The Reign Of Winter
Hermann's Tales 12
A few days later we came across a cabin in the woods, which was occupied by a damsel in distress. She spoke only in her native skald, so I could not follow most of what was being said. Thankfully, though, Benedictus summarised their discussion for me later. It seems that Sylja’s husband, Fingarth, had disappeared whilst out hunting, and she believed that he had fallen foul of a nearby moss troll. In exchange for food and her sole possession of worth (a magical item), she wanted us to go and rescue or avenge her husband.
Those that spoke skald readily agreed, and once I heard of her need, I also agreed. Moss trolls were nasty, as we had experienced long ago at the icy vortex, which made killing it a high priority for me, husband or no husband.
After a half hour of sledding we came across a rocky outcropping that fit the description of the cave that the moss troll was rumoured to live in. I cast my strength spell, followed by a light spell on my spear, and we all investigated the cave.
The cave turned out to be a long sloping tunnel down into the ground, which eventually opened up into a large cavern. As we were investigating, someone shot at Idrin, who retaliated by running over to them and hitting them, hard.
I leaped to the attack in order to support Idrin, but upon seeing it was a man I decided to try to knock him out instead of killing him. As I became aware of a mossy shape oozing along the floor, it shot something at me, hitting me in my neck. I immediately heard a voice in my head commanding me to attack Benedictus. Aghast at the thought of attacking my friend and moral compass I fought with all my might to resist the hypnotic, enticing voice, and momentarily succeeded. Jubilantly I shouted out that I would not attack my friends, dropped my spear, and tried to force the thoughts out of my head.
After a few seconds the voice had obviously realised that I was not going to attack my friends, and instead commanded me to walk over to the oozing moss. Try as I might I was unable to resist, and walked straight into the middle of the mossy mass, which quickly enveloped me.
Again the voice commanded me to attack my friends, and this time I was unable to resist. I brought forth my claws, fortified them with my magics, and clawed at Kjell, causing him not inconsiderable pain. He retaliated, trying to cut away at the moss that was covering me, but it was soon obvious that the druid was no match for my currently empowered status.
With every fibre of my being I tried to stop myself from attacking my allies, but for the most part it was all I could do to slow myself enough that some of my attacks missed. At one stage I even managed to fight myself to a standstill, quite literally in this case – I could do nothing but stand there, willing myself to not kill my friends.
Thankfully Idrin had finished knocking out his opponent by now and came over to help out his comrade. Idrin, it seemed, had the skill to carve the moss right off my neck. Unfortunately the moss covering me managed to force me into the path of the blade, which broke my concentration, allowing the creature to make me fight on.
Again I rallied with all my might against the being controlling me, but now it seemed I was powerless to resist. The mental fortitude that saved me from attacking my friend and superior was just not as strong when faced with those party members that had aggravated and dismissed me back in the tower. It seemed that at least part of my subconscious still resented the way they persuaded me to investigate the tower alone, and that made it all but impossible for me to override the impulse to kill them.
I began to worry about the potential survival of my teammates – I knew I was causing Idrin some nasty wounds due to the enchantments I had placed on my claws, and as much as I sometimes resented the way he treated me, I still believed that it was completely wrong to attack my friends, and rued the possibility that I could be the creature that caused our quest to fail.
I must admit I was impressed by the way that Idrin carved at the moss covering me, all the while avoiding hitting me. Well, I was impressed until he missed the moss again, and the last thing I felt was a massive pain in my chest as his axe blade bit into me.
The next thing I was aware of was the nightmares. Horrible, tentacled things with far too many eyes and bodies that twisted my mind just to look at them, and they were all around me, chasing me, running me down, simultaneously pursuing me whilst not moving from their perches. I saw things that no man was meant to see. Things that once seen, could not be unseen. Apparently I woke up screaming about the horrors, but the first thing I was aware of was of Benedictus leaning over me, replacing the damp cloth that my movements had dislodged.
I had awoken in Sylja’s cabin in the woods. Apparently after I fell, the creature abandoned me and tried to take over Idrin. Luckily for all of us their combined attacks managed to stop it before it could complete the task, whereupon they had carried me and (as it turned out) Fingarth out to the sleds and back to the cabin. Benedictus had of course healed everyone up by the time I roused, and after I had secretly verified I still possessed my beautiful ring, I agreed that we should stay here another night.
In the morning Sylja gifted us with a magical bear trap and some food, and we set off again for Whitehaven. Late in the day we came across an area that had no snow in it. It was literally as if someone had drawn a line through the woods, for as far as the eye could see in each direction, and said ‘that side can have winter, this side will have summer’. As we carried the sleds onto the summer’s meadow, the temperature shot up. Indeed, so much so that I decided to cast my protection from the elements to stop myself from getting too hot!
After an hour of carrying our sleds we came across a huge Elk. Kjell wanted to try to make it his pet, so we all set our sleds down to wait. Over the next few minutes Kjell danced a merry dance with the Elk, him slowly approaching, the Elk getting skittish and retreating, him advancing, etc.
We were so entranced watching him that we failed to notice the pair of large wolves approaching us. I saw them as they ran out to attack us, and reflexively cast my strength spell before going to aid Benedictus. He had managed to get in a lucky blow and sent his wolf sprawling, and as it got to its feet I rammed my spear through its chest, killing it. I then impaled the other wolf on the spear, pinning it in place until Idrin could finish it off. Just as the final wolf breathed its last, Kjell got back to us, ready for a fight. He decided to give up on the Elk, and we carried on to the far edge of the warm land, where we settled for the night.