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.