Chapter Thirty-Seven

February 4, 2012


25th of Stormmonth


During our time back in town, we rest and relax.  There is a persistent snowstorm that is worse than most of us ever remember seeing.  Mo’og builds elaborate snow forts for the children, and I help out and play with them when it is done.  I also use it to practice my tumbling skills and shadow play.

Ulric and Briggette spend a lot of time in town, mingling amongst the common people.  One day, one of the townspeople runs into the Lovely Lady while we are all sitting there having a drink.  He bolts up to one of his friends and whispers, “You have to come and see this woman who just rode into town!”  They run out together excitedly, and I decide to follow.

When I see the woman in question, she is 4’10”, but much too buxom to be an elf.  Her hair is long and honey-colored, lying in waves down to the center of her back.  She is quite beautiful, and seems to have slightly pointed ears.  She wears a leather dress and a fur cloak, but still seems lightly dressed for this severe weather.  At her hip hangs a dagger, and her back bears a large steel shield.  Her horse is nondescript, save for the tons of wares he carries.  As I’m taking this all in, Ulric and Briggette head toward her from the Lovely Lady.

When she turns around, I see a green patch of leather in the center front of her dress with a peach tree embroidered on it.  A very old man comes out from around a building pulling a mule that is heavily laden with goods.  He struggles through the snow and ties the mule next to where the half-elf has tied her horse.  She helps him with his task.  The old man is carrying a spear, but seems to be using it more as a walking stick.  His clothing also bears a tree symbol, but this appears to be some sort of nut tree.  His white hair is holding on to its last vestiges of hope, exposing much more of his scalp than it hides.

The strangers head into the Lovely Lady, and I return as well to rejoin my friends.  The old man walks straight over to Ulric at our table just as I regain my seat.  The woman stands behind him.

“Hello, traveler,” Ulric greets him.  “Welcome to Brasov.”

“You would be the champions of Cuthbert, right?”

“We are some champions of Cuthbert,” Briggette answers.

The man continues to address Ulric directly.  “But you all have the thing…”  He indicates the white streak in our hair.  “I am Egash.  May I sit?”  We give assent, and he does so.  He continues his toothless explanation, “I am a cleric of Elona.  Have you noticed the winter is odd?”

“We have,” Ulric replies.

“Well, winter was supposed to come early this year, but it is too hard.  It was not supposed to be this hard . . .” he trails off.  “Elona came to me in a dream, and she told me to find the champions of practicality, and I figured that would be you guys.  What she said was, ‘There is a heart of stone that will turn the island white.  It lives in the mountains and holds no life dear but its own.  Find the champions of practicality, the defenders of the common folk.  Let the fire within their hearts melt this icy soul, and with it, this unnatural winter.’”

“That seems like a reasonable thing to do,” Ulric says.

Egash goes on to explain a bit more about himself in some rambling story that also includes information about the cultivation of hickory trees.  When I ask about peach trees, remembering the woman’s insignia, he introduces her as Ravassaadi and asks her to explain that to me.

Ulric invites the two to visit with his father and the billet.  At one point, he notices a tree in the square and begins to wander off toward it before Ravassaadi brings him back to the table.  Though we ask the old man many questions, we find that he has few answers for us.  Once again, the man wanders off, but this time, Ravassaadi remains at table.

She tells us the weather is certainly magic, but made by a magical orb called the Orb of Winter.  The Orb is quite old, and it was thought to have been lost in the Great War.  “Some sort of fiendish magic is preventing scrying upon it. He was able to determine that the device was somewhere in the mountains.  He couldn’t get more specific than that, but we do know it was last seen being used in the defense of Castle Sarichioi during the Great War.  The castle fell, there was a large fire, and nobody’s seen it since.”

“I suppose we should go and look for it, then,” Briggette says. “Ever heard of something called the Spine of the Isle?”

She replies that she has not, and we have a bit more conversation wherein we discuss some of Ravassaadi’s background.  She says the he is her mentor, and though he is human, he was an old man when she was a child.  She says that if we should so desire, she will accompany us on our journey.  We discuss in more detail our plans to search for this magical device.  Ulric and Briggette head out to speak with the count and the billet respectively.  As they’re leaving, Finn pops into the tavern, his face betraying his fervor to see the beautiful woman he’s heard about. 

Ulric goes to visit his father and they discuss the details of our new opportunity.  He tells his father about the old man and his vision from Elona.  “At the very least,” he says, “it seems worth looking into—if you don’t need me.”  His father agrees that we should find out about the unnatural causes of our severe weather, and gives him leave to embark on the journey.

Meanwhile, the billet tells Briggette a bit about Elona and what her followers hold dear.  They talk about the implications of this false winter, and he too agrees that she should certainly seek out this Orb.  He also mentions that Milo knew Egash, and that the two of them had apparently had a few somewhat contentious dealings.

