Staff of Winter, Part Three - The Mists of Annywn - Storm
Storm was lost and utterly alone, wandering through the misty half-light of the twisted forest. He could barely see his taloned hand before his face, and only knew the trees were there because he kept bumping into them or feeling branches or leaves brush against him. He called out, but once again it felt as though his voice did not carry past the length of his arm.
The dragonborn walked on, at one point tripping over a tree root and falling. Pulling himself to his feet, Storm continued for what felt like hours. It was getting dark, and he began to get worried, but then gradually noticed that the trees were thinning. He seemed to emerge from the woods, walking through the dissipating mist, and then noticed something in the sky above, a black, winged shadow coming towards him.
Storm looked around, seeking a tree to take cover. Finding none, he took to the air and retreated. The black winged shadow pursued him, chasing him down with superior speed, its huge leathery wings extending like storm clouds. Catching the dragonborn, the dark figure forced him to the ground with a sweep of its wings.
Landing on his feet, Storm was confronted by a terrifying vision.
Before him loomed Morrigan the Black, the Badb, the Queen of the Sithe. Her face was like marble, a mask of stone-like beauty with ebony horns laced with traces of shimmering mithril. A steel tiara appeared to be locked in place as though the metal had entered her flesh. She wore an exquisitely crafted mithril breastplate of ancient make. In her left hand she carried a trident of shimmering, buzzing necrotic energy. The trident head was formed from diamond with a circular black Queen chess figure at the heart of the intricate design bound by a disc of mithril.
Her wings were huge and muscular, much larger than Storm’s own; the masculinity incongruous alongside the femininity of the queen’s body. Her bloodless razor sharp lips sneered as she stepped forward, revealing huge demonic fangs.
“I made you! You are mine!” she rasped in her Hibernian brogue. “I demand your servitude. Submit to me or be destroyed!”
The Badb loomed over Storm and he took an involuntary step backwards, awed by the vast sorcerous power emanating from her. Gathering his wits, the dragonborn responded, feeling that he had no choice. “I submit,” he muttered.
Morrigan’s thin, bloodless lips twisted upward in a smile. “Good. A wise decision. Get on your knees,” she commanded.
Storm obeyed, and the Witch stepped forward, beginning to chant in a guttural language. As the chant grew in volume, she pointed her taloned fingers at the dragonborn and closed on him. He saw flame writhing around them as she placed her hand upon his chest, then felt agony as the fire penetrated his scales and flowed into his body. He tried to pull away but was held fast, as if somehow stuck to Morrigan’s taloned hand while the fire ravaged his body, burning through his bowels and his bloodstream, leaving him writhing in pain. It went on for what seemed like hours, the agony so great that Storm could barely even cry out. The only thought going through his mind was a desperate desire for it to stop, along with a fleeting realisation that Sioc must also have experienced this treatment, and a fear that he, Storm, would replace the other dragonborn as Morrigan’s tortured servant.
After what seemed an age of torment, the Badb tore her talons free of Storm’s chest, and the agony exploded to even greater heights. He collapsed to the floor, powerless, fire gouting from his mouth, the antithesis of his natural power, twisted into an abomination by Morrigan’s terrible sorcery.
The Witch loomed over the writhing, screaming dragonborn, surveying her handiwork. Suddenly, the temperature dropped, so dramatically that even Storm noticed through his agony. Morrigan looked up, startled, her focus shifting from the sorcerer and into the sky above and behind him. Her lips twisted and she snarled a curse, as a massive blast of bitterly cold mist engulfed them both. Storm heard her gasp in pain, but he felt the opposite, the unnatural flames within him eased by the freezing chill.
A deep voice boomed out from nearby. “Storm! Reach for the freezing power deep within you. You have more than you know! Help me drive off the Badb!” Through the mist, Storm saw the massive form of Ice looming over him.
Morrigan stumbled backwards, speaking a word of arcane power, and a thick, shadowy whip materialised in her right hand, immediately transforming into a huge snake dripping acidic venom from razor sharp fangs, straining toward Storm. The Badb’s eyes were fixed on the huge dragon behind him, and she gestured toward it, sending a purple-black net of crackling energy spinning out and snapping into Ice’s wings. He bellowed in rage and pain, flexing his huge wings, and the net shattered.
Storm pushed himself backwards and scrambled to his feet. Whether because of the proximity of Ice, or the advice the dragon had just proffered, something clicked deep within him, sudden clarity in relation to concepts and sorceries he had been tentatively exploring for weeks. He could feel, within his heart, his soul, and his mind, how to conjure stalactites of ice from the ground to stab, push and freeze a foe.
The dragonborn looked around, seeing Ice drawing in a great breath. Surmising that the dragon was going to breathe on the Badb once again, Storm evoked his new power, conjuring three stalactites which surged up from the ground, stabbing toward Morrigan and pushing her backwards.
Her eyes widened in surprise at this intervention, and she snarled in outrage, rasping a single word of arcane power. All three stalactites immediately shattered into a million pieces, and she turned her baleful gaze to Storm, only to be engulfed by another billowing cloud of freezing breath from Ice. The dragonborn was also enveloped in the freezing mist. He was unsure whether he had been transported elsewhere, or whether Morrigan had been driven off, but as the mist cleared she was gone, leaving him alone with Ice.
“Blood is thicker than water, even uisce beatha,” said the dragon to Storm, before flexing his massive wings, driving himself airborne and disappearing into the mist.
Storm was alone in the mist once more. On the edge of his vision, he caught a glimpse of a large white dragon egg. He squinted through the fog, seeing the egg crack and break, and a small, scrawny white dragonborn hatchling with silver-tinged scales struggled free of the shell. He walked toward it, but the mists billowed across him and the vision faded. Instead, he saw a tree looming from the fog, then more trees. As he walked, the mists faded quickly, and he found himself deep in the forests of Annwyn, lost and alone.
He wandered for a time, and came across a figure. Observing from a distance, he saw that it was an old woman, picking mushrooms and putting them in a rough weaved basket. She moved on, then straightened, sniffing the air, and looking straight at Storm.
The old elf looked at the dragonborn quizzically. “Hello stranger,” she said in an aged yet still cheerful voice. “Come here, let Brisen get a better look at you.”
Storm approached, asking her name and she introduced herself as Brisen, bidding him again to come closer. Storm was reluctant, fearing attack, which brought a mirthful response from the old woman. “My, but you are a funny one,” she remarked. “A son of the dragon. We do not see the likes of you in this neck of the woods very often. Come, you are lost. Alone, yes? But travelling with others. A knight, and a lady.”
“How do you know that?” asked Storm.
“This is my forest,” replied the old woman. “I know every tree, every leaf, every bird, every animal. Come, come! I will guide you, take you to them.”
Storm acquiesced, and Brisen led him through the woods for a time, eventually stopping at a wooden shack deep in the forest. Storm was surprised, and delighted, to see his friend Tector sitting on the ground outside.