Coldfire's Reign

The Siege Unfolds

As Cynric fights the goblin horde, life slows downs and becomes the simple matter of battle

- -

boring anticipation as the horde closes on us with ladders

arrow after arrow shot at the enemy makes little difference; though the blue-skinned mage decimates the snotlings in front of him

finally, the promise of serenity comes as a ladder falls against my wall and battle is joined; too easily they dodge my blows and i curse myself for not being as fast as the simple green-skinned snotlings

the blue skinned mage starts killing MY targets; only his eyes betray rage as he methodically casts death again and again

my flail crushes the chest of the last goblin before me; i open my senses to the larger battle at hand

our wall is held by the blue skinned mage and a contingent of knights to protect him; two buildings give smoke and a few of the snotlings run amongst us

jump from the wall to dispose of the invaders; two snotlings drop to my weapon as more knights work to dispose of the others

unbelievably, the gate opens a second time; now, it is a knight who does so “What are you doing? Close the gate!”…a boy…a fool, as he dies at the first spear posed against him

goblins rush to the opening; i focus my senses on them and wish i could move faster to give praise to the Battle Father

“Thanks to you, Tiw”

my flail finds purchase behind the left ear of a goblin, as one of their spears finds purchase in my right ribcage; i gladly pay my due to You, Lifetaker…and will make them pay in kind

“Tiw thanks you!”

the snotlings fall like flies; the horde parts for a caped being wearing a mask

the wooden mask

Battle Father, you smile upon me; hear my prayers and I shall grant you glorious victory

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A Demon Thwarted?

Cynric stood and studied the motionless body of the supposed demon.

- – -

This had been what stopped the battle? This is what held the goblins at bay? A man wearing a wooden mask?? THE BLESSED MASK? …and the goblins have it amongst their stinking ranks.

By the loving blessings of the Battle Father, why did I not bring that man down within these walls? Wrestling him to the ground would have stopped him cold.

Weapon of the Gods, if I am to learn all my mistakes this way, I will be the wisest dead man in Sceatha’s Hall.

No matter. Nothing can change that course, now. Either we wait, or we force the offensive by meeting them on the field. This is not my decision to make. So, either way, I wait.

Battle Father, I am prepared, and await another chance to bring You victory

- – -

Cynric turns and walks away, retrieving his thrown dagger. Then, he resumes target practice, throwing daggers with his left hand; reweaving the familiarity he already knows in his right.

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Captain Grulsh's Journal, Watchgap Fort
Werremonan, 2nd Healfdaeg

I do not sleep anymore.

I am unable to decide whether it’s supernatural influence, lack of food, expectation of the coming battle, or simply the vexation of being contained against my will inside these walls, but the events of yesterday evening perturbed my sleeping hours, leaving me restless and worried, though I know I have seen far worse things.

Is my judgment compromised? We are, after all, besieged, surrounded, and outnumbered. Perhaps I no longer see things clearly. How else to explain why my command to Ser Beren the Quartermaster led to the very conflict which I sought to avoid. Or perhaps men trapped behind walls defy prediction.

The men were grumbling about the stranger, Malik, but this wasn’t new. For days, they resented being treated like common innkeepers by a man who believed his silver entitled him to special consideration. So I didn’t take seriously the whispers that Malik had been seen atop the tower during the battle, safely away from the coming horde, and wearing the visage of a demon.

An annoyance, yes; perhaps a coward. But a demon? I was more concerned with with my men’s willingness to tell potentially tales on this stranger than with the possibility that they might be true.

Rather than speak to him myself and immediately make him defensive, I sent my Quartermaster—a veteran combatant and a trusted friend, well-liked by the men. He reports that it did not go well. I can only assume that the failed discussion was the catalyst for subsequent events.

The reports I have are that, after the discussion, Malik suddenly appeared outside the tower in a wooden mask carved into the shape of a demon head. When men swarmed to subdue him, the Malik Demon rose into the air, high enough that no hand-held weapon could harm him, then began to fly in over the Northern wall!

