Journal Entry Elx
15 Wynmoan 57323
After days of trudging through the freezing mountain passes, the settlement of Rydalka was a welcome sight. We had been making our way down, out of the mountains hoping for some release from the blistering winds and biting cold. Blern’s attack had left us with little in the way of supplies and Bran and Ankoma could do little with the meager materials that the environment supplied with our large group.
We had two injured people with us at first, but they did not survive past the first three days of travel. We lost Mirjam after the first night and Ziven two days later. To be honest it was in some ways a blessing when they passed. While we were caring for them our travel speed was hindered and we were constantly worried that Blern’s forces would reengage us at any moment. Once they both passed we were able to increase our travel speed considerably. It was disappointing that they were not able to recover, but with the lack of medical supplies and the hostile environment fortune was not with them.
Once we reached the village and its scattered farmhouses we felt a small measure of comfort and safety. The people of Rydalka are both warm and wary of us. We come from “The Great One,” as they called it, the tallest mountain peak in this range which they considered an omen–whether good or bad they have yet to determine. For now they are treating us as welcome guests. Well, all except for Ankoma. They aren’t completely comfortable with him, even given Bran’s assurances. While he is with us they seem to warily accept his presence, but at night and whenever the people are gathering they have insisted that he be chained in the basement of their central lodge.
We have been with the people of Rydalka for just over a sennight now and they have been affable hosts. Bran and Ankoma have gone hunting with a few of the villagers and they have accepted Bran easily enough. Sayberion went with them yesterday and though he does not have the training that the others have, he has a natural aptitude that stood him well in the hunt.
We had been curious about their religious customs and so Nyssa and I spoke to their wise woman, Trella while the men were hunting. She explained that they paid homage to many gods as the need arose but that they felt that more accurately all things have a spirit or soul, not just sentient beings. These spirits persist even after death or destruction and one must take care to honor ones fellow creation lest they take revenge on you in death. There are certain rituals and taboos therefore that they practice to avoid angering the spirits of the mountain, the animals that they hunt, and so on to maintain their way of life and avoid extinction as has been visited upon some of their neighboring villages.
Two stories that I thought particularly interesting were the story of how Raven created the Ettins and the story of the Two Sisters. Soon thereafter the hunting party came back with a large buck and they gathered the village for a feast that evening.
The people here are constantly busy. The women who are not preparing the feast are either sorting and mixing eider feather and chopping straw to add to it or repairing fishing tackle and harness. The house-mistress, Thora, supervises the children who are busy plaiting wicks for candles and lamps. The hall is warm from the fire in the great hearth and many small braziers spread throughout the lodge and torches that light the areas where people are working.
Only the very youngest of the children are allowed any freedom from work such as the one they call little Rol who is often playing with the many dogs who the hunters use to help them in their tasks. One hound in particular, Tyr, is particularly picked upon by the child in a loving way.
As the feast was starting we noticed that one of the hunters, Christian, was missing. He had left earlier in the day to scout ahead of a bear hunt reminding the neighbors within the range of several leagues of the hunt scheduled for tomorrow morning. Christian’s mother, Thora, and his brother, Swayne, were not concerned by his absence and assured us that we should not worry about his lateness. Apparently, Christian and Swayne were the catch of the village in terms of eligible young men. They were handsome, strong, fast, and proud.
About half-an-hour into the feast we all heard a noise outside the door that caused everyone to pause their feasting and stop talking. Swayne suggests, “It is Christian see, he was just late.” At which point the there was a moment of silence and then an especially loud gust of wind. Then we all hear the sound of a child’s hand knocking softly at the door and hear a child’s voice, “Open, open; let me in!” And the latch rattles as though a tiptoe child has reached up to it.
Bran rushed to the door and pulled it open and looked out and seeing nothing there called out, “No one is here.” Then the dog, Tyr, lifted his head and gave a howl that was loud, prolonged and utterly dismal.
Slightly unnerved, we attributed it to the wind and overactive imaginations and went back to dinner. The boy, Rol, injured himself a while later and got a scolding. And then again we heard the child’s voice outside, “Open, open; let me in!” The wind might have caused the latch to rattle and the wood to creak, but what we heard here was not the wind and not our imaginations. Again the tapping at the door and the voice, “Open, open; let me in!” The dog flings up his head and offers a long, doleful howl. Before the echo of the sound can fully die away, Swayne springs across to the door and flings it wide, “Impossible, there is no one, again no one!” he says in an unsteady voice, his eyes staring startled and wild as he calls out.
Bran and Sayberion step outside with Swayne to investigate and see only a lonely expanse of snow, the clouds have sagged low, and between the two a line of dark fir-trees still bow in the wind; but, there is no sign of movement in the lay of the snow, absolutely nothing. The blanched faces of the villagers stare back at us hoping that we might have some answers to the enigma of the night.
