December, 716 CR
It was early evening in the Midlands. The winter sun had set early as it always did, leaving the land clothed in darkness but not in peace. The storm that came with the sunset came in fiercely like an invading army. It raged as far north as Politzen and as far south as Giftum, bringing cold and snow wherever it went.
At the storm's heart lay Metamor. The valley was at peace but the weather wasn’t. Here the wind blew harder and the snow fell faster then anywhere else, covering everything with a thick blanket of white. At Metamor keep most people stayed indoors, grateful for the ancient fortresses thick, warm walls. The only people out in such weather were the guards and sentries who paced its walls and protected its entrances. Even these poor souls weren’t subjected to the cold for long as the shifts had been shortened to half the normal time.
To the north of the great keep sat the village of Glen Avery. Its streets were quickly being buried under layers of snow. The town itself was already buried. Its shops and homes dug into the sides of hills or down into the earth. All that appeared above ground were the doors and widows poking through the earth and snow, shedding light out into the darkness. Here and there in the darkness small pillars of gray smoke rose upward running against the downward current of the snow spoke of chimneys that gave warmth to the houses below.
On the edge of the village a small road made of newly laid cobblestones led off the main path to town. The stones were of a dark gray color with spidery veins of black and white shot through them. The road itself wound part way up a large hill passing a row of windows bright with the lights and sounds of a party before arriving at a magnificent wooden door. This door was recessed back into the base of the hill and surrounded by stone of the same color as the cobblestones. The door itself was made from dark tiger-striped wood from a tree that grew only on the Giantdowns. Gossip among the villagers was that it had been made from a tree felled by an ogre and brought south as plunder from a Lutin stronghold.
The snow was coming down, heavy now turning the world outside into a swirl of white fog that deadened all sound and reduced people to mere shadows. It covered everything with a thick blanket of white that resisted all efforts to remove and muffling all noise of footsteps.
In spite of the wind the snow brought a sense of calm and all being right with the world. But to the person standing at the window peace and calm was the last thing on his mind. The snow and the bitter cold brought back many memories some bad, some good.
Downstairs the owners of the manor were celebrating the first holiday in their new home in grand style. It seemed that everyone in the valley had been invited for the rooms and halls were filled with people, food and music.
Upstairs things were quiet, all the rooms darkened except for one. In this a lamp filled the room with a soft golden. The glow illuminated a room whose walls were covered with murals of unicorns, griffins, wolves bears and all manner of creatures in fanciful poses. In one corner a small pile of children’s blocks lay scattered. Nearby a rocking horse stood silent guardian next to a large, open sided model of a castle. Little figures of people, soldiers and animals had been carefully placed throughout by playful, little hands. On a nearby wall rested a small bookshelf, its top no higher than an adult's waist. Resting haphazardly on the shelves was a score of books, all filled with fairy tales of knights, dragons, and fair damsels to be rescued. Other books were filled with pretty pictures of happy people and animals in imaginary lands. But the blocks, toys and books lay unused, momentarily forgotten.
The sounds of the party were reduced to a faint, background murmur that the watcher at the window easily ignored. More audible was the sound of children chattering and playing behind him. He turned around and the room grew suddenly silent and still. In front of him was a room full of children, some human, some furry. All were the sons and daughters of fellow keepers, some dear friends. They all sat waiting patiently for the story they knew was coming. No matter what story he told, it would be exciting.
He felt a small tug on his sleeve and looking down found a little girl dressed in an expensive dress and whose black hair was done in long braids.
“What story are you going to tell us?” the girl asked eagerly. Her eyes filled with innocent excitement.
“We want a great story!” another child exclaimed. His body was covered with the short spotted fur of some southern animal. “One with big battles and heroes!”
“Yeah!” a different girl added. “One with lots of romance too.”
Soon the whole group was shouting out their own wants and ideas for the perfect tale.
The adult held up his hand to hush the children and calm was restored. He knew the perfect story. He moved to a tall, stuffed chair that rested next to a small fireplace whose burning logs gave warmth to the room. Sitting softly in the chair he looked again at the snow swirling out the window. A profound silence filled the room
Then he pointed out the window to a world turned white by the fierce storm. When he spoke it was in a voice as soft as a summer breeze but none of the children had any problem hearing him. “It was ten years ago. Ten years ago tonight on a night just like this one with a terrible storm raging.”