The Dark Ages

A New Friend?
Life of Pyria

It is early Fall 58 AD and I receive notice that there is a package for me at the Merchants Guild Hall. Going there I find a sealed box waiting for me, intrigued I take it home and carefully open it. Inside is a scroll using magic script. Well nothing ventured, nothing gained…. Reading the scroll I find it is a letter written some time earlier in the summer, the date is our true date, no 58 AD here.

Reading through the letter it seems news of my adventures with the group has reached a secret society of Mages, such that they invited me to join them. They call themselves the Keepers of the Flame of Knowledge. They fought against Chaos and the Dark Magicks during the Shriving, based upon what they have heard they believe I have promising abilities and am on the right side! How could I not take them up on the offer?

A little over a week later, after we return from Truebrugh I receive a visitor, “Joseph”. A short, busy sort of character, constantly moving and shuffling. Letting him into my room I am a little taka aback when he starts to inspect everything and then asks to cast some spells….. Acquiescing, I see hime take two small beads of a wax of some sort, he puts one on the window and one on the door. The spells he casts makes it sound like he and I are having just a normal, mundane conversation… interesting.

We sit down and he tells me about the the Keepers. They are the remnants of the Guilds who went into hiding and continued to fight Chaos the best they could, sharing knowledge and looking after each other. Those who follow Chaos are called Viridi Viola, Joseph called them Vivis, I think that does not conjure up the fear that I believe one should have when dealing with them. How could I not agree to join them, he seems happy with that and tells me to visit him daily throughout WInter at Parabellum’s shop and he will teach me, he thinks he can learn from me too!

There is much to look forward to, but this may limit the amount of adventuring I can do if I have to be close to the shop for daily visits. Still, this may be a small price to pay for the skills I will learn.

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Village of the Damned
Balto's Journal

While the Marshall marched on Yew (and scored a decisive victory), I learned some important information about the Damned. They can be cured, at least if they have not been sick too long, and if they have strong constitutions. They have no memory of their time under the domination of the disease, and I don’t know how long they must recuperate, but they can be restored.

I get ahead of myself. I tend to do that – and to ramble, my uncle would complain. To the beginning, then:

As we waited in the small settlement now called Jakar, the Marshall and Lord Reynault were moving on Yew. Some of our number had heard the village Truebrugh was besieged by a company of the Damned. Knowing we would be too late and too few to affect the combat with the orcs and black riders, our company (Mazlor, Grel, Boraen and Talvi, Fergus, Ceresei, Pyria, Beladur, and I) rode to the village’s aid.

We arrived and the local gentry filled us in on the problem. The Damned mostly stayed where they had arrived in the fields, but sometimes rushed in at the village. The crops were untended, and those few farmers brave enough to face down the damned had been recruited into their number. The rest of the villagers mounted a watch from the highest buildings and gave warning if the Damned stirred – and some had seen a black rider apparently directing the attacks.

Mazlor was determined to save the villages amongst the Damned through some ritual of healing. Ceresei, who also was a druid, and I took turns riding out with Fergus and Boraen. They stretched a net between them to trap and bring back each of the villagers. Taking each in turn to the local shrine (“consecrated ground,” or so Mazlor insisted), the healing ritual was essayed several times. Almost, I caught the sense of what Mazlor did, but it seemed twisted up in superstition. I think I could manage a cleaner – and thus maybe more successful – call on the healing powers of the land. Still, he saved a few of the villagers; the others were not strong enough to take the shock of the illness and sudden cure.

Having remanded the healed but yet weak villagers to the care of the friends and family, we rode around the remaining Damned to seek out the Black Rider who had been directing them. We hid in a copse and were able to surprise her when she rode up, unsuspecting. While at first loath to tell us much, she succumbed to Pyria’s charms and spilled her secrets.

To wit: There was a significant force of black cloaks nearby. They had been controlling the Damned with a skull on a staff, but that had been claimed by the orcs and taken back to Yew. There had been a major defeat for the Black Riders and the orcs at Yew, and her fellows were cut off from the command structure.

We left the woman with the lord in the village and then teamed up with the town militia to take out the black cloak encampment. Again skirting the Damned in the field, we crept up on them in the night. Boraen sent Talvi ahead to spook the horses, so both we and they would be on foot for the battle. I was amazed at the ability of the villagers – someone’s been hunting! Our archers took out most of the Black Riders, including their magic user. Boraen defeated the captain of the black cloaks in personal combat. We collected the horses and arms and armor and went back to Truebrugh.

Some of us headed for Old Fawn and a decent tavern, and took the arms and armor back with us for sale. The captured horses we stabled in Jakar.

