Magma entered the small farming town she and her companions had agreed to visit, hopeful the job they had heard of was still there. It had been a long, exceedingly lonesome day of riding… and now, snow was beginning to fall as she searched the few streets and alleyways for the tavern her friends were to be at. Though not as bad as a heavy downpouring of rain, the darkened evening sky and falling icy flakes affixed a frown to the face of the dark-skinned Fire Genasi. None too soon, however, the faint sound of music called out to her, and lead her to where she needed to be: a tavern with a depiction of a harvest goddess of some sort set large above its entrance.

Pushing her way inside, Magma let out a sigh of relief at the upbeat fiddling and generally cheerful attitudes before her. The small marks and faint longer lines on her skin glowed ever so more brightly red as a smile came to her face for the first time in more than a day. She reached back and pulled at the tight bob on her head so that her dim, glowing, red-orange hair fell around her down to her shoulders like the lava from a volcano erupting down a mountain. She gave her head a shake and ran her hand through her hair to make sure it had all loosened properly, then let herself move, and sway, and twirl in time to the music as she made the short trip over to the bar with a big smile on her face.

“Hey, ‘Keep, I need a drink, first off. Something good, but not too good,” Magma said cheerfully, “…and after that, this road weary traveler needs something good to eat. Local specialty or what not, if you please.”

“That’ll be a silver for the drink and…” the barkeeper began to say, but Magma cut him off.

“I’ll want a second drink with the meal. This cover it all?” She asked as she placed two gold coins from her coin purse onto the bar. She got a enthusiastic nod from the barkeeper and a large tankard filled to the brim with drink of which she quickly downed enough of to allow her to move again without fear of spilling. Only then did she see Red, their party’s Dragonborn cleric, who was naturally still dressed in his gaudy heavy armor. Elsewhere in the establishment were Cheldon, their Tortle Artificer and Welty, their Halfling Rogue. Each was eating and talking to those around them.

“Red!” She called out cheerfully, since he was the closest. “Nothin’ seemed to be on fire as I rode in, so I’m guessin’ that means I’m probably not too late?” A couple of the locals turned their heads at that statement, but she just smiled and moved deeper into the venue to sit by the cleric. A couple of the plainly dressed regulars gave her an annoyed look, one even seemingly finished his meal early and left the table altogether, but Magma took it in stride.

“The name’s Magma, it’s a pleasure to meet ya,” she said to the few that remained.

“Brad. Likewise,” one said in return, but most of the others just continued eating or talking amongst themselves. Over the next few minutes, Magma managed to hold herself mostly quiet as Red sat beside her and regaled her at length about the rest of the party’s adventures during the past day. Mysterious disappearances among the townsfolk, a crazy Lord, the Lord’s wife who worriedly hired them, and an out of place fortune teller who seemed maybe more involved in things than she should. Magma could already tell that this would be one heck of a job.

“I rode. The wind was near freezing. There was no one to talk to. Now, I’m here,” Magma deadpanned once she was caught up. About then, one of the serving girls placed a large dish of lamb and yams before her along with a second drink. “Oh, thank you! This looks wonderful,” Magma said, smiling warmly.

It was then that Magma caught eye of the very fortune teller that had the others in doubt. The woman was older, but more fluid in her movements than one would think she should be. Her dark colored dress with its blues and blacks was pretty enough, and it was certainly tailored a large step or two above the clothes the other locals wore, but it was her bright orange sash she wore around her shoulders and the large, equally orange dyed hat that she wore on her head that really made her stand out. She was not an outsider, though. If anything, she was a trusted friend to many within the tavern. They talked to her, nodded to her as she passed by, or smiled when she greeted them. The older woman came and took a seat across from Magma a few moments after Red wandered off for another ale.

“Darling,” she said, drawing out the word, her voice happy and extravagant, “my apologies if you haven’t received the warmest of receptions. The people here, they’re… not so used to visitors, and I’m afraid your friends have already stirred the pot somewhat.”

“No worries from me, and please, call me Magma,” the Fire Genasi replied, mouth full of yams.

“Helgram Grendal,” the woman said with a big smile.

“Sounds like something out of one of those old fairy tales, tha ones where children get eaten,” Magma mused after swallowing her latest bite. The older woman gave a good natured laugh, but there was the slightest twinkle in her eyes that conveyed that there was, perhaps, a slight truth to Magma’s musings.

