The Orb of Fire and Ice
A thousand years ago, the Kingdom of Ethrenduil was thriving, prosperous and peaceful, despite its location at the edge of the Far North. Most of its population lived in the valley of the same name whose natural advantages ensured the kingdom's existence. Towering rock walls sheltered the valley from the bitter wind that roared across the glaciers that formed its northern boundary while also serving as a barrier against all aggressors. Warm springs bubbled fresh and plentiful water onto the valley floor for drinking and agriculture. The soil was fertile and, despite the short summers, the harvest was plentiful year after year.
In an attempt to guarantee the valley's prosperity for all time, the Lord Magister Aevenin, advisor to the throne in all matters arcane, crafted a magic item in an attempt to control nature itself. He believed that the ability to control flame and snow, summer and winter, would enable the kingdom to expand beyond the confines of the valley and achieve its rightful place as a great power. He created a magical orb that would allow its owner to bend fire and frost to his will, to be protected against their destructiveness, and, by doing so, forge an even brighter future for the kingdom. Alas, the Orb of Fire and Ice, as it became known, was not nearly so powerful as the Lord Magister had promised. The manufacture of the orb had cost the King dearly, and he was furious at Aevenin and threatened him with banishment.
Aevenin pleaded for mercy and promised to correct his failings. Seeing no other option, Aevenin entered the Elemental Chaos and sought a solution. His wanderings led him to the realm of a great being, whose name is since lost, who offered to "fix" the orb and imbue it with the power to do everything that Aevenin had promised the King. The being required no payment for this deed and, suspicious though he should have been, Aevenin accepted its aid. Polishing the Orb in a fleece of crystal shards, the being enchanted the Orb with magics that Aevenin only barely understood. He returned to the Kingdom with a much more powerful Orb of Fire and Ice and was welcomed as a hero. His status was short-lived, however, as the true nature of the Orb became apparent almost immediately. The winters in the Valley grew deeper, darker, and colder. The summers, although remaining short, grew hotter and drier. Within ten years, Ethrenduil, which had always known cool but pleasant summers and mild winters, ceased to exist. Scorching summers destroyed the farms, burnt the grasses, and ravaged the forests; the Valley became a desert. Frigid winters covered the valley in tens of feet of snow and ice; glacial wasteland became the norm.
A single city, Illarder, remained, its inhabitants clinging to a pitiful existence. The Mages Guild, which had replaced the Lord Magister years before and had been researching a means to counter the Orb's magics, learned of a possible method to destroy it. By returning the Orb to the Elemental Chaos and the realm of the being who had tricked Aevenin, wrapping it in the fleece of shards and striking it with a powerful blow, the Orb would split into two halves and its magic would cease--or so they hoped. Twin brothers were chosen to undertake this quest, Gorian Miser and Thradiculd Miser, both great warriors who also studied the arcane mysteries. They entered the Elemental Chaos and did exactly as the Mages Guild instructed them.
The Orb was shattered in two, and the magics that had destroyed Ethrenduil were undone, but the brothers paid a terrible price. Buffetted by arcane energies in the ensuing explosion, the brothers were thrown back into the world near the site of their entry into the Elemental Chaos. Illarder was completely destroyed and when the brothers woke up, they found that they were no longer human. Gorian became a creature of fire; Thradiculd a creature of ice; both were immortal, malevolent and hateful. Their deepest hatreds were reserved for the other for each believed that the other had incorrectly followed the Mages Guild's instructions and was therefore responsible for the explosion that destroyed Illarder and transformed them.
Unable to stand the sight of the other, each brother retrieved that half of the Orb with which he had an affinity and fled. They found, however, that they could not stay apart; the two half-orbs keep bringing the brothers together. Almost by clockwork, every thirteen years on the night of the Winter Solstice, the brothers meet somewhere in the frozen north and do battle. But every thirteen years, the battle ends with both brothers unconscious, near death, and unable to achieve his goal. Initially, they believed that by killing the other, they could assume control of both halves of the Orb, destroy it once and for all, and end their accursed existence. Now however, after one thousand years, insanity, and the whisperings of the shattered orbs in their mind, they know not why that do battle.
