High Valor

Act 1 - Dobhuinn's Journal

1000 Imperus Avi, 1st Ersdae of Heaven’s Weep

On an otherwise normal Ersdae, something noteworthy took place this afternoon. While out collecting fresh Deilen Ddu on the outskirts of Arborfell Wood, a travelers’ cart was assailed by a pair of Iron Wolves on the edge of the woods. This, in itself, was not the event worthy of note. The mercenaries demanded the usual toll we’ve heard told of by some travelers to Brusq, the I’m sure many others have stayed silent for fear of repercussion. What is worthy of note was the noble arrow that took flight from within the forest to the defense of the travelers. It fell wide of the mercenary it was intended for but was still effective in distracting the two Wolves from their prey.

The mercenaries, swords already in hand, moved towards the source of the shot. From the unmoving glare in their eyes, I could tell they could already see the archer where I could not. Whoever fired the shot was up in the trees. I knew none in Brusq who would dare to stand against the Iron Wolves and my curiosity kept my feet rooted behind the safety of a stout Oak.

My curiosity was greatly rewarded in the moments that followed. A woman dropped gracefully from an Ash, silently rolling to a kneeling stance and letting loose an arrow that felled one of the Wolves. She could do little against the second Wolf who knocked her to the wooded ground.

Against better judgment, I intervened. Giving away my position, I called on the chill winds of the North to stop the mercenary and the High Lord punished my hubris. A great chill blasted through me, leaving my fingertips blackened as if bit by the Ice Tide. I would like to think I provided a distraction but only saw the last moments of the woman tearing apart the Wolf with a hunter’s knife. Barely before my body’s warmth could melt the ice within my bones, I retreated for my home in Brusq.

I only saw her briefly in those moments. She was no woman of Brusq and moved with the grace and ferocity of an animal. I will not forget her eyes as they were the yellow eyes of a serpent. For a moment, I thought my mind was playing tricks on me, brining the local story of the “Arborfell Demon” to life, a story I have heard many mothers tell their children to keep them from misbehaving or running off from sight. This demon, this woman, was not only very real but was not malignant forest spirit but a protector of Brusq. Why, though, and by who’s charge?

1000 Imperus Avi, 2nd Morndae of Heaven’s Weep

My transciprtion work continues for the Church of Brusq and I have been reminded of the past events I witnessed in Arborfell Woods. While sorting through the crate of documents I came across one errantly misplaced or carefully hidden, which described an orphan girl who lived in the church many years past. She was one of many orphans who found a home in the church at that time but unlike the others, she had eyes described as “yellow” and “snake-like”. She was Sidhain. The woman I saw in the woods appeared to be an age which fits the dates on these documents. I have no doubt that the girl described in this document is who I saw in the woods, wrongly believed to be a demon. From the description of the girl’s troubles here in Brusq, it’s no mystery what drove her from it’s warm homesteads to the wilds but something kept her near.

These documents place her arrival curiously around the same time as the plague known as the “Fulk Farm Pox” in record and the “Sidhain Blood Harvest” in whispers, though some whisper louder than others. It resulted in the fall of Fulk and mention a local farm that employed Sidhain farmhands which was believed to the source of the plague. A number of orphans found a home in the church at that time and this girl, Foy, was among them.

Is this why she is here, why she stands for the men and women of Brusq? Could this truth been buried all these years, beneath these more mundane pages of the church’s history?

As if these findings were not unusual enough in their timing or content, I also found evidence showing that the Sidda and Sidhain aided the Human kin against the cursed Fane Lords. By the nine, could the High Lord’s guiding hand be any less subtle? I must admit my curiosity is stoked hotter than Bruno’s forge. I must seek her out. I need to understand her a little better prior to bringing any of this information before the Church.

1000 Imperus Avi, 2nd Aldsdae of Heaven’s Weep

I have finally gathered the courage to enter the woods in search of Foy. So eager and fearful of what I may find, it was not until I entered the edge of Arborfell that I realized I had no way of finding this woman. She is not some spirit to be summoned with herbs and well-crafted words, after all. I could only hope that her vigilance would witness my arrival, that her bravery would greet me, and that her patience would give me time to prove my peaceful intentions. Hope was all I was armed with. Well, hope and agrimony. My Father and Mother bestowed upon this world: two men, one woman, and no fools.

Listening intently for sounds in the woods, I was late to hear the sound of Hooves from the dirt road behind me. I quickly took behind a tree and uttered words with the intent to conceal myself but instead I shown bright even against Lyr’s daylight. The three men on horseback, more of Iron Wolves, called to attention. I must sadly admit that wielding magic is an art and some days the dyes run thin. Perhaps there is some lesson from the High Lord I have yet to understand and I need to make better judicious use of magic in the future. Perhaps, this was fate.