Though she was taken slightly aback, Magma nevertheless continued, “Sorry. Don’t mind me. I’m sometimes too straight forward for my own good. I’m just glad to have something good to eat and someone interesting to talk to. I had to stay behind on our last job, make some extra amends, and… well, I cannot stand riding alone.”

“I completely understand, Magma darling. May I ask why you and your friends have come? Four such yourselves is a bit out of the ordinary, after all.”

“The disappearances. We’ve been hired to do something about them.”

“Oh, indeed? Eighteen gone so far. It’s just awful. I do the best I can to help, but this so does have the town in a foul mood.”

“So, you know about the disappearances?” Magma asked.

“Oh, only just more than you. But enough of that, darling. Would you care to play with me? I have cards, I have dice. I do so enjoy wagering with newcomers.”

“Dice sounds good. Do you know Bos’ton?” Magma asked.

“I do! And I have a perfect set for it!” Helgram reached a hand into one of the large hanging sleeves of her dressed and came out with a small, deep leather bound tray with tall walls that held five identical dice. “Your wager darling?”

“One gold, if that’s not too much. I enjoy overpaying a bit when I first arrive somewhere new. I’ve found it helps ease tensions some,” Magma said.

“I’ll wager three gold then.” As the one with the higher bet, Helgram went first. She scooped all five dice in her hand and rolled them into the tray then picked out the highest roll of the five which she placed in clear view between herself and Magma. She then repeated the process four more times, each time lining up that turn’s highest roll. When it was all said and done, she’d totaled a decent score slightly on the lower end of what she could have rolled.

Magma went next. From her first roll it was clear that fate was on her side. She beat Helgram’s rolls with each of her five turns and ended up with a very high total.

“Ah! I’m afraid that’s what happens sometimes!” Helgram exclaimed before hading over her three gold coins. “Again?”

“Mmm, I’d like too, but I’m afraid I’m gonna miss out on the best of this meal if I continue to play. Another time?”

“Of course, darling. Whenever you wish. Which reminds me, your halfling friend requested a fortune reading of me. I’d be glad to provide you with a reading as well, once you are finished.”

“Thanks, but no thanks. I make my own fate,” Magma replied with a confident smile.

“Oh? Very well. I shall leave you to your meal. It was a pleasure, darling.”

With that, Helgram placed the dice and tray back into her sleeve then stood and moved away to spread conversation and joy to a group of townsfolk just entering the tavern.

Dusk turned to night by the time Magma finished her meal and the delicious pudding she allowed one of the serving girls to tempt her into. A steady snow was falling outside now, and the tavern slowly emptied until only a few regular patrons, Magma and her companions, and Helgram remained. The fortune teller was busy now speaking to a mildly well dressed middle aged woman at a table near the front of the room.

Though the two spoke in hushed tones, Magma and the others could make out a few of their words in the now quiet tavern. The snow and a very rare failed harvest seemed to be the topics of discussion. Magma looked around to her companions and rolled her eyes at the way they each seemed to be trying to eavesdrop yet still be discrete when they were literally the only other ones in the entire tavern aside from the barkeep and the two women talking. So, instead of joining in on her companions’ brand of awkwardness, Magma decided, as she often did, to create some awkwardness of her own.

“Hi. My name is Magma. The Lord and Lady hired my companions and myself to solve the case of these disappearances. I heard others speaking of their own unexpectedly bad harvests. When did they start. Which crops did they affect? Has anything else unusual happened recently?” she asked after she sat down across from the local woman.

“Darling!” Helgram exclaimed in shock by Magma’s side

“The nerve!” The middle-aged woman from the town all but shouted. “This was a private conversation with a trusted friend… and… and, you would not find any of us who would simply tell you the extent of our harvests. We all run tight businesses, after all!”

“I’m not interested in learning your coveted family farming techniques,” Magma shot back, “the land reacts and changes in response to mysteries more often than you might think. All I’m asking is…”

“You are being a pest and… and a bother, that’s what you are!” The woman said. She shoved her plate away from her and stood abruptly to leave, only to nearly run into the tall, stoic mass of armor and faith that was Red blocking her way.

“I ask you to forgive our Magma, there,” he said gently while holding out a pair of gleaming gold coins to the woman, “she is often hot-headed, hot-tempered, and never learned to take a gentle approach. It is all we can do to keep her in line, sometimes.”

