Marguerite and the others who know about rituals figured out that if we put into a protective dome to protect the baby tree, it would be ready by about dawn. Eevolertu wanted to figure out guard shifts, and Marguerite talked about setting up a messenger line with Sulanee so she could let us know if anything changed with the gracknel. Eevolertu expected things might start happening around 4 low bells, so I said I'd come back by then.

As I headed towards the gracknel, I noticed that its song had changed, becoming more like sound that wasn't song. As I heard more, it sounded like a churning mill wheel. Not restful sound, sometimes with surging, turning sounds. It made me a bit nervous, having heard how the gracknel had started some emergency procedures earlier tonight. I started singing a lullaby, which distracted me from the gracknel non-song, though I didn't know whether it would help the gracknel at all. There were multicolored luminescences on the pipes, and constant steam, not intermittent. I headed up around the roots towards Sulanee's house. There were little flickering lights in different colors, in and around, though I hadn't seen that before. No one else was out. As I walked along a tall root, a blue-white circular shape started to glow, one that didn't seem likely to have been there before. I paused to look at it. There were patterns, which when I looked, it seemed sort of like a scrying glass, but a complex weave of things like the All-Wood, but inblue & white light. It's gently rotating. Near the edges, there are shapes that are some alphabet's words. I looked further, and as I shifted my head, it seemed to shift, so I could see more of it. I realized I was looking at the gracknel looking up. There were things in the deep. I looked at it thinking about the energies of manipulate inner energies and whether I could figure something out about whether there was a problem in the movement, a blockage. I looked closer, to get better resolution. The letters changed, and there were more of them, presumably describing whatever this was. I looked for blockages, and the view somehow recognized what I was doing, and immediately changed view to show things inside with each piece in different states. I felt waves of unease. A few words fell through my mind, then it seemed to greet me. I replied, and it seemed like it was thinking. It welcomed me as an engineer, saying that emergency procedures had been initiated, and a huge list of parts were needed. I said that parts were unavailable. I stepped back. It said that the current language doesn't match. I agreed, and it said cognitive support needed. Critical support needed in these areas. I said 'disengage engineer,' and it dimmed.

I guessed that the reason this happened was due to the Gray Lady, not me. I'm not enough different from the other people around otherwise. It made me feel like she could be useful in the valley.

I went to Swulanee's house, and luckily the light was still on. I tried to quietly get her attention, and once she settled the baby, she came out to talk with me. I asked her about whether she'd had a window near her, into the gracknel, and she seemed unclear about that. I talked about it needing some of the pieces it listed. She said that it was keeper work, and seemed a bit surprised I'd heard these sorts of things. We talked a bit about emergency procedures, and how it started around when the seed was planted.

Swulanee went over to a root, and an area that felt like wooden and metallic Braille swimming around, not the clarity of the window I'd seen. She said that she couldn't find here, and the song was gone.

I went back to camp and woke Eevolertu to tell him about what happened, and used a burned stick and a bit of fabric to scribble the shape of some of the letters that had been. I told him Swulanee expected another person to come by. He woke Donjerwen to go to Swulanee, and delegated to Oreshalore to be in charge of guard shifts as he went to talk to the Menarcic focus, the light lady.

I went to sleep, hard.
Ofeshia decided to go pick up the lights from the Crages woman who made them. I wanted to go, but needed some sleep after all the exertion of the day before the planting. Eevolertu was doing his tuning and meditation, so I decided to follow his timing. We finished just before Ofeshia and the others came back with lights. We woke Marguerite up, and Chloe had been holding the ritual.

Ofeshia described how to use the liquid light. There are 9 gourds of liquid light. It lasts 70 hours, and radiates in whatever direction is available, up to 40 feet in radius. We can use smaller amounts than the whole gourd, too. There are stones around that have indents that could be useful. I asked whether we wanted to light up just the area where we're planting the seed, or the whole shrine area. We talked about our precise plans for the liquid light, bonfires, and how to plan for possible attacks. Ofeshia had a great idea about someone holding a gourd and aiming it at the sky when we're attacked to deal with things coming in from the air, like the pieces of night.

After we figured out our defense plans, Ofeshia described the blood visions that Thurhouse has been having, of a city where all kinds of people lived, including sakken and high eld, many years ago. There were 6 gracknel supporting a tall structure made of the mixed roots of these gracknel, and a variety of other gracknel around the city by the bay, maybe by the Black Bay. People were mixed socially, and looked different, rather like Arthentus does. There were things floating in the sky. The sakken seemed like they had no will, more like pets than people. There was a beautiful light that came through the clouds sometimes. Afterward, something bad happened, and the city fell into chaos and explosions. Due to that, the orem changed from what they had been to what they are now. Ofeshia took out a bundle of cloth, showing us a blade inside, that looked a little like a tooth; it might be poisonous, having already damaged the cloth it was wrapped in. Thurhouse found this around the roots of the gracknel, and in animals, and it was trying to do something. Marguerite thought it might be a bit like shinal. Ofeshia said something about how people are all similar. Chloe thought the music of the gracknel was a bit like the music of the orem.

We got the fires ready, and decided that we either needed to plant the seed now (12 high bells) or in 4 hours, after people had a chance to sleep. Given our light, and the possible storm coming, Marguerite decided to plant it now.

