Thursday, August 24, 2017

Visemar: Season 1, Episode 5

Minor Milestone: Changed “Storm Forged Raven Song, ancient blade of The Raven Queen” to “Raven Song, Dance of Wisdom”

Visemar has the stern grey eyes of his lineage, their good humor slowly fading the longer he bears Storm Forged Raven Song. He wears his sienna hair cut short. As the eldest, he was meant to join the Paladin Order, but the Song ended that career before it began. Still, he maintains a military regimen and a strong build. Beneath his breastplate, he wears the Grey’s colors: black lined with burnt orange.

Indentured Hexblade of Winter and Ash
“I will persevere because, if I don't, who will?”
“Beneath the skin of a Warlock lies the training of a Paladin.”
“I am bound by blood to my family, bound by honor to the Song.”
Raven Song, Dance of Wisdom

Because I swore a Pact of the Blade, I get a +2 when I Flashily attack when I use an eldritch weapon.

Because I am a Hexblade of Winter and Ash, I get a +2 when I Flashily create an advantage when I curse an opponent with a conspiracy of ravens.

Because I am a Hexblade of Winter and Ash, once per session, I can Forcefully
attack each opponent near my curse with a burst of cold.



Episode 5: What’s This Do?

When I got back to Laneira, I was greeted with a simple nod as she saw my newly acquired sword. I nodded back, reminded just how strange all of this was. The Dance of Wisdom had a scabbard and baldric that circled my shoulder. Something I wasn't accustomed to but salvaged from the dark skinned elf.

“How does all this work?” I ask, gesturing to encompass the leaf lined chamber.

“Do you know where you are?”

I wondered if this was rhetorical or a riddle. “A ship of some kind, I guess.”

“The world knows where you are. The world knows where you could be. I collapse probabilities so you are not where you are but where you could be,” she replied.

“Uh huh,” I mutter. “So you go from there to here by thinking about it. Got it.”

“Not so simple but about right,” she says while the leaves and branches shut out the light.

“You said something about ages gone and one of the last?” I probed, drawing the Dance and swinging it to test its weight and reach.

Her eyes turn wistful and focus on the glass orb. “The skies were full of ships once, then the wars started. Petty wars. Who owned which land and sky.” She turned and watched me spin through a couple forms. “Before the humans came.”

“What were the wars like? How do you fight if you can think yourself other places?”

“Put the sword away. I can show you.”

The constellations sprang to life. She held her hands over the orb and seemed to meditate. A web of lines appeared, spanning across the dark, intersecting with each other, and little ships appeared upon a few of them. My point of view zoomed in on one in particular. An enormous eagle of iron with wings spread and feathers carved like fire.

“My ship. Ha’ thi’tinothi. Light and Dark,” she said with a faint hint of pride but mostly sadness. “Each line is a path. A possible course given by speed and size.”

“Like a boat,” I observed not so helpfully.

She chuckled. “Like a boat.” The view retracted and showed another ship at the edge of my field of vision. The intersecting lines gained siblings, these in red. “Firing solutions. Anchors. Where the white and red meet, boarding actions.”

“Ok, but how does tha-”

“You have played games before, yes? Cards and such? When you encounter a potential sparring partner, you measure their prowess? Same thing.”

Lines began to erase themselves from view. “When captains meet in battle, we also measure our prowess. If you do that, I do this. Then a line of fate is cut. Back and forth, as fast as each captain can think, until…”

There was one line left. The Light and Dark had a white line arcing around and firing broadsides into the other ship. The view zoomed in on the battle. Bolts of energy erupted from Laneira’s ship. At first, the other ship lit with tendrils of lightning. An ovoid shield sprang to life and glowed a blistering orange. Then, Laneira’s lance started melting away the metal hull of her opponent.

“What is this?” I ask in an awed whisper.

Laneira glanced sidelong at me, reminiscing on her prior battle. “We were the first species. One of our lives is eight? Ten of your’s? And, like you, we have been here for many generations.”

I turn to Laneira when I realize exactly how alien she was compared to us. “If this is just an exercise in strategy, why not admit defeat?”

“How many fights have you turned away from?” she asked.

