Rising Passions

Sky-Fever
The plagiarised poetry of Thorvald Harjiliak

I must away to the air again, to the lonely clouds and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the tiller’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a song of war on the breeze, and a grey dawn breaking.

I must away to the air again, for the call of the howling gale
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung rain and the blown hail, and the Storm-wolves crying.

I must away to the air again, to the vagrant raider life,
To the gull’s way and the hawk’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is the roar of battle and honours to win and strong enemies to face,
And then quiet sleep and a sweet dream in Griahk’kan’s embrace.

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Plans in Motion
Arristan's thoughts on recent events

After we parted ways with the passions at Death’s door we returned to Thorvald’s moot for a night of rest and revelry.

On the next day we travelled to Kaer we had defeated T’essa’il, the father of worms, in to talk to Eolim Belial, the Grand Master of the order of the Silver Twilight who had crafted the Twilight Staff.
We figured as a nethermancer from before the scourge he may have some insight into Ristul and as a person existing in a mirror, he may have an understanding of the Aspect of Destiny.

The local trolls were using the main cavern of the kaer to construct a drakkar in secret. After we gave undertakings not to reveal their work, they did not object to us going about our business.

Belial was surprisingly reluctant to talk, considering he has not had much contact with living namegivers for several centuries. He seems very mistrustful and suspects the influence and plots of horrors everywhere.
He asked for the fate of his order. Maybe if I bring him news of that he will be a little more loquacious.

We did glean some useful information from him, the two main things are unrelated to each other but still of interest.
The first bit of information is that Belial was not affected by the wave of change, giving weight to the assumption that the mirror is a portal to an astral domain he inhabits and that only this world was affected by Lochost’s demise.
The second bit of knowledge is regarding Ristul. Belial told us that Ristul is everywhere, in fact the all corruption in Astral Space is a manifestation of Ristul. This put the scope of our quest to keep the world safe from this horror in perspective.

We decided that we would want to return for further consultation so I crafted a bone circle that I could use as a destination for a gateway spell. To ensure no accidental injuries, Olaf walled up the entrance to the room with the mirror. When next we go back we will need to bring some air purification crystals with us.

Reish had an interesting idea: he was wondering if Uppandal could craft a shield that would allow it’s wielder to reflect the power of a passion focussed on him. This would be a defence against the Trinity sword and also could possible provide some poetic justice – can passions be affected by their own powers?

We travelled to Travar to do some research into the passions we had not yet warned.
We met the new councillor Patrick whose pattern is very weak but while I found him to be obsequious and disingenuous, we could not detect any undue influence upon him.
It is possible that the weakness of his pattern and the general increase of sickness and disease we observed in Travar are both symptoms of Death roaming Barsaive freely.

We discovered that Floranus often attends the flower festival in the floating city of House V’strimon, so Thorvald started challenging airsailors to an airship race during that festival in order to ensure Floranus will attend this year.
Olaf began researching the Links of Commerce, an item important to Chorrolis that the questor Sylvia who had been forced to carry Dis had been searching for.
I found a book on the order of the Silver Twilight written after the scourge which mentioned that some of the order survived. He learned the name of the author and that he likes to visit Jerris.

We decided that we would keep the Aspect of Destiny out of its protective case for one night to see if any of us had prophetic dreams. We all had dreams of import
• Thorvald dreamt that Thystonius spoke of war coming to Cara Fahd
• Olaf dreamt that Uppandal is making armour for the passions
• Reish dreamt of Mynbruje
• I dreamt of Destiny being trapped in a grey mist

The next morning we set out for the floating City of Reeds on Lake Ban in time for the flower festival.
We travelled on Thorvald’s new airship, crafted by Uppandal’s Forge in Travar, the ship was later named the Twilight Challenge.

We met with the Shivalala V’strimon in a public audience were we discussed the declaration of separation and current affairs.
Later, in private session we discussed the passion killings and our quest to warn the remaining ones. The Shivalala revealed that Floranus usually makes himself known to her when he visits.
We also spoke of Thystonius’ message to Thorvald.

We started on concrete plans for assaulting the Theran Fortress Triumph, with the Shivalala and with Omasu who was called quickly. Our plan calls for a two-pronged approach:
Rock-worms will create tunnels for and Obsidiman force to reach the Ayodhya life-rock. There they can merge with the life-rock and emerge fighting on the other side.
At the same time a sky raider fleet will assault from the air. Shivalala V’strimon will use true fire provided by my trading company to create liquid fire that will be used to bring down the air-shield. The college of vine will research making shield of true water for the drakkars.
It could be useful if House V’strimon’s navy were to make a concerted assault on K’tenshin positions shortly beforehand, this could draw away Theran patrols making our approach easier. We should discuss the options with V’strimon’s admiralty.

Thorvald’s Twilight Challenge won the airship race handily, receiving as price some silver he shared with the crew from V’strimon and the Bracers of Firewind from Floranus. We warned Floranus of Death’s release and Lochost’s demise and he travelled to Mynbruje’s realm.

In other news, the ship Thorvald had sent to the Servos jungle to find the gladiatorial arena in honour of Raggok returned with news that it was successful. We now know where it is and will move against it soon.

We travelled on to Throal as we needed to do research and I had received word that J’Role would like to speak to us.
We spoke to J’Role about the passions and our planned attack on Triumph, of which he already knew.
We also spoke about war coming to Cara Fahd, which was news to him and about the Servos arena.
J’Role confirmed that a new Theran overgovernor is coming to Vivane with many troops and told us he is looking for reliable information from Vivane.
He requested Thorvald eliminate some enemies; Thorvald will consider each case on its merits.