Many of the younger girls moved over to Trella as she waved her hands over them, perhaps giving them some sort of blessing or a magical warding. The people are murmuring as we finally hear a man’s tread on the porch. “Christian!” yell Swayne and Thora simultaneously. Swayne moves to open the door as Tyr lets lose his appalling howl again and we hear a man’s voice and heavy pounding on the door, “Open, open; let me in!” The door shakes and rattles as if by a man’s strength beating against it. Swayne flings open the door to face an empty blank porch and beyond, only snow and sky, the firs still aslant in the wind.
Swayne reaches back inside for a great bearskin cloak. Thora calls after him, “Swayne, where are you going?”
“No farther than the porch, mother,” as he steps back toward the still open door.
Bran, Sayberion, and Ankoma grab their cloaks and join the warrior in his vigil. They nearly freeze while waiting for over an hour when a traveler approaches. The four men enter the hall followed by a woman. No wraith, a living-beautiful-young woman. As she approaches people starting talking but it is hard to hear as Tyr starts barking and gets lose from one of the men holding him. The dog rushes the woman but she lithely recoils from the dog’s sharp fangs while at the same time from the folds of her long fur robe she snatches a small two-edged axe from her girdle, and whirls it up with practiced ease in preparation of a blow of defense.
Just then Swayne catches the dog by the collar, and drags him off yelping and struggling against Swayne’s powerful grip.
The strange woman stood in the doorway motionless; one foot set forward, her hand with the axe still flung up high, until the house-mistress hurried over to her. Across the room, Swayne relinquished control of the furious Tyr to others and turned his attention back towards the girl quickly offering his apology for the fierce greeting the woman had received. Calmed she lowered her arm and slung her axe in its place at her waist and she began to loosen the furs about her face and shrugging her shoulders freed them of her long white robe–all with the sway of one movement.
She was a maiden, tall and very fair. The fashion of her dress was strange and very different than that of the villagers, half masculine, yet not unwomanly. A fine fur tunic reaching but little below the knee is all the skirt she wore below which she wore the cross-bound shoes and leggings of a hunter, and until now, a white fur cap had been set low upon her brow, and from its edge strips of fur fell lappet-wise about her shoulders; two of which a the moment of her entrance had been drawn forward and crossed about her throat, but now, loosened and thrust back, reveling long plaits of fair hair that lay forward on shoulder and breast, down to the ivory-studded girdle where her axe yet gleamed.
Swayne and his mother led the stranger to the hearth without question or sign of curiosity.
We gave her a moment to warm herself and than asked her what her name was, “My real name,” she say, “would be uncouth to your ears and tongue. The folk of this country have given me another name, and from this,” she lay her hand on her fur robe, “they call me ‘White Fell.'”
“How did you get here?”
“I have traveled very far, perhaps a hundred leagues…maybe more.”
Swayne asks, “Alone?!”
With a wry smile she answers, “Yes.”
“Over the hills and wastes! Why, the folk there are savage and wild as beasts,” insists Swayne.
She put her hand upon her axe and laughed, “I fear neither man nor beast; some few fear me.”
Suddenly, she bend over and scooped up Rol who had managed to sneak over to her and had begun to pet her robe. He was repeating it to himself as he stroked and patted her robe. “White Fell, White Fell.” He continued to stroke and pat her robe after she picked him up; just as surprisingly he hugged her tightly and as White Fell seats herself on the hearth, Rol settles into her lap.
Thora let go a little gasp as Rol’s audacity.
“Rol!” exclaimed his aunt; but, “Oh, let him,” suggest White Fell, smiling and stroking the boy’s head.
Perhaps half-an-hour later Christian finally arrived and the room was filled with bustle and movement. When he arrives he says that he was hunting a great wolf whose tracks let to the very door of this place.
An argument between the brothers led to some bad feelings and we decided to watch White Fell that night as Christian had concerns about her not being who she said she was. He claimed that she was a werewolf but Swayne assured us that it was impossible and a test was determined that if she changed form at midnight then we would know so we determined to look upon her at that hour.
The villagers all went to their lodgings and we settled down for a brief rest. White Fell was lodged in a nearby hut. We waited until midnight, keeping a watch on the hut. However, when we went to look she was not there.
In the morning there was surprise and conjecture about her absence, but we and Christian lacking any real evidence held our peace. Swayne and the others left to join the bear hunt along with Bran, Ankoma, and Sayberion. Christian said he was ill and stayed behind with Nyssa and myself.
