Wishes in Winter

And Time Marches On
Ending the story

And, as if the hand of the clock could not be stopped, Irrisen went back to normal. Queen Elvanna followed Baba Yaga onto a great adventure and life returned back to the way it was. Jawiga bickered and fought. Ulfen toiled. And the monsters returned from the other side of the gates, bring both treasures and tales from strange far flung lands. The new Queen was introduced to the populace and the old family shuffled off with Baba Yaga to join their mother as the rest of them stepped back and shouldered their way into the crowded throng of the older families. The Winter Guard was disbanded and the Iron Guard reinstated. A rapid series of political assassinations quickly erupted and fuelled the rumour of the Riders return. Then all was quiet again.

The old castle of Whitethrone was replaced by magic overnight. The high spires and jagged walls were transformed by the new queen into a squat wide manor house with onion shaped towers. The new Queen brought new fashions and the Jawiga quickly adapted. Petticoats and coiffured hair became the rage for women and capes and jackets flourished amongst the men. Most noticeable was the ban on wolf fur trimmings, which was replaced with ferret and weasel highlights. The theatre was opened once more to the public. The market was finally cleared of trees, except for a patch in the centre which was left as a memorial to Baba Yaga, named Dusk Grove. A sense of peace had finally returned to the land of Eternal Winter.

It was in this sense of tranquillity that four winter wolves, three travelling as a trio with the fourth coursing ahead as the scout, slipped through the open crack into the Howling. Once inside, they were discreetly met by two more winter wolves who lead them to a small inn. A carriage was hired as the six changed from wolf to human. Dressed in the latest finery, the wolves masquerading as people rode through the bustling city and over the long narrow bridge that lead to Whitethrone Manor. Servants hustled the Queen’s guests into a waiting room that was resplendent with rugs and brandy.

Piety, dapper in his frilled coat, opened the glass decanter of amber liquid and sniffed it delicately. “I’m impressed,” he said with a smirk as he began pouring out glasses for his siblings, “This is the good stuff.”

Heartseeker, elegant as always, took the offered glass and sipped it slowly, relishing the burning taste of oak. She smiled with her perfect teeth and savoured it’s all too human taste. “Indeed,” she purred, “Couri. Sip it. You are in the home of a Queen, not a bawdy house.”

Courageous, uncomfortable and out of place in the tightly fitting finery, look abashed at his empty glass. He cleaned his unkempt white beard with a wipe of his hand. “Sorry, Mum,” he muttered. Piety shook his head, and poured his brother another glass.

“Don’t fidget so,” Hope, comfortable in her beautiful dress, admonished while fixing her sister’s wayward hair, “You’ll tear it.”

“But it itches,” Mercy whined as she tugged at the lace on her collar with her hand, “How do you wear this all day? It’s awful.”

“I think you look stunning,” Piety said with his usual smirk as he handed each Patience and Mercy a glass, “The males will be following you all around the court if you aren’t careful.”

“Oh good,” Mercy replied with a sneer as she took the glass, “Just what I need. More clumsy males sniffing around my…”

“Mercy,” Patience warned over the rim of her glass, “Remember where we are.” She moved her simple braided hair over her shoulder as she scanned the room. “They might be listening through the mirror,” she said ominously.

“If they are spying,” Piety jokingly replied as he nervously looked at his reflection in the large mirror that hung over the unlit fireplace, “Then they’ll find Hope’s lecture on fashion does and don’t very revealing.”

“There is nothing wrong with knowing a bit of etiquette,” Hope said, ignoring the offered glass and focusing on fixing her sister’s curls, “You can’t act like a common bumpkin all the time.”

“Why not?” Mercy challenged back as she scratched her neck.

“Because here they will kill you, skin you and hang your pelt on the outer wall as a warning to others the price of rudeness in a Queen’s home,” Heartseeker answered firmly, “So listen to your sister and stop squirming.”

“Yes, Mum,” Mercy replied meekly as Hope gently smoothed her sister’s ruff.

“And you,” Heartseeker warned Patience, “Take care about what you say about our new Queen. At least, don’t be so obvious.”

“Of course, Mum,” Patience breathed quietly and toyed with her glass nervously.

“And sip it,” Heartseeker admonished Courage again, slapping his broad shoulder playfully, “Seriously. I can’t take you anywhere.”

Time passed and a servant came for the wolves, leading them to a lavish sitting room. Courtiers mingled amongst each other, whispering as the wolves entered. A tall fellow wolf with a determined bearing broke from his shallow conversation with a simpering human and approach them, a friendly smile gracing his full lips.

“Lord Chegar Tuvash. Prince of The Howling,” Hope muttered under her breath to her mother. Heartseeker smiled radiantly and nodded imperceptible in acknowledgement.

“Heartseeker,” Lord intoned formally, “Your reputation does not do you justice.”

“My Lord,” Heartseeker smiled coyly and curtsied, “You flatter us. I was not expecting a luminary such as yourself to be here.”

He cocked his eye. “The Queen named regiments after The Black Riders. She speaks very highly of them. And your son spoke very highly of his family. I have been looking forward to meeting all of you.”

“You’ve spoken with him?” Patience blurted out quickly only to be silenced by her mother’s disapproving glare.

“Please pardon my daughter. She is not use to such settings and sometimes forgets her place,” Heartseeker said pleasantly with a tone that was far from pleasant.

“It is not my place to speak on this topic,” the lord said carefully as he looked into Heartseeker’s lovely eyes.

Heartseeker frowned ever so slightly. She was not one to ignore a mystery and the lord knew it. “Have you met my other children?” She asked.

Introductions were done and each child bowed or curtsied. The lord greeted each until he got to Mercy. “You served the Winter Guard,” he said.

Mercy’s eyes darted around quickly. The fate of Winter Guard leadership was a taboo subject in the military nowadays. “Yes, my Lord. And The Iron Guard before them. I was assigned as a far-runner in the outlying towns.”

“Yes,” the lord replied curtly, “I’m aware of your placement. Tales tell that you outran the messenger bird.”

“It was a fat bird,” she said carefully, looking to her mother for help.

“Perhaps,” the lord replied, “Otherwise, I would be curious of how you knew to warn the citizens guarding the portals before their collapse. Saved a great deal of our people from being trapped on the wrong side.”

“My daughter’s speed is legendary,” Heartseeker interjected coldly, her voice low and not quiet dangerous, “And her actions where honoured by The Iron Guard. You make it sound like she was in some sort of collusion.”

“Mother,” Hope hissed alarmingly but Heartseeker cut her off with a wave of her hand.

The lord squared his shoulder slightly as he answered Heartseeker’s challenge. “Not at all,” he replied, “The Queen voiced a concern about the safety of the wolves who were placed on the far side of those mad gates and I acted as quickly as I could. Imagine my surprise to hear that a wolf was absent without leaving and was going from Gate to Gate, warning the soldiers guarding them of the dangers. Well before their collapse. She is fast but no one is that fast. And it would require her to know where each gate was to get to them. The Iron Guard is only willing to say so much so I thought I’d ask the hero herself if she would explain it to me.”

“And she did explain,” Heartseeker said darkly, “It was a fat bird.”

A sudden ripple came over the assembled courtiers who had gather to eavesdrop on the lord’s conversation. A butler in an embroidered vest entered the room with a purposeful stride. He took to the centre of the room and cleared his throat to gather attention.

“Queen Anastasia,” he said formally as the queen and her hand maidens entered the room, giggling as they tried to race one another will trying to look as regal as possible.

“Indeed,” the lord said coolly, “Quite fat, apparently.”

View
Letters Home to Irrisen, Part 15
To The Hut

(Translated from Sylvan)

The Master Adjunct Office, Karaphas, First World

Dear Madam Heartseeker,

We have been shown the reports of our glorious kin who have braved the cruel Cage which you and your pathetic kind live miserably upon, that you are the mother of six youths. It is with heavy heart that I must inform you that one of your children has the temerity to steal from us! We know this news must send a terrible grief through you and, indeed, it should for he injured many noble and innocent fae in his mad theft.

We feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of ours which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming at the thought of a theft from such wondrous beings such as our noble fae brothers and sisters. But I cannot refrain from tendering to you the consolation that may be found in the rage that we feel as we swear we will hunt your wayward child down and murder the self aggrandizing fool. Seriously, he and his awful friends stole The Dancing Hut of Baba Yaga! They killed Sir Ravathiel, Lady Zephimere and Sir Auraenos, three Dawn Pipers of exquisite beauty and wit. Our casualties further include Wortleby the Hopeful Spriggan… What? He wasn’t there? Where is he? A Redcap was there instead? What was his name? Well, find out! What kind of show are you running here? What about Silverthorn? No the Twigjack. Where is he? Two unnamed Nuglub gremlins? Look, she’s right here and I’m trying to… This is really irritating. Who died? All of them? In the same fight? Wow, that’s a CR 9 encounter. The Big Fuck Off Wolf swallowed a Nuglub whole? And they hunted a fleeing Redcap? Is that even possible for a Redcap to run away?

We pray that our Lord, The World Serpent, may assuage the anguish of your imminent bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost fae, and the solemn shame that must be yours, to have birthed such a costly mistake upon the altar of Arrogance. Yours, very sincerely and respectfully,

Axis Windyboots, Assistant Overlord of The Western Household Movement, Sixth Captain of Southern Respect Coalition, Fifth Minister of Mystic Plaza Lake.

Dear Hope,

I just found this letter in my journal. I have no idea where it’s from or how it got there. Can you translate it? I think it’s addressed to Mom. Is it weird that I’m not surprised by mysterious messages for Mom in my bag? I’m caught up in the weird and the strange now. I’m trying very hard to ignore the fact that I’m looking at the Dancing Hut of Baba Yaga. It’s a house with chicken legs and a beak. It’s just so surreal. We’re getting ready to enter it so this might be the last time I have to send out something. You said that, because of our parentage, we were all destined for something big and grand. Well, I’m caught in that crazy web and let me tell you, it’s fucked up. A chicken legged hut. I don’t have time to fill you in an everything that has been happening. Heartseeker, Patience and Piety all have my letters which sum up this insane adventure (That’s right, I’m making you talk to family. You’re welcome). I can only keep you abreast of what is happening now and hope you can catch up.

We, in the end, decided to let the celebrating fae live. I’m not sure they even realize, being as drunk as they were, the kind of trouble they were in. We had a huddle up and discussed how to proceed right in front of the five of them and they heard everything we said but they ignored us. Good for them and us. I hate eating fae.

We knew the Hut was somewhere in the center of this forest and it looked like all we were doing was walking around it. So we decided that enough was enough and that it was time to go to middle and to forget about these fairies. We backtracked to the stone altar and walked along the path to the center of the maze. There is an unwritten rule, according to Durzak, that states the first thing one needs to do, when becoming traitors, is to kill their former leaders. We had already murdered Nazhena’s apprentice (and his delicious goat familiar), which meant that Nazhena was next to die. We knew that, according to Lord Oryo’s intelligence, that Nazhena and some other Winterguard were guarding the Hut. Lo and behold, we found them.

We easily crept up on the camp the two remain units of Winterguard had set up in a clearing. The guards were nervously watching their leader, who was talking to someone, but we couldn’t see who. We kicked off before they even realized that we were there. Athelryn fired at Nazhena as I charged the Winterguard, separating Nazhena from them. Temerith and Durzak rushed her, cutting her before she had a chance to speak. The Winterguard tried to strike me with their halberds but my hide is thick and their arms were weak. It hurt, as much as the clockwork men in the clock tower, but it didn’t stop me. Nazhena died screaming and surrounded, my fangs deep into her shoulder, Temerith’s claws and Durzak’s blade buried in her guts and Athelryn’s arrow protruding from her chest. Only then did I realize that the thing she was talking to was some sort of clockwork automaton made solely of ice. Nazhena didn’t even have time to order it to attack before we killed her. It just stood, silent and detached, watching her die. The surviving Winterguard surrendered to us.

There was something, beyond the ice golem, that was blocking us from the Hut. It was like a small cloud of something, like steam off of hot rocks or something like that. It smelt strange, like chemicals. The Reality Distortion, Temerith and Durzak said. A distortion, that’s a good word for it. It seemed to boil and cool but was nothing at all. Temerith and Durzak both are fascinated by it. Both said not to touch it, for it might suck me into The First World (or Whorls? It’s hard to tell). We couldn’t get around it because it logger headed the path and the forest is too thick to cut through. We need to find the rest of the fairies who were making this thing and end them. Too bad for them.

Athelryn said she could hear the fairies music. She thought that they had just realizing that we had killed the one piper. It was only a matter of time before they came to check up on him. We hid by the stone altar and attacked when they came. Athelryn stood on top of the altar, Temerith behind it. Durzak and myself buried beneath a mound of snow. A short man with a redcap and a scythe howled as he burst in on us. A couple of the pipers, a male and a female, jumped out and played shrill notes on their pipes, hurting us with music (I know, weird right?). These two little ugly monsters hopped into the fray, trying to protect the female piper. The red-capped man tried to climb the altar to get to Athelryn. Bad idea because all she did was fire arrows into his face and neck. Temerith tore the male piper apart with her claws and Durzak killed the woman with his blade. Fairies hate cold iron. I bit one of the little ugly guys and kind of swallowed him whole. Not totally, I bit him off at the ankle, but I did get the rest of him. In my defense, he was really small and I was a little hungry. But, yeah, I accidentally ate one. Still feeling that in my poor tummy.

Killing the remaining pipers dissipated the Distortion, allowing us to face the Hut at last. I can’t describe this without sounding totally insane. It really is a small house and a giant chicken mixed into the same thing. It has a big beak and these huge legs, one of which was chained by this massive shackles. Athelryn yelled at the Hut until it stopped jumping and squawking and it settled down so we could cut the off chain. Now it’s free and just lying there, clucking contently.

There is a picket fence made of bones and skulls that surrounds The Hut. It is strewn with the bodies of the dead Riders. A slight female fey clad in white and a large male dressed in red. Both died violently and have been, I guess at Queen Elvanna’s insistence, strung up here as a message to the populace, only to have the forest spring up, hiding them from view. Stupid arrogant fool.

We can’t bury the two riders in this hard ground, so we’re going to leave them and hope the forest takes them. Doubtful. The Queen will send out the Winterguard once she realizes what has happened. Hopefully we can get in The Hut and find Baba Yaga before we get caught. We have two keys that the original Black Rider gave us in the beginning. I think one is a braid of hair? This is just so weird.

I don’t know when I’ll be able to write again. I should of found a way to get this message out before I went into this forest. I guess I rely too much on Patience for that kind of foresight. Give everyone my love and keep safe. Make sure Piety stays out of trouble (a full time job that). Don’t worry about me. I’m going to follow this destiny thing to the end. It can’t get that much weirder than it already is, right?

Right?

Valorous Get of Heartseeker, Black Rider of Irrisen

P.S. I wonder if this Hut eats?

View
Letters Home to Irrisen, Part 14
Into The Woods

Piety:

Well, I have to give it to Lord Oryo, his intel is impeccable. According to his reports there are at least three units of White Guard within the forest, safeguarding The Hut. Add in Vasilliovna herself and it’s about sixteen jadwiga and an unknown amount of fey. Also some trapped civilians. We asked about that and he told us, when the forest sprang up, it trapped some of the merchants within. No one has heard from them since. Also, some idiot children had gone in about a month ago, “searching for adventure”, and had not returned. They are now considered dead as are any of the civilians reported missing when the forest sprouted up. The forest has only one cut entrance, which is guarded by one unit of Winter Guard and a pair of doll lookouts. The forest is so dense that no one has been able to push though without serious injury. There is some sort of path way cut through the forest to The Hut but the forest is now growing new trees, pushing outwards into the city. The people are trying to cut the forest back but it might be a losing battle, especially with the city in revolt.