We decided to hold an auction for the Bracers of Firewind to attract Chorrolis’ attention.
Soon after sending out invitations to register for the event we had an interesting list of attendees:
Tanaris from the Blood Wood, Ragora from Uppandal’s Forge in Travar, Vlad Hammerfell from Throal, Leonis Tagaris from Vivane, Goram from Travar and the great dragon Icewing

We met with Vlad Hammerfell and Icewing who were satisfied we were offering the real deal.
Two days before the auction the bracers were stolen, probably by a nethermancer of circle 9 or higher. Other than a list of known nethermancers of ninth circle or higher, our investigations in Throal, Kratas and Jerris are at a dead end.

While we were waiting for the auction date to arrive, Olaf completed the three hydra armours
The suit crafted from the scales of the green hydra he named “Hope at Sunset” and offered it to Reish.
The red hydra’s hide he used to create the suit named “Dawn’s Vigour” which he gave to me.
The black hydra’s scales he forged into “Midnight’s Mystery” which he claimed for himself.

Olaf has also found the names of some potential trainers for our disciplines.

I have strengthened the thread I have woven to the Aspect of Destiny and now I can converse freely with the trapped girl; however she still can only make one prophesy each day.
These are some questions I asked:
Q: Is Lochost beyond Death’s Door?
A: Don’t know
Q: If Death were to kill the mad passions, would Ristul be able to exist in the World?
A: Yes
Q: Will we find the answer about the order of the Silver Twilight in Olaf’s library?
A: Partially
Q: Will Floranus be at the festival of flowers this year?
A: Yes
Q: Will Incidents of disease continue to increase in Travar?
A: Looks Likely
Q: Will Cassius unleash his army out of the badlands within the next year?
A: Possibly
Q: Will Chorrolis by at the Throal Trade fair (3. Raquas)?
A1: To early to tell (question was asked 5 months from fair)
A2: Yes (question was asked again 6 weeks from fair)

When speaking to Destiny, she mentioned she was not alone in whatever astral realm she is in. Maybe whoever placed her in the astral realm is in there with her, maybe the realm has been infiltrated by some thing, maybe the centuries she has spent in there have driven her insane.
I will need to find out more.

Thorvald and I have just finished talking to the Vice Dean of Nethermancy at SIN in Jerris.
I will try to meet with the author of the book on the order of the Silver Twilight if he is here then we will return to Throal to prepare for our expedition into the Servos.

Something has been bothering me for a while.
Dis, Death, Raggok and Vestrial are working in concert. At some stage or other we have interfered with plots for each of them. Raggok has responded by assaulting the guardian’s fortress-monastery, we have encountered agents of Death and of Dis but we have not spotted any effort regarding us from Vestrial.

It is so unlikely as to be virtually impossible that Vestrial does not have at least one plot involving one, some or all of us. It is in his nature to plot and scheme and even if you could argue (erroneously, I believe) that a passion would not be bothered with us, this would not hold true for Vestrial, for whom no intrigue is too small.

This means that whatever plot or plots he is working against us are undetected and still proceeding. Some or all of our organisations are probably infiltrated somehow; we all probably have friends or contacts who have been subverted.
The question is how to uncover these without tipping our hand and without significantly reducing the effectiveness of our organisations?

I don’t know.

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An interesting conversation
Boredom can lead to great ideas

Airship travel can be quite tedious sometimes.
And sometimes out of that tedium arise some very interesting conversations.

Thorvald and I had been chatting about what we felt needed to be done after we investigated Death’s Door.

I had just explained that I would like to visit the mirror where I had spoken to Elianar Messias before to try and contact him again.
That I hope to be able to learn more not only about the scourge and Ristul but also about people trapped within mirrors.
I also want to show him Thera and find out if this was the legacy he wanted to leave behind.

It was then that our conversation became exciting as we moved on to Messias’ great work, the Books of Harrow.
We discussed how my quest for understanding and Thorvald’s desire to deal a staggering blow to the Therans could dovetail nicely by a mission to infiltrate the Great Library of Thera and steal the Books of Harrow themselves!
An extremely challenging task no doubt, but success would bring incalculable rewards.
After all, the books were found in Barsaive and translated in Barsaive. We would be returning them to their rightful home.

Should we decide to attempt this undertaking, it will require a lot of care, preparation and patience but this is something I would happily dedicate a lot of time and ressources to.

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Apassionata
I may be turning into a grumpy old man

It has been an interesting few days. Most name-givers live their entire lives without once personally seeing a Passion and would consider meeting one a great blessing. Between all the Stormwarriors, we have encountered 7 Passions within a week.
We probably should be feeling honoured.

We did learn quite a few things, however.
One thing we learnt is that the Passions can change over time. For example, Astendar used to be the Passion of obsessive stalking and now is the Passion of being up one’s own arse.

But I am jumping ahead.
We had travelled to Ustrecht because my brothers had received dreams from their Passions requesting a meeting in that cursed city. Olaf and Throvald wanted to go there and retrieve the Blodwall anyway, so we all consented to go.

Unsurprisingly, I had not dreamed of a Passion. My dream was far more confusing. I dreamt I was in some cavern containing a pool of glowing energy. When my hand touched the pool, my arms turned to tentacles. A reference to Ristul perhaps? I don’t know.