“Hey!” Magma called out.

The farmer seemed ill at ease at it all. At being the center of attention. At the large dragon-like warrior before her. At the put out fiery-haired trouble maker behind her. Tentatively, she took the coins and said, “Well… please try harder.”

“You can go, dear,” Helgram interjected, “I’ll speak to them.”

“Thank you, Helgram,” the townswoman said with honest relief before making her way out into the cold. Red shuffled off back to his own table, leaving a dejected Magma to mumble to herself as she nursed her drink across from the ever opulent Helgram.

“…just trying to sort out why more than a handful of their town is dead. Not like we can do that if no one will talk to us. ‘Extent of our harvest’, as if I’ve grown anything in years…” Magma grumbled. Though her hair and markings were never especially bright, their glow now seemed almost nonexistent as she sat chastised, mug held in both hands.

“Darling,” Helgram said, placing a reassuring hand on one of Magma’s, “I don’t know where you’ve come from or been, but many here work their farms and send off their crops and go all their lives without seeing more than a handful of outsiders, and never any as radiant as yourself. Your desire to help is clear, perhaps just hold yourself in a little more, is all.”

“Grrr,” Magma grunted. Holding herself in wasn’t really something she was used to.

“I know something to cheer you up! Your friend, the halfling, requested a fortune telling from me earlier. Why don’t we do that now. I think you’ll enjoy watching,” the older woman said temptingly in an almost sing song voice.

“Meh… alright,” Magma said begrudgingly.

“Sir, I think it has quieted enough, now, let’s see to your fortune,” the teller said. Curious at all that would entail, Magma stood from her table and followed the woman over to where Welty sat. The Rogue actually looked slightly nervous, for once, as Helgram reached again into her same sleeve. This time, using multiple pulls, she came out with a line of chalk, two wood-wicked bottles of incense, and a hefty crystal ball. She arranged the incense at opposite ends of the table with the crystal ball in the center. She then took her time drawing a magic circle with the chalk that consisted of shapes and runes that ultimately served to connect all three items to herself and Welty.

“You said before you did not know what kind of fortune you wished me to tell. I could tell you of your prospects in love, or life, or livelihood,” Helgram suggested.

“Well… I just ain’t sure…” the deep-voiced Halfling replied. “Can you just… sum things up?”

“A general reading then? Yes, darling, I can look ahead and find anything extraordinary I see.”

With a flick of her wrist and a few precisely said magic words, Helgram began the reading. Her eyes flashed to an eerie white and the lines of chalk on the table began to glow. The incense, which had not had any discernible smell thus far suddenly filled the air with a sweet perfume, and the previously clear crystal ball became clouded with dark, wispy swirls. Magma and her companions watched this all with interests while Welty looked on with something more akin to concern.

Several long moments passed as Helgram concentrated, but finally her eyes returned to normal and she shook her head.

“It is not such good news, I’m afraid,” she said gravely. “I see your mission here going badly for you, Welty. I saw you caught up in a storm of ice and of failure. It was quite ghastly, to be honest. For all of you, in fact. I don’t do this often, but you each seem so good natured in your own way, that I urge you to move on. Forget about this mystery. In all likelihood, it is mere coincidence, not something that even can be solved.”

“Well, damn,” Welty said after a moment. “And here I was hoping to spend a few gold on some fun lies.”

“Yes, darling, but sometimes the truth is the more pressing. Please, keep your money. A warning such as this is far too important to be played off as a game.” Helgram sat for a moment with a sorrowful look on her face, but then placed her fortune telling items back in her sleeve and stood to leave. “Good evening, to you all,” she said in parting.

“To you as well, I thank you for your hard work,” she said to the barkeep as she breezed on past toward the door. She did take a moment, though, to reach into her sleeve and toss him a small bag of coins that clinked when he caught it. Helgram nodded to two guardsmen who had largely stayed silent and unseen at a small table near the door. They too rose. One opened the door for her and then both they and the fortune teller exited out into the snow. A few moments later the sound of horses and rolling wheels echoed faintly inside and Magma could just see a sliver of an expensive, well made carriage rolling off towards the large, high-walled manor of the Lord and Lady in the distance.

