With the Pale Tower in our possession, we went about exploring the rest of its grounds. The Aviary was now empty, the master of ravens having seemingly fled while we were disabling the portal generator. In the Aviary we discovered a rather eloborate dollhouse. Among several items stashed inexplicably within the dollhouse were a silver dagger and 2 dolls. The dagger was a fine quality and exuded some kind of magical property which we could not easily identify. The dolls were ordinary, hand crafted dolls, of no particular skill or craftsmanship. In fact, one had a sizeable scratch down the side of its face marring the doll. I’m not sure what it was about them. Maybe the fact that they were once special to someone; perhaps they were the solace of some abducted child or some small Fey servant to the tower’s master. Maybe it was that they had potential for more sinister uses such as the animated doll we had faced guarding Irresen’s border. Maybe it was that I so desparately wanted to find Nadya’s daughter in the Pale Tower that I couldn’t bear the thought that we were already too late. Whatever it was, I couldn’t leave them behind in this empty dollhouse in this empty tower.
We met Nadya outside and decided to head immediately to Whitethrone which would take several days travel north. There we could begin searching for Baba Yaga’s hut and ultimately the grand witch herself. We would first need to traverse the frozen miles ahead of us, avoid whatever patrols may already be out looking for us, and reach Nadya’s uncle who could hopefully provide us with the means to enter and move about Whitethrone undetained.
On the first day of our trek, we were assailed by a swarm of ravens. Whether it was related to the raven master of the Pale Tower I do not know as she was nowhere to be found. Fenn was glorious in his magical skill as always, fending off the creatures with blasts of fire, when suddently, as if a single mind, the swarm descended upon him and raked at his eyes. He reeled back and I rushed to his aid while our companions battled another swarm. In an unorthodox fashion, perhaps after watching Selene’s success bashing the swarm with her shield, Nesteruk drew a shovel from his bag and began to furiously pummel the birds with the flat of the scoop. Using the witch’s ice wand I skewered the remaining ravens on icicles as they unnaturally burst from the ground.
The next few days were tense. We continued our journey northward with extreme caution as, with Fenn blinded and Nesteruk still cursed with sapped vitality, we were significantly handicapped. By day, Nadya guided us across the harsh Irresen terrain and Nesteruk and I would help her hunt and gather supplies. Our trail rations were limited as we had never expected to find ourselves thousands of miles from home. By night I aided Selene as she tended to Fenn. There were several days in which it was unclear if he would ever see again, but after almost 4 days his sight returned and with it our morale.
It was just in time it would seem, as we were attacked that very night by boreal wolves. As one pulled Selene to the ground, I pulled a burning branch from the fire to defend her, knowing that the creatures couldn’t stand the flame. Fenn let loose his frustration from the previous days and turned the other wolf to burnt hair and gristle. We dined on wolf that night.
As we walked those long miles and set watch those cold nights, we all had time to reflect. I thought about the irony that Fenn and I had spent so much time trying to find trouble in the Deep Green and now that we’d left it turned out that trouble had been looking for us as well. I wondered about Nesteruk and his motivation. He was strong indeed but also often silent. He asked for nothing and seemed to live only for battle and bloodshed. Were his displays of bravery a means of releasing a constant indwelling rage, homocidal intent, or suicidal ideation? Selene continued to be our shield in all ways. She stood fast against the terrors of the wild, mended our wounds with skill and faith, and used her natural charisma to help guide us. However, at times her zealotry made her our spear which could lead us into conflicts best left avoided. She lived in a world of black and white, but what about the grey areas? Fenn was evidently of diabolical heritage and I was something else entirely; would she feel compelled to “cleanse” us? From where does her fervor arise?
In meditation one morning, I sat facing Lucky to the north. Just like the first time we met, he stared back at me, the snow on his fur glistening with the first rays of morning sun. I was a vessel, I knew that. I had always known that, but a vessel for what? I could not know as I could not look that deeply into the part of myself where it rested. I was learning to bring it out and manifest it to varying effect. The hauntlings could move objects, produce sounds, and even forcefully rip things from the grasp of others, but they needed form if I was to begin to understand them. In that moment of contemplation, Lucky switched his gaze to the two dolls peering from the top of my pack.