Author Topic: The Fimbulvinter Saga  (Read 23980 times)


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The Fimbulvinter Saga
« on: February 03, 2012, 03:14:00 PM »
The Fimbulvinter Saga

Brothers shall strive and slaughter each other;
Own sisters' children shall sin together;
Ill days among men, many a whoredom:
An axe-age, a sword-age, shields shall be cloven;
A wind-age, a wolf-age, ere the world totters.

- Völuspá

This is the log from my on-and-off Norse game, set in a world reminiscent of mythological Viking Age earth (Midgard) just before Ragnarök.  We use Pathfinder rules with a level cap of 8 (E8) - experience beyond 8th level grants feats and abilities, but no other statistical increases.  Text in bold represents the GM speaking.

Wulfheim & Surrounds
The Blóðlands
The Hrafnlands
The Görnlands

IC: The Heroes
Æskil the Gray, also later known as Æskil Trollsbane, played by Leetz, a grizzled warrior with a dark past.  Fighter.

Andreas Roaldsen, played by The Meanest Guest, a Fatherman of the Austrogoth tribe, intent on reclaiming the Star of St. Mark.  Inquisitor.

Beardless Sjack, played by Xathan, a disgraced Blóðbard possessed by a strange spirit named Verjartix.  Synthesist.

Dagny Lyrkenja, played by sparkletwist, a Hrafnii woman with magical talents gleaned from a book of Dvergar lore.  Wizard.

Egil, played by Llum, a servant of the god of hunting and games, Ullr. Warpriest.

Hróar, played by Ghostman, a shaggy Trollblood warrior-shaman from the distant isle of Thule, accompanied by the owl Varðmaðr. Bloodrager/Shaman.

Katla, played by Ghostman, a shield-maiden of the tribe of Ægir, in search of glory.  Barbarian/Ranger.

Kylfa the Kvenlander, also later known as the Great Bear, played by Polycarp, a rugged bear-shaman from the far north.  Bear Shaman.

Mjorðir “Véogrímr” Brúnnulfson, played by Rose-of-Vellum, a skald and champion of Týr in the service of Jarl Wulfgar, accompanied by the rooster Gyllhani, the Víðópnisson. Skald/Paladin.

Ragnvaldr, played by Kindling, an Ægirian raider with an enthusiasm for bloody slaughter and great affection for his companion, the dog Aslaug.  Fighter.

Sirje Isrelund, played by Superfluous Crow, seeress and former thrall of the Hrafnii.  Oracle/Winter Witch.

Tígris Reikalfr, played by HippopotamusDundee, a Ljósálfr on a mysterious mission, accompanied by his sabre-tooth cat, Stile. Hunter.

Vidar, played by Weave, a scarred Hrafnii skald with a cutting wit and a taste for bloodshed. Skald.

Vintersdottir, played by sparkletwist, a grim and cunning warrior-women and practitioner of fell Seidr. Oracle/Rogue.

IC: Contents

The Blóðbard Cycle

IC: Fitt I: Escape from Thralldom
The wind shrieks like mansworn souls writhing on Náströnd, the frigid air burns like the breath of the Hel-Worm Nidhogg, and the snow falls so densely that you might think yourself lost in the freezing mists of Niflheim.  Is this still Midgard or have you died already, claimed by the piercing cold of Fimbulvinter and cast down to the realm of the dishonoured dead?  Sometimes, in the icy desolation, you find it hard to be certain.  Night is approaching; in the fading light everything is turned to shades of gray, as if you walked on an endless plain of corpse-flesh.

Taken captive by a band of ravening Blóðbards, you and a group of strangers are being led through the swirling waste, your hands tied with strong rope bonds.  The going is slow: you must trudge through knee-deep snow, and the savage Blóðbards have not fed you for a day and half.  A thousand aches and pains assail you, and exhaustion has crept into your bones.  Your captors are mostly mounted, spared the harrowing difficulty of the march.  Several are armed with bows, to pick off anyone attempting flight.  There are eighteen in all – a motley group of scarred, cold-eyed men in piecemeal armour.

