Chapter 3 - New Beginnings
It’s been three months and twelve days.
I have been in Refuge almost a month. It has been good seeing Illaneal, Ruin and Betta again. I have been helping rebuild the walls, and talking with Ruin where I can.
Still has that smug look when I tell him things about hope, and the task I have now… somehow given myself. Bastard. Still, his advice, and friendship, warm my spirits and provide solid ground beneath my feet in a time when I felt all was scree.
Also, I think it does him well to talk to someone that isn’t someone he feels responsible for. Over the time I knew him people say he had become more taciturn, but I seem to bring conversation out of him well enough. Mostly because I make him say things when he’s silent for too long.
Refuge was once a Dwarven town, with a chapel to Vaetta in the centre. I have spent more time there than I expected. Wandering always seems to bring me there, but I find it reassuring.
I have met with the former owner of the Two Crowns, Eren “the lucky” Delmore. He already seems to know more about me than I had hoped to let on, and was more than happy for me to continue working with the Crown Adventuring Group. Given a lot of older members seem to have moved on, he said it would be nice to add a little prestige and “get in on the front page of history” – whatever that meant.
Delmore has somehow established a rudimentary Tavern in the ruins that is looking more and more like a real building every day.
A wealthy Agryian researcher has requested the help of the Two Crowns to investigate a “Blight Scar”. He refers to the Jorg’spatz, the land tainted from the sheer volume of undead (it doesn’t translate well into common – the nuances of the Runic script are often lost). I met several new faces – Betta was there, but also a Valmar Valkyrie, Idonea, who is blessed of Brynne sjr Brenna, and a quiet human mage I did not catch the name of.
We made our way through, past wolves and bandits (We were made to pay a toll. I felt uncomfortable about being extorted but it’s Ruin’s problem now – he needs to clear the area).
When we made it to the Jorg’spatz – just as described, it was re-growing with lush, new life – something not happening to any of the others since the last Shadow war. A glom of enormous size emerged, which we took care of, but when it did, new life immediately began regrowing where the glom came apart and fell.
If I had to guess, the energy of life was trapped within the Glom, and released when it was destroyed. I will send that information through to the Dren’dare and to Yvette. They will be able to pass that along to chapters near those areas for further information.
Perhaps we can help the land to heal.
I’ve spent time at the chapel of Vaetta in the centre of refuge. With Ruin and Ilaniel both being strong advocates for religion, especially Athaya, the settlement has a strong community of faithful.
Most of the people to discuss with me are from Peredur and Calendor, which makes sense. Some were kind enough to provide me with their religious texts of Athaya – unfortunately they were in Elven, so I couldn’t read them. I might have to learn the language, so I can interpret the teachings myself.
Today I have learned a valuable lesson - Argyans think they know far more than they do. They believed they had fixed one of the Shadow Gates – I didn’t even know the Empire was trying to re-establish them. Then again, there is no reason I should. The researchers had connected a lot of strange artifice to the gate.
I hadn’t planned on going to Serpent’s run – it’s pretty far from and Earth which makes my magic difficult. But of course that fool Delmore naturally signed us all up to “test” it.
Fortunately these days I always have Courage whenever I hold the sword. It helps, when my hope doesn’t keep me going in the moment. It make the difference between Hope and Courage more distinct in my heart.
Instead of taking us to the Valmar, the gate took us to an Ilmari facility – Betta, Anzuth, Gwen and I. It seemed like there was a lot of problems there. We managed to find a guide – some kind of artificial manaborn suspended in time named Kel’voss. The Ilmari were holding a dragon egg and a shapeshifter, but we didn’t open them.
We couldn’t understand one another, but he was able to change the channels pf power in the facility to make a ritual that translated his language to ours. It seems Ilmari facilities are like enormous ritual places that channel power into illusions and pictures. This one did not have enough mana to power all the spells, and there were other rituals that sounded when the power was going awry. Kel’voss worked out we needed more power, and that it seemed we had been transported to a different continent – one with dragons.
