It was two days before the Festival of Winter Winds as Jadivolett and Tiego broke camp. The annual festival marked the change in seasons from autumn to winter and was held to honor Olentar the Wind God. The first rays from Ottbof the Sun God crested over the horizon, burning away the morning chill as Tiego packed up the last of their belongings. Jadivolett knelt, the Sun God at her back, and held her holy symbol between her hands. Turning her emerald green eyes to the northwest, she prayed to Olentar. When she was finished, Tiego handed Jadivolett her pack and they made their way toward the nearby town of Bekkri.
Jadivolett was an Avitshu, the highest order of Cleric. She was a devout follower of Olentar, Father of the Winds. Olentar was Jadivolett's Patron and she had dedicated her life to his service. Through the holy symbol around her neck, Jadivolett could channel Olentar's power and use it to perform mystical feats. Having eternally pledged her spirit to Olentar, she journeyed wherever the Wind God sent her, acting as his agent of retribution, justice, and change. Jadivolett wore a flowing light blue robe with matching wimple and veil. She carried a mace and wore chainmail beneath her robe. Her holy symbol, which hung around her neck, was carved out of pale, smooth stone.
Tiego had been Jadivolett's travel companion for many years. He was a master swordsman, born in the country of Pardesa. He was the only person Jadivolett had ever met who didn't want anything from her. He didn't look over her body with hungry lust like nearly all other men. He wasn't jealous of her power and didn't try to use it for his own ends. He asked little of her, and only expected friendship, which she was happy to give. In return, he aided Jadivolett in her quests.
Tiego had dark skin and even darker hair. He sported a goatee and wore a scarf wrapped around his head. Tiego carried two blades, each in an ornate scabbard. One was slung across his back and the other worn on his hip. Yet, he only ever used the one worn on his back. The other stayed in its scabbard and he refused to use it in combat, even if he was disarmed of his main sword. Tiego only took the sword from its scabbard in holy places. In the seclusion of these sacred sites he would clean and sharpen the sword, whispering quiet prayers over it in his native tongue.
Jadivolett and Tiego lived in a world where everything, from the mightiest God to the lowliest pebble, possessed a spirit. The strongest of these spirits, the Divine spirits, belonged to Gods and Goddesses. Next came the Demigods and Demigoddesses, each of whom possessed Greater spirits. Next came living things, who possessed Mortal spirits. Finally, the Lesser spirits were bound to inanimate objects such as rocks, tools, or weapons.
On a hill, off the main road that led into Bekkri, stood a mill and bakery. Spying a well on the edge of the property, Jadivolett and Tiego decided to ask the baker if they could refill their canteens. As they approached the bakery, they saw the door was wide open and worried sounding voices could be heard inside. Jadivolett stepped into the bakery and the baker instantly recognized her as a servant of Olentar by the holy symbol around her neck. The baker and his family bowed low to Jadivolett and begged her to help them.
The night before, someone had broken into the bakery. The thief had made off with only one thing, a clutch of eggs. These eggs had been laid by the Demigoddess Akla, known throughout the region as the Sky Princess. Akla was a daughter of Olentar and the Demigoddess of birds. She was a large bird with shining silver wings and her head was crowned with a plume of crimson feathers. She flew about the world, sailing wherever the winds took her. All who were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of her remarked at her loveliness Every year Akla laid a clutch of eggs. She was a proud Demigoddess, and did not want to share glory with any offspring who might turn out to surpass her own beauty.
Each year when it was time to lay her eggs, Akla returned to an old, no longer used mill on the baker's land. Akla was vulnerable and exposed while laying her eggs, and the baker’s family watched over and cared for her. In exchange for their protection, Akla gifted the baker's family the eggs, which they used to make a special batch of biscotti. The baker and his family sorely relied on these biscotti. They sold them each year at the Festival of Winter Winds, always saving a few batches to give to the ruler of their country and to offer to Olentar as tribute. Without the extra coin earned through the sale of the biscotti, the baker worried how he would support his family for the coming year. He also did not want to anger Olentar or Akla and bring their wrath down upon his homestead.
