Bring Forth the Huntsmen
Since the Silence was brought to bay, the Gray Forest has slowly started rebounding. As spring comes to Arx, the first bloom of lush, green life is starting to return to the forest. But all is not well, for though a picnic trip might occur unmolested and travelers through the woods aren't harassed as a matter of course and the Silence is no longer threatening Arx or moving through the Forest there is an undercurrent of unease. Those who travel through note strange screams in the night. There's the constant sense of being watched. Scouts bring back reports of wandering bands of shavs who attack without warning, or who alternately run away for no reason. And so it is that House Redrain and House Grayson start leading parties into the Forest, start scouting for themselves - start trying to pinpoint what exactly is going on up there, and because they are led by sober and strategic leaders, they start preparing for a coming battle.
It isn't long after the first troops set out to the Gray Forest that a change is noted. For those who come and go from the Lodge of Petrichor to the north, there are strange rumors that unicorns have been sighted. And not just sighted, but rumored to have taken up residence there, coming and going as they please. It's said that Dame Esoka, Calaudrin, Dame Thena, and Dame Leola have invited them to stay in the Lodge as long as they like. "Oh, fiddle faddle," says one woman when she hears this rumor. "It's probably just a white horse with a horn tied to its head. There's no such thing as a unicorn."
The stories coming out of the Gray Forest tell another tale as well, as a large group of refugees is escorted to Arx by contingents of the Grayson army. They spread word of the valiant heroes who lead their defense, protecting them against the horrors coming from the northlands. Princess Reese Grayson's army, along with the Iron Company lead by Lord Tobias Telmar, apparently encircled the refugees as they were soon to be overwhelmed by the enemies which had pursued them nearly to their destruction. They tell tale of Prince Luca Grayson's 'nearly insane bravery' in fighting three huge monsters at once, to draw their attention away from the injured Grayson troops. Of Prince Barric Grayson's prodigious strength and prowess, as he cut one of the monster's heads clean off. Of the efforts of Lady Lethe Tyde, who set up triage and sought to mend the injured in the thick of battle. They tell of the hundreds of enemy dead left upon the field, and of the heroic troops who fought such overwhelming odds, standing behind their leaders against the coming onslaught and turning it away with their might. Needless to say, the refugees are being redistributed to Grayson lands, having bent the knee to such heroic representatives of the house.
Closer to home, Archlector Vayne, Marquis Hadrian Mazetti, and Marquessa Cambria Mazetti have been recently seen combing through the archives of Vellichor. It's said that they receive visitors from time to time, eager to discuss some snippet of a dusty tome that has been unread and unbothered for far too long, and then those visitors typically go off with a determined look upon their faces. No one knows what they're looking for or up to, but the Disciples of Vellichor seem quite pleased to have some of the more obscure areas of the archive used. Knowledge is for everyone, after all.
In the far frozen north is an island sailors call Weeping Daughter Island. It's rumored to be a spectacle, but sailors tend to avoid it. When pressed, they'll shift and say 'there's nothing to trade there,' which is code for - there's no alcohol and no fun at all. But rumors say that there's an island there, somehow preserved against the predations of time, a place of great sorrow and grief. There are more rumors added now, after the Unsullied returns with Katarina, Aleksei, Morrighan, Shard, Aislin, Fortunato, Aureth, Ailith, and Roland - of an island frozen in an instant, where nothing grows. But far in a cave a fire still burns a welcome to weary cold travelers.
Reports back from the south of the Mourning Sea mention a place near the Saffron Chain now that ships are starting to avoid. Careful prodding of seafarers prompts a lot of embarassment and occassionally some growling, but it's hard to find out why. Even the few who will talk mention little more than haunting melodies coming from the middle of nowhere out on the sea. The fact that this phenomenon happened after Asger, Khanne, Skapti, Aella, Branwen, and Kaede sailed south is completely irrelevant. Totally unrelated. Totally.
A party of diplomats and diplomat-likes, consisting of Margot, Alistair, Aurelian, Monique, Saedrus, and Tikva ride out into the deep woods, it's said, to speak with a nomadic group of shavs claiming to possess key strategic information. Whatever negotiations happen past the ragged flaps of ragged tents remain private, but the group emerges with a sheaf of parchment and none the worse for wear.
Tales from the north speak of scouting expeditions that found twisted creatures -- once human -- gathering near Farhaven. Rumor speaks of Oathlander knights dueling huge monsters until reinforcements could arrive, of Inquisitors in the shadows hurling alchemical bombs, of creatures speaking of Compact treachery. But that's ridiculous, of course; who believes in such monsters? And if Daemon, Alexis, Halsim, Vesper, Ariella, Graham, and Preston make their way home with some new injuries... well, scouting missions don't always go smoothly, now do they?
Lastlight Hold was once a stronghold of the Far Rangers. Now it is only a sad reminder of the predations of time and weather. Rumors of elemental rock guardians, strange traps, deadly First Children, and near-death experiences from those who ferried Tarik, Wash, Clover, Rey, Cassandra, Fiachra, Shae, Lou, Mason, Gaston, Jayanthi, and Valery to and from the Everwinter shores are just making things up to sound more interesting. Sailors will believe anything, and besides, everyone was probably very drunk. Time. And /weather/.
The campaign in the Gray Forest is certainly in full swing. Skirmishes are frequent but fleeting, and while supplies are starting to make their way to Farhaven and the Gray Forest forces, there's no sign yet of any cohesive force coming in opposition to those gathered. Still, shavs seem as willing to talk as to fight, and so Legate Orazio has organized a contingent of missionaries. They are eager to volunteer, and head to the Gray Forest armed with supplies and glorious ideals! Despite orders, they're not very good at keeping matters of Faith out of their discussions, but the shav generally just shrug and let them talk for a while. They're offering medical supplies, healing, books, and toys for the children - and the shav are clearly thinking of the children because they accept this gratefully. While the missionaries aren't very successful at discussion matters of Faith, they are better at politics - the Horned God, the shav they talk to agree, is no sort of God at all - and the spirits, they add, aren't very happy about any of this. All in all the missionaries are a success - at least where humanitarian aid is concerned.