He had gotten halfway to the Goblin lines when my archers finally overcame their shock and let loose a volley of arrows. Many found their mark, piercing him multiple times. I’m told Malik hung in the air, dead, suspended by this flying mask, before the mask itself parted from him, flew a bit further, and fell into the ranks of the goblins.

None among us know where the mask came from, its purpose, or what danger it may pose, now that it’s in the hands of the enemy. Perhaps it will cause as much confusion, fear, and strife within their ranks as it has caused in ours.

But that’s a foolish hope. The Norns have never woven us luck such as that.

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Return to a Sanctuary

From the journal of Griven:

It’s been four days since the battle at the goblin infested fort. The journey has been longer than expected. I’d hoped by now to be able to speak with Kryllin and beseech her gift in helping guide my brother on his way to The Halls. It’s taken some time for me to come to terms, knowing the fate of all that eventually reach that place of judgment. I know the soul lingers for some time before eventually moving on, giving the living time to make arrangements and prepare for the venture. Emeric looks much as he did before, my magic and the natural elements helping to keep him in a sort of hibernated state. If not for the fact that his visage mimics mine, the cold blue-white of his skin the only reflection of change, I’d believe he slept soundly. I know that Maera will embrace him in that place and hold him at her side.

Those we freed continue to trudge on beside us. After our flight from the fort, we turned hard to the west towards the Hearth Trees, a place known to Malosian. In its encompassing boughs and surrounding needles we found refuge from any searching eyes. I’ve given away the warm clothes that Emeric and I had used and what is left of the week worth of rations that we each brought with us. The addition of eight people has stretched us beyond our means, though Malosian has been able to aid us with some skill at hunting.

I look forward to a proper meal when we finally return to Watchgap Fort, if one is available. My stomach is already protesting at the lack of substance. We passed by Watchgap Fort’s safe confines a few days ago. Here I had thought our grueling journey might be over, that we might find a brief respite from all the trials we’ve experienced physically and emotionally. As Malosian and I reached the top of a copse-shrouded hillock we realized that was not to be. Before us stretched a vast army of goblins. They’d surrounded the fort completely, cutting off any chance of escape. These damned creatures continue to harry the peoples of the north! It was with difficulty that I finally acceded to Malosian’s words and turned away from the sight below. Though my arm hangs limp at my side, useless, and damned annoying even in the attempts to hold these pages open as I write these words, I vowed that I would return to the Fort. Damn this arm of mine, these aches that still won’t relent!

We are but a half a day from the grove of the Forest Lord, a place where Malosian believes that he can replenish his magic and help return us to his Sanctuary within the walls of Watchgap Fort. I know the knights will be able to hold out against the threat. I’ve heard it said that when defending a wall, one man can hold off ten attackers. I’m sure that the knights will hold the fort until we return, but I have to wonder, will the addition of our group sway the battle? It is likely that this may be the last of our story, that we return to a pending grave. If that be so, we shall see. I’ll be sure to take as many of them as I can and submit them to the judgment of The Halls. I’ll find solace in hearing their screams as we each await the bargaining of our souls.

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Melasion's Misgivings

Takes place the night before Melasion caught the Wood Nymph in his attempt to obtain a new Sanctuary Scroll

In the darkness, Melasion the Elven Hearth Knight keeps company with his bear. He lies against the beast’s side, letting his head rise and fall on each slow breath. Snow drifts down in fitful flurries as if the sky can’t quite decide what it wants to do.

“You are warm, my brother. I thank you for your gift of warmth.” The elf speaks in the light, tripping lilt of the Fey speech.

The bear snorts a low dismissal.

“No, I suppose not,” Melasion says, as if answering a question. “But still…”

The bear rumbles a low noise, shifting so that one massive paw drapes against Melasion’s booted leg in an almost possessive gesture.

“The death of the fire mage is hard,” the elf continues. “For us all, but most for his brother, the Frost-touched one.” He raises wide grey-green eyes to peer into the moonless dark, looking past the huddled forms of the sleeping humans in his care. “A broken heart, they say, cannot pump blood.”

The bear snorts again, but doesn’t move.

