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Script - Dark Dreams of a Winter Wind

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< Script - Generation 25: Eclipse

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For explanations and advice on quest completion, see Dark Dreams of a Winter Wind.
  • Note: Special dialogue and how to get them will be marked with Pan Speech Bubble Sticker.png Pan speech bubble stickers.

Dark Dreams of a Winter Wind

Today, we found a child collapsed in the vicinity of Sidhe Sneachta. That alone is reason for concern, but I can't shake this ominous premonition that there's more to it. I hope I'm wrong, but all the same, would you come see me in Tir Chonaill? - Duncan

(You head to Tir Chonaill and meet Duncan.)

Ah, there you are, (Character Name). Thank you for coming.
As I mentioned, I'm dealing with a troubling situation. I figured I'd get your thoughts on it, in case you knew anything.

Glenn Bearna - Unconscious Child.png
You're well acquainted with our civil militiaman Trefor, yes? Yesterday, he was on his usual patrol around the northern outskirts of town when he happened upon a child lying on the ground, unconscious.
At first, he just thought the child had tired himself out from running around and playing, as children do. But when even a vigorous shaking failed to rouse the lad, he realized it was something more serious.
The child's breathing is normal, and to look at him, he seems no different from if he were simply sleeping. At least, his life doesn't appear to be in imminent danger.
What stood out to me is that there were no physical signs that anyone struck the child. No bruises or other marks that might indicate a concussion. When I try to think of clear reasons the lad might've collapsed, I keep coming up short.
We've investigated the place where Trefor first found the child, but aside from the usual animal footprints, we found nothing of note.
You're widely traveled, so I thought perhaps you might've seen something like it somewhere. Would you mind having a look at the boy?

> Prompt: Nod in agreement

(Even behind his kind smile, you can hear the concern in Duncan's voice.)

I left the child in Dilys's care, so you'll find him at the Healer's House. Thank you again for being willing to lend a hand.

(You go to the Healer's House to examine the unconscious child.)

(The child is lying on the sofa near the entrance, motionless.)

(This is the unconscious child that Duncan mentioned. You feel compelled to examine him to see if there's anything you might learn.)

(Check the child's breathing and pulse, and look for any signs of external trauma to assess his condition.)

> Prompt: Examine his head or Examine his chest or Examine his legs

> Prompt: Examine his head

(The slow rising and falling of his chest as he inhales and exhales seems no different than that of someone who's asleep. At the very least, his breathing appears stable.)

> Prompt: Examine his chest

(The boy's heart beats with a regular rhythm. His pulse is a bit sluggish, but entirely in line with the heartbeat of one fast asleep.)

> Prompt: Examine his legs

(You see no signs of bruising, scars, or any other external trauma.)

(Even after examining the child, you couldn't find anything peculiar. If you didn't know he'd been rendered unconscious somehow, you'd swear he was just sleeping.)

(Your examination may not have uncovered anything, but all the same, you should let Duncan know.)

(You report back to Duncan.)

So, what did you think, (Character Name)? Did anything about his condition strike you as unusual?

> Prompt: Give Duncan your assessment

(You told Duncan what you observed about the boy's condition.

So, you didn't find anything amiss either, then. By every symptom we can observe, the lad has simply... fallen asleep. At least, that's the most I can make of it. It's frustrating, having so little to go on.
There doesn't seem to be any pressing threat to his health, and I'll take a silver lining where I can find one. Still, it disturbs me that nothing that's been tried so far has been able to rouse him.
There's more going on here than meets the eye, (Character Name). Someone has harmed this child, but we don't know who, or why. There's no reason a healthy young boy would simply collapse on the side of the road, and he's been unconscious too long to presume he simply passed out.
What vexes me is that there's nothing we can point to as a likely cause. Trefor was closest-- he's the one who first found the boy, and even he swore he didn't see or hear anything out of the ordinary.

(Duncan pauses for a moment of contemplation before continuing.)

If you happen to find anything that might shed some light on this in your wanderings, would you be so kind as to come back here and let me know?
Right now, I can't even figure out where to begin. I have a feeling that somewhere out there in Uladh, someone knows something that would point us in the right direction. And you, my friend, have contacts in many and varied social circles that even an old man like me could only begin to imagine.
I'm sorry to place this burden on you, but I'm afraid the god of the northern winds has taken a running head start this year, and I'd rather not let anyone remain unconscious in such frigid weather longer than they must. Let me know if you discover anything you think may help.

> Prompt: Nod in agreement

Thank you, (Character Name).

(Duncan gives you his warm, generous smile that always makes it seem worthwhile to do whatever he's asked you to do.)

Shadow Mission: A Watchful Gaze

(After a moment in thoughtful silence, Duncan continues, his voice solemn.)

Is there anything else you wish to ask? Unfortunately, I don't know much more than you do at this point, so there's no much to tell. This incident weighs heavy on my heart, and perhaps talking it out helps ease the burden.
If you're worrying about what to do, I recommend looking at all the things you could check on and thinking about which may be most likely to yield leads or useful information.
There are many places it may be worthwhile to investigate, so the first thing you'll need to decide is whether you want to start looking into nearby locations first, or travel further afield and work your way back.
There's nothing you can't accomplish, no matter how big it might seem. It's just a matter of taking things once step at a time. And with enough steps, you'll turn around and see how far you've come-- just like you probably do when you look back on the beginning of your journey.

Mmm, now let's see...
When I think about nearby places to investigate, well... there's nowhere closer than right here in Tir Chonaill. It may be prudent to take another look around the village; take stock of all the small things that've been going on.
Our town probably looks different to your eyes. Unlike our residents, you've traveled far more widely and had experiences even some of the boldest adventurers couldn't match.
As for where to travel further out, I'd advise starting somewhere that would be likely to have pertinent information-- preferably, a place where those privy to such information would be willing to share it with you. Think of places that have some kind of organization that guards or oversees the city. You're probably on friendly terms with more than a few such groups.
Tara's Royal Guard comes readily to mind. Also, as I recall, Emain Macha maintains a town guard that patrols the city for public safety.
If anything strange or significant had taken place within their jurisdiction, I'm certain they would know. When odd or frightening things happen, residents look to those in positions of authority for aid and guidance.

(Where do you plan on going first to seek out information?)

> Prompt: Somewhere nearby or Somewhere distant

Ah, I know that look in your eyes. A plan's taking shape! Good, good; go where your heart leads you.

(A Fianna Geimhridh that was overlooking you and Duncan from the graveyard the entire time stands and leaves.)

(Feeling a presence, you look in the direction where the Fianna Geimhridh was standing, but ultimately see nothing of note.)


Rumors Heard Nearby

  • (Note: Rumors Heard Nearby and Rumors from Afar can be taken in the order of the player's choice.)

You decide to search near Tir Chonaill, hoping to discover what could have rendered the child unconscious. You may be able to learn more if you pay a visit to the Healer's House, where the child received medical treatment.

(You go back to the Healer's House. Perhaps there were some things you missed.)

Ah. If you came to check in on our unconscious patient, they're no longer staying in the clinic. Sorry to disappoint you.
Why? Well... there wasn't much I could do for him here, so I decided to move him to a more comfortable place to rest.
Like you saw before, the strange thing about his condition is that his breathing is very stable. There's no huffing or puffing, no groaning or any sign of pain, and no shortness of breath.
Whatever's affecting him, his condition seems no different from simply being asleep. But it sounds like Trefor tried several things-- none of which I would have allowed had I been there-- to wake the child before bringing him to me. *sigh* How did he ever think something like that would work...?
Anyway, since the child isn't exhibiting any symptoms, it's not surprising that he also isn't responding to any treatments. Carefully administering a potion, checking his body for any signs of trauma... Nothing got me any closer to a proper diagnosis.
In conclusion, none of the treatments I tried showed any sign of rousing him. On top of that, it's been so oddly cold here lately that I'm concerned remaining unconscious for too long may have negative effects on his long-term health.

> Prompt: The cold?

Hmm... Maybe you weren't immediately aware of it, (Character Name), but the village has been unusually chilly lately. Those who spend the better part of their days outside have all noticed it.
They come in coughing or sniffling, always saying something like, 'It wasn't this cold last year, was it?' Coughs and runny noses are simple enough to address, but there's not much I can do about the weather.
I swear, there's another one in here every day or two, blowing their nose or coughing, and I'd say the unseasonal cold has something to do with it. It's not that treating them is difficult-- that's what I'm here for, after all-- but anything that causes a spike in illness in the community concerns me.

> Prompt: What about the child?

Ah, I moved him to the Inn. I feel the best thing we can do for him right now is to help him maintain a stable body temperature, and even I have to admit that the Inn is a much warmer, cozier place than my clinic.

Anyway, if you'd like to check up on the boy yourself, just head down the road to the Inn and tell Piaras I sent you.

(The unconscious child was moved to the Inn, where a warm fire and plenty of blankets should help him maintain a stable body temperature.)

(You go ask Piaras at the Tir Chonaill Inn if there's been any change in the child's condition.)

Welcome, (Character Name). What brings you to the inn today?

> Prompt: Ask about the unconscious child

Ah, of course. Dilys asked me if I had an open room where he could rest, so I put him in a cozy bed and tucked him in. I lit a small fire too, to make sure the room stayed warm.
Inns are, first and foremost, a place for travelers to rest, but as an innkeeper, I feel it's also my responsibility to provide a comfortable place for people who are sick of recuperating. Even if I didn't have an empty room, I'd find some way to make it work.
I check in on him every now and then. Haven't really noticed any changes, I'm afraid, so all I can do is throw another log or two in the fireplace and try to make him comfortable. At least his condition seems stable.
Speaking of the fireplace, that just reminded me of something. Do you have the time to help me out with a little errand? I'd meant to get around to it, but the cold weather's sort of made it a priority now.
You see, I found myself thinking about what that boy might look like if he was out there awake and running around like the others his age. He reminded me a bit of our shepherd Deian when he was a few years younger. But even this boy is better-dressed for the weather than poor Deian is.

Glenn Bearna - Deian Shivering.png
Around the end of summer, Deian asked me to teach him how to build a good campfire, since he worries his sheep might get cold when the winter chill rolls in.
I never did get around to teaching him, but even if I had, I don't know that he would've really picked it up easily. And, well... Deian is more likely to be freezing his bum off out there than any of his flock.
The sheep have warm, woolen coats to help them get through the cold months, but Deian's out there in his thin shirt and shorts like always, even with the cold wind coming in off the mountains.
Deian's still a growing boy himself, so I feel like he ought to bundle up if he's going to stay outside like that. As I was tending to our unconscious guest, I started to feel guilty about never at least trying to teach him a but about proper fire-building.
If it wouldn't be too much trouble, could you break out your needle and thread to make Deian something he could throw on over his clothes? It doesn't need to be perfect, just something serviceable to keep him warm.

Nora sells a few Sewing Patterns on the side, so you can pick one up from her. If you wouldn't mind, could you make a set of Cloth Mail and give it to Deian?
He can be a bit stubborn if he thinks you're telling him what to do, so I don't know whether he'll wear it right away. Still, I'm betting that even if he doesn't, another day or two out there in this cold will make a warm layer like that seem more and more appealing.
(Piaras asked you to make a garment that would help keep Deian warm in the frigid weather. Use the Tailoring skill to make 1 Cloth Mail and deliver it to Deian. You can purchase the Tailoring Kit and Sewing Pattern needed to craft the Cloth Mail from Nora.)

(You make the aforementioned item and deliver it to Deian.)
Shepherd Boy Deian
*teeth chattering* Wh-what's up, (Character Name)?

(You have crafted a suit of Cloth Mail as Piaras requested. Which Cloth Mail do you want to give to Deian?)

(You give the item to Deian.)

Shepherd Boy Deian
Is this... Cloth Mail? Why are you giving this to me?
Wait, Piaras told you he's been watching me shiver out here? And he thinks I neeed to put on something warmer?
I'm telling you, it's totally unnecessary! The hot blood of youth is like a shield against the cold!

(Deian protests, but he isn't fooling anyone.)

Shepherd Boy Deian
W-well, I guess since you went to all the trouble to make it, I'll take it.
What was Piaras thinking? I told him my SHEEP were cold! Why did he have you make clothes for me?
All my sheep, from the hoariest old rams to the littlest lambs, are out there shivering in the wind like they've got anxiety issues! I'll bet it's all those Milletians I see, coming to shear off their wool practically as fast as they grow it...

> Prompt: It must be the cold. or It may not be the cold...

Shepherd Boy Deian
It's weird, huh? I mean, it's not THAT cold, and sheep basically live outside... unless you let them inside. Do you think it really IS cold here and we all just got used to it 'cause we live in the north? You know, I tried to make a campfire to keep them warm, but...
Well, I'm not giving up on my fire-building dreams yet! Y-yeah! I'll bet it didn't work this time because I didn't use the right kind of firewood. Next time, I'm gonna get me some Fine Firewood and make the best fire Tir Chonaill has ever seen! A-achoo!
I'll take another stab at it as soon as I get my hands on some more firewood...
Mmm... Hmm... Yeah, that'd be pretty nifty, huh? If only I knew someone who could bring me some firewood. Someone totally cool, whose days just aren't complete if they haven't helped someone out...

(You can practically feel Deian's expectant gaze boring a hole into you.)

(You've discovered that Tir Chonaill's weather is colder than it was at this time last year. Dugald Aisle isn't far down the southern road, so you decide to check and see if the cold winds are as noticeable there.)
(Visit Tracy in Dugald Aisle and ask him if the weather has seemed unusual lately. While you're there, you can pick up some firewood for Deian, too.)

(You visit Tracy in Dugald Aisle to ask him if the weather has seemed unusual lately. While you're there, you can pick up some firewood for Deian, too.)

Well, look who it is! How's it going, (Character Name)? Come from Tir Chonaill, have you?

(It doesn't feel as frigid in Dugald Aisle as it does in Tir Chonaill.)

> Prompt: Ask about the cold weather

Cold weather? Well, we do sometimes get a northerly wind blowing down from the mountains, but it's never really felt all that cold to me. Maybe it's all the hair on my chest.
I mean, if the weather were really taking a strange turn, our raccoon population would've shown signs of it first. But here they are, carrying on like they always do, so I figure there's nothing out of the ordinary going on here.
Though, now that I'm thinkin' about it... Maybe there aren't quite as many of those ring-tailed bandits skittering around as usual, huh?

(It appears that the prodigious raccoon population for which Dugald Aisle is known among Milletians has indeed decreased a little. Perhaps...)

Ahaha! I was just pullin' your leg there, (Character Name). You know me; I like to keep things light. Never took you for someone with an interest in the lives of raccoons, but they can be adorable little bugers, when they're not trying to steal my lunch.

(Tracy may have been joking, but you do seem to sense fewer raccoons around than when you last passed through the area. Setting aside Tracy's jests, you see what other information he can provide.)

All joking aside, though, I've noticed more folks coming down from Tir Chonaill lately to buy firewood. Guess there must be a cold snap up there or something.
Let me guess... The village sent you down here on some quest to go get 'em some firewood, right? Well, I can guarantee you one of the residents'll make the trip here soon enough, and when they do, I'll send an extra cord of wood back with them.
Don't you worry bud-- I've got it covered. I know the wood-selling business backward and forward. You wouldn't get customer service like that from any other lumberjack, I tell you that.

(Whoever rendered the child unconscious is nowhere to be found, but you learned that Tir Chonaill has been experiencing some unseasonably cold weather of late.)

Word Travels from Afar

You decide to travel far from Tir Chonaill in search of anything unusual that might explain how the child was rendered unconscious. Tara's Royal Guard and Emain Macha's city guard should be able to tell you the latest about what's been happening in the areas under their jurisdiction.

(You start with the Royal Guard in Tara and meet with Padan.)

Well met, (Character Name). What brings you here?

> Prompt: Has anything out of the ordinary happened? or Have you seen anyone suspicious?

  • (Note: Both options result in the same response text.)

Well, when the guards go on patrol, they tend to focus their attention on any potential influences that might bubble up from the Shadow Realm. I can't say for certain to what extent they'd be aware of minor goings-on around the city.
Frankly, nothing comes to mind. But if you're looking into this personally, it must be a matter of no small import. Would you mind sharing the details with me?

> Prompt: Tell what happened in Tir Chonaill

Mm... I see. I can at least tell you that nothing like that happened in Tara. At least, no word has reached me of any suspicious incidents or individuals.
I'm sorry I couldn't be of more help. There's little meaning in minding the health of every dog or chicken scratching around the streets, but I daresay that if anyone in this city were to fall unconscious and not be awakened even by a trained healer, we would surely have heard about it.
We actually had something else come up recently that has commanded the bulk of our attention, so it may be that in focusing on that, we failed to notice some concerning act we otherwise would have.

