Ustrecht has not improved in my estimation since last I spoke of it. We lingered there to meet the Passions in the Temple of Garlen. While we waited, we saw Mitch carried into the building maimed almost beyond recognition. It looked like Nethermancy, Horror magic or worse. While Arristan and the Garlenites sought to heal him, I went out to where he had been found. I felt a need to put some hurt on whoever was responsible but the tracks there were confusing. There was definitely another present and signs of cloven hooves. Traces of whatever potent magic had ripped through Mitch could be seen as well, written in the very stones. It was not comforting. I returned to the Temple and it became apparent that Mitch’s quiver had been taken. It was the pattern item he used to pledge himself to the Stormwarriors. In the hands of whatever had assailed him it could no doubt pose a great threat to us all and needed to be recovered. The lads said he would live but that recovery time might be lengthy. We still had the Passions to meet.
In the meantime there was definitely tension building between the various factions of Garlen’s sworn followers. Without Mitch to take the lead I had the feeling that it might come to blows. I thought that this might not be a bad thing. Someone needed to step up, knock some heads and take control. The troll Torvesh Guntervold told me of his concerns about his oath to safeguard the ancient tome of his order. If we were to remove it he wished to go with it but if this was not possible only Garlen could release him from his sworn word. A man’s word is all he really has so I told him I would raise that with his mistress.
We met the Passions in the hall beneath the Temple. We brought Mitch along as requested, mostly in the hope that Garlen’s ministrations would prove more effective than those of her followers. In a blink the four stepped through to the room. They wore different guises but at this stage are known to us. Garlen, Upandal, Mynbruje and another. This proved to be Astendar and I took an instant dislike to him. He had the aspect of a smug, smirking popinjay and reminded me of the type of useless Swordmasters I most enjoy beating on.
They got right to the point and confirmed that as we suspected Death had escaped from his prison. He had used a Trinity Sword to slay Lochost, the lost passion of Change, and was now recovering in power before his next move. They explained how the Swords focused the power of the Passion to a single point rather than amplifying it directly. Thus, using powers on other Passions remains incredibly draining for these beings. The Master of Shadows remains in the Citadel of Cadavers in the Badlands but Cassius is hidden from even Mynbruje’s gaze, which is troubling. This was more frankness than we had enjoyed from the Passions in some time and it was set to continue. We were told that the Stormwarriors (whether as a group or as individuals I’m not sure) were loose threads in the pattern of Fate. This was no news to me as I had always been sure that the skein of my destiny marked me for a unique doom but it is comforting that the rest of my companions are similarly blessed. We are unpredictable, literally. This must put the shits up the great powers and may explain why even the Dragons are wary around us. We asked the Passions if they knew of others like us and it was clear that they did. They refused to name them – no doubt to keep them in reserve should we need to be removed from the game board.
Astendar spoke at length of the entity known as Destiny. Arristan had communed with her through the mirror that had marked us from the start of our adventuring career. She was apparently gifted with prophetic ability and the Passion of love had been obsessed with her. His story didn’t improve his standing in my estimation. Astendar claimed to have a book containing many of Destiny’s predictions. He also said that he had used these to oppose us on previous occasions. He denied having a hand in the disaster in Ustrecht or the fates of the Crimson Dawn or Thunderhawk so my anger was less than white hot. Given his leanings and abilities he may have interfered with Reish’s relationship with his wife or the young dwarven lass that spurned Olaf. Passion or no that I cannot abide. Astendar’s implication was that Destiny’s writings may hold a key to how this will unwrap. If that is so then our direct contact with the girl may be even more useful. We did not reveal this to Astendar at this stage.
The Passions explained that Death planned to kill them all to take revenge for his ages of imprisonment, most likely killing Garlen last. The four we were speaking to had removed themselves to Mynbruje’s Nether Realm as that affords them protection against this threat. This, however, means that they can have only a limited impact on the world and even their efforts to gather information are complicated. Their priority was to reach out to the other Passions to warn them and possibly offer them sanctuary though they admitted that they were unsure which ones would support them. We asked about the likely fate of the shards of the Horror Ristul should the Mad Passions be slain by Death and their opinions were not good. We agreed to travel to Jaspree’s Idyllic Gardens in the Delaris Mountains and warn the one who blessed us in the Twilight Peaks. This was a task I was glad to undertake. The Idyllic Gardens are an Astral Glade but that, apparently, is no protection against Death’s abilities. With Death ascendant, Barsaive was set to become a grim place and the death of Jaspree could hasten the decline of all living things. Ways to get in touch with Chorrolis, Thystonius and Florannus are also of importance.
The Passions also wanted us to travel to the Seal which had failed and released Death. There was something to be done to prepare a new prison for Death. Most of this went over my head so I drifted off. There was talk of a massive Orichalcum Falseman. This sounded more my speed so I perked up. Apparently this was a creation of Upandal’s made to guard the way to the Lands of the Dead. We may need to bust it up but apparently it can repair itself. There are also tests left by the Passions to guard the way. We will need to be on our game.