“Our fort is besieged, our forces diminished, goblins rise like a plague, and this winter seems never to give way to spring. Balance is lost.” He falls silent for a long moment, as a cold breeze pushes the clouds apart, revealing a small, dark patch of star-strewn heavens.

The bear softly rumbles a low note just under its breath, then raises its massive head to blow a wet snort against the elf’s ear.

Melasion ducks his head and laughs, but there is something not quite mirth in his voice when he speaks. “So you agree with my foolish plan?” He takes a deep breath, yawns, stretches, and resettles against the bear’s side, flinging one hand out to affectionately curl against honey gold fur. “I will take your council. You take the first watch.”

With that he shuts his eyes, and within minutes is deeply asleep. The bear raises its head to sniff the wind, then shrugs the elf closer, and watches as the sky begins to clear.

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Cynric's Meditation - post Gobline siege

Back in his quarters after the goblin “siege”, Cynric settles on the floor in preparation for meditation.

- -

Strong and Glorious Tiw,
I open my mind to your blessings

South was the correct path. Did you make that old priest say those words? Thanks to you, Tiw. I arrived in time for a GREAT battle, and stood on the wall to hold an impossible position against so many. It would have been a fitting place to die.

But I failed you. I barely beat that old oaf in “honorable” combat and only felled one goblin in melee. Frustrating!

Cynric pounds the floor mightily with his fist

I look to you for proper penance, Great Warrior.

And why, Battle Father? Why did the enemy flee for no reason? To be denied such a battle…further frustration. With such numbers, they should have flowed over the walls to meet our blades. Many, many goblins were destined to fall. Win or lose, much blood would have been spilled. What happened to stop this? Is this why I am here, now?

Yes, it must be. I must learn of what robbed this battle from me.

Strong and Glorious Tiw,
guide my actions so that I may bring you victories uncounted
– -

Cynric rises and walks out of the room; a purposeful look etched in his features.

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Captain Grulsh's Journal, Watchgap Fort
Werremonan, 2nd Marketdaeg

It’s been four nights since the goblins appeared on the plains. They were few at first, but their numbers grew in a steady stream from all sides. I dispatched my fastest rider and can only pray Tiw saw him safely past their lines. As it stands now, the horde surrounds us.

Curse me for a fool! I’ve sent too many good men away on one errand or another, each mission important, to be sure, but none as important as holding this fort. I should have pulled my knights in and called for reinforcements as soon as the travelers from the east brought word of aggressive goblin raids. As it stands, fewer than thirty souls are left to defend the walls against a legion beyond counting.

But how was I to know the goblins had these numbers? They must have bred for many winters in their caves and barrrows and ruins just for this new offensive on our countryside. It’s unprecedented, in these lands, as is their discipline. Enslaving ogres. Raising up so many shaman. Operating with relative patience and tactical skill. These are not goblin traits. Someone is organizing them.

From here, the bigger picture matters little. Knowing who is organizing the goblins won’t feed my men or convince them that hope is not lost. Morale has suffered since the Goblins topped our walls with a small sortie. The men know our wall will be of little use when the enemy comes in force, and they grow tense from rationed food and ale. Any provocation could set them off.

But hope does remain. A mighty warrior devoted to Tiw has joined our ranks. One such has he can not only fight, but rally others to mighty deeds.

And he isn’t the only outsider who would take up our cause. Somewhere to the East, the big young warrior from the Iron Guild and his Grey Legionnaire companion is leading a caravan full of stout men and dwarves who will gladly join their number to ours. The skald they count among them will make us immortal in song should we survive.

And, out in the badlands beyond the horde, there are two powerful wizards who will fight for us, one with fire, and one with ice. If Melasion returns with them, all may not be lost.

But how will they find their way past the enemy throngs and through our gates? I know not. But they must. All of them. Tiw let it be so.