> Prompt: Something else?

Indeed. A civilian reported seeing some sort of giant animal within the city walls. There's no good reason for a wild beast to venture into man's domain, and it was troubling that none of the watch saw it enter or leave, so we immediately tried to ascertain whether the Shadow Realm's influence played a part here.
We received a similar report from Taillteann, which only served to buttress my concern regarding a potential connection to the Shadow Realm.
Now, if such a large animal made a leap capable of clearing the city wall, one would think there would be more than a few eyewitnesses. However, only a handful claim to have seen anything, and those testimonies we do have on record show a great deal of variation in where they claim to have sighted the beast.
I must confess to being a bit flummoxed, (Character Name). Nothing can abruptly appear and then vanish like that without the use of teleportation magics.
However, we found no abnormal activity in the Shadow Realm that could explain such behavior, so I can't say whether these sightings are connected to it or not. And with too few clear accounts of the beast's appearance, we can't even say whether it originally came from the Shadow Realm.
If the sightings are to be believed, it apparently showed up all over town. Perhaps if you have a look around Tara, you'll find some lingering sign that it was here.

Beyond that, all seems to be well in Tara. I wish you the best in your investigation.

(You learned that a giant animal appeared in the city of Tara. See if you can find any signs that would allow you to track the beast or ascertain its whereabouts.)

(You look for signs of this beast in the city.)

(As you explore the city streets, something in an alleyway grabs your attention.)

(Oh no! You see a little stray cat lying unconscious.)

(At first glance, it seems to be asleep, but you notice that its eyes are open. Even for a cat, it's unlikely this is natural behavior.)

> Prompt: Poke the cat or Examine the cat

(You've been here long enough that you start to notice the nearby cats growing wary of your presence. In their own way, they seem to be looking out for their unconscious friend. You should probably move along, so as not to draw their ire.)

(You should continue on to Emain Macha. There may well be animals there that have fallen unconscious in the same way you've observed in Tara, so it wouldn't be a bad idea to start your search someplace with many animals.)

(As you recall, there are quite a few cows near the Trading Post on the outskirts of Emain Macha. If some strange beast appeared near the city, the traders working there might have seen it. Visit Laco the Trade Helper at the Emain Macha Trading Post and see what you can learn.)

(You Visit Laco the Trade Helper at the trading post to see what you can learn.)

Laco the Trade Helper
In this world, there's no such thing as too much money, heehee. How much do you-- Ah, wait. Your face tells me you're here on some other business.

> Prompt: Ask about the beast

Laco the Trade Helper
A beast, hmm? Yes, I could tell you something about it. In fact, I've seen the very beast you seek!
But surely you haven't forgotten one of the core tenets all Commerce Champions would know: nothing is ever free! Now, I'm not seeking coin-- for this information, a simple favor would suffice.

> Prompt: I will do it or Seems kinda sketchy...

(Laco shrugs, carefully watching you all the while.)

Laco the Trade Helper
So, here's the deal. I want you to make an Iron Bar for use in repairing the fences and deliver to Aodhan, the captain of the city's guard. How's that? So simple, so straightforward, it's generous to even call it a favor, right?

Glenn Bearna - Strange Deer.png
Laco the Trade Helper
Now, this request is directly related to what you asked about. You see, recently, a large animal was running amok in Emain Macha, and it ended up doing a real number on the fences around here.
I saw it briefly as it rushed out of the city, chased by the guardsmen. It looked like a deer, but given its size and its dark coat, I wouldn't put good money on it being anything natural. For convenience's sake, though, we'll call it a deer.
It was a few nights ago, and a thick fog had rolled in off the lake. All the cows had been sound asleep, but suddenly, they all started lowing. I'm no animal handler, but even I could tell they were spooked. It was... unnerving.
Eventually, curiosity got the better of me and I went over to see what was causing all that racket. When I did, I saw several cows collapsed on the ground, and in their midst, a great deer standing silently. Watching, I panicked, and my mind went blank.
Then the deer cocked its head, turning to stare right at me. No sooner had it noticed me than it took a bounding leap and charged into the city at full speed. It almost seemed more frightened of me than I was of it! Can you believe it?
I guess being so big, it's not quite as graceful as most deer. As it sprinted toward the town, it stumbled into the fences, though that didn't seem to slow its charge into the heart of Emain Macha. The only thing that'd tell you it passed through is the damage left in its wake.
It didn't take long for the complaints to start rolling in. 'Hey, when are they gonna fix this fence'? The residents wanted it repaired post-haste, so some neighborhood committee went to pester the guards-- you know how these 'community organizations' are. The town guard has the manpower to make the repairs, of course, but they didn't have the materials they needed on hand to actually perform them.
And that, (Character Name), is the story of why I need you to make 1 Iron Bar and deliver it to Aodhan.

Laco the Trade Helper
Anyway, good luck on making that Iron Bar. Head on into the city and deliver it to Aodhan when you're done.

(You make the Iron Bar and head to the Emain Macha Castle, where Aodhan is posted.)

Well met, (Character Name). What brings you to Emain Macha today?

> Prompt: Hand him the Iron Bar

Yes, this certainly is a bar of iron. Are you dealing in riddles these days, or is there some purpose to-- Ah, now I see.
This is for making the nails to mend our broken fences, isn't it? How did you even know we had such a need?

(Aodhan looks flustered for a moment, then regains his composure, giving you a polite nod.)

Firstly, I want to thank you for your help. The damage we incurred was relatively minor, caused by a wild animal rampaging around. Certainly nothing that would require an individual of your talents to step in.
If I had to guess, I'd wager you're here to learn more about that beast. I wouldn't have presumed it to be a matter of great enough import that you would be on the trail of such an animal yourself. It's a shame-- had I known you were after it, I would have sent some men out to try to capture it.
Anyway, I can at least fill you in on the details. Several days past, a beast of a sort never seen before in Emain Macha appeared right in the middle of the town square and was quickly reported to the guardsmen by a resident.
An entire squad quickly mobilized to investigate the creature. It was deerlike in appearance, but the hue of its coat was a deep blue. As my men drew closer, they realized the beast was several times the size of any deer we know of; too large to be natural. So they stood there, flummoxed, wondering what to do next.
What they didn't expect was that this deer-creature seemed as surprised to see them as they were to see it, and it quickly bounded away into the fog. We gave chase, but it was devilishly fleet for a hart of its size and quickly outpaced them, leaving no trace or tracks behind.
We searched everywhere around the town, but found nothing that might give us a clue where the deer came from, or where it had gone. All we know for sure is the route it took into the city, since it passed through a puddle and left muddy imprints on the cobblestones.
To hear my men talk, you'd think the beast had simply... vanished into thin air. The last trace the pursuit team found was a single set of deep hoofprints, as might be made by the hind legs during a bounding leap, but try as they might, they found no tracks that would indicate where it would have touched down again.
We combed over every street and back alley in Emain Macha for hours in search of clues, but came away empty-handed. I'd tell you to search for yourself, but you'd no doubt turn up the same fistful of nothing. For now, we're focused on patching up the damage our beastly visitor left in its wake. Which, to bring things full circle, includes mending a few broken fences.
That's all there is to report at the moment. If any of our guards should happen to glimpse that strange deer again, I'll be sure to send a message your way, (Character Name). Once again, thank you for your contribution to our restoration efforts.
Anyway, I can tarry no longer; I need to make my rounds. I'll see you later.

(You didn't learn anything about whoever might have left the child unconscious, but it seems that a strange deer has been sighted in both Tara and Emain Macha.)

Shadow Mission: Meeting with the Master

It must have been difficult, wandering to and fro.

(A campfire sits in a snowy field, a Fianna Geimhridh sitting by it.)

Come, rest your weary bones by the fire. The warmth does a body good.

(The view changes, revealing a figure clad in a black robe sitting next to the deer. They look at the Fianna Geimhridh.)

My child... are the others who were with you far behind?

(The Fianna Geimhridh looks up, then stands.)

Ah, there they are.

(The figure stands as well, their hands linked in their hunched back.)

(A second deer hops toward the campfire.)

Did you bring the firewood, dear?

(The deer drops pieces of a blue firewood by its feet, and the person walks to it.)

Very good, very good. Hahaha...
At last, the end is in sight.


The Buck Stopped Here

We've got an emergency here. This giant deer is...I think it's trying to kidnap someone! Get over here as fast as you can! - Trefor

(You hurry and make your way to Tir's north side.)

(Trefor is huffing and puffing as if he's been seriously injured or just run a long way-- possibly both.)

(Character Name)! We've got a big problem here! This giant buck just showed up and abducted a girl!
I tried to chase it, but I couldn't outrun legs that strong! I-I mean, not weighted down with all this heavy armor. It bolted straight toward Sidhe Sneachta, and we've gotta stop it before it goes any further!

> Prompt: Stop the deer or Not quite yet...

> Prompt: Stop the deer

(It seems almost unthinkable that a deer would spirit an unwitting person away, and scarcely a stone's throw from the village, no less. You head out to see if you can find it.)

Shadow Mission: The Fianna Geimhridh

Trefor (Chat Bubble)
*gasp* It's...
Th-that creature!

(As Trefor mentions it, you turn in the direction he seemed to gesture at, taken aback.)

(You see the strange deer hop away towards Sidhe Sneachta. You run after it, catching up in a clearing.)

(The cold of Sidhe Sneachta makes you shiver, unprepared for it as you are, but you spot the deer and someone unconscious in the distance. The deer seems to be doing... something. A strange aura surrounds the two.)

> On-Screen text: The unconscious girl's body is growing colder...

(The deer hops around the area, making you run after it. You watch out for the wolves that come in the area.)

(After you defeat the deer, it drops pieces of strange firewood. Trefor managed to catch up with you in the meantime.)

Trefor (Chat Bubble)
You look fine.
Perhaps it's fortune born out of misfortune.
I'll tend to the girl.
Could you gather anything the deer was carrying?

(You gather up the firewood.)

(Character Name), I'm no healer, but even I can see that girl's condition isn't normal. It reminds me of that kid who fell unconscious not too long ago. Honestly, I'm not even sure if it's safe to move her. I don't want to pick her up and make things worse.

(Trefor seems confused, as though he doesn't know what's going on.)

(Perhaps it's just the cooling-off that comes after a pitched battle, but it slowly dawns on you that it's particularly cold here-- even colder than Sidhe Sneachta normally is. The deer seemed like it was trying to flee here, but why?)

(Is there some connection between the deer bolting toward Sidhe Sneachta and the unusual chill here and in Tir Chonaill? Many possibilities race through your mind, but before you sit down and properly ponder them, you should tend to the unconscious girl.)


(You see a girl a few summers shy of adulthood lying still on the ground, appearing almost as though she has simply fallen asleep. You immediately think back to the child you found unconscious before.)

(It's clear now that a deer like the one you fought was responsible for leaving the child in that state, but you still don't know how to wake him up, or the girl lying on the ground nearby. The deer is long gone now, and you have no way of knowing where it went.)

(Even having identified the culprit, there doesn't seem to be a clear solution to the problem. You get the feeling you'll need more clues to steer you in the right direction.)

(Perhaps there are secrets to be gleaned from the firewood you picked up earlier...)

(You look at the piece of firewood you retrieved from the deer. In weight and texture it resembles a normal piece of firewood, but its unnatural color immediately sets it apart from anything you've seen before. You can feel a strange aura emanating from it.)

(As you hold the firewood, you can feel goosebumps travel up your arm as a subtle chill spreads from the wood. Beyond that and the color, though, even a close examination doesn't reveal anything else about it that seems noteworthy.)

(More pressingly, if the girl is left out here in the elements, her body temperature might take a precipitous plunge. Perhaps you ought to move her to the Healer's House, as was done with the young boy who fell unconscious before.)

Hmm. I think keeping Chief Duncan posted about the situation should be our priority here. There's still a lot we don't know, but I don't think that deer will be back anytime soon. What I'm afraid of is that another one could show up in Tir Chonaill without warning!
Why don't you go and touch base with the Chief? With all that's happened, keeping him in the loop is important.
I think you'd make the trip faster than I would, waht with my injury and all. I'll hold down the forst here, don't you worry! I just want to be sure everyone in town is safe.
You know how strong I am, (Character Name). Why, if I wasn't hurt, I'd grab that deer right by the antlers and show 'im what-for! Now, best be off-- we have to let Chief Duncan know the latest.

(You judge that it would be most expedient tyo just go to Duncan directly, since Trefor is injured. He can keep watch over the girl while you're gone.)

(You go and tell Duncan that the deer has been sighted near Tir Chonaill.)

Heartwood in Flames

It seems like you've uncovered something in your investigations. I, too, am curious, so come and tell me all about it. - Duncan

Ah, the traveler returns! Welcome back, (Character Name). I'm curious to hear what tidings you may have heard during your investigation.
Though, now that I look at you, you seem more exhausted than usual. Wait... Were you fighting someone?

> Prompt: Explain what happened

(As Duncan listens attentively, he seems surprised at the many turns your tale takes.)

Goodness. I had no idea. Thank you for letting me know about this deer. I'll be sure to tell all the residents here to keep a sharp eye out.
I know I asked you to look into this, but it sounds like you wandered even further than I thought. Apologies for keeping you on the road, (Character Name). To think, that strange deer would appear here, in our little village...
So, is the girl still lying there unconscious? I'm unsure how long Trefor can keep her in stable condition. We ought to get her to Dilys soon-- I'm afraid of what will happen if we leave her out there exposed to the elements.
It worries me that the icy winds have not ceased to blow into town. If you're not able to leave her at the Healer's House, I can make some room at my place, but... you already seem to exhausted from your combat. I'm just glad you're unharmed.

(You see Duncan's brow furrow, the careworn lines creasing as he contemplates. But after a moment, a smile spreads across his face, as though a solution has just come to him.)

How about this? I'll send someone to move the child. Would you be willing to stay by her side until then, to keep her safe?
Set up a campfire nearby while I make the arrangementes. I think the warmth will help stabilize her temperature until we can get her indoors. Besides, you seem no less in need of rest, and a good fire has a wondrous way of easing one's weariness.
You're always willing to go above and beyond for us, and I'm grateful. That's why I'd be glad to see you take a moment's respite. You rest up, and leave the logistics to ol' Duncan.

(Duncan bade you go to where the girl is and start a campfire there to keep her warm until she can be moved. Return to where the unconscious girl was.)

(You check on the girl.)

(She appears no different from before.)

> Prompt: Feel her forehead

(Her temperature is lower than you remember it. It would appear the frigid climate is quickly chilling her unconscious body.)

If Chief Duncan sent you back to take care of the girl, then I'll go and round up the other members of the civil militia. That ought to help us keep more of an eye out for those deer. And if worst comes to worst, we'll be able to mount a quicker response.
Anyway, I'm counting on you, (Character Name)!

(Duncan said he'd send someone along soon. You should make a campfire to keep the girl and yourself warm in the meantime. Since you picked up some firewood earlier, you should have everything you need.)

> Prompt: Start Campfire or Not quite yet...

> Prompt: Start Campfire

(You fish around in your bag, searching for the firewood...)

Shadow Mission: Beyond the Campfire

(You build a campfire beside the girl.)

(The campfire crackles and pops, bathing the snow in its amber light.)

(The warmth of the flames radiates out, keeping the chill at bay.)

(It feels like the surrounding air is slowly beginning to warm up.)



(You stand by the campfire, its warmth getting to you. You stifle a yawn.)


(It seems you may be in for a longer wait than your ancitipated.)

(Take a seat by the fire and wait for Trefor or another member of the civil militia to return.)

(You sit down to rest by the campfire.)

(Some time passes.)

Character Name (Chat Bubble)

(You feel a chill.)

Character Name (Chat Bubble)

(The fire has died down and you feel the cold air snaking its way back in. Without more fuel, the campfire will soon sputter out.)

(Throwing a few more logs on would keep the fire burning a while longer. Add a few more pieces of firewood from your stockpile.)

(You stand, and throw one of the pieces of that firewood you got from the deer in the fire.)


(The flames seem to burn with a little more intensity than before.)

(You feel a strange sensation as you burn the wood-- subtle, but you can't seem to shake it. Still, there's no denying that burning the rest of the wood will provide much-needed warmth.)

(You throw a second piece of wood in the fire.)


(The flames are burning significantly stronger than before.)

(As you throw another piece of wood on the fire, you note that you don't feel that strange sensation you had earlier. Since nothing appears to have happened, you feel it's safe to burn the rest of the firewood.)

(You throw in the last piece.)


(The flames are undeniably stronger! As they dance above the crackling wood, their warmth seems to seep into your body, driving out the chill.)

