THE MOTHER & CHILD REUNION
After a long night of revelry and rest, Harbard roused the Lionshields and presented them each with a dagger, crafted from the horns of the Frostmaiden. “These will serve you well,” he said, solemnly, “should you meet her ilk again. They will afford some comfort from the Infinite Winter’s sting, strike true when you need draw blood, but more importantly, help shield you from Auril’s more devastating hexpower.”
“Thank you, Harbard,” Elrian said, “but I believe you promised answers to my origins. You said something about the Fletcher House?”
“Promise, I did,” the druid replied. He opened the Axeholm door and pointed across the field, toward an unassuming cabin a short distance away. “That is Fletcher House. The answers you seek are there.”
Making their way across the frozen expanse, they spied two graves in the small courtyard. Nod and Raben investigated, brushing aside the snow that covered their makings. The first read: Here Lies Bowen Fletcher. Husband. Father. Hunter. The second: Here Lies Bjorn Fletcher. There was more to the second stone, but it had tilted and sunk deeper into the earth. Raben considered uncovering more, but Elrian was at the door, asking for entry.
A frail, elderly voice responded, “Who is it?” to which Elrian replied, “The druid Harbard has sent me. He tells me there are answers to my past within this cabin.” After some negotiation, the woman called for them to enter, stating “Welcome and well met. Hang your weapons on the hooks by the door and I will serve drink, salt, and bread to honor your arrival.”
The woman, some fifty years of age, stood on the other side of the hearth, armed with sword and shield. Nod and Raben entered first, followed by Elrian. Peron and Kari stood watch outside. The half-elf hung his sword and bow and the center hook, then, as if by instinct, crossed the room and plopped down on a bearskin seat, across from the fire.
“That was my husband’s seat,” the woman said. She offered that her name was Thora Fletcher and when Elrian responded with his name, she was taken aback. She began to tell the story of the circumstances of the half-elf’s birth.
Her young son, Bjorn, had gone missing. A villager said they had seen the boy enter Frostmaiden’s Cave, so Bowen, her husband and a celebrated warrior, headed off to search for him into the dark maw. Harbard came and stood watch with her, introducing her to a visiting couple, the Omaleths — an elven wizard and human scholar, who was some seven months pregnant.
The expectant mother was quite comforting to the distraught woman, but then trouble came, and the elf’s wife went into premature labor. Harbard and Thora helped her to his tent, and while they fought to save both mother and child, dire news came for them — Bjorn was dead, and Bowen hung on by but a sliver of life, but even that was a falsehood, for he had been turned by vampire gnolls.
As Thora continued her tale, Peron and Kari spied an approaching dog, old and decrepit, walking with a limp. The ranger fed it some jerky and the dog entered the cabin, climbing into Elrian’s lap.
“See,” Thora said. “Old Bill remembers, even if you do not.” She continued her story…
Torn between the two, Thora helped bring Elrian into the world, but the child was blue faced. Dead. The mother’s umbilical cord wrapped around the fetus’ neck. Quickly, Harbard drew Bowen’s soul from out of his body and placed it into the stillborn child, breathing life into it anew.
Elrian was stunned. Thora continued, “And now, you have returned to me, and we can be as husband and wife again.” Thora became manic, Old Bill grew restless. “Thora, you must understand, I am…”
“You are a father,” she cried, “have you no love for your child?” Thora opened up a chest behind her and hideous demon thing crawled out. “See, my love, daddy is home.”
Elrian freaked, as the dog pounced off his lap and transformed into a displacer beast. Then, all hell broke loose as an all out battle ensued. Fire and blood escalated as everyone fell into their roles, eventually felling the beast and driving mother and “child” into the frozen field. Once the demon was felled, Elrian took Thora into his arms, hoping to soothe her madness.
Thora begged him to put a child in her, begged for them to be together again, to which Nod quipped, “And those were the words from my own wife that led me here.” Adding for emphasis, the Tabaxi sighed, “The frozen wastes are a long road from the desert , my friends.”
She collapsed as Harbard, called forth by Nod, entered and he laid her down on her bed. “It is finished,” he said. “It is time for her passing. Thank you, Elrian, and the rest of you. She could not have been tempered without your hand in this. It is as I foresaw, and at long last she receives the rest she deserves.”
Knowing it was time to leave, and seeing as Harbard had their caravan brought to them, Elrian asked if there was one last bit of foresight he might share with them.
“Hallowed is the ship unmanned, trapped by ice as she had planned. The Sea Wolf waits above a shipwreck grim. A brew served up to the very brim, of mystery and majesty and magic galore, and the shadow of the cannibal’s dead, falling ‘cross the door.”
Manning the Highwayman’s Lute, the Lionshields left Stonehearth behind, traveling two days through treacherous cold and snow, then, in the depths of the Whispering Wood, on a narrow forest trail, they reached an impasse — trees felled, blocking the road forward. As they examined their options, they saw a short distance away, on a side trail, an overturned wagon. It’s mount lay dead, alongside it, two warriors and giant spider. But was that a bloody trail leading away from the wreckage, into a sheltering cave? And when those…children’s toys strewn about?
The Lionshields felt a call to action…
to be continued