"'E lives ta the North. No one goes that way now. Not since 'e came." - Korin , Sluagh Grump Fisherman
North of Seattle Washington, near Vancouver Island, in the Gulf Islands lies a small island with a strange mix of coniferous and deciduous trees. The island appears to be almost completely circular, except for one small indentation that holds a badly jimmied wharf. On the North end the island slopes down to a sandy pebble-strewn beach, while heading towards the south it rises to come to a steep rock cliff, rushing down to meet the pounding waves. Small game trails wind their way through the brush and, apparently, birds fill the trees, though rarely is one seen.
From the dock, one such game trail winds its way through the forest, ending abruptly in the centre. With apparently no destinations, trespassers are left to wonder at this strange path. To Kithain eyes, however, the place takes on quite a different feel. The evergreens are several tones darker and leaves lie at the base of the other skeletal trees. The path ends in the underbrush near a sizable keep, approximately three stories above ground it stands with its back to the great cliff. This keep is Winterholm.
The keep is dull grey stone, with brown-green vines crawling along the sides and corners like skeletal tendrils. The Keep is square, with four square parapets, one at each corner. A large brass door opens at the front of the keep to allow entry into the main foyer.
Jade marble lies across the floor of the main foyer, with a mosaic of the Fall from Heaven framed in copper spread out in the center. In a horseshoe shape the Grand Stair leads to the upper levels of the castle. Few venture beyond this room without a guide, however, for the hallways twist and twine in an almost serpentine manner, and one is sure to be lost. Many of the passages bear no decoration, then after opening a door a traveller may find himself thrust into a hall of fine raiment, crests or great works of art. Because of the disorientation of the labyrinthine passages, few other rooms are known by any outsiders.
Some rooms of note are known, however. The first would be the library. A small fire often crackles here, with a pot of tea brewing above it. The family crest, a waterfall of antlers surrounded in a circle of Celtic knotwork on a purple field, hangs on one wall. Although not huge, it is rather extensive with tomes covering fae history, mundane history, metaphysics, metallurgy, sorcerous theory, and many other subjects. As well it contains some lighter reading, including sidhe poetry. Of late the owner has noticed a complete lack of anything to do with theories of sidhe reincarnation, but he does not believe this to be his fault. One section contains a rack of books written by the keep's owner, and two others are published copies, properly bound, with his name on the spine. The books are on the subject of Dauntain. Hunting, categorizing, combating, and anecdotal volumes of one of the Dreaming's greatest Dauntain hunters.
Through many twisting corridors, past Escheresque stairwells and misshapen doorways, one slowly descends into the bowels of the keep. There, buried beneath Winterholm is the Scryroom. This circular room is bare of any ornamentation, with cold stone walls, floor and ceiling. Two passages lead off from here, on to the dungeons and another to the Chamber of Cleansing. The room is dominated by a large circular white marble pool, filled with a strange liquid substance that acts like a mirror. The pool, however, is in fact a powerful Scry Pool, rumoured to be able to view anywhere in the world at the command of its owner. Recent experiments have shown its powers may go beyond even this. The Chamber of Cleansing is attached to this room by a short passage. The Chamber is commonly used for meditation and preparation for great sorceries. Recently, it became a cell when the castle was overtaken by agents of Shadow.
While little is known of the present condition of Winterholm, less is known of its history. It is said that the freehold was once held by local nunnehi, often used to commemorate their dead to the spirit world and then to commune with the spirits. Several years ago a dark force passed over the area and the nunnehi have regarded the island with fear ever since. It was thus ripe for the taking when its new keeper found it.
The keep itself is of recent construction, not much more than a couple of decades old. Built with the strange abilities of the Dauntain, its innards defy comprehension. Whether or not the Keeper, as he is known among the nunnehi, built the keep entirely himself is unknown. It is unlikely there were many to serve him.
For many years the island sat without incident, except for the comings and goings of its Keeper. Not long ago, however, it was overrun by the forces of Shadow who wished to use its power to birth a new Queen of Air and Darkness after the last Queen was defeated by the Company of Tears . The Keeper of the island miraculously escaped and reached Seattle. There he gathered the Company once more, along with several new members, and they chased the invaders away.
"The Keeper likes to be left alone. Long ago, the soil was claimed by darkness. He is one with the darkness, though he still carries the light with him." -words of a Nunnehi Elder
The Keeper appeared seemingly out of nowhere, from what the Nunnehi know. His name is Erik Mikelson . Once he was Knight of the Realm for Caer ABE , near Allentown, Pa. He was the greatest Dauntain hunter in the area, and defeated many of the tortured souls. Most do not know the story of his decline and, until recently, it was believed he died about 20 years ago.
Erik Mikelson became hungry. His lust for power was insatiable. He was seduced by the Black Magicians and became a Dauntain himself. Strangely, twice in the last year he has actively helped save the Dreaming, although he avidly proclaims it was only because it served his greater goals. Mostly he stays a bit of a hermit, and more of a riddler, working away at his sorceries and trying to block from his mind the face of a wandering sidhe named Elenora Mendez .
There is one other who regularly visits the island. He resides in Seattle near Pier 88 in a small shack that proudly displays a sign saying, “I 8 the fish”. His accent lends no clue to his origin, and he seems to share the hermit qualities of Erik. Most likely, he is where Erik has picked up these traits.
His name is Korin , a sluagh grump who owns a boat which could be lethal on a three hour tour. He is, perhaps, a friend of Erik’s. Strangely, he almost seems to serve the Dauntain. The only explanation that has ever been given was to Rhynn Wanderer when Erik said, “He owes me a few favours.” Still, whenever Erik needs a ride to the mainland, Korin is always waiting at the dock ready to go, with some caustic remark to give the “gosling.”
The Freehold Proper
The Sacred Stone, for the island is a glade, is somewhere in the keep, hidden well. Perhaps it lies in some cave on the island, perhaps it is buried beneath the castle. Whatever the case, it is still there and survives even under the Dauntain’s banality. This is a great advantage to Erik, as he requires glamour for his climb in power. Still, he does affect the power of the freehold. Since he came, it has been quite weak (level 1 freehold), but if he were to leave for a long duration, no doubt the power would drastically increase.