(You nod to yourself, satisfied.)

(Meanwhile, a strange aura permeates the unconscious girl.)

Unconscious Girl (Chat Bubble)

(She twitches, slowly waking up.)

Unconscious Girl (Chat Bubble)
Ee, eeek.

(She slowly sits up, then stands. As she does, you look at her.)

Character Name (Chat Bubble)

Unconscious Girl (Chat Bubble)

(The girl steps away from you.)

Unconscious Girl (Chat Bubble)
Wh-who are you?

Character Name (Chat Bubble)

Unconscious Girl (Chat Bubble)

(The girl takes account of her surroundings, seemingly at a loss.)

Unconscious Girl (Chat Bubble)
What in the world is going on here?


Now-Conscious Girl
A-ah... Mhm...? ...Hmm?

(The girl, who had until now lay unconscious, has woken up. She looks over at you with an expression that clearly bespeaks her puzzlement.)

> Prompt: Ask if she remembers anything or Ask how she is feeling

Now-Conscious Girl
I-I'm sorry. I have no idea what's going on now, and I don't even remember how I got... wherever we are. You're saying I blacked out, and just woke up now? I'm afraid I don't remember much.

> Prompt: Explain all that has happened

(You tell the girl about how a huge deer caused her to fall into a deep sleep, and that no one was able to wake her. Continuing on, you explain how she finally woke up after you defeated the deer and threw the firewood it had been carrying into the campfire, pausing only to admit how crazt this entire story must sound.)

Now-Conscious Girl
*gasp* My goodness... It's... starting to sort of come back to me now. I remember seeing that deer!
The deer came right up to me and hit me! It must've hit hard, too, because I don't remember much after that. Honestly, I only feel like I do when I doze off for a little while, but you make it sound liuke I was out for quite a bit longer than a little nap.
But, hmm... Before I woke up, I had this... sensation? Maybe it was a dream. It felt like I was locked up somewhere small. Or maybe it's that my body got smaller, somehow?
Still, it looks like my body was fine, since you were here keeping watch over me. But then... why do I remember things I wasn't even awake for?
Whew. It's just... a lot to think about. Everything is still kind of foggy. But I have the feeling there's something important I'm miss-- *gasp*

(Presumably having remembered the important thing she was missing, the girl's face drains of color, becoming as pale as the snow. Her distress is obvious, even before she speaks.)

Now-Conscious Girl
H-hey, sooo... I know this is random, but have you seen a little boy anywhere around here?
I remembered what I was doing when I got knocked out-- I was out looking for my brother. He's still too young to be wandering around alone outside, but he got it in his head to go out and look for a snowman. By the time i realized he was serious about it, he was already gone.
I know this is a long shot, but maybe you ran into him? He looks sort of like me, but he only comes up to my waist. Oh... what if he's hurt? What if I never find him? What will mother do?

> Prompt: There was that unconscious child...

(You remember the unconscious child Dilys had transferred to the Inn. Could he be this girl's little brother? Slowly, you explain the boy's circumstances to her.)

Now-Conscious Girl
Oh! That COULD be my brother! You said he's staying at the Inn in Tir Chonaill, right? I'll head there right away!
There probably won't be too many coyotes on the path that leads into town, right? Well... even if there are, I'm willing to make a run for it! See you there!

(The girl pulls herself together and, in a startling burst of speed for someone who came to just minutes ago, takes off down the path in the direction of Tir Chonaill. Might whatever restored the girl to consciousness have affected the young boy, too? You should head to the village Inn and find out.)

A God of the Northern Winds

The child who was recovering here has finally woken up. He was mumbling some strange things that I couldn't make much sense of, so I thought it might be good for him to get some fresh air. Do you know what happened? - Nora

(You head back to the Tir Chonaill Inn and speak with Nora.)

You picked the perfect time to arrive, (Character Name). Remember that unconscious boy who was resting here? Well, while you were gone, he finally woke up!
He'd been lying there, still as a stone, so you can imagine my surprise when I was tidying up the room and I saw him stirring out of the corner of my eye.
He seemed confused and disoriented at first, asking me who I am and where he was, so I sat with him and tried to put him at ease. It seemed to me that some fresh air might help clear his head, so I brought him outside.
You know... Now that I see the two of them together, I wonder if these two kids are siblings. They really share a resemblance, don't you think?

(The boy and the girl who were unconscious are now awake and chatting animatedly with each other. Talk with them and see if you can learn more about what happened.)

Now-Conscious Child
I'm telling you, sis, I just HAD to do it! I heard that if you can find an earring on one of the snowmen, you'll be able to become a hero!

Now-Conscious Girl
Are you kidding me? Even if that WAS true, why'd you just leave me behind and run off like that? I told you, you need to stay close and hold my hand!

(It seems the two kids are actually siblings. As you listen to them bicker, the young boy notices you approach.)

Now-Conscious Child
Hey, who's this? Do you know them?

Now-Conscious Girl
Don't be so rude! They're the one who saved me! *sigh* I'm really sorry about this. I swear, I can't take him anywhere...

Now-Conscious Child
Thanks for saving my sister... even if she sounds more like my mom right now. But... why would you wanna talk to me?

> Prompt: What are the last things you remember? or Tell him you saved him, too

Now-Conscious Child
Oh! I just remembered what I was doing before, and some other weird stuff!
I ran out of the village 'cause I wanted to find the snowman with the earring! My sis was with me at the start, but I ran ahead and lost her. Then I saw this group of foxes just past the Healer's House, so I wanted to see what they were doing!
That was when I saw this huge animal, kinda like a deer! It stretched its head low until it touched one of the foxes, and then I saw the fox fall down!

Glenn Bearna - Strange Deer and Child.png
Now-Conscious Child
That really surprised me, and then the deer raised its head to look right at me and came running over! It all happened really quick, and... then comes the stuff that's harder to remember.
It was kinda like I was dreaming. I dreamed I was... uh... some kind of stick? ...Yeah, like a long stick from a tree!
But I had other sticks with me, and we were all friends, so it wasn't lonely. But the floor kept shaking, and we bumped and tumbled over each other. It was kinda fun!
So I was a stick, and I was zooming around, like... um... Is there a faster way to move than running?

Now-Conscious Girl
Huh? Sprinting? Flying?

Now-Conscious Child
No, no, it was even faster than those! Like you get ready to run and then you don't even move and BOOM, you're there!

Now-Conscious Girl
You mean like teleporting? What are you going on about? I know you've got the attention span of a gnat sometimes, but at least try to make sense when someone's asking you a question.

Now-Conscious Child
No, that's right! It was just like teleporting with magic! I was popping in and out of all sorts of places! It was totally cool!
Oh, and I remember someplace that was really, really cold. I don't know where, but all my stick friends went there without me. Ugh, can't believe I got ditched like that...
Since it felt like a dream, it's all kinda foggy and I don't remember it really well, but it's true! Then the next thing I knew, I woke up in a bed here in the inn!
Aww... you don't believe me?

(You've spoken with heroes, magistrates, and deities, but somehow this child is harder to follow than any of them. From what you've gleaned, he seems to be saying that the deer... turned him into a piece of firewood? And then teleported all over? It almost sounds like the deer was going around trying to gather souls by turning them into firewood.)

Now-Conscious Girl
Um... He really likes talking to anyone who will listen. You don't have to listen to him ramble on and on.

Now-Conscious Child
H-hey, no I don't! I'm done talking! Goodbye!

Now-Conscious Girl
Wait, what? You can't just say goodbye out of nowhere like that. Especially when you're not even leaving...

(The boy's sister seems flustered by his spontaneous comments. Perhaps it would be worth talking with her.)

Now-Conscious Girl
I'm so sorry... My brother, well... he talks to everyone the same way. I hope he didn't upset you. thank you so much for taking care of him. He's probably a bit easier to handle when he's out cold, isn't he?
Well, now that I finally found him, it's long past time we headed home. Mother and father must be worried sick, wondering where we've gone. My brother's the sort of kid who can get so wound up that he practically doesn't feel pain when he's excited, so the first thing I'll do when we get back is look him over to make sure he's not hurt.
You're one of those Milletians, aren't you? Thank you so much for taking the time to help us! Oh, and tell Chief Duncan thanks, too!
You really look like you've gone through a lot, so I hope you can get some rest now. No one deserves it more than you!

Now-Conscious Child
Goodbye now! I hope we'll meet again someday!

(The girl holds her brother by the hand as the two walk down the road toward their home. Go see Duncan and tell him that both of the town's unconscious guests have been awakened.)

Ah, (Character Name)! I was just about to send a militiaman out to meet you. Has something happened?

> Prompt: Explain what happened

(You tell Duncan about how starting the campfire somehow awakened both the girl and the young boy from before, and relate to him what the boy told you about his experience.)

Goodness, is that true? It sounds so fantastical I can scarcely believe it. To think that a person's very soul could be transformed into a simple piece of firewood...
Mm... You know, with the cold winds blowing into the village, that strange deer, and now this firewood, I actually AM reminded of something. An old tale; one I heard a long, long time ago.
Though... there are some things about our present circumstances that even this wouldn't account for, if indeed it accounts for anything at all.
That was a rather long preamble, but... have your ever heard the name Cailleach? Probably doesn't ring any bells, does it? I doubt it would, for most.
Cailleach is the god of the northern winds, and to her sacred deer she gives the task of gathering firewood to burn. 'Tis she who is said to send the cold winds down from the mountains each winter. If you've ever read the book 'The Tir Chonaill Environs', I believe it makes mention of her.
Now, Cailleach may be the god of the northern winds, but the folklore also ascribes her some dominion over time and seasons. Among her roles is gathering up of time that has passed-- the spent days of each year-- to burn in her fire.
In the old legens, Cailleach goes around gathering firewood to feed her hearth over the course of the winter. The story goes that the more firewood she collects, the longer winter will be that year. And the wood Cailleach burns, as I mentioned, represents the time that has gone by through spring, summer, and autumn.
The task of gathering this fuel is carried out by the deer who serve Cailleach, and it was after you first told me of that strange deer that I recalled this old legend.
But here is where the reality seems to depart from the myth. In the tales, Cailleach's influence is limited to the winter. No matter how much wood Cailleach gathers, there has never been any telling of the stories where she would send forth her frigid winds out of season, as we're experienceing right now.
And all that Cailleach burns is the wood that represents the old year. She has never been known to cause anyone harm in gathering her fuel.
I now strongly suspect that Cailleach, or some entity like her, has had a hand in these events. But if it truly is the Cailleach of legend, then her nature has grown different from everything mankind has known of her up to now. I know not what this portends, but I would bid you be cautious.
But you can rest assured in this, at least; we've had no sightings of that deer since then. The chill is still hanging over the countryside, but that's nothing we can't handle with a few extra blankets and a healthy stock of firewood. At least we found a way to wake those children, and that takes the greatest burden off my heart.
That's all I can say for now. Stay safe out there-- and for goodness' sake, bundle up.

Shadow Mission: Seated within the Spacial Fissure

Dear Child... Are you the last one? I thought one more had made the journey with you.

(The black-robed figure glances at the campfire.)

They must have been waylaid.
Tsk tsk... Well, it's no matter. The work is already complete.
You have done your part well, my child. You are dismissed.

(With a few jumps, the Fianna Geimhridh teleports away. She addresses the remaining deer sitting by the campfire.)

Go on and rest, I have finished giving shape to my world.

(The deer stands, and then warps away as well, leaving the figure alone with the fire.)

And within this domain... will shall hold sway over all.

(The view changes. You went back to Tara to check up on the little cat that had been collapsed in the alleyway. It stands, and upon seeing you, darts away deeper in the alleys of the city.)


Part 2

A Flame of Burning Cold

Say, how's your Arcana training been coming along? I recently hit upon a new hypothesis related to unlocking further links that I think might pique your interest. Next time you visit, I'll tell you all about it. - Laoire

(You head to the Arcana Association Room and speak with Laoire.)

Ah, there you are, (Character Name). I've been waiting for you.
I heard that you've been busy looking into that business with the strange deer.
It's fortunate that not too many more incidents have been reported, but all the same... I worry about you over-extending yourself with the litany of tasks you take on.
I'd like to get Arcana into people's hands as soon as we can, precisely because of things like this.
You may be wondering why our association didn't involve itself with the investigation.
The unfortunate truth is that it's difficult for the Arcana Association to involve itself in external matters, at least as we are right now.
We're a fledgling organization without any major achievements to our name. And without a good reputation or list of accomplishments to lean on, it would be difficult to simply appear on the scene and offer our help.
There's nothing you need to worry yourself about, through. You're already a great help in our ongoing research and development of Arcana.
As the person in charge, the administrative duties rest on my shoulders.

(Laoire smiles, setting down the paper he was holding.)

Anyway, I called you here for two reasons.
The first is to remind you to keep putting your Arcana through their paces. The second is that I wanted to let you know that I've now fully prepared my hypothesis on how we might strengthen Arcana Links beyond their current limit.
Considering the properties of Smoldering Threads, our base reinforcement material of choice, I figured it would be wise to request your help.
But before we jump into the thick of it, I wanted to check in with you about your experiences with Arcana.
Have you gotten used to using them? Does it come more-or-less naturally now?

> Prompt: Yep! Or Not so much...

Anyway, let's move along to the hypothesis I spoke of earlier.
Er... Actually, before I do that, would you mind if I titied up the room a bit? It just hit me how cluttered it's gotten while I've been absorbed in my research. This should only take a few minutes.

> Prompt: Sure thing! or Wait...

> Prompt: Sure thing!

Excellent. I promise I'll make it quick.

Shadow Mission: A Hypothesis Enkindled

I've asked our colleagues to help me gather a few things I need, so I'm the only one here at the moment.
That is, however, partially by design. Admittedly, I would feel more comfortable sharing my recent research with the others once we finally have a foundation more stable than just my theories and postulations.
Having accurate records and proven information not only makes it easier to guide the discussion, it also serves to establish trustworthiness.
As the person heading up this association, I consider it vital to build such trust.

(Laoire laughs as only the truly exhausted can as he approaches the Enkindling Lectern.)

What I'm about to tell you still belongs to the realm of pure conjecture.
The reason I called you here was because, as someone who's already putting our Arcana research through its paces, I figured there was no one better than you to advise me on how I might best prove this hypothesis.
...Also, depending on what we discover, I may require your assistance in a more physical capacity.
Now, according to my hypothesis, once you've advanced your Arcana Link to the fifth stage, you will find yourself unable to enhance your crests any further.
For reasons yet unknown, the crests cannot be further improved with the methods we presently have at our disposal.
Does that mean we've reached the end? That Arcana can never grow beyond this stage?
Well, if that's the conclusion we reach, we might as well close up shop here, tell the queen we're terribly sorry we could only accomplish this much, and go home.
But I certainly don't intend to hang it up without trying anything and everything I can think of, and I suspect you feel much the same.
That's why, lately, I've been going back to the fundamentals of Arcana in the hopes of finding a way to push past this ceiling and help the crests grow to new levels of complexity.
Now, (Character Name), if you'll recall, there was a reason that, when I first sought a way to bolster the Arcana crests, I looked for a substance that took the form of a flame.
Do you happen to remember why that was?

> Prompt: Of course! or Wellll... It HAS been a hot minute...

To give a brief summary...
The reason why we use Scorching Crests to unlock Arcana Links is firstly to expand the complexity of the design, which allows a greater amount of power to course through it. Second, but no less important, is that bolstering the Arcana in this way makes them safer to use.
Toward that end, we looked for a substance capable of both containing energy and interacting with the intangible-- something we could manipulate so that we could utilize it for our needs.
What we ended up with was a flame, seemingly weak and volatile, yet potent enough to catalyze changes in the Arcana.
Now, if you'd join me over here, (Character Name)?

> On-Screen message: Go over to the Arcana Enklindling Lectern and speak with Laoire.

(You move over by the Lectern.)

You may recall this familiar crest from our earlier research.

Arcana - Laoire 01.png
(Laoire reaches into his pocket and pulls out a crinkled piece of paper with a rough sketch of an Arcana crest.)

(You remember seeing this image before, back when the association was being founded.)

