“Well this is it” said Sandru,pulling his wagon to a halt. He walked back to the second wagon as people jumped down to stretch their legs. Ameiko drew Sliver, and made a few experimental lunges and stretches. Dinald watched with interest.
Rasha shivered. The thick mist and the thick woods gave an oppressive feel to the place. Sandru seemed to be hunting along the western side of the trail,and then he crouched down.
Gathering round they saw that he was picking a young shrub away from a stone waymarker. Scraping away the moss they saw that it was marked with arrows pointing ahead to “Bridge”, and west to “Brinewall”. Sandru looked west and scratched his head, as there just seemed to be thick scrub- no trail a wagon would easily negotiate.
“I imagine it hasn’t been used in a while?” asked Reynald.
“Apparently not. I suppose that’s a good sign?” suggested Sandru.
Shaleelu appeared through the wall of mist ahead of them. “The Steam River crossing is about 100 yards ahead” she indicated, “A fairly decent wood and stone bridge- it should be fine.”
“Well we may as well make camp near here then” suggested Sandru. The wagons were arranged and a campfire set going. As they sat round warming their hands they discussed their plans.
“I must go” said Ameiko. " My family, my problem really". It was eventually agreed that Ameiko would scout the village with Ragnar, Ailukka, Ungo, Rasha and the twins, while the others protected the camp. It was early afternoon as they set off into the thick woods.
Unfortunately for Ameiko, however, it seemed that exploration of Brinewall was not on the cards. Rasha noticed first when he noticed that Ameiko was dragging behind somewhat. Moving closer he saw that she appeared a little listless and sickly.
“No. No I’m fine, just a bit tired.” protested Ameiko. “Let’s press on.” Shrugging to no-one in particular, Rasha moved off.
Minutes later he heard Ailukka calling from the rear of the group. Moving back he saw the others gathered round Ameiko, who was being supported by Ailukka and leaning heavily against a tree. She appeared to be about to say something, when she started to slump to the ground.
“We get her back, Ja?” suggested Ailukka. Ragnar picked up Ameiko’s slight weight, and they headed back towards the camp. At first Ameiko was passive, but as they approached the camp she started to moan and flail about.
As they emerged near the wagons Ragnar almost dropped her as her thrashings grew extremely violent. Moreover she was gabbling in some alien tongue, in a voice that sounded unnatural and strained. She did not seem conscious of her comrades around her. Koya motioned over and she was deposited in a covered wagon.
Once again her body started to contort and flail, and Ragnar and Dinald had to hold her down on either side to stop Ameiko injuring herself.
“What is she saying?” asked Dinald. “What language is that?”
“It is Tian” said Ailukka. “What she say is nonsense-very strange”
“You speak Tian?” said Dinald impressed. “What’s she saying?”
“There are many Tien in Kalsgard” said Ailukka. “She say ‘One treasure beyond two seals in the third vault’”
“Treasure?” said Dinald, “Well that sounds -nice.”
" And now, ‘A key you seek lies in the grip of the ten-handed one—his fear is your greatest ally’"added Ailukka.
“Um, that doesn’t sound so nice” frowned Dinald.
“And ‘Grandfather waits in the dark, but he knows not who he was’”. Ailukka frowned.
“Maybe we should just leave?” said Dinald, “After all Ameiko is very ill we should get her away to a healer. That would be the noble thing to do, sacrificing wealth and fortune to help this fair maiden.”
As he said this Ameiko started to thrash ever more violently. Shaleelu helped to press her down, and Koya moved over and poured something down Ameiko’s throat. Slowly she started to calm down, and Koya started to check her.
“Well?” asked Sandru.
“There is something strange at work here.” said Koya.
“What do you mean?”
“What I mean is that there is nothing physically wrong with her.”responded Koya, “Whatever is causing this, I believe is some sort of magical effect. I suspect the agency is something to do with Brinewall.”
As the discussion progressed Rasha went back into the woods to scout. After a mile or so, he emerged near the forsaken end of an overgrown trail which emerged to the east of an apparently deserted village, positioned around a kidney shaped bay. In a wide semicircle around it lay what was once cleared farmland, now overgrown with scrub.
