Bells tolled continually, announcing new deaths.
"I hear that he walks the North these days, strides amongst the Silver Firs of those harsh lands. His followers struggling behind in the frost mist. New ones joining the lines everyday the, drawn to him by some mysterious force."
Elias and Manfred are basically a ventriloquist act. However, the major difference between them and other ventriloquists is that Manfred the Talking Cat is a real cat and not a puppet.
Come hither peasant!
A Vampire hunter.
A sweet old Herbalist with a secret, how old is he really?
A mercenary for hire. If you can handle the foul stench of dead dog, sweat and grease.
When did it all start? He would never know for sure, although he traces it, like a finger on a map following the broad river back to the invisible thread of the beginnings, to one evening early winter.
With a huge number of sacrificial victims, another realm long ago secretly bound a Prince of the land spirits, Iorstonn by name, thus ensuring the fertility, and improving the magical defences, of their realm. But binding that Prince to one spot has disrupted the weather and magical patterns (ley lines?) over half the continent. Things have become bad enough that a coalition has been formed to rectify the situation, once divinations have established the cause.
Your party is one of the teams assembled to do the rectification: find the binding object and steal it ("so that we can destroy it here in our realm, of course"...*) or destroy it over there. Presumably the Prince will be grateful to his rescuers and angry at the binders, but with a greater spirit like Iorstonn one can never be sure: such beings are "tricksy".
* Of course, the rulers of our realm might want to control Iorstonn for their own ends...