Korvast had stopped writing in his journal. He had not been fond of it, so he did not miss it, though it was embarrassing when Thorald got hold of the small book, wrapped in tattered leather, and upon attempting to read its contents out loud was forced to inform Korvast that he lacked the necessary grasp of spelling and grammar to communicate anything at all intelligible. Korvast did, however, continue to consider his experiences deeply, as instructed. It was a silent ritual.
The welcoming of the “heroes” by the people of Waldsby upon their return from the Pale Tower was tepid at best. Some were pleased, and a rare few expressed cautious thanks, but all were concerned for their already fragile safety. What little order had been established by the oppressive daughters of Baba Yaga had been disturbed, and they feared the wrath of Nahzena upon her return. Korvast sensed their presence would not be tolerated quietly much longer.
After compensating the local healer to restore Tyg’s sight and resting for a night, they set forth northward, as the magic bestowed upon them by the Black Rider compelled them to. Surprisingly, Nadya offered to accompany them as their guide, explaining that she too would no longer be safe in Waldbsy. She explained that she had an uncle, Ringeirr, with whom she and her sons would be safe, and that his knowledge would be of assistance to the group as well.
The path, or lack there of, was forbidding to say the least. A vast wasteland of ice stretched before them into a grim infinity. Trees, nearly buried but somehow still managing to steal enough sunlight to live amidst the heavy, churning snow, sparsely littered the scape. And odd dangers dwelled there too.
Swarming flocks of ravens – filthy, ravenous, and likely commanded by an unseen will – descended on the party of heroes, scratching at their eyes and overwhelming their senses. After they were put down Thorald and Korvast needed attention given to their damaged eyes. Banker Gale informed Korvast that in order to apply the salve he would need to remove his helmet. Korvast hesitated, but complied sensibly.
The first thing Banker Gale saw when Korvast took off his helmet was a lifeless raven, its head apparently bitten off, fall with a soft thud into the snow. And then he saw Korvast’s full unshielded face for the first time.
His hair was dark and fell to his shoulders. It appeared that Korvast’s preferred strategy of hair cutting was to simply lop it off with his sword when their was too much of it. The left half of his face was nothing out of the ordinary. In fact, he was relatively handsome, with a square jaw, narrow black eyes, and a straight nose. Only the claw marks across his left eye, trickling with blood and blocking his vision, were at all disconcerting. But it was the right half of his face that was meant to be hidden. It was comprised almost entirely of tattered scar tissue, as if it had been chewed and torn apart by the jaws of starving beasts. Bone protruded from flesh where his cheek and jaw bones crowned, and his mouth was pulled back into a bare, toothy sneer. Where Korvast’s right eye would be, a thick patch of black leather was seemingly attached to his head with bronze bolts. A yellow sun, the symbol of his goddess Sarenrae, was painted delicately upon it. If Korvast still had a right ear, whatever was left of it was hidden beneath his hair.
Banker Gale could not help but stare a bit, but after an admirably small amount of hesitation, proceeded to heal Korvast. After working in silence for a minute or two, Korvast answered the unasked question with his usual throaty rasp.
Aside: Korvast’s Story
Korvast told Gale of how he was the child of a bar wench in Absalom, a beautiful, kind woman beloved by everyone. His father was an Ulfen adventurer that had traveled from the far north in pursuit of a wicked priest who killed his brother and put a curse on his village, and after many years and many sacrifices he’d finally tracked the bastard down in the city. While he was there, the Dawn’s Light Inn where she worked had been where he rested. She managed to get herself caught up in the whole mess, and the two of them sparked a fleeting romance. After he finally exacted his revenge on the evil priest he left her, though not without ceremony, and began his long journey back home. Korvast was born after that, and would never meet his father or learn if he even still lived. But though Korvast always found it odd, his mother never seemed angered nor saddened by his father’s departure. She spoke highly of his bravery, his strength, his resolve and his honor. She said that he was both kind to the good and ruthless to the wicked. She wanted Korvast to grow up just like him.
