A thin crescent moon hovers high above me, her scant light casting the fields around me in shades of melancholy blue and penitent gray. It’s just me and Nibbs here, away from the city, away from the politics, scheming, and bickering. We needed a moment.
Our exploration beneath the monastery did not go as wonderfully as I had hoped. What I had hoped was a water spirit in search of redemption was in fact a vengeful ghost with a band of undead shades as his accomplices. This “Gardener” put up a hellacious fight, one that ended with several of my friends injured and the light of my soul all but extinguished. We all threw ourselves into the battle, but I ended up as a target for many of the apparitions, too many to dodge or avoid. The touch of the shades was like shards of glass reaching into my heart, like noxious acid burning in my blood. I am grateful to have made it through at all, but all the more grateful to my friends for helping to find the magic to restore my lost energy and make me whole again.
After the fight was done, we found what the gardener had been hiding. It seemed that, in life, he had become obsessed with the water spirit that had blessed the monastery with the gifts of enchanted wine—an exquisitely beautiful nereid named Avenda. After the monastery was destroyed in an act of treachery, the gardener took Avenda’s shawl for his own and had used his power to trap her physical form inside a water clock. Once the water clock was opened, Avenda was set free.
But Avenda’s story went deeper. Once free and assured of our intentions, Avenda told us that she had made her home here, beneath the hills, for a time long before the men had come to the River Kingdoms. She told us that she had been given stewardship of the sword “Briar” by the eldest after Narissa’s rebellion. As we discovered from Tiressia, Briar is the only weapon that can prevent the great and terrible beauty from fusing her dark creation to the mortal world. If she can recover it, our world is forfeit.
Unfortunately, it seems Irovetti found the imprisoned Avenda and Briar before we did, killing the Gardener and taking the sword as his own. He now certainly has Briar at his side, and thus, the key to either our salvation or destruction. We assume Irovetti also has Avenda’s magical shawl, an item so closely tied to the nereid that she is all but powerless without it. So now we add two new purposes to our coming war against Pitax—find Briar and recover Avenda’s shawl.
I must confess that Avenda fascinated me, even in her weakened state. It was not just her beauty, it was her otherworldly poise, her effortless grace. Once the shawl is recovered, I’m sure we will be fast friends. She also makes a wonderful bottle of wine. We found several bottles of it in the monastery’s cellars, and while my friends horded theirs, I partook. It was splendid. I also took some of the blessed water for Kaydee to use in her experiments. I can’t wait to see what she makes from it.
Now it seems everything is happening at once. Jacek has returned us to Ursundova, where we must organize a defense against armies from two countries, Brevoy from the North and Pitax from the West. Added now, we must recover Briar and return Avenda’s shawl. And then we will surely face Narissa herself. So many challenges lay ahead, and yet I find there is peace within me.
Looking upwards, the moon shines as my constant guiding light, even when her face is hidden, even when the clouds and rain come to hide her from me, even when she circles to the far side of our tiny green world. Challenge and trial cannot defeat me as long as I have her. Even death could not dissuade me from her purpose. I have faith.
I pray my companions have their own sources of solace to turn when they face the challenges ahead. They will surely need them.