The next few days saw Christian staying close to the settlement and Swayne being irritated by this. The villagers talked occasionally of the missing girl and Rol would frequently ask about her and the kisses that she gave him. One evening he disappeared and the villagers could not find him even after an exhausting search well into the evening. The next morning however, there was a whining and scratching of Rol’s put at the door and along with the puppy, little Rol’s head lay severed at the foot of the totem in the center of the village.
Christian saw the severed head and cried out, “A wolf did this!”
Sayberion picked up the head to examine it in more detail and suddenly it started to speak:
…And so, the Unspeakable, flung open all graves of the world, and unleashed his horrendous fury, wherein evil rules!
Now thou must return humanity to the past, but wolves reign below the starless skies,
In the service of the Yellow King!
All you now in this condemned world must vie,
Run on the morrow lest you shall all die;
I’ll watch, and yes guide you, for the hour’s drawn near
For the fall of the Unnamed; a new King has appeared;
Examine yourselves in this time of repent,
That you may not falter in the places you’re sent.
And when High Leng’s final bell on the last morning tolls
Pray that the Gray Lord does not take all your souls.
At the same time all the children of the settlement drew back together silently collecting as a mass; their faces placid, unmoved. Among the villagers, their faces along remained free of tears and absent of any response. As one the children speak:
“Rol is with the LORD of the WOOD.”
Curious I reached out to speak to one of the children telepathically and thought to probe the child’s thoughts. But, as soon as I touched that thing I was stunned and found myself lying on the ground with the only thing that I recall from the contact being, “Iä! Iä Shub-Niggarauth!” Whatever that means. From that point on however, the children are not themselves. They stop speaking amongst themselves, using their voices only infrequently to address the adults and older teens who are not a party to their strange behavior. They have ceased their play, taking to chores without request and combining their efforts whenever possible so much so that their actions rapidly become distressingly peculiar.
A few days later, White Fell returns to the settlement, as though assured of a glad and kindly welcome; and, in truth most do. However, Christian, whose face grows pale and as rigid as death blurts out, “What did you do to Rol?”
Not a quiver disturbs White Fell’s face though surely she had heard, she remains bright and tranquil as the young children of the village surround her and begin chanting :White Fell, White Fell, White Fell” but without any menace or strangeness at all, seeming for the moment as if her appearance had cured them of whatever was ailing them.
Swayne glared at Christian daring him to speak no more and Christian walked off refusing to hear White Fell’s story. We followed him as he headed to the Devil’s Home, the dwelling place of T’yog, a high priest of Leng. He was a strange man, living there with his sister, who was ill at the time. We passed by an area known as the Garden of Death and the Lake of Tears to get to the temple.
The ancient structure hung, dark upon the bare rock perched as a great beast. At first we could see no egress to the keep past the Lake of Tears that we had been warned about, but Christian approached a metal post upon which rested a great horn and blowing it sounded a loud, clear blast. Our course became clear as the lake itself began to drain away revealing a stair and path enabling us to move along a narrow pass into the garden and thence to the keep. There, T’yog gave us the holy water that we were seeking and told us that we would be seeing him again soon. Slightly unnerved, we quickly left that odd place to hurry back to the village.
When we arrived back at the village White Fell was entertaining the villagers with her beauty and wiles. Swayne was especially enamored. Most of our group went around to enter the building proper, however I looked in through the window and touched White Fell’s mind with my own. White Fell is singing and Trella seems to be particularly fascinated by the song she is singing:
“Oh, let me go!
Around spun wreaths of snow;
While earth sleeps below.
“Far up the plain
Moans on the voice of pain:
‘Where shall my babe be lain?’
“In my white breast
Lay the sweet life to rest!
Lay, where it can lie best!
“‘Hush, hush its cries!
Dense night is on the skies:
Two stars are in thine eyes.’
“Come, babe, away!
But lay thou till dawn be grey,
Who must be dead by day.
“This cannot last;
But, ere the sickening blast,
Till sorrow shall be past;
“And kings shall be
Low bending at thy knee;
Worshipping life of thee.
“For men long sore,
Due hope for what’s before;
Forgetting things of yore.
“Mine, and not thine,
How deep their jewels shine!
Peace laps thy head, not mine.”
As she finished, Trella says, “So she sang, my sister, my last and brightest. What is she like, she whose voice is like my dead sister’s? Are her eyes blue?”
I probe deeper into White Fell’s mind then to see what she is and search for information on Rol while her mind is distracted with Trella. I quickly sift through her memories, does she know anything of Rol’s disappearance?
“Blue as the sky,” answers White Fell. And then she stands up abruptly and looks out the window at me and sneers as I pull an image and full memory from her. She not only knows something but she was responsible! “He was delicious!” is the overriding thought that comes with the memory as I fragments of memory come with the thought–blood, fangs, bone–it is gruesome. I yell to my companions telepathically, “White Fell is Rol’s murderer! She feasted on him with the joy of a predator savoring a favorite meal! I just saw it in her memories!”