The Inn was owned by a kindly old man named Jonn. Korvast and his mother lived there and were always treated well while he was alive. Korvast had a simple but normal childhood, and things were good. They were good, that is, until the old man died, and ownership of the Inn passed to his son, Jarn. Jarn was everything his father was not. He was mean, lecherous, dishonest and selfish, and Korvast’s mother suspected Jonn’s death may not have been natural. Worse, Jarn had always been obsessively attracted to her, and despite her constant rebuking, advanced upon her repeatedly. He was jealous of the Ulfen hero, and hated Korvast. Often compelled further by drink, his advances became more insistent, and more dangerous, when the business turned over to him and his father was not around to keep him in line. Korvast’s mother made plans to leave her job at the inn to live with cousins in the farmlands outside the city whom Korvast had never met. When Jarn found out he was enraged. He was already growing desperate, for he was finally seeing his long courtship attempt as a failure, and he knew that at ten years old and already large for his age Korvast would soon be strong enough to repel him. On the night before they were to leave the Inn for good, Korvast awoke to the sounds of violence coming from the tavern downstairs. Frozen in his bed, he listened to the struggle for what seemed like hours before silence fell. Jarn had murdered his mother in a drunken rage, apparently having decided that if he could not have her nobody could, and afterward he threw Korvast out onto the street, laughing madly.
Korvast wandered the city for weeks, alone and unsure of what to do. He did not know the cousins his mother spoke of, and didn’t know where to find them. It was the saddest time of his life. One night while trying to find edible food in the trash, Korvast encountered a roaming pack of dogs that were not inclined to share, and they decided he was the freshest thing on the menu. They swarmed him and began to rend him limb from limb, and he was certain he was doomed. But with a flash of what looked like bright sunlight the dogs were frightened off by an unlikely passerby. She was a paladin of Sarenrae, tall and beautiful and fierce. She mended him as best she could and rushed him to the Temple of Sarenrae nearby at the Ascendant Court.
The healers there were able to save Korvast’s life, but with so much damage done were unable to erase the worst of his scars. The paladin was a well regarded member of the Silver Crusade staying at the temple in between missions. She looked in on him daily for weeks while he recovered, spending time with him, reassuring him, and he grew fond of her. It was she who’d given him his helmet, an old, unused thing gathering dust in the Temple’s small armory. She brought it to him after he’d begun to have night terrors about being eaten by dogs, waking up every night screaming and sweating. “There,” she said, placing the helmet on his head, “nothing natural is going to chew through that!” He wore it to sleep every night, though it was laughably large for him at the time. The nightmares ceased, but he would never be fully rid of his fear of dogs.
Korvast never saw the paladin again after she left, but the priests at the temple offered him a place there, and Korvast was more than happy to stay and commit his life to the glory of Sarenrae. He wanted to be like the paladin, and like his father, who fought to protect goodness from evil and pursued evil wherever it may try to hide. He trained to be one of the Dawnflower’s swords, and even had a large scimitar specially made for himself to accommodate his unusual strength. Though the clergy primarily preached redemption, forgiveness, and healing as Sarenrae’s most significant teachings, Korvast knew there would always be unwavering, unforgivable corruption in the world. He would make it his task to sniff it out and carve it from this world himself. His grisly commitment to this mission would shape the rest of his life, and his unfortunate appearance profoundly changed his relationship with other people.
For fifteen years Korvast remained mostly within the walls of the temple, training hard and praying diligently, discovering his divine powers, especially his ability to detect evil in the hearts of others. Then he began to have dreams of the frozen north where his mother told him his father had come from. He told the priests he felt compelled to travel there, and they believed it was a sign that Sarenrae had finally called him forth to do the good work for which he had been studying.
As the party continued to travel more trials presented themselves. One night Nadya realized one of her boys had disappeared after she’d sent him to follow Korvast, looking for firewood. Korvast had not seen him since leaving the campsite, and the party went in search of him, following his tracks. When they caught up to the boy a pack of wolves had surrounded him. Korvast liked wolves no more than he liked dogs, but shook off his fear to help everyone rescue him. The boys were much more enamored by Korvast after that, following him around and sitting near him while they all ate around the campfire. They asked him many questions, including whether or not he was really a human, since he was so large and they hadn’t seen his face. Strangely, Korvast did not find them as irritating as he normally found children, and humored their curiosity and playfulness. Perhaps he was a Golem, he told them, just a metal man imbued with life. Their awe and confusion entertained him.
Also on their journey the party encountered a small house, home to a woman desperate for someone to save her husband from what she believed was a moss troll. In exchange, she said, her husband had items of interest to repay them with, and she would feed them and give them a place to rest before setting out. All found this an agreeable exchange. After a hot meal and some much needed rest the party followed signs of the supposed troll to a dark, dank cave, in which dwelled an odd creature. It was no troll, but rather the woman’s husband, who’s body and mind had been infested by a diabolical moss creature. It was controlling his body and devouring it slowly. Luckily the party avoided killing him before realizing what they were up against, separated the moss monster from him, and destroyed it. He was brought back to his wife safe and nearly sound.