Marguerite planted it, and a crystalline singing noise came from the plowdurg. There was a scent of leaves and loam and roots. There was a pop and crack, and another, then a flash of light below in the rocks. And a little coil came up with a leaf on it, with the bowl of sun next to it.
While the others went to convince the keepers and the gracknel about planting the seed, I held the energy of the ritual at the shrine of the Father. When they came back, they said that they had gotten permission, but things were going awry, with the gracknel already starting emergency procedures, which involved taking some keepers for parts to use in something else. Which sounded rather unfortunate for the keepers in question, and like it's a time of even greater confusion. Apparently at least some of the keepers are a bit more adrift in time than usual as well. Our group and the locals who were in favor of our plan managed to convince them that ours is a good plan, and will help the gracknel by being connected to a network again. They also talked a bunch about Darren, and how he seems to expect to die. I don't think anyone noticed that I was quiet for this, and I moved away to focus on the ritual again after a little while.
It was midday, and we rested after doing all the physical labor moving rocks around the shrine for the plowdurg, and starting the spiritual work of the ritual. We talked about our timeline. Eevolertu and I napped to recover from the morning's work. Chloe and Ofeshia held the ritual. When I woke up, I held the ritual while others worked on how to persuade the guardians of the gracknel about our seed. This meant I was making sure people knew what to do, moving things, chanting, and so on. Sometimes I circled by the group that was talking. At one point, they were talking about how Marguerite had to be careful with the seed; one vision had her dropping it from her hands. I suggested I make a string bag to hold it in, not just her hands, that would keep it from touching the ground and being absorbed by the gracknel.

When Marguerite came back from working to see whether she could sent images to and from one of the keepers (she could!), we held the ritual together, and finished earlier than we'd thought. So we started pouring light into the framework we'd finished. Eevolertu came back from setting traps. The elders from the village came over to go to talk with the keepers of the gracknel over dinner. I made sure Marguerite had a string bag for the seed.

I stayed at the shrine to hold the rituals when the others went over.
The group talked over what needs to be done next. Someone needs to tell the light-maker that we have an extra day, and someone needs to talk to those in the gathering hut. I was tired out from working on helping with the ritual, and am not so good with all the talking, so decided to meditate and tune for now.

Ofeshia returned from the light-maker with a bandage on her arm. She said she had the chance to look forward in time, using a bowl with some of Ofeshia's blood. She learned that we need to do the ritual without planting the seed, and bring the seed to the gracknel. This could go wrong, causing everything to go away, and the gracknel would get up and swim (!?) away. Then it depends on how we talk and not dropping the seed in the gracknel. If we do it right, the gracknel and the tree shrine intertwine and things become harmonious. Discussion of how this would work. Ofeshia said that it was in the evening, before dinnertime, and the presence of the Wood Father was there.

Ofeshia also said that the light-maker's light is like sunlight, for plants and for protection.
The lights will last a few days, and there were 9 of them.

The light-maker has also practiced calming the gracknel, by using smoke of some sort that would calm it when it was pulled in, resulting in more harmonic songs.

Also, there would be darkness after the planting, in all versions. There were sakken, and the roots writhing, and the eggs. And in many versions Darren dies. And I'm there and not there. (Me: "huh" and no more.)
We had to be at the plowdurg's shrine at dawn to work it. There was some talk about the plan for the morrow, then we grabbed some sleep while it was still dark. In the morning, Ofeshia told us that Darren had told her, through Ofeshia, about how the seed is sort of disconnected, and that there's an emergency plan where everyone dies, but the gracknel is released to fight the Winter's King. It would also die, but leave babies.

We talked about how many ways there are to fail here, and how difficult it is to find the narrow path to success without everyone dying, and the things we can do to help things do well.

We got to the shrine and Marguerite called to the plowdurg. She got information from the plowdurg about what we were to do to make the shrine better, and introduced people who were in charge. Chloe and I started by making rope harnesses to help with the work. And then we started, with the plowdurg helping at times. As we did the physical labor, we sang and did some of the ritual work as well. By midday, the plowdurg was very happy with all the physical progress, and we got about a quarter of the ritual done, with the rest going to be finished during the rest of the day. The people from the town who joined us worked well learning it all.
The ones of us who were here in the village had dinner. Marguerite and Ofeshia and I started working on the ritual we're going to use for this seed planting, now that the plowdurg has agreed to have it planted in the shrine of the Father. We finished by the time Eevolertu and others returned.

They'd talked with the keepers, who now understand the issue, because they looked at some kind of moving map of energy or shrines, somehow, that showed what happened when we made the other shrines and when we hurt the winter shrines. Chloe was very excited about it all. It sounded like they'd had to do a lot of talking, and there was still some difficulty with the gracknel getting upset about the shrine, and possibly doing unwanted things. Marguerite said she might use a blessing to help a keeper be able to convince the others and the gracknel.

They'd also talked with the potion-maker who will make light and protections for us, though we will have to do things for her later.

In discussion, there were a number of ideas, about maybe introducing the seed to the gracknel before planting, about whether the gracknel's song(s) changed before or after the keepers get agitated.

The gracknel put energy into reclaiming the shrine of the Father for itself. Ofeshia wondered how to get everything in alignment.
The afternoon was waning, and people were discussing how to do the ritual, once we got permission to do it. There's no one here who's affiliated with the Father, unlike the shrines in the other places, that had blessed. I figured the best use of my time would be to think about how things had included the Father in previous rituals, to see if I could remember something helpful. I managed to remember pieces, phrases said, something about dust, stone dust, regular dust, and so on. I think if I talked with others who'd been involved in the other rituals, we might be able to put more of it together.