He edged forward through the overgrown grassland and gorse, eventually hitting an overgrown cobbled road. He could see the settlement below him in closer detail now, and could see it comprised houses, warehouses and a few more formal buildings, as well as a number of wooden piers.
On the eastern tip of the bay, on his right, Rasha could see an old stone Lighthouse, while on the far side of the bay , below a brooding cliff, he can make out what appeared to be a line of warehouses. A small peninsula jutted from the southern shore which appears crammed with the majority of the buildings.
The whole exuded an air of decay and abandonment however. Except that is for a low hill he could see away on his left, slightly separated from the main settlement. This appeared to have a largely intact picket fence fronting it, and numerous stone monuments- a Graveyard apparently.
On the western side of the bay the land rose up into tall cliffs, and perched silently atop this sat a brooding castle, its sombre shape still visible through the mists.
“Brinewall Castle” he muttered to himself, and then turned round an returned to camp.
On receiving his news Ungo, the Twins, Ragnar and Ailukka agreed to return with him to explore the village. By the time they returned to Rasha’s earlier vantage point it was early afternoon.
Heading first to the old Lighthouse, they were able to get a better view of the bay below them. The town definitely appeared deserted, but they were able to see an Ulfen Knarr beacked in the shallow water near on of the jetties. The ship appeared to have been rammed or damaged amidships, and the reason why could be seen lying nearby-the corpse of a 20 foot long bright green aquatic reptile with finned, winglike arms and a draconic visage was floating nearby. As they watched there wasa movement in the water nearby and the corpse seemed to move.
“Something is eating it” said Rasha. “And the corpse isn’t that old- which means that ship hasn’t been here very long. Some days I would guess.”
Wondering what new complications this might involve they checked the old lighthouse, which appeared deserted except for birds nesting in the roof.
Moving southwards along the path they skirted the eastern half of the bay until they came to the wrought iron gates of the cemetery on their left. Mounted on each of the stone gateposts was a small statue of Desna.
Opposite the gates on the southern edge of the central peninsula was a small temple, and it was into this that they cautiously went. The layout was simple, but many of the simple wooden pews seemed to have been smashed or vandalised at some point in the distant past. Interestingly Reynald noticed that some attempt appeared to have been made to tidy up some of the lighter debris.
“Maybe the same person who is keeping some order in the graveyard?” he suggested.
In the ready room of the temple was a smashed skeleton- a cleric judging by the garb. There were old stains on the wall and her ribs seemed to have been smashed in. Whatever fate had befallen Brinewall also seemed to have befallen her.
Turning their attention next to the cemetery they pushed open the iron gates. Close up they could see that the grass was several inches long, but it was free of shrubs and the graves seemed to be
clear and well tended.
“It’s like the place used to have several gardeners, but now there is only one” commented Reynald.
On the eastern side was a stone crypt, belonging to a person of some importance- Admiral Mercatio Kiameleu, Brinewall’s founder. What appeared to be a gravestone set apart from the rest of the cemetery was in fact a well-tended shrine to Desna that consisted of a marble statue of the deity holding aloft a small copper bowl.
As Rasha reached for it his hand was slapped away by Ailukka, who placed a few coins at the base and knelt down to say a silent prayer for a few moments. The twins followed suit.
As Reynald arose he caught a slight movement out of the corner of his eye, and for an instant he thought he saw a small face peering at him over the hedge fronting the cemetery. Motioning for the others to stay still he moved and peered over. Apart from a few shrubs between the boundary and the path there was no cover for a human-but the face he had seen was smaller- much smaller.
“It sounds like a Fey of some sort” said Rasha, fingering an arrow. “Better kill it if we can.”
“Is killing everything all you can ever suggest?” said Dinald scornfully. “Whatever it is it hasn’t harmed us, and its probably tending this shrine to Desna and looking after the place. That makes it alright by me.” His brother and Ailukka nodded. Rasha sighed,and muttered something to himself.
With little more they could do they moved back outside, and scanned the village for other buildings.
“Hey that ones a Glassworks!” said Dinald, “And look! That’s the Kaijitsu mark- Ameiko’s family.”
