A stiff wind blew across the opening of the cave causing a momentary howl. Legend told that the howls of the Thunderhead peaks were the souls of the dead crying out. If only the souls could cry out, the way to the spirit world had been shut for what seemed like years now. The winds of time have passed over this cave many times since I first began my pilgrimage to the peaks. After all this time I still could not figure out why my ancestors would not speak to me. Had I wronged Pahluruk; was this punishment? Or perhaps it was because I had forsaken the souls of the Toril during their time of great need. It may have even been my ancestors punishing me for my decision long ago of choosing the path of the Earth Mother and not the patron diety of the Silverwolf Clan, Tempos.
Soon the smoke from the small fire of twigs and grasses began to fill the small cave and I felt my mind slipping, memories of old and fleeting visions of the future began to coalesce as my eyelids began to droop and all went black. As I opened my eyes I found myself standing in a familiar setting. This was the center of my village, years before it was destroyed in the last clan wars and buried beneath the snows. It was eerily quiet and devoid of life, I quickly scanned the camp and noticed a whiff of smoke coming from the clan hall. I made my way toward the hall and noticed the whiff was more of a billowing smoke. Before me, the hall was all ablaze and the scene quickly changed to carnage and war. I tried in vain to clear my eyes and to catch my breath. Yet even through the billowing smoke and ash I was able to discern a large form ahead that appeared oddly familiar. As I blinked a few cinders from my eyes the mysterious figure came into focus-it was my father. Locked in a struggle with a hulking barbarian he was oblivious to the loud creak as the timbers of the hall began to collapse. I cried out to him but my warning fell on deaf ears as the mass of the clan hall came crashing down. The force of the cave in rippled over me, knocking me to my knees, stealing what little breath I had left. As I struggled to crawl toward my father’s fiery tomb a huge ball of flames burst forth, the force of which hurled me backwards
I awoke from my trance screaming in terror, I engulfed a large breath of cold air and my eyes snapped open. Never have I experienced a vision so real, so terrifying. It took several minutes for my heart to slow down and for me to catch my breath. The air was cold but refreshing and my surroundings slowly began to come into focus. I expected to be back in the cold comfort of the cave, instead I was in a sunny meadow. It had rained recently and the air smelled clean and the sun glistened on the blades of grass. There was a large shimmering well in the center of the glade, a strange glow emitted from it, the waves of light emanating from within were soothing and a sense of peace was all around. This was like no place Ive seen before, perhaps I delved to far toward the spirit world and the Great Mother had claimed my soul.
I stared for what seemed like hours into the glowing well and soon I began to feel sleepy and my eyes began to close. I was awoken from my stupor by the image of a woman dressed in simple farming clothes, a sack of grain tossed across her back. She had plain, rugged features as though she worked in the fields all her days. She beckoned to me and I felt compelled to move closer to the mysterious woman. She looked me over and in a calming voice said "You have come far young one".
"Where is this and who are you?" I said.
"Answers will come in time my son, for now you must return to the prime material, the land cries for your help"
I began to ask another question but she put her finger to her lips and I fell silent. She gestured toward the well and pointed to a small black shadow like spot growing on the side.
"You must return and take up the mantle placed on you by your ancestors, this time, do not look to the light but look towards the shadow, it will show you the way"
She made a quick gesture and the world dissolved in front of my eyes. Instantly I was transported back to the familiar surroundings of my own cave yet it was strangely quiet; the howling wind was non existent. The fire was smoldering but yet I still felt the warmth of that sun on me. A quick gust of wind blew across the entrance and the familiar howl echoed across the peaks, this time the howl had structure, as though it was trying to speak. I quickly ran to the entrance and as the wind began to cease it carried it's last breath. As clear as day upon that last breath I heard the words "Defender of Souls." Those words, words uttered what seemed like eons ago by the only other living member of the Silverwolf clan upon his death bed. I was jubilant, my ancestors have finally spoke to me, it was time to leave the peaks and venture back out into the world. I quickly pulled together my gear, excited for the first time in years. All packed up and ready to go I turned at the entrance to the cave I called home for many months. Just then I heard what sounded like the crunching of snow, I quickly spun around and saw nothing. I murmured a quick incantation to help me see that which can not be seen but still there was nothing. Another strange sound near the path leading to the peak but still nothing. I felt what seemed like a presence but still did not catch a sign of anything. I began to shake it off as remnants of my trance, then I caught a glimpse of something shadowy in the edge of my vision. I thought perhaps it was the sun playing tricks off the snow till I realized the sun had barely even begun it's journey to the sky. I stared a moment at the rocks and the words of the strange woman echoed in my thoughts "Look to the shadows".
Shadows were not something I dealt with and it seemed all too strange to me. A cramp in my leg reminded me that I have spent to much time in the small cave. I looked back towards the path to the peaks and thought maybe a brisk hike would do me good anyways. So i strapped my pack to my back and started out towards the path the images of the past day flowing through my head.
The trip to the lower peaks took a couple days. It was good to be back in the familiar settings of my youth, a welcome diversion from the past months. The trip had been largely uneventful; no trace of whatever it was I might be following. I had spent a large portion of my youth learning how to hunt and track game to help feed my clan, and those instincts were ever present. If there was something to track, it sure as hell was doing a good job of hiding its’ sign. The Thunderhead peaks, even during the calmest months, were a cold and inhospitable environment. Many an adventurer would come to climb its’ peaks, either for glory or to
seek the so-called "wisdom" of the old mad hermit who used to call this place home. The thought of the hermit caused me to chuckle. I wondered if he was even still alive as it had been many years since I last brought a group of people to see him. He did seem to carry some kind of power, surviving up here was no easy task. I was curious about the hermits fate, and since I had come this far, I might as well climb to the top and have a look. If anything, the majestic view would be worth the trouble.
Several more uneventful days passed and the highest peak now loomed above me. As I neared the fog enshrouded peak a cold gale shot down from the clouds just ahead of me. Soon after, I heard someone curse and a grumbled voice echoed down from the mountain. That voice was un-mistakable; it was that of the old hermit. So…he did still dwell up here after all this time. I must admit that I am not terribly surprised. I wonder to whom he was directing his voice perhaps it was my quarry. I strained to listen to the voice upon the wind and a familiar voice said, "I am sorry for disturbing your meditation, but..." The angry hermit then quickly cut off the voice that sounded like an old comrade in arms, Jalahon. It made sense as I had taken him to see the old man on several occasions in the past. I wonder what new power he was here to seek.
Jalahon had proven to be an honorable man back when we fought together during the Orcus skirmish. I have not seen much of him since he had ventured into The Under Mountain to seek tutelage from the mad mage Halaster. I had assumed madness had overtaken him and that he would never be heard from again. Maybe the madness had overtaken him and that is why he now ventures onto the peaks alone. The unnatural winds began to die down and I heard the old hermit's voice echo, "However, I will give you one last hint. Walk with shadows without destination." Again talk of shadows, it was too much of a coincidence that my path led me here; that it had crossed with that of Jalahon’s. I never had much trust in the crazy old hermit and decided I would wait here. If I was right, unless Jalahon had gone off the deep end, the hermit would not kill him.
A few minutes later a tired looking man descended the peak. It was indeed the wielder of shadows himself. "It took you long enough," I said. He gave me a smirk and asked, "Why didn't you just come on up?" He knew the answer and was chiding me like old times. I ignored his jibe and shouldered my pack, gave him another look and said, "We need to talk." With that, the short reunion was over. We began our descent of the peaks and would have plenty of time to talk; after all, it was a long way down.
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