Frostwane Special: A Song of Frostwane

You all stand in the sitting room of the Thetchery Elder, Luidalia as the only remaining Vanguard member lies in recovery on the chaise near the window. It's clearer to you now more than ever how dangerous the next leg of your journey is likely to be, so you take your new mithril items and head back to the inn to make sure that you have everything you need. Gyome heads right up the stairs, eager to take stock of all of his items and secure food and ingredients for your adventure into the Risorial Woods. The rest of you are a bit slower, perhaps noticing the innkeeper precariously climbing a rickety ladder to hang a newly framed painting of the outside of the inn on the wall. The picture is one of Thetchery, but it looks to be from many years prior, and with the snow on the ground and along the rooftops, you note that it must be during The Frost Season. The holly and evergreen decorations on the lamp posts and bridges and the candles in the windows in this painting signify that this scene is happening around Frostwane, one of the most earnestly celebrated holidays across all of the continents. Frostwane, you know, is a time of great cheer, generosity, and hope. It is a celebration of the end of the coldest part of the Frost Season, and the beginning of the "thawing" as the planet heads into the Radiant Season. There is music, parties, gift-giving, and many different traditions across races, cultures, continents and families. And in the picture before you, it seems to be in full swing.

Stefano took a moment as he looked at the picture to recount his favorite tradition: the family gathering around the Frostwane Elephant. Chief Paws chimed in regarding his favorite tradition, one where, as a kitten, he would leave a tray of milk out for Rusty the red cat who would visit on Frostwane Eve, his comfy flying cat bed pulled by the Frostwane Elephant. Airmed quitely recounted how he would spend his Frostwanes at a fairly empty Strixhaven with Flerb Clergsen, and he would go around peeking into the windows of people in the surrounding village to see how they were spending their Frostwane. Everyone agreed this was deeply sad.

Binto the innkeeper climbed down from the ladder, made sure his picture was straight, and then headed into the backroom to assumedly put the ladder away. As he looked at the picture, Corky noted that there was something odd about it. From the angle where he stood, there seemed to be something iridescent surrounding it.

Chief Paws, always curious, reached out to touch the picture, and in a moment, they were no longer in the inn, but transported into the painting that hung before them.

And suddenly you can feel the snow under your feet and the cold air pressing around you. You hear music coming from the Tavern, and smell something sweet and delicious in the air. You see a light on at the adventurer's guild, and a dwarven man resting against the railing at the entrance, 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.

The party visited the tavern, which was rather slow due to it being Frostwane Eve, and overhead a few of the patrons talking about poor Waz, the Dwarf who ran the Thetchery branch of the Adventurers' Guild, whose business was not doing well at all in such a remote location. The Easy Marx decided to visit Waz to see if they could cheer him up.

With a great sense of resignation, Waz welcomed them to the Adventurers' Guild and told them that if they were looking for the Tavern, they made a wrong turn. The party assured him that they were there for the Guild, and that they would love to help him out by taking a quest. This seemed to perk the sad Dwarf up, and he brought them inside where there was one quest posted on the board. Waz said that the man who posted this had been bothering him every day, asking if anyone picked it up yet because it was imperative that someone did so before Frostwane Eve was over. Corky handed Waz an Easy Marx business card and then joined the rest of the party to investigate the quest.


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 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.

"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.

Grooge told them to stay close by after he fell asleep, because that was when they first arrived. The party, to no one's surprise, made it weird. But then they did just hang out for a little while as Grooge slept until the sound of knocking began on the floor below them and a thin elven man clad in spectral chains rose up out of the ground. His chains disappeared behind him into the floor, and his sunken eyes surveyed the room as he began to bellow, "Grooge! Gr-- Who are you all?" He asked of the party, who introduced themselves and told him that they were there to stop the hauntings that night. Marley was not interested in that option, as he clearly cared for his friend and did not want him to suffer in life or death. So he shouted until Grooge woke up and angrily got himself out of bed.

