Winter’s Edge: Story Begins 7/22/14

At my feet lay the hopes and the dreams of generations. Day Bringer was now but a small piece of eternity lying in pieces, tortured metal shredded spells. I wrested it from Legend as he went down bearing with him the acts of his followers to the underside. But I get ahead of myself, only Time could have intervened, but he didn’t.

Day Bringer, the sword of our ancient fathers, passed down through generations in House Gyrfalcon, cannot be remade without Peace. She alone knows the intricacies of its making, the spells of creation that bound it, but she disappeared into the night. She fell from Winter’s Edge ages ago. Her gentle spirit lost deep into the myriad depths that surround my watch, my echoing solemnity.

My lady calls. I can search no longer.

But, let me explain myself so that you may understand the importance of our meeting. Serenity is my lady, gone mad from the wars. I serve her and no other, but my heart is no longer there. Once she was a kind, caring, gentlewoman of spirit who took pains to share her peace and joy of life. Then the wars took her sons, Desire and Strength, and twisted them into hideous figments of our worst nightmares. Serenity was lost, lost in her pain, immersed in her tragedy.

Her abode lies on the precipice of Winter’s Edge. Once it connected the two worlds and bridged the madness. Through Serenity, the beasts of the abyss were tamed and kept at bay ever distant and out of mind. Because of Serenity’s madness, the beasts now run free torturing Men and Others alike, creating havoc where none should exist, slicing, shredding through the vows and treaties of centuries. Creatures of Chaos that they are, they now reign supreme. Would that we could go back before the Coming of Winter!?

My saga began so long ago it is lost in the mist. Funny how the memory plays tricks as Time steadfastly erases history creating and maintaining the records only for himself. This is what happened, but you will not find it in any book of history, lore, or ancient tome. It was erased as many things that embarrass us are. Perhaps I am the last to remember it as it happened? Or is it that I remember it because I am not of a noble house and have no investment in the political lies they told each other?

I began my servitude as a young man working as a steward’s apprentice in the great house, Winter’s Edge. It was a splendid honor to be chosen. Each man in his best be it doublet or jerkin, each one of us hoping, waiting, anticipating. We had all trained hard together to forge a team. Serenity watched our training, diligently noting our strengths and weaknesses before making her decision. Now we were being separated to be honed, to be recreated into the image of what she desired of us.

She came to us in the simplest of garb, just a faded blue peasant’s rough tunic over work worn boots. She had been in the fields, just moments before, but it made no difference what she wore none could dismiss her royal carriage. In her stained poor man’s clothes, all eyes turned to her, every man straightened, raising his head. All eyes turned to her in expectation, all of us half in love with her. A shiver ran down our spines as her green eyes peered into us almost caressing us, as if looking for our best, not our worst. Then she smiled and gently nodded in decision.

Serenity never faltered in her choice that day. I was the last one in line in my older brother’s best tunic, wearing my father’s boots. While I had spent time cleaning and polishing those boots, well, they’d never pass as a nobleman’s attire what with their scuffs, cuts, and abrasions. I was hatless and had no weapons other than my dirk. I stood my ground, refusing to present to her what I could not aspire to be. While I was becoming a good man, I had my flaws. A true warrior I would never be. Oh I could wield a sword and shield but I lacked the lust for battle. I was one for figuring things out, finding things out, solving puzzles and riddles. People talked to me. I listened and kept their secrets.

With one look into my wide, deep set eyes, Serenity stated that I would do. Do what I had no inkling, but do was what I did. For no ordinary steward’s apprentice was I. I was to be her diplomat, her author, her mathematician, all things for her, yet nothing. Never once did she hold my birth in my face. Instead she ensured that I received the training necessary to be able to do whatever it was she needed of me. I became her gopher, her adviser, and at times, her confidante. I became a greater person than my merchant family had ever envisioned.

To Serenity I was anything that she desired. That was how I learned of the uprising from the chaotic ones. I was playing diplomat in the depths below Winter’s Edge. In a gloomy, smoke filled tavern, there I sat in the back my tankard by my hand, my fare half eaten when I overheard them plotting, planning, creating the means for the downfall of their overlord. Three of them were sitting there in forest tabards of deepest browns and greens. To the off chance observer, they appeared as any other occupant with their wedge of cheese, their hunks of bread, their mead sitting waiting for their dry throats to linger. Yet, they stood out. I didn’t know why they did so at the time. It was only after I returned home that I realized it was the very fabric of which their outfits were made. These men wore not the wool of our native born sheep but something much more rare, yet capable of blending to the unwary. They wore the Cathislani caterpillar’s silk much carded, carefully woven and designed to mimic the best of wool. Yes, rough Cathislani silk it was, but still of a finer cut than any wool could ever dream of becoming. No assassin’s blade would ever be able to pierce their garments, no dirk or sword could dent it. And, as tough and naturally, magically guarded as it was, to the touch, this silk would appear as it looked, like the softest of wool. As I said, they caught my attention.