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Songs of the Bards - Fall 27, 58th Year AD

Hail adventurers!

The Bards have been singing the praises of Marshall Roehm and Duke Reynald since the victory at Yew ten days earlier. The Marshall has been quick to try and restore some basic services and provisions to those who were left. He has also been securing the area around Yew to try and prepare for both a counter-attack and for the coming Winter.

The news of his missing daughter is not welcome to any, though. She is missing and neither ransom or fate is known. It is said she was either taken by the orcs or the cowardly humans in black armor, but it is not know for sure who has her.

The harvest is going very well, and the Enonian markets have filled many of the streets and surrounding fields outside the wall, as animals and produce come by wagon-fulls to head into the other parts of the Duchy and kingdom. It would appear that after 2 years of poor harvests, the Light has blessed the Duchy with plenty.

Dame Oriolt and Marshall Kelvin have invoked a centuries old rule allowing them to declare any worship of deities or religions outside of the Light to be “heretical and treasonous, bringing discord and disobedience to law and Man and therefore illegal in the eyes of the King and His Agents.” They are basing on a local interpretation that any worship outside the Light is “heretical and treasonous.” This has never been done before, and is considered controversional, especially when being done as locally as by a regional priest and a Marshall of a Duke. It is not known what the position of the Church and Duke will be, but the Dame is a strong and well liked priestess in the southern center of the Duchy. She has also declared that the activities of the Lightbringers to be Lawful in the eyes of the Marshall. It is said that several small gatherings of worshipers of old gods have been arrested.

Several bards sing of a strange story of trolls attacking a mine that lies between Enonia and Stouton. The mercenary captain, Ralen Gold and her tough group of men at arms, currently under the employ of Sir Chaddius Reynald, fought the foul creatures and prevented them from a raid, but the rocks they were found with are considered a strange haul. It is not known why the beasts were after a what is considered a scrap ore, instead of the valuable iron that the mine produces.

And finally, the bards are telling of ominous tales from the beleaguered Duchy of Pisces. It is said that the entire “neck” of land between the Southern Sithasten Mountains and the Callisto Seas has been overrun by orcs. This land bridge connects the Piscean lands with the rest of the kingdom. The Southron Ducal council is supposed to convene to determine their next course of action, as they have not received word from the Duchess of Pisces, Duchess Childress.

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Letter to Marshall Roehm
Belàldur's message to the Marshall

My Lord Marshall Victor Roehm,

Greetings and may this letter find you in good health. Let me first congratulate you on your victory at Yew. I know the price was high, but I feel the tide is turning at last, and humans are beginning to push back the darkness in their lands. I’m writing to tell you news of the so-proclaimed “Heroes of the Barony” – Mazlor, Grel, Børæn, Pyria, Fergus, Balto, Ceresei and myself – and our actions in and near the village of Truebrugh.

We arrived in Truebrugh on the 16th of Fall, and no sooner than we had dropped anchor we were met by the village leader, Lord Alden Wagner, no doubt responding to the commotion our arrival had started with the townsfolk. He gave us a grave report – around 100 of the afflicted creatures known as the Damned were outside the village in a tightly-grouped, but unmoving force, and 10 of his own villagers lie either dead or Damned themselves between the town and that large force. Grel and Mazlor had claimed that the Damned might be inflicted with a disease that could be cured, so we made a plan to ride out on horseback and catch one of the 10 in one of my old fishing nets. We managed to haul one back to town, where Mazlor had prepared an area to work a ritual of the Light. I don’t know what magic he did, but It worked – the Damned girl we’d brought back was fully restored and healthy as a bull shark, amazing! We repeated the process, one at a time and sometimes with the help of magic or brute strength to hold the Damned in place, and although some were either already dead or didn’t survive the process, we did save a few more.

A rider had been spotted before we’d gotten there by someone in town, so we decided to ride around the large group of Damned to have a look. We found a large group of tracks the Damned had made, and camped nearby to see if the rider would return. It was soon after that when we hooked our biggest fish yet, one of the Black Brotherhood! Thanks to Ceresei’s quick thinking, we soon had her held under a number of spells and I brought her off her horse with my lasso. This was a lower-rank member of the Brotherhood, and of course she wasn’t quick to talk with us, but an enchantment by Pyria soon loosened her tongue. She told us the location and numbers of the Black Brotherhood crew nearby, and she let slip that the Damned had been controlled by one of their leaders – with the use of some powerful skull artifact perched atop a staff, he or she had been able to make them march on command! The Brotherhood force numbered around 35, including a spellcasting priest and a champion swordswoman, and I thought we’d have no way to beat them, but some of the others wisely asked Lord Wagner if he could put together some of the villagers into a militia, and soon he’d assembled 3 units – including an archery unit – and we were off to battle.