When I came out of that, many of the others had gone to talk to other people, at the shrine, and at the gracknel with the keepers. I stayed with the rest of the group, seeing them enjoy the weather, but also concerned that they were getting too complacent, not focused on our mission.
Marguerite and I went to the shrine of the All-Father, which was to the side near a rockfall from the side of the caldera, with one odd stone that looked like a hand pointing up, and some stones around it. Marguerite seemed to in prayer. I heard some sounds of rocks hitting each other, as if someone were walking on rocks, dislodging some. We hadn't gone in before, so I circled to get a better vantage point. I saw a point where something seemed to be tunneling up through the pile of rock, dislodging good-sized rocks. Marguerite was still in prayer, and I didn't want to interrupt. I wasn't sure about going into this natural shrine, so I kept to my vantage point watching for what was coming (I briefly thought it might be something of the gracknel, or those things the guards were worried about in the gracknel, but assumed these were unlikely, given how unworried the valley residents were). Something came through, a blade-nosed animal with large digging claws, oddly sideways. It was the size of a medium-sized dog. Any eyes were hidden in spines along its face. I waved and said hello. It seemed to notice me then. I tried to think at it as well, a welcome arch of stone, unsure what kind of being it was. It came all the way out, with small sideways back legs, so its gait was pulling and odd, all gray and black. It spotted Marguerite and headed towards her. I moved around towards her. It stopped before her, moving its head from her to me and back. It didn't have eyes, or regular ears, so I'm not sure what it reacted to. Marguerite held out her hand, and it put its wrist on hers. It jumped up a couple of times, which startled her. Marguerite told me it's a plowdurg, the guardian of this shrine. It's making the form of the shrine better over time. As Marguerite told me things, it moved its head from one of us to the other, so it seemed to be able to hear. I asked if we'd be able to plant the shrine here, since that would be on stone, plus we wouldn't need a joining ritual (we don't have someone to lead the Father part of that, which had been my concern). We talked about that a bit, then Marguerite started sending images to the plowdurg again. Then it moved away, looking back at us, then we followed around. When we went around, we found some little dead trees, and what looked like a pile of gracknel debris, some of it rusted away, some newer. I asked Marguerite what this was, and she waved me quiet as she continued sending to it. She told me about how the plowdurg had kept this area of all kinds of tree roots and gracknel roots. She said it wasn't sure that this shrine fit in with its vision of what the shrine should be. I asked what it saw, and she indicated how some rocks would need to move, and the hand more vertical, and so on. I asked if it would be easier for the plowdurg to be interested if we helped move some of the rocks to the right places. She started communing again. When she next talked to me, she was frustrated; it didn't understand her vision of how the shrine would fit in. We talked, and she realized she hadn't put the gods with her vision of the idealized double shrine.

Marguerite and I got back to town. She started describing stuff about the shrine, and Chloe got very excited about there not being gracknel roots there. Ofeshia said that Uttajee said that we should just go ahead and do things. Chloe pointed out that if we can put the shrine in the other shrine, it may be easier politically, because it's an expansion of what's there, rather than a new thing. Eevolertu said that Kennelu wasn't interested in doing things that would inflame the keepers, with us being unknown to them. But Basbran was known, so she was speaking to the elders now. More talk about whether we should talk to the keepers about this, and how the tree shrine could talk with the gracknel, and use it as a civilizing influence. And once that connection is made, the gracknel's influence could lead back through the shrine links, which could be good especially for the new shrines, and possibly calming down the sakken and such in the area. More talk about getting gracknel agreement to this plan.
We walked toward the gracknel to meet with its tenders. It was larger than I'd realized, so large when we were close, the air shimmering around it ask it played. We passed through a forest as we went, and it seemed carefully tended, without broken twigs or leaf litter on them. There were roots around boulders above ground. Then we saw a gracknel root, which looked like there were flute rootlets growing off the main roots. As we got closer, following a stone path, there were odd spheres growing off the sides of some large roots, with spirals around them. Sometimes there were arches of roots above us. When we were underneath, there was a rushing sort of sound, rather like water rushing. The rest of the forest had faded away. There were small kafke houses here, grown out of the gracknel.

We paused as Marguerite cast a blessing on Eevolertu, and Ofeshia looked at the magic, telling us that it was permanent magic, and there were broken frames floating around us, rather than dissolving.

Thalkalor was by the gap that was the entrance. There was a child near one of the houses, then it leapt down to head towards us. It had a huge mane of yellow-green hair, but was very young still. An adult followed, a cobalt one in light clothes, likely the child's mother. She was calling it Naan, and she retrieved her daughter before she got to us. The mother introduced herself as Swenlanee, and introduced her daughter Naan, who'd started nursing. She's the overseer of the roots, and a shaper here, of the homes. She seemed momentarily blank when seeing Chloe, then welcomed her.

Thalkalor came meandering over; he seemed in a very mellow mental state, though in his armor. Swenlanee said that Thalkalor could take us in to meet with the keepers, and warned us that they were amenable to people looking at the magic of the gracknel, but not using it. She also said that there used to be a town here, and that the gracknel used to have another purpose as well, now lost, though something to do with the pods, that are filled, and could be detached, though not openable, at least by those here. There have been explosions in the valley, that might have been these pods. They think that they used to have been sent to be part of other machines elsewhere. Outside the valley there's a place they call the valley of eggs, where they stack all the ripe ones there.

Chloe mentioned there being an Ovahon here. Thatkalor said that he was also a keeper. Thalkalor mentioned he'd been lost in his thoughts, that that happens a lot, like being in the All-Wood.

We went inside, a big space among the roots, with warm air blowing. Near where we went in, there were two nodes, these ripe and deep green, with spirals and three connection points, being readied to take to the valley of eggs. All around there are rooty balconies and paths, a weave of spaces. There were shiny metallic extensions with water dripping. There was a hum, that seemed to warm me inside. Chloe started to sing with the sound, and kept on and on. She didn't respond to anyone saying her name, so I went over and touched her on the shoulder, and she finally came out of it. She was surprised she'd been singing for long at all.

Thalkalor said that the keepers were working, so we'd have to go to them. We walked across the middle of the space, which looked like a starburst of pipes from the center, where they came out of what's below, a narrow space filled with water.

We continued on, and the roots we walked along had tread to help us stay on, despite the dampness. There were odd things around, with platforms, and holes, and an odd hand-thing, and pipes, and flowers. We saw Elix holding the extending hands, turning them somehow, or talking, or touching flowers. They were talking what seemed to be archaic Elixen. As we got higher, it was harder to navigate, narrower parts to walk along, not enough room to pass, and so on. It turns out that these are assistant keepers; Thalkalor was taking us to a head keeper; the group is stuctured more like a guild than a council.

There were guards around, and I asked whether they were needed. He said that they were, that there were times they needed them. Not the awful birds he'd told me about, but something else.

