The adventurers’ latest mission has them sailing north to the Sea of Moving Ice aboard the longship Frostskimmr, seeking the iceberg that was the last known location of a tiefling woman, Maccath the Crimson. She is a renowned expert on the Draakhorn, an artifact being used by the Cult of the Dragon. Maccath hasn’t been heard from in three years, and it is feared that she may have run afoul of the dragon Arauthator, the Old White Death.
After leaving Waterdeep’s harbor, good omens of dancing dolphins are soon drowned by a winter gale. The further north the Frostskimmr sails, the colder it gets and the more ice drifts they encounter. Eventually, the ice floes are big enough that Captain Lerustah has the longship pulled onto a big ice floe at night. He assures them that all is well.
It is bitterly cold in the open air vessel and keeps getting worse. Jamna spends much of the trip bundled up inside Hurk’s greatcoat for warmth. She insists its simply a matter of her small body mass proving less effective at retaining heat. Yeah, that’s it.
As the Frostskimmr ventures into the shifting archipelago of icebergs, the crew spots a distant ship following them. After a discussion with Lerustah, the party decides to press onward rather than confronting their pursuer.
It takes five days of searching in the sea of moving ice before they find the iceberg mentioned in Maccath’s notes. They approach cautiously, and Lerustah observes signs of Ice Hunters, the human tribes native to the region. The are not known to be hostile.
The party decides to have the longship pulled up onto an ice shelf at the base of the iceberg. A huge pile of bones is there, showing bite marks from a large predator, likely the dragon according to Lerustah. The party leaves him to shore up defenses while they press on to the icy plateau above.
They are greeted by the sight of ten corpses frozen in a wall of ice, three Luskar warriors, a dwarf, and six Ice Hunters, the nomadic people of the Sea of Moving Ice. Beyond, they discover a hidden village of Ice Hunters. The villagers hastily run out to confront them. Beryl casts tongues on Hurk so he could negotiate with them in their native language, as none speak Common.
The Ice Hunter chieftain immediately tells Hurk to leave. Garrett spots a couple villagers slipping away to the meeting hall in the village. The rogue also notices there are no elderly among the tribe. Hurk realizes they are lying and challenges them. The chieftain suggests a contest of strength and valor to earn their place in the village. Hurk will face their champion, Orcaheart. The two will hurt each other until one is unconscious. Magic is forbidden to be used.
Orcaheart gets the upper hand and Hurk realizes he won’t be able to batter the man down. He tries to knock Orcaheart over, but the champion won’t budge. So a badly wounded Hurk decides to switch from swords to his silver tongue, and demands to know what happened to the Ice Hunter elders.
An intimidated Orcaheart quietly admits that the dragon slew them and its lair is inside the iceberg. He reveals that the Ice Hunters have been forced to serve it. Hurk convinces him that the party can slay the creature.
So they attempt to fake Orcaheart losing the fight. The initial swing obviously doesn’t connect and Orcaheart falls unconvincingly to the ground. He then starts clutching at his face, pretending the half-orc threw something in his eyes. While he writhes around on the ground, Hurk finally manages to land a blow on him. Orcaheart goes limb, pretending to have been knocked unconscious.
It’s a passable showing that convinces most of the village, but Hurk suspects the chieftain and the young shaman Bonecarver have their doubts. As Bonecarver treats Orcaheart’s “wounds,” he whispers something to her.
The chieftain welcomes the adventurers to the village and says they will be tended to by Bonecarver. She takes them to her yurt, and comes clean. The dragon has effectively enslaved the villagers, using them as spies and demanding they provide food and tribute. She believes that the village will eventually be destroyed by the dragon, and has had visions that the totem spirits would send heroes to slay it. She prays that the party are those heroes.
She explains that the dragon has been alerted to their presence and she is expected to poison them so they can be taken prisoner. She gives them a general description of the ice cavern’s layout and warns them of the dragon’s servants, including ice trolls and ice toads.
“Frogs,” Jamna shivers, “why does it always have to be frogs.”
There is a little used entrance to the caves under Bonecarver’s hut, and a more frequently used one under the meeting hall. She also tells them that the one they seek, Maccath the Crimson, is also being held prisoner below. The party tries to determine the best route through the caverns to get to the dragon without running into a lot of minions.