*The Big Chill
Beneath the icy obelisk ahead there seemed to be an opening in the cairn, promising some sort of shelter. Less promising was the discovery that, on closer inspection, the column was built not from stone but from thousands of skulls – human, dwarf, orc, elf, troll and several from creatures unknown.
Still, aware that this trip had hardly started with the promise of a warm welcome and a day pass to the Winter King’s World of Wonders and Magical Rides, the heroes stumble on into the cave, stomachs rumbling, drawn on by a sense of destiny and the smell of cooked food.
The scent of sweetmeats, pastries and roast beef pulled them down a stone corridor, which Bodin recognised as ancient Dwarven work, opening into a great hall and a welcoming sight – a friendly looking human warrior, a maid, a few snoozing hunting dogs and a table full of the greatest feast the heroes had ever seen. Introducing himself as the Winter King, the human tells the slavering visitors that they are welcome to all they can see, just as soon as they return what is rightly his.
After a short conversation it was soon obvious to the more perceptive members of the party that the human is lying through his teeth and that the whole setup is a trap, which gave the less perceptive members of the party the excuse they were waiting for to launch into a massive offensive.
The dogs turn into dire wolves, the maid turns into a gnome illusionist and the human warrior turns into a human warrior – just a bit more angry.
Without going into the details it was a tough fight but the heroes prevail, leaving Mordzan to gleefully celebrate the victory by diving into the feast before him, munching on anything he could reach – only to discover that the real trap has been sprung, the feast an illusion and what he was actually gorging on were the unidentifiable cold and rotten entrails that probably belonged to the owners of the skulls that made up the column outside.
Further curses follow when the party tries to rest in the beds at the end of the hall, only to be visited by terrible nightmares with an icy theme, until, eventually, after getting a few hours kip in the dog kennels, the party move on deeper into the icy complex.
It was soon apparent that they are in an ancient dwarven fortress, the walls covered in ice that is slowly melting. A door to a temple to the Dwarf God Moradin is frozen shut, defying attempts to open it, until a ghostly apparition of a dwarf priest sticks his head through the door to mouth something about getting keys of ice and fire to raise the curse.
The one-sided conversation is interrupted by sounds of clanging and smashing from the north, the party discovering a group of damp-looking half-frozen dwarves and a single human searching a kitchen for food. They hear mutterings about an army thawing out and questions about how long they have been frozen and what the king wants them to do.
When the party reveal themselves they are initially mistaken for more of the Winter King’s minions, looking around for food. Although they soon realise their mistake, it is not soon enough as they too are dispatched with clinical efficiency, despite the presence of a tentacled monstrosity suddenly appearing from a stinking refuse pit to add a bit of spice to the proceedings
Still hungry, and still no sign of the real Winter King, Thorn’s sister, or anything resembling a key of any description, the party move on.