I made sure people were as healthy as I could get them, and tried to reassure the health-affected ones that it could be fixed.
One of the scouts who'd gone out into valley returned, looking the worse for wear. He'd helped families who were fighting snow, and the weapons didn't work unless they used ash. Lots of groups of snow things, the height of a man, that could strike and were very cold.

I saw that some people were getting distracted as the news circulated, especially those who were moving rocks with the plowdurg, so I went over to get them back on track. It's tiring physical work, so I tried to get people to switch out with those doing the more ritual aspects of the work.

There was a change in the sound of fighting in the valley. It sounded stronger directly east of us, about a mile away towards the entrance of the valley, which meant they were likely fighting the walking dead. Woveshancor came and said there was some fighting over by the gracknel as well, like fighting on it. Ofeshia decided to try talking to Darren, so I helped Marguerite carry the ritual.

Ofeshia talked to Chloe, not Darren, and told them the gracknell was under attack.

Once that happened, I woke Eevolertu and got him up to speed on the situation. Soon after, there was a group of maybe 5 walking dead spotted. Eevolertu made sure the archers were ready. Then there was another group, and they started over to intercept someone. It was a ranger and Donjerwen with two people. She reported in how the fighting was going in the valley, which wasn't well. I went to move workers off rock moving onto either helping with the actual ritual or getting ready to fight or prepping more arrows, now that so many have been used on the nearby walking dead. Then I did what I could to patch up Donjerwen and the others.

Soon after, a carpet of pieces of night started swooping in, and I grabbed two torches to start fighting.
I stayed with the people who'd been hurt in that aging way, trying to reassure them that there is something that can be done to heal them.

There was a sound over by the entrance to the valley, like rocks fell, or maybe a bit of an avalanche. Just before the crash, there was a sound of something pushing through the trees, making the trees pop and crack. Ofeshia said that it was something huge and magical, so Eevolertu sent out a pair of scouts to find out what happened.

I helped Eevolertu recover, and told him that there were some people with injuries, and one or two who were hit with withering. Despite my efforts, they were still rather worried about this.

One of the scouts Eevolertu sent out to investigate came back, and she was clearly hurt by winter; it seemed like she got a winter spirit infestation. I'm not yet able to drive them out easily, and it would take a long time, so we got her to the fire, with people not only staying nearby, but keeping her near the fire, getting her tea, and well wrapped. Despite herself, she kept trying to move from the fire, so I tied her to her fellows to make it easier to stay.

Eevolertu gathered some of us to consider what to do. Apparently there's an icy thing that's releasing walking dead. There's one scout out there, watching, and is also likely infected with a spirit as well. We talked about how we could fight it, with ashy bows and arrows, or with baskets of light.

Oreshalore said that the rest of the group seemed like they were going to lose the ritual, distracted by this news. Marguerite and Ofeshia went to help Chloe keep the ritual going. Eevolertu went solo to retrieve the scout who was still out.

I checked that our scout was drinking tea. Ofeshia suggested putting some ash in it, so I did.

When the other scout came in, he looked worse than the first, and resisted more due to the spirit in him. Same routine to get him warm and near the fire.

I used my skill with inner energies to assess each of them, to see what size spirit each had. The shadow of an energy spirit, ice spirits that are stronger than the usual disease spirit. The scouts had the same level of spirit, just different levels of exposure. To deal with either of them will be difficult, but maybe there's something in the gracknel that is warm, hot enough to dispel these spirits.

Eevolertu came back soon after, and he was unscathed. He reported back on what he'd found. He saw definitely 14 walking dead, and thought there might be up to 100. They didn't like the liquid light, but it didn't hurt them. They worked in groups, very coordinated. They seemed to be forming up.

Unclear what to do next: draw the walking dead to us? Help the other valley folk? Coordinate with the gracknel somehow? I pointed out that the gracknel has roots everywhere, so maybe it could do something to the walking dead.