As we approached, we successfully dispatched with one of their sentries which gave us a chance to catch them by surprise. I still wasn’t sure of the odds of success, so I tied on the headband of a fallen friend of mine, to honor him if things went badly. Fortunately, we were able to catch them away from their horses, and had a large wolf at hand to bravely run in and panic the steeds. As a battle commander, you have no need for me to tell you what a big advantage it is to engage cavalry off their mounts! After a few volleys from our arrows, the Brotherhood crew was either dead or in full flight away from us. All except their champion that is, who chose to challenge Børæn to a duel, a decision that proved to be unwise. I believe the Black Brotherhood may have abandoned this ship and most likely will not soon return to the area around Truebrugh, although the Damned still lie silently outside the village. We still hold the Brotherhood woman captive.

I hope that you can make use of this news. If you have powerful clerics under your command I believe the knowledge that the Damned can be cured will be most helpful! Also, be warned that we don’t know the whereabouts of that skull, and the enemy may still have the ability to command the Damned to do their bidding. If you have any news for us about the current situation, or any instructions on how we might best help, please send a messenger back to me at the Hound and Nixie Inn located in Old Fawn.

Your ally in dire times,
-Belàldur

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Songs of the Bards - Fall 17, 58th Year AD

Hail Enonians!

The town is in a state of giddy celebration as word has come – the Marshall was victorious and has retaken Yew from the combined forces of the Black Brotherhood and the Orcs! A last minute desperate attack saw the Marshall’s knights drive the fearsome Orcs away from the town. With half of their forces lost, and both their camp and the town taken, the Orcs have retreated in disarray towards Notchland Keep, and some forces headed to Upland Hold

The butcher’s bill was high, with a third of the Marshall’s forces lost. It is said that one of his twin daughters, a knight-in-training, is missing as well.

It is a time of great celebration in the Duchy! This year has already seen two major victories against the Orcs and everyone feels hope, even in the face of the grim news from elsewhere of Orcs advancing.

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Battling the Damned
Balto's Journal

Once back in Old Fawn, our party rested and took stock. As the mustering of Marshal Roehm’s army filled the town, I met over first breakfast with my adventuring companions Belaldur, Boraen, and Fergus. Boraen was determined to get a powerful bow, and there were rumors that a large party of Legionnaires had disappeared on a monster hunt in the woods northeast of Enonia. Now, they had disappeared decades ago, without a trace – killed by this monster? – but that meant their gear and treasure might yet be unplundered.

As Fergus called Josef and Willie from their weapons practice, and Talvi turned up at Boraen’s side, Grel showed up. By the time we found and rousted the hired tracker Golub, our companion Ostlen joined us. We agreed to seek out the Legionnaires, or what remained of them.

On our way to Ulichton, Grel became increasingly agitated. He finally asked Boraen a question, and Boraen pulled out a chunk of chaos crystal from the summoning circle. Grel said the chaos it emitted would be a threat to us, and his holy water scarcely marred it. We stopped in Ulichton and Grel passed it along to a cleric of his cult, with instructions to take it to Jorann in Enonia for disposal. We checked on Meesha’s cult settlement, then headed into the woods on our quest.

The monster that the Legionnaires had hunted in the Darkwoods was a large beast that only attacked at night, in the dark. After we settled in for the night, and set watches, we heard it crashing towards our camp, but our fire seemed to warn it off. The next day we followed its path of broken trees and undergrowth, until we came upon a well-worn path. We gave off our pursuit of the monster and followed the path.

Late that morning, we heard the sounds of soldiers marching towards us, and we melted into the woods. Boraen leapt high into the tree above the path; the rest of us hid amongst the underbrush. Eighteen Legionnaires, disciplined and eerily quiet, marched two abreast down the path. They did not seem to note anything to the sides, and I wondered if they had been cursed. I cast a stone into the woods to their right and behind them and nine peeled off and searched through the woods before rejoining their fellows, who had waited on the path.

Then things got interesting. Boraen dropped down behind them, and they whirled around and charged towards him. Boraen tried to leap back into the tree, but missed the branch. Grel shouted to me, “Use Entangle,” and I called on the plants to rise up and stop the Legionnaires.

Except they weren’t Legionnaires anymore. They were Damned – the first I had ever seen! And they weren’t all entangled, either! It was a desperate fight. Boraen was surrounded and hard-pressed, and I was injured when a couple came clawing and biting at me towards the end of the battle.