With the Wolves closing on my position, Foy sprung out from the woods as a lion roused from its den. The battle that ensued will not be one to be sung in any songs but the mercenaries were driven off and continued towards Brusq. Foy gave choice and I followed far behind as my glowing pretense slowly weakened as a candle’s flame running out of wick to burn. At that moment, I understood the wick in its final moments but my fire has yet to be extinguished.

I arrived, unseen, in Brusq just in time to hear the Iron Wolves’ speech offering payment of those who could gave information on Arborfell she-devil and offering equal punishment for those withholding such information.

Hearing enough, I returned to the woods where I found Foy, cleaning a dear carcass. I shared with her my findings at the Church. The Church had taught her well. Not only was she well spoken for a woodland creature but she could read as well.

It was obvious to us both that we and possibly Brusq were less safe from the Iron Wolves than before, for the hornet’s nest had been rattled. While I had many questions yet to ask, dealing with the Wolves demanded our immediate attention. With my last encounter with them, I doubt I could safely stay in my home for much longer. Foy and I continued our discussion, crafting a plan to be hatched the following evening.

1000 Imperus Avi, 2nd Solsdae of Heaven’s Weep, Morning

Lyr has just broke over the horizon and I sit now within the Iron Wolves camp, surrounded by still carnage. Between yesterday and today, it is amazing for me to be recording an entry at all. As may be evident by my wavering script, I am lucky I can hold this quill at all. While I am able to stay awake, I will recount the events of yesterday, 2nd Fyrsdae of Heaven’s Weep

I spoke with my good friend, Euric, yesterday morning. I planned to present the mercenary camp with an offering of Euric’s dark ale. I had no doubt the ale would be popular with the Wolves and with the proper amount of Mandrake, a very restful night was ahead of them. Euric was not aware of my plans to “spice” the ale. While I did not enjoy keeping my friend in the dark, it was safest that he did not know of my plans should anything go wrong.

I prepared the necessary documents for the transport of the ale from Brusq to the Iron Wolves camp. These documents would be useful in procuring a cart as well as reducing suspicion among the Wolves.

I arrived at the camp by dusk yesterday. Through a careful exchange of words, I convinced Fenris the Red, captain of the Iron Wolves, that I was not in league with the “Arborfell demon”. Not only was the barrel readily accepted by the mercenaries but I was offered a position among their guard for that night. This granted me access to the camp though at much personal risk. I could only hope Foy was ready to strike when I gave the signal last night.

All Wolves who were not to be on watch that night took full advantage of Euric’s ale. They drank competitively and if the contest’s prize were a good night’s sleep then I would say they all won that evening. For any who will survive to see today, I doubt they would enjoy this victory.

The High Lord blessed us with a dim evening as two of three moons hung low on the horizon. The mercenary watch relied greatly on the torches to pierce the darkness that stood between the camp and treeline. Foy would have the cover of darkness once I could put out some of these torches, the signal we agreed on for her to invade the camp. Putting out the torches would prove to be more difficult than it may sound.

My advantage of having access to the camp was diminished by Fenris’ insistence that I be accompanied at all times. His years of dealing with the unscrupulous have taught him to handle his trust as merchants handle their coin. Accompanied by a Wolf atop the camp rampart, I only needed to find a way to afford enough time to speak the shadowverse needed to call in the winds to blow out these torches. Waiting for the wolf to relieve himself over the wall, I spoke the words that would turn a calm night to absolute chaos.

In looking back now, I wish I had the courage to have pushed the Wolf from the camp wall. The thought had crossed my mind and my arms reached out nearly far enough to reach him but I simply could not bring myself to perform the deed. I felt an inexplicable and overwhelming wave of grief wash over me. With little time to spare, I called on the winds to extinguish the flames.

As I have often noted before, there is far more to wielding magic than well spoken words. I often do not understand the High Lords intent. So very often my call to magic brings unexpected effects but on occasion he grants me amazing success. I continue to try to understand his ways but I digress. The winds arrived but did not extinguish the torches. The flames rose to unusual heights, flaring wildly to the sky, throwing bursts of light on the camp. My Wolf escort would not stay surprised for long so I took advantage of the opportunity this gave me, and ran.

I had few places to hide as torches’ unpredictable flailing chased shadows within the camp. I made my way behind some tents, calling on fire to set others ablaze. Fenris had burst from his tent, bellowing curses and orders. Some Wolves tried ineffectually to wake their brethren who enjoyed their specially prepared ale while others on the rampart pointed towards the wood and shouting in alarm indicating Foy’s arrival, as I hoped.

