TOTH II - YEAR 51051 WIND (PARENT: TOTH I, CHILD: TOTH III)
A few weeks have passed since the demise of Tsandra, as the skies gradually cleared to mark the start of Wind. Although unpleasant and dangerous at times, the Season of Wind is often a good moment to travel, as the unstable currents and fronts ground many creatures, while other, larger denizens initiate their Hibernation. In addition, 51051 was a year of good harvests in Central Dyalom, delivering sufficient nourishment for the Tothians to undertake a larger journey.
Pass of Ulm
Leora and Cyor stride along with the town caravan as they reach the Pass of Ulm, a small, rocky pass south of Seo's Passage. Sixty-nine of the inhabitants of Toth were convinced when Cyor explained about the demise of the Keeper Tsandra, and the need for the Tothians to move westwards to the Granite Mountains in search of the Lady of the Valley. Unfortunately, sixteen others remained unconvinced, and instead decided to remain in the old Toth settlement with the remaining supplies, looking after themselves. Many tears were shed during a painful goodbye, particularly for the cobbler Gubra, who had no choice but to leave her man Iros behind and travel along by herself with her two sons.
A stiff breeze makes the journey rather uncomfortable, though the temperature is just above freezing levels and a watery white sun is visible high in the sky. Leora and Cyor walk next to Mephos, the town elder who has been a citizen of Toth for well over seventy years.
"We are in luck today, friends.", Mephos mentions, "The weather is fair, and if it stays this way we might actually be able to reach our destination without loss of supplies. By the way, Leora. Have you thought at all about becoming the Keeper of our new town?", Mephos asks.
"It sounds exciting...but also rather frightening. According to the books, Keepers are forged in the mountains themselves. But going up there seems very dangerous to me, especially with these gales.", Leora responds.
"Oh, there are more dangers than just the weather.", Cyor adds, "But worry not, I am sure that at least some of us can accompany you along the way. But... there is a book that explains about the Keepers?"
Leora nods: "It’s just a compilation of course. I took the liberty to take it along on our journey. It's a shame I had to leave the other books behind with my father."
"It is unfortunate indeed,", Mephos, one of the town elders, adds, "but one has to respect the fond memories he has of the old town. Memories of your mother of course, but also the memories of the many adventures that he has experienced there. Even I will never forget the time he weaved the Ninth Path to summon Tsandra’s Eagle, saving Toth from certain destruction by Jackals. It was clear that he is very reluctant to leave all that behind. But I did reassure the Magistrate that he will always be welcome in our new settlement when he so wishes, just like everyone else."
Moments later, Leora’s mind begins to wonder.
“Mephos, you know a lot about the past. Tell me, have you ever heard of the Lady of the Valley? Do you know what she is like?”
Mephos turns to Leora.
“I hadn’t heard of her until you brought it up after the battle. But during our preparations I have been looking through the Compilations and consulting my Cortex, and I did discover a few things.”
“What kind of things?”
Mephos continues, ”Well, there are two strands that I could find. First there are the old stories of descendants of Queen Athealora Tamaros disappearing without trace in the Granite Mountains. In fact, there are rumours that the last King of Tamaros, King Tal, was not an only child, but had several sisters, all of which disappeared in this region.”
“That sounds foreboding. What about the second strand?”, Leora asks.
“The second strand is about a battle at Blackmill which supposedly took place about 40 years ago. Blackmill is the only major settlement in the Granite Mountains, and it is to the North of here. These days it is largely deserted, but at the time it was a thriving mining city. However, supposedly forty years ago a gigantic beast broke out of the mines, and a group of very powerful Sorcerers sacrificed their lives to defeat it.”
“And how does this all relate to the Lady of the Valley?”
Mephos ponders,”I honestly do not know precisely. But from your story I conclude that this Lady must wield some kind of power, and these two strands are the only stories I could find from the Granite Mountains. I suppose the two strands may be related to each other in some way, but I do not know whether they relate to this Lady.”
Cyor overhears part of the conversation, and becomes curious as well:
“Could this Lady be a Sorcerer like you?”
“I do not know for sure.”, Mephos answers, “But it is not unlikely. The Granite Mountains can be extremely dangerous during times of the year, so I do not know how any single woman could survive without the supernatural.”
The caravan proceeds at a measured pace, and half a day later they reach the end of the Ulm Pass, with the weather turned somewhat cloudy. Beyond the pass lies a sizable valley, featuring grassland and a small lake, surrounded by cliff sides covered partially in snow and ice.
"How are we supposed to proceed from here. Surely we can’t scale up any of those cliffs?", Cyor says. He looks up at his father as he walks next to him. Cymon Ostor himself is a towering bald man with blue robes, possessing strength that defies his age. He also has governed over Toth for the last two decades.
"A cul-de-sac isn't a bad thing, Cyor.", the Mayor Cymon responds, "In fact, it will make it easier for us to defend our settlement, and less likely that we'll have travellers passing through. However, we have yet to find the Lady of the Valley. Leora, how do you think we should proceed?"
"Well, Tsandra sent us to the Granite Mountains, and I suppose this is the only place we can reach here with any convenience. So perhaps we should settle down here, at least for the time being, and then search around for her."
"But if we do get attacked, then there will be no way out.", Cyor responds, "We'll be slaughtered like chickens in a cottage!"
Cymon nods in agreement: "You are right. But I do..”
Leora interrupts, and points to the far west:
“Look over there!”
House of the Valley
"Surely that must be the place.", Cymon remarks, "Now let's see who the Lady of the Valley really is..."