Ages ago, in the grand continent of Therinad, there lived several prospering villages. Although Medieval in nature, the people were well lived and happy. But this time of peace and prosperity would soon come to an end. It started with slightly colder days and eventually turned to heavier snowfalls. As spring came, the cold did not relent and crops failed to bloom. Rain was replaced by ice, the ground covered in snow, and within the course of a few years, all of Therinad was covered in winter’s wrath. Thus began the Ice Age.
Fast forward 300 years. Our story begins with a ragtag bunch of Expedition cadets in the underground bastion for survival, Snow Melt. Among the cadets are Theydrin Durjss’Axle, the fun loving, manipulative, half-drow bard; Tarin Silverspring, the half-elf, orphan fighter-cleric; Felior Frostbrow, the mysterious, rogue, elven desert-blade; Aednoth, the human, alchemist prodigy; and Bram Boulderhammer, the hearty, kindhearted, dwarf paladin. It is graduation day at the Expedition Academy and the cadets are preparing to take on something more challenging then the previous training exercises.
A stout dwarf named Garva emerges from his office in the Expedition Academy to greet the graduating class. He informs the cadets that the Snow Melt Heater is running out of coal and without it, the town will surely freeze over. Normally, the Arms Guild sends roughly twenty miners down into the mines below Snow Melt once a month to gather coal, but this last month’s mining group did not return. Garva asks the group if they would go and investigate and mine out that month’s supply. The group agrees to the mission and they head towards the central elevator.
On their way down to the mines, the elevator stops and in walks Tenac Fithor, a well known, quirky gnome bard and tinkerer, who is on his way to visit the Council. The cadets determine that something is bothering Tenac, but are unable to glean what it might be.
The elevator reaches the mining level of the town, and the group exits the elevator. Circling them are several mining entrances, one of which has magical writing “caution tape” strung a crossed it, alerting people not to enter. A lone, half-orc guard, Bob, stands watch at its entrance. The cadets surmise that this is the mine where the group of twenty miners met their fate.
The group attempts to head into the restricted mine, but Bob stops them and asks what they are doing. After explaining to Bob that they are on a mission to rescue the lost minors and retrieve this month’s coal, the adventurers are asked to present some form of proof to back up their claim. With no proof to be had, Theydrin put the guard to sleep with a lullaby, so they could slip by into the dark cavern.
The two drow and the dwarf are able to see perfectly in the dark, including even the half-elf and full elf who can see using the dwarf’s torch. However, Aednoth, the only human, is left blinded by the darkness. A faint clicking noise can be heard throughout the cavern for a brief moment, and then a hush, as Aednoth is given a torch. The now illuminated mine looks abandoned for some time and feels cold and dreary.
With a few steps forward, the party is surprised by a volley of arrows shooting from holes in the walls, followed by several simultaneous, loud cackles in a foreign language. Theydrin and Bram leap to action, and attempt to block one of the holes. Theydrin uses his dancing lights to daze the attacker on the other side, while Bram picks up a rock, fits it into the hole and give a hearty swing with his hammer. Felior tries to sneak around the backside of the wall
to flank the mysterious attackers, but is unable to find a way behind the wall. It appears that there is no way to access the enemies other than those holes.
More arrows fly from the south, east and west, as the party is drenched in waves of crossbow bolts. Aednoth takes a few pot shots through the hole but misses the enemy on the other side. Tarin, evades the situation and makes his way further up the hall.
The arrows stop. From the end of the hall there’s a flash of bright orange light pouring from one of the holes, then another, and another, closer and closer to the group. Fire breath. A whoosh of flame covers the area, but everyone is able to avoid it. In dodging, Aednoth gets too close to one of the holes and greeted by a spear in his side. Theydrin trips a carefully laid out wire, which triggers a vine to wrap around his leg and send him hurling into a ceiling
It is time to leave the entrance to the mines. Bram rushes further forward into the dark mines, crushing an ill-set bear trap with his mighty dwarven feet. He, along with Tarin and Felior who had run up on the opposite side to meet him, find that they can go no further south. A wide, deep pit, with no visible end, stretched out before them, with only a single, old, rickety ladder on the side for company. Seeing no other way forward, Felior begins his descent on the ladder, making sure to be very careful not to compromise its structure.