As Marley made his pitch, for Grooge to just try and be a bit better, a bit less lonely, and a bit more giving to the people in his life, Grooge shouted to be left alone. Marley was dragged down through the floor by the chains around his limbs.

Out the window, a soft white light appears, and then a white robbed woman of indeterminate age is standing in the room. She has on her head a blazing light, reminiscent of a candle flame, and carries a metal cap, made in the shape of a candle extinguisher.

"Ebner Grooge, year after year you refuse to grow, and you remain sour and stingy and small. Perhaps this will be the year that you finally decide to change," she said to him in her breeze of a voice. "You-- Ah, you have guests this year."

"They are here to slay you, wicked ghost! Be gone! Be dead!"

The ghost snapped her fingers, and suddenly Grooge, his face twisted in anger, froze solid. She turned to the Easy Marx. "No, but seriously, what is going on?" She asked.

The party let her know that they were hired by Grooge to stop the ghosts from haunting him. The ghost observed that they were not from this time, and told them that if they helped her and the other ghosts to make this the year their lessons stuck with Grooge, that they would be able to leave him alone. She also offered that if they fought and defeated each of them, they would also honor the deal and stop coming. Either way, she would assist them in returning home when it was time. The party said that they would help change Grooge, and asked for the ghosts' help in this endeavor. They were going to pretend to still be on Grooge's side, and to do so, they would need to make it look like they were defeating the ghosts in gladiatorial combat. The ghost agreed that she would go along with it, and that The Ghost of Frostwane Present would also go along with it, but the Ghost of Frostwane Yet To Come took his job seriously and she couldn't speak for him, but she would speak to him about it as best she could.

When she unfroze time, the party told Grooge that they needed to know their enemy better, and so needed to see what her powers were. Begrudgingly, Grooge agreed, and The Ghost of Frostwane Past brought them to her first stop.

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," the ghost said sadly.

"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, and later inspired me to invest in the Materhawk rail system! We have continental transportation thanks to my early refusal to engage in foolish Frostwane traditions!"

The party asked Grooge who the girl was, redirecting his tirade. He replied that it was a girl named Daisy 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 the ghost and demanded that the party destroy her.

They then launched into a fake combat sequence, and the children in the scene vanished. In the chaos, Airmed shape shifted into the child version of Daisy. One of the ghost's attacks shot a little too close to Grooge, and Airmed (as Daisy) jumped in front of the blast. Airmed then shapeshifted into a fly and hid in Stefano's mouth, making it look like Daisy had been disintegrated trying to save him.

The Ghost of Frostwane Past was vanquished, and disappeared into the floor, turning the school room around them back into Grooge's bedroom.

Before they could get too comfortable back in Thetchery, they were visited by another ghost.

A jolly giant with dark reddish-brown curls appeared in the room. He wore a fur-lined green robe and on his head was a holly wreath set with shining icicles. He carried a large torch, made to resemble a cornucopia, and at his belt, a scabbard without a sword.

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

Grooge gestured to the Easy Marx and commanded them to attack this new ghost. They replied that they still needed to know the enemy before they could properly attack. Airmed made a snapping gesture by his side to catch The Ghost of Frostwane Present's attention, who noticed and snapped his fingers to pause Grooge in his tracks.

"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 giant exclaimed with excitement.

The party filled him in on the plan, and Airmed added that this time, there needed to be a purposeful attack toward Grooge so that he could make a show of 'saving' him. Chief Paws 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, so he thought the fights against the ghosts were a good way to prove that.

Eager to get started, Present brought Grooge back into the scene and transported them all to another place entirely.

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! Materhawk has blessed us tonight!" The littlest one cries.

"Twee and Lohs, Ghost of Frostwane Present. 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.

"Grooge, you are pretty terrible. I hope these guys kick my arse so I don't have to see your grizzled old sour puss again next year," Present replied, shaking his massive head.

The party highlights 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.

Corky asked where Daisy was living now, and in a round of agreement and encouragement, the party rallied for Present to take them to Daisy.

