Ren braces the cold and deals with the emotional toll of adventuring.
Been a while since I’ve collected my thoughts. Sometimes I like to put those things in my head out when I travel around, but there hadn’t been too much on my mind since heading out of Malkara. I still have my debts to Carson and Simon - seems like they’ll stick around for quite some time - but the burdens caused by them have been more manageable. I can take a lot on my back, and I’ve been becoming stronger as a result.
Before going I squared something up with Eurydice, the dwarf girl who got caught up in the same sorts of nonsense that we had. All I wanted to give her was a choice. I don’t know if I’ll have the opportunity to see that through. We have so much else to do.
I tended to myself on our latest journey. The seasons have been changing and the cruel bite of winter wind has started to nip once again. It’s a lot colder than I’m accustomed to, and I’ve had to take some additional furs on. I miss the feeling of having Bird Girl’s feathers flowing freely in my hair, but we are not here to be frivolous. We are here to do work.
A couple of commissions have come up in our journey. Dorian has resolved to put magic into a ring, which I first thought to be a bit vain. I still remember the Sundering - it’s the day the wind died. To have magic be something to pick up and work with once again, in whatever way that it might be able to, well, that would be something to see before believing. But he has a way with these predictions, and I’ve seen him pull more daring deeds. I have to give him the benefit of the doubt.
We made our way to a village, with the trackers of the T.I.P. pushing ahead to make additional ground. Time is always of the essence for us, which makes me think that we should find a magical clock to help out with these sorts of things. Giacomo and I decided to take things a bit more easy and reminisce about simpler times, and would wait to see if Ake and the others could stir up any leads. The Ivory Throne knows how impatient I can be.
We stayed up in an inn and waited a night. Stories abound flowed in this village, especially with terrible sights. Hags abducting kids. Witch hunters requiring fortunes before laying a foot outside the city. A lot of horrible things out in the frontier. I desperately wanted to help but put my trust in the party to get back to us when action was needed. And so I waited.
I waited another day before getting tired of it. The innkeeper told me about an old tracker named Krzysztof - maybe he’d be able to help. The drifts were getting higher, and though I couldn’t tell apart trails from trees in a white-out like this, I knew that people around these parts would. We went to a small house and were greeted by a ripe old wife at least four and twenty years. She got her husband out, who limped out on a stump of a leg. He didn’t look at us while he spoke, always turning his ear one way or another. Giacomo rolled his eyes as I indulged the tracker. This was our best shot, and I’m sure the word adventure breathed life into Kristoph’s old bones. Like a puppy, he scooted around and found his favourite toy when he heard he was going to be helping out, grabbing a massive sword from his belongings. The thing was bigger than I - an object that even I would have trouble putting to use. He slung it on his curved back and dragged it through the snow, shouting at us to follow. The smirk on his wife’s wrinkled face let me know that it was okay to see his man to his death, alive and filled with a vigour that had long laid dormant.
We travelled for a day or so, careful to make sure a path was marked to the village. Krzysztof regaled us on stories of the past - terrifying battles against the dwarves of the Scything Crag and other epic tales. He spoke at length and stretched more yarn than even the most salty sailor, but it reminded me of Volos. I felt comfortable around him, and placed my trust in him quickly. It was assuring - he only wanted to help us. No deals, no pacts. Only action.
After resting for a bit, Krzysztof guided us to a camp. Was it the T.I.P? I squeed in anticipation as Giacomo took to the shadows to investigate. But as he left, Krzysztof turned to our side, alarmed. “We’re in danger.” Then I heard a shrieking hoot.
From the snow a behemoth emerged - a fluffy mass of rage! We had heard stories of owlbears from traders from the frontier forts, but I had never laid eyes on one. Standing a full half higher than I, it cut through the snow swiftly and was upon the camp in moments. We rushed over to help, seeing Rinn, Ake, and Giacomo assailed by the beast. It knocked Rinn out in a single blow, and turned to Giacomo. With my friends were a bunch of screaming children - so they were found! A moment of pride gripped me before I composed myself and put myself between the creature and everyone else.
Krzysztof and I made the same pace - he transformed at the sight of the beast. Quick and nimble, eager to have his blade bite the creature. He laid a powerful strike on the owlbear and sprayed fresh blood on the clean snow. I felt the storm swell inside me and let out what I could. An arrow from Ake’s quivering bow was enough to fell the beast.
I turned and beamed - another victory! My excitement beamed but wasn’t met by the others. Something was wrong. Rinn staggered up as Dorian came to his senses - he was tied to one of sledges. Ake had an empty look in his eyes and looked two steps from death. What had happened? Then I turned and saw another sledge.
“J was felled when we found the cave.”
I ran to the sledge and opened the shroud. I saw my friend J. She was dead.
“Did she die protecting the party?” was all I could ask.
“She did everything she could. She saved us.” Rinn choked back tears.
I howled and tried to tell J how much I missed her. The T.I.P. rushed to my aid - there was a solution. Resurrection.
We returned to the village in haste. We had to make good time. The children went home to their families - the joy of them gave me strength to pull the sledge as much as I could. We rushed as quickly as we could to Malkara, but other things followed us. A nightmare cut at Dorian in his sleep - as he explained his misdeeds with a demon under baggy eyes. Ake yawned and slept as no elves have ever done, seemingly content. What other marks were we missing?
We made our way to Malkara with time to spare, and paid the proper penance to bring back J. The Paladin Danger stayed here and met us with discriminating eyes - was I that far gone? The cleric, who went by Nick, was particularly stern with Dorian, which I appreciated. Good to see someone ribbing Keene once in a while.
We crowded around J when she came back. The group felt warm, once again.