Seeing that the baker and his family were devout worshippers of her Patron, Jadivolett agreed to help locate and retrieve the eggs. Looking around the bakery, Jadivolett saw that none of the doors had been forced open from the outside. The only sign of the break in was the larder's shattered lock. The thief had slipped inside, stolen the eggs, and then snuck out without waking the baker and his family as they slept upstairs. In his haste to flee, the thief had dropped one of Akla's eggs. Its golden yoke had dried onto the floor and the pieces of its deep blue shell lay next to the shattered remains of the larder's lock.
Jadivolett knelt down and examined the pieces of the lock. Instantly she sensed the remnants of divine power coming off the shattered lock and realized the thief had been aided by a Deity. Next Jadivolett scooped up the remnants of the broken egg and stepped out of the bakery. Channeling Olentar's power through her holy symbol, Jadivolett called a wind spirit to her. The wind spirit whisked the pieces of eggshell out of Jadivolett's hand. As the wind spirit hovered in front of her, Jadivolett used Olentar's power to cast a spell on the eggshell. With the spell active, the wind spirit would be able to track down the rest of Akla's eggs.
The baker's son brought around three horses. Jadivolett, Tiego, and the baker's son mounted and following after the wind spirit, set off after the thief. The trio rode quickly as the wind spirit flew ahead of them. After a few hours , they saw a lone figure walking down the road ahead. They reigned in their horses and Jadivolett sent the wind spirit forward. The wind spirit reached the figure and hovered over his head, confirming that he was indeed the thief.
Bidding the baker's son to wait, Jadivolett and Tiego galloped in the thief’s direction. Jadivolett rode directly at the thief while Tiego rode diagonally in a flanking maneuver. Hearing Jadivolett approaching, the thief broke into a run. He moved from the road and ran toward a nearby wood, but his chosen course took him directly into Tiego's path. Leaping from his horse, Tiego performed a front roll. Coming around to his feet, Tiego sprinted after the thief, harnessing the momentum generated by his leap off the moving horse.
Just before he reached the wood, Tiego caught up with the thief. In one fluid movement Tiego grabbed the thief's bag while planting a foot on the back of his knee. The thief stumbled forward and Tiego pulled the bag off of his shoulder. This action spun the thief around and he slammed into the trunk of a tree. Tiego opened the bag and saw that the remaining eggs were safely nestled inside. Getting to his feet, the thief shouted a protest at the same moment that Jadivolett rode up on her horse. Calling upon Olentar's power, Jadivolett sent a gust of wind surging forward, knocking the thief back against the trunk of the tree.
Dismounting, Tiego drew his sword and Jadivolett pulled her mace from her belt. As they approached the thief, he cried out and begged them for mercy. The baker's son rode up, and climbing off his horse, demanded that Jadivolett punish the thief. Jadivolett told the baker's son to take the eggs and return to the bakery, promising him that the thief would receive what he deserved, but that first she wanted to know why he had stolen the eggs. As the baker's son reluctantly took the eggs and rode back toward Bekkri, the thief began to explain himself.
The thief's name was Kallan and he came from a family of famous brick masons who worshipped Dovraa, the Demigoddess of Boundaries. In exchange for their devout worship, Dovraa blessed each of the bricks Kallan's family produced. The Demigoddess' blessing made the bricks incredibly strong and they were sought after all across the region for walls, dams, and fortifications alike. It was Dovraa who had granted Kallan the abilities he needed to break into the bakery. Using the powers Dovraa had temporarily bestowed upon him, Kallan was able to slip beneath the bakery's locked door and break the lock that secured the larder. At this point in his story, Kallan began to weep with shame and sorrow.
Kallan explained through his tears that he had not stolen the eggs for personal gain. He had taken the eggs to save his family. Kallan's family had been abducted by Ustov the ogre. Ustov demanded that Kallan bring him a treasure or he would devour the brick mason's family. Kallan had appealed to Dovraa for aid and the Demigoddess had told him of the eggs. Kallan had been on his way to present the eggs to Ustov when Tiego and Jadivolett had intercepted him.