When their battles began, the brothers fought in solitude, hiding each of their halves of the Orb where they were sure the other would be unable to find it. Over the years, however, magical servants have joined them, elemental beings drawn to their ever increasing power--or to the power of the Orb. These servants, three Aspects of Fire and three of Ice, meet at the site of the battle and jointly guard the Orb halves from the brothers. When the battle is complete, the three Aspects take their master's half of the shattered orb, retrieve his broken and unconscious body, and travel to their citadels until the next battle--always thirteen years in the future.
The battles are known about by all cultures of the North, by every people of every race, but their true aspect is unknown to all but a few. Known as the Storm of Winter's Fire, most believe the battles to be a strange magical storm and not a battle between two sentient beings at all. The results are certainly more akin to a storm of some kind than a battle: whole swaths of forest are left ablaze, the snow melted and the air filled with misty steam, other areas completely covered in a layer of thick ice, plants and animals frozen solid, to remain that way until the spring thaw. The damage is horrific, and all are thankful that the "Storm" only comes once every thirteen years.
An Elf in Need
The Winter Solstice approaches. The Elves of Hallin Duar-Whyn know the history of the Brothers Miser and know that this year is the Thirteenth in their cycle. Fearing that a magical battle raging across their realm will cause great damage to the evergreen forests and their inhabitants and knowing that they have not the means to prevent it, they have opted to follow an unusual course of action: Seek help from the outside world.
An Elvish emissary approaches the PCs and offers a great reward if they are able to obtain two magical artifacts guarded by six elemental creatures--the Aspects of Fire and Ice. The Elves will not mention the Brothers Miser at all nor mention the battle. They will give directions into the center of the "Storm" and describe the Aspects and the two shattered orb-halves. If questioned, the elves will describe the full powers of the orb-halves but will do everything that they can to convince the PCs of accepting the quest without discussing the Brothers. They fear that the truth about the Brothers and their power will scare adventurers into not making an attempt.
A Sad Song
The PCs are journeying through the winter forests of the north on their way to whatever business your campaign story dictates. They come to a small, but strongly fortified city by the name of Icelingard in time to decide to spend the night. After entering the town, they notice one specific peculiarity. Almost everyone that they pass is humming a slow and mournful tune. Passing open shop and house windows, they occassionally hear voices singing to that tune. They can pick out bits and pieces of the lyrics but would need to stop and listen to hear the whole song. If they get to an inn before hearing the whole song, have them enter the inn to find everyone in the tavern is singing, and only after the song is finished will anyone discuss business with them. The lyrics are as follows:
He's Mister White Winter, He's Mister Snow
He's Mister Icicle, Chilly Death from Below
We call him the Snow Miser, Whatever he doth touch
Turns to snow in his clutch, He's too much!
He's Mister Hot Summer, He's Mister Sun
He's Mister Heat Blister, He is the Flaming One
We call him the Heat Miser, Whatever he doth touch
Starts to burn in his clutch, He's too much!
They battle for both halves of the Orb, They battle for the right
They seek to destroy the Orb, However it is they might
He's Mister White Winter, He's Mister Snow
He's Mister Icicle, Chilly Death from Below
He's Mister Hot Summer, He's Mister Sun
He's Mister Heat Blister, He is the Flaming One
The battle they have fought, For-a one thousand years
Woe - to our people, We've shed all the tears
Woe be for our people, We've shed all the tears
When asked about the song, any of the city's inhabitants will tell the players the same thing. It is two nights before the Winter Solstice, and every thirteen years, the Storm of Winter's Fire, known by Icelingard's inhabitants as a battle between two elemental creatures, occurs on the Solstice. The city is preparing for the worst even as a select group of militiamen is making plans to enter the Storm in an attempt to capture one or both of the orb-halves and force a negotiation with the Brothers Miser. If the PCs express an interest, the innkeeper can summon the Town Constable who is willing to negotiate a reward for the orb-halves. Or, if the PCs are altruistic, they may offer to help in some way. The Constable is familiar with most details of the Brothers' history, although those details are not common knowledge among Icelingard's inhabitants, and is willing to share everything that he knows to convince the PCs to take an active interest.