We saw an extremely tall elix, over 6 ft tall, with foot-long ears, in mottled yellow fur, a darker mane with gold streaks. Long colorful kelp-cloth vest. Only the most ancient elix are usually this tall, perhaps thousands of years old, though this was far after the time of the gracknel builders. She has some wand-roots. She has one hand on a hand extension, and in the other, a wooden root pressed up against a big root, and it seemed to be soft, the wand being put into the root, somehow. She seemed to be focusing on her task. She was saying words from different languages, that didn't seem to go together. She pulls the wand away, then there are ripples acros the surface, then it solidified. She moved her wrists around, then started walking away.

Thalkalor called her name, Arthentus, and slowly she came back to herself and acknowledged us.

My roots don't touch that far, she said at that point, and she seemed to realize that we weren't keepers, so she asked what we were doing here. There were orange and green glows, but we'd never seen a source of light. She asked a second time if there was a problem with the gracknel. She seemed to think that nothing was the matter with the gracknel, so there was no problem.

She has spoken to all the roots, heard all the song, and other than some slightly different temperatures, everything was fine. Once Ofeshia asked, she acknowledged that there was unusual weather, though it wasn't her area of speciality.

Ofeshia asked if Arthentus had been outside the gracknel recently. She thought she had, but Thalkalor said it was at least a season ago. Ofeshia suggested she come out to talk to us, and that was disturbing to Arthentus, who said she had much to do to keep order.
She also was a bit affronted when Marguerite asked to greet the gracknel, saying that the gracknel chose its keepers.

She suggested that Monturan (though she got the name wrong) would be able to help us.
Ofeshia asked something else that didn't work.

Thalkalor gestured us away as Arthentus went off to do her work, to bring us to Monturan.

As we were walking, Ofeshia warned us not to touch the tree. She said the tree had looked at her, like prey.

It took a while to find Monturan, skyblue fur, yellow eyes, wearing a vest and pants, with some wands, and an iron bar. He seemed to be directing some others in what they should do. He seemed surprised that we were visiting, in the winter, when no one travels. Our group started to broach our mission. It did not go well. keeping things calm is important. chloe mentioned the ovahon, and it took a moment for him to.... remember..... the ovahon. Things didn't go well about the shrine. Thalkalor had gone, so he agreed to be our guide down to see the ovahon.
We were in the gracknel, with Monturan leading us, with many stops on the way as he got distracted by the gracknel and work to do. Sometimes we saw patterns arising in the wood to the surface with a kind of nearby voice, which always distracted Monturan. When he noticed us, the patterns retreated. When Eevolertu asked, Monturan said that they were speaking. He didn't seem to know a direct route. Eventually we got lower and lower, and when we got to the middle, we were under ground. It was also much warmer, with a lot of steam. There were some huge (person-sized) green leaves tightly together, almost like a huge flower of leaves, with steam coming out of the top. Monturan asked the two keepers there where the guards were, and they said that the guards were guarding a larger one, since they didn't expect (whatever-it-was) to happen with this one.

We got to an armored guard. She shook her head, indicating we shouldn't go this way. Monturan was surprised, then took us another direction. We came across a pile of obsidian brick-like stones, and it turned out they're some sort of unwanted by-product of gracknel activity on this level. Apparently the gracknel can't talk as well at this level, it gets muddled, perhaps due to the heat.

There was a gap we could look down into a pool of bubbling orange, lava-like stuff, with roots and pipes all around it.

We soon came across the Ovahon, speaking Elix with an Ovahon accent, about something very technical that made little sense to me. The Ovahon had a tuft of yellow hair, and was wearing a floral vest over a bright shirt and colorful pants with some kind of optical illusion. The Ovahon's ears went up, unlike I'd ever seen Chloe's do. It smiled, and it was a bit odd. It came towards us, talking a whole lot. Much conversation ensued. Monturan left at some point.

The Ovahon's name is Darren the keeper. There was a lot of talk and more talk. We talked about the winter coming and maybe cracking the gracknel. And the things that came with this strange winter, including a huge meat monster that was very powerful. When the Ovahon and two Elix heard about this, they all put their hands on the roots nearby, and patterns seemed to ripple inside. Darren said that Esloonharan, the tree, doesn't think that anything can come here, because the cold couldn't come into this area. In the course of talk, we heard about how the gracknel was taking people apart to make new people, with some blood going into her roots, which wasn't good for her, that he thought she was lonely. I nudged the others, pointing out that getting the gracknel attached to the network of trees and other shrines would make her less lonely.

More talk, then Darren was taking us up to the entrance, which is where people gather for dinner. Darren pointed things out on the way. We seemed to take a more direct route, too.

We went outside, into the mix of forest and roots outside the entrance. We talked. I pointed out that it seemed the only way to get through to the keepers is to focus on the needs of the gracknel; they may say they care about other places, but actually seem to follow through. We talked more about the tree, connecting to the shrine of the Father and/or the gracknel, plus the challenge of not having a blessed of the Father here to connect the shrines. Also the problem of when the storm might arrive. And where a tree shrine could be planted outside the valley but near the shrine. If the storm arrives tomorrow, can we get permission to plant it in time? Will it have enough time to grow? Will the storm stop in a reasonable amount of time?

More talking about plans and possibilities, to be able to present a coherent plan. Marguerite wanted to go to the shrine to check that it wanted the new shrine nearby. I wanted to go with her to think about not having a blessed of the Father to help with a linking ritual. The others were going to go talk to the villagers to gather support, and Chloe to consider maps and such. I knew I wouldn't be so good at that, talking with other people.
Giving up on filling this in more.

[see notes about encounter w/gray lady when about to sleep]
I went to tune and meditate. I lay down, and listened to the sounds, somehow in my mind. There was a sense of things changing, clicking into place, moving. There was a rotating vortex working in, forming a shape, lining up, aligning, like a building. There was stuff from outside, swirling into the center of the vortex. I went to the door, and there was a lot of sound. I listened more, and there was a sound like light leaves rustling, but purposeful, shifting clusters.

Meditate. Pray, but get only conflicted feelings; not sure if it's me or an answer.

Talk to Eevolertu.

