22 Longday 509—Afternoon
The party all stand outside the shrine of Isranthr, tired from their exertions after the battle with the Inquisitors of Jörn. Ten dead, or dying, bodies lie about the hill. The guards all look about, smiling, proud to be alive and to have survived such an epic conflict. Kortash even has a rueful grin as he clutches his ruined abdomen.
Mõrvar, Garth, Sigrid, and Halvor continue to hold the manacled and gagged inquisitor.
All is quiet. A murder of crows fly off from the nearby trees. A figure emerges from within the shrine, leans against the open door, and appears to lazily munch a bit of meat from a drumstick. She is an older woman, with short white hair and leathery skin. She wears a leather apron over a simple gown.
After collecting the pieces of his bow, Savaric asks, “Anyone know who this is suppose to be?” He hobbles to the foot of the hill with Ghost, clutching the base of his back that he strained during the battle.
When Savaric get to the bottom of the hill, Ghost sits and wags his tail, his mouth open in a doggy smile, looking up at the shrine.
The woman calls down. “I’ve been expecting you, Twice-Born. You’ve taken your time and brought uninvited guests to boot. Come on up. Bring the wolf. He looks hungry. I have some scraps for him.”
She turns and goes back into the shrine.
Savaric looks to Ghost and gives a quick snap. “Come on Ghost,” and starts up the hill to enter the shrine.
As he enters the shrine, his nose is hit with the smell of woodsmoke. There is a small hearth at the back of the room with a low-burning fire. There are blankets intricately woven with hunting scenes hanging on the walls like tapestries. There is a boar’s head mounted on the right side of the building, and a drake’s head mounted on the left. There are two comfortable chairs situated in front of the hearth. To the right of the room is a wooden work table with worked skins stacked upon it. To the left is an altar with a beautiful longbow, decorated with gold inlay along the wooden shaft, mounted above it, but below the drake’s head.
True to her word, she sets down a pewter plate on the stone floor of the shrine with what look like scraps of meat and bone for Ghost. Then she sits in one of the two comfortable chairs and motions for Savaric to take the other.
“Sit, Twice-Born. We have much to discuss. The gods are stirring and, I don’t know about you, but they’ve been keeping me up at night. My name is Vigdis, by the by. Vigdis Blooddrake.”
Savaric motions to Ghost, letting him know it’s ok to go ahead and eat. The wolf turns to the plate and goes to it with gusto. He heads to his chair and offers his hand, “I’m Savaric, and I, too, have been awoken.”
Vigdis takes Savaric’s hand and shakes it as Ghost chows down on the scraps. She settles back into the chair.
“Your coming was foretold to me in visions. As was your purpose. There is an abomination coming. A great darkness that will engulf us all, hunter and prey alike, if you fail.”
She takes a deep breath and stares steadily at Savaric. "In my visions I saw a weapon—a spear. It’s haft, silvery grey, with the runes of The Hunter engraved upon it, as well as those of the sorcerers who have imbued it with magics. Its jagged head is a fiery orange crystal. The Spear of Salvation it will be called, for that is its purpose. To save us all from the abomination that comes.”
“This is the quest that Isranthr has set before you: to find the materials and ensure that this weapon is created and ready for when it is needed.”
““The haft is of Ysarian make—their steel is hardest and tempered with magical fire.”
“The point is made of a rare crystal, difficult to shape, but forms a powerful weapon. The Aedonii knew the secrets of its cutting.”
“Together, the power of the Ancient Ones will be placed together and bound in sorcery to forge the weapon of our salvation.”
Savaric, in turn, explains the dream that he has been having every night since he was revived in the Tomb of Secrets, presumably by Isranthr.
You are on a ship, a keelboat, with a band of Northron warriors. An old man is at the rudder, guiding the ship through a turbulent sea. The skies are a deep red marked with black clouds of soot floating on the strong winds. Looking ahead, you see an island on which a tall mountain spews lava and smoke through its top. In your hand is a metal box with runic symbols etched on its face.
Suddenly, the ship is rocked by an impact. Looking behind you, you see a fiery stone embedded in the hull of the keelboat. The men are pointing at the beach of the island where you see a group of giants with fiery hair and beards gathering stones and throwing them at the ship.
The old man tries to change direction and move the boat away from the beach, but the ship is moving too slow. Another boulder strikes the aft of the boat, pummeling the old man at the rudder and carrying him overboard as it smashes through the boat. The craft begins to sink.
The warriors begin abandoning the sinking boat and jumping into sea. You follow suit, leaping into the warm water surrounding the island.
The box is pulled from your hand by some unseen force and suddenly its contents burst from its prison: a deep green gemstone, shining with eldritch light beneath the waves. You, and it, sink lower and lower into the churning waters, almost as if pulled by the same unseen force that pulled the box from your hands.
