We restored Merin as best we could, and after some rest we rode from the clearing where we had fought the boar people. Before long we became aware that they were following us on the edge of the the shadows of the forest. We were not sure at first if they intended us ill or not, but on one occasion we heard fighting in the distance and we came to believe they were protecting us from the dangers of the wild lands.
While we rode we heard the tale of our banner riders. They had come into the otherworld in a place where it seemed the very land opposed their every move. A burned and blasted land in which everything existed to kill. All were wounded but none it seemed were unable to ride (or would admit it).
That night one of the Boar People came to our fire and asked us for hospitality. He told us that they had come to the very edge of where they were allowed to travel and had followed the orders of their king before he died in protecting us from the dangers of the journey. He implied that had we not fought honourably we would not have had their help, and when we asked what they had fought he said it was a great beast and that fighting it had been bracing.
At length he told us that we faced a choice. The straight road ahead lead to our destination, but a fork to the right lead to the home of the Winter Hag, and that while the danger was considerable, she might be able to help us. We spoke at length, weighing the dangers against the benefit and in the end we decided on the more dangerous road.
The Winter Hags home was beautiful in the ways that the deepest winters are, but her ugliness surpassed all words. Merin bargained with her for her help and we learnt a little of the Dark Lady. She said we might be able to destroy her and had the means in our possession. The nature of the final bargain is one we do not speak of, and it may be that we got the worst of it in the end, but we did secure the help of winter for whatever we decided to do.
Merin also bargained for the child we found in the Hag’s home, a feral child with the Wolf-eyes of Aurealanus. Morchades declared that she would adopt the child as her own and bring him up in the Christian faith.
With that done we made our way to the meeting stones, and drove the Silverhands spear into the ground by the opening of a giant barrow we found there. We came into our world in a place that was the same but smaller and meaner, and surrounded by the pictish tribes………