So, I did what I do best. I blended in with the patrons, slowly sipping away at my ale gathering intelligence. See, Serenity had picked well. With my mud brown hair, heavy eyebrows, and deep set dark brown eyes, I looked like the peasants from everywhere. When traveling, I wore an aged wool cloak, frayed and patched at the hem to discourage highwaymen. My pants were a dark blue serviceable fabric with a clean, faded burgundy tunic over it, nothing anyone would ever try to steal. Nothing about my person stated that I could be anything other than what I appeared, a low on his luck, traveling merchant. As such, people rarely remembered I’d been anywhere, much less close enough to overhear their conversations.

The three took little notice of me other than to observe that my table was occupied. The eldest nodded in my general direction before directing his brethren to another table. While I say eldest, that may have been a misnomer for none of them appeared older than his mid-twenties, but that in and of itself may have been part of their illusion. Their hair was long, straight brown tied back with leather thongs, twin braids bracketing the sides of each head with a single silver bead attached to one of them, reminiscent of elven rangers, yet they were not elves. The youngest carried a long, elegant rapier that almost appeared more decorative than useful with its jewel crusted hilt, but the way his hand kept close by, almost caressing it said differently. The second one had no visible weaponry, yet there might have been ones hidden anywhere upon him. He moved as fluidly as the most graceful dancer, yet much more deadly was he. The eldest was obviously the leader of this trio. Around his neck, hidden away where few could see, was a medallion that peeked out every now and then. It was silver with something written upon it, but I was not close enough to tell, not that I would necessarily know what it said. He stood directing the other two until he was satisfied before shifting his cloak out of the way before he sat. As his cloak moved, he reached beneath it to arrange its’ folds to fall over his sword, covering it from all who would note its quality, all except myself. Just peeking out from the top of his cloak were two hilts that may have been daggers or short swords. I couldn’t see his back to be sure.

With smoke from the patrons curling through the air and the aromas of roasting meat tempting the pallet, the men ordered their food then shooed the waitress off with a swat to her behind. Laughing she turned away as the youngest turned to the others and nodded his head. Picking up the tankard that he had yet to sip, the eldest looked deeply into its depths and whispered a word that I would have missed had I not been paying such close attention. From the depths of the mug rose a transparent white mist. When it rose above the lip of the tankard, it began to slowly solidify into an entity I had only heard of in children’s tales. It was the smallest of fairies that, according to the stories, could only be summoned by one who held hostage a portion of its holdings be it gold, treasure, belongings, or relatives. The eldest raised his left eyebrow indicating an area over his shoulder. The fairy nodded, released its smoky gray wings and disappeared briefly, only to reappear seconds later to inform his master of whatever it was he had wanted.

His master nodded then indicated for the fairy to return before giving it a small piece of meat. Lifting his forefinger, the eldest breathed a phrase and the others bowed their heads touching their right hands to their cloak clasps before tapping them once, twice, but the meaning was lost on me. So, keeping my head down as I leaned back in my booth’s seat, I observed them from under my lowered lashes while I cradled my ale.

They talked of inconsequential things, or at least I thought so until I began to notice a pattern to what they were sharing. Their conversation circled around a farmer, his daughter, and the merchants who were coming to visit for her hand in marriage. They spoke of the exchanging of cows for her dowry and the numbers of chickens and goats that would be given. To the unobservant, their conversation could have been any serfs about a local getting married, but they were not serfs, by their garb and swords alone, they were not serfs.

So, I let my mind wander while I began to piece together just what they were discussing when it hit me. These three were discussing an invasion, not a wedding. In this tavern, they were plotting an uprising, talking about the number of soldiers being gathered, and who they were planning on overthrowing as if it was just another day, anywhere. I lingered as long as I could listening to everything they had to say, trying to figure out who these three in front of me were, to no avail. Soon enough, they left leaving me with only my interpretation, their reputations intact, their identities remained unknown.

Some would ask why I didn’t interfere and take my story to their overlord? But I could not be the one to interfere. I had no access to him or even to their government other than that allowed to me. I was only a servant, sent by my Lady Serenity to deliver her good wishes and to continue the good will between us. Even in that, I was denied. I was sent away, unseen. My diplomatic status ignored and rejected. Doors that should have been open to me, firmly closed with no one looking out the windows or offering a back door. Disgusted at my failure I made a slow retreat to my mountain home. Serenity was waiting. She had stressed the importance of diplomacy and for the first time since she employed me, I had failed her. I often ask myself if I would have tried harder had I known of the strife to come, and the answer is always the same.

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