When we reached Ustrecht we found an armed encampment of followers of Garlen who had been defending a quarter of the city from followers of Raggok for many years. It turned out that Ustrecht had originally been dedicated to several passions: Garlen in the west, Lochost in the south, Raggok in the east and Thystonius in the centre. Since the kaers opened, followers of Garlen have been defending her quarter against the minions of Raggok to protect an important book of heroes.
They were not happy to hear of Raggok’s ultimatum.

Mitch discovered the hard way that Raggok was present in person. While I applaud his refusal to treat with such a vile creature, I do wish he not imperil his health by refusing so antagonistically.
It is lucky we were due to meet Garlen anyway.

While waiting for the appointed time of meeting, we retrieved the Bloodwall. The task was difficult for us but we succeeded, fulfilling the promises Olaf and Thorvald had made those years ago.
Defeating the horror at the centre of the city did have the side effect of making the position of Garlen’s followers untenable, so we vowed to see the sacred tome the were guarding to safety and to aid in their evacuation.

We also hunted down a family of hydras, as we hope to be able to use one of their severed heads as a gift for whichever dragon deigns to answer my request for a meeting. I am particularly disappointed in Mountainshadow. He was incensed when we did not consult him on the world changing events we were involved in. Now that more world changing events occurred and we want to consult him, he is silent. Why does the consistency of a being’s actions appear to be inversely proportional to its power?

Finally, the time of the meeting arrived. After some tense negotiation, we got agreement of Garlen’s followers (both locals and Mitch’s men) to give us privacy in the cellar of their headquarters.
We met with Upandal, Mynbruje, Garlen and Astendar.
They told us many things:

We learnt that Astendar had once upon a time stalked a woman named Destiny who had the gift of foresight, that he had recorded many of her prophesies and that based on his interpretation of those he had been working against the Stormwarriors.

We learnt that Lochost had freed Death and was then slain by him. Death is now hunting for the other Passions.

We learnt that using a Trinity Sword weakens a passion and makes it vulnerable.

We learnt that Upandal, Mynbruje, Garlen and Astendar are hiding from Death in Mynbruje’s astral realm. The Passions asked us to bring word to the other Passions of the danger and the safe haven.

We learnt that the Stormwarriors and some others like us stand a little apart from the fabric of fate, loose threads, and that this makes us dangerous to many others.

We were told of the sealed entrance to Death’s prison and asked to inspect it as it could possibly be used to imprison Death again.

After asking Astendar to leave and gaining the promise of secrecy from the others, we revealed the Aspect of Destiny and learned that it indeed contains the trapped essence of a woman named Destiny. Destiny can help Reish ask Mynbruje for a meeting.

The passions agreed to take the Tome guarded upstairs along with its most devout defender, Torvesh, and the grievously wounded Mitch back to Mynbruje’s realm as they took their leave.
We began evacuating Garlen’s followers immediately.

One member of the camp, Sharon, was very insistent on remaining with us. I became suspicious and observed her pattern in astral space. It was the most incredible thing I had ever seen. A pattern of great power and complexity was cunningly and carefully hidden within Sharon’s. I challenged her on it and she tried to leave. When we stopped her, she changed. The pattern inside her turned out to be Dis who broke free from her, killing her instantly. We were disheartened to see Dis wield a Trinity Sword. He attacked Reish with a spell so terrible that I ran without thinking about it. I cannot recall deciding to, or even starting to, run. I just found myself running through ruined Ustrecht.

Eventually I regained control over my body and managed to find Reish and Olaf. We decided to cloak ourselves in illusion and fly high above the city to scout out what Dis was up to.
We did not have to wait long. Raggok’s mob, with the mad passion at the front, surged into what had been Garlen’s camp. Raggok and his most trusted minions descended into the cellar where we had our meeting. Dis sprang from hiding, used the Trinity Sword to enslave Raggok and his most trusted followers and disappeared with them.

This is not a good development. Now two of the mad passions will effectively work towards exactly the same goals in unison. Grave tidings, indeed.

We found Thorvald who had been conversing with Tystonius. Unsurprisingly the Passion of Bravery, Challenge and Conflict choose not to hide from Death.

A last task to be undertaking before leaving Ustrecht was to retrieve Mitch’s quiver from Doramus, the questor of Raggok as we could not leave one of Mitch’s pattern items in the hands of his least favourite passion. Fortunately, most of Raggok’s minions were over at Garlen’s place so Reish and Thorvald got in and out without difficulty.

We travelled to Jaspree’s astral glade to warn him of the danger he is in and he turned out to be just as annoying to talk to as all the other Passions.
When didn’t believe us and pretty much called us liars to our faces, I was tempted to tell him that I didn’t care what he belived and if he wanted to hang around until the day he woke up with a Trinity Sword rammed up his backside, that was fine by me. But I held my tongue.
Reish had to call Mynbruje to convince him of the veracity of our tale.

However we did find out that Reish can only use the Aspect of Destiny to call Mynbruje to him, not to send messages, so this was the first Mynbruje heard of RRaggok’s capture by Dis. She was as perturbed as we are.

As I am writing this, we are sailing towards Death’s door.

If that investigation is successful, I feel we should travel to Elianar Messias’ old monastery which is in this corner of Barsaive. The mirror through which I received his blessing for the Shadow Staff may let me communicate with him where the Ghost master ritual did not.
He should be able to answer many questions about the nature of the world, the level of magic, horrors and Ristul that we need answer to.

