High Valor

Act 2 - Dobhuinn's Journal

1000 Imperus Avi, 1st Aldsdae of First Blossom

Our trip to Fulk has taken a pause. I suppose it was only wishful thinking that we would float down this river long enough to reach the village without incident. This morning, a mere few days since pushing off the shore near Brusq, we found ourselves facing a collapsed bridge blocking the way. If the bridge itself were not enough of an inconvenience, the men fighting over its stone carcass certainly was.

There were men to either side of the river, one clad in green and white livery with the other in blue and gold. The former’s colors I did not recognize but came to learn were those of the Southern Dutchies while the latter were the High King’s colors. The High King stood over all of the free kingdoms though many disputed his right to this task. Among the dissonant stand the Southern Dutchies. Considering our location, it was no surprise to see their men here. It was the Duke of the Southern Dutchies who installed the Iron Wolves for the “protection” of Brusq. It was with good fortune that we found ourselves in the King’s camp this night. While I have no real allegiance to the High King, I have no reason to stand against him. On the other hand, the Iron Wolves gave me little reason to trust the Duke’s men.

Foy and I spoke with the commander in the King’s camp not long ago who informed us of concerning events. He confirmed that the men across these waters were the Duke’s men and that he would not be able to hold this broken bridge for long. In return we informed him of the events at Brusq. Unfortunately, none of the King’s men were available to be posted at Brusq. They were strained holding back the Duke at this pass as well as dealing with the fall of Daralgul, the Black Gate.

It’s with great difficulty that I write those words, “fall of the Black Gate”. This is an event so grim, I cannot imagine the commander described it in error nor that any, of any possible number of speakers to convey this news, could have misspoke it. There is only one Black Gate and any who know of it will know the consequence of its fall. There are dark days ahead of us and here we witness simple men wage war on one another while the Fane stand at the threshold without barrier to deny their entrance. I do not know what matter of man the King is but he at least has the bulk of the Free Kingdoms under his reign. Humans, and all other kinships of men, will be forced to work united if they are to withstand the Fane. Perhaps the Free Kingdoms will be the start of such a resistance.

With these dark events revealed, Foy and I could not stand by to let the Duke’s men hinder the King’s army. What little we two can do, we will. Tonight, with the support of four scouts, we will reconnoiter the Duke’s camp. I am confident that we will find a strategic advantage that could turn the tide of this battle.

Foy is driven by other forces to this cause, namely vengeance. To her, these men are no different from the Iron Wolves, they are men of the Duke. She has been sheltered from the history of the Fane. She has witnessed the evils of men but she is a stranger yet to the darkness that was once confined beyond Daralgul. I can only hope this life has prepared her for what is yet to come. In the meanwhile, I pledge here, as permanent as my ink to this canvass, that I will offer her all the guidance I can until my final breath.

1000 Imperus Avi, 1st Fyrsdae of First Blossom

Hubris. This is the only word I can find to describe my choices. Perhaps I’ve spent too much of my time living in the pages of books and scrolls. It is different to read of blood spilled than to see it. It is different when the blood of others is spilled by choices I have made.

Foy and I narrowly survived the reconnaissance of the Duke’s camp but the four scouts given to our charge did not. Our approach on the camp was flawless but the plan went sour thereafter. Perhaps the High Lord was distracted by the events of Daralgul or perhaps he disagreed with our actions. My magic was no imbued with his will last night. If it were not for Foy’s martial skill and the scouts who fearlessly offered their lives to our cause, foy and I would not have returned to the King’s camp. The morning has arrived and I must now bring this news to the commander.

While our mission was not the success we intended, we did manage to bring chaos to the Duke’s camp, leaving a number of tents in flames. Perhaps the unplanned havoc we brought to the Duke’s camp will work to our benefit. All will be answered on the battlefield today.

I have also recalled historic writings of a similar battle and may have some tactical advice to help today’s battle. If the King’s men do not succeed in their push on the Duke’s men today, this position will be lost and the Duke’s men will inevitably force the Kings men back and prolong the fighting allowing few resources to deal with what may come from Daralgul.

Regardless of how this day ends, helping the commander is the least I can do out of respect for the scouts who followed me to their death. I hope there does not come a day where I am writing words of this nature with regard to Foy.

1000 Imperus Avi, 1st Solsdae of First Blossom

The news of Daralgul has weighed heavily on me. My previous entries are evidence of a burdened state of mind. Today’s events glow with good tidings, and just as the Duke’s men at the batlle of the bridge were driven back , so are these dark clouds that hang over me.