I broke the door to the outside to provide more power (mana was being used to hold the door shut), revealing a country with many forests and strange animals like giant spiders. It seemed like a hot, humid Dwemwyre.
We needed more power to turn the gate back on, so we made our way to the source of the mana for the facility – a giant crystalline tree. I can only assume this construct pulled power form the ground like a lay-line, but had no way of knowing for sure.
A dragon had made it’s nest in the chamber with the tree – we killed the Dragon (Anzuth took the head, I took a claw, and some Ilmari rock) and restored the flow of mana, enabling us to get through the gate. I was so fed up by that point I slapped the first Agryan researcher I saw. It was wonderfully satisfying. He looked incredibly stunned.
I hope I never have to figure out an Ilmari facility ever again. Figuring out the Athayan teachings and applying them to Vaetta is hard enough.
It’s been five months, almost to the day.
The Shadow Gate experiment was just…. Well. It wasn’t an utter failure but if it can be hijacked by Ilmari facilities on a whim it is obviously not practical. We missed the Serpent’s run, obviously – can’t say I’m especially disappointed. Something about being away from the Earth is unpleasant.
Kelvoss has spent a lot of time with Ilaneal – frankly I think she needed the distraction. I’ve left them to it – he seems frankly distraught at the state of the world and the idea that the Ilmari are not only gone but been absent for so long that nearly all their knowledge is gone.
I understand that shadow magic is starting to permeate the central area of refuge – I am sure this is the action of the gate, but Ruin is concerned this is a part of his transformation – and with good reason. Attuned Elves not only adapt to their attunement but when it is as far gone as he is, it begins to affect the environment as well.
I told him to have hope. I think I managed to genuinely surprise him with that. He said he knew I would get it in the end. I told him to shut up.
I think I note down bits of our conversations because it reminds me of where my hope came from. Ruin helped me when I was at my darkest and most afraid, in a way I am not sure I can ever repay. Once his children are born and when I start looking for the Dwarven sites of Vaetta in earnest, we will have little time to see one another. Our lives lie on different paths now. I cannot keep looking to him for reassurance forever. I will have to trust in myself to have hope – over these last few weeks I have been finding out that is what faith means.
I’ve been doing a lot of reading of Peredun texts regarding Athaya – she is their patron goddess and how her faith ties in with all the others is something they have spent time philosophising on. A lot is recorded in Elven - I’ve picked up bits of the language as a result. It gives an interesting perspective to compare with that of my own people, though the language seems very cold and precise for my tastes. The chapel itself has a few choice phrases carved into stone – “Prosperity is the result of hard work and faith - Hope is the spark from which all faith is borne”. I do not know if I agree with that last part. Faith can give hope, just as much as hope encourages faith.
This made me ask more questions about myself. Do I have the right to interpret the scriptures of Vaetta? No dwarf has done so in an official capacity in over seven centuries, but tiny pockets of worship have always persevered in no official capacity. Is their way of worship more valid than the one I am trying to build?
I think I have a firm basis of how Vaetta is perceived by Elves and Humans. She is viewed with less of certainty, more of luck, or what humans call fortune – I think this is why they confuse “luck” with prosperity through work and determination. They are happy to trust in the actions of chance and have everything emerge as they wish by happy coincidence.
Dwarves are different; we are an enduring, proud race, a people of will. Vaetta is not a divinity of chance for us, but one of prosperity which we gain by overcoming challenges through determination. That Will, that assuredness of self, stems from Hope – the belief we can achieve our goals, when we do not know for certain. We place faith and trust in ourselves. This is Hope. This is something dwarves can understand, and though my people may not recognise it any more, it remains in my people, dormant, deep beneath the Earth. It breeds the children of Hope - inspiration and courage. The realms of Bryn sjr Breinna. Those in turn, inspire others to believe – and perpetuate hope. Two halves of the march of faith.
That is my belief, built on the teachings of other races , the fragments of scripture carved into chapel walls, and the knowledge of my people. Now I need to see how worship of her has survived among my own people. Hopefully the researchers will have found something of merit.