Ofeshia tried to link with Darren again. She did, and it turned out that they seem to have lost the central keeper we met before, so there are difficulties with the gracknel as well. There was some talk about what to do, and somehow Darren sent a self-unfolding challenge into Ofeshia's brain that let her evaluate people for how strong they could be for the gracknel, and in holding themselves together to come back out again. She said that she, Eevolertu, and Marguerite were strongest, but Chloe and I might do. Chloe pointed out that she wouldn't fall into the All-Wood the same way an elix would, so she went.
I wasn't closest to the wave of pieces of night, but was able to run forward to fight. I called to the archers on the rock, "fire arrows!" as I passed. I had two torches and reached them after Quintillian. I hit one or two. Not long after, Eevolertu shone some light that made some fade out. I was lucky when they attacked, evading the ones that went for me, but Quintillian was not so lucky. There were some flaming shots that helped too. I heard Eevolertu yell to move 5 steps back, so I hit at the bits of night closest to me then went back.

There was a moment when all the bits of night were gone. There was a sound far out, that was some snow from the sky landing on one of our outer fires. Eevolertu had injured people come to me for bandaging, and sent others out to check the outer fires. More of them were extinguished by snow. I focused on the people who'd been hurt; the two rangers were a bit freaked out as well as hurt. I tried to be soothing while bandaging them.

People came back from trying to deal with the outer fires. They had been extinguished, and couldn't seem to be relit before the snow was dispersed. Back where the magical sunlight was, the snow was inert, and the light returned after a moment. Decision: shine light quickly on each of the mounds, so it wouldn't be the magical snow that might try to become a shrine.

We sent out a group of 3 to go out to those in the valley, sending information and a bottle of sunlight to shine quickly on any snow found. Ofeshia talked briefly with Darren, and it seems like the gracknel is focused.
I was back in my body, and we went back to the tree shrine while Eevolertu and another fighter went in to join Darren in the gracknel. It had been a nerve-wracking couple of hours, so I took some time to calm down and meditate a little to regain composure.

Eevolertu and the others came back looking smoky but ok, saying that the creature was dealt with. They'd set traps and threw things at it, including a wineskin, which was apparently really helpful, and Darren got it to be absorbed into the gracknel, with fire somehow. He also got a map of the gracknel in his head from Darren. Darren was unconscious, and left with a healer in the gracknel. Though she seemed distracted, although she did let them out through the teeth door.

It was almost time that Darren had said the gracknel wouldn't be able to hold off winter, so we got ready to start lights, both the fires and some of the magic lights near the tree shrine.

Not long after, the sky started being seriously odd, with parts darkening, and it starting to taste of winter. People got ready, with weapons, winter clothes.

There was a huge dark shape against the dark sky, drifting slowly, scouting, well above the caldera or our ability to shoot. A while later, there were a bunch of things coming out of it, like a lot of pieces of night. I called out "pieces of night! torches!" Ofeshia started her magic protections. We heard shouts out in the valley. The song of the gracknel went lower, and more even, maybe like it was in a better place because it had something clear to do (outside it's internal disarray).

We heard more shouts from the valley, then the first attacks came towards us. I waved a torch whenever one seemed in range, but they mostly stayed out of reach.

Then a flock or column of night pieces came up the path.
Ofeshia and I tried to have a meeting of the minds. We held hands, and she did something. I tried reaching out, focusing my mind with meditation. I can't get words or impressions, just some sense of feelings. I said that seemed to work, and Ofeshia agreed, though she'd thought she got Darren at first. She suggested we try me sending to her. I thought about which skills might be useful to Darern, and not too complicated, deciding on dodge. She seemed to get it, though she had to concentrate on it. She said she'd let me know what Darren might need. She reached out to Darren, and too much energy rushed towards him. She tried again, then said she had to disconnect from me to connect with him. Once she did, she told me he needed information about healing things, so I sent him the idea of healing and surgical healing. Some energy came back, and somehow I was now in Darren's body in the gracknel. I was bleeding out.