Point taken. “So, not only do you think yourself other places. You think captains to death?”

“Not quite. We collapse all avenues until only one remains. Their death. A skilled captain convinces the other to die for them. I have convinced many of my people to die for me. Some will surrender. Most accept their fate. Wa' setnalu.

“Then the humans came, and our wars stopped. We didn't dare show your ancestors what we could do, what we had. So we made peace with ourselves and the humans. We repurposed most of the old ships. The few that remain, well, some are still here. Like the Nofeilu here.”

I gained more respect, and a tiny bit of fear, of Laneira. Anyone that could convince a person to death is… disturbing. “What about the big ships, like the Light and Dark?”

“Waiting. We believe that Etnalu ta to Nothi still comes. When it does, we will be ready.” She cleared her throat. “Enough talk. Let’s get your garb.”

“My garb?”

“If you are to be our emissary, and Ha’wasetta’s, you must look the part. Come.”

We disembark in what seemed the same large clearing we had been in a few hours ago. As we depart, the ship shimmers and becomes the large tree we scaled. I would have asked more questions, but Laneira was already at the tree line.

Thankfully, this trek was not nearly as long as the first. I knew something was wrong as her quick sure pace slowed. A hand went up, I assumed signalling for quiet. I wasn't nearly as quiet as she moving between the trees, so I remained where I stood.

“Scouts,” she whispered after making her way back to me. “Four of the scaled beasts. We should remove them before continuing in case they come across your tracks.”

Your. Not our. “Alright,” I whisper back, “What’s the pl-”

She was already heading silently toward them. I half sprint after her while I pull Song and Dance from their scabbards. I hear an anguished grunt and the air fills with the scent of burnt meat. I catch sight of her elven form spinning against a tree as darts pierce the air. Bursting from the trees, I ambush one, Song cleaves down into its skull. A second creature falls to the ground.

Laneira twirls from behind her cover and steps forward, fingers spread with thumbs touching. A gout of fire engulfs the remaining two things who erupt in whimpering shrieks beneath the flames. Two charred husks join their companions on the forest floor.

“Almost home. Come.”

It was a few minutes longer, maybe an hour, before I caught sight of the village. Trees with wooden bridges. Structures built into the trunks or the roots. The hum of activity: hunters, gatherers, farmers and even markets. I didn't have the opportunity to investigate as Laneira was already climbing wooden steps to a bridge.

“Your uniform is here,” she said over her shoulder. “Ha’wasetta suggests you gather yourself within two hours, attune yourself to the Dance, then return to her altar. Your horse will be under the tree. I must prepare.”

“Prepare for what?”

“My elves will keep the approaching enemy occupied while you speak with Ha'wasetta. Wa'wei, Nitaaru. Good luck.”

Nitaaru. The other elf said that. “What does nitaaru mean?” I ask.

“Nitaaru is dead, or, in your case, broken. You are broken, Nitaaru, because you have not been taught your duties. We will fix that when you return.” Laneira shared a friendly smile and hurried away.

The room was fairly spartan. A gambeson of earth brown lined in summer green vines was laid on the bed. A mail shirt laid on top of the gambeson. Brown leather boots of a more supple leather was at the edge of the bed. I was hesitant to leave my breastplate and boots, but the recent trek through the trees was still fresh in my mind.

I spent the next hour attuning to the Dance of Wisdom. My hand pressed against the base of the blade, and I gently press eldritch energies into the metal. Minutes pass as my pact blade permeates the Dance’s physical form. Almost a half hour later, the Dance glows within an energetic icy shell. Then… the Dance evaporates instantaneously. My off hand flicks out and plucks a dagger from the air. The glacial blade cocoons mithril lined with black runes.

I place Song in Dance's baldric so she sits more upright then head down to Sky. I don't see Laneira, but the villagers are briskly walking from one place to another. I head off in the direction of The Raven Queen's altar.

The graves were the same as I last saw them. Brencia’s mausoleum lay open. At my approach, the wind picks up. An apparition materializes in front of Brencia’s door. A woman floats upright, feet dangling toward the ground. The skin of her head is missing, her skull supported by a neck mostly decomposed. Her chest shows signs of having been flensed, exposing her sternum and portions of her ribs.