Arristan

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Passion Killer

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.

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Ustrecht, again......
Thorvald's theories on Troll History and other subjects

I’ve never been comfortable in Ustrecht and it’s not only the Horrors. Some hold Ustrecht up as an example of what Trolls could build, a great kingdom, one of the great powers before the Scourge. It has been used to cast the mountain clans in a bad light, to paint us as savages or brutes regressed from a state of enlightenment and civilisation. This is total Bollocks. The Tro’o’astia were raiders before Ustrecht, continued to be so during the height of it’s dominion and we are still long after Ustrecht began to rot in ruins. We welcomed many of the citizens of the kingdom into our Kaers before the scourge but they clove to our ways and our traditions, forsaking their vaunted society. On our blasted mountainsides we have endured while the civilised and the enlightened have met a fate worse than death – an eternity of corruption and pain woven in webs of crystal and blood magic. Trolls were made to live a certain way. It is our nature, our Pattern. Ustrecht was my people’s greatest folly.

This was my third time to enter the city. The first was successful but the second expedition still haunts my nightmares. Only the loss of the Crimson Dawn in the Mist Swamps pains me more. So many fine companions have met their ends at my side. Ago’astia. the Doom of the Trolls. The tale of the fall of Ustrecht has never been told in full. Perhaps that is a mercy. This time we were better prepared. Arristan and Olaf are amongst the most potent magicians in the land. Not much gets past Mitch and myself and Reish can tackle most foes up close. We are well armed and armoured and are trained in ways of defeating horrors and their constructs both on this plane and the Astral. Even so we were pushed pretty hard in the Crystal Tower. Most of Ago’Astia’s constructs were easy prey for us. They were still dangerous in numbers – particularly to the casters as they prepared their threads. That said, bunching up and trying to swarm the magicians is a good way to get yourself and your bloody mates ended en masse, for good. Cuts both ways I guess.

The main foe was the Tower and the very ground beneath our feet was treacherous. The crystal grew and changed shape, grasping for us greedily and trying to lock us in place or steal the breath from our lungs. Olaf could undo the worst of it but the path was narrow and if one of us was encased our progress could be blocked. The best tactic was direct. If you were free to move you charged up and took out anything in your way. Boldness was the key. I took some hits on the way up but my charge put the Horror on the defensive. Reish followed close by and the spellcasters were a bit further back. As we got closer I began to get the feel of things within the Tower. Ago’astia would meet the same fate as Ustrecht. In building and creating the horror had locked itself in place. The Tower it had become had been a place of security, a bastion, but now it was a trap. Soon it would be a tomb. I reached the final door and spent all of my strength battering it open to clear a path for Reish. Smoke swung a dozen times and cut the heart from Ago’astia. Bloodwall was seized and the Doom of the Trolls was no more. Celebrations had to wait as the crystal above and underfoot began to crumble and crack.

Olaf lost the head a little and blasted me off my feet with some spell in an effort to reach the outside. The wall was too thick however and we were forced to use the stairs and run. I picked him up and sprinted. Reish, Mitch and Arristan were in front of us but it was hard to make out anything amid the falling crystal. The delay in standing up proved to be critical. I was felled by a massive chunk of crystal masonry. I never felt a blow like it and that includes the hammer of Chorak Bonecracker. In fairness to Olaf he took responsibility for his actions he and the boys came back for me and dragged me out. We sat there for a time amid the destruction. I looked up at the Twilight Peaks, grim and impassive, towering above us. We are but small things scrabbling on this world. We think we build great things for pride is common to both Namegiver and Horror but what are our creations compared to the works of Griahk’kan.

We made it back to the Garlenites and healed up a bit. I decided to visit the followers of Raggok and see what they were about. I don’t know what I thought to accomplish but it seemed right to give them fair warning and the dictates of Thystonius. They are lost men and women, every one. It’s a road I could have walked after what the Therans did to my family but it is a road no true Tro’o’astia should be on. Take responsibility for your own actions. Don’t wallow in how you have been wronged by others. It gives the bastards too much power over you. A Sky Raider must always define himself with his own deeds, not second-hand whining about past betrayals. Poor wretches. They cannot escape from what they are. They will come for the Garlenites. On another day they might have won, though the victory would give them no comfort. Today we are here and they will be cut down. It is the way of things. There is no glory to be won in putting down a rabid hound but it is a task that must not be shirked lest his affliction spread.

While we waited myself, Arristan and Olaf resolved to seek out the nest of Hydras and destroy them. It may be a way to curry favour with the Great Dragons for the work that is to come but for me it was another test that could not be ignored. We hunted one down and slew it in the broken ruins before following its tracks to the lair where three more awaited us. The blood was up and after the sickening encounter with the followers of Raggok I relished the simplicity and immediacy of the hunt. The Hydras were potent enemies and I felt both their poison and the fire. They felt both my thunder and lightning as my blade and shield cut and battered through them. Olaf and Arristan countered the worst of their attacks and unleashed potent spells of their own. The mother Hydra struck me with her venom before I lost consciousness. Olaf purified my blood before death could come but I was never worried. I knew he was there and would not fail me. I knew this day was not my final day. Still I was reckless and endangered my sworn brothers. The skeins of their fates are not woven the same as mine. I must strive to remember this.