I. HATE. BOATS. THEY ARE THE WORST THING EVER.
Also, it's been five months and nineteen days. I forgot to record this before, but it's been a few weeks since my last nightmare, which I'm hoping is a good sign.
The second attempt of using the Shadow Gate was successful – Whether this is because only I was going through it remains to be seen. But if I hadn’t, perhaps the last few days would have been very different – and more wrought with tragedy. But I have managed to see how people need Hope, and how clinging can make people do desperate things and succeed, just as we did with the Wraiths.
It has also come to my attention that the changes back home have been happening faster than I expected, and that my role in recent events has made me far more renowned than I thought. But more importantly, the church of Vaetta is young, and drawing from the ranks of the young. There are budding priests emerging, and they need guidance. They are trying to press Hope over other domains, which is not the way. Their hearts are ruling their minds. This is a duty I may have been neglecting, and though I am probably younger than some, what I have seen makes my mind old. I get ahead of myself.
So, the shadow Gate worked, and I was sent to Svalbad in the Valmar lands to see the Serpent’s Run on time. It was a festival truly worthy of Brenna, and there were peoples from all over Anvar celebrating and fighting. The city, the celebration and the peoples all showed me why the Valmar have long been the most steadfast of the Dwarven allies, and I felt quite at home despite the cold. I met up with Idonea and Wulfric, who had been there for some time – they showed me one of their kills, and we began to prepare to do the run ourselves.
This news shocked me somewhat. I hadn’t expected to actually partake in the damned thing – but apparently this is one of those… “hero” things.
We saw trails of priests – including a Dwarven one dedicated to Vaetta. I was both amazed, and pleased, that the faith had taken so quickly. However, the young priestess, Ashalla, was trying to assert Hope in the place of legal counsel with a Priest of Vengrim! She was keen, that is certain, but I had to explain that blind Hope cannot rule the realms of other gods. It was from this time that I had my previous musings on duties of guidance to the emerging faithful. I think they will listen to me. I just have to Hope that I am doing the right thing by her – and I know enough by faith that she will send me a sign if I am right. We had to choose a champion to decide our place on the Serpent’s run – I volunteered, mostly because it was expected, but also neither Idonea nor Wulfric felt it was their time. I met the other champions, - an Elven marshal of the King of Calendor, War Leader Kessek – a huge Orc leader, a real asshole, kept calling me scared and white (I mean I was but she didn’t have to keep saying it) – and her Majesty Verundain. That was a shock. We actually had time to talk, and she filled my in on the changes happening back home. Apparently there are many statues of me now. I… do not know what to make of this, but I am reminded of Brenna’s words. “When you do not have courage yourself, have the will to inspire it in others.” I am thinking more and more that this could be what I am needed to do, and I do not need Courage to do so… only Hope.
The Champions fought. Idonea bestowed a blessing of Brenna upon me and I called upon many Magics. I stood my ground with Kessel – I am proud of that – and managed to even take him out of the fight. Showed her. Bitch.
I finally stood against her Majesty. She had told me what I did in the ring would not be held against me, and for my worth, I did as she bade and raised Kordaz against her, but I could not stand against a mage of her profound skill. Still. Second place to the Empress is nothing to be shameful about.
We took out place on the Run, and here I learned a fundamental truth – I hate boats, and sailing. They make me violently ill. Only the threat of death by Serpent and the feel of the Blade in my hand kept fear from my heart. Idonea leapt onto the back of the mighty beast, hacking and slashing like the Valkaries of yore. Eventually we felled the giant beast, and edged back to the shore. The master of the Hunt felt sure we had the largest beast – a great honour. Almost worth throwing up everything I'd eaten in the last day for.
And then the city was attacked.
People with the traits of the sea wielding magics of ice and wind, taming mighty beasts of the sea I later learned to be Dire Seals of tremendous size. Their witches were powerful and their skills remind me I may have neglected my combat magics for too long.