She shook her head in mock disapproval. “Back again?” the spirit asked, jaw unmoving.

“What have you done with my sister?” I growl.

The apparition looks down almost admiringly. “I needed to make some changes. You don't like it?” I could hear the faux pout behind her words.

I leave Sky and walk up to the spirit that hovers above me. To my disappointment, I sense a lack of fear. Dance snaps into my off hand, taking the form of a longsword. I draw Song with my main hand and glare into her fiery eyes. “I will find a way to free her.”

The skull leans forward, inches from me. “Only after I claim you,” she hisses.

I swing Song and watch motes of dust disperse for the effort. Brencia laughs cruelly. My hands tighten around the hilt of both swords.

Brencia’s laugh subsides as she begins to fade. “Shall we test your new toy? Willem?”

I turn, dreading what Brencia could have done to my great grandfather. Willem, or what I guessed was Willem, stood behind me. A suit of moss covered, dirt crusted, charred armor. A blackened, soot longsword was in his hand with a dark shield and a tarnished raven embossed upon it.

Without preamble, the decrepit suit of armor chops down with its longsword, which I beat aside with Dance. I return with a swing from Song, and the tarnished shield comes up to block the blow.

His response was to push against Song in an attempt to open my guard; his sword thrust forward, which I deflect with Dance, spinning away from his shield. The rotation brings me to his right, Dance completing its arc and biting through the breastplate at his shoulder. A metallic wrenching sounds as a hole appears through his linen and armor. There is only darkness underneath.

The dark longsword swings back in a back handed strike. Song and Dance flip forward to block his attack, but the swing was too powerful. He breaks my defence, the sword scoring a hit on my shoulder. I grimace then press back with Song, snarling. Dance skates across his blade and leaps up to strike at his helm. I drop to the ground, spinning into a crouch, and Dance slices across his knee. Willem gives a couple inches as he recoils.

Another chop, but I had expected that avenue of attack. Both of my swords cross over head and catches his. My warrior’s training comes to the fore. My right foot kicks out while our swords clash, and I strike him hard in the knee join. Willem comes down on one knee. I rise to my feet, flipping both blades into a reverse grip and drive them down into his shoulders. The suit of armor is pinned then grows still.

Brencia, Rachis, is nowhere to be found.

“Now you understand why you could not defeat her alone,” said the raven when I entered the chamber. “Place my Song on the altar, and your training begins.”

I did as requested. I needed a way to stop Brencia and free Abby. I may have imagined it, but it appeared the raven leaned forward and touched the sword with her beak. The blue glow of her obsidian orbs intensified.

“As you attuned the Dance of Wisdom, infuse Song.”

And I did. This was more difficult as Song was not meant to become something she wasn't. The Raven Queen leant her power, allowing me to channel more than I had been able to. As before, the icy energy enveloped Song. The two blades slowly merged. Black. White. Azure. Then…

I expected the dissipation, just as I knew Dance would do. When I brought the new sword back to me, I was greeted by a dark window into the starlit sky. I could twist the sword and see constellations move behind snow capped mountains. The opposite side was what seemed to be Ravenswood trapped in perpetual sun.

The raven's piercing eyes seemed to focus on me. “You are my Hexblade of Winter. You will become Ravenwood’s Paladin of Spring.”

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Visemar: Season 1 Episode 4

Significant Milestone: +1 Quick

Visemar has the stern grey eyes of his lineage, their good humor slowly fading the longer he bears Storm Forged Raven Song. He wears his sienna hair cut short. As the eldest, he was meant to join the Paladin Order, but the Song ended that career before it began. Still, he maintains a military regimen and a strong build. Beneath his breastplate, he wears the Grey’s colors: black lined with burnt orange.

Indentured Hexblade of Winter and Ash
“I will persevere because, if I don't, who will?”
“Beneath the skin of a Warlock lies the training of a Paladin.”
“I am bound by blood to my family, bound by honor to the Song.”
Storm Forged Raven Song, ancient blade of The Raven Queen

Because I swore a Pact of the Blade, I get a +2 when I Flashily attack when I use an eldritch weapon.