Much of my equipment was ash by the end of the battle. I would have been the same way but for Dread Naught. The harness has protected me from blade and spell and fire and death. We recovered an ancient spear that may serve as a thrown weapon and the Hydras had gathered a great horde of valuables in a mockery of the ways of their dragon forebears. Tonight we await the Passions in the old temple. We are ready.

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On Destiny, part II
Arristan's musings

What is destiny?
Is it the pre-ordained order in which events occur, regardless of name-giver actions?
Is it a foretold future that still requires name-givers to bring it to pass?
Or is the concept of destiny merely a feeble attempt by sentient beings to make sense of the randomness of the worlds around them?

The Aspect of Destiny shows a young woman calling herself Destiny and asking for help.
Who is she? Is Destiny a Passion? Is she the mother of the Passions? (I hope not; the pop-culture references would be unbearable) What help does she need? What consequences would helping Destiny have?

Clearly more study is necessary.

It appears that I have bonded with the Aspect of Destiny at an opportune moment – a superstitious man might be tempted to read something into this.

After returning from my adventures in the Wastes I traveled to the Windhowler moot to re-unite with my Stormwarrior brothers and catch up with them. We all had great tales to tell.

Mitch brought us news that was both amazing and devastating to his order:
The good news was that followers of Garlen previously unknown to Mitch have been surviving in a part of the horror-infested city of Arrakal in fallen Ustrecht.
The bad news was that mad Raggok threatened to kill every follower of Garlen in Barsaive unless the group in Arrakal left.

We decided to make for that city at dawn to evacuate Mitch’s brothers and sister in faith.
This would also give us the opportunity to liberate the mighty shield Bloodwall which is important to the trolls of the Twilight Peaks and which Olaf has need for.

I was surprised that I could not rouse my friends from sleep the next morning, despite vigorous attempts.
When they did eventually wake, several hours late, they all claimed to have been visited by their Passion in their dreams, asking to meet west of the central spire of Ustrecht.

The consensus seems to be that the Aspect of Destiny is to blame for these dreams.
I have several issues with this theory.
When we all were in the presence of the Aspect shortly after we met, while we had vivid or disturbing dreams, none of us had trouble waking in the morning.
If the Aspect is causing the dreams, surely I would have been affected by now as I have been keeping it near for some weeks.
The argument that I may be escaping the worst effects by virtue of having woven threads to the artifact does not explain why other members of the Windhowler moot, whose guests we were, experienced no trouble.

My hypothesis for why I alone of the Stormwarriors did not receive a dream message is this:
I am the only Stormwarrior not to have devoted myself to the anthropomorphic personification of idealised value concepts or emotional states.

We finally got under way after giving up on waking Olaf and just carrying him and his gear on board.
Settling down in the mountains a few hours climb away, we got a good view of the city.
Its layout is split in five with four quadrants arranged around a central section.
An are between two of the quadrants, the southern and western to be precise, appeared to have been cleared, suggesting a kill zone.
We surmised that we would find the followers of Garlen on one or the other side of that zone.
As the southern quadrant was nearest to us we decided to approach through it, though it lies opposite to the area we had visited in the past.

We entered the city and made our way through the rubble without difficulty until we crossed the defensive field and met with the Garlenites, who welcomed us into their midst.

We learned that the five parts of Arrakal were each dedicated to a different Passion: Tystonius at the centre, Uppandal in the north, Rashomon in the east, Garlen in the west and the Forgotten One in the south. At this stage only the followers of Garlen and the mad creature that once was Rashomon had holdings in the city.

The forces of Garlen are lead be a grizzled troll veteran (whose name currently escapes me) who was understandably outraged at the suggestion that he had to abandon the post he had held for many years, though they had recently been hard-pressed by new undead hordes, animated from those fallen at Carrington.

After some discussion he agreed to consider evacuation provided we could guarantee the integrity of the treasure he is sworn to guard: an ancient and priceless tome of legends and heroic stories from before the scourge.
This tome is in a state of very poor repair and moving it without serious care would surely destroy it.

Maybe my power over the forces of entropy will be of use though the book is at the upper size limit of what I can affect.
Animating the pedestal it rests on and having it move carefully is also a possibility.
Olaf will be able to craft a container to protect the work from inclement environmental conditions during transit.

We decided to postpone such deliberations for another day as we got a few hours rest and spent the remainder of the night standing watch alongside the followers of Garlen.

Thorvald met the leader of Raggok’s mob for parlay and learned that there was no cause or reason for the relentless attacks on Garlen’s people other than that they were there.
Clearly this is mindless hatred at its most base.

The following morning it was time to assault the horror sitting in the central spire like a spider in its web and wrest Bloodwall from it.

As soon as we entered the central area once devoted to Tystonius an alarm sounded and we could detect crystal spiders, such as the ones we had fought before, skittering towards us.
The Stormwarriors have increased their understanding of their disciplines significantly since then and the spiders did not pose a grave challenge this time around.

We postulated that like a spider, our target may be able to sense motion along the crystal that covered most surfaces in this part of the city took steps to touch it as little as possible.
Thorvald bounded ahead in mighty leaps and the others used various means to gain the power of flight.

We made it to the central spire without much incident by found groups of crystal spiders waiting for us.
This time, with the ground erupting as we set foot on it and the horror, still unseen, assaulting us with spells of grasping and suffocation, the fight was tougher.