Ask her stuff. would feel it in ability to focus. ability to discharge debt? but . excitement is curious.
want mission complete and obligation discharged.

she said this would be side thing. she would want to have the touch of the lord here. plant the power of her great lord so it touched. power of the great lord. into this place make it a tool of
there's a way of having an egg. discuss

negotiate again.

agree to both. go out to be alone so she can come out. construction on ofeshia's her frames could be unusual. it could find her a useful tool.

she knelt, put her hands on my belly. warmth, then there was a weird red flame that wasn't heat. eyes on her eyes, and she tells me not to look. wetness and heat. and then there was an ovahon in front of me, steaming a little and a bit damp. she put fingers on its forehead, and then its eyes opened. tells me we should go away from the ovahon so it would be less confused. she likes being out. so many whispers and words. we went back. she took my hands, and told me it was ok, nothing happened.

then she went back into my brain.

in the morning, over breakfast, discussion about going to meet with the gracknel keepers. who, how many should go.
We were in the snow at the top of the cliff, deep in the bowl of the night. Marguerite was recovering from her chilled-unto-death state, and had used her ice sphere token to contact the Time-Bearer, or her sakken, or whoever it contacted. We waited, resting, for what would happen next.

Then there were sakken slowly coming towards us. Marguerite moved towards the front of our group. These sakken aren't the huge sakken, but the smaller ones that usually are in the first waves of attacks in battle. They seem somewhat eager, the mouths working, fingers moving. We all moved together. Marguerite wrapped herself up and moved forward. The sakken bent down and pulled her up. It's mouth kept working, which was a bit... disconcerting. Chloe went next, once Eevolertu stepped back. I went next, and was pulled up against it, feeling rather like a cold leather sack, radiating cold rather than heat. There were more sakken than our group. I wondered whether there were more so they could trade off the burden of carrying us.

They were genderless, with a musty dried-out fur sort of smell.

There were a few moment of hooting and noises, and then we were moving quickly. I wasn't held at a very convenient angle, having to wriggle around to see anything. They made no sound. It was whatever sound we made, and Goldpatch.

We went over the cliff, feeling like we fell, but then we landed without a noticeable landing, somehow. The cold got worse, likely because we were nearer the winter shrine. I had to cover as much as I could to avoid ice forming. After that, the deep cold alleviated. As we did, other sakken came up running on all fours, while the ones carrying us glided along on two legs. We were handed off, one by one, to a fresh sakken.

Travel went on, into the next valley. At one point there was gliding, as if over ice instead of snow. We went up and out of that valley. It got darker in another valley. We were handed off again. I tried to meditate to take my mind off the boring yet scary situation. Chloe broke into a traveling song, which was particularly poignant.

I started hearing occasional claw sounds, and saw that the terrain was no longer snow covered. Their pace became rougher, then they stopped. They made a lot of sounds for some minutes, hooting and other sounds. The one holding Marguerite sensed around, then finally put her down, stepping back and looking at her as if something might happen. One by one we were all deposited in a pile, with them in a circle around us. We were in a canyon, and it was only a few bells later.

The sakken were making sounds, gnashing teeth, etc, then finally settling down a bit smaller. Marguerite offered the token back to the lead sakken. It took it, then backed away, and the troop left.

Oreshalore told Chloe her favorite part was hearing the song. A couple of people liked the putting down part best, and another liked the getting far from where we had been part.

I asked Chloe where we were, and she started figuring it out. I helped put up shelter and get a fire going that was warm but not so visible. After all the cold and sakken travel, this felt wonderfully good. Eevolertu set up the watch schedule, and I wasn't on rotation, so after I slept for four hours, I got up to meditate and tune.

Chloe made a good breakfast, we packed up, and started on our way. Chloe had figured out that we had perhaps half a day's hiking, if we didn't have to stop to rest, which was encouraging.

We set out. Two hours later we heard the roar of a waterfall. Chloe was surprised, and pulled out her maps. We waited for a half hour or so for a scout to come back. He was frost touched, from having been wet then the cold. Apparently it wasn't wide, and was wet. We continued on, and saw that there was a crack in the mountainside with water rushing out. The cold plus the wet made it look treacherous.

We debated climbing around it, but not everyone could climb. Marguerite went to scout ahead on Goldpatch, and I volunteered to go with her. Goldpatch didn't like going into the cold water, and even on the other side, there was ice, some of it hard to see for about 100 feet. The creek on the left-hand side wall moved to the center and continued down the center of the valley. For climbers, it would start hard and get easier.

Marguerite stayed with Goldpatch and made a fire. I climbed back, putting ropes in place as I went. It was cold, slow going, but not as treacherous as going through the extremely cold water and dealing with the ice. When we made it to the other side, Marguerite had a fire blazing, which warmed us all.

We continued down into the valley, which had trees in the middle, but overall, was very open and in sunlight. There were east and west paths out of the valley; we'd head east towards our destination.

We went into the valley, then rested a while. After sleeping, I gave a thankful prayer to the Warrior that we'd survived the night, and knowing when to fight and when not to.

We headed off again, going east. Chloe told us we had to turn south for a bit, to avoid a huge cliff. Interestingly, we could hear faint fluting sounds occasionally. We stopped to listen. As we did, we realized it was coming from the other side of the cliff, and likely made naturally, not made by an instrument. A gracknel is an animal-plant-rock creature that could have worked in stone. Chloe mentioned that the Sunshine Valley was in a crater, so this might be an outer wall of the place.

We continued through the valley, south and then east again. It was much easier traveling. We got to a fork in the path, and Chloe directed us north. We still hadn't seen any scouts, which seemed a bit odd.

As we went north, the canyon narrowed. We saw old stonework around. Chloe kept looking at the writing on it, when she saw some. At some point we went by a series of arches, then ahead we could see a cone of a volcano, with some paths heading in. We could hear the music loudly again, but it was pleasant, calming. We got to a straight gradual rise with arches along above us. The sound became more and more part of our rhythm, knowing when to pause for it.

