Reign of Winter
Book 1: The Snows of Summer
Chapter 1: Silence of the Hollow


arzarrcal.jpg fenyx.jpg marcellano.jpg rasso.jpg styvanus.jpg talavuc.jpg teladon.jpg


Talavuc sighs just as a golden-furred hound appears at the behest of her summons. Just a bit late, she muses as she pats the dog on the head. The dog follows in tow as she descends the stairs from the aftcastle. She kneels down next to one of the corpses, giving it a quick look. As she does so, the hound gives a soft, curious yip just as it disappears, the noise echoing in a slightly otherworldly manner. She sighed again and shook her head.

From below decks, wary crew members begin creeping out once the sound of combat fades. Eyes wide and horrified at the carnage before them, they approach in slow, uneasy movements. Two members of their crew — members they had served with for years — now lay dead and dismembered on the deck of the ship. The shock has only just set in.

They will be thankful in the hours to come for the abundance of Andoran liquor stowed away in the cargo hold.

Rasso immediately runs back to his cabin, and grabs his bottle of rum. Returning to deck, he takes a large swig before swishing it around in his mouth and spitting it over the railing. Zombies….why did it have to be zombies? After the rinsing is complete, he drinks a good quantity of the remaining liqour. With the captain wounded, Ar'Zarrcal asked him in his native Ulfen tongue whether he wished for him to bandage and clean the horrid wound the zombie opened up on his face.

The quickly went down to his cabin, moving as quickly as his stubby legs could carry him. Though he was not prone to making friends, he did find the captain both tolerable and useful. Furthermore the old seadog did not seem to hold the Andorran's idealism or knack for meddling in others affairs. It would be best to keep him alive.

Within his cabin he quickly grabbed up the small leather sachel that served as his healing kit. He really should have kept it on his person at all times, but the attack had caught him all together unprepared.

Since the strange abomination that was the Rasso-Eidolon sythesis took some time drinking, it seemed likely the Ar'Zarrcal reached him first with bandages and simple ointment. He also examined the wound, attempting to make certain that the bite left no lingering disease.

Walking up to the captain he says, "Hold still sir. I'll heal yer wound." Snapping his claws into the fully open position, he draws a small vial of clotted blood from a pouch at his waist using his hands. Dipping a single finger inside, he dabs a dollop out. Assuming the captain allows him, he will burble a brief spell in Aquan before smearing the blood over the captain's worst wound.

When Rasso stepped in with the use of magic the dwarf stepped aside, though the Sihedron rune upon his brow pulsed with a dim green light. Ar'Zarrcal raised one of his bushy brows at the use of such a spell. He did not think the Andorran's the type to employ magics they considered 'evil' and 'infernal'.

Captain Brevin looks unconcerned with whatever weird paste it is Rasso is applying — coppery smell of clotted fiend blood or not — as long as it remedies the shooting pain lancing through his face. Letting the merfolk apply the blood and channel the regeneration of fiends into his body, the captain curses out his crew for missing the attack.

Once his work with the captain was done, Ar'Zarrcal would step toward one of the broken corpse bodies that had been the undead moments before, he studied it and then looked up in the direction of Fenyx. Perhaps his companion would have more information regarding why these corpses decided to stir and feast upon the crew.

"Hrrm. Guess I'll go patch myself up, then." Marcellano, with pieces of his forearm, shoulder, and neck bitten or ripped off heads below deck, a trail of blood following him along the way. He walks, blood trailing down his leg as if he had wet himself, to his private quarters, where he grabs his Healer's Kit and Surgeon's Tools in order to fix himself up. While doing so, he also checks to make sure there are no infections, and that the blasted zombies didn't carry any diseases that they may have spread to him.

"Want some?" Rasso asks the marine when he approaches the captain after stitching his wounds, offering him a finger full of congealed devil's blood.