“Ok,” Welty said once he and his three companions were alone. “So… spooky fortune aside, we’re still going with the plan? I sneak into the manor house while the rest of you see if you can find anything in the woods where the lord’s wife says he likes to wander at night?” The other three nodded.

With their own meals finished and final tabs settled, the four companions headed off into the night. They made for the manor and the forest beyond it where the townsfolk had all disappeared, but took the long way there through the center of the town. There, in the center of the cobblestone square, a talk, ornately carved obelisk stone pillar stood, with various runes and markings on its sides. Around it, along the edges of the town square, were a variety of shrines to various gods and goddesses. Magma stopped briefly to pay her monetary respects to a local goddess of fire and life, before continuing along with the others.

As the four neared the walled manor, Magma hurried a bit forward and with a few quickly spoken words caused a dance of twisting fire to appear in her outstretched hand. She held it effortlessly and allowed it to light her way. That, along with her hair and face glowing faintly in the darkness, made her easy to pick out by the guards atop the manor wall. Consequently, it made the company’s small, darkly dressed Rogue traveling several paces behind her all that much more difficult to notice.

“Hey, who goes there?” One of the guards called down to Magma and the others.

Magma waved her fire back and forth in a wide arc and called back, “we’re the group hired by your Lady to investigate those who have gone missing. We are heading to the woods to see what we can find.”

“Very well,” the guard called back. “Be careful!” He did not notice the rogue drop back even further from the others.

“Pour this on your head,” Cheldon, the group’s Tortle Artificer said in a whisper to Welty as he offered him a small flask of liquid he’d pulled out of his lumpy bag of odds and ends. The Rogue did so, and within moments, instead of simply being hard to spot, he disappeared from sight completely!

Magma and the others continued on without him. Soon, they reached the edge of the forest and Magma extinguished her flame. The three companions waited some minutes silent and still. Magma even did her best to keep her glow to an absolute minimum with slow shallow breathing. It was like being told to sit still and stop fidgeting as a child, or like being forced to stay silent and talk to no one in the midst of a roaring party, but somehow she managed. Through no small amount of tension and effort on her part, her eyes, face, hair, and hands became dark as the night surrounding her and her companions.

Finally, after several more long minutes of standing silent and still, Red, the Dragonborn Cleric, spotted someone moving through the night. Once pointed out, Magma spotted them too, her unnaturally good night vision allowing her to better make out the person concealed by the darkness. It was none other than the farm woman she’d spoken to earlier! But there was something off. The woman had no torch or lantern, and she did not seem to be looking to her feet in the dim starlight to avoid tripping or stumbling. Neither did she once look back or around as she approached the tree line. Instead, her movement seemed both strangely stiff yet perfectly confident as she entered the forest.

The three companions followed, with Magma and her dark vision allowing her to better lead the way. The woman ahead of them seemed to know the exact location of each leaf, branch, briar, and vine, and avoided them all with effortless ease. Magma, and her companions, in contrast, made more noise than they would have liked as they attempted to keep up with the woman… yet strangely, she never once turned to notice them.

Over the course of another half hour, the woman lead the companions deeper and deeper into the forest until she emerged into a clearing. In the center was a small lake perhaps a hundred feet wide at its widest point. And, in the center of the lake was a small grassy island with a single ornate stone pillar similar to the one in the center of the town! Like before, the townswoman preceded on the straightest path to her goal which now seemed to clearly be the pillar. She waded into the cold water without a moment’s hesitation and swam the short distance over to the island before taking to her feet again and moving to touch the pillar. That’s when something truly strange happened! The woman’s hand and arm pushed through the pillar with some effort, and vanished into it as if it were some kind of portal. This must have been what happened to the other townsfolk!

Magma and her companions sprung into action.

Cheldan reached into his lumpy bag and pulled out then assembled pieces of a tube about the size of his forearm which he then threw at the woman and the pillar. It shattered on impact with the ground and released a large mass of stringy webbing that slowed the woman’s progress into the pillar.

Meanwhile, Red said a brief prayer then ran across the surface of the water as quickly as he could in his heavy armor. He grabbed the woman who was now more than halfway into the pillar and attempted to pull her back.

Magma approached the lake but stopped at its edge. Maybe it was just the though of throwing herself into the near freezing water, but no… something else made her stop. There was a foreboding feeling she got at the though of crossing through the water to the island beyond. Instead of wading in, she did what she did worst, and paced anxiously back and forth along the pond’s bank desperately wishing to be useful.