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The Fall of Emeric
  • Several torn edges remain from prior missing pages *

For the first time it almost seems as if I can feel a cold creeping within me. Writing this entry is the hardest thing I’ve had to do, but silence seems almost worse. It feels like my quill moves of it’s own volition, like nothing I’m writing is really from me. This evening feels like a dream. I look at the still form of my brother laying beside me during this rest on the way back to the keep, expecting him to rise from his slumber, look at me with his intense gaze and announce it is time to continue on. This is the first time I’ve had to truly collect my thoughts to a semblance of sanity and calm myself and now all I feel is…nothing. I feel like I’m floating in an emotionless void. Outside, on the edges, I can feel a pressure pushing against me, urging my attention, and I know it is all the feelings of this night waiting to assail me. But for now, I need to ignore them, I need to make certain that this night is not forgotten.

This evening Emeric fought for what he believed in! This evening the two of us stood before an old keep filled with goblins and their kind, we struck down many of their number and fought for the lives of eight unfortunate souls being brought towards the gate! Though they were stronger than those we’d previously faced, our small group of Emeric and myself, with Malosian and his bear, were outnumbered from the start. The captives were being led by a number of wolf-riders, foot soldiers and a skilled goblin shaman. We thought we were far enough from the keep, but the archers atop its wall still could reach us and their arrows fell around us. Emeric charged forward on his horse towards the enemy line, trails of fire lingering behind him as he worked his skill as he rode. It was truly courageous!

The wolf-riders were upon us quickly, their spears biting into us. It was an ill-fated arrow though that started the cascade of unfair events this night. Somehow, some god-forsaken way, that arrow flew true across the space of snowy grass and pierced the side of Emeric, throwing him off balance, as astride his horse he stood face to face with a wolf-rider. The riders reacted violently, sniffing the air as if they could smell the blood and even as each was killed, it simply wasn’t fast enough. They kept rushing towards him, ignoring the targets between Emeric and them! I stood beside him in those moments trying to support him as he was thrown from his horse…

I remember being so angry, watching as the goblin shaman and the foot soldiers took refuge inside of their enveloping snowstorm. I didn’t care that I was riding into their midst. I wanted vengeance! I wanted them to just die! I still remember the shocked look on the goblin shaman’s face as I rode into the center of his spell and bathed his body in coldfire. His friends fell just as quickly, and it was tantalizingly sweet to let go. It wasn’t enough to just burn him. I drew upon the wintry snows surrounding us, letting them fuel my spells, increasing the intensity with which each orbs flames spun and flickered.

I was wrong I realize. So long ago I held the naïve belief that perhaps, just maybe, goblins were misunderstood creatures. Perhaps they simply attacked because they were hungry and no one reasoned with them, only attacking them on site. If someone could be kind or take a chance, ignoring all the stories they’d heard, maybe things could be different and a new world emerge. It doesn’t matter. They’re just blood-crazed savages. Ruthless brutes that just exist to hurt, maim and kill. And that’s just what I’ll do. Woe to any that might cross my path. My interest in speaking with them, with trying to understand their nature, is snuffed out, much like the life of my brother tonight.

I can’t help looking at these prisoners and feeling that the lot of them aren’t even worth a fraction of Emeric’s life…but I know we did the right thing. These people couldn’t save themselves and that’s why we rode north. We both knew the consequences as we watched them being led towards the keep that an attack now could be our end, that no magic would save us if things grew dire.

Not to help would have been the greatest evil of all, to simply watch as they were led to their fate, their damned shackles clinking in my mind to my day’s end. It is only knowing this, holding on to the reason for why I argued to head north, that helps me hold a grain of peace. I’ll always blame myself for Emeric’s death, knowing full well that he’d stay by my side no matter what, but I won’t do his memory the injustice of not recognizing that he is his own man. One who makes his own decisions and rises above the expectations of others. I hope to be half the man, half the mage, which he was and continues to be.

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The Return North

Today when we leave the gates and ride north I shall have to remember to keep my shoulders squared and ride without concern. Much as the knights did on the previous morning, I think it’s important that our companions see that though we leave few in number, our confidence in our ability to complete the task at hand is unfaltering.