"Take a hit of Devil's Blood eh? What do you think I am, some kind of blood-addict?" Marcellano chuckles, coughing up a bit of blood while he does so. "Heh, I'm kidding. I know the spell.. and I'm surprised one of you Andorans knows it. Figured you'd be against a spell created by someone in Cheliax, that uses devil's blood to boot. Our mages would use it often back in the Shackles.. so aye, I'll take a hit or two. Did a crap-sack job at fixing myself up it seems. Guess this'll teach me to go walking around in my jimmies eh? " Marcellano wipes the blood from his mouth, as he waits for the dose of devil's blood.

"Fer one, I weren't born Andoran. Fer two, we're free to believe what we like. I've got no problem using "evil" fer good. Now hold still ye pajama wearin' buffoon." Rasso says, smearing liberal amounts of fiend's blood on Marcellano's wounds.

"Ah well that probably explains it. Most Andorans I've met would balk at using "Evil" for good. Not that I've met many, though." Marcellano nods in thanks for the healing, then heads downstairs to his cabin to get some rest, after donning his breastplate.

Looking around the deck Rasso says aloud to anyone listening, "Anyone else who's hurt can come see me termorrow. I can patch ye up then. In the meantime, I've got zombie funk to drink out of me throat." Retrieving his bottle from where he'd set it on the deck, he returns to his cabin muttering under his breath about zombies in Aquan.

Coolly observing the merfolk healing the pale human, Teladon cocked his head slightly peering at the magic involved. Wordlessly the elf watched as the auras unfold, enveloping the man and the dark oily residue knit the wounds together. Nodding to himself in understanding the elf turned to leave the deck but stopped short when he heard the pale mans words. Despite the severity of the situation and Teladons aching arm, the elf laughed to himself. Foolish human! To think a spell such as that was invented by your people? Yours is not the first culture in history to worship devils, nor do I suspect it will be the last. Everything is a cycle.. and it will all repeat.

Turning away the elf whipped his scimitar around in a single arc, slinging the blood and ichor off sword and into the water, and then gracefully he slid the blade home with a quiet click. Turning around the elf wordlessly make his way off the deck and back to his state room ignoring the others. I will tend to my own wounds. Teladon thought, suppressing a shivering at the idea of a non elf touching him. That is how one becomes forlorn.

While Ar'Zarrcal studies the corpses, some of the crew come to stand around and stare in disgust at the creature's waterlogged remains. Though Ar'Zarrcal has noticed a unifying trend among them, in their physical forms. It isn't hard to notice, that all but one of them looks to be emaciated. Only the immensely obese one seems to have a substantial girth to him, but closer inspection of what remains of his body shows tooth and knife marks on his flesh.

All the puzzle pieces can't be put together without a full idea of where they came from, but these look like villagers of some town that succumbed to starvation and cannibalism, yet died anyway. Perhaps that's enough to have reanimated them with such a ravenous hunger and hatred, maybe someone animated them and directed them to attack, feeding off of their innate pain and suffering from life.

Right now, the answer isn't completely certain, but it's clear enough to be a grim reminder of the urgency of their mission.

"Collect the bodies" Captain Brevin shouts to his crew as he touches his healing cheek, feeling the tackiness of warm blood and the tenderness of sealing flesh. "We'll fill one of the keelboats and burn them together." They deserve as much goes unsaid, but the captain's tone of voice implies some measure of respect — even to the ones that nearly killed him. This clearly wasn't his first time dealing with the undead.

Talavuc looked down at one of the deceased sailors, and started to gather the man up in assistance, looking for where the crew was collecting the dead. She did what she could to help with the corpses for the time being, aiding in the collection of the dead into the keelboat.

"M'sorry for not telling you all before," the captain begrudgingly admits to those still above deck. "When we were moored at Falcon's Hollow, we were attacked by a group of these things. We had to cut the mooring lines and pull up anchor, we'd waited long enough for the knights to return…"

Shaking his head slowly, the captain gives a ginger touch to his cheek again. "Thought we killed 'em all. These blighters must have been clinging to the hull the whole damned time. Or maybe they were just coming downriver…" He draws in a sharp breath, then exhales slowly.