I was unable to hide for long and eventually came face to face with Fenris, a man intimidating enough when he wasn’t brandishing a weapon in my direction. Knocked to the ground by his men, Fenris was intent on ending me. With great focus I called on the High Lord’s storm lance as Fenris raised his blade. With a loud crack, a burst of white-blue light struck down on Fenris and he collapsed to the ground. While Fenris was no more, true to their dedication to their pack, his men continued to operate as if taking his command from beyond the grave.

Foy arrived the in moments that follow and had she not, I am certain I would not be writing this entry today. I exhausted every drop of energy my will could muster but could not stand against the remaining Wolves. I only learned of our victory when I awoke the this morning.

I’m in need of some rest and will try later tonight to have an update for today’s events. There is still a full day ahead of me and I am uncertain what may come of it. I must admit that recent events have rekindled the wanderlust within me.

1000 Imperus Avi, 2nd Solsdae of Heaven’s Weep, Evening

It has been an eventful day and I need to make note of this before I drift into slumber.

My life of work for the Order of the Scroll have not hardened me to withstand the hardships of battle. My body pulsed with pain. I felt forcefully aware of myself as if my entire being screamed in defiance of years of neglect. I prepared a tincture which would only muffle the screams until time could silence the pain.

Foy was still alive but battered, her arm broken. I supplied her with a healing tea and dressed her wounds. If any mercenaries survived the night they had already deserted their camp. Foy and I were the only living souls left within the camp walls.

We gathered what strength we could along with all that we could salvage from the camp. Weapons, including Fenris’ sword, which now hangs defiantly at Euric’s Black Barrel Alehouse, and a chest we found in Fenris’ tent that was filled with coins I am sure were taken forcefully from many of Brusq’s coin purses. These coins were to be returned to the town of Brusq along with the other supplies.

I returned to Brusq with all but the coins, which Foy would bring to the Church later that night. As I drove the cart to the town square, there were few who had to be called out to hear the announcement I would make there. In a town as small as Brusq, word travels quickly and few expected my return that day.

This day, I revealed the truth to Brusq: that the oppressive Wolves had been driven off and that their Demon of the Woods was no demon at all. Many refused to believe Foy was involved in protecting the town all this time but it would be more difficult to believe that I drove off the mercenaries on my own and my cart had all the proof needed that the Wolves were indeed driven off: the banners, weapons, and most telling, Fenris’ sword. It helped greatly that Mother Hadewig, of the Brusq Church, stepped forward to speak on Foy’s behalf. While many are still hesitant, others are no longer as fearful of Foy as they were. Brunhild remains vocally defiant but then, when isn’t she? Lucky for me, the town are accustomed to her rantings.

There was great revelry tonight. Euric kept The Black Barrel open late tonight and the townfolk rejoiced without fear of the Wolfs and with little fear of the Demon of the Woods. It was as if all evil were vanquished outside the town walls. While we all know this is not so, it does not hurt the folk of Brusq to have their night of comfort.

During the festivities, I excused myself to visit the Church. I knew Foy planned to visit Mother Hadewig to deliver the Wolves’ ill-gotten coin. When I arrived, the cart stood in the dark behind the Church and two acolytes were retrieving it. I sent one back inside and took up one end of the chest to help the other carry it in.

Within the Church, we brought the chest to a room where Foy and Mother Hadewig were deep in conversation. They had much to discuss. I expected the news I delivered to the town would be difficult for both the town and Foy after falsehood had so many years to stain their beliefs. As I told Foy, revealing the truth was necessary. Falsehood is little different than sickness and truth is required for treatment.

Before I left the Church, I suggested that Foy stay at the Church. Staying in the town would be good for her, help the healing process while giving her the comfort of the place she once called home. I offered that she should visit the tavern but did not press the suggestion as I felt it would be overwhelming for her. After planting these seeds, I left to enjoy one of Euric’s ales at The Black Barrel. Along with the rest of Brusq, I felt entitled to some relaxation.

When I was leaving The Black Barrel to retire for the night, I was pleasantly surprised to see Foy stalking away. I smiled, knowing the healing had already begun and Foy is proving to be a quick healer. Perhaps this ability to adapt is an aspect of the Sidhain nature. I look forward to learning more of her kind for I feel there is far more than the fearful tales that have taken such deep root in these lands.

Now, I need some sleep.

1000 Imperus Avi, 1st Tyrsdae of First Blossom

It has been some time since I have updated my journal. The days have been filled with work and great progress in the healing of this town and Foy. Mutual acceptance between Foy and the town has not been easy, nor is it complete but these things take time and I am happy with its progress. Brunhild will never accept Foy and Gunthar’s acceptance is forced but this is to be expected for the two most stubborn folk of this town.