It was indeed a small glassworks, though inside the furnaces were long cold. Upstairs there appeared to be a living area, furnished in a spartan style, and now heavily vandalised. Amidst the debris however, Ragnar picked up two small figurines of green stone- an Elephant and a Mounted Warrior.
“Chessmen” he said," Und der stone iss Jade- very valuable.".
“Maybe we should just give them to Ameiko” suggested Dinald. “An heirloom of her Grandfather’s maybe.”
As they exited the building this time they all clearly saw a small flying figure, hovering on shimmering butterfly- like wings. It appeared to be small woman-maybe only 7 or 8 inches high, with elfin features and long greenish hair, clad in light armor. As the others stayed still, Reynald slowly moved forward making a show of open and empty hands.
“Who”, asked the small figure in a lilting voice, “Are you? You’re not from the Castle?”
“Ah no Miss” stumbled Reynald, “We’re traveller-we’ve come here searching for something long lost. And you are…?”
“I am Spivey” said the hovering figure, “And I protect the shrine and the graveyard.”
“Er i see” said Reynald, introducing himself and the others (Rasha with a scowl). “And can you tell us why the place is deserted. And about the castle?”
Spivey seemed fairly communicative, and seemed happy to have someone to talk too. She said that she had wandered here about ten years ago ‘after her mistress was slain by a Hungry Plant ’. The village was already deserted, but on locating the Shrine and the old temple had seen this as a sign, and had set about protecting it. She had tried to explore the castle and discovered another shrine to Desna there, but it had been desecrated and vandalised by the ’bird things’ that lived up there. There were many of them, and they sometimes came out of the castle to hunt game in the surrounding woods.
“If you go up there and clear them out maybe I can restore it?” she suggested. “If you do that the cemetery is a safe place, and I can look to your wounds.” She seemed to think this was her mission here.
As this seemed like a good offer Reynald agreed, and indicating that they would return soon, the group moved off towards the waterfront.
Standing off from the stricken Knarr, they could see that its front end was only in maybe three feet of water.
“We should go on board” suggested Dinald, “I could make a distraction on the pier while one of you ran for the ship.”
“What is Point?” asked Ailukka frostily. “Is just trouble.”
“We need to look!” said Dinald. “Hey, will you kiss me before we do this Heroic feat?”
“I don’t kiss Dead Men.”
“Or idiots” muttered Ragnar under his breath, drawing his crossbow and positioning himself well away from the water. Rasha and Ungo followed suit. Dinald smiled at Reynald.
“Ah it’s the old team Brother” smiled Dinald. “I’ll distract and you run for it.” Reynald sighed.
Dinald walked along one of the piers and then waved at his bother. Then he started capering, waving his arms and shouting like a loon. Ailukka looked sideways at Ungo. Ungo aimed his longbow at Dinald.
“Go!” shouted Dinald, and Reynald raced into the freezing water. He almost made it, when a chitinous be- pincered shape reared up in front of him, cutting his arm with one of its wicked looking claws.
Rasha and Ragnar fired. Ungo fired too, missing Dinald’s feet only by inches. He shrieked and leapt up into the air.
“Arrgh get it off me!” screamed Reynald, as a second creature reared up behind the first. Arrows and bolts thudded into its body, and the foul smelling thing toppled forward towards Reynald, the sliding pincer ripping more flesh, which was now burning as though poisoned.
“Don’t shoot me! Don’t shoot me!” yelled Dinald. Ungo laughed hard, and shot another arrow into a post near his head. Both twins were now screaming in panic.
Deciding that discretion was the better part of valour, Reynald turned tail and rushed back to the shore before the second beast could get near him.
Soaking wet, smelling of fish and his arm burning from some poison, he felt decidedly weak. It didn’t help that the others were all laughing at himself and Dinald. He was not amused.
“Best get back to camp I guess” said Rasha, and they started to walk off, leaving Reynald dripping. Dinald wandered up to his brother.
“Hee. Well that didn’t work out quite as planned did it Dear brother?” he grinned.
“Fuck off Dinald.” said Reynald sourly.