After our return to the sanctuary of Malosian, our group quickly began to reassess the choices we’d made over the previous day. Kollsvein is convinced that what we experienced was the will of the gods, the full might of the swarm and the storm unleashed upon us, hoping to turn our sight back to the original agreement we had made with Ulfwald and his caravan. Emeric of course found fault with this reasoning and I too supported him in his argument. All adversity need not be the intervening will of the gods, nor a display of their displeasure with the decisions of mortals in their realm. I cannot fault Kollsvein for his views and I respect his adherence to the doctrines he was taught and the upbringing he had. If he finds conflict in his heart and feels in order to be true to himself that he must attempt to catch up with the knights that left the previous day, then I support his decision. I will not try to sway him from something that he feels so intensely in his heart.

Just as I shall not waver in my choice to return north and try to rescue those taken, or at least determine the forces that we face. Emeric is just as determined in this view. Thuringil seems to be indecisive in his decision to accompany us or not. I can understand the difficulty in the choice. I too feel that I should return to help Ulfwald and the caravan complete the journey to Watchgap Fort, but conversely if I do then no one will help those taken north. It’s an easy decision for me, with Kryllin and her knightly escort already enroute.

In the end Thuringil decided, and I believe rightly so, that his place was at Kryllin’s side. We shall miss the strength they could have provided us on this journey, but I’m certain with Emeric at my side and the skilled guidance of Malosian, that there is nothing we can’t overcome. Thuringil chided both Emeric and myself, reinforcing that this is only a scouting mission and not to engage in combat against and unknown number of forces. We both couldn’t give that assurance as much as I think we both would have liked to. We know not what we might face when we finally reach our destination, and though I would have liked to give Thuringil peace of mind as he travels back east, I know that any promise would be empty should someone be in need of help.

So I will ride with back straight, my gray robes clean and unblemished, the sun beginning it’s long arc across the sky above us as we ride north between the gates of the Fort. Today we do battle with doubt, concern for our companions as they head to attend to their own heart and honor’s needs, and the unknown that awaits us when we finally reach our destination. Resolve trails in our wake.

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Escape to the Keep

Never have I experienced such terror as that which elapsed this night! The training Emeric and I received in Myre never prepared me for a situation where the very snows might rise against us. Emeric as always is quick on his feet and soon loosed his fiery wave on the swarming mites that rose from their host bodies.

I should start at the beginning however… As we neared the end of our travels for the day a strange storm began to roll in to our vicinity. Rain began to fall, coming in more dense and hard sheets, pelting us forcefully with each drop. It wasn’t long before the rain began to solidify, turning into a sharp stinging hail, the pellets growing larger as the storm wore on. The temperature began to drop, and though I could not feel the cold, the shaking of my mount beneath me, and the grim looks on my friend’s faces, showed that the bite of the storm was too much to bear.

Malosian knew the area best and told us of an abandoned village nearby. He doesn’t speak much but each word he says seems to have a larger meaning behind it. He’s very efficient and direct in his speaking. I would have thought that this would have left room for confusion but in many ways it’s clearer than speaking with another. As we approached the small village the buildings began to emerge from the darkness, their dim outlines unmoving and soundless. No lights permeated the still night but we quickly were able to find the inn as we rode closer. Thankfully the inn was still intact for my friends and we soon had a warming fire leaping in the abandoned fire pit.

It’s hard to say when my mind changed, the more I write the word “friend”. It’s not something I purposely thought to change. It just feels natural. It’s an amazing feeling to say “friend”, since the only true friend I’ve ever had was my brother. I’m certain that the numerous challenges we’ve faced together over the past month, the attacks in the night, the hospitality of the homesteads and the common banter we’ve had over the intervening leagues of our journey have all played a part. I think I knew in the brief moment back in Keep, as we all sat around the table playing cards and sharing stories, that this group had the chance to be more than simple traveling companions. I trust these people whose eyes never seemed to hold contempt, but rather interest and curiosity where previously only fear and mistrust held domain in those I’d met. While the journey south was begun for hidden reasons on Emeric’s part, he was right as always.

As everyone, including the horses, found warmth inside, I left the building to find the missing Malix who had slipped behind the stable a quarter hour ago. Thuringil accompanied me, concerned for my safety (again something I still find new) and we both headed towards the stable. As we got closer to the doors, a young woman came from around the corner of the building and stood staring at me. She didn’t respond at all to any words or gestures on my part! She simply kept staring before abruptly turning around, opening the stable door and disappearing inside. Malik came around the corner a few moments later. Maybe he had been speaking with her?