These reports are really messy when it comes to The Queen herself. Queen Elvanna is reported to of exited The Hut with, at least, Rasputin. She then had The Hut chained in the Merchant Square at that point and the forest sprouted up overnight afterwards. But there is a report that states that Queen Elvanna re-entered The Hut after it was chained and before the forest sprouting. There is another report saying that she and Rasputin left The Hut and went to the castle. Rasputin was reported to of had an argument with The Queen at at the castle before storming back into the forest and, also, re-entering The Hut. Weird. Temerith and Durzak spoke like it made sense to them, babbling about Thresholds and Mirrors. These two are really getting strange.

The reports are lacking when it comes to the fey. There is no number given for the ones reported within the forest, which brings up an interesting question: Why are their so many of the pointy eared bastards fucking around? How did they get missed by The Draft? I asked the lord and he said that the fey are just kind of like that. Some did get drafted but it was more likely they allowed themselves to be drafted. Out of boredom or curiosity, he guessed. None of the reports give any indication what the fey are doing within the forest or what their interest is. Curious or bored fey are the worst kind of fey.

Temerith and Durzak are bathing in the hot springs above this temple right now. She has spread out her wings in the water and making this strange satisfied clicking chirp. Atherlyn and myself are deep with the temple, in a corner that I’ve breathed into, making it as cold as I can. Naked stone holds the cold so well and is especially nice on my belly. We were just lying there, laughing at how strange our night has been. It’s been a fun time.

Bed now. The plan is to sleep during the rest of the night and set out an hour before dawn. The least amount of people will be out then and we will be able to approach the forest without witnesses. We have done the work for the Red and White Rider, but now it’s time we strike as the Black.

We’re in the forest now Welcome? . I have a few minutes to write before we get back to it. So Faeries Oh hi Valour. How’s your sex life? . There is a lot a bunch of the dumb bastards in here Oi! . All sorts too We are a varied lot and they are screwing this place up Now that’s a little harsh . First up, magic is causing time to become something dreamlike It’s called a Reality Distortion dummy . Temerith and Durzak both noticed it when we crossed the threshold and passed the guards Because they aren’t dumb . It’s like time has stopped mattering now. I hate this Too bad. We’re fond of it, really .

Whitethrone in the early morning is annoyingly human We know right! . A light snow sprinkles on the stones. The bakers were up and you can smell their baking bread. The merchants where sleepily setting up their shops and pointedly ignoring us was we glided past. All very boring Yep but the dolls were our first priority. They were set on top of buildings, watching the entrance to this accursed forest. Durzak and myself crept up and ended them before anyone noticed. We now have their gems, which might be worth something, as long as they don’t start making creepy noise like the last one But that’s the best part .

When I was told this forest was solid, I was not expecting this. There is almost no space between the trunks and have become a solid wall of branches and needles. I can see stones trapped within the branches of the trees as the cobblestones have been torn up by the sudden explosive growth Like happy forest fireworks! . One can see where the people have been trying desperately to cut back the forest, trying to stop it from gobbling up more homes and shops. I’ve never seen anything like this, Piety Piety? Who names their kid Piety? Or Valour for that matter? . It’s like a story come to life You must lead a pretty boring life if this sound impressive .

We crossed into the forest and sound became muted. I can only hear the rustling of branches. Men called out, challenging us, asking who we were Really? We didn’t see them? Must be new or something? Or just really bad at their job . Temerith smugly told them we had business within and they countered by demanding to know who we served. “Baba Yaga,” Durzak defiantly called back and we attacked. This was a straight forward fight Then why did you make it sound so exciting? . They were armed with glaives, short swords and bows so I’m not sure who they were expecting to guard against. I mean, this is pretty tight quarters in the forest. Maybe the fey keep to the trees? I don’t know. We killed most of them but kept the captain alive to spread the tale of the Riders. Temerith still finds that fun We like her. She at least know what a good time is! .

After stripping the guards Did they have any cold iron? Hate cold iron , Athelryn said she heard someone calling for help I thought you were a wolf? Don’t they have super hearing or something? Why is she always spotting things way before you do? . We thought it sounded like some sort of fairy trap and decided to check it out Naturally . When the forest sprouted, it really did sprout up explosively, destroying buildings unlucky enough to trapped within the area. But some of the houses have been tangled within the branches. That was the case here. We found a mostly intact house that still had people living in it and they were now trapped Really? Because we walked by there a bunch of times and never noticed them . The children, Crina and Trevis, Children?!? There was children there? That sucks caught our attention, then quickly regretted that when a smiling Temerith flew up to them. They explained that they had been asleep when the forest grew and have been calling for days now. Days. This forest has been been here a month, but only a few days have passed for them Told you. Reality Distortion . We freed them and told them how to escape That is very nice of you . We even warned them about the guards that we left alive Are you sure you’re evil because that sounds pretty goody two shoes to us . The father, Karend, gave us a magic amulet that use to belong to his dead wife, saying that, since we saved him and their children, that she would want us to have it. Why she had a magic amulet that protects from harm and why it didn’t do her any good, no idea Us neither . I don’t have the heart to tell him that we’re just going to sell it the first chance we get Ah, there’s the evil we were asking about .

As they left, Athelryn said she could now hear music deeper in the forest Again? . Again we thought it has to be a trap and we decided to check it out Naturally, again . The path narrowed until we had to squeeze past razor sharp needles, then opened into a clearing that had an weird magic altar in it. I mean strange. A ten foot stone slab with six stone column circling round. Circling, as in floating and moving It’s called a Reality Syphon and it’s not all that unusual. But they are pretty cool . I was floored Naturally. Because you’re boring . How did this work and why was it happening? Reality Syphon. Don’t you listen? There was a female fey wearing a white feathered cloak A Swan Maiden? Where did she come from? Does anyone know her? standing on one of the circling columns, watching us. A male fey, his hair seemingly burning, was on the altar itself, playing a pipe His name was Ravathiel and he was awesome you jerk . Temerith engaged them in conversation and seemed nice Because he was, jerk! The male told us the fey in the forest had a plan. To steal The Hut and take it to someplace called The First World Which is a very nice place and everyone should come by for a visit . I would like to point out at this time that the Winter Guard have allowed this to happen. They’re very bad at their job They really are . At any rate, the fey attacked us and we killed them We will remember that . The female turned into a goose of all things A swan! She’s a Swan Maiden and they turn into swans, you ass and tried to fly away, only to be tackled by Temerith and shot full of arrows by Athelryn Again, who is this Swan Maiden? Did Ravathiel bring her? . I grabbed the male and tore him off of his little perch. Poor sap didn’t stand a chance. Next time, don’t bring a flute to a wolf fight Fuck you . Durzak said there must be two more of these altars in the forest, called Fonts, and that is what the fey are using to steal The Hut. So that means two more of those Dawn Pipers. Lovely. Oh, don’t sound so excited jerk face

Okay. Temerith and I are talking to a group of five fey. Three women with long red hair They’re Baccae and their names are Mari, Elzbethe and Joliphetta and they are very fun so you leave them alone! and two males, who look very goat-like Who are these satyrs? Where did they come from? Did the DM put them there? . They, and three humans they have ensnared, are have an “end of the world” party Which sounds awesome and have asked us to join. Athelryn and Durzak have slipped off to check out another house that we’ve seen What? Another one? What were we looking at? , leaving Temerith and myself to chat with this group And we bet they’re super excited to talk to you . They’re friendly, in not a little insistent, and are chatty We call it being neighbourly . Looks like Athelryn and Durzak have found the missing "adventurers” What?!? More children we missed? Worst time ever!! and are leading them towards the entrance Boooo!!!! .We are heroic today Yeah. About that. Aren’t you four suppose to be the Black Rider? Not a very heroic persona, you know? And how are the four of you the Black Rider? Do you share the title? How does that work?

Looks like these fey are getting a little uppity. More later! Crapcrapcrapcrapcrap

Valour, Get of Heartseeker Oh, you two are Heartseekers cubs! That explains a lot. Doesn’t explain why you’re so boring or why you have stupid names but it does explain why you are such a jerk face!!! , Black Rider of Irrisen And FYI, that’s pretentious .