Because I am a Hexblade of Winter and Ash, I get a +2 when I Flashily create an advantage when I curse an opponent with a conspiracy of ravens.

Because I am a Hexblade of Winter and Ash, once per session, I can Forcefully
attack each opponent near my curse with a burst of cold.



Episode 4: Song and Dance

Elves surrounded the grave littered clearing. One stepped forward. She was my height, about six feet, and incredibly thin. Braided sequoia brown hair with moss colored eyes. She wore brown and grey clothing in varied shades, over which was a sideless surcoat in wooden brown.

“O’no hara I’na Laneira i’tio senalu o’”

That's about what I thought I heard. I caught the Laneira part but couldn't understand anything else. My confusion must have been pretty obvious, especially since I didn't bother hiding it.

“I am Laneira,” she said, smiling wide. “I thought our language was part of your education. A lack that should be remedied if your familial obligations would be fulfilled.”

“What obligations?” I ask.

Laneira scowled,  “The pledge Brencia Grey made generations ago. We keep no’thilu ka’tikani safe, and your family sends an emissary to address our needs and concerns.”


“What your family blandly refers to as Ravenswood,” she replied dryly.

“Oh. You have a strange idea of keeping things safe. Scaled people attacked me on the way in.”

Laneira nodded, “We were tracking them to see where they came and went. Easier to cut them off at the source. Ha’wasetta… Your Raven Queen… called us to find you. We should get started before she grows annoyed.”

Without waiting for a response she gracefully turned and strode back to the tree line. The other elves, clad in similar colors, some in leather and others with simple clothes, turned and melted into the trees. Within a few heartbeats, the only elf I could see was Laneira, and she moved with a sense of purpose as if trees would move out of her way. For all I know, they did, because I had hard enough time walking between some of them to keep up.

“Your armor. Too much noise. Catches on branches. Boots to hard, harms the earth,” she stopped and pirouetted to face me, pointing, “Sword sticking out behind you like an unruly tail. You will need teaching… Later…” her voice trailed off, so I assumed she wanted my name.

“Visemar,” I said, feeling indignant and annoyed. Half child, half soldier being berated.

“Visemar,” I couldn't tell if she was mocking my name or if it was her accent. “We will find your na’waset, too.”

“Nawaset. Name?” I ask.

“More than a name. Wa'set. Thread. Why you are here.”

“So what do-” and she had already spun around and started walking, leaving me and my unruly tail to clumsily walk at a brisk pace to keep up.

We walked for hours, or maybe it just felt that way. I was sweating beneath my breastplate, but Sky was not with me to strip it off and have her carry. There was another clearing with a single immense tree standing in its center. Laneira began to climb knots and branches like they were a natural stairwell. I followed as best I could.

Dozens of feet up, the trunk flattened into a strange room of sorts. The floor was still the tree, and it expanded outward a couple dozen feet in any direction. Branches and leaves wove shut to make natural walls and small windows. The center of the room had a single branch sprouting up, about waist high, with a polished glass orb cradled atop it.

Laneira passed her hand over the orb, and the room dimmed. The leaves drew closer and shut out all light. The darkness was replaced with pinpoints of light. I recognized them as constellations in the night sky. Laneira’s hands come up to shoulder level and drew together in front of her, maybe a hand's width apart. The constellations rapidly retreated, leaving me with a bird’s eye view of a mountainous region. The hands drew closer, and I saw a cave.

“This is where the Dance is. Ha’wasetta asked me to take you there.”

I was still processing how this worked. “Great,” I said, peering closer at the orb. “When do we leave?”

She smiled. Not mocking or unkind. More as a parent to a child learning new things. “We’re already here.”

The outside world pieced itself back together. Like falling leaves, patches of darkness fell away and revealed the world outside. We were on a giant wooden bird, like we were riding the back of a wren’s neck.

“What is this?” I ask.

“A ship. Ages gone. One of the few left since- well, history later. Your quest waits. I wait.”

“Any idea what's in there?”

