09/21/2022: my ultimate attempt at the assignment from here based off of a dungeons and dragons campaign i'm a part of as of writing this ^_^ (icewind dale)
Love. Who would’ve thought I’d go this far.
Miles and miles away from home, knee deep in endless snow, following a divine vision that came to me months ago, to be precise.
The sun hasn’t risen on Icewind Dale for a little over two years now. The snow keeps coming down in sheets, and the villagers must continue to adapt. This makes being out here even worse—especially when you’re used to a slow life teaching school children music. Just a month ago I wouldn’t have ever been able to see myself up so high on a mountain against the frigid cold, facing the wilderness with a team of strangers I had only met a few days prior. However, as they say, love takes us to weird places.
It was my first love who drove me up to this point. Atlian was a man I had known long before we settled down here in the Dale. He was an adventurer, much like the people I had recently begun traveling with. His life fascinated me—swinging swords, casting spells, and protecting his local townspeople from harm—and it is what convinced me that he’s still alive and out there, even after a month had passed since his disappearance.
“Hey, is everyone still alive back there?” One of our party members called out, a peculiar man with subtly scaled skin concealed under layers of winter clothes. Our gear made us indistinguishable from one another apart from our voices. He turned to face me. “Eva. Are you good?”
I looked up and nodded the best I could underneath the clerical stole I had wrapped around my face.
“Alright. We should be reaching the camp spot soon. Momo, is this it?” His covered head tilted to face a newer addition to our party—Momo, a spellcaster woman donning thick furs. She nodded with full force to ensure it was visible underneath her own layers: up, down, up, down.
“I’ve learned a lot from the locals, this spot should be safe for tonight!” She shouted, muffled under her furs. “Everyone get ready to lend a hand!”
We set up camp together. Momo and Alberto, the ranger of the party, took up tapping in the stakes. I attempted to help the others get our makeshift tent up.
My hands aren’t used to this adventuring business, instead they’re more suited for what they’d been doing for most of my life: playing the piano, grading papers, and painting landscapes. Sure, Atlian had taken me out for a few fun journeys early in our relationship, but I ended up swearing off that life for good after facing off against a spellcaster I now realize was fairly weak.
So, naturally, upon trying to pitch a tent, doing exactly what I swore off years ago, I wasn’t much help. Ropes slipped out of my frigid, gloved hands, and the others moved much faster than I could in heavy winter gear. I ended up stepping back and letting them finish it without obstruction after losing hold of the blasted rope for the fourth time.
Soon enough we were all huddled around a flickering fire, one that fought against the heavy snow to stay lit. Feeding it piles of wood we had gathered earlier, we were all relieved to finally be sitting after hours of trudging along.
“How’s everyone feeling?” Asked Alberto, his voice loud even through the howling wind and the fabric covering his mouth.
“Honestly? Pretty hungry.” Tiglo, a small dragonborn child, almost formless underneath all his layers, chipped in. “What’s on the menu tonight?”
“Trout,” I answered. “Just like yesterday. And the day before.”
“Hey, we actually had chowder that one night,” The shorter man next to me replied. He was a peculiar little fellow—a Goblin, something we don’t get much of up here. Everyone here was bundled up, but him particularly so. No part of him was exposed to the winter air, not even his ears, which were wrapped up in thick fabric.
“Great. Well, that was at a tavern, and the only thing I can reel in up here is trout.” I shifted my backpack forward and opened it up. “If you manage to reel in a bowl of chowder, please, make our day.”
We cooked our fish, and we ate as much as we could before the harsh winds froze our lips. The local fishing scene held up Icewind Dale after our climate was thrown into a seemingly endless winter. We had been effectively cut off from the outside world, only having our own lakes to thrive from. Occasionally the locals get creative with their fish, which is when we get the edible-looking slop we call chowder at the nearby tavern. Otherwise, it’s trout for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Finally, we fell into our tents, relieved. I set my backpack down next to my sleeping bag and, guided by the weak light of the lantern nearby, opened up a small leatherbound book I had kept with me ever since Atlian’s disappearance. It was filled with various prayers and notes—almost like a scientific journal. The note followed a similar pattern: if I did this, this happened, which might be a message from my deity. Today I did this, and my deity may have responded like that. Notes like that filled the pages, along with prayers I had picked up during my studies.
I wasn’t much of a religious person before my husband disappeared, but it seems religion wormed its way into my life on its own. I was alone when it came to me with a strength similar to the flood wrecking our town to pieces. I heard one of the classical pieces I had been studying playing to me in my damaged school building with no discernible source, and in an instant when I shut my eyes I found myself in the middle of a harsh blizzard much like the ones we were so used to out here in the wild. I saw a single torch light, and could make out the silhouette of my husband, Atlian, holding his torch up high through the flurry of snow. The vision was gone before I had registered what had happened, and I was left utterly confused until I returned that day to an empty home. Atlian wasn’t anywhere to be found after that flood, and I could only assume it had been Oghma, deity of music and knowledge, who bestowed upon me that vision of my husband braving the snow.
And now, I clutched onto that single touch of divinity with all I can, letting Oghma guide me blindly through the snow like a puppet on a string, hopefully back to my husband.
“Eva?” A small voice broke me out of the trance I had entered upon laying eyes on the first frantic prayer written in my notes. “You up?” Tiglo, the Dragonborn child, tossed in his sleeping bag to face me. In the tent we could remove enough headgear to be able to see each other’s faces, and his scaly visage was one quite distinct.
“Mhm,” I hummed. “You okay?” Even knowing he was self-sufficient and trained to be a warrior, I couldn’t help but worry over him like any other child in my care.
“Yeah,” he replied. “Are you doing your prayers?”
“Mmm.” I nodded.