We got to the lip and looked into the valley, which was round. Across the valley was a great structure, a bit like a tree in shape, but the top went out to tubes with holes in them, with steam coming out and making a sound. It was huge, about 200 feet tall. In the roots of the Gracknel are shaped wood Elixen homes, looking like little seed pods.

Before that in the valley, we could see how there used to be concentric and radial roads and such, but now it was all covered in trees. The Gracknel is on one side, with a lake in the middle. There are huts around the lake, which might be Crages homes. With all the warmth, it felt rather like spring. There was a slight smell, though it was pleasant.

It felt a bit odd that there were no guards or outposts. I asked Ofeshia if she'd sensed something as we came in under the arches, but she hadn't tried to find out. It was disconcerting. Marguerite said that there was a shrine here down in the valley. Eevolertu said that Basbran mentioned a council of some sort. We talked for a bit where to head first, then headed in a ring to the west.

As we continued, we noticed that the trees around us seemed to echo the sound, or sing back to the Gracknel, somehow. They were very connected to the All-Wood, in a way that meant someone going in would be likely to get lost.

We got closer to the shrine here. It was an upright stone, rather like a hand, in the caldera. Marguerite said that this was a natural shrine of the All-Father.

As we stood there, we could hear some sounds of residents living.
It was late afternoon by the shrine of the All-Father. We debated where we should go next, discussing who in town might be in charge in some way. It was warm enough now that people started taking layers off, being too warm, which was a welcome change. I got a bit frustrated with all the talking, and asked Basbran how the town was organized, since she'd been here before. There didn't seem to be an official political structure, since this is only a seasonal place for most.

A seasoned warrior approached, welcoming us. It turned out that he, among others, live here year round, by the Gracknel, called Esluneharon, the great singing tree. He introduced himself as Thalkalor, and we all introduced ourselves. There was some talk about how this season has been different than others, where we could stay, and so on.

After more conversation, it was decided that we'd talk to those at the singing tree tomorrow, it being late in their day, but we'd go see the people by the lake, who stay up later.

As we walked over, it was odd how there were meadows where no trees grew. No one seemed to have gardens, then we saw one that was raised off the ground. Apparently agriculture of any sort doesn't work unless dirt is brought in from outside, and put on a separate layer of wood and stone, to keep it separate. Oddly, sometimes untended seeds germinate in the dirt of the valley.

We got to the huts by the lake, which seemed more like summer huts, though very old ones, not designed for cold or security. It seemed that most of the people here are Crages. There were some fisherfolk. People seemed to be in their family groups, and didn't take much notice of us.

Thalkalor brought us over to a larger hall, which was pretty much empty right now. A Crages hunter came over, wearing a dolo-tail whip. Chloe greeted her in Crages. The hunter replied in that language, and the conversation continued among them and Thalkalor in Crages. Basbran translated for the rest of us. The Crages went to get another person, and we waited in the hall, which was mostly a roof on sticks. When the Crages hunter returned, she had two older women with her, one in impressive robes, and tall despite her hunching over. Some others followed. Kinulo was the woman leaning on her staff. The tall woman in robes was Uttugee Kinulo (she's also wearing a bronze chain).

They gesture us towards the fire to see us better, then Uttugee asked if she could know us better, and it was through some kind of magic. Ofeshia asked what we would get in return for this, and they said they would help us. Ofeshia wanted to go first. Uttugee pulled out a crystal, and it glowed blue, then she waved it around us, seeming to scan us quickly. She said that there were several sources of magic (as she looked at Ofeshia particularly), but nothing dangerous.

Kinulo apologized for the intrusion, but said they'd had unwelcome visitors in the past, who wanted to take things, though there had been fewer lately. I asked if that was due to the weather, but it had been longer than the winter spirits had been in the world. They also worry about bad-spirited folks, not nice people. Ofeshia asked whether things ever change here. Kinulo said they keep things pretty much the same here, with fish and birds but no larger animals. Chloe kept talking with them, and somehow, despite what I think of Eevolertu would have wanted. Not surprisingly, this lead to a lot of talk of the shrines, and the winter, and the situation. Chloe seemed careful to say how in each place the seeds were planted with the permission of the town, with help from the people of town, and so on. The Sunshine Valley people had a lot of questions and talk. Chloe distributed letters from Weginawalda.

As the crowd milled about, I ended up talking with Thalkalor, who wanted to know about my kind of fighting, and about fighting sakken. I told him I was a kenessho, and how the battle with sakken went. There were the attacks of snow, ice, and night, which could be countered with fire and light. I asked about his weapons, which he preferred. It turned out that the bow was for hunting, the sword for fighting. It turns out that there are some fearsome birds to be wary of around here: ice ravagers can kill a donkey from the sky, though they don't like the warmth here. He said that they were sort of like flying sakken, not born like other things (and not a source of food that sustains). Also, cloud hawks could take a person away. We talked a bit more about styles of fighting, and we'll likely spar later so we can learn from each other. He was interested in body armor, saying that the sakken have something similar.

Each of our group seemed to be talking with other local people, then music and dancing started. At some point our group drew away to compare notes. It sounds like Kinulo will go with what Uttugee decides. Eevolertu said that the keepers of the Gracknel are sort of part of it. Also, that people over time here want to build culture and society, and the longer people stay, the longer the effect lasts. Ofeshia described how there's magic everywhere in the valley, which is likely why things aren't growing. And the magic here is all kinds, of the gods, of some schools, and so on. She said that this was all used up, like ashes of magic that had been done.
In the middle of the second day's travel out of High Grove on the way to Sunshine Valley. We camped to let people recover from the travel, and some people went out hunting. I built a fire so there would be a way to cook whatever they brought back, and traded off keeping watch with the others not resting in camp. The hunters ended up shooting three dolos. I woke Chloe when they returned, since she knows how to deal with butchering and cooking well. It took a couple of hours to process all that meat even roughly, which put us at 4 high bells.

There was some discussion of whether we should take an east or west path north. A decision made, we hiked out of this valley. The party stopped when they spotted an arch over the valley, that might or not be a bridge. Basbran confirmed that it hadn't been there the last time she'd been here a few years ago, and no travelers had mentioned it being there. Some discussion about what it might be and for what reason.