Allow me to reference this figure as an example.
Even if you reinforce your Elemental Knight Arcana to the fifth stage, the crest won't appear as complex as it does in this imagine rendering of it.
The reason for that is about as straightforward as you'd expect: while the application of Scorching Crests serves to reinforce the areas of the Arcana that see heavier strain due to conducting larger amounts of energy, there are still basic structural limits on how much power can flow through the crest.
When I realized that, my mind turned back to the materials we use to reinforce the Arcana. The Smoldering Threads, which we weave into Scorching Crests, eventually hit a point of dimnishing returns due to the limitations of their element. In essence, we may have done as much as we can do with the properties of fire alone.
I spent a great deal of time pondering this without much to show for it until, one day, I happened upon a cat in front of the castle playing with a braided length of cord.
That's when I had the thought that we might be able to use something akin to braiding to achieve further Arcana Links. A braid, though made of individual strands, becomes something thicker and stronger.
But in our case, a truly effective braid would require twisting together the threads we know with... threads of some other type. And that's where I reached the point at which I realized I'd need your help.
Smoldering Threads have certain properties and characteristics that make them ideal as a base material for augmenting Arcana crests.
In order to ensure compatibility with the reinforcement we've already performed, any new materials should ideally possess as many similar attributes as possible to the Smoldering Thread already in use.
One of the most convenient features of Smoldering Threads is that due to your contact with the Arcana Flame, they're practically drawn to you, like cat hair to my trousers.
But beyond that, there are other properties to think of. Let's focus on the most element-ary of them all-- fire.
This may sound like a random question, but... what comes to mind when you think of 'fire' ? ...I promise, I'm going somewhere with this.

> Prompt: Light and heat or Transformation and conversion or Pure Energy or It drives civilizations forward and causes them to go up in flames

Moving along... If our goal is to reinforce Arcana to withstand a greater amount of power, what properties, attributes, or elements do you think we presently lack?

> Prompt: Something hard and durable or Something more stable in form or Something cooler, like ice

  • (Note: All options result in the same response text.)

I thought much the same. But when you think about it, it seems implausible, doesn't it? To find something that possesses all the qualities of the Smoldering Threads while simultaneously being their opposite in many ways.
It's as though we've been asked to find hot ice, or a brooch that's ornate yet understated.
But in truth, such paradoxical states of energy may not be so farfetched as we might think. After all, the flame you found that we now use as a medium to augment Arcana is one into which I can thrust my whole hand without any risk of harm. And the items I just mentioned by way of example? Those do actually exist.

And that's why, strange as it may sound, I think we should seek out this counterbalancing energy. Haha, you're giving me that look, but trust me, I'm almost certainly in my right mind. The key point here is that a substance possessing such a paradoxical combination of opposing qualities will almost certainly be so because it is acting or acted upon by powerful forces in its environment.
That being the case, I think our best chance to locate such a strange material would be in places where the natural environs are either very hot, or very cold.
But since we discovered the flint that held the secret of Smoldering Threads in a volcanic area, which is about as hot as environments get...
I would prefer to start our search by investigating somewhere extremely cold. Unfortunately, even after poring over recent reports from the Geological Society, I haven't found anything that would tip me off to the presence of noteworthy phenomena.
There are, however, two obvious regions colder than the rest: Sidhe Sneachta and Physis.
Since Physis lies across the sea, I think investigating our continent's own snowbound reaches would be the better choice for you.
The village of Tir Chonaill lies just south of the mountains, and I think it prudent to begin any investigation there, to see what the locals know. To that end, I think you, who are well-known to the people there, would fare far better than I in the gathering of information. It sounds like everyone is already on edge thanks to what happened with that strange deer.
With a familiar face around, they'd at least feel like they could go about their normal lives while you're there conducting your search.
Anyway, that's about the long and short of it. Head for Sidhe Sneachta and search the surrounding mountains for anything that might meet the criteria we're looking for.
Meanwhile, I need to arrange passage on a ship bound for Port Sella. If I handle the Physis region myself, that's one less thing for you to worry about.


(You head to Tir Chonaill and speak to Duncan.)

Ah. Good to see you, (Character Name).

(Duncan greets you with a warm smile.)

Now, perhaps these old eyes deceive me, but might I have caught you in one of your less busy moments?
Whenever I see you running to and fro, my heart swells with pride to see you so involved, but... I sometimes feel a twinge of guilt that anything I might ask of you just adds one more burden to the lot.
I can still remember the day you first showed up in Tir Chonaill, dressed like you'd rolled out of bed and gripping your weapon with all the finesse of a sledgehammer. Haha! Maybe that's why I feel a bit of nostalgia when I see how far you've come.
Perhaps it's all the ruckus with those strange deer we've had, but I've been recalling those times more often lately. Nothing you need to concern yourself with-- just an old man thinking of days gone by.
You have a way of showing up when there's some threat or problem to be dealt with, and I suppose I tend to think of you that way, even when you simply show up to say hello.

> Prompt: Ask if anything else is going on

(Duncan slowly shakes his head in response to your question.)

Nothing of note has happened since that incident with the children and the deer, though when you ask like that, I don't know whether to find that reassuring or foreboding.
Winter's cold has visited us much earlier this year, and I've heard word is going around that those strange deer originally came from the north. That's left Tir Chonaill quieter than usual recently-- not that a few uneventful days are unwelcome.
Ah, you're always willing to let me ramble away on these tangents. Haha, I think perhaps you indulge me too much! But come, I can see you have something on your mind. Speak up! If it's anything I can help with, I'd be glad to.

> Prompt: Ask if he knows of a frozen flame

(Duncan's brow furrows in contemplative expectation as he invites you to speak.)

I told you about the old legends surrounding Cailleach, right?
The tales say that the flames she enkindles are as cold as a winter's night. You remember how I said that the wood she burns represents the year gone by? Well, it follows that with the warmth and potential of spring and summer already spent, such fuel would burn cold.
Still, I couldn't hazard a guess as to where one might find Cailleach. Those who went up into the mountains hoping to catch a glimpse of what was written in that book came back empty-handed.

> Prompt: ...

You needn't look so disappointed, my young friend. I may not know, but that doesn't mean there isn't someone out there who might have a better idea.
Fortunately, there's a fellow who comes into Tir Chonaill every now and then-- an outsider; calls himself a mountainkeeper. It seems his work keeps him roaming the northern mountains where few but the most adventurous or foolhardy dare to tread.
I'm not certain what sort of life he leads, but while he's in town, he usually stocks up on food, bandages, and other such sundries.
If I were to point you to anyone who could help, he'd be the man. What do you think?

> Prompt: Nod in agreement

Now, just give me a moment. I've got something that may prove useful.

(Duncan heads into his house for a few minutes, finally emerging with a small box in his hands.)

Here we are. I've been saving up a few things here and there of the sort I know he's rather fond of for his handicrafts; beads, colored glass, and the like.
It's rare to find people who wouldn't recognize you, or have at least heard of you, but that young man strikes me as the cautious sort. I think giving him something related to his interests like that will help break the ice. It's always easier to ask for help from someone you're on friendly terms with.
It's nothing expensive-- just assorted knick-knacks-- so please, go on and take it.

(The box contains smooth glass shards in a variety of colors, small silver gems, rounded pebbles, beads, and a variety of other items.)

Nora told me that after he helped her out with something, she gave him a few materials like these and he seemed quite happy to have them.
I hope he'll like my little collection as much as he did Nora's.

> Prompt: Accept the box

(One of the small orbs in the box you received from Duncan gleams as it reflects the flow of the nearby street light.)

> On-Screen text: You received a Box of Gleaming Miscellany from Duncan.

Last I saw him, he said he was rooming in the Inn for a few days. Go check there and see if you can find him.
I hope you'll find the information you seek. But whatever may come, know that you'll always be welcome here in Tir Chonaill, (Character Name), with a hot meal and a soft bed as often as we can spare them. Feel free to stop by anytime.

(As Duncan directed, head to the Inn and speak with Nora.)

(Character Name)! Always good to see you around here.

(Nora looks around you as she greets you.)

Hmm. Did you happen to meet a man on your way here? A youthful fellow, and rather easy on the eyes?

> Prompt: A young man?

Right. He seemed interested in meeting you in person.
I promised him I'd tell you he was looking for you the next time you were in Tir Chonaill, but with everything that's happened recently, I'm afraid to say it completely slipped my mind.
He seemed a bit disheartened when I admitted my forgetfulness, but he said it was fine, and that he'd linger in the area for a while, since he knew you'd be coming soon.
Bit of an odd fellow, isn't he? If he wanted to meet with you, you'd think he could just send a letter like most people do.
I even told him as much-- that if it's an urgent matter he needs your help with, the fastest way to reach you would be sending an owl with a message.
But he politely declined, saying that it's only proper for introductions to be made face-to-face.
It's rare you meet his sort these days, no?

> Prompt: Ask if that man is a mountainkeeper

(This man sounds like he may be the mountainkeeper Duncan told you about. You ask Nora about that.)

Oh, you're bang-on! When we first met, he introduced himself as a mountainkeeper. He tends to keep to himself, but every now and then, he'll tell me stories about the things he's seen up in the mountains.
Since you're asking, does that mean you've come looking for him?
Like I said before, I'm not sure where he is at the moment, but he sometimes wanders through the village and around the outskirts hoping to find you, since no one ever really knows when and where you'll show up next.
I wonder where he might be now...

(Nora ponders for a moment, idly tapping the side of her nose with her finger. Suddenly, she claps her hands together, as if she just remembered something.)

Ah! I recall him mentioning he prefers to stay out of the sun, when possible. Doesn't like being too hot, he said.
You don't need an almanac to know the weather in Tir Chonaill's been downright freezing lately.
That's why my uncle and I decided to swap out the sheets and blankets in the rooms to help keep our guests nice and warm.
Everyone else was happy to have the thicker blankets, but our mountainkeeper friend was the only one who declined, saying he was fine without.
Seeing as most travelers who visit Tir Chonaill come through the Moon Gates rather than taking the old roads...
I'd start your search in the area north of town. That icy wind is blowing in from the north; maybe our mountainkeeper has blown in with it.

(Nora points down the road a ways, toward where the Alby Dungeon and its nearby Moon Gate are located.)

I hope that at least gives you a starting point.

> Prompt: Nod in agreement

Glad to hear it! Now hurry along before you two just barely miss each other again!

(As Nora suggested, make your way toward the Moon Gate to the north of Tir Chonaill.)

(You head to the northern path.)

(The place Nora mentioned should be around here.)

(You look around, but don't see anyone who looks like... whatever it is you imagine a mountainkeeper looking like.)

(However, as a chill gust blows down the road, you catch a glimmer out of the corner of your eye.)

(This footpath doesn't see much traffic. Perhaps it's a sign of the mountainkeeper Nora told you about.)

> Prompt: Take a closer look or Wait...

> Prompt: Take a closer look

(Examining anything out of place you find lying around might tell you if this is the path the mountainkeeper takes into town.)

(You decide to walk around, scanning the ground for anything unusual.)

Shadow Mission: A Naive Wit

(You examine what you've found on the ground.)

Glenn Bearna - Mobile Incomplete.png
(Some handicraft that appears only partially completed rests neatly on a spread cloth, surrounded by colorful and eye-catching bits and bobs.)

(Unfinished threads flutter in the cold wind, and the light glinting off the varied decorations seems to follow the dance of the nearby torches' flames.)

(You've never seen anything quite like it in Tir Chonaill. Perhaps it belongs to the outsider Duncan and Nora spoke of.)

(You look around, but see no one. Even the dutiful Trefor seems to have taken a rare moment of leave.)

(If you simply leave the things here, the nearby wildlife might grab a few of the shiny baubles and skitter off to line their nests with their new find.)

(What will you do?)

> Prompt: Keep watching it or Take it to Duncan

(...You hear light footfalls on the path that leads into town, though you could swear no one was there mere moments ago.)

A lean and reticent man stands before you. His hair is the color of unripened wheat, done up in a halfhearted braid that spills over his shoulder. With eyes of pale and mossy green he quietly scans his surroundings. A small lantern dangles loosely from his belt, the sunlight glinting off its thick glass panes.

Young Man

(The man turns from the dirt road and draws near, looking you over.)

(...He IS the owner, isn't he?)

> Prompt: Ask if the materials belong to him

Young Man
Yes, those are mine.
...Though, I don't suppose you have any reason to take me at my word.
So... let me present some more compelling proof.

(The young man loosens the clasp to the leather satchel on his belt, removing a few small knick-knacks.)

Young Man
Here. Look at this little orb.
I made it myself, so it should at least bear a respectable resemblance to the others there, despite none being perfectly alike.
Oh, actually... It just occurred to me that if you harbor serious doubts about this, we could always consult an alchemist to verify that the material composition is a close match.
But fundamentally speaking...

(The man continues, his eyes darting around the nearby environs.)

Young Man
Who in their right mind would tell a complete stranger that a pile of nearly worthless materials was theirs, especially in dangerous times like these? Safer to just let them walk off with the lot of it.
Especially considering what happened here recently.
...How's that? Enough to convince you that those things are mine, I hope?

> Prompt: I am convinced or I could use a little more convincing...

Young Man
Now, if you don't mind, I have a few questions for you.

> Prompt: Questions?

Young Man
You may know already, but there have been a number of... unusual incidents around these parts lately. One would not be unwise to remain on their guard. After all, any number of loathsome entities are capable of hiding themselves behind such an unassuming guise.
In other words, before we can continue this conversation, you'll need to allay my fears that you're more dangerous than you seem. I'd also like to gather my things, but... one step at a time.
So... are you willing to answer a few questions?

> Prompt: Nod in agreement

(It looks like you'll need to prove to the man that you don't represent a threat before he'll speak with you further. You nod, ready to field whatever questions he might have.)

> On-Screen Text: Thoughtfully answer the man's questions to show him you mean no harm.

Young Man
This area sees a surprising amount of visitors despite its remoteness, but in recent times, even that has slowed to a trickle-- owning in part to the cold, no doubt, but also to the incidents with those strange blue deer.
Now, considering that you were waiting patiently by a pile of largely worthless objects despite that, my guess is that you've come specifically to see me. Is that accurate?

> Prompt: Yes or I dunno about that...

(After proceeding deep enough in the conversation while avoiding wariness 100)

Young Man
I still have my doubts, but based in our conversation, I feel I can at least make a small request of you.
Would you step back for a moment? I'd like to retrieve my belongings.

> On-Screen Text: If you wouldn't mind keeping a bit of distance...

> On-Screen Text: You're still a bit close for comfort.

> On-Screen Text: A bit further, if you would.

> On-Screen Text: Okay, that should be far enough.

(When you open enough distance between yourself and the pile of things lying on the cloth, the mountainkeeper approaches the incomplete mobile and bends down to gather the parts.)

(With each deft movement of his hands, the mountainkeeper plucks the glimmering baubles and ornaments from the gtround, and the pile quickly disappears like the morning dew.)

Young Man
Frankly, I was a bit bewildered that someone as famous as you would fall for this simple of a ruse.
That's why I had my doubts as to whether you were truly (Character Name).

> Prompt: What ruse? or Remain Silent or Stay Silent

Young Man
I apologize for playing on your good-hearted nature, but I figured it would be less bothersome than having a stranger simply request to meet you out of the blue.
This way, I could choose the time and the location without having to work it out with you in advance.
Since we'd never met, and I was the one who had a request to make, I figured it was best to be mindful about the approach I took.
As for the little interrogation...
I'd heard you'd helped out those children who'd been rendered unconscious by that strange deer, but well... I didn't see it with my own two eyes. That's why I wanted to confirm for myself what sort of person you are.

(The man stands back up.)

Young Man
I wanted to see whether you'd question me because i was a stranger who showed up where the incident first occured, and of course, I wanted to assess whether you yourself truly had nothing to do with it. Basic precautions like that.

(The mountainkeeper continues to stare at you, his wariness showing in his expression.)

(As he casts a sidelong glance at the road leading into town, you wonder whether he'll simply turn and bolt.)

(Just then, you recall that you received something that might prove useful in easing the tension...)

(Now... what was it?)

(You offer him the Box of Gleaming Miscellany that you received from Duncan.)

Young Man
Oh? Well, would you look at that...

(You think you see a hint of a sparkle in the mountainkeeper's eyes as his gaze falls squarely on the box in your hands.)

> Prompt: I brought something for you.

Young Man
...You mean to entice me into a conversation?
Ah. I suppose the townspeople gave you that bit of advice as well.
In that case, to doubt you further would be a discourtesy to them.
It may have been rude of me to impose on you like that, but thank you for indulging me.
Erm... I haven't finished organizing these properly. Could you wait a bit and speak with me then?
The knots are in a delicate state right now. It'd be all too easy to foul them up and have to start re-tying them from scratch.
...I won't run away. You can approach me.

(You approach the young man.)


> On-Screen Text: You hand the Box of Gleaming Miscellany to the man.

(The miscellaneous beads and other ornaments jangle around in his satchel, his hands fiddling with the partially completed handicraft.)

(Even as his fingers carefully brush the tips of the fluttering threads, the light sparkles and glints off the many and various ornaments as the mountainkeeper dexterously ties each of them, knot by careful knot.)

(The mountainkeeper finally speaks, as though just now noticing you watching him.)