Belaldur and Grel had hoped to capture at least one, but the rest of us shouted them down – how were we to get these terrors through the forest? And could they even be cured, after these many years? – and all these Damned perished.

They had nothing but armor and weapons, but of very fine make. Those of us who needed weapons took them; Boraen cut a fine figure in the armor. Willie and Josef wanted to use the armor, too. but once back in town, we convinced them to relinquish the Legionnaire armor (and the enmity of any Legionnaire they ran into) for some fine chain mail. We left the gear with Amifrey, our contact and fence in Old Fawn, and he arranged to sell it on our behalf.

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The end of the Damned Legionnaires
Grel’s report to Jorann at the Temple

Grel: Priestess, I am deeply troubled. Would you sit with me and hear my tale?

Jorann: Of course my child. Please tell me what happened.

Grel: It was the 9th day of fall, Boraen, Balto, Beladur and Fergus were discussing some intel that they had gained about some legionnaires who had gone off to fight some monsters and never came back. It seemed a fine idea to go off to find where they fell and lay claim to their weapons. The fact that there was some beast which had dispatched an unknown number of Legionnaires was troubling, but we decided that we were up for it.

So off we went, Boraen, Balto, Beladur and Fergus, Ostlen, myself, Vilhelm, Josef and a thoroughly distasteful and cowardly tracker named Golub. We set off to hunt down these rumors and see what we could find.

I was getting an annoying feel of chaos from Boraen, and when I asked him what it was, he pulled out a crystal shard of pure chaos! He allowed me to destroy it, but I was unable! It was too powerful. I covered it with holy water, but it only pitted the surface slightly. I was more than a little disturbed. Since we were going to Ulichton anyway, I stopped in to see Torak. He seemed to be getting along well. I showed him the crystal and charged him with it’s destruction. He was less than thrilled….He tried blessing it, but again, it was far too strong for him. He reluctantly agreed to continue blessing it, but then I mentioned that Jorann could probably take care of it. He immediately jumped up and started making preparations for his journey. I left him then and met up with my companions.

They had found more rumors and people who remembered the legionnaires going off.
We went off to the woods where they had last been seen. They had gone after a beast that was apparently afraid of fire. Rumor had it, that if you had a fire, it would not attack, but if you didn’t, you would never be seen again. We wisely decided to light a campfire. We heard the beast come near, but it never approached the fire.

In the morning, we continued in the direction it went. We came across a worn deer path. We decided to follow it, and soon came upon eighteen of the Legionnaires themselves marching on the path. Something seemed very off with them, but I wasn’t sure what. Balto shot a sling stone off into the woods, and half of them charged into the woods after it, while the others waited for them. No words were spoken. Again, it seemed very odd, but I wasn’t sure what was wrong.

Then Boraen jumped down from a tree right behind them. Immediately they turned around and charged him. It was only then, that I noticed that they were attacking with their hands and teeth. They never drew a weapon. These Legionnaires were the Damned!!! If only I had realized sooner, perhaps there was a way that they could have been cured. But with them attacking Boraen, I had no choice but to defend him.

I called out to Balto, to entangle as many as possible. He did, and half of them were stuck in place. We were able to dispatch them, but I can’t help feeling that if only I had realized sooner, they could have been saved.

Priestess, it is not that I feel that my actions were wrong, but that an opportunity to save eighteen powerful fighters for the kingdom has been squandered partly by my lack of insight. What can I do to assuage this guilt?

Jorann: Grel my son, you can’t take the blame for everything that you don’t know. We are but mortals. We can only do the best that we can. I feel sure that if Tangadorin had meant for you to rescue these Legionnaires, he would have given you better insight. You can’t blanme yourself for what could have been. There are an infinite number of them. We can only do our best, and hope it is enough.

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The Rescue of the Worshipers and the Rise of Chaos
The Chronicle of Børæn

A quiet settles over the valley.

It is dawn, and the first hints of the morning sun is peaking between the branches of the high forest overlooking the valley. Creeping in the morning shadows is a large man. He hair hangs loose, and grey streaks that and his beard. His eyes dart from side-to-side searching for something.

Hunting beside him is a wolf cub. Not yet two winters old, he is the heir to the lore of his mother. Young, and still learning, the cub is quickly learning the way of the hunt with his human. His name is Turgon, and it is a name, Børæn told the cub, is a name of honor.

The two stalk.

Wolf smells the air, and the man tightens his grip on a bow. The bow is massive in his hands, and the man carries it with purpose.

Turgon stops. His body grows tense. Børæn smiles.

