Entry: Shalalu’s Tales on the Trail
It has been years since I have been this far north. The wilderness of northern Varisia has a certain feral calm, dangerous predators stalk the sea driven mists but a sense of self can be found here. And yet, a place that I once found much in common with, is now cold and lonely.
Looking upon the grey silhouette of Brinewall Castle, I realized that it was a representation of what many had called me over the years. Cold, hard, forlorn and distant. I hate this place, it is not what I want to be.
Ameiko, my closest friend, lies unconscious in her wagon. She has fallen to something I cannot fight. That castle houses evil though, and that I can fight. This castle stood alone, thinking it was impenetrable, but it fell to many. Strength is in numbers and as the cold ocean wind whips at my clothes, for the first time, I do not stand alone. This castle will fall again.
The abandoned and destroyed village gave up very few secrets of its destruction as we searched, the only recent sign of life was a recently destroyed Ulfen longship. The cemetery however was truly a surprise. Beautifully kept hedges and graves stood in stark contrast to the ruined village and the meeting of the very strange but excitable follower of the Goddess, Desna. My hope for Ameiko has risen as the sprite like creature called Spivey has agreed to attend her. I pray Desna’s power will flow back to my friend.
The castle wall defenders, Corbies, foul twisted humanoid ravens fell quickly to our stealthy attack. Luthien and Theibar’s speed in scaling the walls was impressive while Athebryn and myself peppered the walls with arrows. Before long, two ogre-kin and several more corbies fell to attack. Though focused, I cannot help but feel proud as I watch my sister and once student down enemy after enemy.
Breaking into the castle, I can honestly say that none of us were expecting to bear witness to a bizarre play. Five corbies jumped and spun through the castle’s long hall. Watching on from the throne sat a red faced man with a prodigious nose. Caring little for our presence, he demanded we sit and watch his masterful play. As with all good theatre I have seen, it ended in violence. However, we were not quick enough to capture the fleeing madman. If that was not a curse enough, Athebryn found a small rapier that seemed to sing and hum through the air. Desna help us.
The tragedy and violence that visited this castle all those years ago is still evident. Dull bloodstains, gouges in the stonework and lastly, the unquiet voices who lost their lives. Rage and loss have seeped into these walls and seems to know little the difference of friend and foe.
Dwelling on the lost would have to wait though as we stumbled on another tragedy. The Seven Swords foolishly followed us here and had come across the mightiest ogre I have seen in my years of wandering. The female ogre had already torn three of the members apart before we got there and only Matsuro, their idiot of a leader, was still standing. For a moment anyway. With him helpfully unconscious, we entered the fray. I wish I had covered my ears that day for as soon as she saw us elves, her rage was solely focused on us. It is hard to roll with a blow when it feels like a tree hitting you. And yet she fell, not to arrow or elf, but to the stabbing tenacity of an angry gnome. A loud, overly-talkative, way too bright gnome who now has my total respect. I just cannot ever tell him that.
With the Matsuro returned to camp, we continued our search. Corbies, corbie priestesses, undead and even a giant mobat fell before us. Our momentum only halted by a strange harpy. Seemingly educated and less bestial then others I have fought, she offered up the red-faced man, one she revealed to be responsible for the slaughter of the village all those years ago. His name is Kikonu and he is a demon. Despite my better judgement, we agreed and the Tengu Lord fell to our might. His last ounce of evil reserved for his onetime lover, he stole the harpy’s voice and sang as he died.
The castle’s rage simmered, a weight of anguish seemingly gone and when we returned the following morning, the place was all but deserted. The dungeons were our only unexplored area and it turned out to be the most important.
I am impressed with my sister’s temperance as I would not have allowed the ogre jailor to walk away. After what we grew up in, if she can feel pity for such a creature then maybe she can help me. Maybe my “younger sister” has grown up and matured more than I have.
The ogre’s prisoner was not what I was expecting. A tall, powerful blond woman with a piercing gaze stood stoically, to proud to ask for freedom. She represents everything I believe of the Linnorm Lands and I believed her whole-heartedly when she said she would lend her strength to ours. I am glad she did.
Following the shimmering appearance of Pharasma, mistress of the dead, we were ambushed by a creature from the very depths of nightmares. A tentacled horror from the far realms, a “child” of Pazazu, the Bird Demon had been hidden away for countless centuries underneath the castle. The last thing I remember of that fight was Kelda, the warrior Ulfen woman screaming a battle challenge and leaping of the ridge above onto the beast. Then only darkness and pain as I was impaled on a stalactite.
By time I awoke, in the surprisingly soft arms of Kelda, Luthien, Theibar and Athebryn had found a hidden treasure chamber where Ameiko’s decedents had left their legacy. I sensed it when the ancient box was opened and the ensuing vision was nothing I could have ever imagined.
Ameiko, friendly, loud, brash and charming Ameiko is an Empress?? My friends, my sister, now heirs to an Empire. Looking at Kelda, we both nodded. Neither of us had been chosen as a future heir, no, our destiny was much more important. We had been chosen to guard and guide our friends to theirs against an overwhelming and mysterious enemy. I have a focus now, a reason to move on. I will see these legendary lands and I will carve a clear path to the throne for my loved ones. Well, maybe not the gnome, no point getting too far ahead of ourselves.
Now, time to have a chat with Ameiko’s wayward brother………..