Heavy and sticky, the snow begins to fall in earnest as the night moves on. A sliver of moon casts silvery shadows across the whitening landscape whenever it appears from behind the dark clouds. The road stretches forth like a ribbon across the vast expanse of grassland occasionally passing through a copse of trees near a creek or in sheltered crevices. In the dark the needles of the jack pine and spruce contrast darkly against the growing blanket of snow. Linden, maple and elm trees stand with their branches reaching skyward, bare of leaves, looking like supplicants praying to the heavens for the coming of the next spring.
By night the Northreach seems to bustle with even more animal life than during the day. A variety of owls command the skies, hunting for the voles and other vermin that stand out starkly as they skitter across the fresh snowfall. Coyotes yip and call to one another as they roam about restlessly, looking for small game or carrion. Hares, moles and other animals poke out from their hidden burrows, greeting the night in their curious and timid ways.
Matrim and Kandure scout ahead of the group, both wary for signs of the wights. The rest of the party is silent, a sense of foreboding hanging over all. Each member is anxious of meeting the wights, but all know the consequences for the village of Veniset if they fail to do so. Only Terrence, seemingly ignorant of his companions brooding, breaks the quiet with the odd enthusiastic outburst.
The night is late when the Company of the Manticore comes upon a wagon abandoned in the centre of the road. No tracks lead to or from it, so it is apparent that the heavily laden vehicle has been there for some time. It is some minutes before Kandure discovers the bodies of the mutilated horses, forty feet away in a stand of tall grass.
No one needs to put voice to the thought common amongst the group: this is definitely the path that the wights took, and they are most likely adding to their numbers.
Weary from so much hard travel, Matrim rubs his gloved hand over his face. A quick rest before dawn seems to be a wise course. As the party clears a spot for a fire and breaks out the simple meal provided by the refugees of Tundrein, the more curious members find themselves digging through the contents of the wagon. Casks of oil, bags of flour and jars of honey make up the bulk of the contents. A bale of cow skins and two sacs of onions round it out. There is nothing else of real value.
Despite the cold and wet most of the company manages to catch at least a snippet of sleep. A double watch is posted, though little enough happens to disturb the camp. When the eastern horizon begins to hearken the beginning of a new day the group is awakened and set themselves to a quick meal before once more readying their mounts.
It is then that Kandure approaches Matrim and Sebastian:
These bastards are going to be tough and we will need all of the help that we can get. When you get to Veniset, look to Gregor Lavery, he is the captain of the village militia. I will take another road and see if I can’t fetch aid from a different source.
The woodsman hardly waits for an answer, pulling himself into the saddle of his tireless shaggy horse. With Loqutore loping by his side, Kandure turns off of the road and rides south across the grass land, never pausing to look back.
Two days later the weather has only worsened. A harsh wind from the east blows the ever-present snow into your faces. Both mounts and riders are desperately weary from the hard ride and the bitter cold. Signs of the passing wights have been scattered along the road in the form of abandoned camps and desolate farmsteads. Belatedly you realize the cunning of these creatures of death. Certainly they are not a howling mob. They are cunning, sending forth a few members of their pack to scout out and take their victims unaware or else lure them into an ambush. It is a revelation that chills you even more than the coming winter.
The countryside becomes more rocky as lumpy hills sprout from the grasslands. The trees grow thicker and the grass more sparse. It is nearing midday when you round a bend in the road and see ahead of you a familiar stretch of highway that crosses an old timber bridge you know to lie just beyond the boundaries of Veniset. To the north a heavy copse of pine forest covers a swath of land that cuts around the village and stretches east to where the Sea Road runs straight to Port Parlone and the westernmost shores of Bangle Bay. To your right the stoney hills are covered in scrubby bushes and thick grasses that still poke their thick, yellow stalks above the snow.
A sinking feeling fills the group as Matrim searches the road for signs of passage. Has Veniset already been overcome? If so can this horde of undead be stopped. They are questions that echo through each of your minds.
It is with relief that Matrim finds the rather fresh tracks of the wights, turning north and slinking off into the trees. He is about to report his findings to the group when a young Ulnoran man with a thick chest and fair hair emerges from the hills leading a trio of goats. The man, bundled in sheep-skins and a fur cap, stops suddenly as he becomes aware of the group. His eyes grow wide as he surveys you.
Hullo. Is ther anythin’ I might do fer ya?