Your Own Campaign Story
- As this is a single encounter designed to last something less than one full playing session, perhaps you might run it as a one-off for your players.
There are numerous ways to weave the story of the Brothers Miser into your ongoing campaign. Three examples are:
- Perhaps the Brothers Midas know some piece of lore being sought by the PCs, and the characters learn that only way to catch their attention is to make an attempt at stealing one of the orb-halves.
- Perhaps the PCs have been sent by someone not at all concerned about the plight of the northern peoples to obtain the orb-halves.
- Perhaps the PCs seek an entrance to the Elemental Chaos and believe that the Brothers Miser can help them.
The Orb of Fire and Ice
The journey to the site of the encounter can take as long or as short as your needs as DM dictate. The hook that you chose to begin the adventure will have a large bearing on this as will the geography of your campaign. In any event, the encounter takes place in a large evergreen forest at least a day's travel from the nearest settlement. Much of the journey will take place on the Winter Solstice, which means that the Storm of Winter's Fire will have already started, and the PCs will travel through it and witness, first hand, the destruction caused by the battle.
Deep snow covers the ground, and all seems normal at the beginning of the journey. However, as the characters draw closer to the site of the encounter, they will begin to understand the scope of the Storm of Winter’s Fire. Those trained in Nature will recognize very early that there is something amiss in the forest, but even those not so trained will soon realize.
The forests will be unnaturally quiet, as if the animals are in hiding. The dark grey clouds in the sky will be lit from below by a roiling reddish glow. The smell of smoke from great forest fires will become more and more prevalent. Snow will drift into great mounds in some places, and in others, there will be no snow at all. Eventually, the characters will pass trees that are still ablaze. Strangely, they will also pass trees that are completely encased in a thick layer of ice. Occasionally, they might even come across a tree one half of which if burning brightly while its other half is frozen solid. These sights will only become more and more common as they approach the encounter.
Encounter Level 15 (6500 XP)
3 Aspects of Fire (F)
3 Aspects of Ice (I)
The players reach the encounter area at the “Characters Approach” label on the map. They stand on a slight rise overlooking a river whose surface is frozen solid. A small peninsula juts from the far bank; the guardians of the broken halves of the Orb of Fire and Ice—three Aspects of Fire and three Aspects of Ice—stand in a circle around a low stone pedestal. On the pedestal sit the two artifacts; one glows a deep orange while the other glows a dull blue. The Aspects face outward from the Orb in order to keep watch on their surroundings. They are aware of the player characters but do not attack. They do not even move from their spots although those Aspects facing away from the characters turn so that all are facing them. The Aspects will not attack the character unless either one of the following conditions is met:
1. The player characters attack the Aspects. (or)
2. A player character approaches within 11 squares of the Orb.
(See below for a physical description of Aspects.)
The Aspects of Fire will spread out to prevent any area of effect spells from damaging all of them. They will then attack using their Javelin of Fire attacks while the characters are still at a distance. If some characters are attempting to hold the high ground and are located within the Avalanche Danger Area, one of the Aspects of Fire will launch a Javelin of Fire into the side of the hill and attempt to cause an avalanche. See below for details. The Aspects of Fire will then make maximum use of their mobility to harass the characters.
The Aspects of Ice will move to position themselves between the characters and the Orb. The will do everything in their power to prevent a character from reaching the Orb.
The Aspects fully understand the effects that their powers have on the frozen river and other environmental features and will use them to maximum effect against the characters. All Aspects will fight to the death.
The Brothers Miser have to this point been battling each other and have not yet encountered the characters. However, they will make their appearance and enter the battle as soon as either one of the following conditions is met:
1. The player characters kill two or more Aspects.
2. A player character approaches within 5 squares of the Orb.
Once one of these conditions is met, both Brothers will appear on the encounter map—Gorian on the northern boundary of the encounter area due north of the Orb and Thradiculd to the northeast of the Orb standing on the ice at the center of the river. One will immediately attack the character closest to the Orb. The other will attack the party’s most powerful spellcaster in range. They will use the Heat Storm or Snow Storm respectively.