It's a mobile. Or... will be, anyway.
It's at that stage where I'm not sure whether I'd say I'm making it or fixing it, but either way, once I'm done, it'll be a proper mobile.
My fellow mountainkeepers all know how to make these, and frequently carry them. They serve as a sort of identifying signature, telling who we are and where we're from.
They have a few niche magical uses, too, but nothing that might be employed at present, so I won't bother going into that.

(The mountainkeeper takes the incomplete mobile and its components in hand and carefully places them back in his bag.)

I appreciate your patience.
I wasn't just puttering around. While I put my things away, I was considering what we ought to speak of first.
It wasn't much time to mull things over, but enough to decide where to begin. Allow me to apologize for how I reacted before.
I... might have overreacted a bit when you were trying to give me that gift before. It was a simple act of kindness on your part; an overture to break the ice with a stranger.
In my defense, I was a bit thrown by it. I suppose I'm just not used to being given things.
Usually, I'm the one providing things to others. It's been a while since I was on the receiving end of someone's incidental generosity.
I meant no offense, and if I caused any, I'm sorry.

(The mountainkeeper bows his head.)

> Prompt: It is fine. or Remain Silent or Stay Silent

Now, I realize this comes a bit late, but I should probably introduce myself.
My name is Loiscneach. I am a mountainkeeper, and my duties include guiding those who are injured or lose their way in the mountains.

Due to the nature of my occupation, I seldom come down into the lowlands without good cause. Because of that, I'm certain our paths have never crossed, despite the wide circle of friends and acquaintances you surely have.
That being the usual way of things, my presence here should speak for itself.
There's been some... trouble in the mountains, and I'm presently staying in Tir Chonaill while I look for someone who might be able to help.
I've met with several people already, though it's proven difficult to find someone who possesses all the qualities I consider necessary. Having heard from some of them of the many challenges you've overcome, I decided to reach out to you.

> Prompt: What qualities?

...Ah, right. To me, these sorts of requirements go without saying, but they've been harder to find than I expected among the lowlanders.
Mountain trails are rocky and uneven, so I need someone capable of navigating the terrain well enough to keep pace with me. In addition, they need to be skilled in some art of defense, as there have been dangerous things afoot lately.
Beyond that, this is in some ways a personal matter, as it concerns my livelihood, so I was hoping to find someone trustworthy. Someone... not inclined to gossip. As it turns out, there are fewer people than I'd expected who possess all these qualities.
I continued serarching without much luck, but then I happened to meet two children. They told me the story of a hero who started their journey amid a field of snowmen, and in that moment, I remembered the stories I'd heard about you.
I figured that (Character Name), the champion of all those tales, would not only be able to trek through the mountains, but would be someone I could trust.

> Prompt: ...Which tales? Or Remain Silent or Stay Quiet

Ahem... Since I heard you were in Tir Chonaill on some business regarding the strange happenings in the village, I figured that sooner or later, you'd circle back to check on things.
Since you've solved many a problem in your time, I expected that you might be just the person to help me deal with my present situation.
To that end, I'd like to propose a deal with you.

> Prompt: A deal?

I'm asking for your help, but I also offer you my aid as well. Think of it as a kind of informal contract-- an agreement in which each offers what the other needs.
A practical example would save me from having to explain it in detail, so let us try this: I will assist you with some matter of your choosing. If you're satisfied with the results, I would ask that you return the favor and help me.
Ordinarily, I wouldn't even think of doing things this way, but it IS you I'm asking. I'm sure you hear many such pleas, and I wanted to ensure our agreement isn't manifestly slanted in my favor.
But you should know that, while I am desperate for help of any kind, I have my doubts as to whether there is anything I can offer that would truly be of value to you.
That's why I figured setting up our deal such that you stand to benefit before anything is even asked of you would help to balance the scales... at least to some extent.
So... what do you think?

> Prompt: Nod in agreement or Hmm... or Stay Quiet

> Prompt: Nod in agreement

(Conducting an investigation would surely go faster working together than doing it alone.)

(You recall Laoire mentioning that it might be helpful to call on others to aid in this search, so it should be fine.)

(You nod your assent, accepting Loiscneach's proposal.)

I thank you for placing your trust in me. I'll do my utmost to ensure you have no cause to regret your decision.
Erm, could we... perhaps pause for a moment? I feel the onset of a headache-- probably all the worrying I've been doing.

(Loiscneach sighs, this time seemingly in relief.)

(Give him a minute, then continue speaking with Loiscneach.)

I pray I didn't keep you waiting too long. Leave it to my nerves to get the better of me at a time like this. It's the first time I've offered such an arrangement to anyone.
Given who you are, if you thought to call on me rather than any of the multitudes of people you know, I figure it must either be a truly urgent matter, or one involving things that must be kept secret from the general public.

> Prompt: It is not THAT urgent... or It is not confidential...

I see. I was worried, but that's a relief to know.
So what is it, then, that brings you to me?

> Prompt: I am looking for a cold flame.

A cold... flame?

> Prompt: It is fine if it just burns cold.

Something that burns, but is cold?

> Prompt: It will probably be in a frozen state.


(Loiscneach closes his eyes, seeming to organize his thoughts as his fingers tap the thick glass panes of his lantern.)

(After a few moments of contemplation, Loiscneach opens his eyes, seeming to have collected his thoughts.)

Honestly, had anyone else approached me with a task like this, I might have told them to try their luck elsewhere.
However, I'll put my trust in you, (Character Name), because I know how things that seem at first fantastical have a way of cropping up around you.
As this unknown substance you seek is either cold or frozen outright, I'd say the best place to begin our search would be Sidhe Sneachta.
Actually, I heard that strange deer seemed to be heading that way as it escaped, so we should probably be on the lookout, lest we run into any trouble.

(The last of his words fade into the cold wind, as if he were alone and speaking to himself rather than talking with you.)

We should begin our search before some fickle wind blankets the ground there in fresh-fallen snow.
There's a method I often use when I'm searching for something or someone out in the mountains.

> Prompt: Nod in agreement

You're no doubt aware that you can learn some things you want to know without having to talk to people or pay an information broker, yes? Sometimes, all it takes is a little legwork and deductive reasoning. That's what we'll be looking for: clues in the environment.
I'll keep an eye out for scratches on trees, faint tracks in the snow, and things of that sort, but something a bit more elementary would be looking for anything that may have been left behind by people.
I'd say that reading signs is a good example of this. Those who visit the mountains often feel the need to leave some sort of record behind, especially when they discover something novel or fascinating.
For instance, you might find some moss-covered signboard saying, "Clearest lake I've ever seen, straight ahead!" Or perhaps something like, 'No one's ever reached this high, eh?" And of course, the ever-popular "So-and-so from Dunbarton was here!", scrawled with the date of their momentous hike.
Personally, I think people's desire to leave boasts or warning is more a reflection on them than anything else, but every so often, I'll glean something useful from reading such sources. That's why, if I happen upon one, I'll at least take the time to look it over.
The process goes exactly as you'd think: check out the ones that draw the most attention at first. If you don't find anything worthy of note, other signs in the area are likely to be similar.
Another thing it's always beneficial to do is to look at any structures or objects that seem to be representative of the area.
It's not so different from reading signs, really. To leave behind a record of your presence only has meaning if someone else can see it and know you were there.
And of course, it can pay to give some attention to places that are considered 'must-see' destinations or landmarks, even if the area itself sees few travelers. Checking out such sites can sometimes offer useful clues.
I can attest that some leave traces of their passing in such places because they were too lazy to find the signs or piles of stones or whatever previous visitors might've left behind.
Though, if someone is that lazy, I can't help but wonder where they found the initiative to go hiking through the mountains in the first place...
Anyway, did you follow all that? What do you think?

> Prompt: Makes sense to me! or Run that by me one more time...

> Prompt: Makes sense to me!

(It seems like a sensible enough plan, and Loiscneach has no doubt found many things in these mountains. He smiles at you when you tell him it sounds good to you.)

Then it seems we're all set. I don't always advise splitting up, but in this case, we can cover more ground that way. I'll search the northern reaches of Sidhe Sneachta and leave the southern area to you.
I think the northernmost areas may be a bit difficult to investigate thoroughly with just the methods I outlined to you, which is why I'll focus my own efforts there.
Let's meet back here when we've concluded our searches. Oh, and be wary of hungry coyotes and icy patches of ground.

(It's time to begin your search! According to Loiscneach, it's good to read any signs in the area first.)

(Examine the signboards in the Southern Field of Sidhe Sneachta.)

(You head into Sidhe Sneachta.)

(As Loiscneach advised, you read the signs.)

Did you look closely? ...Did you really?


(No mention of flames yet. You read the rest of what's written on the sign.)

DID YOU RISK YOUR LIFE TO CATCH A GLIMPSE?! - An ancient druid's last will, rebuking his disciples for their foolishness.

(There's nothing new...)

(You should look somewhere else. Where do you look?)

> Prompt: Snowman or Sign or Pathway

> Prompt: Snowman

(The sign, placed by the Royal Ministry of Culture and Tourism, contains a brief explanation of the field of snowmen. The boy you saved said he came here to find them, too. Perhaps you should give this landmark a fresh look as well.)

(You look at and around the snowman, as Loiscneach suggested.)


(...You find nothing out of the ordinary this time, too.)

(Now, there remains only the path one must take if headed further north...)

(You recall Loiscneach mentioning that it can be worth investigating places even if they see few travelers coming or going, and this certainly qualifies.)

(Briefly shaking the snow from your shoes, you make your way over to inspect the stone platform that links this place to the Northern Field of Sidhe Sneachta.)

(As Loiscneach suggested, you inspect the strange structure.)

(You examine the pathway that leads north, as Loiscneach advised.)


(You see a lantern glowing, but it doesn't really seem cold.)

(You've looked at everything noteworthy in the area, and can confidently say that there aren't any clues here related to the 'cold flame' Laoire mentioned to you.)

(Return to Loiscneach and share the results of your investigation.)

A Tranquil Mirror of Dawn and Dusk

Did your investigation turn up any answers? I'll be waiting where we met before, so come find me when you're ready. - Loiscneach

(Character Name), I'm glad to see you've returned.
Did you find anything of note to the south?

> Prompt: Say you found nothing

I see. Not that I was expecting much, though.
Er, not that I doubt your ability. It's just that if a substance as odd as what you're seeking had been discovered, you likely would've already heard of it through one source or another.
That's why I didn't bother asking if you'd asked around Tir Chonaill. If anyone there knew of anything like that, they would've told you already.
However... if what you're looking for came into being only recently, it's possible no one has found or verified it. That's why I figured we should at least investigate this area.
As for my own results...
I wish I could tell you I found something interesting, but my search of Sidhe Sneachta's northern reaches didn't turn up much. I did take the opportunity to take a closer look at those mysterious upright stones there, though.
I gave the structure a careful inspection, but if it holds any secrets, I'm afraid they are beyond my reckoning.
This may just be my perception, but it seems like when I passed that way in years past, that place seemed a bit... better maintained? But now, it feels as though nature is slowly moving back in-- dust in every crack, and everything capped with a layer of snow.
In summary, I found nothing useful.
There IS one thing, though... Have you been to the northern reaches of Sidhe Sneachta recently?

> Prompt: Say you have or Say you have not

You may be wondering how and why it came to be, but before you ask, I can tell you that I was the cause of it.
To be more specific, it has to do with my broken mobile, strange as that may sound. I'll fill you in on the details later.

(Loiscneach pats the satchel at his waist containing the mobile he was working on when you first met him.)

Now, to get back to the flame you're searching for...
...I didn't tell you earlier, but I actually do know of a 'cold flame.'
Not that I meant to deceive, of course. After all, I didn't say that I'd never heard of such a thing, did I? I just avoided giving a direct answer when you asked about it.
It's because there was one last, little doubt in my mind I wanted to confirm first. That is, I wanted to see if this unnatural cold we're experiencing is related to you or not.
You see, the flame you're looking for sounds a great deal like the flames kindled by Cailleach.
I could not entirely discount the possibility that Cailleach, the master of the Fianna Geimhridh that attacked both me and the people of the lowlands, somehow stole your appearance and in such guise appeared before me.
I mean you no offense; it's just due caution. Normal folk like me can't simply rest easy until we've verified the truth of things with our own eyes.
Just think of it as an extra step taken to ensure our survival. The mountains can be a treacherous place; moreso these days than ever.

> Prompt: Nod in agreement or Remain Silent or Stay Silent

  • (Note: Remain Silent and Stay Silent immediately continue the dialogue.)

Before I tell you about this flame, however, there's something I ought to ask you first.
Do you know anything of Cailleach? Have you heard of her before?

> Prompt: Duncan told me about her. or I do not really remember...

Some years, she gathers more firewood than she needs, and those are said to be the years when strange winds blow from the mountains into the lowlands. That's probably why the people of Tir Chonaill regard those freezing gusts as the fickle whims of this 'god of the northern winds'.
I have memories from long ago of hearing parts of the tale sung to me as a lullaby...
The other children had fallen fast asleep; I was the only one still awake. I vaguely remember a warm, strong hand softly patting my back as the song was sung.
I may be a bit off on the exact melody, but fortunately, I do remember the lyrics.
Would you care to hear them? They may contain some hidden secret or useful information we've overlooked.

> Prompt: Nod in agreement

All right. Please keep in mind that it's been many years, so forgive any awkwardness in my presentation.

The Winter Queen by her fire sits, and tends the hearth in the cold.
The logs she burns are our days long past; the time that hath grown old.
Sunrise to sunset, day into night; the light is swiftly dying.
An ashen ember's flame burns cool, as winter's chill abiding.

Her wood upon the hearthstone glows, each curl of smoke ascending.
Old time since spent, renewed again, returned to flow unending.
Autumn to winter, day into night; the wind outside is howling.
As flurries flit from northern peaks, by faint light I go wand'ring.

The Winter Queen extends her hands, the storms and snows to rally.
She guides each little downy flake to blanket hill and valley.
Mist under moonlight, day into night; a fog with silvered lining.
Beneath the veil of cloud and snow the slumb'ring things are hiding.

Now close your eyes and sleep, my dear; wet not the pillow with your tears.
The winter night is long and dark, but I'll be here beside you.
Your hand in my hand, night into day; the northern winds are singing.
A journey born of winter's grief moves ever toward the spring.

...And that's how it goes.
That the old folklore tells of a flame that gives rise to winter would be noteworthy on its own, but this lullaby I remember from childhood mentioning a fire that burns cool, rather than hot suggests there's more than mere myth to the story. If there's nothing more to it, it may just be the sort of thing you came looking for.
Why not think on it for a bit? I'm keen to avoid unfruitful use of our time, so it would be good to define our next goal before we continue our investigation.
As I see it, our best bet would be to focus either on Cailleach, or on a location of particular interest.

(Loiscneach takes a step back, turning his gaze northward.)

(Think about where you'd like to focus your investigative efforts.)

Settled on a course of action already? That's a promising sign.
Young people these days can be so indecisive. Give them even a simple choice and they'll spend an hour pondering the merits of each option. I'm glad you seem to be a more resolute sort.
Now, what do you think we should turn our attention toward?

> Prompt: Investigate Cailleach or Investigate another place

> Prompt: Investigate Cailleach

(Based on what you've already learned, Cailleach's flame seems like the most promising lead.)

(You tell Loiscneach that you're interested in finding out more about the mysterious Cailleach.)

Ah. In that case, I have a small request to make of you.
Before we delve into the unknown, I figure it may be helpful to review what IS known. Have you perchance read the book The Tir Chonaill Environs?
I've read it before, and it does make mention of Cailleach.
I'm not sure I'd do a great job explaining it myself, but since it's all there in the book, I don't have to. You'll get the clearest picture reading it for yourself.
...Oh, right. There's no bookseller in Tir Chonaill, so you'd have to travel to Dunbarton to get a copy.
As a Milletian, you likely have some way to reach Dunbarton quickly, yes? Go there and inquire with the glasses girl about a copy, then read it through. That should prove a useful introduction.
I'll be waiting here for your return, and while you're away, I'll prepare a few questions regarding Cailleach to make sure we're both on the same page.
You needn't bring the book to show it to me. I know the book has the information-- better that you commit it to memory and make the knowledge your own.
I'll see you when you return, then.

(You read The Tir Chonaill Environs or already know the information inside it and return to Loiscneach.)

Welcome back. You read the book, right?
Then, let's test your knowledge while it's still fresh.
First question: Tir Chonaill is bounded by mountains to the north. What is the name of that mountain range?