They arrived outside of a cozy and well-kept but small home. There was a garden in the front of the house that, in the Blooming and Radiant Seasons, likely teemed with colors and flowers and life. There was a light on inside the house, a warm glow coming from the fireplace and another, smaller from the table where an older, kind-faced Daisy sat reading a book by candlelight with a cup of tea beside her.

The party asked Grooge what Daisy was up to now, and Grooge replied that she owned a small bookshop in town and was doing well for herself. Her husband died a few years ago, so, he said, that was likely why she was spending Frostwane alone.

Airmed gestured to Present again to freeze the scene, and when he did, Airmed explained that Present needed to take just Daisy out of the vision, and he would shapeshift into her and take her place in the vignette. Present obliged, and when he snapped his fingers again, Daisy was replaced by Airmed, and was visually identical.

'Daisy' looked up from her book and met Grooge's eyes outside the window. She invited him and his friends inside to join her for some tea. Hesitantly, Grooge agreed, though he was very confused as to how he could be interacting with a scene that year after year he was told he could not. Present squeezed himself in and down in order to get his huge body into the door, and he took a seat in the corner in a wooden chair that bowed underneath him.

'Daisy' and the party spoke with Grooge to convince him of the reasons why having others in his life would make it better, and they spent a time just speaking with Grooge as if they were all friends. When Grooge realized he was having a nice time, he stood up immediately and demanded that the party destroy the ghost, as he was tired of the manipulation. The party and Present stepped outside in order to stage their combat, and the scene went according to plan. A large, magically charged pumpkin blasted from Present's cornucopia at Grooge. Airmed as Daisy jumped in the way, crying out to Grooge to get somewhere safe.

Using a similar trick as last time, Airmed disappeared and Daisy vanished. Present, excited to milk his death scene, clutched at his throat and gurgled as he 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 Daisy 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!" Grooge cries, exasperated.

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"

"Ah, yes, yes, right on cue. I'm dead," Grooge grumbled with a roll of his eyes. "Gentlemen, kill this specter!"

The party attempted to get The Ghost of Frostwane Yet To Come to snap his fingers and freeze the scene, but this ghost just continued to point forward.

The party explained to Grooge that maybe they don't have to fight this one, and perhaps they've all learned something valuable, and maybe it was time to move on. Grooge was persistent, however, trying to encourage the group to fight this ghost, who did not really seem like he was in on their master plan.

As you debate with Grooge on the benefits of fighting or not fighting, a wind whips up and the hood of the Ghost's 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 Marx grappled briefly with their constitution following this horrific sight, but managed to find their footing as they realize the Ghost has now turned on them. The wind returned and so did the hood on the robed figure, obscuring the horror of his face again. He extended his skeletal arms and the party became surrounded in a circle of flames.

This time, the battle was very much real, and they knew this fight was for their lives. The iridescent glow coming from the ghost was of an identical nature to that of the snarls they were hunting back in their time, and they realized that this moment was being touched by magic much bigger than they had previously thought.

The Ghost of Frostwane Yet To Come was a tough opponent, as his movement was cloaked by invisibility and his hits were as hard as they had ever encountered. The party tried to distract him or reveal himself by calling upon his Frostwane Eve duties. This did work in helping to pinpoint the location of the ghost, but had the unfortunate effect of drawing the ghost's attention to Grooge. The ghost lifted up the old elf and held him over his own open grave. As the party tried to stop him, the ghost dropped Grooge who hung half off the headstone and began to slip toward the endless hole in the ground.

With a well-aimed shot, Artem destroyed the ghost, which burst into a cloud of black smoke and ice shards. In the cloud, shapes formed, showing Barnaby, and Little Lenny, and Daisy, and Flerb Clergsen, and Louise Marsh, and dozens of familiar faces of the people who the party cared for, and those they had helped. And then the cloud filled the space around them and a vision appeared before them all:

You see around you a village in ruins. A fire to the east burns the remains of a library to the ground. Tightly lined and packed trees make up the border of this village, and you can hear the screams of people all around you. To the west is a house surrounded by others, nothing particularly of note about it. There is a lock on the door, but the window beside it is broken and open. You see the number on the house '114.' Through the window, you see yourself and your three adventuring friends. A clock chimes in the main room of the house. Bong. Bong. Bong. Bong. Bong. Five chimes. And then the house, with you all in it, explodes.

