Windhammer, Copyright Wayne Densley 2008 All Rights Reserved
Within a numbing darkness you struggle to find consciousness, your head a turmoil of vague images and the recurring nightmare of a desperate fall that somehow never ends. It seems that you are trapped in a void somewhere between light and dark, but there is also a certainty growing that if you awaken it will be to a world filled with pain. When you finally force open one of your eyes you realise that your face is covered in blood, and that you are lying on your back, staring up at the overhanging canopy of the forest. For a while you remember nothing of how you came to be here, but slowly the memories return and with their unveiling so comes the pain. With every breath you feel the agonies of a thousand knifes stabbing at your chest, blood spattering about you as you struggle for each laboured gasp of air. Although you cannot see them your arms lay twisted and broken, your legs torn and crushed from the violence of your passing through the trees. It would appear that the fall has not yet killed you, but it is only a matter of time.
From high above you had fallen, your body a twisting form plummeting for the ground. The Dweo'gorga's sweeping blow had been enough to send you hurtling off the edge of the precipice and there could be no salvation from the fall. When you had hit the trees the upper branches of the canopy had thrown you sideways into the solid stone of the cliffs, before sending you tumbling into a scree slope of loose rock. In a spray of fractured granite and debris you had hit the incline before coming to a stop within the softer understory of the forest. Harsh timber and harder stone had torn and hammered at your body until you had finally found rest, and in the quiet of the forest there could be no help.
Struggling for breath you try and raise your head but cannot, your injuries are too severe. In the cool shadows of the overhanging trees you attempt to move any part of your body, but find yourself without feeling or movement. You are paralysed, struggling for breath and bleeding to death. There can be no doubt that in this lifetime your quest is over.
For what seems like hours you lay ragged and dying, the life-blood of your existence slowly seeping from injuries that can never heal. Unable to move you watch the wind move through the trees overhead, and listen to sounds of the forest. In its way it is a peaceful end that you find yourself confronting. Better you think than the prospect of execution in Das Frontiere, but edged with a numbing pain that has a hold on your body like a vice. It will be only moments you think and you will be dead.
Reconciled to your ultimate fate you begin to whisper a chant imploring Providence to end your suffering quickly, but pause when you sense movement in the trees near you. It is in then that you feel something at your side, a presence that is both familiar and disconcerting. As the sky above you begins to grow pale a face suddenly appears over yours. It is the young boy you met on the road south of Maenum.
"Master Vesh," the boy says quietly. "You have caused yourself a grievous injury. Please trust that what you are about to go through is worth what is about to be taken from you."
Before you can say anything the boy touches you on the shoulder and steps back. It is no more than a glance of a finger's end upon your skin but it sets in motion a conflagration that quickly envelopes your entire body. From your shoulder a heat erupts like a red-hot poker drawn across your skin. Immediately it spreads, a pulsing burn that rushes down the lengths of your arms, then engulfs your torso before reaching for your lower limbs. On the heals of the spreading heat rides an agony like nothing you have ever experienced; a grasping, tearing force that searches your body, laying open every wound, old scar or injury that you have ever suffered in your life. It is a meticulous and relentless energy, that works to a purpose as it thrusts you deep into an all-embracing ocean of pain. And when it is done opening your Book of Scars it then begins its real work.
As a tide might inexorably reach upon a shoreline the heat increases. In waves of pulsing agony you can feel the energy burning like the midday suns; bringing together splintered bone, fusing and re-knitting torn muscle and reaching deep into your body, taking all that was broken and making it whole once again. It is a trial that you cannot endure for long, and as the power goes about its relentless work you fall once again into unconsciousness.
When you awaken the boy is leaning against the trunk of the nearest tree, staring at you but not seeing you. Without thinking you raise your arm and find that you can turn your head.
"Everything is alright now." the boy says. "The Trial of Hallen'draal has been worked upon you and your Book of Scars renewed. Arise, for you are now whole."
Without a word you pull yourself up onto one elbow and feel your chest and legs. The boy is correct. Your clothes are torn and discoloured with blood but your body is healed. By what artifice it has been wrought you cannot say but you are not going to die.
Carefully you get up onto one knee and look about you. High above you can see the cliffs from whence you had fallen, and down the lower edge of the stone face you can see areas of blood where you had hit before falling onto the valley floor. The forest is thick about you but a faint trail on cleared ground leads northwards, before turning out of sight into the trees.
For a moment you try and get your bearings. If you are right, the entrance to Stoneholme should be somewhere further up the valley but you cannot be sure. You do not know how long you have lain here either; it may have been a few hours, or a day. You begin to laugh as you realise that you have survived, only to face the dangers of Stoneholme and the Hordim within.
In the shadows of the forest you turn to the boy, your intention to give thanks for your deliverance, but already he is beginning to fade. You move quickly towards him, however you have no chance to speak. In a quiet evaporation the image of the child dissipates and is gone. Without the opportunity to say thankyou, you find yourself once again alone in the wilderness. You are alive and the remainder of your quest waits somewhere ahead.
(The working of the Trial of Hallen'draal has given you life but it cannot restore you to full health. There is a cost to its agonies that must be reflected in your character's endurance. Your endurance points remain at the same level as they were prior to the attack by the Dweo'gorga, but the Trial has weakened your overall endurance level. For the remainder of this quest your maximum endurance level must be reduced by 3 points. It is a consequence of the Trial that cannot be avoided and should be recorded on your character sheet before continuing.)
Sore from the rigours of the Nab's touch you look around the valley floor and consider what you should do next. Will you continue quickly along the trail ahead? If this is your choice turn to section 499. If you would rather rest first before continuing, turn to section 440.
This book, and its associated books and other documents in the Chronicles of Arborell series are the intellectual property of the author, Wayne F Densley, and all rights are reserved by him. Windhammer is best viewed at 1024 x 768 resolution. Any questions regarding the Chronicles of Arborell can be answered by emailing the author at firstname.lastname@example.org
Windhammer, Copyright Wayne Densley 2008 All Rights Reserved