Within in moments, everything began to go awry. The webbing Cheldan had deployed, which had worked wonders on creatures large and small in the past, seemed to do little to deter the woman from the pillar. Likewise, although Red was the largest and strongest in their group, his attempts to pull the woman back met with little success before she somehow tugged free of his strong grasp! Finally, having waited long enough, Magma let lose bolts of fire directed towards the top of the pillar. Her first hit the obelisk and it seemed for a moment as if the woman’s progress was slowed, but Magma’s second bolt missed in her frustration and went wide into the forest beyond. The trees around the three companions shuttered and frightening nosies and whispers rose to prominence from among the them even as the woman disappeared completely into the pillar. The unnatural noises of the forest continue to increase and the three companions look at each other uncomfortably.

“Maybe we should leave?” Magma suggested, but as she did so, a tall, white-skinned woman emerged from the lake. She was elegant and timeless with long hair, indistinct eyes, and a flowing dress that turned into a thick misty fog that concealed her lower legs and feet. The woman hovered atop the water as her fog spilled out across the lake. She was the spitting image of one of the goddesses depicted back in the town square. A nature goddess of some type, if Magma remembered correctly.

The goddess looked among the companions then asked in an echoing voice filled with warning and contempt, “You trespass! Why have you disturbed us, the powers and spirits of this forest? Why have you threatened our designs?”

Magma was the first to speak, her hair and body now glowing with worry and challenge. “We did not mean to trespass, we only wished to help the people of the nearby town. Several have gone missing like the woman who just now entered the pillar behind you. One was found dead at the forest’s edge, his flesh torn apart as if by some sort of beast. What have you to say to that?” She demanded.

“You come to our forest and make demands of us?” The spirit woman asked incredulously.

“We come to put an end to these disappea…” Magma began, but was cut short when Red spoke over her from across the lake.

“We have only come to gain understanding of why the people of the town have been vanishing into your forest. Why the one was killed at its edge. We have no demands of our own,” Red said diplomatically while glaring at Magma from across the water. The Genasi glowered back, but, for the moment, she held her tongue.

“The death… it was not our doing. It was… inconvenient. The others? We took them in recompense, in payment for their peoples’ misdeeds. We have repaid them three fold for what they have done. The woman just now was the last. On this small part… we are satisfied.”

“What was the town’s crime?” Red asked.

“They stole from us,” the spirit woman said, a harsh, angry edge now present in her voice. “They built their pillars and sapped the life of our forest so that their harvest would remain bountiful come snow or drought. But we are finally free enough of their magic. For fifty cycles of the seasons they used their ill-gotten power, and so for one hundred and fifty cycles, the snows will come and their crops will perish”

“You said the debt was repaid… that you were satisfied!” Magma challenged.

“On one small part, yes. But the years, too, must be repaid. All of the forest demands it. Nature itself demands it. On this, there is nothing we can do, even if we wished it.”

Magma took a step back, her face filled with worry and sadness. “But… few if any in the town know know of these wrongs. They are good people who will be punished for something they did not agree to. Is there nothing we can do?” she asked, clearly in anguish over the thought of so many being harmed.

“There was one who knew, but she is of little consequence to us now. She fancies herself a protector of the people and facilitator of the good harvests, but she is a hidden rot, a hag disguised as a helper among the people. It is she who killed and devoured the one you spoke of. He was to be ours, but instead we were forced to choose another. The long winter cannot be stopped, it is already here. By morning this plentiful green valley will be buried in snowfall. But, it may be delayed perhaps long enough for you to warn these people you hold so dear. A payment delivered for services rendered.”

“What services? What can we do to help?” Red asked.

“The one you spoke of. I think we know who she is. You say she is of no consequence, but we have a story among my people,” Cheldan said, speaking up for the first time. 

“There was once a fisherman in the islands of my people that went out every day and caught just what fish he needed to live. But one day a greedy gull saw this, and would sneak along and steal from the fisherman when he didn’t see. Day after day the fisherman would have to fish up more than he needed because of the gull’s theft, till at last the sea grew angry and lashed out, sinking the ship. But the gull escaped, and found another ship, hungry to glut itself on more fish. The sea sank ship after ship, until at last there were no more. But by then, the waves were too rough, the currents too wild, so no more fish would live there. So all were ruined by a greedy gull, who flew free still.” 

