A letter home from Blaethynn
It has been a long time now since we last spoke, but after the last couple of months, I begin to understand why you tried to dissuade me from this path. What I have seen here in Orlen has shaken me a bit, but it has also firmed my determination to continue as an adventurer. Let me tell you the story, and you can judge for yourself.
It began when word came to me of a plan to finish clearing a Horror’s former stronghold. The previous expedition had managed to break the Horror’s hold on a newly opened kaer but were unable to enter the kaer and completely assure themselves that the threat was eliminated. Two of the Adepts from that previous mission were at the heart of this new foray, a Warrior Named Ceadda and a Sky Raider Named Thane Cawdor. Along with me, two other Adepts came to join this force: my friend Fenrir and a Nethermancer Named Pethrytholilanista. After introducing ourselves, we set off on a trek to the settlement.
As we neared Orlen, we came across a small cottage, part of a farm on the outskirts of their land. There was a young Human boy there, still too young to be on his own, but no one else seemed to be living with him. When he saw us in the distance he ran into his barn and hid, but I was able to find him easily enough. Pethrytholilanista assured us that there was no taint around the farm or visible in the boy’s pattern, so I approached him to find out the lay of the land.
The boy was terrified of adventurers. He claimed that only a few months earlier, a group of adventurers had come through and slaughtered his father and implied that there was no welcome for any adventurers in Orlen. The village’s new mayor, Fabela (more on him later), had come in after the previous group had left things in shambles and was still trying to rebuild the place, but outsiders were still distrusted. The interview with the child felt like torture to me, he was so frightened. Eventually, I relented and left without answering many of the questions that had been raised.
While I was talking with the boy, Ceadda and Thane had held themselves out of sight, and soon I would learn why. It seems that the adventurers that killed the boy’s father were the group that they had come here with. The town at the time was under the rule of Horror controlled Theran constructs, and when they thought the town’s inhabitants were in league with the Horror, the Elementalist with them cast Death Rain to weaken or kill all their perceived opponents. It was a horrible story they shared with us, redolent of the kind of pragmatic amoralism you so hate. Your words echoed in my mind as I listened to them in disbelief.
When we reached the village, things were clearly not in a good way. The house still showed signs of the damage from the Death Rain, with melted and burnt sections of roof and wall still visible. Some of the houses were barely any protection from the elements. One of the few new constructions was a gallows, from which hung the body of an Elf. At the base of the gallows were two men, one of whom turned out to be the new mayor, Fabela, and the other the town’s executioner.
Fabela is a hard man and a bit of a martinet. His hatred and fear of Horrors borders on the fanatical, and anyone who fails to show a high degree of artistic skill is declared tainted and put to death. In truth, death is his preferred punishment for everything, but I will come back to that later.
Speaking to him, he offered that the Elf on the gallows was judged tainted by Horrors and put to death, to be burned later in the day, which upset Pethrytholilanista greatly (she was hoping to try and use her magics to save his life). As the talk moved on to other things, it turned out that Fabela knew of the previous group’s visit and wanted us to keep our sojourn there as brief as possible, but at the same time needed our help. Eventually we agreed to travel through the underground passage that led to their kaer and try to open it, as they had not had contact with the inhabitants for some time.
Travelling through the tunnel was dark, dank, and dangerous. At one point, we were set upon by Horror constructs which had survived the previous purge, but they were put down quickly, although I suffered a mild injury from the encounter. Pressing on, we made our way to the entrance of the kaer, where we found that the unlocking spell was a riddle contained in a poem (written in Theran, but fortunately a quick trip back to Orlen let us get it translated).
Here is the text of it, written in our own language since I am still only barely familiar with the look of the Theran tongue:
Five Elements there are, and five of us set to guard,
Each loves a passion, each guards one thing,
Door wardens cancel those who guard within
Inner and Outer the doors protect us;
the home nurtures and the tavern cheers,
Magic and emotion avoid
the horrors which lay outside
Three began this Kaer, two more summoned to finish it
Borit fights always to flow as he once could
Dimon’s verse you read now
Nonani’s heart long has stood
Osanon’s orders as immovable as the earth
Valiga spreads the immutable love of family and home
The flame that sets the head alight inspires
Those that come near to hear
Of how Osanon built this kaer
And how Nonani is least near.