We all went back to the inn at that point and discovered that in our absence those that remained behind had found some documents telling a pieced together tale of twelve people who had lost their homes near Myre, traveled to this new village and set up residence. I told everyone that I had seen a young woman in the stables and that we should go and introduce ourselves, maybe offer them some company or see what news they might have to share. Everyone seemed to think caution was in order, and after hearing Malik’s story of two people acting much the same as the cold and hail assailed them, I was eager to agree. I asked if anyone had checked upstairs and Malik offered to go and look into it. I wonder if he was just going to see if anything of value was left behind or if his intentions were altruistic. I hate to be cynical but of each person here he is the only one that I have concerns with trusting fully. I think if the opportunity existed and it would ensure his arrival to The Citadel, he would take it in a heartbeat, even if it endangered the rest of us. The thought scares me and I hope that in the future I am proven wrong. I feel exposed.

Malik did indeed find something but not what he’d expected. A young boy ran at him with a butcher’s knife! Sadly his features were reminiscent of the ferryman we encountered a few weeks before. It saddened me to do it, but I had to try to put his body to rest. His soul had long departed and as the ball of roiling coldfire flew towards his chest, my heart beating within my own lurched for a moment.

That was the final moment of that evening where time existed to reflect on actions as they took place. In the following heartbeat the inn exploded into a miniature coliseum of action. Two more people rushed from closed doors, an older woman and a brawny middle-aged bearded man. They shared the same far-away look as the child and their bodies ignored pain, only knowing a hunger to maim. With a flurry of coldfire, their bodies were outlined in blue-white flame and they fell to the ground. As they collapsed, what can only be described as snowflakes began to rise from their still forms, coalescing into a floating cloud of snow before rushing forward to try and envelope those on the stairway.

I felt the bite of this snow, soon coming to realize that the snow was actually little mites trying to burrow themselves into my skin! The room exploded into maelstrom of firebrands and screams, moments of respite only coming as the mites horrifically receded into the bodies of our fallen knights, only to rise again and attack relentlessly. Thuringil and Malik worked to burn the clinging mites from Kollsvein’s torso and arms as he continued to hew thru the ranks of soulless puppets. Emeric, as I described before, loosed his Magician’s Lance, enveloping large groups of the swarm, or flowing over the frozen blocks of mites from my Flashfreeze.

We had them! We were winning! All those hopes were dashed though. As Malik and his horse began to move thru the now open door of the inn, I peered thru a window and could see a line of figures standing still in the foreboding night. Each in synchronous action raised their swords, knives or sickles to their throat and cut an opening from which the mites infesting their body flowed forth. A great swarm appeared, blotting out the stars and a piece of the moon, an inner glow emitting from within the group as the moon tried in vain to shine thru. There was no escape and after all we had gone thru I finally sensed despair and guilt. It was own arguments that we should ride north to help the homesteaders that had been stolen away. My own request that others aid us in our journey, arguing the value of accompanying the knights or helping those who might already be lost and incapable of saving.

In reached out as far as my endurance allowed, attempting to freeze a large group of them before they could come at us. I remember letting loose a yell of success as I felt the magic extend far enough away and begin to effect the swarm, but I quickly lost the brief moment of elation as the swarm shrugged off the magic and surged forward. They came at us with such speed, even had we tried to mount our horses there was no escape. The only thing we could do was hold tight to hope and find peace with our gods should the next few moments be our last. Kollsvein and Malik slammed the door shut but the force with which the mites assaulted the inn slammed the door open and the soundless swarm enveloped us. I could hear Malosian’s bear bellowing, feel the fire of my brother burning at my side, and in hope I lashed out and tried to freeze anything that was around me, hoping that my still unrefined magic did not touch my allies in my blindness.

Then it was warm, the air was silent, the swarm was gone and the smell of flowers in bloom welcomed us back to reality. We’d returned to Watchgap Fort thru some magic of Malosian’s unknown to me. Thank Maera, these elves truly are gifted at magic.

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