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Letters Home to Irrisen, Part 13
Of clocks and dragons

Piety:

The dragon is dead, the opera singer is safe and we’ve delivered our message to the Queen. “The Riders have returned”. We attacked during the day rather than the night and did a lot of property damage so the message is a bit muddled. We’ll say it was from the Red Rider. It doesn’t matter. For now, parts of the city are in revolt and the Winter Guard is spread out trying to fight it.

We found the little singer. She was in a room in the storage area. Had her own little place with a bed, a dresser and a mirror, which we quickly covered. I have to admit that, after getting axed by the clockwork men, I was feeling a little malicious and maybe took it out on the her. I heard her trying to be quiet behind the door so I crept up and knocked, saying “Curtain in five”. There was a quiet “Thank you”. Then I opened the door and told her I was kidding, the show’s been cancelled. I could see the shock and confusion as we stood face to face. Finally she asked us if her friend had sent us and we told her yes. We let her go, telling her to wait until we started attacking the dragon before making a break from the tower. Temerith even gave her a hand axe for protection. She took it nervously and held it like she knew what it was but not how to use it. “She thinks it’s a prop”, Temerith said in a giggling whisper.

A prop is an item that actors use on stage. They’re usually fake so they don’t hurt themselves. I guess that makes sense. I guess. Apparently a lot of actors are really really dumb.

The singer told us a little about the dragon but nothing that we hadn’t already known. It likes soprano arias. Athelryn told me that soprano means that the singer sounds like the high pitch pup howling, which sounds awful. Opera, Piety. It’s weird stuff.

I drank a half of dozen healing potions to get over the damage the clockwork men did to me. I’ve never had that many in one sitting. They’re pretty bland tasting.

Durzak made the plan for us. One of the faces of the clock tower has been removed and a twenty foot ice ledge sticks out, giving the dragon a launching pad. We couldn’t let the dragon take to the air because, once airborne, it had the advantage and only Athelryn could fight it. I went up first, hoping to draw it’s breath weapon, followed by Durzak then Temerith. Athelryn would come up last and use the trap door as cover as she fired.

Durzak gave me a potion. It turned me invisible. Invisible! It was amazing. I was in plain view but not. I see why Heartseeker likes this. Just think of the fun we could have! Too bad it faded when I attacked.

Durzak, just before he opened the trap door, used his magical hat to look like the singer. It was jarring to suddenly smell the woman beside me even though I could still smell her leaving down the stairs. Damn magic. I blame that for my fuck up. He popped the door and I jumped up.

The dragon must of heard us downstairs because it was ready for us. It was an ugly little thing. Long necked and scaly. Long spikes that looked like icicles protruded from its neck and back. And white like fresh snow. It smells like nothing I have ever known. Like a lizard mixed with a blizzard. It was clinging to a wall of gears, about fifteen feet of the floor, watching the trap door. The vicious thing stared at me, then looked confused and a little offended, which confused the hell out of me.

Then I realized it. I was invisible and it was looking through me at Durzak. I jumped through the door and tried to sink my fangs into the bastard. Those things are a lot tougher than they look because I couldn’t pierce it’s hide like I could with a human.

Temerith burst up and took flight, using her wings to propel herself up and into the dragon. She slashed it with her claws and screamed at it. A long savage wail. Her talons snapped and burned its flesh. Durzak jumped up next and cast some spell on himself, making him grow to twice his size. Athelryn popped up and fired arrows into it. We had it surrounded.

The dragon was desperate and tried to bolt passed us. I focused on it and got my fangs into it’s haunch as Durzak grabbed it’s other leg. It stumbled and fell flat on the ground with a thud. That was all the opening we needed. Temerith scored it’s back with her talons while I ripped it’s leg. A few more arrows and it died. It gave a sad little croak and then was quiet. We have slain a dragon!

They taste awful. No wonder nothing hunts them for food. Just foul. I walked over to the ice ledge and licked it to get the taste out.

We gather up it’s tiny hoard and even packed the dragon away in one of our magical bags. Temerith’s demonic sensibilities perked up because she was insistent that we break the ice ledge off and let it fall to the ground. So Durzak and myself picked at it with a admantium sword and war hammer until we got the job done. Temerith swooped down and warned the crowd that had gathered and most of them ran. Even the little singer disappeared into the alleys. Then we dropped 2000lbs of ice 70 ft to the Bone Road. It was a glorious smash. Sadly it also took out some of the clock tower which began to creak unpleasantly. We retreated pretty quickly. I don’t think the tower is going to fall but it’s in need of some repair.

The forger’s brother met us as we left and led us to the hidden temple of the Rebel Goddess. The little singer had just beaten us there because she and the priestess were… talking when we entered. The little singer tried to put on a brave face but we noticed she tried to keep the priestess between herself and us. I don’t care. I laughed and we bragged about our victory. Dead dragons, trolls, wraiths and fire belching stoves.

Lord Oryo came back from his mission and we gave our report. Luckily, giving reports is something I was taught in basic training so I was able to keep it clear. I forgot that we’re technically his superiors, being Black Riders, and that must of been hard for His Lordship to deal with. We got through it. His forces have disrupted the Winter Guard enough that it’ll take a week for them to restore order. But we need to strike while the ice is still thin. So we’re going to rest for the rest of the day and, as the night approaches, head for The Hut. Today was for the Red Rider. But tonight is the Black Rider’s turn. Time to make our desertion complete. Tonight we kill Nazhena Vasilliovna. Tonight free The Hut of Baba Yaga.

I’ve made arrangements for this letter to be delivered to Heartseeker. I hope you read these and get some enjoyment out of my exploits. Heartseeker, Piety, Patience, Hope, Mercy and Courageous: If you’re reading this, know I love you and miss you. Hopefully this will be over soon and I will be hunting with you all again.

Valorous, Get of Heartseeker, Dragon Slayer and Black Rider of Irrisen.

P.S. It turns out that the Jadwiga don’t routinely do horrible things like murder children. The forger’s brother was disgusted when he read Granny Nan’s account books and Lord Oryo openly spat when he read them. Even the Jadwiga find child murder to be one of those crimes they can’t abide by. He claimed that there was no skulls of children in the Bone Road. Baba Yaga forbade it. He said that had he known of what Granny Nan was doing he would of ordered her quietly garroted. I got the impression he might of done it himself, if he had the chance. I told him that we fed her to her own stove and he nodded approvingly. I like this guy. I hope he survives.

P.P.S. I approached the singer and demanded she sing the song that offended The Queen. It was a pretty tense moment as the Priestess edged up to protect her tiny lover. The singer is just so small and pathetic, like a bird. She acquiesced and sang. It’s not like a pup’s howl. It’s more controlled but just as high pitched. I don’t know. I told her it wasn’t like the howls I have heard and she seemed sad. What did she say? “Not many people survive hearing the howls of Winter Wolves, especially a hunting pack”. I told her about the howls that follow some of the Great Gatherings, where many packs gather in a valley and sing. It didn’t make her very happy. Humans.

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Letters Home to Irrisen, Part 12
Hickory Dickory Dock

Piety:

Tonight we attack the clock and kill the dragon. That will be the signal for the Iron Guard and the Summer Heralds to stage an uprising, dividing the city’s attention. Scouting has told us that there is six ice trolls, a wikkawak, some fey (maybe), the dragon and his Jadwiga minder, some old witch that the Jadwiga have pushed to one side. People think the two statues posted at the front door are magical. Nothing like fighting inanimate objects. I hope I don’t chip a tooth! I’ll add more to this letter when I can.

Just a fast note while Temerith and Athelryn question the prisoners. I wish I could describe this place. It’s a really plain and boring clock tower. Not very Irrisen at all. We attacked through the front, which was the only way in or out. The two statues at the front path were alive somehow and we attacked them before they could do anything harmful. We smashed them before they even had a chance to raise their weapons. Nice weapons too. Weird. The trolls tried to stop us as we bashed through the door but we put them down really fast. Temerith fought two by herself. How does a Vrock fight? A lot of shrieking and a great deal of blood. Durzak was impatient. He knocked a hole in the wall and ducked through, leaving me blocking the main door. The trolls tried to surround us, three left and three right, but only succeeded in choking themselves in the hall. The trolls were all males except for the single female. No idea what that was about. Did we kill a family pack? The one I fought got pushed right up to me by the female, who was trying to get to Durzak. It was all messy. I saw the wikkawak come out of a room, take a single swing at Durzak, then duck under the one I was fighting and make it outside through the hole Durzak made. I tried to kill my troll to get to the wikkawak but it was too quick and I was blocked by the smelly foul idiot. The wikkawak met Athelryn outside and, I think, tried to attack her, hoping to get passed and escape. She pumped three arrows into him, one piecing his eye. He stumbled back and got caught on a bit of jagged wood. Caught just long enough for me to drop my troll and sink my fangs into his leg. So delicious! I dragged him back into the hall and tucked in. Wikkawak, Piety. It’s as good as we’ve heard. Especially the liver. Tender.