The warmth of the waters fades as you feel the pressure of the water close in upon you. The sea grows cold, colder than the coldest Jossian winter. It occurs to you that you will not be going to Valhalla, will not be dying a warrior’s death.
By the green light of the rapidly sinking gemstone, you catch a glimpse of great, muscular tentacles—larger than anything you have ever imagined. Turning to try and swim against the implacable force, you struggle against the pressure of the cold waters but to no avail. Giving yourself up to your fate, you turn and face the horror on the floor of the sea. You watch as the gemstone settles onto the sand beside the abomination, only illuminating parts of the beast—but enough to instill a primordial dread that freezes you in place, unable to do anything but continue to gaze upon the fell creature.
But then, your horror grows as you see a great eye open within the mass of tentacled flesh. It focuses on you and you feel your body go limp in abject, hopeless, terror. One of the smaller tentacles reaches out and caresses your cheek. You sense satisfaction and subtle mockery emanating from the creature.
Then the flesh parts and reveals the great, hungry maw with rows of jagged teeth…and the eye focuses beyond you, toward the surface as it smiles.
Savaric also tells the woman about the green gemstone they found so long ago that they sent with the priest of Yülthn to be destroyed. Does she think that the gemstone in the dream is the same gemstone?
“While I have no knowledge of this gem of which you speak, I think it is possible that it is the same artifact. I cannot say with any certainty. It was not part of what I was shown.”
On the subject of Vigdis’ vision, Savaric says, “This seems straight forward enough. Can any Ysarian make the haft? Who is to bind the weapon together?”
“There have been no Ysar since before the Rivening, my boy. Some say they were wiped out. Some say they became the Elven race, while the Aedonii became human. I don’t believe that. The Aesen made we humans, that is what I believe. So the other is probably only the stuff of legend as well. The only truth is that the Ysar are no more. As far as who is to craft the weapon, that is for you to discover or decide—the gods are not going to give you every answer—especially not a god of the hunt. You will have to find your answers. Hunt for them, as it were.”
Savaric asks, “Is there any way you could draw the spear from your vision? If we track down someone that knows anything do with this it might help them. Even a rune from the haft.”
She chuckles a bit, shaking her head. “No. I am not an artist and I would not be able to capture what I saw, other than with the words that were placed in my heart to tell you. Have faith. You will know what needs to be done when the time comes.”
“Am I to just continue as normal until these items fall into my lap? Where do I even start looking?”
The old woman looks at Savaric, a bit perplexed. “You were chosen for a reason. Look at the information you have been given. Think about it. Think of it as following a trail. You are on a hunt, Twice-Born. The most important one of your life. No, nothing is going to fall into your lap. You have to think. You have to work. You have to struggle. That is our lot in life. That is what life is—struggle. In the end, that is what you chose, is it not? To continue your struggle?”
She closes her eyes and sighs. “The Aedonii and Ysar are long dead. But some of their secrets remain. Perhaps that is the beginning of your trail.”
“Well, I’m sure my friends are wondering if I’m safe in here with a strange woman in the middle of the forest. Before I go, tell me, how does The Hunter retire his weapons once they have served him?”
Vigdis chuckles. “You are safe. For now.” Then she frowns. “Unless you fail to fulfill your bargain with Isranthr. Then, you may not be so safe.”
She smiles again. “But, you asked about retiring weapons. It is an odd question. I’m not sure there is much in the lore about it. But, I would say that you should return it to the fires of creation. Return the sword to the forge-fire. Return the bow to the flame and to the ash with which to sow new wood. That is what I would do.”
Savaric pulls out the collected pieces of his bow and stands, “Then I suppose Isranthr’s fire would be the best fit.” He pauses for a moment as he stares into the hearth. “As for our bargain, it doesn’t seem safe is an option either way, but what fun would that be? Either build the spear to fight this new threat, or die without it. Are there no other agents of Isranthr headed toward this same goal? It seems odd that something so important would be left to the chance of one person.” With a small wind up he tosses the bow into the fire, then turns to Vigdis, only half expecting an answer at all, before approaching Ghost.
“You’re asking me to know the entire plan of a god? You give me too much credit,” Vigdis says, chuckling. “Perhaps you sell yourself short. Perhaps the Hunter is a gambler at heart. Who am I to say? All I know that is that there must have been some reason why he decided to intervene and bring you back from Eydis’ judgment, Twice-Born. Go with the blessing of Isranthr and the hope of old Vigdis.” She smiles at Savaric and motions toward the doorway.
Savaric says farewell to the old woman and exits the shrine.