“Ha’nothiwatatiha,” she said with a small amount of concern.

“Which means…?”

“This is your quest. I provide no help aside what Ha’wasetta instructed. Her temper is not something I wish to find.”

“Noted,” I replied, heading toward where I thought the door was. Fortunately, it was right where we left it. A rope ladder had been unspooled to the ground which I awkwardly climbed down with my breastplate and Song. I grumbled about unruly tails as I made my way to the ground.

The cave was dark even a short distance in. An invocation later, and my sight acclimated. It descended the further back I went. It may have been a few minutes or a couple hours, I don't know, but the passage kept going further back and deeper until opening into a cavern forested with stalagmites.

“O’no hara la punalu a’ ha’ nitaaru kara?”

I heard the question mark. There was an elf leaning back against a stalagmite, chewing on the end of something chitinous like a toothpick. Silver haired and eyed, he was also incredibly thin for his height. Just a head shorter than me. His clothing was greyscale, shades of ash to black.

“I’m Visemar, and you are…?” I hoped speaking slow and purposefully would imply I wanted to talk.

“Visemar…” again with that weird tone like it was sour or something. “Ya’nalu ha’watatoya?”

“I have no idea what you're trying to say. Pictures?” I mime scribbling something on my hand.

He breaks into a wide grin, “Weinalu,” he says, reaching a dark hand back and pulling a short sword free.

The elf moves fast. He kicks off the stalagmite and spins in the air, slashing his sword at my throat. My shield swiftly leaps up in defense, intercepting the blade and shoving him toward another rocky finger. Song comes up and takes advantage of his imbalance, skewering him through the stomach and slicing up out of his torso.

There went my diplomatic solution. He was obviously dead. Around his neck was a silver pendant, a tiny sculpture of a flaming sword piercing a crescent moon, like a bow with an arrow. There was just one way to go, deeper into the cavern.

Even deeper into the cavern, I came across a walled section. A single gate lay open. I scowled at it. An underground gate? I approach cautiously, once more aware of just how loud my boots sounded in a rocky cavern. Then I see the largest spider I had seen in my life. It was as tall as me, wider than three of four men. And it silently crept at me.

I didn't think conversing with it would work, so I charged at it. Song swept at its legs, but it jumped up toward stalactites hanging from the ceiling. It fires a stream of silk at me, and I deftly dodge to the side. Fortunately, I came up beneath and behind it.

My eldritch energies swirl around my hand, and I focus it into a beam. It scrapes across the ceiling and cuts into one of the spider’s legs. It falls to the floor but tumbles around and lands squarely on top of me. Its bulk forces the air out of my lungs.

The energies surge into my off hand, forging the icy dagger. I release Song, sending the dagger to my main hand and hack into the mandible and eyes glaring down at me. It's a messy task, but I carve into the thing until I free myself. Covered in green ichor, I take my blade back and make my way through the gate.

Slow applause comes from the small building to my right. Another elf stands in the doorway, taking in the sight of me.

“Weinalu,” she says, stepping into the courtyard of the underground keep. She had the same silver hair and dark skin as the other but lavender eyed. Her greyscale clothes are covered with links of chain on her torso. She has the same pendant around her neck. A hand pulls free a moonlit blade, short with no crossguard. It shimmers with a pale light.

“Pa’ i’tio sutanalu?” she purrs. “I’ sunala o’ to set.”

She snarls and rushes at me with the odd blade. We meet face to face, my shield against her sword. I go to trip her by pushing forward with my foot snaking behind her. She responds with a grin and steps back. Over her shoulder, I see another pair of spiders making their way toward me.

We seem to be evenly matched. She feints then attacks with a reverse strike. I lean back and parry it aside with my shield. I thrust upward as I come forward, but she's already stepped aside. The spiders make their appearance and fling themselves against my shield.

Her riposte comes dangerously close to cutting me, but my training prepared me for quicker opponents. I let the blade through my guard and twist so that it traces across my breastplate. I pull strength from Song, and she finds her mark. A long cut appears on her arm. Her spiders sink fangs into my calf. I grimace in pain.