Olaf and myself managed to blunt the horror’s assault somewhat as Mitch and Reish made short work of the spiders. Thorvald raced ahead to clear the way for us and force the horror to divide its attention.
We finally cornered the beast in the room that held Bloodwall and saw that it was drawing power from it, the shield almost beating like a heart.

Reish exploded into a furious frenzy of attacks and, targeting the crystal strands stretching from Bloodwall to the walls of the tower room, slew the horror in mere seconds.
It was a sight to behold.

With some difficulty we escaped the tower as it collapsed and returned to Garlen’s temple.

As it turns out, our destruction of the horror at the city’s centre clears the way for Raggok’s followers to assault the western quarter on two new fronts, making the position of Garlen’s people untenable.

We have to hold out for two days and nights to make our meeting with the passions, evacuate Garlen’s people and make the Tome of Legends safe to move.

Destiny or coincidence?

In the coming days we will scarcely have time to sleep let alone engage in philosophical thought experiments…
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Extract from journal of Olaf Horanson

And so we approached the Temple of Garlan whose Gardians had stopped comunicating with Mitch’s faction of the Questors.
What we found was an appartently abandoned building on the side of the Mountain.
Inside we found a Statue of Garlan in the Form of a Troll that we had all meet previously and a Harbringer of Dis.
In the ensuing scuffle the Harbringer Dominated Reish into Attacking Mitch. Throvald Immeditately Grabbed Mitch and jumped off the side of the Mountain, with Reish Gliding after them. Aristan and I made short work of the Harbringer.
After Reish’s compulsion had worn off, everyone regrouped in the Temple. After some investigation we determined that the Statue was indeed Garlan.
It was decided that I should stay at the temple with Mitch, as we secured the Area around Garlan’s Staute, the Others would return to Garlthic and take postion of the mystrey object he had hinted at.
This item did indeed turn out to be one of the Trinty Swords. With this item in hand they rejoined us at Temple containing Garlan.

After again analysing the situation it was decieded that we should seek the wisdom of Mumbruke. Taking both the Sword and that statue with us we sought the Hidden Temple of .
Arristan made finding the Hidden Temple look easy, If I had been looking on my own this would have taken a lot longer.
We where greeted by the monks as if we had been expected and after being allowed to clean up we where shown into a Room with an anicent Door.
A monk preformed a little ritual with a Bell and The Door opened, this appeared to take the Monk by suprise.

We laid out what facts where avaialble to us to Mumbruke asking for his aid. We gave over the Trinity Sword, He Determinied that The Statue was indeed Garlan traped in stone.
We determinied that we need to Free Garlan and then break the Swords.
I asked where Upandal could be found as he is the only being that could break the Swords. We where given the Location of a Forge by deaths Sea.
We also asked the location of Locust so that he may free Garlan, Again a Location was given at then Bottem of a Particular Kaer.

So Aristan, Mitch and I departed to go to Upandal’s Forge, While Thorvald and Reish Scouted for The Location of Locust.

Using Aristan’s arts we located Upandal at work, The Forge was so Hot that Only I was willing to enter, I eventually persuaded Upandal that it was time to remake the Trinity Swords, then I passed out due to the Heat.
As Aristan retrived me Upandal Handed him the Blade he was working on and Said it was for me.

Thorvald and Reish encoutered heavy resistece and pulled back to regroup with the rest of us.

Together we again approached the Kaer that Locust was in, There was an Invae ifestation.
We battled large Groups in a large Cavern then proceeded deeper into the Karer,in the main Karerwe found a large tunnel going down.
Aristan Made us invisible and we made our into the main tunnel here again we slew many invae,
Finally we found a Cavern filled with Mushrooms, I created a Tower to Block the Entrance Mitch used his seal home ability to help protect us.
Below the mushroom cavern we found a the residences of the Karer in some form of Cacoons, We Identified a Female Elf we belived was Locust.
We experimented with ways of releasing the people Finaly I formed a Solvent that would eat through the cacoons,
After releasing the people Aristan an I Slipped out of the Cavern an up to the door of the Kaer, Aristan used his abilities to create a Door that allowed the People to exit, Reish aranged for them to travel to New Solander.
After debating going to defeat the invae Queen we meantioned our quest to free Garlen and Locust Transported us to Mambruke’s temple.

Locust Released Garlen then disappeared, Moments Later Mambruke and Garlan rushed back through the Door and a wave of colour washed over Everyting and things where suddenly smaller.

We Forgot part of what had happend. I returned to Travar and my Duties in the Forge, there had been a Fire in the Libury which also needed.

Later I received word that My help was needed by the Orks in Carafad.
A Kila had crashed during the wave of Colour and the Orks where attempting to salvage it when a force from Theara turned up with similar thoughts.
The Thearns had assembled a Tower with Archers to poar arrows down upon the Sight of the Crash.

The Orks where lead by Stryke Surehand a strong and steady leader we made plans to create large wooden Shields/ Palisades to defend against arrows.
I created a large number of Poarters to Carry the Shields.
Then we struck for the the Crash site, I made a Bridge to allow us to cover rough ground and protect against arrows.
I cast Lightning Cloud to keep some heads down on the Tower as we progressed.
At these point we received word that the remainig camp was under attack. the Orks where ordered to keep the Sight, The Ork command squad returned with me,
Stryke Surehand returned as a Cavalary man with Alfray Bonesetter, I casted Metal wings on myself and Coilla Shadowshiv, She Carried Haskeer Ogreborn.
Stryke Sure hand returned first and started to rally the Camp. Coilla Shadowshiv dropped Haskeer Ogreborn into the combat and then disappeared.
I cast Dragons breath on the Attackers burning the Leader severaly. The Attackers where routed.