The trolls are dead and we’ve searched the first floor. We found a group of children who were being held by the Jadwiga. They’re all street urchins that no one will miss and the woman upstairs is cooking them. Even the fey don’t do this very often. I don’t know what to say. So much child murder! Remind me to ask the Iron Guard if cannibalism is normal among the Jadwiga.

Okay. So we are going upstairs. There’s an old witch, a dragon and ghosts. Ghosts? What else? I bet fey. Stupid fey.

(Speckles of blood)

No fey but we got to meet Granny Nan. Got to write this before I forget. You’re going to love this. Okay. The second floor is set like a small apartment. The old Jadwiga has a kitchen, pantry and a bedroom up here. We came up and I saw the ghost! It looked like a child, starving and hollow. So freaky! It ducked through a door. Just passed through it like the door wasn’t even there. We piled up to the landing (I had to shift to two legs for this part. Everything is so cramped!) and we heard a little old woman talking to someone. “Who is it? We have guests, deary?” said this cracked little voice. We kicked in the door and went for her. She was standing off to the side, a hunched little ugly crone who smelt of talc and blood with the haunted child near her, it’s hollow dead eyes staring straight at us. It didn’t smell like anything, Piety, but I could see the hate and desperation in those eyes. Durzak, Athelryn and Temerith sliced up Granny Nan but she was standing in a corner so I couldn’t get a swing at her. That left me clashing with the dead boy. It touched me. I could feel something awful. I don’t know how to describe it. This fleeting tingle, like old wind. Can wind even be old? I don’t know. The feeling was brief, just like the ghost boy. I hit him with this sword I have (Where did I get this thing? It wasn’t the Captain’s from the first tower and I didn’t have it made.) and he faded away.

Then the door behind us busted open and an oven attacked us. Sorry, Durzak said it was a stove. It has the flat parts on the top to boil pots so that makes it a stove rather than an oven, which is only uses the middle heated bit. Anyways, the stove smashed down the door. Granny Nan had a magical animated stove for cooking. Because the baking of children requires it? This is just so morbidly bizarre. “The Gobbler” (Yes, it has a name. A stupid awful name.) charged us and started trying to grab Durzak with it’s flexible chimney so it could shove him into it’s mouth. I just reread that sentence. This is just so surreal. Durzak and Temerith fought it, hacking at it with claws and a sword, but it’s a cast iron stove so it was very hard to do anything damaging to it. Athelryn fired arrows at it but they just plunked off it’s iron sides. I took one look at the flaming gaping maw and said “nope”, ducking to the back and out of reach. Of course, this meant I couldn’t do anything to it as well but better than getting burned! I looked around and then heard Granny Nan moan. The old hag was still alive, if only barely.

So I scooped her up and flung her at The Gobbler. Here the sound it made:

CLANG, CLANG, CLANG, SPLUT, CRUNCH, CRUNCH, CRUNCH, HISSSSSSSSS

She was heavier than I was expecting. I guess all of that butchering of children built some muscles on her. It was still easy to toss her over everyone. And my aim was amazing, right into the red hot part. I don’t know what I was thinking. I mean, the woman was too light to possibly do any damage to the thing, no matter how hard I chucked her. Maybe it would choke? I just got this giggling image in my head of throwing her to her own stove and I went with it. Isn’t there a story about something like this? The Gobbler didn’t last. It gave Durzak a bit of a singe but he’s okay with the heat. It wasn’t okay with the amount of damage he did with his sword. Chopped a stove in half. Priceless.

So much for the second floor. We just took out a little old lady and wreaked her kitchen. Fear The Black Riders!

Okay, so we have her account books. Looks like she’s on a budget from the Queen and part of her duties is to feed the trolls. She doesn’t have enough to buy meat but it is enough to buy fresh vegetables. So she’s buying children from the prison and from the orphanages to feed to the trolls. This is some seriously weird shopping. If that isn’t bad enough, rather than just heaving a toddler to the trolls, she’s baking them into full meals with vegetables. Are these trolls that fussy? I mean she has a room with a chopping block and meat hooks. She’s butchering children and feeding them to the trolls. Am I the only wolf in the world that has a problem with this? I don’t even want to eat her anymore. I’m just going to leave her smouldering in the middle of her kitchen, surrounded by the remains of her shattered stove. Let the neighbours who are greedy enough to brave this place find her.

(More Blood)

I’m a bit shaky. This next bit was a little closer than I like. The next floor is part of the clock engine and storage. Cogs and gears grind together loudly, making it hard to think up here. There was two clockwork men stored here. They saw us and attacked with halberds. This area is so small and cramped and they attack with halberds. So, as Temerith and Durzak got up to and fought them, the clockwork men were reaching over their heads and hitting me and Athelryn. Mostly me! This is just so stupid. This is a ten by ten closet but they’re armed with 8 foot long weapons? Who does this? Why are they even here? I mean, they’re covered with dust so they’ve been stuck here for awhile. These things look really expensive. Did this clock have an elaborate chime mechanism? Two clockwork men march out every hour and hit a bell with their halberds? Durzak tells me the weapons are magical. Even better. These loyal tough clockwork soldiers, with magical weapons, were shoved off to one side, forgotten in a clock tower. How does anyone upkeep this fucking clock if these two are chopping up anyone who comes too close? I’m really hurt right now. I hate fighting on two legs. No tough hide to soak up the blows. Those clockwork men packed a punch. Damn.

One last floor. We’re still missing the singer, who should be around somewhere. I’ll let you know how this goes. Got to run, one more door to open!

Valour

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Letters Home to Irrisen, Part 11

Heartseeker:

It’s days like these that are really rotten. We are in a empty house deep in The Howlings waiting for the time to strike. We have the information we need to attack. Now we are just waiting on The Heralds of Summer’s Return to make their preparations. Duzak is using the time to make some magical items for Temerith and Athelryn. I spent what monies I had left on a pair of magical boots. Duzak asked if I wanted him to make them for me, saving me quite a bit of coin, but we have waited too long already. I want to move sooner rather than later. The boots are nice leather and make me magically faster. When I see Mercy next, I might actually have a chance against her in a foot race!

The others are restless too. Duzak and Temerith spent their time, when Duzak isn’t enchanting something, discussing matters of the Universe. “The Mirrors are the Gates are The Locks are The Keys”, Duzak says in his usual rumbling cryptic way. Temerith, perches on a chair and bobs her head in agreement. She said she’s related to a Vrock, whatever that is. I asked if it was her mother or her father. She looked at me with her small bright eyes, her head tilled like a colourful bird of prey, and said “Yes”. Athelryn, in her corner, snorted. They looked at each other and laughed, Temerith beaming like she has told a particularity clever joke. Even Duzak chuckled. I don’t know if their laughing at my confusion or there is something deeper here that I’m missing. I think I’ll go back to my post by the window and smell around.

Athelryn asked me why I write letters to you. I told her because I always have, I need to keep my family updated on what is happening in my life. She nodded and asked for a piece of paper. I gave it to her and she went into her corner and stared at it. After a few hours I gave her a piece of charcoal to write with. She blinked in confusion at first, then suddenly understood. I think she’s writing a letter home. To who or what I don’t know, but she’s sending a message back to whatever shadowy place she hails from. Eerie.

