(Spoiler warning! This post contain spoilers about Icewind Dale. If that bothers you then just skip it. Also, it is brought to you by... the rain! Because it is about time it rained here!)
When we last left our heroes, they were having some fun with goblins. By that I mean I had fun while they weren't having so much of it and were just busy killing any goblin in the way. Also, unlike what I stated in the last post chapter one didn't start then. It started after that area. Ops!
In any case after writing (and hearing in-game) about Kuldahar so much it was nice to finally get to Kuldahar and get a few more steps in the main plot. The party even get a welcoming commitee in the form of a... boy?
His name is Nate and despite what fantasy tropes may make us think he doesn't have any supernatural powers that made him foresee the coming of the party, what their role will be in some grand prophecy or anything fancy like that.
The only reason he knew anything about the party coming was because someone called Arundel told him help was coming. So he did the next logical thing was to wait everyday for them to come. Unfortunately the party had to disappoint him by telling the truth and saying there was no army coming (well, there sort of was but they died in an avalanche) so they are the only help they get. No worries though, kid! You are in a CRPG! A rag-tag group of heroes can always save the world. Hell, some times even a lone hero can do! So your home will be safe. Unless the plot demands it to be destroyed for dramatic purposes. In that case you are screwed. Let's just hope it is not the latter, ok?
Obviously they didn't say all that 4th wall breaking wall stuff, just the disappointing part about them being the only help. They did ask though who that Arundel was and Nate told them he was the smartest guy in the whole world and he could talk to animals. Nate was even nice to give them some directions to Arundel's house as they probably want to speak with him first. Sounds like a good idea! So they bid the boy farewell and went to meet this Arundel fellow.
It is just a small settlement so they only had to walk a few steps to get to Arundel's place, a house built between the roots of the local giant tree. Just like Nate, he was expecting the party to arrive at any moment.
Apparently, not supernatural powers either for him to know about their arrival. His only explanation is that bad news travel fast and he knows what happened to the expedition. Arundel also happened to be the one who sent a request for help in the first place. Seems like the old man is the local Arch-druid and sent his apprentice to Easthaven for help. He also knew about Hrothgar, about the avalanche and claimed that it was no coincidence, that some malevolent forces were trying to stop them from getting to Kuldahar.
Before getting to the meat of it, the party decides to ask him a bit more about the town. He spouts some stuff about the druidic belief of balance, how everything has its place in nature, etc, etc. It was because of that belief that Kuldahar was built. Druids of Silvanus, one of the deities of the Forgotten Realms, have been tending to the giant tree in the middle of the town for centuries. It is called the Great Oak and it is considered a holy site to Silvanus' followers since they believe the tree was planted by Himself in there. The Great Oak, or Kuldahar as the druids call it, is the responsible for keeping the warm climate in that small part of the land, despite the harsh, cold climate everywhere else.
Due to the sanctity of the place, the druids kept outsiders away from it. Until Tolben, Arundel's predecessor, changed that by allowing people to settle town near the Great Oak. He believed that the building of a settlement there was not only inevitable, but the will of Silvanus. That by allowing for it to be built they would have finally achieved the druids' goal of having the ultimate harmony between man and nature. And thus was the town of Kuldahar born!
The party members who didn't fall asleep with all that backstory decided then to bring the subject back to what brought them here, the supposed evil forces. Unfortunately, Arundel could not tell them any details about it as it is keeping itself hidden. However the signs of its existance are unmistakable:
- There has been some unnatural weather. The storms are worse than usual, starting out of the blue, often lasting for days and then just stop just as quickly. It is also barely midway into Leafall (I assume it might be their autumn) and the path to the south is completely snowed in.
- There has been some misteryous disappearances. At first it was adventurers camping on the trails outside the town. Just disappeared without in the night without any sign of struggle. Then one boy, the son of the local blacksmith disappeared the same way. The town looked everywhere for him but didn't find anything. Some days later, it was the local midwife with her husband becoming so burdened with grief that he decided to march into the night to look for her. More recently the innkeeper disappeared too.
- There are an unusual amount of monster activity. Goblins have been in the pass which is very unusual due to their numbers. Almost like something was drawing all of them from their caves. Arundel also saw tracks of giants in groups as large as 10 which indicates that they are organized and acting with a singular purpose. The way they move also makes it looks like they are doing some kind of patrol. Lastly there were tracks of something that he never saw before and has no idea what it could be.
If that wasn't bad enough the whole thing is affecting the morale of town which in turn is affecting the balance which in turn is affecting the Great Oak making its warm aura recede. They already had to abandon the farmsteads outside town because of this. If this keeps going, the entire settlement may disappear and the Great Oak with it. That is why they need the help of brave adventures. If only we knew where we could find some... Oh, wait. That is supposed to be the party. Nevermind!
Arundel tells them to start their search in the Valley of Shadows, a place not too far from there that is perpetually covered in darkness. The vale is filled with ancient crypts hidden in their walls with many rumors of undeads waking up and deciding to roam around the place. Whatever is causing that might be also responsible for the troubles in Kuldahar. Their mission is to go there, find whatever is going on in the area and then return to Arundel to discuss their findings.
Well, sounds like an easy enough job. One that they will do after they go talking to everyone in town to check for sidequests, resupplying and resting for the night. But we'll be getting to that in the next post of the series!