Woveshancor and Oreshalore came back from checking ahead. Woveshancor had found the way ahead partly blocked by something that had fallen, pieces of ice. It might be that this arch could be a replacement for the fallen ice. Marguerite, Ofeshia go with Woveshancor to investigate what properties the ice might have, while the rest of us investigated the western side of the valley for ways we might be able to go around it.

Eevolertu scouted up the wall himself. Chloe wanted me to show her how to make rope harnesses that might be useful for climbing. The people scouting ahead came back, and Eevolertu still hadn't returned. They reported they found three sakken bodies, that had been fighting before the bridge fell on them, and the bridge definitely had energy of Winter's King.

A group went to behead the sakken, while a few of us waited for Eevolertu. He called down, saying a sakken was watching us. His call echoed through the valley; no one answered him, surprised he'd chosen to make that much noise. Our group decided to move up to the others at the fallen bridge. Eevolertu arrived soon after. We started traveling as some talked about the sakken, how it was watching, not attacking or scouting.

After we passed through, there was a lot more snow. I put on snow shoes, but the sudden change made me nervous, being in territory more under the sway of Winter's King. We traveled for a while, until some people were tired. We hadn't gone that far, and needed to take a break. Chloe checked the weather, and said it was an unnatural storm. Ofeshia was able to figure out that it was a shrine up on the mountain, not as strong as some we'd previously encountered, but these effects were still doing their job on us.

When Eevolertu, Oreshalore, and I woke up for our turn on watch, Marguerite was missing. We couldn't find her. Eevolertu woke Ofeshia, asking her if she could do something to find Marguerite. She sensed powerful magic, the snow like the dust of something passing through. For whatever reason, it seemed like it took Marguerite on purpose, likely unconscious through the AllSnow.

Since we didn't have much other information, I went over to the evergreens nearby to peek into and out of the AllWood nearby. I noticed greater cold, and odd more shadows, since we were still in the area of the shrine, but nothing actually useful towards finding Marguerite, so I came out.

We woke everyone and packed up to leave; Ofeshia said she could track the magic, but only for the next hour. I wondered if Gold Patch's connection to Marguerite could also help.
Ofeshia focused for a bit while everyone else packed. We headed south following what Ofeshia sensed of the magic that took Marguerite. She checked the trail as we went. We were headed back the way we came for a while, then the path headed up the western side of the valley. Eevolertu told Woveshancor he needed to know how high it was, whether he should should take just Ofeshia or a small party or the whole group. Woveshancor thought it would take a half bell if a small group went, but much longer if the whole group went. Ofeshia suggested going through the All-Wood, and Eevolertu decided that he and Woveshancor would climb with Chloe, who couldn't go into the All-Wood, while the rest of us went through the trees.

We were able to keep each other focused, but the challenge was to figure out where to come out, since we hadn't been there before. Ofeshia figured out where we should come out, above where the climbers were. Ofeshia found the magical trail, which continued west.

I asked Quintillian to anchor a rope, then I crawled to the edge to figure out where the climbers were. I moved over to be above them, then asked if they'd like a rope from above. Eevolertu agreed, so I dropped it down for them to climb faster.

Once everyone (and Gold Patch) made it to the top, Ofeshia took us west. As we headed that way, there was the glow of the golden moon showing a flat plain, then a rocky ridge in silhouette. There was a bit of motion moving out of the shadow. I stared, and I saw a large white-gray shape coming from there towards us, then a pair coming also after him. It was still 200 yards. I told the others that they were coming.

Oreshalore, Quintillian, Eevolertu, and I formed a front line with our weapons out. Eevolertu said that we should continue towards them, since they seemed to be walking towards us not like they were going to attack. The one in back was carrying a bundle. I wondered if it were Marguerite.

The sakken in front slowed and came to a halt. We stopped when they did. One moved as if it were limbering up for a fight. We didn't do anything. The bigger one came forward, larger than any sakken we'd ever seen. Eevolertu spoke, asking if it had our blessed. It opened its mouth, moving it a bit, but no sound came out. The one with the burden came forward, checking us out continually as it deposited the burden, then sprang back. She was in some hides and seemed unconscious. I went forward to get her, and she was too cold. I pulled her back to the rest of the group. The sakken kept an eye on our group as they got ready to retreat.

Ofeshia saw that the big one looked like it was ready to fight. I suggested we take a step back to diffuse the situation. We did, and once we did, they went away. Others started making a shelter while I examined Marguerite, who seemed to have been frozen almost unto death, but not quite. Ofeshia suggested taking her into the All-Wood. Ofeshia and I went in with Marguerite, and Oreshalore joined us. The rest of the group stayed outside organizing shelter.

Inside, we could see Marguerite better. On her forehead, there was a dark mark, with lines radiating out. Ofeshia continued holding her, and we both realized that she was being held in a kind of unnatural cold. Ofeshia could do magic in the All-Wood, and no fire. I asked Oreshalore to go out and ask people to make a bonfire. Ofeshia put her hand over the mark and prayed to the Mother, and Marguerite started coming out of whatever she was in, but her eyes went to the light, and I realized that she might get caught in the All-Wood, so we had to take her out into the cold outside, where a fire was still small and shelter not yet complete. We got her into the tent, and she slowly started coming back to herself.

Chloe made some excellent food, and people started coming in. Ofeshia didn't know whether the heat or the prayer made a difference, but the binding seemed to go.

Marguerite said that we had to go a different way, since the previous path went by an old, powerful winter shrine. We need to be where we're going in three days or we'll die, said the person who took her. She-who-took-her said that the sakken could carry us over the snow and past the shrine. I asked who the she was, and Marguerite said that she was someone working to restore the balance in this area. She's a Time-Bearer, so trying to get time back into joint, which is a type of blessed of death.