While Brunhild’s stubborness is insurmountable, Gunthar’s was dealt with by force, the only method that could work with such a brute. When Foy offered to train the militia, Gunthar argued there was nothing Foy could teach the men of Brusq and so the proverbial gauntlet was thrown and Foy was to dual with Gunthar.

The town took delight in the match between Foy and Gunthar and to the surprise of many, Foy’s nimble martial abilities far exceeded Gunthar’s raw strength. He lumbered about with heavy swings which led devastation but none could land where Foy stood as her animal reflexes kept her deftly moving around him. The match was called in Foy’s favor and anger overcame Gunthar who drew a hidden blade to attack the unsuspecting Foy. I called out to her in warning and with great speed she kicked the blade from his hand. The dishonor wounded Gunthar more deeply than the loss of the match. It will be some time before he is able to wash himself of this shame.

Having seen her martial prowess, the town was quick to accept Foy’s help and have spent many days under her tutelage. I have been busy helping them deal with the soreness that comes with vigorous training. My days have been spent making tincures for the pain and salves for minor cuts and bruises. None of the Wolves weapons will protect the town of Brusq any better than the knowledge from Foy that they now wield.

As I expected, Foy and I will leave for Fulk today. I knew it would only be a matter of time for her to heal with the town and for her to give the town the knowledge they need to protect themselves in the future. While the threat of the Wolves was removed, there are endless threats that remain in the world and it is only a matter of time before they visit this small town.

I feel it is important to note that I am not manipulating Foy in anyway to take on this journey to Fulk but I do feel it is best for her. I believe the truth of her past lies there. I admit though, that my desire to travel to Fulk with Foy is also self-serving. In Fulk, I will uncover pieces of lost history, both Fulk’s and Foy’s history. To add, I cannot even dream of what I will learn of the Sidhain by traveling with one. This is an extraordinary opportunity.

Before I leave for the boat to Fulk, I must mention a bright moment from this morning. It is a good omen, a message from the High Lord, himself. This is a sign that I am on the proper path. With the busy days, my stock of herbs are nearly empty. I was forced to wander deep into the woods to restock. There, I came upon a small waterfall which captured my attention for quite some time. While watching the water flow down the hillside, my mind was transported home to Albae, to Aes Foilsigh [Ays FOY-el-sigh].

The Aes Foilsigh glowed a light blue even against the night, lighting the open land around it such it would drown out any nearby torchlight. While much smaller, this waterfall near Brusq reminded me greatly of it. The water moved briskly with clarity, sparkling from Lyr’s rays. To me, it stands as a symbol of beauty and truth. Even though I am reminded of a sad day in my past, it carries with it a certain serenity. I must tell Foy of this finding. I feel it is a sign of the peace Brusq now has and that we are ready to move on with our journey.

When I was a child, my older brother, Luag [LOO ak], and I would often steal away to play near the Aes Foilsigh, even against the wishes of our Father and Mother. We would bring with us a small boxes, in which we planned to catch farries we believed to be near the river into which the falls ran. While we never filled our boxes, we were certain there must be farries nearby. What else could bring such a magic glow to the waters we never dared to touch?

The last time I visised Aes Foilsigh with my brother, the waters took him. He fell in, striking his head on a stone and I was unable to bring myself to go in after him. I could see his eyes peacefully looking back on me from under the clear waters, his body engulfed in the blue glow in the moments before I ran for home. Against the fear of the trouble we would be in, I called on my Father who returned to Aes Foilsigh with friends but my brother was beyond their aid and was laid to rest the following day.

My Father and Mother punished me no further for having visited the falls, knowing well my grief was punishment enough. Without my brother, I am left only with a sister, Sorcha [SOH ruh chuh], who spends these days in Albae married to a good man with a talent for woodcrafting.

Since my brother’s passing, I returned to those waters many times. I would view them at a distance, enjoying the truth in their clarity, and the serenity in their blue glow. I remember the eyes of my brother looking back through the water peacefully on me, apologizing for having brought me the Aes Foilsigh against our parent’s will.

[Dobhuinn does not remember the events of Aes Foilsigh as they actually occurred. Visiting the falls was Dobhuinn’s idea. His brother did not want to cross his parents but Dobhuinn badgered him into going. Further, Dobhuinn dared Luag to touch the waters. Dobhuinn did not believe the local stories that one would be turned into some woodland creature at the water’s touch. After Luag gathered up the courage to touch the waters, he reached out from the water’s edge to dip his finger in when Dobhuinn gave him a shove into the water. It was meant to be a joke on Luag but Luag struck his head on a stone in the river as he fell into the water. Dobhuinn was struck with fear, unable to move as he stared down at his older brother. When he finally came to his senses, he ran home for help, unable to bring himself to go into the water. Dobhuinn is unaware of this truth, but the guilt of his brother’s death exists deep within him, manifesting in ways he does not realize.]

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