The winters are harsh in these northern realms, but you have been forced to get used to it over these past few weeks as you have taken a job guarding caravans travelling along the trade route from Sturovf to Surrig. It is a poorly paid job, but it was the only one available in Surrig, where you found yourself after following a known felon to these northerly lands. You captured him, finally, and handed him over to the authorities, but you did not have enough money to pay for a coach trip back to the lands of your birth. Hence, the boring job on pitiable pay that you find yourself stuck with.
Your job is to guard a troupe of caravans that stop off at every north-man settlement along the several-hundred mile trade route. It is an uncomfortable journey, particularly since you have to travel ahead of the convoy, eyes peeled for traps, ambushes or impassable roads. The tundra, the name given to the land terrain that you are travelling through, is barren and desolate, covered in frost and snow for nine months of the year. According to Khris, the owner of the caravan company, in the late spring and summer it is awash with brightly coloured flowers, and many creatures come out from hibernation to bask in the warm sunshine. Unfortunately, it is the third month since yuletide, and spring has yet to come to this vast, icy desert.
It is late one night, as you are settling down to rest, that the sound of a horn breaks the silence, echoing off rocks and the few diseased trees for miles around. You quickly rise and find Khris, who tells you that in these northlands, the sound of a horn almost always means distress; it is a request for assistance. Another trader rushes over to you, telling you that the sound came from the next settlement along the route, a small village of about fifty north-men. Khris turns to you and asks you to scout ahead. Reluctantly you agree and saddle the horse provided, making a prompt start.
You pick your way carefully through the ice and snow; a lantern held aloft in your right hand, the bridle held in your left. It is just after midnight that you arrive at the settlement, but none of your adventuring exploits could have prepared you for the bloody scene of carnage that waited there for you.
The wooden doors of the wooden barricade encircling the village have been completely ripped from their hinges. One lies in the snow about twenty-five paces away. You quietly dismount and tie up your horse. Entering through the remains of the gates, you are struck by the bloodbath inside. No one has survived the onslaught; the horn and all around is silent now, and eve more shall be so. The bodies of the men have been butchered in unspeakable ways, and most are covered in the claw-marks of what seems to be a huge creature with inhuman strength. Many or the bodies have bite-marks on them, and some are missing limbs. Shocked and repulsed, and more than a little worried about whether the beast that did this is still here, you carefully pick your way back over the wreckage of what was once a thriving community and leave.
You remount your horse without delay and, heedless of the potentially dangerous terrain, you gallop as fast as you dare back along the trail towards the encampment of traders. As you speedily return, snow begins to fall from the dark sky, gently settling on the ground, covering all in a blanket of white oblivion.
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