She tries to press the advantage and comes in with another strike. My shield comes up and parries it aside as I drop to my knee. I turn and bring my sword firmly down on the spider's head. It lays still. Its companion also tries to bite into me, but I've already spun aside to my feet.

I scream as her sword cuts deep into my leg. She smiles.

“I’ setnala o’to wa.”

That stirred my anger. I could hear the venom and derision in that statement. The ice dagger flips into my hand, tumbling across fingers then shoots at her. She is much faster than I anticipated and cut it from the air. The spider smells the blood and leaps at me, latching its legs around my shield.

Her short blade comes forward in a spinning thrust. My shield comes up, taking advantage found by having the second spider fixed upon it. The blade stops against the iron targe, pinning the spider through the abdomen. It is my turn to smile. I drop Song and step into her guard, pressing my hand against her chest. She looks down in surprise just as an eldritch blast rips her chest open.

I calm myself. I reach down to inspect her odd sword. Black runes come to life and trace their pattern up the blade before fading. The Dance of Wisdom. What do I do with this? 

Visemar: Season 1, Episode 3

Minor Milestone: I changed “The Banishing Hand of Retribution” to “I will persevere because, if I don't, who will?” to bring Visemar more in line with 5e. He is now a High Concept, two Personality aspects, an Ideal and a Bond. No Flaw because any of these could be compelled.

Visemar has the stern grey eyes of his lineage, their good humor slowly fading the longer he bears Storm Forged Raven Song. He wears his sienna hair cut short. As the eldest, he was meant to join the Paladin Order, but the Song ended that career before it began. Still, he maintains a military regimen and a strong build. Beneath his breastplate, he wears the Grey’s colors: black lined with burnt orange.

Indentured Hexblade of Winter and Ash
“I will persevere because, if I don't, who will?”
“Beneath the skin of a Warlock lies the training of a Paladin.”
“I am bound by blood to my family, bound by honor to the Song.”
Storm Forged Raven Song, ancient blade of The Raven Queen

Because I swore a Pact of the Blade, I get a +2 when I Flashily attack when I use an eldritch weapon.

Because I am a Hexblade of Winter and Ash, I get a +2 when I Flashily create an advantage when I curse an opponent with a conspiracy of ravens.

Because I am a Hexblade of Winter and Ash, once per session, I can Forcefully
attack each opponent near my curse with a burst of cold.


Episode 3: “Funny how the days go by invisibly…”

When I had come to, the house was in flames. Dovisch was gone. My sister’s hand was missing. My assailants had disappeared. It was me, Sky and fire. That was over a week ago. I rode to the only place I knew that could provide answers. Ravenswood. My family owned the surrounding forest for generations, but I wasn't ready to go home, not yet.

Ravenswood was eternally green. Even the encroaching autumn or the coming winter couldn't cause the leaves to turn. Growing up, I had been told that faeries tended each leaf which was why they never wilted or fell. Abby and I would walk through the woods, but we never saw these fey creatures in spite our efforts. We camped. We hunted. We sang and shouted. Nothing.

Crossing into the woods was palpable. All around me had been dying grass, barren branches and mud. Now? I can look up and see a canopy of emerald. Smell the grasses as if they were freshly cut. Even the wind felt warming.

Yet the birds were ominously silent. Leather creaked as I turned to look around. Aside from our own noise, there was nothing. I brought Sky to a halt. In all the years I've visited the woods, it had never been silent.

My breastplate let out an explosive clang. Something narrow struck my chest. I hastily dismount and grab my shield, using Sky for cover. Another metallic clang as another dart struck my armor. I peer into the trees and barely make out a shadow hiding behind a trunk. It began to fit another arm length dart to a similarly sized stick.

My sword hand begins to mist while I walk toward the tree. My hand rises, wreathed in a muted icy glow. An eldritch bolt shoots forward and scores the tree the thing hides behind, the bark turning white as it frosts over. Another dart flies at me, but I know where the attack comes from. The targe deflects the projectile. I see it.

The thing was humanoid and man sized. Whatever it was, it was covered in scaly skin that shifted as it moved. It had no hair but sharp teeth and ears. I could see just over its shoulder another approaching, also armed with whatever the stick… dart… thing was.