I quickly bandaged Darren's body, and looked around. I was in a barricaded corner, and I could hear crashing noises in the distance. It looked like I was above ground in the gracknel. I noticed there was a chirping sound that seemed directional. I reached out to that place, and it felt like the wood was moving under my hand. I wasn't sure what to do, other than calming would be good, so I started the lullaby that I sang before, when the engineer window opened in the gracknel. There was a surge of what I thought might be sap, which caused creaking in woody and metal ways. I was concerned about it flooding somehow. I felt a presence surging towards me. I was picked up in a huge hand, of a being with leaf-strewn antlers and a face of stars and such. It said that I was Darren and not Darren; I was in the wrong box (saying it in a Kafke child's sort of voice). I agreed. It put me in another place, and that wasn't right either. It flicked me through a couple of boxes, and when I was not in Darren's body, I felt like myself, but then I was in his/my body. [some things i might be missing due to computer crash.] It showed me something like a detailed memory, and the part of it I could catch was about some amazingly skilled Kenessho fighting some insectoid things coming out of the roots of the gracknel. I said that I wasn't yet at that level of skill. Later there was another memory, of being in class, learning something I haven't learned yet, all kinds of things I haven't learned yet. Which was odd.
It reached another hand with lots of tools at me, which was scary. It said that I was not quite right. It wanted me to do things with parts, and I suggested I could do things to help people get fixed, rather than become parts. And then I was pushed out next to a person who was severely injured. I bandaged the fighter, and I was moved to another one.

I bandaged the fighter, then I got pulled to another one, and started bandaging him. When I looked over my right shoulder, I seemed to know that path. I wondered if it was Darren-knowledge, but when I thought, it was from a male Kafke, an odd memory pulling at me. I pulled myself back to the bandaging, then I felt a connection, and a voice said that Darren and the Darren was one again. I can feel the connection re-established. I was torn; I could keep bandaging people. I heard Ofeshia call my name in my mind. I thought back at her. She and Marguerite and Darren-me were at the other end. We talked, and I said that I was bandaging people who were severely injured, so a lot of me wanted to stay being useful, then come back later. The bridge broke last time when the switch happened.

Each time I got pulled through, I was left with a bit of memory that distracted me, then I wasn't able to remember what it was, then had to pull myself back to what I was doing. The presence of the gracknel was always nearby. I sort of hoped that the gracknel was learning a bit about healing people, instead of making them into parts that it couldn't use. And as I followed that thought, and somehow the gracknel tried to feel through me, but it couldn't understand itself, filled with gibberish in the core. And I came to myself to find that I'd been with this person for a quarter of an hour. I decided to narrate what I was doing, both to hopefully help the gracknel, and keep myself focused. When I finished, I heard crackling and such sounds coming my way, with the thought that it was coming to see me, though not in an aggressive way, even though I think it might be the thing everyone is fighting. The gracknel hadn't moved me to the next injured person, so I thought I was supposed to be there. I could hear its thought, coming to see me. I thought at it, asking what it wanted, and it sent me a list of a zillion parts I didn't understand, some of which might be bits of me. Which I didn't like. I pointed at the dead people in my brain, and it seemed to take that for a moment, then refocused on me. Time to go, up. A keeper met me, and did something to make a barrier behind me. She told me to go, and we went. She did that again, and asked if I was the one it was looking for. I said yes, and she told me to break the connection. I didn't know how, which confused her, and she did something that was a little like manipulate inner energies, but hurt. And then it was done. She said we should separate, and she headed around one way, and she pointed me across an arching pathway across the middle. I saw a huge centipede-like thing that had been looking for me, metal pieces and 6 antennae with tools. Beautiful, but I think it wasn't make quite right. The gracknel reached out, and I started fixing the body. It addressed me as Damarisol, which surprised me. It said that Damarisol and Darren were different. I agreed, saying "mostly". And it started thinking, and there was some music that I liked. It came back to itself, saying there was something here. And it seemed to drift away from here. Which meant that it didn't whisk me to another person, and I realized that Darren's body was exhausted. I wanted to sleep, but was nervous about doing that here, so decided to meditate to recover.

