Axe of the Last Hearth

The Storm was becoming direr and direr with step, and my reserves were running out. The helmet was giving me at least some form of protection against the elements, but it would ultimately prove irrelevant, unless a shelter were to be found. Perhaps this was my punishment, perhaps the gods had passed their judgement on me for my previous deeds. But whilst I may have not been in god’s favour, my destiny was still my own, and I was prepared to go to any lengths to survive. Considering further events, I suspect that my salvation was not a stroke of luck, but instead my destiny, for I was to encounter another object of my visions. I found myself in a clearing, with a small cottage in the middle of it. I first thought my eyes were deceiving me, for I knew every crevice within 20 miles of my village; and this, I have never encountered. Yes, the storm made me unable to find my way back home, as it had obscured my vision, but it would surely not make me forget such a unique landmark. There were other powers at hand here, of that I was sure. Distrustful of any spirits and gods, I treated carefully towards the hut, with my axe at the ready. There was light coming from under the door, but I would not let myself be beguiled by temptation of quick comfort. I still treaded slowly, making sure not to make a single sound, even if there was a storm nearby. Who knows how perceptive a spirit living here might be. Upon reaching the door, I quietly grabbed the handle, raised my axe and prepared myself to rush in, and incapacitate anyone who might be there. My plan was simple, yet it still managed to fail spectacularly in even its first phase, because I had not anticipated the door to open itself with me still holding the handle. I unwittingly stumbled inside, and I was quickly disarmed and grappled by whatever inhabited this cottage. I welcomed the warmth, the smell of burning wood and roasting meat, even thought I had other problems to attend to. Once my eye adjusted to the indoors, I found myself being held in a lock by a man at least a head lower than I was. For such a small man, he had incredible amounts of strength and I couldn’t escape his hold. Before I managed to do anything else, the inhabitant only said; “You should just knock, you know.” And with these words he released me. I was left dumbstruck, unable of speech. What kind of sorcery was this. The man before me was an ordinary human of the empire kind, those scrawny puny fanatics, not a barbarian; yet he was living in this land, and didn’t try to kill me on sight. “You are not a barbarian.” was the first thing that came out of my mouth. “How very observant of you, indeed I am not. The previous owner of this place was though, and I am just honouring his legacy.” “What legacy?” I asked. He took a deep breath before answering my query; “This ancient place is known as the Last Hearth, it is a safe haven, a last bastion of hospitality, and it will exist as long as there are people willing to help others without seeking any gain. Those unfortunate, lost, or wandering sometimes find their way here, and they will never be refused hospitality for as much time as they need.” This got me quite curious, but before I managed to inquire further, my host stepped outside and returned with a unique queer axe, which he left me to examine. “This axe is the symbol of the protectors of the Last Hearth. It was a gift by a god long forgotten, It is enchanted by magic of old, and is very powerful, yet it may only be wielded by those who would use it for the good of others and not their own. It is our means of preserving the warm fire burning in all of us, which unfortunately many want to snuff out.” I was finally prepared to ask my questions, but it would seem my host was lonely for quite some time, and had a few more words to say; “But enough with the grim stuff, what misfortune brought you here?” Upon being asked this, I realized how much I wanted to talk about my ailments, so I started to talk. I started with my initiation, I talked about my insecurities, about my father’s death, and lastly… about my vision. My tale seemed to catch him off guard, and with a trembling voice, he said; “You saw this place? this axe? and the frozen king? The others have told me this moment was destined to happen, and I am to do anything in my powers to help you, for you will need all the help you can get.” And with these words, he ceremoniously knelt down and raised his hands, that were gently holding the magical axe. This was a gesture of offering, and with a grateful bow, I accepted his gift.