You overheard two of the long-bearded, tattooed marauders say that you were headed for Skrikborg, seat of Ivar the Perverse, the Blóðbard king.  What will befall you once you are there you cannot say for certain.  If you are lucky you will be made a thrall, to be worked to the bone and then buried in an unmarked grave, but it is known that the Blóðbards eat human flesh, and make sacrifices to dark gods.  No matter what the Norns decree, an evil fate awaits you.

Your possessions, and those of your fellow captives, are loaded onto the packhorses and carts following close behind you, though the marauders have already helped themselves to your property.  A tall, thin youth in a rusted hauberk with a string of shriveled ears around his neck hefts a long axe graven with scriptural markings of the Southron faith, Andreas' rich fur cloak draped around his shoulders; near the head of the column a warrior whose fair hair is tied in long, greasy braids bears Katla's shield on his back, a war-hammer swinging at his waist; closer to the rear of the group a hunched Blóðbard with many-ringed fingers wears Æskil's splint mail.

Various stolen beasts – pigs, sheep, even a dog – have been caged and thrown into the carts.

Ragnvaldr trudges along nearest the carts, wanting to keep an eye on Aslaug; Kylfa is just in front of him.  Andreas, marching in front, shivers and mutters a prayer to the Father.  Katla and Æskil march behind him.  Sjack stays to the middle, keeping his head down.  

Æskil grumbles as he eyes the rat with his armour. Ragnvaldr simply trudges, eyes down, shivering silently.

"You are all damned men, you know," Andreas calls out to his captors.  "Valhalla does not wait for you. Only the burning pits of the Inferno!"

Kylfa looks up briefly at Andreas beneath rime-covered eyebrows and "harrumphs" softly.  

As Andreas calls out to his captors, one of the Blóðbards - a thick-set man with an infected wen on his face and sharpened, yellow teeth - snarls.  He draws his weapon, a broad-bladed sword, then approaches Andreas and strikes out with the weapon's pommel.

"No talking!"  The marauder commands.  "Next peep I hear I cut out a kidney.  Could do with a bite to eat."

Andreas spits and gives the Blóðbard a dark look.

Katla grits her teeth as the cold wind beats on her face. Her wolfish eyes are veritable images of defiance.

Æskil's eyes flit from raider to raider, looking for something, anything that could maybe turn the tables.

In the swirling white haze, it's near-impossible to see more than a few feet in front of you.  Though you see no weaknesses, you do see several dark shapes appear out of the wintry gloom up ahead.  As you draw nearer you see the outlines of a village.

Æskil feigns to fall in the snow, trying to break his ropes while half-hidden in the drifts.

Kylfa closes his eyes and concentrates, testing his bonds.

Katla stops abruptly, seeing Æskil fall down just before her. She steps away from him and glances around, looking for an opportunity to free herself while the guards' attention is drawn away from her.

You struggle and strain, Æskil, but to no avail.  A Blóðbard approaches and kicks you hard in the ribs.

Æskil grunts and spits blood at the Blóðbard's dirty boot.

"On your feet, old man!"  He kicks you again, then hauls you up roughly and shoves you back in line.

Ragnvaldr barely looks up at the commotion, too wearily fixated on the arduous task of placing one foot in front of the other.

Kylfa shakes his head sadly.

There's a moment where everyone's distracted, either watching the commotion or simply looking ahead.

Katla sensing an opportune moment, decides to use it before it passes.  She wrenches with all her might against the ropes, but fails. She determines to wait for the next opportunity.

Æskil keeps bleeding from his mouth, leaving a spattered trail in the snow.

Ragnvaldr grunts, testing the strength of his bonds for what feels like the thousandth time today.

The bonds hold, Ragnvaldr.

The village is now directly ahead.

"We'll camp here tonight," the Blóðbard leader - a one-eyed brute in splint mail who wears a leather cloak made of flayed human faces sewn together into a gruesome patchwork - declares loudly to his fellows.  He gestures with his spear towards the settlement.  "Villagers starved to death a few months back.  Should be secure, but be careful anyway.  Could be others taking shelter there."

The village is half-buried in snow.  A few rotting corpses protrude from the white drifts, faces shriveled by famine.  There are about a dozen buildings in all - mostly dwellings, as well as a smithy and what looks like a carpentry workshop and a tannery.  Broken fences ring the settlement.  The buildings are of wooden planks, with sharply gabled roofs.