Foy commanded the archers on the hillside while I stood at the Commander’s side, offering council based on my memory of historic scrolls that accounted a similar battle.

Foy’s command of the archers was important to keeping the enemy from advancing on the riverside. This allowed the King’s men to advance across the bridge. Once on firm ground, they could fight more effectively.

The Duke’s men had this long kept the King’s men at bay with the use of the river and broken bridge. They grew overconfident that they could hold the King’s men at bay using this terrain feature. What they did not take notice of was the segment of river from which little plant life grew. The flora tells us much of the land if we are willing to listen. The lack of plant life along a river is a strong indication of firmer ground, ground by which our units could cross with greater ease. By this path, a number of the King’s men crossed the river to flank the Duke’s units.

While outnumbered, the King’s men drove the Duke’s men back from the bridge. It would be foolish of me to speculate on all the possible causes of today’s success. For now, I will simply accept the good fortune with gratefulness.

With this battle behind us, we soon leave for Fulk. The men have helped carry our boat to the far side of the collapsed bridge. It is important that we continue our path to Fulk and I feel more at peace with the four scouts who will not be returning home. With hope, their deaths will be one link in the chain of events that will eventually help man brave the coming storm. I do not know what lies down this river, waiting for Foy and I.

1000 Imperus Avi, 2nd Trysdae of First Blossom

I am still weak from spider venom. I woke moments ago as the tincture brings on a deep sleep. This is not my first encounter with poison and the Atterlothe will make quick work of it at the cost of leaving my mouth a shade of blue for the next day. Atterlothe has a bitterness that bites as badly as the spider itself but it is a small price to pay in exchange for the privilege of keeping ones legs to walk upon. The ability to walk is something I will be in great need of tomorrow as the river allows no further passage to our previous transport. We are but a couple day’s travel from fulk so we can be grateful that the boat brought us this far.

As if the news of the Black Gate were not enough, we came upon twelve stone statue effigies of the Fane Lords this morning. They may once have stood complete along side the river a thousand years ago in the times of the Old Empire but now they lurch over the water with broken portions cast atop the riverbed. We assumed the thirteenth had crumbled completely, offering its destruction to aid in blocking our way. As our boat could not continue, we left it behind and took to foot. Already the Fane vex us.

Foy did not react well to the statues. She attacked one but was unable to topple it. What remained stood strong, having survived against the ages. I fear the same is true for the creatures these stone forms represent.

In this moment, Foy recounted her childhood at the Brusq church. The children were unkind, brandishing the fears of their parents as weapons without the social experience to keep them sheathed. The residing Mother encouraged Foy to forgive. By way of the High Lord’s teachings, Foy suppressed her desire for vengeance and, as she stated, “found another way around”. As so now, having the leave behind our transportation, we found another way around.

Though she displays it often, it is difficult to say if Foy’s fiery nature is one indicative of the Sidhain. Any child in her circumstance would want to retaliate. By comparison, she is no more difficult to agitate than the brutish Gunthar was. I will still add note of it in my Sidhain research.

From the river, we had to make way through swampy forested area. This normally would not bother me but the air was far too still, void of sound. The lush green of the plants were proof life once thrived here but those days have past.

As we pushed onward, the fog obscured the forest’s secret until it was too late. Webbing hung from trees as morbid silk tapestries woven by unusually large Araneae. I could not react to the movement of shadow over my shoulder before I felt the bite on my leg. Foy turned quickly to loose arrows and with gratitude to my failing legs we would not be testing Foy’s aim as my collapse offered her an unobstructed view of the dangling predator.

I could feel the burning sensation and was all too familiar with what would come in the next moments. I dug out my poison pouch, prepared for such occasions and started to chew on Atterlothe root. The tase is frightfully awful but when forced with a choice where death is an option, we tend to be much less discriminating of the remaining options. What followed is a blur but I believe there were two, perhaps three, other spiders and single-handedly, Foy dispatched them all. While my wisdom for making this journey can be questioned, none can question my choice of traveling companion.
The feeling my my leg was gone as Foy setup camp there in the woods. The Atterlothe root was only a temporary solution and I got straight to work on brewing up a better remedy. This makeshift camp was no comparison to my lab in Brusq but it would do. I made sure to bring enough equipment to make what may be needed but without overburdening myself.