> Prompt: Antrim Mountains or Nubes Mountains or Mourne Mountains

> Mourne Mountains

Correct. Where we are right now is roughly where the Mourne Mountains begin. Now, on the to the next question.
The water in the Adelia Stream flows down from the mountains through a certain ravine. What is the name of that ravine?

> Prompt: Adelia Canyon or Moonhide Gorge or Lunae Valley

> Moonhide Gorge

I'm glad to see you absorbed the knowledge from the book so readily. You could probably work as a guide here in the Mourne Mountains, if you were so inclined.
To summarize what the book tells us, Cailleach is said to dwell in the Mourne Mountains, near the Moonhide Gorge.
However, even if we accept that as settled fact, inconsistencies begin to emerge.

> Prompt: Inconsistencies?

Do you remember when that blue deer bolted off? Think about the direction it ran. Then, consider the direction the Adelia Stream flows.
One needn't even go that far. A quick glance at even a basic map of the sort one can find in any marketplace will show you that Moonhide Gorge lies to the north of Adelia Stream, which spills into the estuary on the coast.
Doesn't that seem a bit far from Sidhe Sneachta?
If we hold the legends to be true, the deer should have been more active in eastern Uladh.
However, if we consider the locations of all confirmed sightings, they seem to have favored the path of the setting sun.
I think you may have some idea of where I believe we ought to direct our search.

> Prompt: Nod in agreement or Admit that you have no idea

It was once considered a particularly labyrinthine area of the mountains, even among the mountainkeepers. The thick forests there start to look the same mile after mile, and travelers often begin to feel like they're just going in circles.
I was considered to have the keenest sense of direction, so my superiors charged me with looking after Sliab Mis and the surrounding areas.
...Well, no one really considers it a labyrinth these days, so perhaps I'm over-selling it. A pity.

(Loiscneach mumbles to himself, then turns his attention to you, looking you up and down.)

Hmm. This will probably come as no surprise, considering its location and elevation, but like Sidhe Sneachta, it's very cold there. Sometimes, the slush seems to cling to your boots with every step.
Most know Sidhe Sneachta as the only snowy region in Uladh, but such icy weather is common at higher elevations.
So, if I might make a suggestion regarding that...
Mountain weather is nothing to thumb your nose at, (Character Name).
If you traipse around Sliab Mis dressed in the kind of fashionable froofery Milletians seem to favor, you'll more than likely catch a severe cold, if not pneumonia. You might even slip into, er... eternal hibernation, if you catch my meaning.
That's why I advise bundling up in something warm. Layering is key to retaining body heat.
It's good to be efficient in our search, but safety comes first.
I won't guide you through the mountains until I can see you're properly dressed for the journey. I've been at this work long enough to know what the weather is like there. I know how quickly it can change on you, so I can't in good conscience let you go unprepared.
It's only right that I uphold the responsibilities I've been charged with as a mountainkeeper, no? That's why I can't make an exception, even for you. Trust me, once we're on the trail, you'll be glad I made you dress properly.

(Regular Answer:)

(Loiscneach inspects you from head to toe, then nods approvingly, a satisfied smile on his face.)

So, you've chosen a (Item Name), have you?
That should hold you in good stead, keeping your body's warmth in and the icy winds out.
An excellent choice, and one I doubt you'll regret.
With that, we should be ready to head out. I took care of all my preparations while you were getting ready.

> Prompt: What kinds of preparations? Or Remain Silent or Stay Silent

I'll go and keep watch there, then.

(You catch up to Loiscneach in the Northern Fields.)

(Loiscneach, who was looking down the broad path, glances toward you.)

Huh. Well, that's new.
I thought I'd heard just about every sound snow can make as it crunches underfoot, so I didn't expect something unfamiliar.
There's a certain sort of sound that all steps make, of course. But if you listen closely, you can hear the differences between the dauntless pace of the predators and the cautious gait of the prey. So too are the steps of those lost and worn down with fatigue different from the confident stride of those who know where they're going.
The way a person walks can tell you a lot about them. Bold or meek, driven or unhurried, lost or sure of the way... The mind has a way of showing itself in the feet.
But to those who lose their way in Sliab Mis, the sound of all footsteps takes on the unease of not knowing what else is out there.
Fortunately, I've never gotten lost, so I don't know what that's like. It's just what people tell me.
But if you do happen to wander off the trail and start hearing strange sounds out there in the woods, don't be too alarmed. I know the sounds your footfalls make now.
...So even if you get lost, you can be sure I'll come and find you.
Anyway, this is the trailhead.

(Loiscneach looks back toward the path.)

I'm not sure whether to tell you I'm responsible for this pathway, or that the blue deer is the one to blame.
When the Fianna Geimhridh charged me, the force of its blow threw me into the barrier surrounding Sidhe Sneachta. My best guess is that the aftershock from that incident weakened this part of the barrier enough that this path opened up.
The loud sound sent the deer bounding off to who-knows-where, but now that there's a trail visible, I suspect we'll see more people venturing into the mountains.
As of right now, the barrier has healed, so you can't get through via normal means. However, a little curiosity makes possible what would seem impossible.

> Prompt: Ask if he can open the way or Remain Silent

  • (Note: Remain Silent and Stay Silent immediately continue the dialogue.)

I'll open the path for us.
...It doesn't involve anything particularly awe-inspiring, like moving a hill or parting rows of trees, so I hope you're not expecting too much.
I will enter first, and you'll follow just behind me. Simple enough, right?
Let's be off, then.

(You follow Loiscneach into Sliab Mis.)

This may be rather late in coming, (Character Name), but...
I just remembered I never told you exactly what it is I want from you in this deal we've made.
What I'd hoped to get your help with was investigation Sliab Mis to figure out a way to seal the breach leading to Glenn Bearna.

> Prompt: Glenn... Bearna? or Remain Silent or Stay Silent

  • (Note: Remain Silent and Stay Silent immediately continue the dialogue.)

(Loiscneach glares ahead, his lips pulled against his teeth.)

(Character Name), I think we may need to postpone our investigation for a bit.
As soon as we set foot in Sliab Mis, I could sense something is off here. The width of the trail, the positions of the trees... It's subtle, but they're different, somehow. Even the texture of the snow beneath my boots feels strange. These mountains are not as I left them.
You've probably picked up on it too, haven't you? There's no sound at all besides the noise we ourselves make. Not even the stirring of the trees as the wind passes through them.
I... would prefer not to make any moves when our safety is far from guaranteed.
The way I do things favors caution. The reason I insisted you wear a robe, for example, or my wariness of you early on, and why I asked you to search Sidhe Sneachta. All of that was to ensure both my safety and yours.
After all... I'm out here on my own. There's no one to back me up if I get in over my head. You've likely been in such situations many times yourself.
And right now, I find myself unable to even guess how much the path forward resembles its original form, or whether it would be at all safe to traverse.
I cannot even guarantee that, were an emergency to arise, I'd be able to take appropriate action.
That said... If you still want to proceed, even knowing the risks, I'll fulfill my duty as the keeper of this mountain and serve as your guide.

(Loiscneach remains silent, waiting expectantly for your decision. What will you do?)

> Prompt: Go back or Press on

> Press On

(You've come all this way, and there's no telling what could happen if you leave now. You tell Loiscneach that you understand the risks and want to proceed with the investigation.)

...Might I ask why you chose that course?

> Prompt: To prevent what might happen or You feel like you should

...Very well.
Let me prepare myself for what may lie ahead. A moment, if you would.

(As his pale green eyes scan the snow-covered earth, his ring finger, left bare by his glove, taps one of the small pouches at his waist.)

(The mountainkeeper, standing as solemn as the wintry mountain, eventually raises his head, looking toward you as though he has finally made up his mind.)

It's difficult to tell how much Sliab Mis has changed simply by observing from this vantage.
We'll have to venture further in to see. Given my experience, I ask that you allow me to take the lead here. Beyond that, I would feel personally responsible if you were to be injured in an area I have been tasked with keeping watch over.
I'll take the vanguard. As for you... Hmm.

(Loiscneach looks away for a moment, a concerned expression on his face. He sighs quietly, but in the silence you can hear it.)

I'M afraid these conditions are far from optimal for scouting. Ideally, we'd be able to send and receive signals to keep each other informed of what we might find, but we don't have anything at hand that might serve that purpose. Even if we did, I question whether such communication would work properly under these circumstances.
Well... at the very least, I can count on you not to get lost, right?
What say we do it like this: I'll head out, and you follow a few minutes behind me. But if you see anything that seems strange or dangerous, turn around and head back down to the trailhead.
I'll make for our destination and, upon reaching it, return the way I came-- hopefully to find you somewhere along the way.
That way, we shouldn't be able to pass each other without knowing. Ideally, we'll meet somewhere in the middle. How does that sound?

> Prompt: But... or Say you understand

> Prompt: Say you understand
Good. Now, let me run the important points by you once more.

Shadow Mission: A little incident on the snowy peaks

Try to refrain from doing anything reckless, and be mindful of what I told you before.
It's not just for your own safety that I ask this. Things may be safer in this area, what with the weather having frozen the snow solid, but causing a commotion somewhere where the snowdrifts aren't as iced over could trigger an avalanche.
So don't push yourself too hard with this investigation of yours.
It feels strange to leave someone behind under these circumstances-- normally, I'm the one leading others around. Maybe I've started to take a shine to you, (Character Name).
Anyway, I should set out before the day is too far spent. You should probably do the same, since it becomes difficult to traverse the mountains once the light fades.
Just look up at the sky, count to ten, and you should be good to leave.
If all goes well, I should make good time.

(Loiscneach runs ahead.)

(Time passes.)

(It feels like it's about time to depart.)

(Move slowly and remember to follow Loiscneach's advice.)

(As you make your way deeper into Sliab Mis, a Fianna Geimhridh appears. You defeat it.)

(It looks a bit different from the Fianna Geimhridh you encountered before.)

> Prompt: Its size seems different... or Its behavior is different...

(A brief search turns up no firewood, so at least it doesn't seem like Loiscneach fell victim to this Fianna Geimhridh.)

(Although Loiscneach cautioned you not to overexert yourself, the more aggressive behavior of this Fianna Geimhridh is cause for concern.)

(You see no trace of Loiscneach, so he may not even be aware.)

(You should head up a bit further.)

(You meet up with Loiscneach.)

Well, you're certainly fast, I'll give you that. Anyway...
Look over there.

(As your gaze follows Loiscneach's gesturing, you see a Fianna Geimhridh staring at you.)

(You tell Loiscneach about what happened with the Fianna Geimhridh on the way.)

Is that so? Strange...
I didn't see anything. Not even a single deer track in the snow.
You fought it, then? I'm glad you didn't sustain any major injuries... and that you didn't trigger an avalanche.
If something similar should happen again, I urge you to descend the mountain, unless the enemy attacks you first.
I'd rather not see anyone hurt, especially in the mountains I'm charged with overseeing.
That Fianna Geimhridh strikes me as a bit odd, though. The way it's behaving, it's almost as though... it means for me to follow it.
It only moves when I take a step forward, and otherwise remains almost perfectly still, just standing and staring.
Seems like walking into a trap, doesn't it? Still, we do need to learn more about Cailleach's flame, so for now, let's follow it. ...Without dropping our guard, of course.

(You both follow after the Fianna Geimhridh. Every so often, it turns back to look at you, and keeps on moving. It eventually leads you to a small clearing, where a giant rift looking like broken glass stands. The Fianna Geimhridh then jumps into the crevice.)

(Loiscneach looks pensive, and takes a look around the area as you move toward the rift.)


(You go take a closer look at the rift.)

(You see a gaping breach hanging in midair, as though the fabric of space itself has been rent asunder.)

(Icy energies are being drawn into the rift, toward... whatever lies beyond.)

(Cracks stretch out from the open center, reminding you of broken glass, or a spider's web.)

(Debris that defies classification lies scattered on the ground nearby, as if blown out with great force from within. Everything you see lines up with how Loiscneach described it to you.)

(Judging by the similarities between the fragments littering the ground and the yawning breach before you, you suspect they're the shattered shards from where the crack first emerged.)

(A deathly chill, sharp enough to shear flesh from bone, emanates from the shards.)

(...Probably best not to touch them. Licking them is right out.)

(As you take in the broader scene, you notice traces of thawed soil here and there, as well as the broken stumps of trees, sheared off by some unnatural force.)

(Idly, you wonder if someone might have built a campfire here.)

(You can see the tracks of several animals in patches of soggy earth and half-melted snow.)

(The jumble of footprints comes from many directions, but all appear to point toward the fissure.)

(You've finished your survey of the perimeter. Head back to Loiscneach to report what you observed.)


(You whip your head toward the sound of the scream, heart filled with a sense of foreboding.)

(A black-robed figure stands near a collapsed Loiscneach.)


Eyes covered, you have become wood to be burned. To think, that which was lacking has returned...
I suppose it must be fate, as surely as winter follows on autumn's heels.

(As you look more closely, you see a smoldering piece of firewood in the hand of what appears to be a hooded old woman.)

Fascinating... It seems an incomplete flame has brought new firewood in tow. Unfortunately, I cannot use wood of that stock for my winter.
New-fallen snow is as a virtuous light, fit to wash all the world clean. Tsk tsk...
You've hoarded much to yourself, like a greedy child. Surely, it has served to safeguard your life. But even so...
You will not be able to tread upon my eternal realm, noble and sublime.
Hahaha... truly a pity. Still, winter comes for all. Even you.

(For a moment, light itself seems to be swallowed up, and all around you is sunken into darkness. As the light returns, you look around, but the woman who stood there moments before is gone.)

Go back. There is naught I would give you.

(...A faint voice echoes from the depths of the fissure, as if carried on icy winds, but quickly dies away.)

(A strange piece of firewood... A person fallen unconscious, unable to be roused... You're reminded immediately of what befell those children in Tir Chonaill.)

(It seems you will have to traverse the icy fissure if you hope to reclaim Loiscneach's firewood from the old woman.)

(Make preparations and venture into Glenn Bearna to seek out the firewood.)

(You inspect the fissure.)

(It seems this breach is the only way into or out of Glenn Bearna.)

(You head into the breach, and confront Cailleach. You manage to make your way out with a Winter's Whisperflame.)

A Fantasia of Endless Winter

....... -Loiscneach

(After you come out of the fissure, the warm flame turned into a piece of firewood. You decide to investigate it.)

(The flame you discovered after your battle against Cailleach has become a piece of firewood.)

(The flame itself has not died out-- you see it softly flicker across the surface of the wood.)

(As the flame pulses in a gentle wave, you watch as the firewood is slowly consumed.)

> Prompt: Wait a while


(A strange chill courses through you as you listen to the quiet cracks and pops of the burning wood.)

(At last, all the wood has burned, leaving only ash and crumbling coals.)



(You hear Loiscneach groaning as he slowly stirs. After a few minutes, he finally opens his eyes.)

(Loiscneach squints at the surroundings with blurry eyes, sighing in relief as he gently pets Arbhar, who lies unmoving beside him.)

(Give Loiscneach a little while to collect himself, then speak with him.)

(Character Name)...

(Loiscneach looks at you, his hands trembling.)

After Cailleach spirited me into Glenn Bearna, I feel as though I experienced an endless cavalcade of the bizarre. It was as though the place itself rang out with soundless screams.
And yet... I heard so much.
I heard the cries of humans, of animals... and some sounds I knew in my bones belonged to neither...
Intermingled with those were familiar voices; those of the other mountainkeepers. The only one I could identify with any certainty was Bladhm's, but his voice was one among a chorus.
I was told to stretch my hand out, so I did, and... I felt something. Instinctively, I grabbed hold. There was a faint voice, bidding me farewell... Then the sound of laughter, and...
...No, I could well be mistaken. In that state I had no true eyes, nor ears, nor mouth. What can I trust of such sense-deprived perceptions?
At least, I pray I'm mistaken...

(Loiscneach rummages through his bags and pouches, looking for something.)

(A moment later, he produces a small piece of firewood and a chunk of ice the size of a large fist.)


> Prompt: Ask whose firewood it is or Ask what the ice is

  • (Note: Ask what the ice is immediately continues the dialogue.)

...(Character Name), you know how to restore firewood of the soul to its original form, don't you? Could you perhaps teach me how it's done?
In return, I'll give you this. Bladhm told me it's something you'd need...

> Prompt: Tell him how or Remain Silent or Stay Silent

  • (Note: You must select Tell him how at either opportunity in order to continue the dialogue.)

Allow me to apologize for my impassioned outburst. I was impatient when, had I simply waited, I'm sure you would have told me what you knew in time.
...But since time is of the essence here, let me quickly tell you about the ice.

(Loiscneach hands you the chunk of ice.)

