Chapter One - Alliances
At the end of Spring and into the long Winter months, there was a lingering silence that hung over the Evergreen Depths. In the near-arctic region of the Upper Norselands of Medivo, this endless forest was quiet enough that with a careful ear, one could hear the snowflakes kiss the ground. Very little wildlife roamed these woods, except the occasional stag or fleeting bird, but they did not linger long. The air was thick and heavy as the tall evergreens seemed to lean into one another overhead, blocking out much of the light during the day and casting the forest floor in even darker nights.
This was something that Quinn Tanner of Draklon still had trouble getting accustomed to as she carefully traversed the deep wood. Despite the fact that her and her people have lived in the Drakhiri outpost just south of the forest for a few years now, she was used to getting more than two seasons. In the Spring the snow accumulation was slow and almost nonexistent in some parts. In fact, many parts of the land thaw and warm up just enough for crops to be grown and for big game hunting as wildlife returns to the land to feed on the greenery. But spring only lasted a short time compared to the gruelingly long winter months.
The first few weeks of winter were always the hardest. The first blizzard came like a northern hurricane, winds ripping at the earth and the cold that pierced through skin and bone. Snow would come down in sheets, leaving anyone unfortunate enough to be caught in it surrounded by a near-featureless, white void. After the initial storm subsides, Winter was almost bearable. The occasional blizzard and the blistering cold didn’t make for great living conditions, but there was a fierce beauty to a northern landscape blanketed in a fresh layer of snow. Beauty was, as Quinn and the Drakkhiri realized, just a cover for all the horrors the Norselands housed.
Besides the constant threat of a Frostbornian attack, one of the biggest and most fearsome creatures that roamed these lands year-round were the great dire wolves. They were bigger than a horse and their diets mostly consisted of the migrating wildlife in the Spring, and the Norse inhabitants during the winter. There was even a rumor among Quinn’s people that the Frostborne tamed the beasts and used them as mounted cavalry. She had hoped those were just rumors, but after meeting a most peculiar Frostbornian in the form of Ken, nothing would surprise her.
And there she was crossing into enemy territory yet again, all to get the ball rolling on establishing a truce between Draklon and Frostborne to help drive the elves of Esduin off the shores once and for all. Quinn was wrapped in her usual dark green garb, the warm hooded robe fitted neatly overtop her chainmail. Strands of dirty blonde hair peeked out from beneath her hood as her strikingly blue eyes took in the scenes.
It didn’t take very long for Quinn to get the feeling like she was being observed, but with a careful eye on her peripherals she continued on her way. After she traversed a few dozen feet, the shaft of an arrow suddenly imbedded itself into the snow at her feet. She froze in mid step and reached for the great bow slung over her back.
“I wouldn’t do that,” called a gravelly voice from somewhere in front of her, concealed by the snowy underbrush. Quinn complied in silence but stood her ground. She stared into the foliage as she heard the subtle sounds of movement. Even the Frostborne were not totally silent in their element, the crunching of footfalls and the shifting of undergrowth were enough to tell Quinn that she was surrounded, though she couldn’t tell how close they were or how many.
“What is yer purpose for traveling through our lands?” The gravelly voice continued, “especially since ya seem to be alone?” Quinn’s attention turned toward the source of the voice again, still hidden somewhere in front of her. She smiled faintly.
“I was hoping to run into some of you out here,” Quinn replied. “I am Quinn Tanner of Draklon and I have just met with one of your own.” She paused briefly but when no one else spoke she continued, “a most peculiar man named Ken.”
Quinn could hear soft murmurs coming from the seemingly invisible Frostbornians. “Ken who?” The same voice inquired rather incredulously.
“He never gave me his name in full,” Quinn admitted. “But he was robed in grey with swords black as the night. He claimed to be one of you.” The murmurs around her continued and the Drakkhiri woman could feel the mood lighten exponentially. Snow from the underbrush in front of her fell as someone sifted toward her. The short and stout figure of a dwarf emerged from the woods His red beard clashing against his fur coat and steel armor plating.
Quinn Tanner watched the dwarf plant his boots into the ground just a few yards away. He stared up from under his helm, emerald green eyes twinkling with wander. “It’s been years since we’ve heard that name,” he said with the same gravelly voice, “most of us thought Ken was dead.”
The Drakhiri nodded thoughtfully, “he seems to be quite the illusive one. But together him and I agreed to start negotiations for a truce.”
“Were?” Ohrim repeated.
“Like I said, he’s quite illusive,” grimaced Quinn, “after we repelled a party of Esduin scouts, he left through a portal of some sort. Something about saving Medivo in its entirety?” She shook her head in disbelief as she relived the encounter in her head. “I’ve never met a stranger man. But all I know is that he said he’d be back.”
Ohrim’s brow raised so high it could have given him an extra inch in statue. “That so? Y’know that’s kinda funny. He’s practically a legend among the Frostborne, but going off to save the world? He’ll have a lot of explainin’ to do when he returns, eh?”
There was the shuffling of booted feet and the shifting of branches as half a dozen figures revealed themselves. They were taller than a dwarf, so Quinn assumed they were human. The Frostbornians were garbed in white camouflage from head to boot, hooded and masked to help keep in as much heat as possible. Miss Tanner would have been perturbed by their ghostly appearance had their earlier demeanor still been present.
The dwarf cleared his throat to get Quinn’s attention again. “I guess it’d be polite to give you my name, eh?” He chuckled and saluted her by placing a fist to his chestplate. “I am Kaptain Ohrim of the Gravelgrinder dwarves, and these are my Frostborne friends and family.”
“It’s nice to meet you all,” Quinn said with a warm smile.
“Miss Quinn! Perhaps you’d like to take us to where Ken had departed?” Ohrim inquired. “I’d hate to miss him again in case the rascal has found better things to do with his time, haha!” Though it a was in jest, Quinn could sense just the faintest trace of resentment in the dwarf’s tone. Just how long had Ken been missing?
“Of course,” Miss Quinn replied as she gestured toward the direction she came from. “I’ve marked the path to where he departed. Though I must warn you, there may be elves investigating the scene.”
Ohrim smiled darkly as he reached for the hilt of his axe, “Ooohhh I was hopin’ you’d say that, lass.”