"Urgathoa's sagging tits this is not how I wanted to start this voyage," he mutters with a slow shake of his head. "We've got two more days before we reach Falcon's Hollow. I'll put more men on watch, this won't happen again."

While Rasso tends to the captain and Marcellano and the crew is busy with moving the corpses off the deck, the grimly dressed necromancer strides across the field of broken bodies, momentarily pausing to peer down at each carcass as he makes a circuit about the ship. Though his hood hides his facial features well, one still gets the impression the man is carefully calculating and measuring everything he encounters. Mindless dredges, he presumes. Unlikely that they would crawl aboard a ship of their own malice. More likely that something foul sets them to such a labor. Fenyx calmly saunters over to where Ar'Zarrcal is crouched, a response to the inquisitive look the rune-scarred dwarf shot him.

As his gaze falls to the Forge-Master, he intones in Thassilonian, a protracted conversation in the mother tongue of the newly resurgent empire of Xin-Shalast. «These creatures are not the result of suffering, longing, nor grudge. They were set in our path deliberately, with purpose. Whether they were sent after us directly or simply after any one traveling this river is unknown. We should be on our guard, regardless. The possibility of a traitor in our midsts is not unlikely. This being the case, they will likely move to pin blame on the easiest targets aboard the Red Wraith: us.»

Ar'Zarrcal bowed his head to the wisdom of Feyronix Dagganauth. He knew that the undead legions of the Whispering Tyrannt were the specialty of the other ambassador and while he himself had a good deal of knowledge in that regard, Feyronix likely possessed more. «We should work toward the goal of securing alliances amongst our fellow expedition members. The Chelixian and the Elf seem the most likely to be accepting of our overtures. A warning, The mer-creature dabbles in the black sorceries of the lord of Hell, Asmodeus, which is unusual for a someone in the employ of the Andorrans. We must keep our eyes open,» he said in a low voice, still holding the captain's battle-axe in one hand.

If there were to be more of the walking dead that he would deal with not only would he have to part with his exotic coffee beans to obtain the battle-axe, but he would also have to offer prayer to the Goddess of Runes for power to combat the unliving.

After some time inspecting the injuries and the corpses, Ar'Zarrcal and Fenyx are sure that the zombies did not appear to contain any sort of virulent diseases and once the physical damage that has been inflicted is cured, they will all be fine.

Turning to regard the rest of those gathered on deck, especially the captain of The Wraith and Captain Styvanus, Fenyx begins in common, "These mindless wretches are not the result of atrocities visited against the living transforming corpses into wicked vessels. They exist at the behest of some person or thing, likely with the express purpose of halting any investigations or forays into this region." Fenyx steps slowly about the icy ship deck, and gestures towards the water-logged corpses that are presently being piled up. His gesture widens to incorporate the entirety of the crew's surroundings as he says, "This is Andoran - a purported land of freedom. Why then would the dead linger of their own volition? I'm afraid it is too unlikely to be so."

The necromancer leans forward against the starboard rails, staring out across the frozen lands sprawling out before him. He shakes his head slowly, then turns again to those yet listening. "We should be willing to accept the possibility that The Whispering Tyrant's forces have penetrated this far south, while praying that it is not so. Either way, I would venture to guess that the answer will be made known to us soon enough."

Talavuc approaches Captain Brevin once the bodies had been collected. "Captain," she begins in a quiet tone of voice, "you mentioned encountering these undead before at Falcon's Hollow. What was the state of the town when you left?"

"I wish I could say it was on fire," Brevin notes sarcastically as he watches Teladon departing, his words to Talavuc seeming somewhat distracted at that. "Unfortunately, it was still standing." Fenyx's approach elicits an arch of the captain's brow and a disconcerted look of frustration crossing his face. Exhaling a breathy sigh, he hangs his head and nods slowly before sliding the haft of his axe through the loop on his belt.