This is the flame that Cailleach left behind. You wouldn't be wrong to think of it as a sacred flame-- the one from her legends that perpetuates winter's chill as long as she has firewood to feed it.
After my soul was transformed into firewood, it was as though I instinctually knew; those flames you surely saw in Glenn Bearna were not only the sacred flames that sustain the winds of winter, but the means through which the paradoxical flames born of firewood are sustained within that realm.
I realize how strange that must sound, but my memory is surprisingly clear.
I remember that I... became a piece of firewood, somehow. And then, when I crossed the threshold into Glenn Bearna, that wood became a flame. I even remember being carried out of Glenn Bearna in your hands.

(Loiscneach pauses, a bit short of breath, and coughs several times.)

> Prompt: Ask if he is okay or Remain silent or Stay Silent

  • (Note: Remain Silent and Stay Silent immediately continue the dialogue.)

Cailleach handed the firewood that had been taken from me to a Fianna Geimhridh, asking if it knew what must be done so that the day and night would persist. The deer, seeming to understand what she meant, took the firewood and disappeared.
As I followed Cailleach through the flames, I found in my possession that chunk of ice and Arbhar's firewood... and the next thing I knew, you were there, fighting against Cailleach.
And then... I passed from flame back into firewood once more.
That's all I can recall of what I experienced.
(Character Name). While I try to wake Arbhar up, you should take a closer look at that chunk of ice.

> On-Screen Text: You received an Icebound flame from Loiscneach.

(A closer look at the chunk of ice encasing the flame reveals that, just as Loiscneach said, something that looks like a flame frozen in place is flickering within.)

(However, an accumulation of dust and scratches on the surface of the ice partially obscures your view. Scraping off the outermost layer of the ice should make it easier to get a clear look at the flame.)

> Prompt: Scrape some off!

(What will you use to shave the ice?)



(You carefully shave off the outer surface of the ice with the sharp blade.)

(Uh-oh! The edge of the blade has become stuck on an icy knot!)

(It looks like the mingling of dust and water formed an area that's harder than the surrounding ice. How will you handle it?)

> Prompt: A gentle touch or MORE FORCE!

> Prompt: MORE FORCE!

(You're not going to let some chunk of ice get the better of you! You bear down on the handle, putting your weight behind the blade.)

...Flame and kindling both shall you share, but let there be only one firewood, that it may remain hidden.

(...Bwuh? You could swear you just heard a strange voice emanating from the ice as you scraped its surface.)

The snow is not so easily fooled. In the eyes of... (the words grow momentarily indistinct) ... it is clear as a trail of scarlet rowanberries dotting a world of white. Even were there a chance, it would be the only one.
Choose one who can take that chance, and bestow upon them the firewood. For the... ...that has been...

(You strain to hear as the voice fades away, but only catch a few intermittent words.)

> Prompt: Scrape off the ice or Stop scraping

> Prompt: Scrape off the ice

(You cannot stop now-- not if you wish to examine the flame embedded in the ice more closely.)

(Scrape off the remaining ice.)

Shadow Mission: A Glimpse within the Ice

(The black-robed figure and a Fianna Geimhridh stand in front of the fissure. The space around them is colorless.)

Time flows ever onward. Nothing remains unchanging. Even the longest winter must give way at last to spring.
Dear children, 'tis our job to spin upon the wheel; to burn away the old as we fashion the new. But this time, it seems, shall be the last.
No more must you gather, no more must you burn, for the wheel has finally turned in its course.
Our accord with them shall be annuled as well. No longer will we labor together, this wheel to spin.
I have told them what would be required, in honor of our oaths. Now, let us set out...
...And be on our way.

(The sound gradually fades, accompanied by the deer's snorts and grunts.)

(The robed figure briefly reveals the old Cailleach for an instant. The screen then turns black.)

....... ............ ...Ah.
It is... strange, hearing my words given form through throat and tongue.
Nevertheless, the sound of this voice ringing within these ears serves... Proof that I...
For the spoken ones who would read the comings and goings of the wind; who would change the very color of the earth... Letter and word are the tools with which they record what is past, that it may ever be with them.
To be always known... To never be forgotten... is to be eternal.


Their speech I mastered... So, too, their concepts and ideas. And with these things did I define 'myself.'
Little pieces; motes and mites... Fragments of histories unkown... Pruned away... ...or simply come to naught.
Chorus upon chorus of voices have spoken and fallen silent. Word upon word recorded and lost. But deeper than the expression lies the root. A belief. ...Faith.
I had to grasp it, at any cost... Before the faintest traces of my existence vanished...


In the place where the foothills rise to the peaks mankind calls the Mourne Mountains... Where the water rushes through the canyon they call Moonhide Gorge... I have made myself as one who gathers firewood and burns it to call forth the winter.
For a faded glory long forgotten... For a moment of brilliance that will last an eternity.


I'm sure there was a flame around here...

(The sound of snow losing its shape, crunching beneath softened footfalls, seems to grow louder.)

(The black screen fades out on Loiscneach, who is traveling through Sliab Mis.)

What in the...?

(You peer toward where Loiscneach is looking.)

(The black-robed figure, accompanied by a Fianna Geimhridh, is overlooking a fallen rabbit in the snow.)

I see, and I understand... So go the lives of they who are preyed upon.
It must be a meager sort of life-- unable ot graze or lap up water without caution. Eyes wide with fear, ears straining to catch the slightest sound that a predator may lurk nearby... An entire existence focused purely on surviving to see another day.
Dear children, I shall extend the hand of deliverance. No longer shall you cower as the hunted. You shall become the hunter, strong and fierce.
What say you? Will you follow me?

(The animal shifts into an Abominable Rabbit, and then runs toward Glenn Bearna.)

Go now, and head to your new home. Your new body may still feel unfamiliar, but you shall grow accustomed to it in time.

(The mysterious figure and the deer walk further ahead. They stop by a fallen dog.)

Who is next? Ah... you, I see.
So you've lost your precious master...
What would you have now? A warm hearth? A new master? Is there aught you desire?
A keener nose, the better to smell with? I see... You still seek your lost master, then. I shall grant your wish.

(The dog, much like the rabbit before, morphs into a different form, this time a wolf, and runs to Glenn Bearna.)

No longer will you have to roam the icy wastes. Your new home awaits. There, you will catch the scent of your master from afar.
Now that we have gathered enough souls of flame, we require those who shall reside within the fissure and serve as its defenders.
Yet we still lack for firewood. We cannot face the... ...that is spreading amongst the people of the land.
Thus must we prepare.
We are being watched.


??? become new wood for the fire... ......
......Already...firewood belonging to another. We cannot use it.
But this must not become known to the outside. Go, my child.

(The Fianna Geimhridh runs towards Loiscneach, and then a loud sound is heard.)

(The memories sealed within the ice seem to end here.)

(You feel something cold roll down the back of your hand as the surroundings melt away.)


Oh, (Character Name).

(As you draw nearer, a pale green gaze reminiscent of moss or lichen falls upon you.)

Thanks to your advice, I managed to awaken Arbhar.
He was still groggy, and went back to sleep not long after he woke up--probaby from fatigue. Looking at his eyes, though, at least I know he's back with us.
There's something that's been bothering me, and I need to tell it to you straight.
*deep breath* ...I want to apologize to you. I need to.
From the beginning, I went on and on about a 'fair deal,' but every step of the way, you've been the one doing most of the work. You wouldn't have needed to rush into Glenn Bearna had I not been imperiled.
You almost... No, I think it's fair to say you DID go through a great deal of trouble.
I am truly sorry for everything. I swear to you, I'll repay this debt, no matter what.

(Only after several profuse apologies does he notice that the chunk of ice has been cracked open. His eyes widen at the sight.)

You know, with all that's happened, I almost forgot the search that started this entire foray. Did that ice hold what you were looking for?

> Prompt: Nod in agreement

(You nod, holding up the Cold-burning Flame for Loiscneach to see.)

Extraordinary... I would never have believed it had I not seen it with my own eyes. To think, the legends were true after all.
It's something that, by all rights, shouldn't be able to exist-- like alcohol that sharpens the senses, or a Poisonous Mushroom Stew that neutralizes toxins when eaten.
At any rate, I'm relieved to see that you found what you'd come all this way in search of, and that in some small way, I was able to help you find it.
I'm not trying to keep bringing up our agreement-- at least not intentionally! Though I'm certainly open to further discussing it...
But anyway...

(Loiscneach looks toward the great breach that seems to hang in midair, serving as the entrance to the fissure)

I know your battle must have left you cold and tired, but it would be to our benefit to examine this area right away.
Cailleach is using bodies and souls from Sliab Mis to create the beings that populate Glenn Bearna. I'm not entirely sure, but... I think I even witnessed it happening myself.
Just to be safe, we should block access to the area as much as possible, so no people or animals wander near here. Then, we can begin looking into whether there's a way to seal off Glenn Bearna completely.
How does that sound?

> Prompt: Investigate or Wait...

> Prompt: Investigate

(With safety being paramount, it seems sensible to follow Loiscneach's suggestion and commence the investigation without delay.)

(You nod, agreeing to Loiscneach's proposal.)

Thank you for being so understanding. Now, let's get right to it. Don't let your guard down, (Character Name).

(It is nighttime by the time you start investigating. As you and Loisceneach discuss, icy spikes form around the entrance of Glenn Bearna, launching at the both of you. With a gesture of his hand, Merlin, right behind the both of you, casts an Ice shield that prevents the icicles from bring either of you harm.)

(Both the shield and the icicles soon disperse.)

(As you look back, you see Merlin walk nonchalantly toward you and Loiscneach.)

(Merlin shakes the dust off his hands, folding his arms across his chest. It brings you comfort to see a friendly, confident face in a place so remote.)

Yo, (Character Name)! Looks like you got yourself caught up in this mess too, huh?
Buuuuut... Before danger could so much as throw a mean right look, the great Merlin has solved the case!

(Merlin beams with self-assurance as he helps you brush off the snow.)

Anyway, looks like you've got someone weird in tow again. How do you keep finding these people?

...Someone weird? Are you referring to me?
I've never really considered myself weird. I'm dressed suitably for the environment and my occupation. And besides, I'm here with (Character Name), someone most people seem to trust.
I do have a few questions for you, though. Even I can tell you're a wizard of no mean skill, but seeing as you're wandering around a labyrinthine mountain range with no map or guide, and seem to have appeared out of nowhere, I'm suspicious that you're not altogether human.
(Character Name), is he a friend of yours?

> Prompt: A friend who knows good booze! or A trustworthy colleague or Never met the guy.

Yeesh, your pal here is really the cautious sort, (Character Name). Is there something inherently suspicious about me? ...Nah, couldn't be. Aaanyway, moving on...
I'm curious about this guy.

You can call me Loiscneach.

Gotcha. Just glad I don't have to spell it. So... Weird question to start with, but have you, by any chance, come to a sudden realization about something you never knew before?

...How did you--? (Character Name), who IS this man?

Heh. There's always a way to know the unknown. Hmm... So you could even do that with it, huh? Neat...
To be more specific, it's not that it was erased or covered up-- it was actually frozen, making it inaccessible to conscious thought. I guess the ice was the medium for the magic, so breaking that broke the spell, too.
Sooner or later, your consciousness will naturally comprehend it, and once it does, you'll remember more of what was lost.
It'll take a while to melt, though, like ice melts slowly in the early spring sunshine. But even if it seems like it'll never melt completely, don't you worry.
The year moves in its cycle, and summer always follows spring. The master of summer isn't just gonna let traces of winter linger like that.

Is that true?

Of course! These things only flow a single direction. Anyway, I guess that's one question down.
No worries-- I've got time, so go on; ask about whatever's on your mind. I'll bet you're curious about what that thing is, right?

> Prompt: You know about this place? Or I am not very interested.

Anyway, what say we get this investigation rollin'?

> Prompt: Wait... or Investigate

> Investigate

With me here, we should have this done and dusted in no time. Heck, maybe we'll make it back before dinner!

Shadow Mission: The Doll of the Last Sheaves

Let's see...

(Merlin walks toward the fissure of Glenn Bearna.)

Hypothetically speaking, you'd have to venture inside, then shake up the 'order' of that space to break up what it's composed of. In theory, that should destabilize its balance.
It seems like that's already happened, though. Not that I'm complaining. That means less work for me!
The more delicate and complex a system is, the more likely that one missing or broken component will throw the entire thing into disarray.

(Merlin inspects the site near the breach, examining the fractured shards from the barrier.)

Doesn't look like blocking it from the outside will work. We still need to be able to go in there and bring out the firewood somehow...
The winter has to repeat its cycle, so blocking it from the inside wouldn't work, either.

It seems we have much to consider, then.

'Course we do. But, er... The great Merlin's got everything well in hand, as you'd expect. I did a little preparation beforehand, since this place had been giving off some vibes that piqued my interest.

(Merlin walks back to you and Loiscneach.)

Well, there IS one thing I couldn't find.
I thought for sure I wouldn't have too much trouble getting these, given the season, so I pushed visiting the farms back a bit on my to-do list. But when I got there... guess what? None of the farmers had a single sheaf of grain left from their last harvests!

> Prompt: Wheat are you talking about?

Apparently, SOMEONE got there before me and laid claim to all of them.

(Merlin looks toward Loiscneach.)

I wondered who else would've been interested in such a specific thing that would have almost no value to most people... But now I see they're being put to good use. I was fretting that someone might've just fed 'em all to their livestock.

Erm... I'm sorry?

Nothin' to be sorry about, pal. Looks like you borrowed the know-how of the old druids.

You can tell that much just by looking at me? That's impressive. now, this is just what I was told, so I can't say how true it is, but a lot of the things we mountainkeepers use to carry out our work were originally created with the wisdom of the druids.
That's how I avoided catching so much as a sniffle while I was lying unconscious on the frozen earth. I told (Character Name) to bundle up or wear a robe, but having these sheaves gives me all the warmth I need.
In the waning of days of fall before winter's chill sets in, I head into the lowlands, to the last farm or two where the farmers are still gathering their harvests and get them for a small markup.

Right. They symbolize the end of fall and the onset of winter, and that's why I needed 'em. I've gone everywhere I could think of that has farms, from Tir Chonaill to Taillteann.

Oh no.

For this magic to work, I've gotta use the real deal, and it looks like you have some left over. They've still got the energy, right?

...How did you even know that? But... you're right-- I wasn't able to head back to my hideaway, so I've been carrying them with me.

(Loiscneach hands Merlin a small sheaf of wheat.)

(Merlin shakes his head, staring at the bundle of grain.)

How damn... To think, I'd get to try out one of the old magics. I must've really been buildin' up my karma!
Lessee... So I separate 'em like this, then I make a knot there...

(Merlin pulls out a small base figure and begins tying the stalks of wheat to it.)

(After a while, he looks at you and Loiscneach, a self-satisfied grin plastered on this face. With an exaggerated flourish, he holds out his handiwork.)

Is this... some sort of doll?

Of course it's a doll. And a real beaut, if I say so myself.


You provided the materials, but I made it into this. So the obvious question is, who does it actually belong to now?

What are you...?
...Don't tell me. Are you going to use that to do what I think you're going to do?

Heh heh... Well, it's only possible because the barrier is weak. If she'd managed to gather up all the firewood, it'd be a different story.
(Character Name)'s done us a real solid by going in and shaking up the entire place. Now it's a weird world full of paradoxes-- a space that would never be able to exist outside that fissure. Just a huge mess in there, really.
On top of that, something key to its functioning was removed, so the instability must be off the charts.
She even sent her power out somewhere well outside her domain to get back what was taken from her, and I'm betting she used up a lot of energy doing that.

Er, to be more precise, I was the one who had something taken from me...
(Character Name), the sheaves I carry are connected to the idea of 'embracing winter,' and to serving the lord of snow.
It's said that long ago, the eldest mountainkeeper served Cailleach, and each autumn would gather sheaves from the last harvest of the year.
Because of that, the flames from the battle of Mag Tuireadh never touched the snow-capped mountains, nor any of the other calamities that have befallen the land in more recent times.
So in the end, I suppose it comes down to a matter of perspective.
Knowing that, (Character Name), who would you say this doll belongs to?

> Prompt: It belongs to Merlin or It belongs to Loiscneach or Neither of you.

Sweet! Now we've just got the last step. Here, hold onto this, (Character Name).

I'll set up a campfire. The temperature's really dropping out there.

(Before you realize it, Merlin thrusts the folksy doll-- or whatever it is-- into your hands.)

> On-Screen Text: You received something from Merlin.

Heh. Practically a masterpiece, I'd say. Just like the one who made it.
Heh... Guess that's the end of that. Man, to think of all the work I put into this, all to have it come down to a straightforward solution in the end.
That guy sure is knowledgable about the local traditions-- exactly what you'd expect from one of the mountainkeepers. Just between you and me, though, I'm not sure he's got the hang of all the old druidcraft yet.

