We kept travelling through the mountains, and though I'm not a huge fan (I definitely prefer forests), Scáthfile kept me warm. Up and down slopes, through windy weather, we kept on going.
At one point, I stumbled across some weird jug. It looked like lava rock, but it was unnaturally smooth. Sharn and I managed to open it, and it was unbelievable - some kind of hot cocoa was still inside!
We hadn't seen anyone around, so who knows where this came from or how long it had been here, but Sharn tested it and it was okay, so we shared some of the warm liquid and it helped take the edge off the chill. We thought that maybe it had some fire magic in it, so we put snow inside; if it is magical, it isn't very quick.
After a day of travelling, we crested a hill, and noticed some actual flowers growing in the snow. They even had berries - that seemed odd. Sharn licked one, and thought they were poisonous. They tasted a bit off to her, anyway. Meanwhile, El seemed to recognize them, but she couldn't say what they were. She was stuffing herself, saying that they tasted sweet.
I thought maybe it was just the skin that was bitter, so I convinced Sharn to eat a whole berry. She's the most resilient out of us all, and El seemed fine. The experiment seemed like a success - apparently they are “Interesting, but terrifying.” I didn't know what she meant, so it gave me pause.
I tried licking one, and it definitely tasted poisonous; Maimeó's lessons held me back, but I might eat one in the future. Just the one lick seemed to lift some of that magical oppression away - but I just don't have the constitution to be eating questionable fruit. I stuffed one into my pockets for future testing - maybe Sharn can distill some sort of anti-magic potion from them or something.
As we headed down the hill, I tried asking El if she also felt less magical oppression, and she agreed. She seemed very clear-headed. Martin had just turned his horse off to look for some wood, so El snapped her fingers and a massive fireball sprang up and nearly burnt the ears off her horse!
Wondering if maybe it was a general effect, I asked Firia to show us some magic. It sort of worked, but she said her head was still pounding, like before. Unfortunately, instead of smoothing out a path, she opened up a massive chasm.
Meanwhile, El was starting to talk about pink skies and rambling about friendly-sounding things that didn't make sense - I suspect the berries have hallucinogenic properties.
Martin got back, and he was taken aback by the chasm. We thought we could see a tunnel newly opened up, that probably had dwarven gold or ancient treasures! Sharn was game to go down, but the others were too scared. I tried to convince them, but maybe it was for the best that we decided to move on. A swarm of bats almost toppled Sharn down - that would have ended the debate…
A while later, Firia spotted a cave, just as the snow was beginning to swirl and the clouds were getting very dark. The wind seemed almost sentient, trying to get inside the cave, but it kept us warm and dry, thankfully. We all scavenged for wood for a while, and Martin, seeing our meagre scroungings, went outside to brave the storm - there had been a small copse nearby.
As soon as his back was out of the cave, El started up a fire with magic, and the rest of us headed back into the deeper recesses to hunt up some treasure. El somehow illuminated Aeowynn's sword, which was handy - one less lantern to have to carry, and we could save on fuel. It was super bright, too!
Unfortunately, we quickly came across some sort of crazy bear-like monster! It stood up and roared, with horrible breath and a nasty slobber. I was scared, and started singing my battle music, but the echoing environment threw off the Spellsong. Scáthfile knew what I was doing, and he pounced at the best, but it dodged out of the way. Firia hit it hard from the other side, and Sharn came up the middle.
I noticed that the monster was actually attacking according to my rhythm, so I decided to switch to 3/4 time, and that seemed to help. I started improvising some inspiring lyrics about how awesome our team is, and that brought some smiles to my friends' faces. Firia kept whacking it in the head, probably giving it a dozen concussions, and Aeowynn was dancing with her sword, like a performer on the stage. Sharn bellowed and smashed it, but this thing was tough. I was hoping the noise would alert El, but maybe those berries were affecting her too much!
Aeowynn finally finished it off, stabbing it multiple times with her glowing sword, and the cave went silent. Just as she turned to start bandaging wounds, however, a flurry of wings skittered in from the ceiling - bats! Crazy murderous possessed bats!
The Teanga Ainmithe sprang into my mind instantly, and I reached out, trying to convince them to go away, but they were enraged. “The Master commands…” They spoke of hunting us, they had our descriptions - Elisandre, Firia, Sharn, Aeowynn, and me. As a bonus, some random worms were talking about a Citadel deep in the caves - maybe something to check out later…
I squeaked out some bat language to throw them off (“hey, they went THAT way…”), but more and more came swirling in. I ran to hide by the dead monster's body, and I switched to Spellsong, trying to inspire my friends, but it was tricky.
It was a bloodbath - bats everywhere, carcasses piled up on Sharn's blades. Some of them seemed to just die from the stress of being controlled by this mysterious “Master.”
Once the last twitching bat was put down, we all decided that we had more than enough excitement for the day, and headed back to the campfire. El was seemingly oblivious - that's it - no more crazy berries for her! Martin was bringing in the wood, and he seemed amused that we were ranting about bats and bears.
I'm done with crazy animals. Why can't they just be normal? Most animals are just not crazy bloodthirsty monsters, and they'll run if they see that they're outmatched!
This continent is ridiculous. I hope I'm not scaring Mam with all these violent stories - she always thought I should be quiet and safe. So maybe don't tell her this one, please?
Maebh the Reluctant Warchief