"Have come ye now to seek the wise
Vafthruthnir, sage, the knowledge keeper?
To tell the tale of light's demise
With sullen cry, oh darkness seeker?
'Tis boots much smaller than thy own
Shall scale the mount to enter the hall;
Thy bones shall rest far from thy throne
When time shall come for the sun to fall."
A most intriguing tale, is it not? And merely the beginning thereof, penned centuries before even I set foot upon this lowly earth. One might declare such things prophecy; in my time however it has become foolish to place too much stock in the ideals of such preliminary declarations. Everyone knows the tales of kings and tyrants undone by prophecy, when had the word of divination been discarded and ignored all would have passed without incident or notice. No, most prophecy is merely a skillful maneuvering of the mind into predictable, expected patterns and a series of desired reactions... or a hidden message that all things have been put in place, arranged in advance, to give the impression to the unlearned, unaware, or unobservant that mystical precognitive power rests within the hands of the declarer. Such is the case in this tale.
But I get ahead of myself.
Some of you may know who I am, by reputation or rumor if nothing more. Many of you do not. Allow me to explain for the uninitiated and clarify for the marginally aware. I am The Informant. A sage, much like Vafthruthnir of old, keeper of knowledge, learner of legends and lore, giver and seeker of information.
What's that, you say? My name? Such information is highly prized, my guest, and all things come with a price. No, spare your coin; I only accept payment in such triflings for information of equal value and availability. Gold, for all its assigned worth, is plentiful enough that it passes through the hands of all of us from time to time, some more than others. Information, knowledge, truth, however... these have true value. Rarity, indeed, shared only sparsely and available to few, and as a merchant of the highest caliber I will accept only something of equal worth for that which I wish to distribute. Sometimes a favor, sometimes a task, sometimes a secret of equivalent value. My price? Nay, not the method by which I work. Rather, name your own price, curious one, and I shall determine if it be significant.
But we may attend to such business at a later time. For now, we are distracted from my true purpose here. My title you have, and it shall have to suffice for now.
The strange events of the past year have demanded answers from across the lands and over the seas, as far as the Isles of Senkaku and yes even the distant shores of Wachara and Teremvor. And the blame lies at our dear kingdom's feet, and dare we blame them? For the lands to the north have no king, answer to no lord, and did the storms of vengeance not sweep through our forests and our plains, ravaging the land and scarring the sky? But no, the blame is not ours to bear. Thus have I been summoned before the queen and court, to provide our questioners with the answers they so seek.
For knowledge is my business, and it is business I do well.
Still yourselves. The tale is long, and there is much to tell. We shall return to the mysteries of Vafthruthnir in time. His name shall mean much, you shall soon see, but more important are names with which a sparing few of you will be familiar, and the rest no more so than that of a long-ancient giant sage. This is a tale far more recent, for it begins no more than a trifling few years ago, at the closing of the year, in a village of our very own - a tiny hamlet upon the border of our lands, neighbor to Sentara of the Elves, a little place called Somerset.
It is here that we begin the tale of Fimbulwinter, the Storm of Storms.
You'd think I'd be used to it by now; Esther and the girls insist we go every year. It's not so bad, I guess. I've seen worse as far as festivals go, but I've seen worse as far as a lot of things go. I just don't like the crowds much. But it makes Tesni and Lusine happy, and that's what matters. Of course, I still get nudged to be more social and friendly, and I don't see what that helps. It won't change the fact that people don't tend to like seeing the guy they only see when they're sick or hurt.
...All right, Esther's got a point. It probably would help with the kids all being nervous around me. I'm not small, and experience has taught me never to go about unarmed. But I digress.
I shouldn't have been too surprised that Mayor Calvira wanted a word. The usuals - come by town more often when something isn't wrong, make you look less a harbinger of ill, need more weirroot when I can manage it. Didn't argue the point; Lorne's good people.
Odd thing, though. Couple of travelers came to Somerset this year. Not odd in that they were here...just something off about them. Both elves, both with some manner of chip on their shoulder, especially that taller woman. I didn't get involved, just made sure whatever their glaring contest turned into didn't spill over onto Tesni while she played one of them shooting games. (I really need to check that that's safe before next year.)
Well, the call went out, and I signed up for the festival hunt. I'm not much for the sport, but it's quiet out in the woods. Sometimes, you just need that. That and Esther's always wanting me to involve myself with the community. This counts. Drew lots for teams, I got the elves. Not a talkative pair. Suited me fine. Netted some wolves, and I'd have been content to settle with those if the bear hadn't attacked us. Bizarre, that. Never seen one out of its hibernation like that. Took quite a chunk out of the little guy. I patched him up, but he seemed confused when I asked if he had any issues with healing magic. Don't see why, speaking from personal experience at least. That's one thing you only need to do wrong once to avoid for a lifetime.
We three dispatched the beast fairly quickly after that and dragged it and the wolves back for judging. Got a decent gold prize and a little trophy bowl I might use to mix some of my medicines in. Supposing Esther doesn't think it'll be a better decoration.