We changed our plans and decided, at the suggestion of Ringeirr, to enter Whitethrone through the gate at The Howlings. Yes, there are actual guards now posted at the Howlings. We met two Winterguards. One a Winterwolf, who obviously had been doing this job for a while because he was looking us over with utter boredom. Didn’t even bother to change out of his human form for a customary sniff. The woman was Jadwiga, as officious as the other was bored. Once she heard we were delivering a message for whatever Prince we are using as our cover, she hastily gave us back our papers and sent us on our way, as if she was worried that whatever smut we were carrying would smear onto her. They spent more time hassling Ringeirr. It was a tense few minutes as we waited around a corner and watched. If they pull in Ringeirr, he could use us as a chip for his own life.

After the check point, Ringeirr left us to go find his contacts so we got a room at one of the taverns. I should of thought it through better because I pick one that I remember from my brief posting here. I hope the innkeeper didn’t recognize me. All of this espionage is new to me. I can almost feel your scolding nip on my shoulder. We kept to the back streets but this place is nearly empty. The wolves have almost all been sent through the Gates. So few are left. There is more trolls and fae here now than wolves. The streets are quiet and smell bad.

Some goblins thought to try and rob Duzak at the inn. They hid around a corner and waited for him. Sadly for them, the other three of us where with him. We are so quiet! They jump out in front of us and we stared at them dumbfounded. They quickly muttered an apology and ran away. I asked the innkeeper if they were our breakfast. She said, in between gulps of her ale, that the snow goblins were the only paying customers she’s had in awhile. So sad. Fat snow goblins are delicious but one can not just go around eaten citizens. I ended up just chewing on fish instead. Some of the Ulfen are upset that I said I would eat an intelligent being. I think that if it’s dumb enough to try and rob Duzak, then it qualifies as food.

We met with Ringeirr’s contact. We had a moment of confusion because he looks just like the forger we used in Yetterjerna! I mean, identical. His scent is the only thing that gave it away. He never asked us any questions and we gave no answers but I think he’s the forger’s twin brother. How strange. Anyway, he lead us to The Heralds of Summer’s Return and to the remnants of the Iron Guard. We met them in a hidden barracks under a bath-house. Damn the Jadwiga and they’re little luxuries. Who wants a whole building that is sweltering hot, even to those who aren’t effected by the heat? We even had to pass through a Hidden Garden. All this heat just to grow fruit. Humans and their diets.

We met the Captain of the Iron Guard, Lord Oryo. I’ve only heard of him by rumour and that he’s a bureaucrat and a solider, fanatically loyal to Baba Yaga. So when we entered the room, lead by our contact, no one was expecting him to go to one knee. Temerith was the most disturbed by this, making little hand gestures for him to rise while making some sort of cooing sound. I think we were all a little stunned by this. The Mantle of the Black Rider must manifest itself in some way the Jadwiga can sense. After the briefest of conversation with the Captian, an Ulfen woman entered. The leader of the Heralds of Summer’s Return is Solveig Ayrdahl, priestess of Milani, the Goddess of rebellion. This is the oddest matching I’ve ever seen. Oryo would kill her and put her skull into the Road happily and Solveig would have him marched down the centre of the city before having him stoned by a mob. They would murder each other, if only they could, but they now need each other. Although their overall goals clash, in the short term, Queen Elvanna’s madness has driven them together into this uncomfortable partnership.

We quickly discuss our backgrounds. They seem surprised that we are just unfortunate foot soldiers tricked into service. They were expecting some sort of impossibly powerful fae creature and they only got us. Lord Oryo is ambivalent about this development; he’s a Irrisen solider and understands that he has to make do. Solveig, less so. She acts as if our existence verifies her view of how deranged Irrisen is. Uppity slave.

The Hut sits in the town square surrounded by trees. Nazhena Vasilliova, the Whitewitch who’s tower we raided, has a contingent of men patrolling the area. The dragon is named Logrivich and is a commander of the Winterguard. He lairs in the clock tower and, if trouble arises in Whitethrone, is able to fly anywhere in minutes. He has a contingent of six ice trolls under his command. Numerous fae creatures also live in the tower, along with a Jadwiga political officer, some old witch who isn’t related to the Queen. There is also a Wikkawak! Finally, I might be able to corner one!

We aren’t sure of numbers but this whole area is pretty well guarded. There is a straight road, cleared of all trees, that leads from the clock tower to the Hut. The plan is for The Iron Guard and The Heralds of Summer’s Return to stage a distraction, drawing off the patrols and engaging Vasilliova. We will strike the clock tower and kill the dragon, then move to the Hut. It seems simple but I’m betting that there is some sort of tricky wards guarding both places.

Solveig has mentioned, in passing, that a prisoner resides in the tower under the dragon’s watchful gaze. An opera singer, named Bella, who sang a song criticizing the Queen. Temerith and Athelryn, with smirks and snickers, believe that Solveig had some sort of romantic relationship with the singer. Add this to the list of things I don’t care about. The only attractive winterwolf I’ve seen this entire trip has been one guarding the gates at Ytterjorna. And even she looked me over, pointed to her great axe and said “Move along lover boy”. This Black Rider duty isn’t one that I can use to meet females, I can tell you!

And now we are waiting. Duzak is crafting a belt and Temerith is watching him. Athelryn is in the corner, I think. She’s hard to keep track of and I think she likes spying on Duzak and Temerith. This is how bored we are. I’m stuck here, my snout poking out of the window, sniffing the empty street, thinking about our mission. Solveig has made me consider what will happen next. Freeing Baba Yaga isn’t going to be as easy as I hoped. Even if we get into the Hut, we have no idea what to do next. Is the weight of the world really on our backs? And what will happen to Irrisen should we fail? And if we succeed and the Queen deposed, who will replace her and what will they do? Solveig vision for the future means freedom for the Ulfen and destruction of their oppressors. But where does that put the monstrous citizens of Irrisen? Does she want our deaths too? This is too confusing and I don’t want to think about it. I’ll leave that up to you and Patience!

Duzak, as we left the meeting, laughed and said I might be able to get a position with the Iron Guard. Athelryn and Temerith both said they hadn’t even thought of the future and beamed at the thoughts of the rewards we might reap. I know better. The Mantle we have is for life. We are Black Riders until we are bone meal in the mill.

Happier thoughts! I’ll get to kill both a wikkawak and a dragon! I’m hungry and tired of fish!

Give my love to Patience and Courageous. And have all of it yourself!

Valorous, Get of Heartseeker, Black Rider of Irrisen and (hopefully) Dragon Slayer!

P.S. I’m sending the rest of the letters I wrote to Piety. They explain more of what is going on. I also left letters with Nadya Petska of Waldsby, if you can find her. I’m also going to send a magical message to both Mercy and Hope, telling them to come home. I’ve already sent one to Piety so watch out for him. Keep safe!

P.P.S. The Ulfen contact of Lord Oryo is trying hard not to ask me questions. The idea of the Dreaded Black Rider needing to send a letter to his mum is making him twitch. He better not say anything because we Black Riders have ways of finding people.

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Letters Home to Irrisen, Part 10

Piety:

What a small funny world we live in. Do you remember when I talked about Viggo? I ran into some of his old command in the Fishing Camps. Two Ogres named Borgers and Whonk. The ones who got discharged for eating all of those merchants. Funny funny world. Oh well, we killed them and I ate them. Messily. Here’s a story for you.

We circled around Whitethrone and got a look at it from the distance. It has trees growing in the town square. They tower above the walls like the city was built amongst old growth. It’s beautiful and strange. The old legends of the Hut must be true. It does create a forest where ever it goes. I always envisioned saplings sprouting up behind it’s chicken legs. I’m wrong. It creates whole forests with each footstep. From afar, Whitethrone always looked so sharp, crowded and unwelcoming to wolves. Now I want to go and run through the trees, just to see what has happened. It’s wondrous.

We came to a bridge and some Merrows popped up to “Check our Papers”. I think that is what that was about. Athelryn glared at them as they came over the railing, evaluated the odds and jumped right back over again, muttering something about how “we checked out”. These papers are the best thing ever!

The Fishing Camps smell terrible. The stench you get in Whitethrone when the wind is right is nothing compared to the real thing up close and in your snout. Ramshackle huts all crowded together with the Ulfen scrabbling to hawk their wares. We got some strange looks as we passed through. We are pretty memorable and this is not a place wolves like to go. Strange looks until I ate some Ulfen’s entire haul in one go. It was so good! And inexpensive. When we get together we need to go do this. My treat.