Meanwhile, outside the shine…
As Savaric heads up the hill and enters the building, Rilka starts moving through the guard, gathering people together as needed for the healing power of Bruni. She lingers a bit longer at Kortash’s side, squeezing his arm tightly before moving on.
Mõrvar, from the bound body of the last Inquisitor, tells Surm, “There is no King here to keep me from questioning this one. I need time alone with him. By the time I am finished with him, he will want to tell me any and everything we want to know, as did the last one of these pricks did. It’s not going to be pretty, but I am tired of these assholes. If you have any reason not to let me have this one, it better be good and you better speak up now.” He also indicates that he’s going to drag the prisoner off to do what he’s going to so no one has to see it…unless they want to watch.
Surm says, “Everything ‘we’ want to know? There is nothing ‘I’ want to know from him. Jörn sent their big assassin and we beat him, I’m content with that, I have no need to seek revenge against an entire religion and wage war. I’m uncertain what information you’re looking for other than to get revenge for this attack on us? But, the assassin who attacked you is dead. The assassins who ambushed us are dead. Don’t seek out more problems, we find enough trouble without searching for it.”
Surm tells Alasir to put the guards holding the prisoner to work securing the perimeter and helping round up gear and horses.
Mõrvar says “There is still one more out there somewhere. This one assassin didn’t take it upon himself to gather eleven inquisitors and attack us. We are already at war with Jörn, and I intend to end it one way or the other. Give me the broach, keep track of me just in case.”
Surm says, “We’ve accounted for all the Inquisitors who came out to the woods after us. We know he sent two back to Josemeedt to await the woman. There are no more out here based on the numbers we had. If you believe there are more then we weren’t made aware of them and you shouldn’t go off into the woods.” Nevertheless, he hands his brother the Agent’s Clasp to wear.
Mõrvar drags the Inquisitor off into the woods about a hundred yards. The prisoner is be gagged and cuffed. No one is inclined to follow and watch.
Mõrvar telepathically says to Deathblow, “It would not shock me if there was another one or two of them out here. Keep aware, we know there is at least one more that was with the group.”
As Mõrvar is securing the Inquisitor’s gagged and bound form to a tree, he sees the man close his eyes as if in silent prayer over what is to come. Mõrvar begins applying his grave touch abilities and working to demoralize and demean the man further. Soon, it is clear that the Inquisitor is frightened and wants to flee—but cannot—which feeds more into his fear. Then Mõrvar begins intimidating the man in earnest…
“This all started when your cult assassinated the King of Yrda and tried to frame us…the Crimson Cord. Unfortunately for your band of thugs, it was the Crimson Cord you tried to frame…”
As the words wash over the panicked the Inquisitor, Mõrvar feels a change in the air pressure and suddenly appearing beside the tree, practically in Mõrvar’s face, is a demonic creature…
The demon stabs at Mõrvar with a barb-tipped spear, but the point glints off of the plates of the Eldritch Knight’s armor.
Mõrvar attacks with Deathblow, the greatsword’s blade cutting through the creature’s slime-covered hide. The slime is acidic and attempts to eat through the magic-imbued steal. Mõrvar hears the frustrated howl of the greatsword in his mind and sees smoke coming off of the surface of the weapon.
The creature drops it’s spear and cowers before Mõrvar’s onslaught, clearly wanting to flee but somehow unable to.
Surm hears the sound of conflict come from the woods where Mõrvar dragged the prisoner.
Mõrvar suddenly feels an intense heat flash near him and sees the Inquisitor become immolated in a column of flame that is gone as fast it came. The smell of burnt flesh wafts into his nose and he sees that the Inquisitor has been burned to a crisp. The demon continues to cower at Mõrvar’s feet.
Infuriated, Mõrvar swings down on the demon with his full might. “Really Jörn, this is the best you have? Even your demon cowers before me!"
As Mõrvar hacks twice into the demon, Deathblow bellowing in his mind, the gleaming blade smoking with acid droplets burning into the steel, the rendered shell of demonic flesh disappears with a whiff of sulfur as the second slash penetrates.
Surm comes barreling through the woods with the Handler’s Clasp in hand, with Rilka not far behind.
Mõrvar picks up the discarded longspear that the demon left behind and tells Deathblow to activate its flaming property to burn the acid off, which it does. Mõrvar casts a quick detect magic on the longspear, but does not detect any magical properties on the item. He asks his sword if its okay and Deathblow says, “I am fine. None of the acid burnt through my protections, though my finish may be marred.”
Surm and Rilka arrive on the scene. They see a body bound to a tree, burnt to cinders and smelling of roasted meat and sulfur, Morvar kneeling next to a discarded longspear on the ground.