September 19th, 2018

dungeons & discourse // no. 6, frost haven.

Note: This is the tentative conclusion to Osiria’s story as this particular campaign has disbanded irl — I will soon be posting from a different POV because we’ve started something new. // Part of a series: (no. 1, saltwater // no. 2, avian // no. 3, reunion // no. 4, poison heart // no. 5, the greenwylde)

It was cold. A soul-biting frigidity that settled inside her bones as soon as she stood on the deck of the Kraken’s Tooth. They’d arrived in Frost Haven — the bluish tinge of the barren landscape was unmistakable, leftover magic from an elder race that could no longer be identified. Their final destination, achieved at last. “It’s a hive-city,” the captain had told her, “filled with outsiders and devoid of regulations.” People could worship their gods freely and without censor, merchants traded black market goods openly and without laws. To his credit, the captain had tried to warn her off her plans, but Osiria had already made up her mind — she was going to stay in Frost Haven.

Still, it seemed unbelievable that only a few days prior she had disembarked in a different place, for a distinctly different purpose.

Osiria’s mind traveled back to the Starstone Cliffs, shimmering and sparkling like so many uncut gemstones, where she crouched in a skiff in the company of a goblin, a half-elf, a human, and a mountain dwarf, intending to seek the healing power of the Moon Sisters. The ship’s crew was wounded; they’d never make it to Frost Haven without help.

Naturally, nothing they sought was easily gained.

A hard battle, made significantly harder by Duma’s insistence on lighting everything on fire and the fact that the cave was underwater, left them in possession of several cave spider eggs, the goblin’s debt to the Moon Sisters — it also left them in possession of a lingering cough.

The plan had been in and out, a simple heist, but Heph’s armor had drawn the attention of a brooding female arachnid. An errant arrow, shot in haste, arced carelessly into the mother’s nest. The screams of the remaining egg sacks, wrapped in highly flammable webbing and burning helplessly, still lingered in the periphery of Osiria’s memory and haunted her meditations. The fire had forced her to retreat and now more innocent deaths weighed on her conscience.

It was at that moment when Osiria recognized her urgent need to disentangle herself from her current traveling group. She emerged from the ocean, shivering and bitter, with hardened resolve — her decision was made.

Back in the goblin-controlled province of Basket Town, a dwelling of woven shelters and rigging, dipping lazily from trees over the sharp, craggy face of the Starstone Cliffs, the group proffered the hard-won eggs and gained access to the Moon Sister’s. Although it was not the typical woodland landscape that lent her soul succor, Osiria felt safe there. Her hawks bonded with the great albatrosses that hunted and guarded the Moon Sister’s cavern. While she waited for a bargain to be struck, she watched the man-sized birds dip and dive into the breaking waves.

“Arcane birds,” Archimedes complained to her later, “they’re always a little haughty.”

“But the hunting is good,” Artemis added, her eyes closed in silent appreciation.

Days passed without an answer from the sisters. They were coached in patience by their goblin friend. Osiria foraged at night with the local goblin-folk. She hunted moon moss, a seaweed-like plant whose neon blue iridescence caused the moss to shimmer under the moonlight with false stars. She listened, learned goblin plantlore, and, by the end of the week, she had filled a canvas sack with a healthy haul of moon moss and cloudberries. Fermented cloudberries could make an excellent wine, just a few were strong enough to flavor an entire bottle.

In the end, the Moon Sisters asked too much of them.

“Defeat our foe, free our magic, and we will heal your wounded!” They spoke their command in unison, three voices as one, their milk white eyes blankly searching, but truly seeing nothing.

Osiria knew four adventurers could not defeat a Twilight Queen of the fae realm and her charmed forest grove. However, they could not say no.

It took a half day to travel to the woodland grove where the queen held sway. Unsurprisingly, the Twilight Queen showed herself a temptress, a charmer — a typical fae. She attempted to seduce them, to drown them in her pool of magic, to return with them to the fae realm.

“Burn the forest!” Heph had commanded, his militaristic voice raised.

Duma obediently nocked a fire arrow. Roondar crouched into an attack stance.

Osiria, unwilling to participate in the decimation of an entire woodland, loosed the newly discovered Greenwylde from her fingertips. “Save us,” she whispered as the wavering, crossing lines of green tendrils took shape into tangible vines. Without consulting her companions, she used her control of the vines to grapple and pull down the knotted branches of the canopy, exposing the queen and her minions to midday sun.

Roondar, in a burst of barbarism, savagely grappled the fae queen into the sunlight. Her arms smoked and ashed, her shrieks echoed through the forest — but the charm dropped. The forest freed them. They left her screaming by her dwindling pool of magic, Osiria’s scheme buying them only enough time to escape relatively unscathed.

“You would burn an entire forest to save yourself?” Osiria murmured, as they ran. There had been a small chance the fire would break the charm, but a much larger chance that the Twilight Queen would have simply retreated and let the mortal world burn in her place.

In the end, free from the charm of Twilight, the Moon Sisters held up their side of the bargain. Their magic renewed, they gladly healed those wounded on the Kraken’s Tooth and bade the sea-travelers welcome, should they need a port of call to shelter them once more.

Afterwards, Osiria took to her her stateroom. She left only to exercise her hawks and take light repasts at odd hours. No one took note of her absence. The merchants were glad to finally be within reach of Frost Haven and its marketplace. The soldiers and sailors were simply glad to be back at their normal posts, no more supernatural oddities to contend with. Osiria quietly studied, she made tinctures, she played music, she let the hawks roost in the corner of her room, which pleased them far more than the frigid belowdecks bestiary.

And now, she was here, breathing the freezing air, looking out at the vast expanse of unending blue ice. Somehow, the cold was familiar, comforting, rather than off putting. She knew most of the structures were underground and small fires dotted the horizon, confirming her assumptions.  In the distance other, larger structures populated the neighboring islands like so many habitable icebergs. People milled about near the ship, offloading goods, animals, crates. Someone nodded politely in her direction, his hair was white like her own and pulled back in an austere top knot. She returned the nod, gamely, and set her furred boots into the Southern ice for the first time.

The elf ranger disembarks alone, her head covered, her flowing, green cowl a noticeable contrast to the snowscape. She is accompanied by two crimson hawks and, drawn behind her, a furry Glaciatic pony. Her saddlebags are packed full of maps, tomes, tinctures, and the remnants of an herbalist’s forage. She carries with her an elven longbow and a lute. Most importantly though, she is smiling.