Jadivolett asked Kallan to take them to Ustov the ogre so that the thief's story could be verified. Jadivolett promised to rescue his family, but warned Kallan that if he was lying, they would return him to Bekkri to answer for his crimes. With Kallan riding behind Tiego, the trio set off on horseback toward Ustov's lair. Ustov lived in a shallow valley called Ully's Hollow inside a wide mouthed cave. The bones of horses, beasts, and men could be seen scattered all around the cave’s entrance. Ustov had stacked boulders all around the mouth of the cave, forming crude, rickety towers of stone. Off to one side, a fallen tree trunk stood at an angle, anchored between two piles of rocks. From the tree hung a cage that held Kallan's family.
Jadivolett, Tiego, and Kallan returned to the edge of Ully's Hollow and tied up their horses. Then Tiego and Jadivolett formulated a plan. Tiego would sneak around and climb atop the cave while Jadivolett flushed out Ustov. Then, once they had slain the ogre, Jadivolett and Tiego would free Kallan's family. Until then, Kallan was to remain hidden, and Jadivolett warned him against trying to flee. Kallan nodded his agreement and the trio hunkered down in a place where they were hidden from view but could still see the cave.
Soon Ustov returned, carrying a net full of fish and the carcass of a large deer. The ogre stood over eight feet tall. His smooth skin was covered in an odd pattern, a curved stripe with a short hash mark through its center. Large glistening teeth, too big for Ustov's mouth, protruded past his lips. His beard, brow, knuckles, and the tops of his feet were covered by a layer of stone that merged seamlessly into his flesh. As Ustov entered the cave, tossing a few fish into the cage for Kallan's family to eat, Tiego set off across the valley.
When Tiego was in position, Jadivolett stepped forward and channeled Olentar's power. She sent a strong gust of wind into the cave which put out Ustov's cooking fire and tossed his belongings around the cavern. Ustov rushed out of the cave, carrying a long club. When he saw Jadivolett, Ustov let out a bellowing roar and charged. As Ustov passed beneath the upper threshold of the cave, Tiego leapt down and rammed his sword into the ogre's shoulder.
Planting his feet, Tiego pulled his sword free and leapt to the ground. He landed and immediately cut into the back of Ustov's right leg with two fluid sword slashes. Grunting in pain as his leg buckled, Ustov dropped to one knee. At the same time, Jadivolett drew her mace and ran forward. She slammed her mace into the extended knee of Ustov's other leg and the ogre howled in pain before lashing out wildly with his club.
Jadivolett moved backward quickly, evading the swing of Ustov's club, as Tiego drove his blade into the ogre's kidney. Tiego pulled his blade free and moved backward into the cave as Jadivolett channeled the power of Olentar. Through the Wind God's power, Jadivolett summoned several wind spirits. With a wave of her hand, the wind spirits began to fly around each other, hovering over where Ustov was struggling stand. The wind spirits generated a vortex of air that pulled down the columns of stacked boulders, crushing Ustov beneath.
With Ustov defeated, Jadivolett called Kallan out of hiding as Tiego freed the brick mason's family. Kallan and his family embraced one another before thanking Tiego and Jadivolett for their help. Together, Jadivolett and Tiego searched Ustov's cave and found piles of coin and treasure the ogre had been hording. Kallan's homestead was nearby and after he escorted his family home, he returned with a cart pulled by two oxen, as well as several empty crates and boxes.
Jadivolett and Tiego loaded most of the treasure in the wagon to take back to Bekkri, where it would be given as a tribute to Olentar during the Festival of the Winter Winds. Tiego gave most of his share to Kallan, keeping just enough to pay for his own provisions. Jadivolett did the same, choosing to donate most of her share of the treasure to the baker and his family.
Kallan accompanied Jadivolett and Tiego back to the baker's house, and explained to the baker his reasons for stealing the eggs. The baker forgave Kallan and soon after, the brick mason returned to his homestead. The treasure Jadivolett gave the baker's family would have made them wealthy and ensured that they no longer had to work. However, the baker and his family decided to share the wealth with their neighbors and the treasure was distributed throughout the town.
The baker and his family then set to work making the special biscotti so that they would be ready in time to sell at the Festival of the Winter Winds. Tiego and Jadivolett spent the day resting after their fight against the ogre. The next day, they made their way into Bekkri and attended the festival. The celebration was a nice reprieve, but soon each of their minds began to turn toward their next adventure.