The blizzard had set in. Camped in the hollow of a once enormous fir tree’s trunk the party had good warmth.

“Seal meat, again,” Felghanis moaned.

“I can barely eat it any more,” Kalista agreed in sentiment.

“At least we know where the third book is.”

“It could be in two places. What might be Stonecrest and almost certainly Vrim.”

“After you rest maybe you can use the spell-structure in the book to locate the first volume?” Fel asked.

The Felk Bay people speculated about the book, the ritual and the Church’s involvement. Fenris’ name came up again and Felghanis vented his frustration.

“He killed members of the Church, but not us, why? If only he would talk to us.”

It was a moot point but they dwelled on it for some time.

“Perhaps the tear of the Elder’s could break the competed ritual?” Don’ suggested.

Felghanis set aside his notes and referred to the book, “No. Once complete it’s like any other ritual and has to be dispelled or otherwise negated. That might be difficult considering the tier of magic involved.”

Kalista nodded. It was in concordance with the laws of the arcane that she understood.

“Here, read this,” Felghanis said handing out a page of notes to Kalista.

They call him Codger and he likes it! How I’d rail against such impertinence. Such disrespect. My brother was ever the one to smile and bear fools. I shall not. How the visions grow but so does my plan. An army, a horde, a sweeping ocean of the raised dead will be lifted back to the mundus. Why must my brother be so close? It matters little, if at all, he could never discern anything through my scrying-guards and other obfuscations. I long to say he is a fool but the evidence is contrary. He is cunning, if somewhat deluded, animist.

Kalista’s mouth opened, “Your Uncle is Codger’s brother?” She was incredulous.

“He might have been keeping an eye on my Uncle, even scrying him to see what he was doing. Maybe trying to prevent him from finding the Bell of Thullemon.”

Don’ was no so sure, “The Codger was kind and a bit doddering. He didn’t seem on the same level as your Uncle.”

“I don’t know about that,” Kalista said. “Although it was your Uncle, Fel, that realised I had talent for magic. It was Codger who trained me in the ways of the Wizard-Animist. I still remember my mother baking a pie and sending me over to deliver it to him. That was the first day I started studying. It was a few months later that he sent me into the hills to find some quartz with Don. That was when I missed the chance to go with Felghanis to Vensing to study at the college.”

Fel rubbed his chin, deep in thought, “That just supports my idea.” His voice was soft.

The conversation drifted and the eventually slept, or took their watch. The next morning Kalista prepared her casting. The energies were quite great, at the top of her spell tiers, and she delivered them into the spell-structure of the book.

She sensed the book. It was east, and a bit north, in a massive stone building. Like two towers on either side of a domed cylinder. It had to be the Vatican of St. Fergus. Glowing light pulsed and reached for her as her focus began to narrow on the book. A presence pressed her soul and it felt like an archangel.

“You are not welcome here,” the archangel said.

The light’s intensity grew and it became like a solid wall against her reaching sense then threw her back.

Felghanis, Don’, Aenir, Kellor and Herath saw a dim glow about the girl flare then fade away as she gasped. It was barely two heartbeats from when she touched the book to the light being gone.

“What happened?”

“It sensed me… I felt so dirty, so unworthy.” She went quiet, solemn, and stared at her feet.

Don’ touched her on the shoulder. “Almost certainly part of its magic.”

They broke camp and traipsed through heavy snow back on to the beach. It turned from rocky, to smooth, to icy, and then rocky again. Days passed and Felghanis mused that they were lucky for the trees or they’d all be snow-blind by now.

Fionnghal whined and kept sniffing the air behind them. Don’ sensed the dog’s concern they were being tracked. Whatever it was could not keep up with them and he did not worry the others with this news. Another day passed and it was clear that the creature tracking them had fallen too far behind for Fionnghal to scent.

It was late on the 7th day that they saw distant lines of chimney smoke. As the sun set small yellow lights, the windows of buildings, lit up their destination.

“That must be Vrim!”

“Aye, and I bet they have beer!” Kellor added.

The all picked up their pace and pushed their speed to double-time march. It was tiring but worth it as the opened the door into the warm interior of the Whaler’s Retreat. The inn was recently thatched with heather and the well-made furniture was worn to glossy wood.

Arthur the inn-keeper greeted them and they arranged a trade. All the seal meat for rooms, meals and as much as they could drink from below the top shelf.

Other patrons sat about, talking and eating. A tall woman with bright copper hair approached Kalista and they talked for a while. She was Daldra Urrdon, a Corsiff mercenary, and stood an impressive six-feet and eight inches tall. Daldra recommended Kalista talk to Colle, a dwarf, who was searching for something called Bilof’s Stronghold.

Felghanis settled into the nook by the fire and read one of the Canon of St. Fergus books that they had claimed at the Iron Tower. He couldn’t reconcile why he hadn’t started weeks ago. Still, it was comfortable and warm here and easy enough to concentrate. Local hunters bemoaned the sighting of a tentacle beast with a huge maw of fangs. Sounded like an otyugh to Fel. He just listened in for a while and heard that they were finding it hard to feed themselves so many were travelling further into the marches to the south to hunt for meat.

People began retiring and soon the only people left in the common room were Fel and Arthur, who kept yawning.

“Seems there’s a lot going on around here. Lots of weird things. What’s the strangest you’ve heard?” Fel asked Arthur.

“Well, there’s a person who was staying here but moved to another inn who thinks there’s a vampire in the mountains. Can’t say I believe’em though. Why’d a vampire come here? There’s hardly anyone left after the Kulvuss and Livruss fleets attacked before the ice set in.”

Fel nodded and kept his tongue.

“I’ll be retiring now, if you don’t mind. Have this mulled wine to keep you warm and stoke the fire as you please. Good night young sir,” Arthur said and excused himself.

Felghanis sipped the warm beverage. Most of the alcohol was gone and that was good. It wasn’t something he enjoyed, but a vampire? That was something he could enjoy taking control of. A wry smile crept over his face.

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