and Grooge talked for a bit, seeming to brighten the old man up, until strange purple snow began to punctuate the scene. The falling snow began to eat through the illusion of Daphne, causing the party to quickly get everyone inside and away from the snow. Tali said that she thought it was due to the arcane storm, which had turned extremely turbulent as of recent. It was one of the reasons why they really wanted to get Grooge on board this year, as they thought having him working with the Keepers of Destiny would help to stop occurrences like this one.

The snow continued to eat through the house, as the house had been an illusion that Tali created to support the Daphne illusion. To help fix it, she transported them to another scene. They stood outside a humble looking home in need of repairs on the outside of town.

You're suddenly outside the window of a small, dilapidated house near the edge of the woods. You can see the glow of the fire from inside as a small family prepares a Frostwane Eve dinner. You recognize the man at the table is the same elf from the bank earlier that day: It's Barnaby, Grooge's nephew, and he is helping his children set the table for dinner. He has two children who are bright and lively, chasing each other around the table. From the other room, a woman enters, carrying a very small, but beautifully cooked bird on a platter.

"Dinner is ready, children. Zephyr, can you please get Little Lenny?"

The girl elf stops chasing her older brother to rush off into the other room. She returns with a small boy, a single crutch under one arm as he hobbles into the room.

"Wow, mumma, this smells so wonderful! Genesis has blessed us tonight!" The littlest one cries.

"Warden protect me, Ghost. Always with this gimpy little kid. It didn't work last year, or the year before. Why do you think he's going to hobble his way into my heart this year?" Grooge grumbled unpleasantly.

Inside, the little boy said, "I sure wish Uncle Grooge would join us for dinner! I know we don't have a lot to share and I know he's cranky and smelly, but I still love him very much."

"Wot, you give him a script? Laying it on a bit thick, I think," Grooge muttered.

The party highlighted the scene, punctuating the love in the home, and how Grooge was invited time and time again to join his family, despite being often very cold and unwelcoming to them.

Tired of the lecture, Grooge demanded that The Platinum Talons kill Tali like they did Aurifar, and so the group launched into their second fake fight of the night. This time, Tali aimed a low and slow attack right toward Grooge, which Drez "heroically" knocked out of the way. Unlike Aurifar, Tali was excited to milk her death scene, and when she was dealt the "final blow," she clutched at her throat and gurgled as she vanished into the ground. Again, Grooge and the party found themselves in Grooge's bedroom.

"Incredible work, boys! This nightmare is almost entirely over for good!"

Now you stand in icy rain on a muddy hill overlooking a cemetery. A few people are standing around as a cleric stands at the head, beside a grave, reading a poem about life and loss.

You recognize a few people in the small crowd. You see Barnaby, his wife, and their two older children. You see Daphne in a long black dress with her hands clutched in front of her. You see a few older men and women together under an umbrella and one of them says, "I just showed up to make sure the old git was really dead." Another one says, "I bet he didn't even leave any of his money to his family. Bet he wrote in his will to have it buried with him."

Barnaby is crying and his wife and squeezing his hand. "I'm glad Little Lenny didn't have to see this sad sight," he said sadly. "He always loved Uncle Grooge so much."

"You know," Grooge said, looking ruffled, "That little kid dies every damn year. Every year we do this, that kid is dead again. And yet, come the next year, he's up and at 'em, still kicking. You'd think they'd try a new trick or something... Hopefully this is the last one. If you haven't figured it out yet, this is my funeral. I die every year too. I'm an old man! I'm going to die at some point!"

The party, realizing that Grooge maybe didn't understand how time worked, explained that this wasn't necessarily just the year after each Frostwane. It was at some point in the near future, but that also meant that neither he nor Little Lenny were dead just yet. And it also meant that it didn't have to happen this way, if Grooge wanted to do something about it.

The scene sweeps again, and its raining harder than before. Night has arrived over the graveyard where you stand. The grave the cleric stood over earlier, still freshly dug, is before you, the name of the tombstone obscured.