The next morning we recieved a request for parly, Coilla had been captured and we exchange her for a Prisoner of similar value.
We then proceeded to negoiate on the Crash site, the Thearns agreed to recognise Stryke Surehand and Carafad and a deal was done to split the Killa.
We also agreed to turn over the Dead Thearns.
I was warned that a hit squad was coming for me So I returned to Traver leaving Peace behind me.

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On Destiny
From Arristan's diary

I have been reminded of how lucky I am to have found my Stormwarrior brethren.

Though we have differing agendas and differing opinions and sometime row over them extensively, each and every one of my brothers is reliable and trustworthy.

Each of my brothers understands his disciplines and is true to them.
When we decide on a course of action to take together, we all work together to achieve our goal.

Recently I had urgent business in the wastes and could not wait for the Stormwarriors to have some time from their own ventures, so I put together a party of adepts from Jerris to assist me in my mission.

What a sad and sorry lot they where:
A pacifist elementalist who summoned forth massive spirits of destruction.
A nethermancer who was far more interested in power and death than understanding the worlds around us.
A scout who didn’t seem to interested in discovering new things.
Only the young illusionist seemed to be on the right track.

It has often seemed to me that the Stormwarriors were the only adepts to be actively trying to make Barsaive a better place for its people.
I always rebuked myself for such a petty and self-serving thought.
If this bunch is an accurate representation of a typical party of adepts, maybe such thoughts were not that far of the mark.
That is a very unsettling idea and I dearly hope that this was not a typical party.

We made it through the wastes to the Thief of Name’s tower without any major events, only to find a stone vedette moored to it and large earth elementals tearing up the once-beautiful gardens.
It appears that another party of adepts, probably with Theran connections given their vessel, was looking for something here to.

In all likelihood they were looking for the same hidden room I was.
In the evening the elementals returned to wherever they came from and the men retired to the ship, leaving some guards behind.

We disguised ourselves and capturing the guards at the bottom of the tower, we snuck in.
There were further guards at the top of the tower which we managed to neutralise.
The Elementalist, claiming to want to avoid any violence, started poking around the courtyard, where he eventually found the access to the hidden area.

We dealt with most of the crew in a non-violent manner, knocking them out or causing them to flee in terror, while a giant tree spirit brutally slaughtered all who stormed past us into the courtyard.

The remaining crew had enough and the vedette left without any of them having seen a single one of our party – they did not know who was assailing them.

The discovered tunnel turned out to be warded by magical and mundane traps.
At the end of the tunnel we found a chamber warded by more traps and full of great treasures, grimoires, a brooch, the Aspect of Destiny.

When we returned to Jerris we handed over the grimoires to the School of Illusion and Nethermancy for research and I claimed the Aspect of Destiny.
The other items of power were distributed among the party as a bonus.
The I parted ways with this motley bunch.

I hope that these adepts find their way back to the true paths of their disciplines and that they will contribute positively to the well-being of Barsaive.

In the mean-time, I must study the Aspect of Destiny, for I feel that it will be a great aid in the forthcoming trials.

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The Willow in the Storm
Some Windhowler Propaganda

Greetings! My name is Valdis Brighteye, Troubadour of the Windhowlers Trollmoot. You have sailed a long way over the Twilight Peaks to take the Crystal Oath. To honour the Code that binds us together as raiders we exchange tales, accounts of our most daring victories and our most tragic defeats. You have arrived at a time of celebration and rejoicing. As you can see the revels in the great hall continue even now, though our Champions have departed in haste on matters of great import.

The tale I tell involves a contest, pitting the greatest captains of the Windhowlers against the Bloodlore warriors of Chorak Bonecracker. Chorak has long walked the discipline of the Sky Raider and full fifteen circles lie behind him. His people and mine have ever been blood enemies and even the Crystal Code blunts our ancient feud but a little. Our Chieftain, Thorvald Harjiliak, is the Hero of the Age, the Storm-made-flesh and no mortal weapon can take his life. Chorak’s storm has raged for many years but it will soon blow its self out. Thorvald’s Storm, on the other hand, is still building and soon it will tear across Barsaive in a tempest not seen since the Orichalcum Wars. This has been foretold!

Unwilling to endure the continuing stings of Bloodlore raids, Thorvald sent Chorak a challenge, demanding training from the Sky Raider Master. He hoped to gain an audience with the Raider to address the issues between our moots and our common enemy, Thera. As Thystonius’ custodians of the Sky Raider discipline the Bloodlores were honour-bound to meet the challenge head on and so they did. Five warriors from each moot were to face each other in a duel. For each victory Thorvald would earn the right to the secrets of a single circle of his Discipline. For each defeat the Windhowlers would have to surrender a precious drakkar. The proceedings were blessed when a great-horned troll stepped forward to take charge of the contest. Yes! Mighty Thystonius himself walked these lands not five days ago.

Girded in great armour of crystal and steel and bearing the weapons forged by Alvaldur the Younger and the Dwarf Olaf Horunsun the Captains of the Moot stepped forward to meet their fates. They faced single combat against a Bloodlore Captain, around the great Crystal of Challenge and under the eye of Thystonius. Can there be a truer proving ground?