Things quickly became chaotic at that point. Swayne and the other villagers couldn’t understand why White Fell was leaving so quickly. We all moved as quickly as we could to stop her. She ran as quickly as she could to get out of the building–she was amazingly quick. In our haste, we were tripping over ourselves and so the woman-creature escaped for the moment.
Briefly Swayne and Christian argue about the woman and whether she is a true threat or if it is just jealousy but then Christian storms off in search of the beast. We join him and as we head towards the forest Christian points and says, “There, something moves against the sky along the ridge behind the homestead. Can you see it? It is White Fell.” And without another word Christian is gone. He takes off in a straight dash. We are quick to follow, but after a brief foray into the forest we are ambushed.
The sound falls away from us as we come to a place where the trees press in tight upon the path, causing us to lose sight of the trail then looking for a way through we caught a glimpse, a flash of reflective eyes hidden indistinctly amongst white dusted firs, the stealthy eyes of a large predator, camouflaged in the wood, its form indistinct, the sight of it filled us with trepidation.
Christian had passed by before it was roused from its ambush, but the rest of us were not so lucky and the creature was most difficult to pin down and attack. Every time we tried to strike it we found that it wasn’t quite where we expected it to be. A blow would either miss completely or be a glancing blow at best. While the creatures teeth and barbs from its tentacles ripped into us with excruciating pain. Eventually, we realized that if we could land a solid blow on it, then the creature lost its concentration on its ability to distort its location and then we were more successful in striking it. Once we determined that, I pulled out my bolter and taking careful aim blew its head clean off.
We continue to travel through the forest, now however instead of Christian leading us we are having to follow his tracks and so our going is slightly slower. Eventually, we catch up to him. We are unable to assist him immediately however as we are initially beset by a pack of wolves. They come from above us, where a fringe of trees hangs round a slope. There we see something dark moving, and we hear a yelp, followed by a full horrid cry, and the dark spread out upon the snow, a pack of pale wolves in pursuit. The three wolves leap first upon Bran and Ankoma while another circles towards Sayberion and Nyssa eyeing them to determine which is the easier prey. I had held myself towards the rear of the party and was safe initially. The wolves ripped into our warriors and Ankoma in particular fared the worst, but in the end we survived their attack.
We then descended the path, sliding down the cliff face instead of the slower safer route as we heard the sound of a man screaming in pain and the snarls of a great wolf. As we got closer we saw a piteous sight. Both of Christian’s arms were already maimed and the huge white wolf was tearing and dragging his maimed left hand through a hastily constructed blockade to give itself cover. In seconds the creature would have surely ripped off Christian’s arm.
As he is being torn apart we can hear Christian wimpering and then calling out, “Swayne, Swayine, O Swayne!”
The leaning, leaping Wolf-thing looks back at the fallen Christian with a wild, fierce look half howling and half laughing in savage scorn and triumph. We launch a series of attacks at her with varying degrees of success, however, Nyssa throws a vial of holy water that strikes the creature dead center and splashes the creatures head. Briefly we see the wolf transform back into the once beautiful woman and then the form reverts to the white wolf and we watch as the blessed water drips from the creature’s snout and eyes we see smoke start to rise as it starts to crumble to the ground, the life leaving its body like a marionette with its strings cut.
We go to see if Christian can be saved but it is too late.
In the early grey of day Swayne appears, wrung out with no glimmer of hope, an engine driven on despair alone, in agony while reaching the end, however terrible, sick with the aching of the toiled path that had until now deferred it.
Daylight grows, in coming begins to blot out the uncertain stars lingering in the sky. He sees the two bodies lying close in the narrow space of the trail. Christian’s first, but the other not far beyond, White Fell’s only now a great white wolf.
At the sight Swayne’s strength fails; body and soul he is struck down to groveling, having dropped prone. Very feebly he crawls to his dead brother, and lays his hands upon him, and crouched so, he seems afraid to look or stir farther.
Cold, stiff, hours dead, yet Christian’s dead body is Swayne’s only shelter in this most dreadful moment. We can only watch as Swayne’s soul is stripped bare of any comfort, cowered, shivering, naked, and abject; Swayne clings to his dead brother out of piteous need for grace from the soul that has passed.
When finally he rises to his knees, he lifts Christian’s frozen body, the frost having made him rigid: strange, ghastly, unyielding to Swayne’s lifting, so that he has to lay him down again and he crouches with his arms fast round Christian as he lets go a low heart-wrung groan.
Cold, silence, darkness encompasses the strong man bowed with his dolorous burden; and surely he had entered hell, even though Christian had saved him, it is by Swayne’s own choices he has been undone.
We returned to the village all to recover from the unfortunate event.