With the hunt done, they'll hold the contest for the crowning of the Winter Lady. I'm still not fully convinced it ain't rigged somehow, but apparently it's bad form to voice such suspicions. At least according to Esther. Eh. Least it's fun to watch.
Contest was fairly straightforward. Usual performances - dancing, singing. Nicely done as always. Lass named Casselia won this year; she's a nice kid.
Of course, then the goblins attacked. Set the barn afire, too. Shamed t'say I didn't do much to help there - my hands were full keeping my girls out of their reach. Fortunately the town guards were able to put them down with the help of my hunting team and a strange even by the bar they set newcomer. Been years since I've seen a lizardfolk, and she was odd even for one of them. Looked none too happy about the weather.
The goblins snatched Casselia while the fight went on. The visitors were all too willing to go after her, avatars be praised. I feel I should've gone with them. Not too sure why I didn't, but I suspect it's just me getting too old for this sort of thing. That and they outran me before I could even set the girls down. They brought her back safe, at least.
It's for the best. I can feel there's something bigger in the works here. I did my time adventuring. I'm done. My future is in Somerset, and raising a family is adventure enough for me.
I do believe I rather dislike the northlands this half of the year. Were I at home, I guarantee the weather would be far more to my liking. But to stay in one spot is not the way of things in my home region of Juliana. When we are grown, we travel, and when we travel, we choose our new way of life. Mine is to travel and to learn. Perhaps one day, I shall return to the shores of my native Teremvor, and when I do, oh, the tales I shall have to tell.
It has been some years since I arrived on Olympia's shores. It seems as interesting as Wachara if a bit more inverted in its climate. I shall one day adjust to this difference in hemispheres. It's truly fascinating the things different communities do in reaction to the weather.
This town of Somerset, I'm told it is called, has a Solstice festival, for example. I do not know why any in their right mind would celebrate the necessary evil of cold weather, but statistically speaking, I would believe there is at least one being in support of everything. I arrived shortly after what I surmised was a hunting competition. No one would answer my question - it seems my appearance is somewhat unusual. I'm not entirely surprised by this. My people rarely venture this far north if we do leave Teremvor at all. Though I do wish they would stop confusing me for one of the brutish Larinn. I am a Ti'Larinn, blast it all. No matter, education is my purpose, and I've no objection to sharing it with others in need of it.
But I digress. They were in the midst of a ceremony of crowning their winter lady. An allusion to Emari, perhaps? I did not get the chance to ask - their winner was snatched by goblins almost immediately. I swear, those little vermin will live anywhere and ruin everything. They and their hob cousins have certainly tried it on Teremvor. Speaking of, I was more than a bit surprised to discover a hobgoblin in these parts. I was not aware they had also begun to sneak away to other lands. Running, mayhap? I of course helped to put the threat down. No town, celebrating this weather or no, deserves the fate of a hobgoblin-run horde.
I followed the tracks along with two others, the winners of the hunt - one tells me her name is Sylavel; the other's I did not catch. It didn't take long to find their lair, and their numbers were quickly reduced to nothing. I managed several with my whip alone, and I'll admit to savaging a few with naught but my bare claws. I may be civilized, but there's no honor in dying due to silly proprieties during battle. We found the girl in a cage of glass and freed her once her captors had been dispatched. Their leader was a cleric, judging from that holy symbol and his spellcasting. No doubt, he planned to use the girl in some sort of ritual sacrifice. But she is well, if understandably scared. I have found that talking eases the mind. Perhaps I can manage two birds with one stone and calm the little one while I learn more about this region from a local.
We returned the girl safely home. All were glad to see her safe, fittingly. Always a scary time when a young one is endangered. The mayor asked a favor of us, though I think she overstates it. Taking a letter to Olympia when I was meaning to head there soonish anyway is hardly a big deal. I promptly agreed, as did Sylavel and the little elf, and the village gladly put us up for the night. Quite hospitable, I must say.
My attempts at socialization were ill-met over breakfast. The small one was asleep at the table, and Sylavel was quite careful with her words. An odd quirk.
We purchased horses and set off, I at least, in the hopes of having to spend as little time in the cold as possible. I attempted to make conversation and learn a bit more about the area, but my inquiries were quickly rebuffed by the elf, and she asked me to bother our other companion whose name I determined was Cristaph after a brief red herring about being called "Awesome." I may be open-minded about the different cultures through which I travel, but I'm not stupid.
We were set upon by some lynxes as we rode on and managed to subdue and frighten them off without killing them - can't blame the poor things just out hunting for a bit of dinner. A light snow - light, hrmph. Too much by far - fell as we camped, and we reached our midway point, Fort Sephon, before night fell. I was just glad to reach an inn with a roaring fire.
Our presence - well, my presence, I suppose is more accurate - made quite a stir. It's fair, most of my kinda aren't so adventurous as to venture up this way. It took a bit of time, but they did warm up to me enough to have a nice chat. I inquired a bit as to the geography of the place which segued into a very interesting discussion on the nation's history. To my surprise, Sylavel was quite talkative on this point and seems very familiar with the subject. I'll need to remember to ask her about it sometime.