"Take the prisoners to that longhouse," the one-eyed marauder orders, indicating a large hall near the center of the village.  "Húni, Agmund, Klintr, Skeggi, and Hrolf, you'll stay with them.  I want at least two of you awake at all times.  Well keep the packhorses in yonder stables."

Your guards herd you towards the building.  Their numbers include the swordsman with the wen, the youth with the string of shrivelled ears, the braided war-hammer wielder, and two others: a sallow-skinned, rotten-toothed spearman whose cheeks are covered in runic tattoos, and a fork-bearded archer wearing wolverine pelts.

Inside the longhouse two emaciated, stinking corpses writhe with maggots, putrid husks clasping one another with gaunt, worm-eaten limbs - a hideous, final embrace.  The central hearth is a mound of ash, an old, empty pot suspended over the long-dead cinders.  A stairway leads up to a loft level.  The longhouse's furniture includes half a dozen straw-lined beds, a loom, several benches and chairs, and a number of wooden chests; threadbare rugs and wall-hangings are the only decorations.  A wooden door leads to a bed-closet at the end of the hall, and another door leads to a small pantry, thoroughly devoid of food.

Sjack just watches, observing everything he can.

Two of the Blóðbards carry the festering cadavers out of the longhouse, hurling the bodies unceremoniously into the snow.  The other three hustle you inside into the middle of the room, their weapons ready.

Ragnvaldr numbly complies.

"You three get up into the loft, then," the wen-faced man orders, pointing to Ragnvaldr, Sjack, and Andreas.  "The rest of you will kip in the pantry.  Except for you, girl.  You'll stay down here with us.  It's past time we had some fun with you."  He leers, flashing his sharpened teeth at Katla.

Æskil has finally stopped bleeding. His beard is a mess of rust-coloured blood and ice.  He gets into the pantry.  Kylfa grunts ruefully and complies.

Andreas stumbles up the stairway; Ragnvaldr follows Andreas.

The loft is cramped and dark.  It looks like longhouse owners stored a few oddments up here - spare straw, casks of liquor (doubtless long-emptied), some candles, and a wooden chest.

Katla stands, her eyes blazing with fury. She spits at the man's face!

The wen-faced man wipes his face and laughs.  "Got some fight in her!  I like that in a woman."

Sjack stares the guards, hard, and looks at Kalta.  "No," he says.

"Don't be stupid, boy," Andreas mumbles.

The youth with the string of ears snickers.  "What did you say?"

Ragnvaldr sighs as he hears Sjack speak up, but does not look around. No need to witness another pointless killing.

Kylfa looks over his shoulder at the bickering group, and attempts to squeeze free of his bonds as they argue.

You strain against the ropes, to no avail.

"I said no."

The youth's grin fades.  He takes Andreas' long axe and strikes at Sjack with the butt of the haft.

"Shut up, beardless boy, or we'll have you next!"  The fork-bearded archer says.  "Your cheeks are smooth enough to pass for a girl anyway."

Æskil searches for anything that could possibly bash a skull or a cut a rope.

You look around the pantry but find nothing of use.  The guards close the door and prop a chair against it to keep it shut.

Sjack gives the woman a look, and looks at the guards. "I know your face," he says to the youth.

The young man pales and goes very quiet, Sjack.

Andreas stands at the top of the stairs, watching the events below.

Sjack, you're being pushed up the stairs by the other marauders.

Sjack grins at the youth. "Good. You understand fear. Now understand that should you allow anyone to lay a hand on this woman, I will be displeased." Sjack allows himself to be pushed now.

The youth shivers and says nothing, looking down.

Sjack looks at the others as he's put into the loft.

The Blóðbards set about making a fire.  The braided marauder takes out his war-hammer and smashes one of the longhouse's chairs for kindling, while others gather some straw.  The fork-bearded archer begins striking a flame.  Soon the straw is smoldering, smoke curling upwards.  The youth with the string of ears takes out Andreas' holy tome from a satchel and begins absently tearing pages out to feed the flames.