Apparently the Time-Bearer wants to get us out of the valley and to the Sunshine Valley since planting the next seed suits her purposes. Marguerite said that we wouldn't make it out in time without this help. Marguerite said that she'd been kidnapped to have this conversation, not to do something else. The Time Bearer wanted to know why we were headed away from the winter, and which side we were on.

Marguerite suggested we eat and rest. I asked if we'd get that cold if we traveled like this, as cold as she had been. Marguerite said no, because we'd be traveling by sakken, not by magic. She had a token to contact the Time Bearer.

I knew Chloe would be excited to ride sakken, while the rest were far more mixed.
It was pre-dawn as we left High Grove wending our way on a westerly path. It was slow going as we left the valley. Two hours later, we weren't that far, but the haze obscured seeing the valley. The path became more complicated. We continued on for another hour, and though the cold was still biting, it wasn't quite as difficult. We reached a crossroad where there were a number of possible paths. Chloe wasn't totally sure about our options, but Basbran was familiar enough with the paths that the choice was made more easily that after resting, we'd travel west for another four hours, with another break. As we went, Chloe wanted to start learning Kraymerrian, so we worked on that for a while. I also worked on my climbing as we navigated our way.

We got to a big north-south valley that was fairly open, and fairly barren as well. Chloe's map information implied that the route to the next good resting place north would take us far past dark. To the south, there was good spot about an hour, so we headed that way. When we got there, it was mostly forested, and round, with a spring approximately in the middle.

I helped set up camp; some others went out checking for others and hunting. There was restorative tea and fresh game bird for dinner, which was rather nice. Before people settled down for the night, Ofeshia did something that caused a halo around her. and she went to investigate a pile of rocks in the spring. There were markings that looked like the Orem ones we saw; Chloe looked at them and said that there were some Orem family names, and earth, and the Healer. Ofeshia said that she had sensed the Healer.

I was on fourth watch with Woveshancor, which meant that I slept the first half of the night, then was up for the rest, watching alertly, then meditating and tuning while Chloe and Quintillian were on watch. Chloe gestured to the southwest, and then Quintillian and I heard what she'd caught, the sound of some sakken howling, which usually only happens when they're fighting, but far away to the southwest. I thought about wanting to go help, realizing it was probably too late either way, and we don't know anything about that area, and it's not our mission. It died down fairly soon, and might even have been sakken fighting each other. After that, I practiced meditation while Basbran and Oreshalor were on watch.

We started the day early with breakfast, then broke camp and headed north, snowing lightly. I asked Chloe if she could tell anything about the weather, and it sounded like there might be a lot more snow starting tomorrow.

We traveled for many hours, resting as needed, getting to the next valley about midday. I'd worked on endurance and talked Kraymerrian with Chloe. We traveled to the next valley, and there were many trees with dolo paths between them, which would make traveling easier.
It was the middle of the day, and Marguerite, Chloe, Eevolertu, Ofeshia, Donjerwen, and I were catching up. We talked about leaving early in the morning. I asked Donjerwen what she felt, since she obviously was concerned. We talked about the grueling travel, and how it'll be hard on Eevolertu as our new ranger. We talked about the different possible routes and the challenges of travel without animals in harsh terrain in winter. In the end, we decided for the longer day that would get us farther along.

In the afternoon, I learned more about speed weapon from Oshtalento. I mended my clothes, and checked with others to see if they needed help with this; I planned to actually pack after it was dark, when it would be less obvious. After that, there was time to pray to the Warrior.

I talked with Ragranu. He pointed out that I didn't need to say anything, because he'd know more if I said less. He took time to ask about my path, whether I had finished my task here. He pointed out that there will be more choices, and he hoped that I will comfortable with them. He said that it's a lonely path, though less so in cities, where there are others to learn from. I was careful not to say too much about my path; I'm still not sure which way I'll end up.

I talked with Chloe about things she might do to help people's spirits, both in our party and in the town. She agreed, both helping make a nice dinner and singing afterward.

We had a good night's sleep, then in the morning packed and left the inn. Vershan met us, thanking us for not breaking the town, and for helping her path. Basbran joined us, and we left town before dawn.
When I finished helping Eevolertu recover, there were some people already awake making breakfast. I went over to help with chopping and such. Chloe was there too. When it was done, everyone was up, and our group sat together. Talk was about packing tonight and leaving early tomorrow, before dawn. Eevolertu had talked with some of the scouts, and said that there are slightly sheltered ways to take. There are places that sakken usually are along it, though apparently they haven't been there recently. I asked if they'd be there for us; we've attracted their attention, doing them much damage, and still carrying the seed of another shrine. Eevolertu acknowledged that. I asked about who would be our leader, and Eevolertu said that if there weren't townsfolk coming with us, he'd take on the role. Both Chloe and Marguerite were pleased, supporting this. Not all of the rest of the party was quite as excited.

Some people were going to the main grove. I stayed in town to help with the rebuilding. I also want to work with Oshtalento sometime today. When we went out, there was this odd weather condition, looking like it was snowing everywhere but here, with clear sky only above the valley. I assumed that that this has to do with the main shrine and the new shrine being stronger. It's early snow for the season, but we're high enough that that's not unseasonal, and the weather has not been so usual this year, after all.

I helped with rebuilding around town. When I saw Oshtalento, I asked him about working on speed weapon later today. He agreed. I went to the main house, where the others had come back from the main shrine. Eevolertu talked about getting gear into shape, and he started working on leather things as I started sewing.
Everyone had gathered for dinner; there was a lot of talk. It was rather overwhelming, actually. Towards the end of dinner, Eevolertu and I talked about timing for his healing, and decided we could start at midnight.

As dinner ended, people were milling around talking a lot. I mentioned to Oshtalento that I'd be working on inner energies again after midnight, if he wanted to learn more; he sounded interested. After that, I hung around the edge of the crowd, not sure who'd want to talk. I had some sewing to do, so I had something to work on, and doing a regular, finite task helped my frame of mind too.

Eevolertu stopped by before I went to sleep; he'll wake me at midnight. When he did, I started on the healing, and it worked, finishing before breakfast. There was time to meditate and tune as well.
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