As I steeped the remaining AtterLothe, I told Foy about one of my first experiences with poison. She was unsurprised that I had been poisoned before. Perhaps I should find offense in that but I cannot deny the truth of it. In my apprenticeship under an apothecary near Eldford, I was sent to fetch more Atterlothe for him. He stated that in return, he would teach me how to perpare the very tincture I prepared this night. What he didn’t state is how Atterlothe tends to attract the very snakes it protected against. Perhaps as some cosmic joke, one could be poisoned and even find their death with the remedy sprouting just an arm’s length away. And so, I fetched the Atterlothe but not after receiving the burning bite from some treacherous serpent unwilling to stay long enough to witness its handiwork. Not knowing better, I started to chew on the bitter root and quickly stumbled back to the apothecary. He could barely prepare the antidote through his laughter at my dazed look and blue stain running down my chin. He, too, had once been sent on such an errand but was not bit though had heard of many who have. Some many apothecaries hold this secret as a rite of passage in their profession but my memory of that incident is not nearly fond enough to keep me from sharing it. There was a lesson to be learned, besides one of trust: Sometimes the solution to a problem is closer than we realize.

1000 Imperus Avi, 2nd Ersdae of First Blossom

I must write this entry now in hopes that it will unburden my mind and grant me restful sleep tonight. I have seen that which man should not be made to see.

We arrived at Fulk at dusk. As if it were not enough that the neighboring forest was draped in webbing, the entire town is as well. This a most unnatural infestation. With night fast on our heels we were forced to take shelter.

We took to the local ale house. The interior was wrecked but at least there was no webbing within it. We were able to start a fire in the hearth that laid in the center of the room. The windows had already been boarded up from both inside and out and this offered some security against what must be waiting outside. I have not missed the Black Barrel while on this journey as much as I have tonight.

After spending some time in the ale house, we heard scraping on the rooftop. We believed it to be more of the man-size spiders we fought previously and I was painfully aware that I had no Atterlothe left. Now I only wish it had been those spiders.

Foy investigated the sound and found herself looking into the many, and human-like, eyes of a spider far larger than those we faced earlier. Unlike the spider’s dark blank gaze, this creature’s eyes professed some form of awareness, an intelligence. I have read folklore of such beasts, giant spiders with human eyes, used as mounts by the fane lords. The texts referred to them as spinners.

Even though the beast was far too large to enter the building through any existing entrance, there was no evidence it was trying. We knew we could not face it in the dark and instead slept in shifts, hoping we would stand a better chance of escape in the morning hours. Our host did not prove so gracious.

I woke to Foy’s screams and in the dim lit room could hear them echo from the new hole burrowed up through the ground. Racing out the ale house, I could see the immense creature scurry into the granary with a sack dangling from two of its spindly legs.

By the time I reached the inside of the granary, I could see Foy hung upside down from the tower’s center, wrapped tightly in strong silk but no sign of the Spinner. The tower reached up into darkness and I could only speculate that it waited somewhere above. I had to act quickly. I stacked boxes to climb up to foy and was able to get to her hunting knife to start cutting away the thick strands that encased her.

Having learned my lesson in the woods yesterday, I took notice of the shadow that fell over my shoulder this time but while up on these precariously stacked boxes, I had few directions to go. Impulsively, I leapt to Foy, grabbing hold of her in one arm and cutting the the thread that suspended her with the knife. I can still feel the soreness of that fall now and no doubt will for days.

Foy was not yet free and the spider was moments from descending on us both. I called on the winds to send a vortex up the tower’s interior, sending the spider up with it. That should have given us enough time to escape but after releasing Foy it was apparent she was not willing to leave so soon.

Foy readied an arrow as the winds subsided and the spinner dropped down towards us, each of its human eyes glaring at us in anger. Foy’s arrow glanced off the spinner’s hard shell and it pinned her to the ground. I tried to pry it off her as she struggled beneath it but it spat in my face, blinding me momentarily.

Foy must have landed a solid blow from beneath the creature because it released its grapple and scurried up into the darkness of the tower. This could have been our chance to flee but Foy would not have it. The Spinner began its next assault before I could press my case for our exit.

More arrows fly from Foy’s bow, some hitting the mark while others are unable to penetrate the creature’s armor. Knowing how the cold slows any spider unlucky enough to not have found shelter for the first freeze of the Ice Tide, I tried to wrangle the powers of chill North Winds. This did not entirely have the effect I intended. The Ice Tide engulfed the town of Fulk, quickly draining the warmth from the air around us. The chill bit into our skin and captured our breaths in quick puffs of smoke that told of our exertion.

The spinner reacted to this as well and dropped from its thick thread onto Foy but not before she could bring her spear upwards, impaling the beast on it. Skewered on the spear, the spinner continued to tear at Foy. With the Ice Tide storm raging outside, I called on more of the elements to join the fray. Lightning struck down on the tip of the spear, leaving a sickly burnt smell in the cold air. Yet, the spinner would not relent.