I go find Korvinean at the glass shop that he’s been building, and together we ride out of town to find Boian at his land.  After a long wait, he comes to the door in breeches and a robe.  I tell him about the encounter and ask if he’d like to join us.  He says that he would, but he needs a moment to gather his things.  As he turns, I notice a brief glimpse of a large tattoo that covers his back, though I can’t tell what it is.  I accompany him to the barn to saddle and ready his horse.  He has several draft horses in there as well, and as we leave, he reaches up above the door and flips a panel in the wood to expose the other side which is painted red.  We return to town.

Back at the Lovely Lady, Briggette speaks with Ravassaadi.  She asks the half-elf to join us on our journey, and gives her ample warning about both Finn and Korvinean.  She also speaks of Brianna’s devotion and profession.



The next morning, when we leave, Ravassaadi joins us wearing a suit of splint mail.  We check our supplies, pack extra food for the journey, and head out on our way.  The first week of travel passes rather uneventfully, with easy travel.  Ravassaadi stops occasionally along the way to plant some seeds.  After turning north and traveling a few more days, we can begin to make out the ruined castle in the distance.  When we make it to roughly two miles from the castle, we pass through a small town that lies in ruins. 

As we ride through, giant spears fly from the buildings beside us, narrowly missing several members of our party.  We turn to see ogres and orcs lined up in an ambush.  One of the orcs is holding a longsword that is glowing with its own light.  Another is emitting a blue glow from his whole self.  After a series of blows back and forth, including some stunning artistry on behalf of our little band of heroes, the beasts lie dead at our feet. 

When we search the bodies, we find that each of the ogres is wearing a necklace with a large stone set in it.  Otherwise, the only valuable thing we find is a sword.

As we approach the castle, Korvinean and I dismount to scout the area.  As we approach the hole where the gate used to be, Korvinean suddenly disappears with a cracking sound.  He has fallen into a pit hidden underneath the ice.  I let down a rope for him, and after he climbs out, we make our way into the courtyard.  We see that there has been recent excavation here, and several more of those pits are scattered about the area.  Suddenly, Korvinean is attacked by four bugbears, but they apparently don’t see me hiding in the snow.

Ulric and Briggette hears the sounds of our fighting, and by the time they join the fray, only one of the creatures is still standing.  We make quick work of him, too, and finish searching the courtyard.  The fire that happened here over 300 years ago left indelible marks on the stonework, melting some of them and leaving scorch marks on others to this day.  One of the three towers ringing the courtyard is destroyed, and another has a giant hole in it that goes straight through the building.  We decide to begin with this one.

I walk into the tower, and as I enter, I hear a beautiful voice singing a tune.  It is completely mesmerizing, and I find myself moving inexorably toward it until Ulric grabs me by the wrist and drags me back out the door.  I try to get away from him and re-enter the area while Finn, Korvinean and Boian all try to get to the magical voices as well.  Three harpies are perched above the entrance.

Ravassaadi points at one of the harpies and says simply, “Fall!”  The beast falls to the ground, and we end her immediately.  Her sisters fare no better, and die quickly and without incident.  We find that the tower is so severely damaged that it might not be salvageable at all.  The harpies have left behind a chest with various valuables inside, and not much else.

We move on to the one remaining tower that is mostly intact.  We find nothing of import on the upper floors, but there is a stairwell that also leads down from the entryway.  It appears that this stairway used to be sealed off with a large stone.  We follow the stairs down to a landing which turns and goes down a few more stairs, ending in a hallway.

We come to a door at the end of the hallway, and once I’ve opened it, I see a stone sarcophagus sitting across the room with a small winged creature sitting on top of it looking at me.  As the door opens, it says, “Kill them already, you fools!”  It disappears, and I see eight skeletons shambling about the center of the room.  Knowing the rest of my group is behind me, I step just inside the doorway and one step to the right to get out of the way.  Once inside, I see two larger undead creatures that are similar to zombies, but not quite the same.  I seem to remember hearing about something called a ghoul that fits the bill, and I fire.
Ulric charges into the room, exploding one of the skeletons.  Boian squeezes past Briggette and into the fray.  Briggette then steps forward, raises her symbol of Cuthbert and screams at the skeletons.  All seven shatter into ash, leaving only the ghouls for the rest of us to contend with.  One of them attacks me, but I quickly return the favor.  The demonic winged creature suddenly appears right in front of Ulric and swipes at him with its claws and teeth.  As I turn my head, I see another one of the small beasts lashing out at me.  Ulric and I are each able to cut down the creatures with ease.

Elsewhere in the room, other than the sarcophagus, I see a chest.  We find lots of nifty treasures inside.  We search the bodies of the dead and find a letter on one of the demon-like creatures:

If no one comes by the 18th of the month, go to the village of Smartami.  There you will find reinforcements and kinx.  Together, you will kill a man by the name of Dimitru.  Kill him and his entire family, with prejudice.  Take everything of his you can find, then return to me.

I recognize the name of the village, and let everyone know that it is about 4-5 days ride in this weather.  We inspect the sarcophagus, and its seal seems to be intact; however, a second sarcophagus on the other side of the room is opened, and its contents strewn about the room.  Ravassaadi picks up the remains, places them back in their final resting place, blesses them and has the men replace the heavy lid.