Our journey begins in a forest in the Northwest at a small but comfortable cabin in a clearing. The cabin is surrounded by a simple fence made of logs, and looking out the front door of the cabin you can see a river. A dock has been built on the river’s edge, and is quite comfortably situated with three chairs around a small table. The river twists itself around the woods, but creates a small pool of clear water just downriver from the dock. Across the river the ground raises into hills that stretch up to meet the horizon. Behind the cabin is a small family garden and just behind and to the right is a small shed. Behind and on both sides of the cabin beyond the fence the scattered trees grow closer together the further you travel, until they become so dense you can’t see beyond them. The area could not be more perfect for an unusual family who seeks quiet and privacy. And our story begins with just such a family.
Twenty years ago, the human bard Aaron Neville married the nymph Emma and built this cabin near the river so they could live comfortably, away from prying eyes. Two years later, they were blessed with a daughter, Arianna Marie Neville, and it is with she that our story travels.
Arianna left the river, leaving her mother to relax while she went to find what was keeping her father. He had only gone to collect his harp to sing, but he had been gone quite awhile. Arianna lifted her face to the sky and smiled. It was unseasonably warm, and the snow had melted, though clouds gathering in the distance beyond the hills promised a final storm before the next month. The river had risen with the melting snow and was raging quite quickly past the dock. It was a beautiful day, and she was pleased that her parents had approved her decision so enthusiastically. All winter she had been deciding what to do when spring came, and she had decided to go adventuring. She knew she wanted to travel as her father once had – he had such grand stories! – and now she knew she wanted to go at least as far as Silverymoon, and possibly go further from there. Of course her parents would worry about her and they wouldn’t have minded her staying at home a few more years, but she was glad they hadn’t been opposed to her leaving so soon.
As she neared the cabin she slowed her steps. Something was wrong, but she couldn’t quite place it. There! A voice coming from behind the cabin, but it wasn’t her father’s voice. It was faint, as if the voice were distant or whispering. They seldom had company, and it was even more rare in winter. She started quietly toward the back of the cabin. Was that a spell they were chanting? She rounded the corner and gasped in shock. Just steps away she saw a strange man in a dark cloak with his hood pulled low, and just beyond him she watched her father fall to the ground. The hooded man turned at her gasp and she had just a brief glimpse of his eyes, hidden deep in the shadows of his hood. He turned sharply, grabbed her fathers harp and tucked it into a bag at his waist. She caught sight of a small dagger in his other hand. It was unlike any she’d ever seen before, with emeralds embedded in the golden hilt.
Just as quickly, the man ran toward the trees. “Stop! Mother! Help!” Arianna cried. The hooded man easily jumped the fence and quickly disappeared into the thick forest and underbrush, just as her mother ran around the corner behind her. Both women knelt on either side of Aaron, quickly examining him for injuries and asking if he were okay. Arianna quickly explained to her mother what she had seen, and Emma’s expression grew worried as Aaron seemed not to even recognize their presence. “It looks as though he’s been cursed! But it’s a stronger curse than I’ve seen or can counter.” she told Arianna quickly “we must take him to town. Everlund will be the nearest town with a hope of saving him, but I won’t be able to travel with you. Arianna, You must take him alone!”
“But, mother, how can I carry father that far?” she looked down at her father worriedly “He won’t be able to walk in this state!”
Mother and Daughter carried Aaron into the cabin and laid him on his bed, then quickly worked together to pack supplies and prepare for the journey ahead of them. It was decided that they would follow the river, and Emma would stay with Arianna until they could follow the river no longer. Arianna would carry her father alone from that point and travel the caravan road in the hopes that she could barter passage with a passing caravan. Both of them had difficulty resting that evening, knowing what was ahead, but they were able to get a few hour’s sleep before starting out at sunrise the next morning.
They followed the river for seven days, traveling as quickly as they could without exhausting themselves. On the eighth day, Arianna and her father left and traveled forward the next day as the mother turned back and returned to the cabin. It was a rough way for traveling for that father daughter duo, there was no path and the terrain was rocky in some areas. They camped in the shadow of a large boulder that evening, with Arianna tending to her father most carefully. The father seemed entirely unaware of his surroundings, seemingly in a deep dream or trance. He had not gotten any worse, but neither had he improved, and that seemed just as bad to her mind.