I continue forward, launching another bolt of energy. This one finds its mark. The thing’s scales sear away as the skin beneath gets burned by the sudden cold. A clawed hand rises up to its chest and wound before slumping at the foot of the tree. The other creature launches its dart, and I take cover behind the tree to avoid it.

I pull Song from her scabbard and charge into combat. My swing strikes toward its neck, but it leaps up and hangs from a branch to avoid it. My sword bites into the bark. It springs forward and tackles me to the ground. The glacial dagger comes to life in my off hand and thrusts into its side. The creature gurgles and collapses on top of me.

I roll the scaly skinned… person… off me. A metal necklace is clasped around its neck with a key attached to it. The necklace and key go into my belt pouch, and I grab Sky’s reins before walking the direction the second creature had come from.

We walked further into Ravenswood and approached a clearing some time later. I cautiously approached, leaving my destrier behind while I crept closer for a look. The field was littered with grave markers and a trio of mausoleums. I gazed skyward and saw the setting sun hanging just where the canopy picked up again. Odd, that, in all our explorations, Abby and I never came across this place.

Emboldened, though my hand rested on Song, I strode to the closest grave. Thomas Grey. The next, Wendy Grey. Then another Grey and another. My brows furrowed at the number of Greys buried here. I subconsciously glance in the direction of Castlerook, my home. We had tombs there, so what were these?

I come to the nearest mausoleum, built like a solid piece of stone and a black iron door locked shut. Willem Grey. A name I recognize. My grandfather's father. Kirdalia Grey. Several generations back, even compared to Willem. But the last… Brencia Grey… She founded Castlerook. More importantly, her door was ajar.

I peer into the darkness and listen for any presence inside. Nothing close by. I test the key against the lock, and they match perfectly. I look back in the direction of the past fight. Why would scaly skinned monstrosities have a key to her tomb? Why?

I pull the door all the way open; I needed to know what was important about this mausoleum or ancestor. It was the size of a small cottage, so I didn't have far to go. Plain stone walls, columns supporting the ceiling, and stone steps where a sarcophagus should be. My heart beat faster. Song whispered as I gently pulled her free.

The stairs circled around for some time. I quit counting after a while. It opened into a stone chamber flickering with light. I stopped at the base of the stairs and listened. A discussion of sorts, faintly heard in a foreign language. I try to sneak forward quietly, but my boots and armor weren't designed for it. The conversation stops as I do.

“We were looking for you,” came a man’s voice. “Lucky that you came to us. The Lady will be pleased.”

Shadows block the light. I can tell from this distance there were two more scaled things. The man made at least three. I can hear the man begin to chant in the guttaral tones; the pair affix their darts as I charge forward. One sails over my shoulder; I cut the second with my sword.

I swing Song in a wide arc, cutting the two neatly across the throat. Each gurgles incomprehensibly as the clutch their necks and collapse. The chant ends, and the ground erupts with a soft explosion when a trio of dirt encrusted skeletons pull themselves free. Their skulls are filled with sharp teeth and burn with an amber light. The priest backs away, pointing, “Stop him!”

Skeletal claws smash against my shield, their attacks coming rapidly and barely being parried. I step between two when I find an opening then clip the head off the third as I slip by. Grasping hands emerge from the earth when the priest tries to entangle me, but I manage to step away.

The spell had put me out of position when the skeletons retaliated. My shield up, I avoid their attacks, giving ground. I crouch, building myself to another charge. My shoulder slams into a skeleton, and pieces of it fall to the floor. My sword hand comes across in a hook and smashes the skull of the second skeleton who also collapses.

“Damn you,” screams the priest, stepping back into the shadows. I turn and focus the eldritch energy into a bolt. I hurl it at the retreating priest, but a door slams shut with a heavy metallic sound against the torrent of cold. Song and I burn with the hollow victory.

I storm to the door and study it. It's ornate. Heavy. Ravens embossed acrossed it. It is still unlocked. Well, only one way to go…

The corridor opens into an expansive hall. Ahead is an immense black statue of a raven, wings outstretched and brushing the ceiling high over head. The statue’s head is craned down, obsidian eyes peering at the altar at its feet. The priest is pressed against the altar with several scaled creatures gather in front of him.