Of the great deeds of that day the Windhowler Troubadours will sing for generations. Geirbjorn Jawripper, a true giant, was bested by swiftness though he remained unbowed. Canny Ragna Redspear earned her name once more in defeating her foe. Old Ulfkell One-Eye fought tooth-and-nail but was defeated by a younger warrior. Young Fardiss Longshanks, the son of our last Chieftain Jodmarr, acquitted himself well and was the only warrior to send his foe home on his shield! Of the foes these warriors faced we say little. They were the shadows of Chorak Bonecracker and their tales are told. Their time is passing. We celebrate our warriors today and the honour they have brought to the clan and all Trolls.

So it came to pass that Thorvald stepped forward clad in a hero’s panoply. Protecting him was the great armour ‘Dread Naught’, sunset crystal plate of unsurpassed craftsmanship. In his right hand he bore Kegel’s Sword, a blade forged from the very elements of creation. To his left arm was strapped ‘Live Free’, his Father’s great shield, the last carved from the tree named Harjiliak’s Bane. His grandfather’s terrible blade, ‘Die Free’ was at his side and the many trophies of his victories – his tall battle-helm, his shining bracers and more – were also to be seen. Chorak was no less impressive and his savage hammer above all showed that this was a warrior to be feared.

With his mighty armour, parrying blade and warlike shield it appeared that Thorvald meant to meet the onslaught head on. Many had tried this before but none had survived. In fighting a Sky Raider of Chorak’s ability it is said that a warrior faces two distinct battles. The physical contest is plain to see but the ferocity of Chorak’s potent battle cries is more than enough to unman the most experienced of fighters. The struggle to keep your nerve and wits, to keep doing the right thing, is what beats most of Chorak’s victims. Sure enough, from the very start Thorvald was on the back foot. Chorak was faster, stronger and more skilled. Blows that would have felled a thundra beast were struck faster than the eye could easily follow and the vast majority were Chorak’s.

Unruffled, Thorvald simply grinned, kept his guard up and asked Chorak for more. He then compared the Bloodlore Chief’s assault to a stern scolding from his grandmother. The jibes seemed to have some effect and Thorvald earned him a little respite as Chorak’s blows became wilder. Thorvald’s defence was masterful – swift footwork, shield positioning, parries and anticipation allowed him to frustrate Chorak. The Bloodlore Chieftain was obviously calling on his strongest attacks and talents to rid him of this upstart. Perhaps a couple of minutes in to the duel his hammer eventually struck home. The enchantments upon it ripped into Thorvald’s body and a resounding crack accompanied the shattering of several ribs. Thorvald went down. All eyes turned to Thystonius. In previous duels a wound of this magnitude had earned victory for the warrior striking it but the Horned Passion indicated that the battle was to continue. He was obviously enjoying the contest. Thorvald found his feet and flames were soon to be seen from his wounds as the fire within forged him anew.

Chorak continued where he had left off and still Thorvald avoided the majority of his strikes. His taunts continued and Chorak’s hammer maelstrom found little except for Thorvald’s mighty shield and it stood firm. Thorvald in truth mounted few attacks and rarely threatened his foe. If anything, this infuriated Chorak all the more. The duel continued. Perhaps in the fifth minute Chorak struck home again. This time Thorvald retained his feet though his right arm brielfy hung limp by his side. Again Thystonius indicated that the contest was not done and the duellists went at it again.

Three more times did Chorak’s hammer strike our chieftain, inflicting terrible wounds and still Thorvald fought on. It must have continued for at least ten minutes while every observer stood spellbound. While Thorvald had conserved his energy to better cope with the punishment he endured, Chorak had kept nothing back. There was a point where I saw a moment of concern on the Bloodlore’s face as though the advantage were about to swing to Thorvald. A second later a master-stroke from Chorak had settled the contest. Thorvald lay unconscious. Again all eyes turned to Thystonius. He was grinning with open delight at the amazing physical prowess he had just witnessed from both fighters. Chorak had been expected to win easily. He had not done so. Thystonius’ judgement was just and final. The duel was Thorvald’s and the contest was the Windhowler’s!

Not since the Raid of the Long Spear have we enjoyed such a victory over the Bloodlores. Though we lost two Drakkars – the ‘Cloud Chaser’ and the ‘Thunderhead’ – the training Thorvald would receive and the prestige and honour earned would strengthen the whole moot.

I spoke to Thorvald soon afterwards. He said that he had approached the duel with Chorak like the war with Thera. He had never tried to win because in doing so he would instantly lose.

‘In the lowlands I heard the tale of the Willow in the Storm. The Oak stands tall and will not bend but if the Storm is strong enough even the proudest Oak will crack. The Willow is flexible and bends as the Storm blows. It can survive the fiercest of tempests,’ he said.

I asked him how that would help outside of the duel. If he had faced Chorak on the field of battle he would have surely been slain.

‘Aye’, he said to me, ‘I wasn’t ready to face Chorak yet but now I know a lot about him. As he trains me I will learn still more. If he continues to plague the Windhowlers I swear I will end him.’

‘Today I played the Willow but some day I will be the Storm. In that same situation Chorak can only ever be the Oak and that will settle for him. Mark those words Troubadour for this is no idle boast.’

That is the tale of the Great Challenge. Now please grab a horn of ale and join the celebrations. On the morrow you enter the Sunset Caverns to swear the Oath and pledge yourself to our Code. Tonight we DRINK!

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