The Outer Realms are in crisis. After nearly four decades of summer, winter has descended, bringing desperation and chaos with it. In the north, a growing horde of bugbears gathers beneath the great wall at Wulfric's Keep, while the town of St. Rufinus, once a center of faith and commerce, is rumored to be infested with undead after a mysterious plague killed most of the residents. Further south, small bands of bugbears and hill giants have managed to cross the thickening sea ice to prey on coastal villages and travelers on the Shepherds' Road.

You are one of such travelers. The convoy of oxcart sleds with which you were traveling was beset by a bugbear raiding party, and you were captured. After taunting and beating you, the bugbears bound you, piled you into the back of a sled with your fellow prisoners and lashed a tarp over you, which helped ward off the wind and cold but locked you in darkness for the length of the journey.

After a cramped and arduous journey of several days, the bugbears finally removed the tarp, dragged you into the sunlight and locked you in a crude circular cage made of narrow tree trunks driven into the frozen ground.You appear to be on the edge of a frozen bay, with mountains behind you and the frozen water stretching out toward what looks like a hazy shoreline far to the west.

Your situation is grim, and you know that if you are to escape, you must do so soon. You have no shelter, so you huddle together for warmth, but you still grow weaker with each passing night. Once per day, a small goblin brings you an iron pot of stewed, musky-tasting meat and a clay jug of half-frozen water, but it is so meager that you feel your body beginning to waste beneath your ragged clothing.

Will you be able to escape? Or will you meet whatever fate awaits you as prisoners and slaves?

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Blood and Stone
As clerics we are taught to expect challenges from the otherworlds: we turn the undead, clash with demons, heal monstrous wounds. These creatures born of blood are another thing altogether.

The chamber is filled with tortured statues. We have seen much death, but these poor souls are eternally frozen in torment. The violence that took their lives still seeps from them, forming pools of blood which rise and coagulate into clotted murderous forms. It is not easy to avoid their stringy cords which whip at our ankles and throats. Many times we are pulled to the tomb's floor. If we are killed this way, will our stony forms become the source of more of these horrific creatures?

Clever Solera yells, "Crush the statues!" and Diogenes makes his way through the chamber. The bloody tendrils lash at him again and again, mindless like ocean waves in a storm. One by one he dismantles the stone images, as we release each other from the strangling twines.

Eventually the ghastly blood is staunched. The chamber becomes quiet. Slowly we turn, assessing the fragments of the statues. A staring eye, a pleading arm, half of an anguished face. Dust mixes with the swirling pools of liquid on the stone floor until at last they are stilled.
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A song for the crwth - verse 1
A fortnight trolling through the underdark
Still we couldn’t pass the triptych doors
Reliquaries of the ones who went below
A trace of obscure evil gone before

In Ahlysaaria’s palace of the phallus
Our adversaries come upon us hard as rock
Resolve of steel but deeds of softer mettle
my lifted weapon tasting naught

With just a punch the halfling takes
A golem twice his size
Amid the casters’ surefire bolts
The rivals fall from every hand but mine

Cloaked and dreaded, our lady archer
lets the cock feathers fly
re-chastening the dirty gnome
Her blameless shame dissolved

The lady archer,
she drops drow
And I…
I play the crwth.
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Oooooh... That Smell
I was like she got hit in the face. The smell from the troglodytes was overwhelming. Extreme nausea that overcame Solera, made it hard for her to even lift her swords. She tried breathing through her mouth, it was almost like the smell permeated all her senses.
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When Valindra trained as warrior priestess of the Leaf Lord, dedicated to defending and protecting the forest, team tactics had been stressed above all else. The high elders taught them the intricacies of using steel, arrow flight, and divine spellcraft as part of a seamless strategy to annihilate their enemies. Every member of the team must work together, each covering the others' weaknesses and enhancing their strengths to win at all costs.

This, she thinks, is how Winters Bane is fighting now. It feels good to be part of this team. When the vile troglodytes had risen from the dark waters, so many of them, their saurian leader mounted upon a gigantic lizard with a mouth filled with razor sharp teeth, there had been a moment where it felt as if they might be over-matched. They had been driven back, forced to regroup. Diogenese and Ainorei had seemed on the verge of falling. But they rallied and used all their resources together to carry the day.

The bond she feels for her comrades, this strange and unlikely collection of individuals, several of them driven from their homes as she was, grows in intensity with each passing day. She trusts them in a way that she didn't think she would ever trust another again. Valindra is not given to sentimentality, so she would find it hard to express these feelings. But it suddenly occurs to her that she would die for any of them if she had to.

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Have you ever cast a spell for the first time and felt a deep connection with the words? Like a memory deep in your bones? Perhaps someone cast this on my cradle, or the doorstep of my childhood home, to protect me from evil in the night. Or perhaps as a child I came upon an object I was forbidden to touch, but reached out anyway and was thrown unconscious to the floor with a pulse of lightning.

I know the Glyph of Warding will help protect Winter’s Bane in small but useful ways. If I cast it on a doorway, anyone passing through without speaking the name of the glyph will feel a most unpleasant jolt. I can cast it on a walkway or bridge if we need due warning that an enemy approaches.

The rhythm of the spell flows through my mind as I practice it inside my head. Faint green sparks tickle the ends of my fingertips.
In true Gwydion form, the incantation itself is a bit unconventional:

None shall touch and none shall pass
Through the place where I have cast
This Glyph of warding bonded fast –
It knocks the enemy on her ass!

I need only to name the glyph, something obscure, which no one loosely associated with us would guess. Something my comrades could whisper if they needed safe passage through the area the glyph protected. I think about the infant Blair tucked in her crib, with faint green glowing threads encircling her while she slept. Yes, I will name it Cradle Keeper.
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