About 15 minutes later, Ofeshia opened the mental link. She asked where I was, and I described where I was. They have some plan to trap the thing, and want me to get close to the entrance to let them in / switch back. I headed that way, keeping an ear out for clacking sounds. It was really hard to keep focus as I walked; there were so many tasks I could do. It felt like I shouldn't stay in the trees too long.... When I got to the entrance, it was filled with teeth in all directions, made of the material that slightly dissolves people. I let them know I was there. We all reached out, and Darren and I switched again. It felt good to be back in my body.
It was 4 low bells. I slept until 8 low bells. When I woke up, the ritual seemed to be maintaining well, and Eevolertu didn't have any particular tasks for me, so I joined some of the fighters who were working on their evades. Eevolertu had mentioned gathering wood before he went to sleep. I went over to our group and talked about that, saying it would also be good to have someone on watch. Oreshalore said she'd do that and trade off with me later. Woveshancor said he'd be willing to help me gather wood, so we spent a while doing that.

Once everyone had woken up and eaten, Marguerite and Ofeshia talked about introducing the tree and the rock shrine, and the plowdurg. Marguerite asked me to be there to be able to pull them out of meditative space if something happened. I watched, and everything was calm, both with those I was watching and outside. Just before they came out, something happened to me. I sweat, and felt like I had to push through exhaustion to find a second wind. It was disconcerting. And then I felt something like that again. I backed off, and Ofeshia seemed to sense magic.

I felt super anxious, but for no new reason. It didn't seem like the gracknel, and I wasn't sure if it might have been the Gray Lady. Or maybe it was Darren? It felt almost like I would feel if I could catch my breath, a physical anxiety. It was disturbing: the corridor was overgrown into a tunnel, and the door seemed covered in things, the handle overgrown in cobweb. All of which made me a different kind of anxious, like I wanted to scour the tunnel clear, since it was outside the room.

When I came out, Marguerite and Ofeshia came over and we walked farther from the shrine to talk. I described what had happened. Marguerite thought it might be the new shrine interacting with the gods and reaching out towards me.

And then the conversation felt like it was happening far away, and I tasted blood in my mouth. I came back, and described it to the others.

And then there was a huge sound from the gracknel, descending in tones, through the whole spectrum. I felt sick to my stomach, and everyone seemed disconcerted at this point.

Ofeshia activated her mental link with Darren, talking with him as he was trying to evade some tunneling thing in the gracknel. The gracknel was upset, dead people around where Darren was, halfway above ground in the gracknel, He was hurt, and when I heard this, and a lightbulb went off. The others didn't seem to notice.

I went to lie down, not near the others. I knocked on the door a couple of times, and got no response, so I opened the door. It's all webby, no trace of the woody room that was, covered in pockets and such. The Gray Lady was standing vertically, a light web over her. There was a red light, that made everything spookier. She seemed to be almost statue like. I address her, and notice that she looks more like me. We talked about the current situation. Apparently, she's not interested in making the gracknel calmer as part of our previous deal; this would be a new one. Side note: apparently the room has always looked this way, she's letting me see it now. Or at least, that's what she's saying now....

I had to find out what the deal was. She said it would involve further steps after the current deal. She said that she could help with this, but thought that I had seen and heard the things I needed to help. And requested that I speak only of how reasonable she was, after.

I came out and thought about what had happened, working out that Ofeshia couldn't send fighting skills to Darren from Oreshalore, but perhaps she could from me, because I have the separate connection to Darren.

Ofeshia seemed reluctant, since it hadn't worked before, but I managed to get her to agree to try again with me.
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.
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