Torres, the shaman they had encountered earlier in Barwin, who is the head priest of this temple (arguably the most important one in the whole Bricrun valley), welcomed them and explained the reason for the festival to them.
The lake is fed by three rivers, with three villages situated where the rivers empty in the lake. The lake itself is the source of the Bricrun. The three rivers are represented by three goddesses, and their favour is needed to heed off a harsh winter.
At Mt. Hegall, the tallest mountain at this end of the valley, there is a ruin from the time of the Fort Builders. The peak is dominated by spirits of ice and cold. During the summer, the spirits are weakened by the force of the sun, but in winter they gain their full strength, sending ice and snow down from the peak and freezing the whole valley over.
The festival consists of a race between teams from the three villages, carrying a richly decorated float with a representation of their goddess around a course. Two representatives of each village sit on the float to gather the favour of the goddess and the public in two barrels of water from the lake: both women, one (younger) fighter and one (older) wise-woman.
The winners of the race will send their representatives to the ruin on Mt. Hegall, to cleanse an altar there with the 'winning' water. The water itself will be 'charged' with the psychic energy of the crowd and the goddess, which will give it the power to subdue the frost spirits in the coming winter. However, the 'charge' slowly dissipates, so they have to act fast.
The route towards the ruin is dangerous, and you're certain to cross paths with dangerous spirits. That's where the group comes in: their role is to escort the two representatives safely through monster/spirit-infested terrain to the ruin, so that they can perform the cleansing ritual.
Soon after the race, the group will be transported to the village of Gorad. Deeper in the mountains is a small temple, dedicated to an evil spirit. He himself is bound to that location, but his minions roam the dense forest surrounding it. A spiritual barrier protects Gorad, but the group will have to cross it, make their way to the temple and defeat the spirit there. (Otherwise, they will be exposed to attacks from below when they make their way up the mountain...)
They can recover and regroup in the temple and spend the night there, and then make their way up the slope of the mountain. It is expected that they will meet resistance from frosty spirits, before making their way into the ruin where they can perform the ritual.
The weapons and armour of the group will be magically enhanced so that they can battle with the spirits. Until the race begins, they are free to enjoy the festival itself...
Not much happened this session -- it was more of a monologue from Torres, and answering questions. Sometimes I feel more of a tour guide than a gamemaster, and this was one of those sessions. I'm not sure my players mind too much -- I think the non-traditional setting adds to the enjoyment, but I would wish I spent a little less time telling the players about it and more time letting them experience it. (Though in this case, it is their first real contact with the Daler religious system(s), so I guess it's only natural I spend some time in exposition.)
Next session, we'll have the festival with the race. Then we'll know who the representatives will be, and we'll see the group off on their mission into the darkest corners of the Dales...