With some effort, Foy managed to free herself from beneath the spinner and I called lightning down on the building itself. Snow and pieces of the tower fell from above and the room was dimly lit by moon and lightning. I grabbed Foy by the arm, insisting we take this opportunity to escape but she threw me off and continued after the spinner. Neither her nor the spinner would quit this skirmish by choice.

The spinner spat at Foy, blinding her. With the last of my will, I held off the spinner’s attacks with lightning called down from the storm. Despite not having her sight Foy drew an arrow and sank it deep into the head of the beast and its attack ceased as its legs slowly pulled up into itself.

Do the Sidhain have additional senses beyond we Humans? I know Foy moves in the darkness far better than any Human could and have always attributed this keen sight to those serpent-like eyes. However, even when robbed of those unnatural eyes, she landed a shot most seasoned hunters could not. Could this be some hidden Sidhain talent, the High Lord’s favor for who must be his most devout Sidhain follower, or just, pardon the phrase, blind luck? Regardless, I graciously accept this outcome even if I never understand how we came to reach it.

The storm raged outside the granary though all was still within it. The spinner was draped over the debris with its legs curled around a mound of broken boxes as if clinging onto life. Those human-like eyes stared at us for an uncomfortably long moment before beginning to move each of their own accord. The eyes darted about without any sense of unity and one by one, each eye sprung from its socket, revealing itself to be the body of a smaller spider. I watched in horror as the last of the eyes scurried out of the spinner and off into the dark night. I know not if Foy’s sight had returned to see this but neither of us spoke of it thereafter.

We have dragged ourselves back to the ale house and now I only hope I can get some peaceful sleep though the eye spiders will continue to haunt me. There was no mention of this is the texts I have read. To whom will these evil messengers scurry? The storm should subside soon but for now, it is keeping any other spiders at bay. We leave for the farm in the morning.

1000 Imperus Avi, 2nd Varsdael of First Blossom

We reached the farm this morning and there is little left of it. The stories were true, it had been razed to the ground. Such is the fear of man, to destroy all that they do not understand.

Something caught Foy’s eye along the edge of the nearby woods. I followed her glare and saw a shadowy figure disappear into the trees. Before words of warning could reach my lips, Foy was off in a full sprint after the figure. I recall writing something about my wisdom in my choice of traveling companion and I may yet be corrected on this matter.

I caught up with Foy and only moments later did my remaining life catch up with me. My lungs and legs burned and I was in no shape for another scuffle. I arrived fully prepared to surrender.

This was not necessary. Foy and I stood before the figure who looked back at us free of apprehension. We stood in a shaded grove which, for a welcome change of pace, had an air of peacefulness to it. The figure itself had an unusual presence as if it were not present at all. Even in this shadowed grove, where the light fell strange, the figure appeared as if it were a shadow itself, given form by something other than light. This was later made even more apparent when the shadow offered its hand to the sunlight, under which it faded from sight.

The shadow spoke, with a woman’s voice, softly and directly to Foy. She said she has been expecting Foy. She introduced herself as Lavreal soulcrier, a Sidda. I have read very little of the Sidda but nothing I read prepared me for the conversation that followed. This sidda spoke strangely as though she could see realms we could not and with a confused sense of time.

Of what I could understand, this Sidda believes her people to have created the Sidhain a thousand years ago and in doing so have made a terrible mistake but would not speak further on it. Believing the Sidhain were her and her people’s burden to bear, Lavreal did what she could to protect the Sidda at the Fulk farm, including Foy. At that time, there were others with Lavreal who helped bring Foy to the church at Brusq but now she is the only one left and has been waiting for Foy’s return.

Lavreal spoke of “light” and “dark” Sidda. Those who embraced the High Lord with reverence and those who turned away in shame. She spoke that the Fane knew of the Sidhain and feared them. She spoke of truth and directed us to seek the “palace of shadows” though we do not know what this is place is. Lavreal then left Foy with the following words: “You must do great things for you are the last of your family.” With that, she faded into the shadows having delivered this message to Foy that she waited all these years to do.

I write these words now for once I sleep, I may no be able to separate these events from dream. I started an entry to document my experiences with the Sidda. These are truly remarkable though enigmatic beings.

We leave in the morning for Daralgul. I fear what we may see but we must understand the state of things to better devise a plan to overcome it. This must sound of foolishness but to run from these dangers now would only mean facing them later at a disadvantage. There are truths yet uncovered that may help prepare our people for the coming days.

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