"Whoever made 'em, there were a dozen more in Falcon's Hollow," the captain admits with gruff tone, "but we killed most of them trying to hold our place in the river. Once we were sure that there was nothing to be done and no one was coming back, we sounded a full retreat and pulled up anchor." Tilting his head to the side, the Captain scrubs one hand at the back of his neck. "Not a proud moment."

Looking up to Fenyx, there's a visible expression of distrust when he meets the necromancer's eyes. Saying nothing of it, though, he instead turns his attention to Talavuc. "Anyone who traffics in the souls of the dead ain't to be trusted."

With that indirect accusation, the Captain starts to head below decks without another word. With no small amount of frustration the rune-scarred dwarf followed after the captain and found the captain, tossing a tightly bound leather pouch within his free hand. He made his way to the captain and placed it before the man. «Take them. You rob me, but I'll need the axe you loaned me more than i'll need the coffee beans,» he said with a begrudging grumble in the Skald language.

Taking the bag, Brevin furrows his brows and looks to Ar'Zarrcal as if in serious consideration. He tugs at the drawstrings with one hand, then brings the pouch up to his nose and takes a long, deep breath of the contents. A coarse, deep laugh erupts from the captain a moment after. "Coffee," he states in a firm, pleased tone before cinching the bag shut again.

With something of an affable smile, the captain withdraws a small stone from a pouch at his belt. He tosses the stone over to Ar'Zarrcal in a gentle, underhanded lob. When he catches it and opens his fingers, the water-smoothed stone reveals a rune engraved on its surface. A Skald rune for "Hope," though the language shares its alphabet with dwarven and the rune mean the same thing in both languages. The double-meaning to Ar'Zarrcal is lost on the captain.

«You'll need that more than I,» the captain explains. The axe will only save Ar'Zarrcal's body, but hope… hope can save his soul.

Reflexively Ar'Zarrcal caught the stone and brought it to his eyes, the pad of his thumb smoothing over its water-polished surface. He looks upon the rune and then closes his eyes against the pounding pain in his skull. Whatever tortured memory of his past sought to claw its way up from the buried depths of his mind failed, though not without a struggle.

«Thassilon provides all I require,» He uttered in a low, polite acceptence, «…but thank you all the same.»

Inwardly however he sneered and found the gesture distasteful. Hope was a weakness and a fantasy that paled before the power of Thassilon and Karzoug. His time in Xin-Shalast had broke him from wasting energy on futile dreams of hope or salvation. He would not make the mistake of placing any trust in 'Hope' again.

The Sihedron upon his brow blazed a dim emerald for a moment, before fading away. With a respectful dip of his head to the Captain, the herald of Shalast turned and returned to his cabin.

The somber task of handling the dead is one that comes with a heavy heart for the crew of the Red Wraith. It is evident in the deflation of their previously boisterous attitudes and celebratory nature that the loss of members of their own crew — especially in foreign waters — is a hardship that will take time and perseverence to overcome. In an age as deadly as this, every dead crewman means learning to trust another as they are brought aboard. This is doubly difficult for those who live their lives on the fringes of legality as this crew appears to.

As the hours drag on, the corpses are piled up like cord-wood above decks and covered with a canvas tarp held down by sturdy stones. The blood is mopped off the deck and over the sides of the ship, back into the river, and while the red stains of battle will forever mar the bronze hues of the Red Wraith's midship the memory of the departed will prove to be more ephemeral and difficult to hold on to in such an ever-changing world.

Evidence of their death will last longer than the memory of their lives. It is an epitaph that applies so broadly these days.

« Aboard the Red Wraith, Andoshan River, Andoran | Dawn | Snowing, Cold | Fireday, Erastus 6th, 4715 AR »


"Lo there do I see my Father…"

"Å det ser jeg min Far…"

Dawn light looks like a gray haze on the cloudy eastern horizon, bathing the snow-covered land in muted illumination. Tiny specks of farmland villages line the riverbanks, twisting fingers of smoke coming from their chimneys the only sign of life this early. The cold above decks is bitter, but the wind has died down and the snow falling in thick, fluffy flakes seem to hang suspended in the air.