Suddenly Børæn turns, and let’s fly a arrow. It strikes a orc in the neck, killing it instantly. Just as quick as his first strike, Børæn turns again, killing another orc, as well as an other behind it, charging at the man. More orcs come, and Børæn drops his bow, draws his sword and smiled. The smile is one which unnerves even the orcs.

Børæn strikes, and Turgon joins.

Sword dismembers.

Bite cripples.

The orcs try to overwhelm, but the man and wolf is too much. The fight is over before it even started. 12 orcs have died.

Turgon looks at Børæn quizzically.

“You did good little one. We leave them. These bastards will not think about entering the valley again.”

The two make their way down from the high forest, and Børæn and Turgon come to a stone overlook that has been named “Børæn Thorne.” It is here were he comes to think, and look over the valley of his people. It is here, where the man can be alone.

Børæn sits, and Turgon follows. The cub looks at the man, and whines.

Without looking, Børæn digs into a bag and tosses the wolf a hunk of last nights venison. The wolf happy, wags his tail.

Finished, the wolf curls up to Børæn who softly pets his head.

“Your name is a name of a great man. A man who I was lucky to meet. Lucky to learn from. Lucky to fight besides. Lucky to call friend.”

“I gave you his name, because it is a name that should be remembered. If it was not for him, my path would have never led me back to my people. Never would have led us to the valleys.”

“We set out for Meesha’s shrine. It was myself, Turgon, Belaldur, Balto, Fergus and their two henchmen. Also with us was a tracker named Golub, I think. Regardless, this would be the start of the hunt. Turgon was sad because the worshipers were gone. I told my friend simply: ‘We will have our vengeance, and we will bring our people home.’”

“I am no Merkitä Muistiin, so the how we found our people is not important. We traveled north, following a trail of our prey. It was a dark sight when we came upon the body of one of our people. Turgon was sad, but his sadness was the fuel for anger. Slicing my hand I swore the blood oath, as did you mother, as so too Turgon. He was apprehensive at first, but he realized the significance of this.”

“After some more travel, we came upon some littlelings. Balto was surprised and happy to see his people and they provided us aid.”

“We learned we hunted the People of the Skull. Turgon mediated to Me’sha, as did I, and the vision he received our people were held south of Yew.”

“It was dusk that we made our way to the shrine. As we approached we saw lighting strike from the sky. This was magic, foul magic, and though Turgon looked worried, the worry was soon replaced by determination. That night, we crept up on the shrine, thunderbolts of chaos churned in the sky overhead. As we got closer we saw an orc and a human in the middle of a summoning. I wanted to strike, by Belaldur put a hand on me and told me to wait. When their ritual was ended, a flash of light and booming sound introduced a purple column shooting from the ground. We then heard the voice. The voice that mocked us at the monastery.”

“That was it, we attacked.”

“While the others charged, and harassed the spell slingers, I ran and leapt into the air. The spell slingers did not know of this, and I took them by surprise. With a roar of “Me’sha, I fell into their midst. The human was surprised, and even more so, when my sword sliced the orc in half, and his body fell like a split log.”

“Your mother was thick into the battle, and she was there tearing at her enemies and aiding those who needed it. Your mother was a thing of beauty Turgon, she was a blur of grey death, using the shadows to her advantage, and harassed our enemies.”

“It was then that your namesake discovered the blessings of our goddess. Vines emerged to capture our enemies, and his club became a force of energy that struck many.”

Børæn looks at the Turgon, and the young wolf stares in understanding the story his human tells.

“The rest of the tale is simple: we heard the voice from he monastery; a tinkled creature of chaos emerged; we destroyed the summoning circle, shattered the shard; freed our people.”

Børæn sighs, it a sigh that speaks of remembrance, of age, or the weariness of fighting the battles he fought. Sensing the growing gloomy mood, the cub barks, stretches and places his front paws on his human shoulder, and licks his face. As fast as the gloomy thoughts come, they retread as Børæn laughs at the cubs playfulness.

“You’re right. Your mother would bite me if she was here. Come little one, let’s get down into the valley, see my wife and thank Me’sha for her continued guidance and grace she brings to us.”

The two, man and cub, begin the descent from the mountains and make their way into the peaceful valley.

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Following the Path
Balto's Journal

After all that mess with the Lightbringers, I made a solitary journey up to visit our goblyns, the little ones as Boraen calls them. I took a couple goats, and plenty of rations, as I was not sure they could find their own food. But when I got there, they were distinctly not interested in the food. Neither my pony nor the goats would go willingly inside the circle of the goblyn dance.

These goblyns were changing. They were very peaceful, full of the love of nature and the woods and all living things therein. Not unlike we littlings, really. But they were also physically changed. Their skin was becoming almost like bark; their eyes were covered over or just small slits in the bark. They danced around me as I walked, careful to avoid any harm, but otherwise ignoring me.