They will do everything in their power to eliminate the player characters. They, too, fully understand the environment and will use it to their advantage, including setting pine trees ablaze, melting the frozen river, etc.
Because the Brothers have been battling throughout the day, they come to this battle somewhat weakened. Gorian only possesses 175 hit points upon commencing the battle. Thradiculd, taking the worst of the battle to this point, only possesses 165 hit points. Due to their weakened state at the beginning of the battle, they are only worth 1600XP each despite the fact that they are Level 14 Elite opponents.
An Aspect of Ice appears as a dour, blue skinned man wearing a suit of ice plate armor. In fact, the Aspect wears no “armor” at all; it naturally appears to do so. He carries a hammer into battle that, when not in battle, floats at his side ready to be wielded.
An Aspect of Fire is an elemental creature that inhabits the Elemental Chaos and who often serves greater elemental beings. They appear similar to an Angel of Valor as depicted in the Monster Manual. They are creatures of flame, lacking legs but humanoid from the waist up, who carry blazing scimitars into battle.
Features of the Area
The icy surface of the frozen river means that it is Challenging Terrain. The PCs can make an Acrobatics Check against a DC of 28 to move at full speed over the ice; failure means that they fall prone.
While the ice is thick enough to walk upon normally, the extreme heat generated by magical attacks (such as player character powers with the fire keyword, Aspects of Fire powers, or Gorian’s powers) can damage the ice and make it slick and even more dangerous. If any square of ice suffers 15 or more hit points of fire damage in a single round (either via an area of effect power targeting that square or an attack specifically against the ice), that square becomes a Treacherous Ice Sheet as described in Chapter 5 of the DMG with the following modifications:
Nature Check with DC of 27 to identify the ice.
Attack: + 17 vs. Reflex
Hit: 1d12 + 4 damage otherwise the same.
The Countermeasure requires a DC 31 Acrobatic check.
If a square of frozen river that is a Treacherous Ice Sheet suffers an additional 15 hit points of damage in that or any subsequent round, the ice breaks and the PC plunges into the water below. He suffers 3d6 + 4 cold damage each round that he remains in the water and 5 ongoing cold damage (save ends). This square is now considered open water. The river is shallow at this bend and reaches no deeper than 5 feet at any spot. The DM should note that damaging the ice requires the stated amount of damage in a single round; due to the subfreezing temperature and the presence of the Shattered Orb of Ice, any damaged ice “heals” at the end of each round.
Just as the river reacts to the effects of fire damage, it also reacts to cold damage. If there is any square of open water that is subjected to 20 hit points of cold damage in a single round, that water partially freezes and becomes a square of Treacherous Ice Sheet. Likewise, if a square of Treacherous Ice Sheet is subjected to 20 hit points of cold damage in a single round, it reverts to normal ice (Challenging Terrain) as described above.
Finally, should a PC be unfortunate enough to find himself in open water when it freezes to Treacherous Ice Sheet, he is immobilized. In order to free himself, he must make a Strength check against a DC of 26 to crack the ice and then must expend a move action to pull himself from the water. If a PC finds himself in open water that freezes completely back into normal ice (by being subjected to a cumulative 40 hit points of cold damage, he is immobilized. In this case, he must make a Strength check against a DC of 30 to crack the ice and then must expend a move action to pull himself from the water.
The encounter area is dotted with small pine trees that are 5 feet in diameter and 20 – 30 feet tall. Due to their small size, the pine trees are only difficult terrain—PCs can force their way through them with some difficulty. The pines do provide cover.
For damage purposes, the trees have the properties of a large wooden object as described in Chapter 4 of the DMG. A tree subjected to 10 fire damage will catch on fire. The tree will suffer 2d6 fire damage per round while it burns. Creatures who pass adjacent to a burning tree are subject to attack by the flames:
Attack: + 15 vs. Reflex
Hit: 2d6 + 5 fire damage.
