The light bore into Koda’s Breath’s mind like an arrow, jolting him into consciousness. He became suddenly aware of the space around him, despite his closed eyes. He felt the presence of many about him, and one—the woman who had healed him at the beach—was closest. She was washing his fur, gently, with a soft cloth. He began to listen to the voices around him, speaking in deep tones. He recognised their timbre as Norn, but struggled with their accent.
“Why bring him to Hoelbrak though?” one voice asked “He is best looked after by his kin—”
“M’dear, that is assuming he is Kodan of Frostgorge Sound. And he is not”. The old norn interrupted the confident female voice, “his marking here—and here— indicate he is a person of importance in his tribe.” The old norn paused, to take breath.
“But the symbols here—on his armor” the old norn reached across him to point at his breastplate “they are not featured on any of the sanctuaries that fled here since Jormag’s rise. He is one of the Northern Tribes”
A deeper male voice spoke: “The Kodan would still know more of healing him than you, Ulfridda”
Ulfridda. Koda’s Breath had a name for the norn who saved him. A name he knew.
“I wish to thank you, Ulfridda, slayer of Modmagniir. Your legend precedes you”
The old norn jumped, but was quick to answer
“I greet you like the sky greets the sea, my Kodan friend. You’ve been asleep for two weeks”.
Koda’s Breath smiled.
“You know our greetings well, wise one. And an adept healer, even of kodan”.
“Three tours in the mists, after my triumph over Modmagniir. I met some kodan there.”
Kodan? In the mists? Koda’s Breath blinked his eyes open, and turned slightly to regard the old norn woman.
“I am Koda’s Breath. Voice of The Spear of the Sea, Sanctuary of the Northern Tribes. I must speak to your leader urgently.”
The confident female voice answered him. “I am Eir Stegalkin, and this is Knut Whitebear, our leader here at Hoelbrak. You are among friends and allies. Your injuries are grave, you need to rest. We will hear you in the morning.” she turned to Ulfridda, “Elder Ulfridda, make sure he rests and heals. I want to know what is so important he travelled from beyond the shiverpeaks to tell us”.
The old norn nodded, and reached into her pack, drawing a slim bottle.
“Koda’s Breath, I must attempt to reset your shoulder. It will be very painful, but I can put you to sleep. Smell this and you’ll sleep the rest of the day.
Koda’s breath nodded, and flared his nostrils. The liquid smelled faintly of salted meat, and he fell into a deep sleep. His dreams were not peaceful, and plagued with death, blood and sacrifice. He could only hope that was all behind him now.
Deep in his slumber, a voice pealed out of the darkness.
“Ko! It hurts! Stop it! Release me, my love! Please” the voice begged him, cracking with tears and driving a stake through Koda’s Breath’s heart. He would recognise that voice until his last breath. Serene Wrath. His claw, and his heart.
“Just a little while longer Serene, I will restore you, I swear to Koda” Koda’s breath yelled through the crying and screaming of Serene Wrath’s mind, “You must be patient, and keep your wits”
“This method was never intended Ko. I will go mad. I have no more than five cycles of the moon before my mind is destroyed.Please…”
Serene Wrath’s mind raged against its bonds, and it was all Koda’s Breath could do to keep his mind’s wards in place.
“You cannot keep me trapped Ko! My mind is stronger and I am afraid I will escape. Find another body for me or I will destroy both our minds” It was not a threat, but a desperate warning. Serene wrath was fearful, and knew soon he would break free of his bonds.
Koda’s Breath summoned his strength and quietened his beloved, focussing on Stillness, meditating within his own consciousness, and finding quietude again. Before he was through his silent chant, Serene Wrath’s mind made a last desperate attempt to escape his pain, and drove a spike through Koda’s Breath’s defences. With that, all went black, and both minds fell silent, their energies spent.
Hours later, Ulfridda returned to check on her patient. He had thrown himself off the bed, his arms twisted around dangerously, one leg still on the bed, the other awkwardly stretched beneath it. Several of his stiches had been ripped open, but were not bleeding, thankfully. She called out to the nearby Bear attendants and they lifted him back into the bed.
The aged norn woman watched him all night, and was there in the morning when his dark eyes blinked open, their edges bloodshot.
“Koda’s Breath, are you alright?” Ulfridda reached out to touch his arm, and his arm whipped around, grasping her hand so tightly she felt her fingers might break. ‘
“WHO ARE YOU?” He bellowed, his eyes full of confusion and pain, his fear palpable as he bared his sharp teeth at her.
“I am Ulfridda, I saved you from the Svanir. Do you remember anything?” The old norn could sense the strange magic circling him, powerful mind magic that ebbed and weaved around his body, becoming focussed though a strange pendant of clear ice on his chest.
“I…” Koda’s Breath struggled, “I don’t…remember. Who…are you? Why…”
Ulfridda extricated her hand from his grasp, and grabbed a bottle from her pouch.
“Drink this, it will help you remember”. A necessary lie.
Koda’s Breath froze, his body and mind instantly paralyzed. She had two hours before she needed to administer the antidote. In the meantime, she needed some medical advice.
She found Hinrik, the Mindhealer, by his usual spot, overwatching the keg brawls he so enjoyed gambling on. After a brief explanation, he followed her through bear’s lodge to Koda’s Breath.
“Bears teeth! Who has done this?” Hinrik looked at Ulfridda expectantly, but she only shrugged.
“I was hoping you could tell me that, Hinrik”
The aged man shook his head. “This is powerful mesmer magic, Elder Ulfridda. There are layers and layers of bonds, focussed through that ice shard. The outer layer seems to be keeping his memories subdued” Hinrik paused, waving his hand across the pendant, and it began to glow.
“There is something dangerous just beneath the surface. A madness that is alien to his mind. Whatever happened, it has caused great pain, and has driven…something to insanity. Its not a cursed object, its thoughts are too complex.”
“Can you break the outer layer and protect the inner ones?” Ulfridda queried
“No, but there is no need. The layer is wavering as we speak. Give him a month, and his memories will return, leaving the under layers intact.”
“Thank you Hinrik. Do you mind letting Eir and Knut know what you just told me? I need to revive him”
“Of course, Mother” Hinrik winked, and left the tent.
Ulfridda administered the antidote, taking the opportunity to give him a calming agent while it did its work. She wafted the smoke around his head, massaging his chest to cause him to take deep breaths.
“Who are you? Where am…”
Ulfridda shushed him, and stroked his forehead.
“You are safe, Koda’s Breath. We will have more to talk about in the morning.”
Ulfridda stayed by his side, holding his paw, the whole night.
“Old as I am, I won’t lose this one” She whispered, before she dozed into sleep.