We talked to some of the locals and got this story about some idiot getting arrested for “Disturbing the Peace”. Looks like the Winterguard have contracted out the security of the camps to a man named “Marcain Enarxion”. I think that was it. I think he’s a foreigner too. Stupid Winterguard. Anyways, the scofflaw tried to get some people together to fight back against the “guards”. Really they’re just a gang. They actually beat some Ulfen vendor while we watched and didn’t get anything for the effort. Just sloppy.

After some discussion we determined what happened to the Iron Guard. Looks like, rather than fight Queen Elvanna, they disbanded and dispersed. Some probably got killed trying to undermine the Queen and others got sent through a portal to who knows where. The rest melted into the population and are trying to find a way to stop the Winterguard. They even might have gone far enough to join The Heralds of Summer’s Return, as we found out the scofflaw is rumoured to be a member. I’ve never seen a “Summer” but, if it can’t come back on it’s own, it deserves to be left in the past. We decided to go get the prisoner by simply walking into the guard house and just taking him. If Marcain fights back, we kill him.

This is where it gets funny because Marcain had Borgers and Whonk working for him! I think they even made the sign outside because it said “Gurd Hoose”. We knocked and Whonk answered, looking just as dumb as the day he was born. Marcain tried to bluff us for papers and Borgers tried to back him up but Athelryn just glared at him as we shouldered past. They actually thought we were real Winterguard. No papers or anything! We just strolled in like we owned the place and took the prisoner. The looks on their faces when we carried their prize out like a log. Just priceless.

The prisoner is a man named Ringeirr Malenkov. I don’t know if he’s a slave or not but he was thankful that we rescued him and not very happy when we told him who we were. So we’ve bullied him into helping us. He’s going to lead us into Whitethrone and get us in contact with his own people in the Iron Guard and The Heralds of Summer’s Return. Hopefully this will be enough to get us to The Hut. He even talked a bit about the dragon that Queen Elvanna has recruited. A young white. That makes it smaller than me. Too bad little dragon, the Black Riders are coming to play.

We went back and killed Marcain. I hate leaving jobs unfinished and it really felt like something we needed to do. Besides, they had some money that we could “liberate”. They didn’t stand a chance. We smashed down the wall of the “gurd hoose” and killed Borgers and Whonk before they even got to stand up. We tore them down so fast the Marcain didn’t even realize that they were under attack. He opened his office door and died. Ringeirr got in the first blow, a sling stone which caught the fool in the face. Durzak tried to grab him and got a knife in the ribs for his trouble as Marcain fought back. I’m tired of people trying to kill my companions so I ripped Marcain apart. It was invigorating. Mother would have been proud. We left a message for the Winterguard that day. We left it sprayed on the walls and soaked into the cold ground. The Black Rider has returned.

We’re on route to Whitethrone now, with Ringeirr in the lead. In a few hours we will be truly into the Trouble and with no way of getting back. First the Iron Guards, then we kill the Winterwitch and her dragon. Hey, I just remembered she had a dragon statue outside of her tower. Didn’t think of that until now. What a funny world we live in.

Keep safe and hunt well. I will try to get these messages to you before we enter The Hut. Tomorrow, we strike our blow for Baba Yaga.

Valor, Get of Heartseeker and Black Rider of Irrisen.

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Letters Home to Irrisen, Part 9

Piety:

The last few days have been a punishing wait. We decided to head to Ytterjorna and attempt to get fake paperwork so we could get into Whitethrone. The plan is to disguise ourselves as couriers for a minor noble delivering a message. Hopefully, we can keep the ruse until we can finish the job of freeing Baba Yaga. We’ll sell what gear we have left to sell in the next town and maybe try and find out what info we can about the set up in Whitethrone. Then we go after the Hut. Apparently, it’s sitting in the town square being guarded by the same White Witch who’s tower we raided. It’s been awhile since I’ve been in Whitethrone but I’m pretty sure we can get close enough to the square and make a blitz. Here’s hoping.

Well, now this is interesting. Ytterjorna hasn’t changed much. It’s still corrupt, thankfully. We’ve arranged and paid for papers; we’re just waiting for them to be finished. It’s the waiting I hate. After this, we’re going to the Fishing Camps and are going to attempt to enter Whitethrone via The Bay.

I was just in the tavern, talking to other wolves. City wolves. They were bragging about playing a game where they tie a deer into a bag and chase each other with it. It must be nice to be so boring. I feel such anger. They looked at my group and joked about eating the Temerith. I dissuaded them without attacking, but I still want to go back and tear their throats out. How dare these whipped little cubs threaten my toys. No, I have to keep the cover and not draw attention. I can’t wait for this part of the job to be done.

Do you remember that friend of yours? Viggo? The one with the thing for Mercy? I forgot about him until today. Did Mercy ever tell you what happened between the two of them? I know you’ve heard Viggo’s side of the near riot but I’m not sure if you heard mine. I guess I don’t need to keep covering for a superior officer anymore.

Viggo was always trying to get into a patrol with Mercy, just to get her attention. Always trying to impress her by swaggering around or getting her gifts by, like, grabbing at fish in the market that we were patrolling. Just being an ass. Anyways, one time I left the two of them together under the excuse of “going to talk to the Sargent”. But Lieutenant Ronja was talking to her so I ended up circling back, just as Viggo was playing his big moves. They were patrolling that row of weaving shops that the Mad Maid Brecha owned when Aina’s cub, Torn, bounded up to them and started to play with Mercy, nipping at her. Mercy, being Mercy, mock snarled at the little tyke and tried to play back but Viggo just let into the poor cub. Knocked him flying. Poor guy landed hard too. And Aina lost it. Let out this howl that was answered by her pack and clan nearby before she just came for Viggo. For such a pretty wolf, she’s as mean as fire when riled. Mercy, too, leapt on him and tried to bite his ears off. Luckily for him, I was just getting there and I was able to pull them off, not that I tried too hard. Then Aina’s family showed up and we made a tactical retreat. Even Brecha got in on the action, becoming visible as she threw pins on the ground in front of us, fucking fae bitch. Damn near had a riot.

We got back and Mercy just kept on him. Out of all of the cubs we knew, Torn was the one that reminded her the most of Couri and she was upset. The dumb lug had broken the poor guy’s leg and everything. Sargent Tuva had to smooth everything over. We caught nothing but trouble for this. What worse, the Guard needed to save face, so Mercy and I got the shaft and Viggo got his sideways promotion. Bastard even ordered me and Mercy to keep our traps shut about what had happened. Oh, well. You saw his “command”. A bunch of idiot ogres? Have fun Viggo! I hope you still have a pin in your paw. I wonder if they got shipped through a portal?

We have our papers. The forger was a creepy little man who didn’t ask questions so now we’re good to go. The plan is to circle around Whitethrone and go to the Fishing Camps before making our attempt. I heard that Whitethrone has a problem with trees for some reason. I wonder what that’s all about.

Valorous, Get of Heartseeker. Black Rider of Irrisen.

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Letters Home to Irrisen, Part 8

Piety:

We’ve left the awful haunted temple and moved on towards Pjallarane’s Stone. We couldn’t properly deal with the temple so we propped up a sign that said “Warning! Haunted Assholes!” and left it at that. It’s really the best we could do given the situation. That temple has been on the side of that road for 1400 years. Why hasn’t anyone else dealt with that? No even a damn sign. We put up a damn sign! Fucking useless Winterguard.

We have skirted The Stone because of the Snow Goblin cults. There is a lot of those little bastards and we’re not sure which side they’re on. As we passed it, we had our camp invaded by little fey. It was a troop of them and they we trying to steal food. We knocked one out and scattered the rest. Apparently, this type of fey likes wreaking travelers food. How fearsome they must have been in Baba Yaga’s army. Now that I write that out, they sound pretty useful as raiders. We still took it and wrapped it into a ball and played “Jinxkin Ball” until we got bored. We buried the ball in the hole we used for camp refuse. This is pretty far south for them. I wonder why they were here?

