Memories from The Red Winter (book)

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Memories from The Red Winter
by Gabela D'emibenit

My remembrances from what has been called the Red Winter are scant, for much time has passed since then. But the events I set to quill here have been burned into my soul as if they happened yesterday.

It was early one morning as I waited in The Crossing Cleric Guild Chapel for a class to teach that I saw my first bony fylgja. It had drifted in and silently watched me for a few moments before I noticed its presence. With a ready axe slung above its shoulder, this skeletal creature stood upright with an evil grin upon its skin-and-bone face and as we stared mutely at each other, I slowly drew my weapon.

As it eerily looked upon me, another Cleric entered the sanctuary. Recognizing this ghostly apparition for the evil thing that it truly was, she shouted for me to guard the altar. She began to advance on it, her weapon drawn, and pitifully I stood there, convinced that is was my day to die. Dimly, I heard the other Cleric's thoughts in my head as she raised an alarm on the gweth. I raised my broadsword to attack, and the bony fylgja retreated. As quickly as it appeared, it slowly faded into the shadows and was gone.

I glanced curiously at the other Cleric, not understanding exactly what happened. Help poured into the chapel then, and we pooled our knowledge, but our total information was meager. We had no warning of all that was to happen in the weeks to come. For this vile creature returned, and along with vengeful shades, death spirits and the Gorbesh, blazed a bloody trail from Berengaria's altar south of Leth to Kuniyo's Shrine, north of Langenfirth. When they had finished, twenty-two holy sanctuaries in all would be desecrated. And -- my time to die would come, after all.

A couple of weeks later, late in the afternoon, I chanced upon the Empath Wilcrest and a young student on the road near Kaerna. Wilcrest was a good friend of mine, and within a couple of roisaen the three of us were settled in the inn, swapping gossip as he healed my wounds. Our respite was brief however, for suddenly we could hear the clomping of horses' hooves nearby, a sound that echoed loudly all around us. We leapt to our feet and I gazed at Wilcrest, one unspoken thought between us -- the shrine of Damaris was close by!

With no thought for our own safety, we foolhardily ran from the security of the inn to the tunnel that would take us to the dark grove of Damaris. In that usually quiet glade, however, the enemy had arrived before us.

I wish that I could relate that I slew many of those evil antagonists that day as we recklessly sped into that grove. But alas, I barely had time to broadcast a warning over my gweth before I was felled by a dozen arrows, with Wilcrest and the young Empath falling quickly by my side. Our three spirits watched in silent horror as the altar there was vilely desecrated, and the bony fylgja danced gruesomely over our shattered bodies. We watched mutely as our brave warriors arrived to fight the evil that had invaded this sanctuary, and watched many fall beside us before victory could be claimed. I remember seeing the Cleric Wyett walk in, picking his way carefully over the dead as he silently made his way to the destroyed altar, his fist clenched at his side, his head bowed.

When Hodierna's Solace in Leth fell soon after that, at least I could claim I fought a better battle, for I carried the blood of the enemy proudly on my weapon. But afterwards, as I dragged the Cleric Valken's corpse to the ferry docks, I silently prayed that it would all end.

The desecrations didn't stop until the mysterious Emuin fell at Urrem'tier's altar in Riverhaven and walked the starry road. By then, we were all so weary of battle. The Gorbesh attacks had intensified, hacking away at our feeble defenses. They had made a bloody march up the northern trade route to Riverhaven and down the southern trade route, cutting us off from Shard.

In this darkest of hours, however, a shred of hope was born. A ritual was discovered that would cleanse and restore our defiled altars. An Empath first had to touch and heal the altar, and correctly answer a question posed. Next, a Cleric would cleanse the altar, preparing it for the offering of a favor orb from a novice Cleric. A third Cleric would utilize Meraud's Commune to sanctify the ground, while a Paladin with a pure soul traced the symbol of Rutilor on the altar with mobar blood before offering an unblessed sword. Then, representatives from each of the races touched the altar before all would kneel to pray.

A Bard would write an original song of this event, and as everyone touched the altar a second time, a thirteen-point star would appear in their hands. I was lucky enough to aid with the Warrior's Shrine in the Crossings Temple. But alas, my star is tarnished now -- that altar is no more. My beloved temple in the city of The Crossing would fall beneath the onslaught of the Gorbesh.

I was there the day the Gorbesh took The Crossing, and the noise brought on by their approach is forever burned into my memory. Mingled with the cadence of their drums was the blaring of their battle horns, rallying their evil forces to attack. Our valiant warriors fought bravely, but they were overrun and The Crossing fell. The Gorbesh carelessly flung the dead over the barricaded northeast gate, and those unlucky enough to have fallen asleep in a free city awoke the next day to find themselves trapped within the walls. They were quickly hunted down and killed by the enemy.

The Gorbesh ended up kidnapping the Bardess Wren and quickly left, supposedly having gotten what they came for. They left behind them a trail littered with defeat and bitterness, for even as they met with our guild representatives in City Hall to speak of truce, our beloved Crossing temple lay in ruins. Destroyed for unknown reasons, it lay in rubble as we reclaimed our town. And, as I picked my way through the broken tiles of this once glorious structure, I wept.

Scribed by my hand,
Zoluren: Dolefaren 362
Gabela D'emibenit