I felt a great peace with them, though, I lost myself in meditation. When, hours later, I came back to myself, the leader of the goblyns patted me on the shoulder and gave me a flower, which I twined into my hair for the ride back to Enonia, with the goats and rations that I passed on to the dispossessed followers of Tangadorin.

Belaldur, Boraen, Turgon, and I went to the market to seek out hunters who could help us track the abducted followers of Meesha. A trader sold me several furs and as we spoke, he told me to seek out Odebrandt, up at Old Fawn. Belaldur had more immediate luck, hiring a grizzled, scarred hunter named Golub.

Fergus was instilling some sense of military rigor into Willie and Josef, but they were all agog at the thousands marching up the road to Old Fawn – the 50th day of summer was the Marshall’s mustering day! Belaldur got their attention when he brought forth the fine brown cloaks he had made for the Enonia Falcons, and all five of us (Belaldur and I, Fergus, Josef and Willie) donned ours. We set out for Meesha’s shrine, to the east of Ulichton. Keld’s carpenters had done great work already. We spent a merry evening with them, though Turgon wept to see his shrine but not his congregation.

The next day, Golub found the tracks of our friends (and even a cast-off shoe!), andalso signs of much traffic along the edge of the Dark Woods. Golub told us stories from his father’s time, and also of his adventures hunting, as we followed the trail north. We camped away from the woods, rose early and set out again. Around lunchtime, we found the body of a woman Turgon recognized as one of his. Boraen, Talvi, and Turgon took blood oaths to avenge her.

Golub began to train Fergus, Belaldur, and I on tracking and observing nature’s ways. The trail, as we followed it, came near to some villages and farms, but never too close. On the fourth day of our journey, many trails crossed. With the help of the shoe Golub had found, Talvi pointed us the right way. As we entered the fens, Golub mentions how good the peat here is, for building and for fuel. I’d prefer a fire from fallen sticks, myself, but the folk here fear the woods.

Belaldur and I investigated a peat camp we see from the trail – just some local, hard-working villagers. They were surprised to see me – but I calmed them, and we chatted. These peat-cutters were from a nearby village, Pella’s Wish, which the black riders have been annoying. This would be the last harvest, before the villagers evacuate, maybe to Old Fawn.

Belaldur rides in with the others, and we camped there overnight, sharing our food and drink. Turgon spoke of Meesha’s shrine, and his friends taken by the riders, and the locals remember Meesha. The Falcons stood watches so the villagers can rest, and in the middle of the night, a force rode by on the trail, so lucky for us we had withdrawn a ways from it.

The next morning, the farmers head back to Pella’s Wish, where they will tell the mayor of the Marshal’s forces. We all gave them some gold and supplies to help them resettle – maybe at the shrine? – and I gave the ladies most of the furs I had. One’s pregnant; I don’t want her child to be cold this winter! I kept only one, for modesty and to alleviate chafing.

Two days later, we came across the body of one of the black riders with some arrows in him, at the base of a ruined watchtower. He lay atop a crumpled white flag emblazoned with Domingo’s griffon and three stars. In the distance, Beladur and I spied a stone keep, flying a similar flag.

My father told me the histories, how Domingo had led the littlelings to triumph over the dark forces. I was not looking to find other littlelings so far west – but we found fifty-some defending the keep! The keep was old and built for men but modified for us. While I spoke of our quest to Carbaugh, the leader, Belaldur brought up the rest of our force. We feasted, and the cooking was incredible! They even had a seed cake, like my dear mother would make, save they served it with wild berries where mother would use spiced apples and whipped cream. Still good, though! Boraen and his wolf were made very welcome, too; the ways of the wild men are known to these littlelings.

Carbaugh told us all about the black riders – People of the Skull, he called them. While the Domingans had garrisoned this keep and patrolled the lands around since soon after the Doom, the black riders with only came into the area early this summer, joining the orcs in Yew. Turgon receives an insight that the folk we came to rescue are not held in Yew, but south of Yew. Ishma and Falen, two of the Domingans, show us the way the next morning.

That dusk, we crept up on the shrine, thunderbolts of chaos churning the sky overhead. There is necromancy going on – an orc and a human were summoning something, using a human sacrifice. As they finished their ritual, a purple column writhed up from the ground, a cruel voice, the same as heard at the monastery, cried out, and a purple crystal flashed down into their circle.

We charged in. Littlelings all took first blood, with our sling bullets striking the priests and disrupting them; Boraen made a mighty jump and landed in the midst of our enemies, yelling MEEEESHA!, and sliced the orc priest in two. His wolf Talvi joined battle, ripping away a chunk of flesh from one of the orc guards.

