The forest was dark and foreboding, the trees heavy with a thick blanket of snow. It had been a long time since the fur-swathed man had felt the warmth of a hearth, or filled his belly with food. The wind carried the howls of starving wolves, closer now than mere minutes ago. How had he ended up in this unforgiving land, he thought to himself. Why had he left behind his family and home?
It had been late in autumn, when the Adventurers had arrived, mail coats covered in grime, and steel strapped to their belts, but with purses and satchels heavy with loot. They had glanced at the gathered villagers with contempt; what pitiful wretches they must have seemed to these wandering fortune-seekers. “Bring us your ale, your food, and your wenches”, one of them had called out, “We will pay you in Gold Coin!”
Later they told stories about treasure-laden dungeons, ripe for the plunder. The villagers thought to themselves, these be crazy folk, mayhap of a dangerous and bloodthirsty sort, so better to still tongues, accommodate, and hope they are gone the next morning. One of the villagers, however, sought to listen to these tall tales of easy riches and glory. What a way this would be to escape the toils of a simple farmer! What riches he would find! How happy and proud he’d make his family! And so, when the adventurers set off the next morning, he went with them.
What a fool he had been, he now thought. There had been no treasure, nor glory to be found. In that tower of dark stone they had found only Death, and here he was now, freezing, starved, and soon to be dinner for wolves. What a fool he had been!
There was a light ahead, as cast by a campfire. First only glimpsed between tall firs, then brighter as he strode closer. Closer still, his heart raced, as his feet pumped the snow. Soon he came upon a shrouded clearing, and at the campfire, three men huddled. Clothed in mail, steel at their hips. Adventurers also, no doubt.