We made it to a river and found a little fishing village to trade with. In order to keep the strangeness to a minimum, we split up. Temerith and Durzak entered on foot while Athelryn and myself ran around the outside of the village to meet them on the other side. This way the villagers wouldn’t see me pulling a sled. That’s how embarrassing this is. If villagers see me acting like this, they’d remember. The things I get to do sometimes. Remember when Hope put Patience in that dress? And the braids and the make up? That’s nothing compared to this. Anyway, Durzak and Temerith sold what they could of our loot and bought some supplies. They even heard some rumours about The Draft. Durzak has an item that makes him look different. It’s a strange magic because it even makes him smell different. I’m not happy with it.

Meanwhile, Athelryn and I sat just off the road waiting. That’s when we heard some sort of commotion and went to investigate. A villager had gotten killed just outside of his hut and his wife was hiding inside, terrified. Luckily, the other two had just caught up to us and the four of us went went off to look into this situation. As we were sniffing around, we found the culprit: A Quickling who seemed to have real problems with humans. He had killed the man at the behest of another fey and seemed content to kill every human alive. The little twit kept ranting about the “Human Oppressors” and “Breaking the Evil Human-Centric Hegemony”. We beat him senseless and tied him up in a bag. He had an even smaller fey with him who I caught in my teeth. Luckily, I remember the last time we dined on fey and didn’t swallow! The little fey also got the bag treatment. The woman inside the hut said that she had a son who was half satyr who had left home years ago. I gather he had a tough time fitting in so he left. I figured that if the half satyr had returned, he’d maybe pay a ransom to get his assassin back. Little did we realize just how messed up this little domestic was about to get. Mercy isn’t kidding when she said never deal with the fey.

Anyways, we found the rest of the fey hiding out in an abandoned barn. We approached and had a talk with the mate of the Quickling we had already caught. I have no idea what this group was about: two Quicklings named Faernip and Zzbaba, the Twigjack Tindercrick and Garen, the Fawn. Garen wanted to visit his mother but his friends had misunderstood why he left the situation in the first place so they decided to go and avenge him. When he argued that they didn’t get what he was saying, they tied him up and left him in the barn. Anyways, there wasn’t anything they had to ransom and they got very belligerent. Temerith sneaked into the barn and attack Zzbaba as the rest of us busted the door down. I tried to go through the wall of the barn, thinking that it couldn’t of been that sturdy. It stood for 1400 years or more and it still stands. Colour me impressed. Zzbaba died to Temerith. Durzak and Athelryn killed Faernip who had escaped from the bag. Zzbaba, in a final act of defiance, stabbed the helpless Garen, screaming “We did it all for you!”. Temerith gutted her before she could clarify. When we were done, I tore Faernip in half to keep him from healing. Little jerk was just too crazy to let live, you know. We saved the poor sap and reunited him with his mother. We even released Tindercrick to Garen. We got them to promise to not talk about us to anyone. On threat of a return of The Black Riders, no less. “The Black Riders Have a Way of Finding You”. So ominous Temerith, so ominous.

We’re on the road once more. There is many fey out on the roads, it seems. I guess, with the Winterguard trying to take over the world, no one has been patrolling the borders of Frostfey. Let’s hope they are guarding Whitethrone with this sort of diligence. Soon we arrive at Whitethrone.

I hope you read this and are safe. I’m still really sorry about the whole “Gate Closing” thing.

Valour Get of Heartseeker and Black Rider

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Letters Home to Irrisen, Part 7

Piety:

We are on the road to Whitethrone and have stopped for the night. It’ll be one more night before we get there so I thought I’d update you now, while everyone else is off meditating or praying. It’s official, by the way, Athelryn can cast magic too. She is proud of a magical focus she owns and can use it to do some minor magic things. Her focus is a stick, however, and it looks like something she picked up off the side of the road. She likes it so who am I to judge. I think I, too, might of gotten some sort of magical effect from the Black Rider. I bit someone in half. I’m a little nervous about it but I seriously snapped my fangs into one of the Winter Guard’s spine and, well, tore him in half. I got blood everywhere. I mean everywhere. Walls, floors, myself and other people. The poor little old lady the guard was threatening was drenched in it. Still sorry about the mess I left in Waldsby. Maybe not that sorry.

As we run towards Whitethrone, the witch Nazhena Vasilliovna has sent some more crows to report on what had happened at her tower. At least that is what we are assuming. We figure that once her Apprentice didn’t report back and she found all of her scrying mirrors stacked facing each other, she’d start looking into things. Especially after we closed those portals. The crows tried to attack us as a flock and we killed them. Crows aren’t the greatest snack for the road but they’ll do. Athelryn shot into the cloud of crows and skewered four of them on the same arrow. She’s keeping it as a trophy!

We found a small cabin on the side of the road. The woman inside, Sylgja, was frantic because her husband, Fingarth, was just taken by an ice troll. We were surprised to hear that there was even an ice troll in the area, after The Draft had claimed so many others, so we volunteered to go and look for poor, probably dead, Fingarth. We found him pretty quickly. Turns out Sylgja doesn’t know what an ice troll looks like because we found Fingarth sitting by a cave with some weird mind controlling plant on his head. After a quick discussion we decided that the plant (Mold. Sorry, Temerith just told me it was some sort of mind controlling mold) might be able to effect Durzak but not the rest of us. Our plan was simple, I jump in and pull it off Fingarth’s head, Temerith and Athelryn kill it. Wouldn’t you know it, that damn mold was on his scalp pretty good and I couldn’t just pull it off without breaking Fingarth’s neck or tearing his head clean off. With Temerith’s help, we pried it off and Athelryn was able to put arrows into it before it hit the ground. The cave was full of the same kind of mold so we threw a torch in and burned it out. I hate fire but sometimes it’s useful. We got a grateful Fingarth back to his pretty, but dim, wife and they gave us a magical bear trap. Just in case we need to hunt bears. You never know.

We ran some more and found a patch of unnatural summer in the middle of the road. I have no idea what it was doing there. Maybe someone learned of the Winter Witch’s plan and was countering it with pockets of magical summer? It was random and stupid. Not as stupid as the two worgs we met inside of the pocket. They were chasing an huge elk and didn’t want to share with us. We kicked them and killed the elk. I feel so bad for worgs. They’re trying so hard to be like us but they fail so much. It’s just tragic. When Temerith injured one, it just up and abandoned it’s pack mate that Durzak had almost killed. It actually cried out “You’re on your own” when it turned tail. Durzak healed the poor fool and let him go. Worgs need to stop hanging around goblins. The elk was delicious, though. Had the worgs been nicer, we might of shared. Stupid worgs.

Durzak spent last night explaining to Temerith his religion. It was very hard to follow and, as I pretended not to listen, I tried my best to understand. He follows something called The Lurker at the Threshold or Yog-Sothoth. It is some sort of thing that exists in all places in all times. He claims it’s beyond understanding and that it’s secrets are vast. I don’t understand half of what he said but the half I do understand is keeping me awake at night.

Speaking of nightmares, we are spending the night in an abandoned temple to some goddess named Desna. We found a ghost town from the days of the Linnorm Kings and decided to explore before camping. The only building we found mostly intact was this old temple. As we approached through the front gate and into the courtyard, we were met by two undead priests who admonished us to be quiet, like we were children, then attacked. As I leapt to confront them, I was hit by this force that sounded like terrified and crying children. It was staggering. I was the only one affected, luckily, and we killed the monsters. I am really starting to hate all of the child murder we’re finding. Athelryn called them “Hecuva” and said they are normally created when a follower dies blaspheming their God. Ghost children and undead blasphemers. Lovely. We found something valuable behind a loose stone in the altar so it wasn’t a total lose. Now we just have to sleep in this awful spot. I hope the snow falls so hard here that it buries this place so deep that only the dead and Baba Yaga can find it!

We will be in Whitethrone soon. I feel that we will met some more of the Winter Guard on the road. It’ll be nice to encounter something with real blood. Like the elk. That was nice. I need more of that.

I hope to see you soon and keep safe,

Valour Get of Heartseeker and Black Rider

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