“Capture him. The Lady would rather he be alive.”

A pair of them produce nets, while the others throw their darts. I parry a couple off of my shield and send two into the stone wall with quick cuts from Song. I approach the closest fiend and slash at it, but it drops to a crouch. The fearful priest summons a bolt of his own that collides with my shield.

The nets come flying toward me, and I can't quite get out of their way. They catch against my leg and briefly tangle with them. Taking advantage of my moment’s distraction, a couple darts find their mark and bite into my leg and shoulder. I grunt and grit my teeth with the effort of pulling myself free, then lunge forward to skewer one of the net throwers through the chest.

I must have caught them by surprise with my recovery. The hail of darts flying toward me seems slower, easier to cut down with Song. I smile and a storm of ravens sweep into the chamber, circling the priest. The coward tries to become smaller against the altar, feebly throwing a bolt into my breastplate.

More of the missiles fly toward me. Desecrate my family’s tomb? I seethe with anger and cut more bolts out of the air with rapid flourishes. Song rests by my side, and my other hand shoots up in a clenched fist. Fine! And the air is filled with an explosion of icy feathers. The last of the creatures are encased in ice and topple over, their bodies shatter on impact.

“Don't kill me! What do you want to know?” he pleads over the cry of ravens.

I stride over, staring coldly at the panicked man. “What does she want with me?” I growl.

“She-” is about all he can say before he lets out a pained scream. His eyes grow bloodshot; his face turns purple; and a gurgle escapes from him as he twitches violently then grows still.

I scowl then stab into his heart for good measure before dismissing the ravens. There were no answers here. My boots scuff the floor as I turn to leave.

“Stop,” comes a voice. A woman’s voice. Stern and self-assured. Serene.

I turn back and see nothing but the altar and raven. The statue’s eyes shine with an azure light. Song mimics the glow, its own runes steadily glowing with the same light. My boots scrape the floor as I walk closer.

“I gave you the Raven Song. I have a vested interest in your new life.”

My mind races with a multitude of questions, but the first one to win free is, “Why?”

“Brencia. She has finally managed to win freedom from death, and you are uniquely qualified to stop her.”

“Qualified. How?” I ask, still not certain who or what I was talking to.

“That dark place, the Shadows, where I found you and gave you the Song. You remember it?”

I did. Absolute darkness lit by small gashes of light from eyes and mouths leering at me. I still hear their whispering voices, their promises of pain and torture. Eternal anguish.

“Brencia meant to sacrifice you that day. I saw an opportunity and took you before you were imprisoned. You had a short stay in the Dark. That is where your sister is now that I freed you,” said the voice.

I held Song tighter. “Abby is alone in a sea of shadow fiends? Why? Why save me?”

“For her immortality, Brencia needed to sacrifice one of her own to take her place. I saved you because you know what your sister is going through. You touched death. More importantly, you have the ability to stop her.”

“And free Abby?” I ask.

“Perhaps. Now that Brencia wears her skin, Abigail will be anchored in the Dark the longer she's separate. Know that, first, Brencia must be stopped.”

“Who are you?”

“I am the Raven Queen, and if you want to save your sister and stop Brencia, now calling herself Lady Rachis, I have two tasks for you.”

I nod. Unsure if the statue could see, I agree. “If it frees her from that prison, I'll do it.”

The voice turns from conversational to instructional, “First, find the Dance of Wisdom. Speak with Laneira; she will show you the way.”


The voice becomes amused. “You are not yet strong enough to deal with Lady Rachis. After your quest, you will become what you thought you lost. A Paladin.”

I scoff, “I doubt my family would accept my return. They still think I'm dead.”

My Paladin,” she emphasises. “You will set the cycle of life and death aright; you will be the sworn protector of Ravenswood. If you bring back the Dance of Wisdom. Go. Start your journey.”

The statue’s eyes dim, turning obsidian. Song’s runes fade back into the blade. I emerge from the mausoleum, and I see them. The faeries of Ravenswood.