"Lo there do I see my Mother, my Sisters and my Brothers…"

"Å det ser jeg min mor, mine søstre og mine brødre …"

The crew of the Red Wraith have gathered on the port side of the ship, captain Brevin included. A men beside him, one of the many ruddy Ulfen warriors in his service, sings loudly in a droning Skald chant, tears welling in his eyes. Word had spread across the ship that his cousin, Feldi, was one of the two crew mates who perished in the attack. Another member of the crew sings the same chant, but in the Taldan tongue for the dead of this land to hear.

"Lo there do I see the line of my people…"

"Å det ser jeg på linje med mitt folk…"

Creaking ropes groan in protest against the weight they bear as one of the ship's two keelboats piled high with corpses is lowered down into the river. The bodies of the dead — the crew and the villagers who had been cursed with undeath — each piled atop the other. The crewmen of the Wraith should be with their armor and weapons, but the harsh times have meant that no supplies can be spared, not even for honor and glory in the afterlife. It is a greater statement than most would know.

"Back to the beginning…"

"Tilbake til begynnelsen…"

As the boat is lowered into the river, the crew watches on with silent reverence and contemplation. The ropes are detatched, cranked back up as the keelboat begins to be pulled away from the Red Wraith by the current of the river. It bobbles, cants and is pulled alongside the ship. The crew follows, watching the keelboat's voyage away. As they follow, the crew comes to meet with a lone crewman on the aftcastle with a longbow in hand. He draws a single arrow from his quiver and holds it loosely in one hand, waiting for something.

"Calling me to join them, bidding me to take my place among them…"

"Ringer meg å bli med dem, bød meg å ta min plass blant dem…"

Captain Brevin approaches the bowman, then kneels in front of him to place a burning lantern at his feet, the top opened to expose the flame. As he backs away, the archer lowers the arrow into the flame of the lamp, catching the oil-soaked cloth wrapped around it alight with flame. He lifts the arrow, droplets of fire falling from it and draws it back, readying to fire. Talavuc remains quiet and solemn. She wants to pay respects for the dead men, but this was their way and they were someone else's people. Why a boat, she asked herself. Wouldn't it be better to set a pyre on the shore for a short time. If the dead had truly been picked up at Falcon's Hollow, then they wouldn't be likely to trouble them again while on the river. She looked around nervously for a moment, Unless they believe it might be more pervasive than that. Had it spread further? If the rune-servant's words were true, then it very well might be.

"In the Valenhall beyond the horizon…"

"I Valenhall utover horisonten…"

As the keelboat comes into view beyond the aftcastle, it swiftly draws away from the ship on the river's strong current. Once it passes a hundred feet or so, the archer lets loose with the arrow, sending it sailing through the snow like a shooting star up into the sky, a burning orange spot among countless points of white. Watching the funeral procession, Talavuc's thoughts drifted for a second to her spear and staff. I need to get a cutting weapon. She glanced at her fingers. If only I could grow claws like that Andoran! The thought screamed in her head for a moment, but as she realized she had missed part of the ceremony, she redirected her attention to it, trying to remind herself that right now, it was the thing of utmost importance. Honor for the dead. A cold salve for the wounds left by their passing.

"Where the brave…"

"Hvor modig…"

The arrow falls, dropping in a steady arc before punching into the pile of corpses stacked in the keelboat. In an instant, the bodies are engulfed in a ball of rising flame that belches up a billowing puff of black smoke.

"May live…"

"Kan leve…"

Now engulfed in flame, the boat becomes a fiery beacon on the water, pulled ever further away from the ship but always visible even amid the falling snow. The fire burns brightly, a roaring conflagration of honor and grief. The shape of things to come.



Previously The River's Claim
Continued In Hollow's Lost Hope
Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License