What had begun months before as a goblin hunt through the swamps outside of Sandpoint and become a quest for the forgotten history of the Kaijitsu family in the bowels of a ruined castle had led the company to the northern reaches of the Inner Sea. Their investigations into the ruins of Brinewall, however, had stirred the notice of powerful forces from a world away who wanted the Kaijitsu secret to stay dead. Through the land of the Linnorm Kings in the city of Kalsgaard they were hunted by a cult of assassins but found an unexpected ally in their former comrade Kotoro. With the ninja’s help they confronted the Frozen Shadow cult in their own lair, where Kotoro gave his life to protect his friends from Kimandatsu, the oni leader who fled the scene to report back to her masters. There in the bowells of Kimandatsu’s monastery they found the intelligent blade Suishen, an ancient katana said to hold the spirit of the first of the Kaijitsu lineage and symbol of the Kaijitsu family line. It was Suishen who finally answered Ameiko and Shinja’s questions about their family and why they were being hunted from the far side of the world. He told them of treachery and betrayal, of a once trusted adviser in jade green armor striking down his sworn liege in cold blood and then seizing power for his oni masters.
The sisters heard what the sword had to say and came to a decision. Rather than being hunted for the rest of their lives for who they had been born to they would make the journey to their homeland and claim their family legacy. Despite the long journey across the frozen tundra that they faced, they were not traveling alone. Rowan the Greenwitch, who could feel a sick wrongness and a desperate plea from across the pole, and who’s eyes never left the older Kaijitsu sister. Garub, the goblin who started a fledgling revolution of literacy among some of his kind and now sought the formula to unlocking their intellectual potential. Montresse, who had so long pursed vengeance for his family and now finally had a name to pursue, the Oni of the Five Storms. And Larken, the halfling knight with a message from his lost master to follow his path across the crown of the world. Others had joined their cause along the way. Sandru and Shaleylu, old friends and adventuring companions of Ameiko, though they still refused to speak of what had brought them back to Sandpoint. Spivey, the diminuitive fae cleric, eager to see more of the world outside of her shrine. Kelda Oxgutter, the Ulfen raider who could usually be found by following the trail of bar brawls in her wake. Rolf Gormunde, the northern ranger and guide who was the only one could lead the caravan across the High Ice in the midst of the storm season. And Skygni, the Winter Wolf rescued from the cells of Kimandatsu’s lair who, despite his malevolent nature, had been convinced to aid in the crossing as a native of the frozen tundra.
It had been nearly a month since they had set out from Kalsgaard into the tundra, and it had been difficult going from the first icy step. Biting, howling winds found every gap in the wagons and the temperature dropped lower by the day. Garub had been spending most of his days producing potions and salves to take the edge off of the severity of the elements, but warmth was still a fleeting memory at this point. At times the trail they followed would vanish into the snow drifts and the caravan would sit and wait as Rolf disapeared into the white to find the path, seemingly heedless of the extreme conditions. Other times Skygni showed them hidden ways and passages known to his kind that even Rolf admitted, though it was clear he was loathe to, that he would not have found on his own. Twice they had had to fight off raids from frost giants who had hoped to find the caravan easy pickings, and once an Arctic Chimera who’s territory they had accidentaly stumbled into. The horses struggled to manage the harsh cold, so Rolf arranged a trade with one of the few native Erutaki tribes they had come across to exchange them for a team of elk who were a bit slower, but more stuited to the ice. Ameiko spent most of her time with Suishen, often accompanied by her sister, learning all that they could of their family history in the land of Minkai. As the temperature grew colder tempers flared hotter. Cold-warped wheels and brittle hardware had Sandru in a foul mood most days, Rolf and Skygni could not be within sight of each other without snarls from both, and all longed for when they could escape the constant chill that still managed to creep through even the heaviest of coats and the strongest of Garub’s potions.
But for all of that there was beauty out amidst the snow and ice. As sunlight broke across the mountains the vast white expanses would sparkle and glitter as if made of diamond and glass. At night the skies would explode in swaths of color as the Northern Lights arched and swirled from horizon to horizon. Sandru would pull the wagons into a tight circle to block the worst of the wind and Garub would take what wood they had scavenged and a few odds and ends from his own supplies to light a fire as hot as he could manage (which always seemed to be hotter than such meager supplies should have been able to produce). The company would huddle around what warmth it offered as Ameiko, accompanied by Rowan when she could wheedle him into it, would sing songs and tell stories. And if anyone noticed that none of her stories touched on her own travels, well they were grateful enough for the distraction not to comment on it. They were their own little world, a single glowing ember alone amidst the vast darkness of the tundra.