Miss: Half damage.
After a burning tree suffers 40 hit points of total damage (fire and normal), it collapses in a random direction. The tree will fall horizontally and target a line of squares 1d3 + 3 squares long. Any creatures caught in those squares will be subjected to the following:
Attack: + 18 vs. Reflex
Hit: 1d10 + 3 damage, 1d10 + 3 fire damage, and is immobilized until escape. Each round that the character remains immobilized, he automatically suffers an additional 2d6 fire damage.
Countermeasures: Immobilized characters can use Acrobatics or Athletics (DC 25) to free themselves.
A fallen, burning pine tree is considered challenging terrain. To cross one, the character must make an Acrobatics or Athletics check (DC 25) to safely cross it; failure indicates that the character falls prone into the fire and suffers 1d10 + 3 fire damage.
Likewise, a tree subjected to 40 total hit points of cold damage will collapse under the weight of the accumulated ice in its needles. It collapses in a random direction, will fall horizontally, and target a line of squares 1d3 + 3 squares long. Any creatures caught in those squares will be subjected to the following:
Attack: + 18 vs. Reflex
Hit: 2d10 damage, and is immobilized until escape.
Countermeasures: Immobilized characters can use Acrobatics or Athletics (DC 27) to free themselves.
The contour lines on the encounter map show the relative elevation of the ground across the area. Those squares through which two contour lines pass are considered difficult terrain if the character is climbing up the slope or along the slope. Those squares through which three or more contour lines pass are considered challenging terrain. Climbing up the slope or along the slope requires a successful Acrobatics or Athletics check (DC 27); failure indicates that the character falls, suffering 1d6 falling damage for each contour line he crosses and landing prone at the bottom of the slope.
The Aura of the Orb
The two halves of the Orb of Fire and Ice have several different properties (most of which will need to be determined by you if you choose to maintain these artifacts in your campaign). One such property is that when the two halves are brought within five feet of each other, the Orb provides total protection to those creatures who are allies of the possessors of the orbs against fire and cold damage. Therefore in this encounter, as long as they are located within the aura, both Gorian and Thradiculd and their respective Aspects are immune to any fire or cold damage from those same beings. In the millennia long battle between the two Misers, this aura provides completely neutral ground.
Avalanche Danger Area
The area outlined by the solid red line on the encounter map is in constant danger of avalanche. Any character who is located within this area when an avalanche occurs will be subjected to the following attack:
Attack: + 20 vs. Reflex
Hit: 2d10 falling damage, the character is slid five squares to the west, and is knocked prone.
Miss: Half damage, the character is slid five squares to the west, and is knocked prone.
A character who is located within the dashed red line when an avalanche occurs will be subjected to the following attack:
Attack: + 18 vs. Reflex
Hit: 1d10 damage, the character is slid three squares to the west, and is knocked prone.
Miss: Half damage, and the character is slid two squares to the west.
An avalanche will be triggered if any square adjacent and to the west of the solid red-lined area suffers 25 hit points of fire damage or 50 points of normal damage.
The Orb of Fire and Ice Artifact Descriptions
The original Orb of Fire and Ice brought back by Aevenin from the Elemental Chaos was an artifact suitable for characters in the middle of the paragon tier and above. It granted strong immunities against both fire and cold and powers that allowed its wielder great control over those forces. It was a malevolent construct whose sole desire was to exult in the desolation caused by extreme weather. Reducing a lush jungle to scorched desert was its greatest joy. Full details of this artifact are not included here and will need to be written by the DM if you desire to include it in your campaign.
The Shattered Orb of Fire and the Shattered Orb of Ice (what each of the half-orbs are now called) are two lesser artifacts, suitable for characters in the middle of the heroic tier and above. As above, full details of these artifacts are not included herein. The most important goal for either of these artifacts is to be reunited with its other half so that it might regain its original glory. Obviously, if this requires the death of the owner, then so be it.