"And just wait, here come the theatrics!" A bolt of lightning strikes behind you and as you turn, an impossibly tall figure in a tattered black robe stands just feet behind you all. The hood of the robe is pulled up, obscuring his face from view. He extends his long arm, the robe pulling back to reveal a skeletal hand with a single finger extended to the new grave. A new bolt of lightning illuminates it, showing the name of the headstone: "Ebner Grooge"

"Yes, I'm dead. Gentlemen, this is Elliott he never says or does anything just points and then disappears. Every single year... it seems to be here just to eternally torment me. Why don't you go away?! Grooge says go eternally torment someone else for a damn change!" As those words are uttered, a stray strike of lightning from the astral storm hits Elliott. A wind whips up and the hood of his robe blows back. Underneath the robe is a face of unparalleled horror. His face is half melted, torn away skin over oozing muscle and bone. The sockets of his eyes are empty, endless black pits, an iridescent shimmer fluttering at the edges. Inside, you see all of your mistakes, all of your fears, every pain you have ever felt, and, in a flash, every potential pain, mistake, and fear that could be. You feel your knees shake, your stomach drop, and your blood run cold. "That's new," you hear a shaken Grooge croak as he crumbles to the ground in a dead faint. The wind is back again and so is the hood on the robed figure, obscuring the horror of his face again. His skeletal arms outstretch and you are surrounded in a circle of flames.

The Platinum Talons launched into an epic battle against Elliott, newly reborn as an eternal tormentor. The party stood strong against this formidable monster, dealing enough damage to keep it at bay.

As Elliott is defeated, the graveyard underfoot began to quake and suddenly the Talons fell and fell and, with a thud, landed on the floor of Grooge's bedroom. Grooge gasped, sitting up, truly shaken by the effects of the storm and the horrible sight of Elliott's grim face.

"Do you have ANY idea what you've just done?!" Xerxes scolded, horrified. "You just created Elliott the Eternal Tormentor! Who goes on to torment MANY people! Eternally!"

"It can't be THAT bad, can it?"

The Platinum Talons glared at Grooge, agog. "It IS that bad!" They assured him. "You have to do something to make up for this!"

With guilt as a powerful motivator, paired with the work that the Talons had done throughout the night to convince him to let others in, Grooge agreed to help the Keepers of Destiny and use his ability to try and offset the bad he'd caused by creating a more dangerous Elliott.

Upon the party's encouragement, Grooge's first stop was Daphne's home, where he gave her a small wooden train and asked her to join him at his Nephew's house for a Frostwane feast.

He then went to Barnaby's, where Daphne and the Platinum Talons joined the family for a grand Frostwane Feast. As the family got things together for the meal, Grooge paid The Platinum Talons what they earned, a whopping 2000 GPs. Toward the end of the evening, the three Divine Protectors arrived to take Grooge to the headquarters. The Platinum Talons took the opportunity to ask Thanastra some questions about Elliott, his apprentices and his books. Thanastra, having not written a single book yet, shrugged and said he had no idea what they were talking about. He also had no apprentices to speak of, and so couldn't give them any information regarding that either. He lamented that something weird had happened to Elliott, and that he was going to have to figure out what to do about that, though he wasn't sure what that was yet.

As Tali, Aurifar, and Thanastra led Grooge toward the Keepers of Destiny's headquarters, a wiggle of Tali's fingers sent something up into the sky over Barnaby's house.

You look up at the wintry sky to see swirls of multicolored lights shifting and curling through the sky as the snow continues to fall. Each ray is a diffuse shimmer of purples and greens and pinks and blues that fill the night with an unexpected warmth. Barnaby and his family lean toward the window to join you as spectators to the lights. Little Larry and his siblings make excited oohs and ahhs.

Daphne says, "Oh, the Frostwane Auroras-- they're absolutely beautiful this year. I'm so glad you all got to see them. What a proper end to such an amazing Frostwane."

Before the night got too late, Xerxes made a quick stop to the adventurers' guild, giving Adrian 500 GP and telling him that he wanted to invest in his business. Thrilled, Adrian happily accepted and told him that when he was ready to receive his investment, he need only return and let J3551CA know that he had a passcode for her. The passcode he provided to Xerxes was XFW351: X for Xerxes, FW for Frostwane, and 351 for the year. He hoped that made it easy for his new friend to remember.

As the sun sets on your very first Frostwane in Clefshire, your bellies filled with delicious food and your hearts light from the stories and kindnesses of new friends, you feel yourselves growing tired and so you shut your eyes for just a moment. And when you open them again, you find yourself sitting on the couch in Aurifar's Resident at the top of the Wiltspar Tree, and you feel, once again, that familiar longing for something more.

And although they couldn't hear him from where they sat, Little Lenny whispered at the window, "Brio bless us, every one!"

Completed: December 2023