“You speak wisely,” the spirit said in admiration. “Very well, Do these two things and the forest and valley will coexist in peace one again after the long winter ends. First, we will deal with the pillars within our forest in time, but there is a larger pillar, one that stretches from deep in the earth to taller than even our trees in the sky. The others are of little consequence, but the final pillar is out of our reach and beyond our power. Smash it so that true healing may begin. Second, rid us of the deceiver we spoke of. She must not be allowed to steal our power a second time. Do this, and we will delay the onset of our wrath long enough for you to lead the innocent to safety beyond the valley.”

“Thank you,” Red replied. “We will do as you ask. Is there any chance you can speed us back to the edge of the forest?”

“No,” the spirit woman answered. With that, she sunk back into the water and the angry sounds of the forest ceased.

The three companions stood still for a moment, surprised at the devastation coming soon to the town and at the deals they made to delay but not avoid it. It was Magma, naturally, who spoke first.

“Come on, guys! We did it! We solved the puzzle. Now, let’s smash it and save these people,” she said excitedly, glowing brightly once more.

“That is not how puzzles work,” Cheldan said to her with a wry smile. She just scoffed and relit the fire in her hands so she could help guide her companions back through the woods once more. An hour later they emerged back at the town where there seemed to be quite the commotion going on. Though some snow was falling, it did not appear that the deadly blizzard had yet to start. Their first task was to find Welty, or rather give him a way to find them which Magma made simple by shooting several bolts of fire high into the air.

A short time later, the small rogue appeared out of the shadows, looking haggard from his time sneaking into the manor in search of clues. He was injured quite badly, in fact, something Red saw to with a spell of healing.

“Helgram, the fortune teller,” Welty told the others breathlessly, “she isn’t what she appears. She attacked me, and would have killed me if not for the priestess we met this morning. She saved me and fought Helgram while I escaped. I think she is in serious trouble if she isn’t already dead.”

“We need to find her and a pillar. One far bigger than the one in town. We were told it is both buried deep and is taller than the trees.” Red said.

“The only thing taller than the trees around her is the Lord’s tower at his manor,” Welty answered.

“The Lady spoke of catacombs this morning,” Cheldan said.

The four companions looked to each other then all at once rushed back to the manor. There they told the Lord and Lady all that had happened. The Lord seemed incredulous at first, but then revealed he had suspected something was amiss for some time and had been going into the forest in secret in order to protect his town and his wife and avoid the suspicion of the fortune teller. He quickly led them to a secret tunnel set behind a bookshelf in his grand study and told the four companions that it lead down into the hidden catacombs.

Inside was a series of tunnels leading to unused burial chambers, which made sense since the manor itself had only been built some fifty years ago. No one in the family had died since its construction. The four searched the passages for the better part of an hour before they came across a room supported by four columns. There, a number of shadowy creatures emerged from the darkness and rushed to attack. Though two or three of the creatures got hits in on Magma and the others, two of them fell instantly to Magma’s twin fire bolts. Their edges burned and flickered until they were consumed by fire. All but one of the others were destroyed by a blast of bright divine light that lit the entire room as Red channeled the power of his god. The final one, weakened by the holy light, fell and dissipated when Welty delivered a surprising killing blow with his rapier.

The four pressed on and soon found a secret door that had been left open. Inside, they found a large round chamber with a huge pillar that extended from the floor all the way up through the ceiling. It had to be the core of the Lord’s tower! And there, at the base of the pillar, was the priestess, beaten, bruised, and passed out on the ground. And towering above her was not the airy, good natured fortune teller, but a large monstrous werehag with rows of sharp teeth and large arms that ended in sharp claws. She greeted them with the teller’s voice, saying, “I know why you’ve come, but you cannot stop me! I’ll weather this storm and deal the forest a harsh lesson once it ends.”

She took one look at the adventurers bunched in the doorway and unleashed a powerful swirling storm of wind and ice at them. Some of the adventurers managed to shield themselves from the storm, and Cheldan, especially, seemed to weather it just fine thanks to a blessing gifted to him by the forest spirit as they departed her lake. Magma, however, faced the blast head on. She glowed in bright defiance, as her fiery magic rebuffed much of the icy attack.