We fought our way back to the Jarl’s hall, where we found him besieged but alive. Heavily wounded in the fight with the witches I felt this was my time for sure. Making a war cry to Vaetta I charged – and we yet lived. Tharak Serpentbane is a goliath of a human, and was not downed. He revealed they had come for his wife, and that she had come from these people herself. We had to save her.
We pursued the beings to the edge of the sea. The Lady and her babe did not wish to go with them, that was certain. They claimed they needed her to “fix their home” and that she had “unique abilities”. They claimed they would all die out without her.
It was so strange, but in this time I saw what she represented to them – Hope. They had come for her because, if true, this was their one way of saving themselves, their source of hope. They had tried to avoid killing anyone as best they could, until the defenders fought back so hard it became necessary. To fix their home gave me an idea – I showed them the Ilmari Rock I had and asked if this was what their home was made of, and sure enough it matched some of the very tools their shaman possessed. I made them an offer – if we could bring someone that might also be able to fix their home – Kel’voss – perhaps he could teach them how to restore those things they needed.
They tentatively agreed to give us one week to find this help and return, giving me some kind of Ilmari artifice to pass to Kel’voss. They claimed if he understood that message he would be able to help them. The lady was able to stay, for now. I found a way of peace, that gave all a measure of Hope. I didn’t know what I was doing, but it felt right – and the previous actions have all fallen into place for greater prosperity.
Now I have come back to Refuge to discuss this with Ilaniel, Ruin, and Kel’voss. I have written this record, and prayed at the chapel. Soon I will have to go back to Svalbad. This time I feel that I am quite literally bringing Hope with me. I have staked my life, and the lives of others, on Kelvoss’ skills. I know he can do it. He has to.
Chasing Serpents across the fjords is not my idea of a good time, but I think it put me right where I was needed, both for Vaetta, her followers, and for both the Valmar and these Seafolk. Many circumstances of recent weeks all coming together in much to fortuitous an order to be coincidence. Meeting Wulfric and Idonea, the accident taking me to the Ilmari facility, finding Kel’voss… For first time I feel Vaetta’s guiding hand on my shoulder, and it is reassuring.
If this is faith, then it is a good feeling.
Five months, twenty-one days. I had my first nightmare not about the Dread Wraith – honestly it was a stunning change of pace. Kessel gloating over the top of me before turning into a huge sea serpent and swallowing me whole. Urgh.
I beat her! Typical that she tries to get her own back in my dreams.
My tractatus on Hope grows ever longer. I thought I had nearly finished before I left for Valmar lands, but then I wrote several more pages in the last few days. Seeing the new Vaettan Priests made me realise they are full of Hope and enthusiasm, but they need guidance.
I have tried to put my thoughts into words, knowing that they will be read by others. Sections of this diary I rewrote, transcribed. Removed my personal ramblings that did not offer useful insight. Some words and phrasings I borrowed from the Peredun texts on Athaya and changed so they did not sound so ornate, but they conveyed the essence of the message I wished to relay. They may be critiqued and argued. Strangely, I do not care. Once I began to write, the words flowed freely as I put the truth as I see it to paper.
In part I know that the the result of these diaries, practicing things I feel to be true. If this is Vaetta's thoughts, as I hope they are, then perhaps this will encourage the emerging faithful that they are not alone. I feel it is more important than ever I complete it and send it to the Empire, so I will sent the first part, and refine the new ideas into a second work.
I may have to make a proper return to the Empire to meet with them, and to see what their thoughts are. I have my own, but Vaetta does not belong to me any more than any mortal. Kelvoss is sceptical of my plan for the sea people. He? They? It? cannot assure me that he will be able to restore that facility as we did. He was, however, able to access the device the sea-shaman gave me, which is hopeful.
We have two more days before we return to Svalbad. I have to be ready for then. I have been trying to continue of my learnings of ritual since Ilmari facilities seem to work along similar principles of harnessing mana and directing along a direction. I have a few more techniques under my belt, including the ritual of contact, which can always be useful. My effort at strengthening my magics are starting to work, but I doubt I will be ready for the journey.