Aednoth and Theydrin, still lagging behind, makes their way south to join their team mates. Upon doing so, another whoosh of flame appears from the wall as more hidden enemies seem to have made their way further south as well. Theydrin springs another trap, a bear trap, and is braced in place directly in front of the hole. With the help of his team mates, Theydrin is able to free his foot and escape another jab from a spear in the wall. Once free,
he uses ghost sound to fool the enemies into shooting elsewhere, while the cadets regroup at the ladder.
Theydrin is able to take a quick look inside the hole to get a better idea of what kind of enemy they are facing. They appear to be reptilian in nature, dark red skin, with large teeth and two throats. Theydrin joins the group at the ladder. They appeared to be safe … for now.
Down and down Felior climbs, making his ever slow descent to the bottom. After reaching the bottom of the 100 foot chasm, Felior finds a smaller pit with an unnatural looking cluster of white objects. Upon further inspection, he is able to tell that it was 22 bodies, wrapped in linens and placed in a mass grave. The bodies appear to be slashed, eviscerated and burned. Two of the bodies, are Macabra and are not wrapped in linens. Felior signals up to the party that is was safe to come down, but only two at a time so to not disturb the latter.
Minutes later, the cadets assemble at the bottom of the mine. Through some searching they are able to find, 1 diamond, 4 cubic feet of coal, 2 bone daggers, 1 necklace of teeth (later identified as an Amulet of Mighty Fists +1), a flask of an unknown liquid and several bits of mining equipment.
Suddenly, there is a loud boom at the top of the mining shaft. Several scrapes, shouts and crashes echo down into the chamber. Then, silence for a moment, and several more thuds approaching the top of the shaft. At the top of the chasm was Grothnar Vall, the half-orc representative of the Grand Council and overseer of security. In a loud, booming voice he shouts down and demands the cadets explain why they are down in a restricted mine. Aednoth and Theydrin are quick to explain that they were sent by Garva to investigate and retrieve this month’s coal, and they found the bodies of the missing miners along with two Macabra.
Grothnar slides down the ladder with a gorilla’s agility, muttering under his breath that Garva was a major pain in the ass. He asks the party what happened and they fill him in on the enemies in the walls. Grothnar frowns, “”/characters/coal-bold-soldier" class=“wiki-content-link”>Coal-bolds." He explains that they have infested the surrounding mines and eat the coal, digest it and burn it to stay warm. They are like termites, but can breathe fire, and instead of eating wood, they eat the one thing you need to survive: warmth. Grothnar whistles and a few more of his half-orc followers slide down the ladder and begin carrying the bodies up. Felior decides to “play dead” and gets a free ride up the ladder.
As the cadets and half-orcs leave the mine, they see that the walls where the murder holes had been. They now have claw marks and larger holes in the two feet of stone wall where presumably, Grothnar had punched through and strangled the Coal-bolds on the other side. Tunnels that lead deeper into the caves can be seen behind these walls, with louder clicking noises coming from them.
At the base of Snow Melt, outside the mine, Bob the guard looks very upset. Grothnar had apparently gotten to him first and given him an earful. He informs the group to not tell the rest of the town about the Coal-bolds; there was enough panic around with the Ice Age, we didn’t need a threat from inside as well.
The elevator comes down and out walks Tenac, looking just as concerned as before. Bram, as convinced as ever that Tenac was trying to give subtle clues, tries to weasel more information out of him. Whether Tenac pitied Bram, or if he became annoyed with Bram is unknown, but Tenac shares briefly his concern. “There might be Macabra among us. Disguised as ”/wikis/alliance" class=“wiki-page-link”>Alliance." Tenac recalls seeing two Alliance children with Macabra tails running for the mines early one morning, but he thought he was seeing things. The party boards the elevator without Tenac and heads up to talk to Garva.
Upon reaching the Expedition Academy, Garva greets the party with open arms, congratulating them on a job well done. Aednoth and Theydrin curtly inform him that he did not supply them any proof, nor tell them that they needed proof in order to go down into the mines. Garva waves it off like it was no big deal, claiming Grothnar is just grumpy. A passing Frogar Vall (Grothnar’s “brother”) laughs to himself, “Garva, you are in deep trouble…again.”