Of doors and lives, house and magic we have spoken
Of order, wild, struggle, hearth and verse we horrors do forfend
Of those who built and those who never tire we hearken
Choose wisely or meet a fitting end.
We eventually decided that the names in the poem were the names of the Elementals set to guard the entrance. As I have yet to advance my own mastery of the Elements, Pethrytholilanista attempted to use her powers to summon the spirits, eventually successfully calling the first guardian, the Wood spirit Nonani. Although he was not pleased at the peremptory method of his calling, once we invoked the Name of Jaspree the magics binding him required that he allow us in. The second door of the ‘airlock’ was guarded by the Water spirit Borit, who tried to get us to free him, but once again the magics binding him required him to give us entrance.
Once in the kaer proper, a scene of desolation met our eyes. It looked as if the inhabitants had turned on one another in a frenzy, and our searching reveled only the dead, each displaying new and striking ways to end a Namegiver’s life.
The elements were quiet, but Pethrytholilanista decided to conjure the builder of the Kaer, Osanon. His spirit was faded enough that I could not make out his race, but I suspect that he may have been an Obsid or an Elf as he referred to a life spanning centuries. In his rambling, cajoling speech, he let us know that the kaer’s only food source was the village of Orlen, and that the supply of food disappeared when the village had been decimated by the previous group of adventurers. The longer he talked, the more obvious it became that he was more than lightly unhinged, as well as a follower of Erendis, who is now called Dis. We finally grew tired of his ranting and left him to wither away like the rest of his kaer while we returned to Orlen and its mayor.
When we got back, we found a strange scene. Fenrir had left his companion, a large bear, up in the light of day as the tunnels were too tight and dark for her comfort. While we were below, it seemed one of the children had approached the bear and was now to be put to death for ‘putting the village at risk by taunting the savage animal.” Fenrir took exception, both to the punishment and the aspersion to Callisto’s character. Eventually, he managed to have the child’s sentence reduced to only a whipping (closer to a beating from what I saw later), and we began making preparations to leave.
Before we left however, Thane and Ceadda hit upon a plan. They already had a significant fortune from their previous successes and clearly felt the sting of guilt for the hard times the village had fallen on. They offered a purse of silver to help any families who wished to relocate start a new life in Borgan’s Rest. Although the money they offered was a princely sum, only scant more than a dozen took them up on their offer. The rest, still too scarred from their previous experiences chose to stay with the life they knew, even though it was hard and unforgiving.
I also felt pity for the folk there, so I chose to take Fabela up on an offer he made to train us in the way of the sword. This gave me the ability to stay in the village for a little more than a month, and while I did train diligently to master the techniques he had to share, I applied myself even more to my true plan, which was to help the people of Orlen begin to truly rebuild. Their smith was been among those already lost, so there was much work for me to do. While there, I met a young girl Named Anna who had the twin sparks of magic and creativity, so I began teaching here the way of the forge, and by the time I left, she was at least started on the path, but I need to return to make sure she continues her training.
As for the village itself…. I think they will survive, but with so little freedom as Fabela allows, it will not be much of a life. Perhaps Lochost can give them the strength they need to cast off his shackles and live like true men again, but little less than his intervention will be able to do so, I think.
But what this has shown me is that, while you were right in the harshness of this life, I was also right in choosing this path to follow. I know that my skills and Talents are meant to serve those, who like the villagers of Orlen, have no way to rebuild their lives. This has redoubled my feeling that we must grow and settle beyond Throal and continue opening kaers, and that my place is there, forging this world into something greater than even the legends from before the Scourge ever hinted of.
In love and obedience,