“...Can I join? I can’t sleep, and…” He trailed off on his own.
We had a party member die on us the other night in a rough battle. I had said a prayer for him before Tiglo and I buried him in the snow, and ever since then, the dragonborn had been acting out of character.
“Yeah, if I can find the right one.” I sat back, patting a spot next to me for him to crawl into. He peered with curiosity at my book.
“What’s in there? Are those all your prayers?”
“Prayers, notes, all the same.” I flipped through. “Honestly just whatever my deity seems to like.”
“Oh?” Tiglo tilted his head. “Have you gotten to speak to them?”
“Well, yes, but it wasn’t really a conversation,” I explained, “Just a one-off vision.” I paused. “But I’ve been studying his ways ever since, and put this together…” I landed on the last page I had written in days prior.
Action: I hummed Clair de Lune with my eyes closed.. Response: I found a silver piece on the ground when I opened them. Action: Wiped my shoes 4 times each before entering the inn. Response: I dreamt of Atlian.
“Hrm. Haven’t really added anything good in a while.” I started absentmindedly wiping my boots off on the tarp next to my bag.
“Uh…I don’t know that much about Oghma, but he’s a music guy too, right?” Tiglo put a hand to his chin. “I’ve seen some of the warriors from my old army pray over their weapons thanking the god of war or something for another day and ask for more victories…You think you could do that with an instrument?”
Of course. How could I have been so dumb to ignore the obvious? Oghma probably wanted offerings, and I wasn’t being a very generous disciple.
“You’re onto something,” I said, putting down my book and rifling through my bag for my old lyre. It had been a while since I had picked her up, a stark change from playing daily before I got wrapped into this whole mess. I set her gently on the sleeping bag in front of me. “How’d your warrior friends do it?”
“We lit a candle, sometimes, and honestly, that’s it. You don’t really need that much, I think.” Tiglo reached into his bag. “I…don’t have any candles…but we have this lantern?”
“It…should do,” I said, feeling a twang of anxiety in my gut. “I hope.” I shifted into a kneel before the lyre, leaving a space next to me for Tiglo to join. He placed his gloved palms to the ground.
“So you go like this and bow your head a little like this…” He got into optimal position. I followed, a bit unsure, but willing to trust this kid’s old warrior knowledge over my own lost fumblings. “And, uh…just close your eyes and speak, really. We started off addressing our god, and then just went on from there. Just let yourself sit in the moment from where you are.”
“Um... Okay. I can do that.” I shut my eyes. I found myself once again trying desperately to send myself into that snowy tundra I had seen in my very first vision, much like I tried the last time I went into prayer, and the time before, and before that…but I shut that down as soon as I recognized it. Be in the moment.
I focused on the dark void behind my eyelids and let out a sigh. I began.
“Almighty Oghma…wherever you may be…” My own voice sounded foreign, as it did whenever I tried to speak to him. “I am Eva, one bestowed with your vision of snow. I bring you my lyre, and thank you for everything I’ve learned today.” I hesitated.
“Like the prayer you learned from me!” Tiglo added.
“Like…the prayer I learned from Tiglo.” I chuckled. “I’m, uh, still new to this, but I trust you to guide us into a new day unharmed.”
“And thanks for today!”
“And thank you for keeping us safe today,” I followed Tiglo’s suggestions as he dropped them. “I’ll, uh…catch you soon, I hope. Please keep Atlian safe, wherever he may be. Thank you.” I opened my eyes and quickly glanced at my lyre, almost hoping for a sign of his presence, like a glow or a flame—still nothing. I looked over to Tiglo, who opened his eyes shortly after I did.
“…That’s, uh, a good starting point!” His eyes squinted above a big smile. “But that’s usually how we did it! And then you leave your instrument by your side as you sleep!” He took out his own sword, hilt wrapped in patterned fabric, and set it down on the ground next to his own sleeping bag.
“Great. Thanks, buddy. You get some sleep now, alright?”
“I can try…” He scampered into his own sleeping bag and wriggled into it until he was snug. “...Nighty, then!” I gave him a thumbs up.
“Night.” I began tucking my things away in my bag and preparing for sleep at last, away from the frigid cold spilling in from inside.
“Oh, and uh, Eva?” Tiglo’s eyes peered at me from across the tent. “...Who’s Atlian?”
“He’s someone I hope you can meet very soon,” I replied, crawling into my sleeping bag. “Now go to bed, it’s late.”
“Is he a warrior, too? Or a cleric like you?”
“I said go to sleep, Tiglo. You’ll meet him eventually.”
“Aw, come on, I want to know!”
The wind continued to howl around us throughout the night. The pitch black darkness was relentless, not even moonlight piercing through the thick dark sheet that had seemingly been draped over Icewind Dale for years on end. As I fell asleep I heard the soft voices of two of our party members stationed outside by the fire, laughing and exchanging stories. Eventually Tiglo began to snore, and I let out a sigh of relief. Things were fine, for now. Sure, I was traveling with a band of strangers lost in the middle of nowhere with no sight of Atlian, but…I found myself starting to warm up to this band of misfits.
I settled deeper into the waves of sleep washing over me. I attempted to seek out that vision again, and saw my husband sitting in the snow. He peered up at me, fixed my scarf, and pushed me back with a smile, into a crashing tide of drowsiness that sent my body to rest.
As the tundra slept tonight, I imagined him sleeping with it, wherever he was. We breathe in sync, under the same stars, and I will continue to trek deeper into these wilds in search of him. Even if it takes a million more nights of prayer with Tiglo, pitching tents with Momo and Alberto, and letting go of the rope, I will someday feel his warm breath again. I’ll persevere until my trembling voice can no longer plead with Oghma and my scarred hands can no longer write my findings.
Love. Who would’ve thought I’d be willing to go this far?