All at once, her companions struck back. Red flanked the hag and struck at her with his sword. Welty delivered a painful attack while she was distracted. Cheldan wrapped her in a thorny vine and pulled her closer, all of which gave Magma the shot she needed. She called upon her fiery heritage and unleashed four blindingly bright bolts that briefly lit the room. The first, and most powerful, along with the third and forth struck the fortune teller turned werehag and left sizable smoldering burns on her chest and torso.

In response to the group’s attacks, Helgram took to the air on a broom she had nearby. Magma ran round the pillar in an attempt to flank the hag, but Helgram flew the other way and cut her off. Welty fired an arrow at her as she flew, and some of the others tried to strike her as well, but their efforts did little good.

“I deal with you in just a moment, darling,” Helgram said with a vile, toothy smile. She turned and unleashed an even more devastating blast of ice at the others in the room. The priestess who still lay motionless near the pillar was shielded from the blast, and Cheldan with his gift from the forest spirit along with his thick, turtle-like shell fared the best of those caught within it. Red, too, avoided much of the deadly cold by deflecting it with his heavy armor.

Welty, however, was not so fortunate. The Halfling Rogue saw the icy blast approaching in time that his finely honed reflexes would have been more than sufficient to save him, but it was not to be. At the last moment he remembered Helgram’s words about ice storms and failure. Her words turned out to be more than just a pretend glimpse into the future. They were, instead a powerful curse she had placed upon him. Where he normally would have dodged to safety, Welty instead stood and suffered the full brunt of the icy attack. He fell to the ground bloody and unconscious a moment later.

“You all should have listened to my fortune!” The hag called out, sure she had won.

“Did you forget…” Magma asked, with determination and no small amount of smugness in her voice, “…that I make my own fate?”

The Fire Genasi pulled on every last reserve of strength and magic she had and unleashed it upon the flying hag. First, a fiery pinpoint of light streaked from her hand and detonated in front of the sneering former fortune teller, sending her smoldering body smashing up against the chamber’s circular wall. Then, an intense bolt of fire streaked towards the hapless hag and burned a deep hole into her chest.

Helgram fell to the dirt floor badly burned, but still not quite finished. She pushed herself up on her hands and looked to Magma, and over to the others, then, with a pained, agony filled voice said, “I… will have my revenge…” She cast one last spell then fell back to the dirt.

There was no time to verify Helgram’s demise, however, as the temperature in the room began to drop dangerously fast. Soon, a breeze picked up and intensified into a circular icy swirl that ripped at the walls and at central pillar and threatened to finish off the brave adventurers. It was only thanks to Red’s wide cast healing spell and the now revived priestess’ healing magic that they managed to get Welty on his feet and everyone back out the way they came. Magma and Red pelted the ice-weakened pillar with fire and a final arrow from Welty widened a devastating crack at its core that saw the whole thing, along with the tower it held up, come crashing downwards.

Back on the surface, the four companions and the rescued priestess had the unenviable task of telling a town of hundreds that their easy lives filled with plentiful harvests would have to change. That a deal that they had no real part in saw to it that several of them were lost to the forest spirits and that their town and entire valley were doomed to a snowfall that would last longer than any of their lives. They didn’t believe it at first. There were shouts and anger, but as the snow intensified, the realization that these adventurers were right quickly set in.

The forest spirit upheld her end of the bargain. Though the snow continued to fall, it built up slowly over the next few days giving most of the townspeople ample time to collect their belongings and exit the valley in an orderly fashion. Only a few stubborn souls stayed behind, unwilling to leave the land they had lived in all their lives. They, and their entire valley, were buried under several crushing feet of intense snowfall by the time the last of the townspeople had escaped to safety.

Magma looked back over the miles and miles of white and felt a eerie chill tug at her heart. She’d helped save an entire town. Even started the long process of restoring a balance between people and nature. But there was something about Helgram’s final words. Were a few arrows and stabs and fiery blasts enough to kill a creature that had spent decades siphoning the power of an entire forest?

‘Well, if not, I’ll just have to make sure I’m ready for her,’ Magma thought as she turned back toward the crowd of people, carts, and horses slowly making their way away from the snow-filled valley. It was going to be a long and possibly frustrating journey helping all these people resettle, but at least this time, she’d have someone to talk to.