Briar Belabranta, Sister of the Cloak and Guardian of the Well, stood gazing at her reflection in the Moon Well. A symbol of faith to all women under the moon, of animals, and travel; Briar also exemplifies those who follow the green lady.
Yara was imprisoned fifty years ago by Norsinnow, a wizard known for his evil manipulations on animals and nature. Norsinnow also ‘collected’ lovely women from all nationalities and placed them in a sleep so deep none of the women aged or changed in appearance. He regarded them as his art gallery until the godsfall and suddenly with a surge of wild magic Yara was free to adjust to her new world; a realm where she must survive without her magical abilities. She came to Briar lost and confused, but optimistic when hearing Briar’s words of comfort. “I will help you find the others.”
The chill north air ruffled the feathers of her Bladed Cloak of Murder—Briar’s weapon and her Samular Legacy. She stood alone facing her moonwell, her consecrated grounds. Water from the stone pool lapped up on her Moonstrider Boots as she began to meditate as she did each night—reaching out, looking for threats; listening to prayers and looking for any surviving women from Norsinnow’s gallery. Briar called upon the aspect of the moon to show upon its face what there is to see; with a ripple that centered on the moon, it became a lens in which Briar watched…
Briar open her eyes to find herself in a tree-filled park standing next to a tall exotic woman, the woman cannot see Briar in the vision; furthermore she could not tell her story, but Briar believed this is one of Yara’s associates. Everything moved a quarter-speed and too Briar cannot see very far; her vision was limited to where the moonlight touches. Looking at the woman Briar notices the expression of horror upon her face. Looking toward the source of her terror, Briar sees now they are in the Heroes’ Garden—the Observatory prominent in the moonlight. On the other side of the park’s pond were two Kappa, spiked shells and snapping turtle-like heads, being brought out of the water. But it was not the Kappa that caused the fright—it was the man leading the Kappa out, it was Norsinnow.
Then the scene before Briar changes and the moonwell becomes a chaotic mass of frantic, jittering creatures. Creatures she and the Samular ka-tet have toiled with in the past. Indeed it was their first combat against a deadly threat as a ka-tet. In the pool she could see them gathering in numbers: individuals both small and large, minor and powerful; their population giving them a greater capacity for mischief and ruin. Briar thought, if these creatures are left unchecked then how devastating they would be to her plans for ascension. She opened her eyes, raised her head to the grey sky; her shape separating into a murder of crows that took eagerly to the sky.
Kalina Kormallis awoke suddenly when a black crow cawed from the foot board of her bed. Kalina and the Ready-5 were staying at ‘Steelhands’ ranch, maintaining the grounds while conducting a lucrative smuggling trade. Kalina knew the place would be perfect; Steelhands is outside Amphail so, Kalina thought, Arsten could kindly look the other way and not be seen as an accomplice. Her business today was with a Northlander contact named ‘Odin’ whereby she was able to acquire the commodity needed to acquire the weapon crystals she thought the Samular tet would find essential in the months to come. Kalina felt a chill and noticed her window was open where it had been closed before. Retrieving her Fabled Dagger from under her blanket she then covered herself and strolled to the window, all the while checking for hidden danger. Reaching the window she peered out and saw nothing; no tracks in the snow and no one lurking in the air—except for maybe the crow. The crow cawed urgently. Taking a closer look at the bird she recognized it as one of Briar’s. As she put the crow in a cage Kalina searched for a note but found none. This only further worried the Mistress of Illusion, why was this crow separated from the rest? Kalina got dressed and made haste to the stables where she mounted her horse and rode for Amphail…
Arsten Thunderstaff found sleep difficult to obtain, the notion of protecting all these people—this community—invigorated him and kept him up most nights. He thought he was lucky to get fourteen-hours of sleep in a week, so he was to be a vigilant gods-general he thought. Arsten smiled in spite of himself, power had its price.
He reflected on the Brave Companions’ report of giant sign north of Amphail. “Less than a fifty wheels north of us.” Torg mac Cei had told him. The dwarf was a new Brave Companion, a former mercenary commander. He said Arsten inspired him to take up the fight and defend the North. Even though he holds a general aversion to non-dwarves, especially forest-dwelling races like the fey, he has a natural draw to Arsten because of their common skills and beliefs but would never admit it.
Arsten liked him, a dwarf follower: What will dad think? At least the Uthgardt have negotiated peace in observance of the common holiday, to honor their ancestors. Although he believes Briar was to be credited for the armistice, but the Uthgardt are a prideful brand of frontiersmen and they too would never admit it.
“Sai Thunderstaff,” it was Arrikes Jhansczil the on duty cleric. “Kalina is here to see you.”
As Kalina walked in she could not help but admire Arsten, he was in his element. This is what your celestial realm will look like she thinks: a war-room with maps with friendly and enemy movements plotted out. Trophies of war and depictions of heroic efforts.
The crow cried out impatiently while Arsten waited for the explanation he knew was coming.
“I think Briar may have gone and done something stupid.” Kalina said. “I think this crow represents her conviction- somehow she was able to leave it behind to find her with.”
Just then a muffled thud stopped the palaver followed by a small tremor that caused a glass to tumble and break.
“Sir!” It was Lord Gunthar Hawkwinter. “Attack from the north, it’s the frost giants!”
“I shall go with you.” Arsten said resolutely to Kalina. “The tet first!”
“No, you have a town to Protect, it would be better if I went alone anyway. I will take the fastest horse and follow the crow.” Kalina said with cool confidence. She came up and kissed him and patted him on the cheek. “Kill them all.”