It has taken me some time to figure out how to pen the last few days of my journey. I am still conflicted with the events that transpired, as well as confused by them.
From the Abyssal Gate of Ashmouth we headed north along the Thulwall Mountains, skirting a huge morass. Everyone was feeling irritable and Potter was drawn, oddly towards the bog. I'd told him if he wanted to go, he may, but we were continuing to the north. Fleer got an odd look in her eye and beckoned him to the driver's bench with her. She offered to help him, picking up the petite gnome and flinging him out towards the marsh. I think he attempted to cast a spell of flight, but his aerial journey ended all too abruptly on the embankment by the road, where he tumbled down into the bog. Fleer pulled up the horses, stopping and laughing whilst I hopped quickly off the carriage to help him, as he landed head first and was sinking slowly. I tried helping pull him out, but his struggles caused him to sink a bit more. I shouted for help and everyone pitched in, eventually pulling him free before he suffocated to death.
We rode on after that in silence. Many miles later, the weather turned… not just cold, but achingly so. Everything about the land was coated with a thick layers of a magical, cursed ice. It would not melt by fires normal or arcane. We were nearing Stromgald keep, fortress of the rebellion that threw off the yolk of Imperial rule many years ago. It is said the ice came when Haakon, the rebellion's leader and hero, rode out of the keep to launch an assault on the capitol of the Innistradish Imperium. The air got so chill that even our cold weather garb was not protecting us from its bone-chilling touch. The others came up with an idea to protect the majority of the group using the carriage's extradimensional trunk, in the rear of the coach. We set up a system to swap people out at pre-determined intervals to prevent hypoxia and to allow others to get out of the cursed cold. Only Fleer, Seraphim stayed out entirely. Fleer was determined to guide the horses to Stromgald before night fell, Seraphim seemed unaffected by the chill, likely due to her heritage and I, well I've been told I am stubborn.
As we rode, Fleer noticed the horses had changed, they seemed bigger and their hooves glowed with a lambent flame. We stopped to investigate and determined they had not been changed into Nightmares, but were apparently now Ashmouth Stallions. A hearty breed that was very similar to nightmares, but not inherently evil. This is likely a side effect of slaying the Demon of Ashmouth. With some experimentation, we discovered they could fly… the carriage, however, could not.
It was dusk before we reached the rimed fortress of Stromgald. We sat before the large, raised drawbridge of the fortress, Fleer walking the horses to keep their hooves alight so they would not freeze and yelled up at the battlements, requesting entrance. Several long minutes passed before loud cracks rent the air, an almost metallic echo as long frosted over chains and wood began to move, the frozen and petrified wood of the drawbridge lowering slowly. We entered into the courtyard, a black Pegasus circled above, whirling in the chill air before landing gracefully before us. It was Haakon, he who broke the Imperium's back in Innistrad. I knew what he… it was, but it offered us hospitality, provided we accepted and accepted our responsibilities required therein. They would give us food and shelter, offer us neither harm nor hurt as long as we offered no ill intent as well. It rankled against me, but we were freezing and likely outnumbered by the undead more than I'd like to imagine. I gave my word I would not break hospitality, provided me and mine were unharmed both physically and spiritually.
He treated us to dinner in a frozen dining hall, long unused, but they had torches and a grand fire going, bringing the temperature up to merely intolerable. Foodstuffs were thawed and cooked for us, their kitchen in use for the first time since they rose up in rebellion. We ate in nearly complete silence, Fleer apologizing for my lack of manners. I thought I was quite well behaved in the presence of abomination. I am a man of my word and was polite, if not the most pleasant of tone. It was a creature of its word as well, we left early the next morning. Fleer was quiet the next few days, it took us three to get to the next town out of the frozen land. Potter was delirious with a lack of sleep by then, having had nightly nightmares, writhing in his sleep, clutching his arm as if it was possessed. She had me check him after he finally passed out during the day from sheer exhaustion and I set up a devil's trap around him and performed an exorcism. While I prepared, Seraphim gazed upon him, seeing a faint aura of evil about him, troubling to say the least. The exorcism passed with no signs of any change in him, the evil taint lingered on.
Seraphim offered to perform a rite that would endanger her existence to try, but might clear the evil from the gnome. Fleer didn't think it would work and was not worth the huge risk. An argument broke out and the passionate warrior stomped out of the tavern we'd stopped at, into the night. Marcus left as well, angered by what transpired and mentioned moving on to do what he'd really come to do, build an order of holy guns, like himself, to hold back the night.
When Potter awoke, Seraphim asked him if she could make the attempt, and with some light coercion, he agreed readily enough. We left to the outskirts of town and I set up a temporary shelter for her ritual. She drew a religious circle around the three of us. I held his hand and vowed if he were injured, I would be there to heal him, Seraphim promised all damage inflicted on him would make its way to her instead. She prayed to her deity, Avecyn, Champion against the Pit and used the half-headed spear blade of the Spear of Avecyn she owned and sliced the Mark of The King in Yellow (I won't even mention his name in script) off of Potter's shoulder and indeed, it was her who bled, holy power infusing them both. There was a concussive wave of force and all of the Avecynians were left powerless. Seraphim got to her feet, apologizing for the attempt and left. Potter was unchanged, but unhurt. I think Seraphim's Faith might have suffered somewhat. Later that day she purchased a horse and rode back towards Thraben for answers from Father Matthias, leaving us a fractured band of hunters. The power of the remaining Avecynian, Viktor remains gone, we shall see if it returns.