(Merlin glances over toward where Loiscneach is for a moment, lowering his voice.)

...Unfortunately, getting in there again and grabbing more firewood won't be much easier than your last trip.
Since it's the root of the power the space is using to manifest itself, it's likely to be in the deepest part of the fissure.
And you can be sure she'll do everything in her power to stop you from taking it. My guess is that intruders are turned into firewood, and we definitely don't want that happening to you.
*sigh* So much work to do, and the pile never seems to get any smaller, does it?
Anyway, you know what you've gotta do, right?
Jeez, why's it so cold out there?

(Merlin shivers while giving you a sly wink.)

Merlin (Chat Bubble)
It's cold out there.

Loiscneach (Chat Bubble)
I've set up a campfire. Come here and warm yourself.

(Merlin walks toward the campfire Loiscneach set up.)

Merlin (Chat Bubble)
The flames seem a bit weak. Looks like we could use some more firewood.

Loiscneach (Chat Bubble)
I'm afraid I've used up what I had. Nothing left to burn but time.

(You burn the Harvest Doll.)

(You drop the doll Merlin gave you into the blazing campfire.)

(The dried stalks of wheat quickly catch fire, and you watch as the doll quickly burns to ashes.)

(Merlin nods as the remaining cinders are borne aloft by the heat, then carried away on the winter wind.)

It may not amount to much more than stopgap measure, but it's the surest way.
Whew! Great work, me! Now I can finally... Wait, no. Damn, I still have those five other things I said I'd look into, huh?
How'd my life get like this?

(Merlin sighs, rolling his eyes in a comically exaggerated expression.)

I've got a long list of places clamoring for the great Merlin's help, y'know. Thankfully, I get to cross this one off the list-- my work here is done!
I wish we'd run into each other when I had a little more free time on my hands, but... ain't much I can do about that now. Maybe next time!
I've set up a local enchantment that'll alert me if something happens here, so you don't need to worry TOO much. Probably.

...Understood. And... thank you.

In my heart of hearts, I wanna stick around a little longer and shoot the breeze with you, (Character Name), but... I was actually on a really urgent mission, and I've already put off getting back to it as long as I dare, so.. I've gotta skedaddle.
Anyway, catch ya 'round, bud! Eat, sleep, and make merry enough for the both of us! Oh, and... maybe try to take it easy every now and then, okay?

(The sound of snow crunching beneath hurried footfalls quickly fades away.)


(Loiscneach lets out a heavy sigh as he stares at the place where Merlin disappeared.)

On occasion, I do happen upon abnormally energetic people lost in the mountains.
On the whole, that's better than finding someone who's depressed, but being around people like that just... wears me down so quickly. I feel like I'm ready to call it a day after fifteen minutes.
Speaking with him-- or rather, listening to him go on without much chance to get a word in-- felt just like that. It's not something one really grows accustomed to.
But he seemed to believe it will be safe around here now. At the very least, we shouldn't have any phantasmal stags leaping out from the fissure to charge at us unawares.
The unnaturally cold weather ought to begin subsiding as well.
(Character Name), after all that's happened, I want to say...
Thank you for helping me thoughout this ordeal. I just wish there was more I could have done for you.
I know I have at times been rude, my shortcomings on full display. I'm grateful you chose to stick with me, in spite of it all.
In my mind, I keep coming back to that agreement we made.
My intent was that I would aid you with your needs first, then have you help me after. But the way things went, it turned out the exact opposite of what I'd planned.
...And I can't help but feel that's due to a lack of ability on my part.
I'll never forget how much you've done for me, (Character Name). If you ever have need of my help, I am at your service, no matter how many years may pass.
You have but to ask and I'll answer the call without hesitation.
Now, I'm going to take a look around and see if all that should be here is here, and ensure nothing that ought not be here lingers still.
Thanks to the circumstances, I've been unable to go about my normal mountainkeeping duties and I feel the need to settle into my old rhythm again.
At any rate, I'll see you next time you're in the mountains, whenever that may be.

(Matters here seem to have been wrapped up, at least for the moment. Return to the Arcana Association's room in Rath Royal Castle and show Laoire the Cold-burning Flame.)

Welcome, (Character Name). Any updates on your investigation?
You have my thanks for your tireless work. I was beginning to worry, since I hadn't heard back from you in a while.
Normally, word of your adventures gets back to me while you're out and about, even if I'm not actively asking around. I guess you're just that much of a headline-maker, (Character Name).
That's why I was surprised when I heard nothing about where you'd been or what you'd been up to. Perhaps even your popularity has its limits.
Anyway, back to my research I go. Or was there something else you wanted to tell me?

> Prompt: The culprit behind the Deer Incident or The land beyond Sidhe Sneachta or What you discovered in Glenn Bearna

  • (Note: All options result in the same response text.)

(You tell Laoire about what's happened so far.)

(As you speak animatedly about how the incident with the strange deer led to learning more about Cailleach, venturing beyond Sidhe Sneachta to Sliab Mis, and the new type of Smoldering Thread you found in Glenn Bearna, Laoire finds just enough of a gap to finally interject.)

Wait, wait. I'm going to need you to back up a bit there, (Character Name).
It sounds like you've gone through a lot-- enough to consitute several separate reports, even.

(Laoire grabs a sheet of paper and a quill pen from his desk.)

You must be exhausted. Here, I'll write it all down as you tell it to me. I'd need to format this to a template I can use for multiple submissions anyway, so that works out.
All right, my pen is at the ready. Go on and tell me what you experienced, starting from the beginning. Cailelach, Sliab Mius, the new type of thread-- spare no detail!

> Prompt: Cailleach or Sliab Mis or A new type of Arcana thread

The one behind the incident involving the monstrous deer, the lay of the land north of Sidhe Sneachta, and the discovery you made in Glenn Bearna...
I've got it all organized now. Thank you.
However, there IS one more thing I'd like to request.
I know Her Majesty is eager to see this report, so while I'm compiling everything I need to present to her, I was hoping I could ask you to deliver this first set of copies to Sinead.
Oh, and be sure to tell her about the mountainkeeper. You've worked with him, so I think you'll be able to describe his talents better than I, (Character Name).
Just trying to optimize our workflow here. The sooner we hand off these reports, the sooner we can get back to studying Arcana. Anyway, I'm counting on you.

> Prompt: Okay.

> On-Screen Text: Laoire hands you a letter to Sinead.

(Nodding your assent, you accept Laoire's letter and the attached reports.)

Thank you. Now to start transcribing another set for the Queen...

(You head to the reception room.)
Ah, (Character Name). What do you have for me?

> Prompt: Hand over the letter

(You give Sinead the letter, along with the attached reports.)

Hmm. A field expedition report from the Arcana Association?

(Sinead skims over the report, then looks up at you.)

It hasn't been all that long since the Arcana Association was established. Seeing them this active already shows a lot of growth in a short time, which bodes well for their prospects.
I hope they continue at this pace-- a string of noteworthy accomplishments will do much to mollify those who questioned the Queen's judgment in founding a new association.
As the association's official patron, I think Queen Eirawen will be quite satisfied when she reads these reports.
At any rate, now I have some idea of what to expect when I read through the reports in greater detail. I there anything else I ought to be aware of?

(Actually... There was something Laoire wanted you to mention to Sinead...)

> Prompt: The mountainkeeper of Sliab Mis is...

> Answer: Loiscneach

(Laoire wanted you to pass along info about the mountainkeeper, whose aid could prove invaluiable in the ongoing investigation.)

(You tell Sinead all about Loiscneach, the mountainkeeper of Sliab Mis.)

Mm, is that so?

(Sinead closes her eyes, organizing her thoughts.)

(Silence settles upon the room like a heavy blanket; you could swear you hear the sound of the candles burning.)

(Only after several minutes does Sinead open her eyes, speaking now in her more authoritative tone of voice.)

It has not yet been determined whether the kingdom will dispatch an investigative team. Even if the decision is made, I cannot say whether or not it will be an official expedition.
Nevertheless, as this matter involves persons and organizations backed by the kingdom, I'll need to establish some background on this individual first.
First, what would you say this 'mountainkeeper' could offer to an investigative team?

> Prompt: He makes great mobiles or The only mountainkeeper in Sliab Mis. or Great at carrying heavy loads.

> Prompt: He has a good sense of direction. or He knows the lay of the land. or He is an excellent guide.

> Prompt: He has a good sense of direction.

His sense of direction must really be something if you're advocating for him to that extent, (Character Name).
I'm sure his expertise will be of use in assessing any risks travel in the region presnets, or to point out changes in the terrain.

> Prompt: He knows the lay of the land.

General wisdom cautions us to take nothing for granted, but... it's probably safe to assume that mountainkeepers are excellent at finding their way through the mountains.
Still, I don't see that as a reason we'd have to employ that specific mountainkeeper.
What we're looking for here is a standout reason to hire him. Something he'd bring to the table that we couldn't get from anyone else.
Anything else?

> Prompt: He is an excellent guide.

A guide...?
I would hope our team would never find itself in this position, but if a member of the investigation team goes missing, we could ask that mountainkeeper for help in finding them.

I see. I'll take what you've told me into consideration.
Judging by the fact that you're delivering these reports to me rather than the head of the Arcana Association, I'm assuming he presented copies to Her Majesty personally?
If so, then...

(Sinead glances out the window for a moment.)

I'm sure he's already met with the Queen.
However, I just thought of something that would be most easily handled by you, (Character Name), and I'd wager Her Majesty has come to the same conclusion.
I think Eirawen would also consider you the most able candidate, (Character Name).
....If you would be willing, of course.

(Some matter you could handle more easily than any of the alternatives? Sinead loves to keep you guessing sometimes, but you should visit Queen Eirawen, as she suggested.)

(You head to Eirawen's office.)

Excellent timing, (Character Name)-- it's been a while since we last spoke. I actually just finished reading through Laoire's reports.
While it is no doubt another standout entry on your long list of accomplishments, I was quite excited that it also proved to be such a grand first outing for the Arcana Association.
Though, the further I read in this report, the more I began to worry about everything you went through.
Laoire told me you'd be delivering a report to Sinead so you could explain a few things in person, but to think she'd send you along to me... Sometimes I think that woman knows my own thoughts better than I do.
Knowing you're well puts my heart at ease.

(Eirawen looks toward you purposefully, her gaze clouded. She lowers her voice, as if to draw you in a bit closer.)

I hate to bring it up at a time like this, but after reading over the report, I had a question, and a favor to ask.
It's nothing to rack your brain over-- more that you're the only one who would actually know.
First, the question.

I'll work with Sinead to expound on that part of the report, which will hopefully give it enough credibility to convince the members of our investigative team of their safety.
Now, about that favor I wished to request...
I tried to ensure that I found the right person for every task still to be done, but I could find no one better-suited to these two.
First, I'd like you to deliver this letter to Chief Duncan of Tir Chonaill.
The investigation team is being sent out on an unofficial dispatch, and as such, it may be inadvisable to send a messenger or any official in service to the crown.
I want Chief Duncan to be receptive to my words, and I think I'll have the very best chance of that if you place my letter in his hands yourself.

> Prompt: Say you understand

(You accept the letter as Eirawen places it in your outstretched hand.)

As for the other favor... There's a part of me that doesn't want to ask, especially after you just returned, but...
I'd like you to head back to Sliab Mis. Basically, just check in on the state of things in the wake of your adventure.
Several other Royal Societies and Associations have expressed interest in sending one of their members on this excursion, but that support is contingent upon knowing that you have personally inspected the site and given it the all-clear.
Thank you... and be well.
Oh, and...
Erm... I really appreciate everything you've done, (Character Name).

(You head back to Tir Chonaill and deliver the letter to Duncan.)

Ah, you've returned. Did you find what you sought?

> Prompt: Tell him you found it

Good, good. I was feeling a bit put out that I wasn't able to help you before.
After you went to find the mountainkeeper, I didn't hear anything more about what you were up to, so I figured things must have gone well. Ah, if only my optimism hit the mark more often...
When the weather suddenly eased up, I had a hunch that you might've had a hand in it, and that's when I realized you'd likely gotten yourself mixed up in something larger than I'd realized. It's good to see you back, and none the worse for wear, from the look of things.
So, here you are again, back on old Duncan's doorstep. I presume that means there must be something you want to ask me, right? Haha!
When I saw you coming, I braced myself, wondering what you'd ask about today. So... don't keep me in suspense!

> Prompt: Hand over the letter

> On-Screen Text: You handed over Eirawen's letter to Duncan.

That's quite the fancy seal on this envelope...
It reminds me of another letter I received once, from the pen of Aliech's monarch.

(Duncan begins reading the letter, his bony fingertips tracing beneath each line as he goes.)

I see... So this is about Cailleach.
I beleive I mentioned this before, but in case you needed to refresh your memory, Cailleach is a god who burns firewood representing the old year, bringing the onset of winter while simultaneously clearing the way for the coming of the new year. The legends say that winter ends when she has no more firewood left to burn.
She's not a deity of particular significance in history or legend. None worship her that I know, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if most these days had never heard of her.
Among the many gods known in this land, she is one closely intertwined with the natural world and the flow of life. From all that I have heard of her, I don't believe she would act in such a way as to intentionally harm anyone... or aid them.
Had I not heard your firsthand account, I would find it difficulty to accept what I'm reading here.
Though it seems unlikely this entity could ever escape the fissure, I should warn the villagers to stay out of the mountains for a while all the same.
But it looks like Trefor will have his work cut out for him.

(Duncan gives you a knowing smile.)

Ah, but listen to me rambling on while you stand here, obliging. Don't you worry; I'll be sure to send a swift reply to the letter you delivered.
There's no need to wait around. I'll send the response off myself.
Hopefully, the next time we talk, I'll have some positive news for you on that front. Until then, don't worry about it too much.
Thank you for seeing it all the way here personally, (Character Name).

(Duncan lets you depart as he turns his attention back to the letter.)

(The last remaining duty on your to-do list is to investigate the area around the entrance to Glenn Bearna, where a team will likely be dispatched to conduct an investigation.)

(You go to Sliab Mis and finish investigating the site.)

Oh, (Character Name).

(His pale green eyes widen in surprise.)

Your friend was right-- access to many places in these mountains is still blocked by barriers. I set out fro Sliab Mis trying to figure out what to do, and before I knew it, I found myself back here.
Arbhar ran off into the woods before I could do anything to stop him. *sigh* Bladhm always said he was 'such a good boy,' but this dog seems like he just does what he wants.
So, what brings you out to my neck of the woods?

> Prompt: Talk about the investigation team

(You tell Loiscneach that you're making a brief survey of the area before an investigation team is dispatched.)

(You also ask him if he'd be interested in joining the team.)

Does that mean the investigation here will be ongoing? Will you be taking part as well?
If so, would you be willing to give me any firewood you happen to come across in Glenn Bearna?
I wouldn't ask any pay for assisting the team. Knowing that you're a central part of the investigation is enough for me.
All I would request is the firewood.
After all...
...Any piece could be the soul of one of my fellow mountainkeepers.

(After a short pause, Loiscneach continues, his voice slightly subdued.)

...Given recent events, I had sought to discourage anyone from passing through the mountains, but... I think it's fair to make an exception in this case.
I will join the investigation team. And not just to find more pieces of firewood-- I think doing so falls within my duties as a mountainkeeper.
Oh, and before I forget, there's something I wanted to give you. Nothing too special, mind, but...

(Loiscneach reaches into the leather satchel at his waist and draws something from it.)

Glenn Bearna - Mobile Completed.png
...It's one of my mobiles. The one I was working on when we first met, in fact.

> On-Screen Text: You receive a Winter Forest Mobile from Loiscneach.

I've been waffling over whether to give it to you for a while now, but knowing you'll be coming here to continue the investigation clinched my decision. You see, this mobile has the power to transport its owner to the place where it was made.
When I was learning to make mobiles, I was told that the materials used, when strung together in certain orders and combinations, grant them magical properties.
That's just the oral tradition among us mountainkeepers, mind you; I'm afraid I don't have a more technical explanation for how it actually works. I did, however, ensure that it does what it's supposed to.
Of course, should you need to make room in your bag, you can always leave it with me for safekeeping.
I'll make my way down to the trailhead and guide the team to Sliab Mis.
May the cold wind of the mountains be ever at your back, and the light of Palala shine warm upon your face. Safe travels, (Character Name).

(Loiscneach gives you a curt bow, heading toward the path.)

(There are still many questions that want for answers, from the sudden appearance of Glenn Bearna to the barriers surrounding Sliab Mis. However, at the very least, the curtain appears to have closed on the tale of Cailleach and her unnatural winter.)