The party and Grooge found themselves on the floor of his bedroom for the last time.

Grooge, jarred away and still reeling from the terror of the last vision, scrambled to his feet. "What day is it?" He asked in a panic.

"Why it's Frostwane day," Corky replied, getting it.

Grooge threw a pouch of money at him and told him to pick up a great turkey to bring to Barnaby's home before getting dressed in a hurry and racing out of his home.

His first stop was at Daisy's home, where he asked her to join him as his Nephew's house for a Frostwane feast. The second stop was to the Adventurers' Guild, where, so thrilled by the work that The Easy Marx had done for him, he dropped a sack full of gold onto Waz's desk. He wanted to ensure that this place was up and running to support all high-quality adventurers. He also promised to petition the council to get a stop on the Arlon Rail added to Thetchery, so adventurers from all over the continent could come to adventure here and help the village.

This last stop was to Barnaby's, where Daisy and the Easy Marx waited for him. As the family got things together for the meal, Grooge paid The Easy Marx what they earned, a whopping 2000 GPs. He invited them to join their feast, but the party declined, knowing they needed to get back home.

From inside the house, the party could hear Little Lenny say, "Materhawk bless us, every one!"

Before heading back to the inn, Airmed dropped off a letter at the Adventurers' Guild with Waz, who promised to get it taken care of as thanks for the work that the party had done for him and the guild.

As they stepped through the door of the inn, the chill of the air disappeared, and the hot, humid air of the Radiant Season was back around them. At the front desk of the inn was Binto, the gnome inn keeper from before they fell through the painting, and on the wall hung the same painting of the inn from Grooge's time. But the shimmer was gone, and when the painting was touched, it did nothing but shift off center. For a moment, in the painted window of the inn in the frame, the face of an impossibly large, impossibly jolly man appeared and winked at them before the painting returned to its original form.

When they looked over at Binto, they noticed he seemed to be frozen in place. The candle beside him with a flame that didn't flicker or move. A quill he had dropped was poised in midair.

Beside the desk stood the figure of the Ghost of Frostwane Past, in her pale hands a strange looking key.

"For your help, I would like to give this to you to aid you in your future quests," she said, handing them the heavy silver key. "This key has a very small chance of opening whatever lock it tries. You can use it until it works. But once it works, it will disappear. I hope this helps you when you most need it." When Corky took the key from Past, the ghost dematerialized, and the quill that Binto had dropped hit the floor with a quiet clink.

Airmed slipped away from the party as they waited for Gyome to join them, and went to visit the AGI. He asked Julee if there was a letter there for him, and she replied that there was, one that had been there for a while. She handed it to him, which he stored before joining his friends again at the Wooden Hearth Inn.


Occurrences of Note:

  • Rescue of Thetchery Miners: Best possible scenario achieved (only 4 dead miners).
  • Reputation increase in Wen to Level 3.
  • Warrek's town reputation has been restored.
  • Significant positive relationship milestone achieved with Luidalia.
  • Easy Marx Guild Level increase to Level 2.
  • Leozumin leaves The Easy Marx.
  • Two additional AGI quests completed.
  • Party learns of factory accident in Gilding; Increase in membership to Gilding Voxowls.
  • Party learns of Talon Shuck and Shuck Mining.
  • Party learns of method for creating new Voxowl Headquarters in Thetchery (3 citizens).
  • Party learns from Luidalia that Shuck Mining surveyed the mine accident for signs of life and informed Luidalia that the site was devoid.
  • Full party introduction to Hippo the book-eating gnome.
  • Completion of Mine Sound Puzzle.
  • Party learns about veins of magic, and their use in fighting snarls.
  • Forest Guardian is currently compromised.
  • Party receives upgraded equipment from Luidalia.

Completed: December 2022