As I stood my turn at watch this night, the moon passed directly overhead, as if watching over me. She was half in shadow as she passed, a portent perhaps of dark times to come. I will stay vigilant.
We found Varnhold deserted, though obviously not by choice. The village had been abandoned in haste, leaving the people’s animals and pets to fend for themselves. I was happy to find a cat among the buildings that I coaxed out of hiding, and to rescue a few horses that had not yet succumbed to hunger. I’m afraid though that the rest of the village’s creatures were already dead or finished by the Spriggans that had seized the town afterwards.
We fought through the Spriggans at Varnhold’s fort. The monsters had devised a clever defense, but we proved more resilient than they were clever. As our battle showed us, the Spriggans can change their size and shape as it suits them. I wonder if they sought to take Varnhold for their own use…or if something else entirely is at play.
Varnhold’s fate reminds me of the tale of the Silver Piper – an old legend that my father told me as a child. In that tale, a scorned elven bard casts a magic spell through the trill of her flute. She uses the sound to charm the children out of a human village and lead them into the lake to be drowned. When the childrens’ parents realize what has happened, they rush into the lake to try to rescue them. The piper changes her song, and the lake weeds wrap round their ankles and pull the humans down into the depths. At the end of the tale, the human village is given back to the forest, but the bard is cursed by the spirit of the Green to live eternally as a melody on the breeze. She pays the price gladly.
Sometimes at night, I imagined I could hear the piper’s song in the far distance, drifting among the trees as a distant song. I wondered how beautiful her playing must have been to lure so many to their deaths. But now I wonder if it was not something terrible instead. Daargan calls the evil we hunt ‘purest corrupted beauty’. Might such a thing be able to steal men from their homes like the piper in my father’s story?
It’s fortunate that we’ve found new allies in our hunt. During our fight with the Spriggans, we came across a sacred bow that had clearly been stolen from the Nomen centaurs. We returned the bow to the Centaurs’ matriarch, and discovered from her that the Nomen believe that there is an evil power stirring in the mountains south of them. They seem to believe that this evil goes beyond Spriggans and the beasts that would serve them, but they are hesitant to say more, for reasons still unknown to us.
Despite their misgivings about us, I think I can trust these centaur women. They too revere the moon and listen to her song. While we were in their presence I was able to witness some of their veneration of the moon, a ceremony of rhythm and dance. It was an old pagan right, but I thought I understood it in a way, a way that went beyond simple thought or language. I hope when this is over I can return to their campfire and sing with them. It would a joy.
The moon has passed now, and I wait for the sun. We head South in morn to hunt the evil that has taken Varnhold. I trust we will find what the moon has already seen.