Song of the Breathless

What You Know
  • YOUR VILLAGE
    Mistreach (pop 600) is a small, quaint village known for its superb carpentry and woodworking. It has been settled for some four hundred years, and fiercely retains its small size and charm, trying above all to exist in harmony with the forest around. It is ruled by an Alderman, who along with the Council of Ten, guides the civil, economic, and cultural development of the village.

Along with Freedonia, Stonepoint, Fōtsburg, and Stegstad, it is part of the Five Sisters, the collective name for the five allied towns and villages along the bluffs and shores of Lake Nortombo.

  • YOUR DAILY LIFE
    Mistreach is fairly self-sufficient, with a number of families cultivating various groves and clearings on the outskirts of the village to provide vegetables and meat for the entire town, and enough craftspeople to supply the basic needs of the population. Daytime is work-time, from just after sunrise until the sun hides and light begins to fade, when family-time begins. Midweek is market day at the central plaza, when caravans from the other four towns arrive to conduct trade, and the Alderman addresses the town with news. Hearthday is a day of rest, when people spend time with their friends and loved ones, and blessings and benedictions are given.
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What Everyone Knows (Or Think They Know)

Arbaro, literally ‘forest’ in ancient Ur-Caladan, has existed since the world was new, and will likely exist until the world dies. It is a vast living entity of trees, shrubs, vines, ferns, and roots, stretching at least for a thousand kilometers as Human measure things. Its canopy hides the signs of a hundred civilizations that rose and fell within its borders, some living in peace with the land, others trying to control it, a few seeking to destroy it, all now gone, their ruins all that remains. Within the deepest woods, the Ancients, forces of nature as old as Arbaro itself, lair in secluded groves of power, sleeping their millennial dream, unperturbed by the passing of time.

Then the Dark arrived.

A hundred hundred stories are told of the arrival of the Dark, and they are all true, and all lies. It lives in the shadows of the trees, in the burrows and caves, in the decay of a putrid copse, in foul deeds and thoughts. It has tried to consume the forest into itself many times, and once it almost succeeded: this was the time of Wicked Nur, may its name be forgotten and erased. The cost was immeasurable: the forest sacrificed of itself to fend off the invasion, the Elder peoples massacred almost to extinction, the very fabric of magic forever altered to keep it at bay. It was no victory, only a stalemate until the next time.

Thus the Pact of Thorns was born.

Once a year, on the Spring Equinox, the Gifts are given, and the seal is preserved.

This is the Pact.

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Intro: Night of the Pact

Old Mattias sits down on the worn tree stump he’s used as a chair for fifty-two years and clears his throat. Like a miracle, the throng of children falls silent in rapt attention; they’ve waited all year for this moment.

“The torches are lit,” Old Mattias begins, his raspy voice echoing in the silent town square, “the gifts have been given, and now the story is told. This is the way it’s been done for three thousand years, this is the way it will be done for thousands more.”

“This is the pact,” the entire town replies in unison.

" The Pact of Thorns made long ago protects us to this day. These are the words of the Calanian Elders, to be told down the generations, so that we may hear and live.

Gather leaves of fiery oak,
Dig up rocks of purest gold,
Gather drops of clearest dew,
And cries of babies born anew.
Gift them yearly, without fail.
For the Dark to keep at bay.
Should you fail in your endeavor.
Wicked Nur will reign in terror.

“This is the pact,” the town once again chants as one.

Old Mattias throws some glintpowder into the nearest torch, making it explode in a flash of multicolored sparks to the fright and delight of the children. He always indulges himself a cheap trick at the end of the rite to lighten the mood.

“Alderman,” whispers the guard waiting in the shadows.

Old Mattias sighs and hobbles slowly over, his knees in pain after sitting for so long. " What news, Jurgen. How fare the…" Jurgen’s pale face makes the Alederman stop.

" Freedonia is gone," he whispers, shocked. “Their torches were lit, the gifts were given, but Freedonia’s gone.”

“Was anyone spared?”

“No, Alderman, you don’t understand. Freedonia is gone,” Jurgen whispers all but crying. “The whole village is gone. The land bears the marks of buildings and square and people, but the whole village is gone.”

The laughter and squeals of children playing in the square only make the news all the more terrible, and Old Mattias knows the end has begun.

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