Belaldur loosed an arrow, then joins the charge into the melee. Boraen by some dark magic was held, but then Turgon called up vines from the ground to immobilize the priest. Turgon’s work stirs me, and things started to click into place. But it slipped away in the confusion of battle as I took Turgon a healing draught. Fergus fell, but many of our enemies are down, too. Turgon cast a spell on his club, and mental paths opened for me, even as we finished off all our enemies and freed the captives. We didn’t want to touch the chaos crystal, so we smashed the braziers used to summon it. With the last brazier destroyed, the crystal shattered. The cruel voice denounced us and a tentacled monster appeared.

My path was now clear – cast faerie fire on the monster, become a druid, fight for life against those who would defile it. We quickly dispatched this last foe, and the world breathed easier. We took little from the bodies – the red eye symbol from the orc priest, a purple/gold triskelion symbol from the human, and a sample of the crystal. Heading back to the Domingan Keep, we tried recruiting our erstwhile allies to the Falcons, but Isma says the traditions they uphold prevent it and Kalen says they have to protect the writings of Domingo, which I’ll want to look over.

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The Rot in the Light
The Chronicle of Børæn

It is the early days of summer.

The Valley of the Wolf is is alive with activity. The fields are being worked, the hunters and fishers return with their bounty. Everything is at peace, and praise the goddess Me’sha for her gifts.

As Orpo, the Merkitä Muistiin, makes his way through the valley, he follows the road Børæn made his first priority when moving the tribe here. This road grew to many, and together now allow for the flow of people and goods throughout the valley, as well as the two neighboring valleys the Wolf Tribe hold. As always Orpo’s heart warms to how the boy he considers his son, has grown to be who he is.

Walking in silence, Orpo looks around and reflects on the peace he travels through. The tribe works with a purpose, and this purpose is one in synch with the land. Framing, brewing, and even the crafts of the tribes have brought much to the Wolf. Children learn and they are allowed to be children in the safety of the valley. Still, despite all appearances, the Wolf is ready. The sounds of the forge drift through the air, as does the steady thunk of arrow striking target. The Wolf may look tame, but that is only appearance. The Wolf is always ready to strike and the Wolf never tamed.

The road takes him to his destination: a meadow. This is no ordinary meadow, it is the one the Peikko (goblin) now live in commune with their goddess. This change astounds the Merkitä Muistiin. In days not so distant, this field would be littered with the bodies of Peikko and the Wolf. The beauty and tranquility of this place would be shattered as blood seeped into the earth, and the broken bodies left for the crow’s meal.

Now the Peikko are part of the Wolf, and are the worshiper’s of Me’sha. The “little ones” as Børæn calls them, has worked to bring more to the goddess, and though the Peikko do not number many, the group here carry on the work, worship the shared goddess, and are a strong part of the tribe.

Børæn stands with them, and whatever worship they were doing is over. Orpo watches as each goblin pays their respect to Børæn, and in return Børæn, pays them his respect. Some spend a few minuets talking to the man, that once, would have buried a axe in their head. Strongly, the man and Peikko share a laugh, share a few words, or offer respect. Even Talvi, when she is not busy stalking her cub, seems to show a strange sense of respect and kindness to the “little ones.” As the last of the Peikko depart, Orpo approaches his pupil.

“You should join us next time Merkitä Muistiin, this is lore that is as important as the battles we have fought. Maybe I should collect this lore for you!” Børæn voice rumbles.

“So you are now Merkitä Muistiin pup? That ego you have knows no bounds. We all know it is your wife who is the real mind driving that body! Besides your head is as empty as your drinking horn if you think you can serve as Merkitä Muistiin!”

He tries to show his anger, but Børæn laughs, a booming laugh, and with him Orpo joins him.

They embrace, not as fellow warriors, but as father and son. Standing next to each other, the two stand in silence as they Talvi and her cub run through the grasses, and stalking one another. Talvi is old and her fur is more white than grey. Her cub, who is as black as the night will carry on her legacy.

“Does he have a name?” Orpo quietly asks.

“Turgon,” Børæn replies simply.

“Why that one?”

Børæn pauses, and Orpo sees sadness cloud the face of the man. It is a sadness that he rarely shows, and it is a side of Børæn only a few know that exists.

“Turgon was the one, besides yourself, who showed me a different way. It was he who led me to Me’sha’s grace. It was he who taught me lessons I did not know I needed. Turgon was a great chieftain. Not a chieftain of warriors, but a chieftain who showed all who would listen, a different way. Even if he sometimes chaffed at that, he new the duty he held.”