I asked about our reward for services to be rendered. Garlen offered us the chance to live for a great span of years. I initially scoffed. I will make my own immortality at the tip of my sword. I will live forever in the songs of the skalds, in the fear in my enemies’ eyes, in the wailing of the widows I leave behind and in the smoking ruins of Thera. That said, if we are successful then the Realm of Death holds for us an eternity of torment as the caged Passion extracts his revenge. It is a price worth paying but if there is another road, we should walk it. I do not think it will aid me however. My battle with Tendril must surely cut my thread, even as I cut His.
We had a chance to ask questions and I took the chance to gather information on Storm Fall. Some names were known to me but now all are. I wonder if they are loose threads like us and if they know that they are agents of the Mad Passions? We need to end them either way. I record their names here and swear to deliver the ire of the Windhowler’s to them. Genoa Shadowsoul – Elven Swordmaster and Nethermancer. Kalaman Torakeen – T’skrang Taildancer and Archer. Captain Simon Swiftblade – Human Air Sailor and Troubadour. Tharg Longtooth – Ork Weaponsmith and Warrior. Taucet Carinci – T’skrang Cavalryman and Scout. Creeper – Windling Illusionist and thief. They are at Sky Point. I also spoke for Guntervold and the Passions agreed that he should be allowed to accompany his charge to the Nether Realms.
More was revealed than I record here but that is for others to speak of. The Passions took their leave and Garlen took Mitch with her so that he might be made whole again. Without his keen senses, sure arrows and insights into the Passions we would be less than the Stormwarriors. It was not the time for us to show weakness. We must all step up until our circle is again complete.
Our business in Ustrecht was not concluded. We resolved to find Mitch’s quiver. It was no time to allow a pattern item of our group to fall into the hands of our enemies. With Mitch and Guntervold absent the simmering tensions between the followers of Galren threatened to erupt. I had no patience for this but the two groups agreed to take passage on my ship to the trollmoot. From there I could arrange transport to Travar. After this, they were not my problem.
Sharon the Questor of Chorrolis asked to remain with us. She still sought the relics of her Passion and we felt that she could be useful in our efforts to get in touch with the Merchant. Something must have smelled fishy to Arristan, so he decided to check her out astrally. He was unprepared for what he saw – a pattern of such power and complexity hidden beneath her own – one that could not be the pattern of any namegiver. He confronted her with this and her denials began. She tried to leave but we restrained her physically. Then she began to change. A monstrous visage emerged from her and we soon knew that this was no less than Dis. Worse, it was Dis with a Trinity Sword. Our actions had obviously roused him to great wrath and the Passion unleashed a terrible spell on Reish. He began to melt before our eyes and I felt for the first time in years that our ends had come. I ran. Not my proudest moment but sometimes running is the order of the day. The rest of the lads did likewise. Reish’s warrior training kept him up and running long enough to escape. We scattered to the four winds. I’ve since wondered why Dis did not try to enslave us but it is clear now he was saving that power for later. Also, as loose threads we are not people you want around when you are winning. Unpredictability is unwanted when you know have the best hand.
I made good time back to the Storm Wolf on the lower slopes of the Twilight Peaks. I waited there for the lads but instead got one of Arristan’s creepy messenger bats who told me where to find the rest. On the way down the mountain I met the great horned troll from my battle with Bonecracker. Thystonius and I chatted for a while. When he heard Dis was in town he was all fired up to take him on. When he heard about the Sword he looked glum. The Swords must be an anathema to the Passion of contests. I told him what I could about our meeting with the rest and the news about Death. He was concerned but didn’t fancy running to hide behind Mynbruje’s skirts. He said he was going to Thera. I said I might be going there too in a bit. We will talk again.
I met up with the lads and we decided to get on with the quiver snatch and get out of town. We accomplished this with little difficulty. It became apparent that Raggok was in town and had mobbed up his idiots under Doramus the Questor to take a shot at Dis. He must not have known about the Sword and it has cost him. Dis is probably weakened now but has Raggok’s resources to draw on. This is a disquieting thought. We left Ustrecht. If I ever go back it will be too soon.
We stopped in on the Windhowler’s and I spoke with Ragna Redspear. I asked her to drop the Garlenites off in Travar and told her to get some face time with the Magistrates there. She was a little taken aback but my options are limited. Until Geirbjorn and Ulfkell get their shit together and get new ships they are not Captains. Some of the traditionalists may grumble about a woman acting as Chieftain in my absence but we are Sky Raiders. If she takes the job it’s hers until someone takes it back. She asked about Feardiss and I said he was too young. In truth, it is not his age I worry about but his Discipline. He is a Warrior and tends to see our issues with Thera as a war. People don’t win wars against Thera so we can’t afford to take that road. If something changes that balance of power we will change as needed but until then we are Sky Raiders and so we raid. If I have time and the boy has the inclination, I will show him our way. He is an impressive fighter but the Windhowlers need more in a Captain.
We wasted little time and set sail for Jaspree’s Realm. Olaf and Arristan communed with spirits to find their way there. It took a while but we got an audience with the Windling Elementalist that guarded the sanctuary. We made the urgency clear and got our face to face. Jaspree was quite taken aback with our news. Reish had some way of contacting Mynbruje using the mirror and the pair got in touch. Looks like Jaspree will hide out with the rest. We are only treading water here, not making progress. His glade had some impressively large oaks that would make fine drakkars. There never seemed to be a good time to broach this so I’ll probably just come back with some boys and a pile of axes some day.
Next we are off to Death’s Door. Brilliant.