Along the way towards Ashabenford, the party again debated their next course of action. Instead they decided to return to the Monastery to visit Ethan and question him about Lucky’s dealings with the Winter King, seeing as he would have direct information about the interaction. Shane and Barren were none too pleased to be visiting their father again, but reluctantly agreed.
One unseasonably cold night on their journey, Raph was on watch alone, and he heard the distant sound of a hunting horn. He mentioned it to Shane when he took over the watch, but as the ranger went out to investigate, something triggered Lucky’s alarm spell. The party hurried to their feet, but nothing was to be found. They returned to an uneasy sleep, and nothing else approached in the night.
The heroes resupplied in Ashabenford, and Lucky managed to pick up some spells, including one that would alert him to any scrying spells cast upon him. They set out the next morning, again noting the odd chill that was setting in across this part of the Dalelands. By late afternoon, a heavy fog was rolling in along the road, and once again they heard the sounding of a horn, this time much closer.
Out of the fog suddenly road an frost-covered warrior atop a skeletal stag. Icy horns crowned the warrior’s helmet, and before they could call out a challenge to the rider, he attacked with an frozen glaive. As the party scrambled to address this threat, more gremlins burst from the foggy trees, cackling with malicious glee.
While the gremlins shrieked for “Glen” to show himself, the rider seemed to have no goal aside from killing the party. He lashed out with his polearm and hurled icy storms across the road, causing brutal damage to the heroes. But finally, the fell rider and his entourage were laid low. They investigated the remains and discovered a gaping whole in the rider’s chest, where it seemed his heart had been removed and replaced with the rotting heart of a stag.
With the rider’s death, the unnatural cold lifted from the area, and the normal, more temperate autumn weather returned. It seemed a hollow victory, however, for the party still had few answers regarding the Winter King and his aims for the heroes.