“Where I am, and always will be, Me’sha’s rage, he was her voice. At no other time in my life did your words ring more true: Ber er hver að baki nema sér bróður eigi (One’s back is vulnerable, unless one has a brother.) He was my mentor, he was my teacher, and he was, and always will be my brother.”

“A few weeks ago you asked me about the battle of Irecia. I grew angry with you, and I am sorry. Let me tell you why I was angry, maybe then you will understand why that event still is a dagger in my heart. After the utter failure of making any positive effect on Irecia…”

“But you rescued the men my boy. Surely you can see that the deed was a good one?” Interrupted Orpo who braced himself for Børæn’s outburst. Instead he was surprised by the clam nature of the man he often still saw as a boy.

“I know… Let me tell you tell you more, and then you can see why my anger is still there…"

“After Irecia, my companions and I split apart to take care of our own matters. I traveled to Me’sha’s shrine and longed for the peace that place brought me, and still brings me. When Talvi and I arrived, the peace was shattered. Turgon and the worshipers were gone. Gone to were the little ones. My adopted tribe was missing, and the shrine looked as an attempt was made to destroy it."

“This is why the events of Irecia still are a dagger in my heart. I failed my adopted tribe, and if I was there, if Talvi was there, we could have prevented it. I still blame myself for Turgon’s and my adopted tribe’s abduction. I will live with this shame till my body is returned to the land.”

A quiet then settles, and out of no where a breeze stirs the grasses. It dances across the grasses, and then surrounds the two men, as if it is a caress. The breeze is a gentle one. It caresses. It soothes. It carries the scents of summer, as well as the touch of forgiveness. Looking up at Børæn, Orpo sees no anger but in place a peaceful calm.

“We decided that these Black and White cloaks were the ones behind the abduction. As is typical with the soft ones in the south, we had to “discus” matters. The details are not important, just that we learned of a rot festering in the heart of the Church of the Light.” At mentioning of the Church of the Light, Børæn spits. Even now, many years after the events, he is angry at the so called ‘Light’."

“Traveling south, we learned that indeed this so called religion of peace, was in fact a den of lies, deceit and evil. The church * spit * supported these Lightbringers, and it was they who abducted Turgon and my adopted tribe."

“We tracked down a location of a gathering of these White Cloaks. We noticed that one of them was the apparent leader, and when I saw him, Belàldur had all he could do to stop me from rushing in right then. So I waited and my rage grew.”

Orpo looks at Børæn and sees the look he has seen many times: being lost in his remembrance. It is if, after all these years, he still feels he is there now.

“As soon as the coward left, I looked to Talvi and she knew. It was time to hunt. Kicking my horse, we took to the wind and raced to capture our prey. Some of my companions followed, but I did not stop. All Talvi and I cared about was delivering Me’sha’s rage upon our prey."

traitor.png “After about two hours, we caught up to him. How I am still not sure, one minute he was on his horse, the next he was on the ground. It made no difference, I leaped from my saddle and grappled the man. He struggled, but soon Lohikäärme Hammas was in hand, as my companions arrived during my questioning. Yes, before you asked, I did not question him in the ways of the Wolf. I showed restraint. I only hobbled him, and broke he shoulders. It is amazing what it takes to break someone who feels they are strong. We learned what we needed, and I carved into his chest “Traitor” in the runes of our people.”

“Learning from the coward of a farmhouse that Turgon was being kept, we made haste to there. Me’sha’s rage was still with me, and we rode with her as the wind pushed us on.”

“The details of what went next is not important. Swords sliced, magic was flung, and blood flowed. I found Turgon, near death’s door, but it was due to the aid of Grel, who up until then I thought was like a Pop-in-Jay (all sound no will). Turgon lived, still weak, but he lived.”

As if on cure, the wolf cub runs up to Børæn barking in pleasure. In a blur, Børæn, grabs the cub and whispers to the young one. Their is happiness here. Børæn’s hardness, softens as the cub licks his face. Their is a tenderness as well s he rubs the cub’s ears.

“There is more to this tale Merkitä Muistiin, but that can wait. The sun is setting, and you know the queen is not happy if I am late.”

Orpo chuckles at the dichotomy that is Børæn. “Go. Go. We can talk again.”

Orpo watches as Børæn whistles for Talvi and gently places Turgon to the ground. The three head down the roading to the village and the hearth of Børæn’s lodge. In their wake, Orpo feels a slight breeze stir the air agian. It gently touches his cheek. Like a dream, the breeze leaves and rustles the grasses lining the road Børæn walks, and as if it was his companion, it blows gently round him in harmony as he walks.

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