Chapter Eighty-Five

January 5, 2013


7th of Storemonth


Meanwhile, back in Heltragen, Gustav visits Ulric during lunch to tell him that Osh, Oak, and Aetaesh are here to see him, and that they look confused.  Oak is sheltering several small children who are not her own.  They tell Ulric that they have encountered a large group of orcs in the wood.  She tells him further that the orcs were attacked from behind by a giant bear which killed the orcs, but didn’t attack them.  The bear took one of the children and left so quickly that even Aetaesh could not keep up, nor could any of them track it.  Ulric immediately calls for his horse and heads out to investigate the issue.

When he gets to the barn, he finds Jasper saddled and ready along with Sir Gregor.  He calls for ten men to ride out with him.  Oak with the children will stay behind.  They find the location of the battle where at least fifty orcs lay dead as well as one human man and woman.  They continue to track and search through the area trying to find this giant bear that stood as high as a horse at the shoulder.  After a while, they come to a creek and make their way across to find enormous tracks on the other side, but they are misleading.  Aetaesh determines that, odd as it may seem, the bear does not want to be found.  They make camp for the night, deciding to continue the next morning.

Oak rides out with men to find the search party.  She tells them that they have found the bear, and lead him back to the castle.  When they arrive, the bear is lying in the courtyard with his arms wrapped around a young child around two.  Once Ulric arrives, he stands and picks up the child in his mouth gingerly.  He brings the child to Ulric and puts it on his saddle.  He looks intently at Ulric, who, after a moment, raises his visor.  The bear looks once more, then walks out through the drawbridge.

After a few moments of stunned silence, Ulric hands the child off to Gustav who agrees to put him back with his siblings.  After the next week or so, Aetaesh comes back with a stack of random pelts to Ulric.  He explains that all of the dead creatures were killed and left to rot; none were skinned despite the value of their skins.  The more he looks at the situation, the more Aetaesh thinks that the bear has eliminated every single predator in the area which might be a threat to humans.  It is extremely odd behavior, but he can find no other explanation.


Back on the mainland, we travel for two days deep into the mountains.  For much of this time, we have to walk our horses.  We come to a large stone archway on top of a ridge.  I inspect it carefully and find some runes which says, “For those who belong, welcome.  For those who do not, death.”  We begin to ride through the archway one at a time, and none of us have any adverse reactions to it, though Finn looks a bit uneasy.  As the first sergeant rides up to try to come through, he is knocked clean off of his horse.  He gets up slowly as Briggette heads back toward him.  As he is getting up, the next sergeant rides up and tentatively places a hand in front of him.  He is also unable to continue along the path.  One of Ulric’s household knights rides through with no issue.  Out of the remaining hundred men, only one of the infantrymen can come through.  We decide to tie a rope around each of the men to help them around the arch so we can continue on assisted.

The path leads down into a valley with a small river running through it.  After a while, Korvinean informs us of some odd tracks he’s found.  They are cloven, but are too heavy to be a satyr and are four-legged.

We decide to draw or nock, but continue on our way.  After a few feet, we hear a beautiful singing voice up ahead, luring us in a certain way.  We turn and see that about seventy percent of our troops have stopped dead in their tracks.

A head pops up out of the tall reeds in the water nearby.  “Now, what can I do for you, Sir?”

“The name would be Sir Briggette.”

“A woman?  A woman knight.  Perhaps things are finally coming to in the world.”

“We are just passing through,” Briggette tells her.

She is very pretty with long black hair, but remains mostly in the water.  She asks what we’re doing here, and when Briggette says we’ve come to kill a cult, she wants to know more.  She asks what our intent is on her land.  “What do you want, Paladin of Cuthbert?”

“I want my chapeau.”

“I cannot give her to you.  I have not the power to give her to you.”

“Then just allow me by,” Briggette reasons.

“I can’t do that.  Your men will die.  You will die.”

“All men die.  I’ll eventually die,” Briggette responds.

“Go, Paladin of Cuthbert.  And when the flaming scourge rips the flesh from your bones, don’t say you weren’t warned,” the creature says.

After a bit more conversation, she offers to lead us to the edge of the temple if we agree not to attack her or her relatives.  She leads us further through the valley, and we come to another archway bearing the same runic inscription.  Again, she begins to taunt us, warning us of our fate once inside the temple.  “Briggette,” Finn says, “you gave your word as a knight, right?  What about as a Countess?”

“No,” she replies, “not really.”

With that, Finn reaches out with his gruisarme and chops off her head in one fell swoop.