"Now then, girl," the wen-faced Blóðbard says.  "Get to the sleeping-cupboard and make yourself ready; we'll be taking you in turns."

"I call first," the spearman with rotten teeth says.  The youth says nothing, looking down.

"Like Hel you are.  We'll play to see who goes first."  The marauder takes out a small bag and tips a set of knucklebones into one large, dirty hand.

"Hold, Skeggi," the archer says.  "Let's eat first.  Food before fun."

"Hmph.  Very well."

The Blóðbards begin unpacking supplies to make a stew in the pot over the now-flickering fire.  One of them gets out a wineskin.  They will be occupied for awhile.  One of them shoves Katla towards the bed-closet.

Ragnvaldr gives his bonds a more thorough trial now that he's in private and can let his effort show.

Ragnvaldr, your bonds are still holding strong.

Ragnvaldr grunts in frustration as he turns red in the face trying to wrench his hands free. With a muttered curse gives up and wanders over to examine the chest.

Ragnvaldr, inside the chest you find an assortment of carpentry tools: files, nails, a small hammer, a chisel, a rusty adze for smoothing planks, and a wood-saw.

Ragnvaldr grins and starts to rub his bonds against the saw.

"Fatherman. Look here," he says.

Andreas looks up, and casts about.  "Yes, heathen? What do you want?"

Sjack looks at his bonds, and his compatriots.

"We can cut ourselves free, with these," Ragnvalder whispers.  "Come, you too boy."

"Wonderful," Sjack says quietly.

"Ah. Freedom, then? We shall see." Andreas moves over to the chest of tools, and follows Ragnvaldr's lead.

"We have some time, but not much - Bloodbeards are quick eaters."  Sjack follows Rangvaldr's lead as well.

Ragnvaldr flexes his hands and rubs his sore wrists, a cruel grin splitting his face, then hurries to free Andreas.

Down below, the marauders are on to their second wineskin.

"I need a minute to make myself useful," Sjack whispers.

Meanwhile, in the pantry, Kylfa looks for anything flammable.

It's dark in the pantry, now.  The only flammable objects are some empty sacks.

Kylfa begins shoving the empty sacks together with his feet, into a small pile.

"What are you doing?" Æskil whispers.

Kylfa says softly, "I am going to give our ropes a cooking.  Or try."

Æskil says, "Burn my ropes, not the house. They will come for sure."

Kylfa squints at Æskil, then nods and attempts to cast Spark on Æskil's bonds.

The bonds sizzle and smoke; a small hole is burnt in them.

"Can you break them now?" Kylfa asks.

Æskil takes his time and gathers his might before attempting to break the half-burnt ropes.

You break the bonds easily.

Æskil unties Kylfa quickly.

Kylfa nods gratefully.  "And of the door?"

Æskil asks "Know any more demon-magic?"

"Hmph.  Of that I do, but of use...?  I can make a man great like an ogre, or heal wounds."

Katla waits for the Blóðbards to be busy with their eating. She watches at the door being barred.

Æskil searches the pantry for any loose planks or boards.

Æskil, you do find a loose plank on the floor.  Prying it up would be noisy, though.

"Ah, what luck..."

Æskil begins yelling and screaming at Kylfa.

Kylfa raises his eyebrows.  "Quiet!"

Æskil keeps yelling, but nods towards the floorboard.

Up in the loft, Sjack begins to chant to himself. "Verjartix"

Ragnvaldr goes and gets the hammer from the tool-chest after freeing Andreas, giving it a couple of tentative swings.

"And shall we set ourselves upon our captors?" Andrew whispers. "As Andrew set himself upon the merchants of Sedil?"

"Who is Andrew?" Ragnvaldr asks.

Andreas smiles.  "A friend to all righteous men."

The Blóðbards look over to the racket in the pantry.  The spearman jabs his weapon's haft against the door.  "Shut up in there!"

Kylfa attempts to pry up the board while he is shouting...

You have the board.

"Next time, warn me when you do that," Kylfa grunts.

Æskil grins and looks below.

"What in Loki's name are they doing in there?" the fork-bearded archer says.

"Heh.  Bet the old guy's getting buggered," the wen-faced swordsman replies.

Up in the loft, Sjack form begins to change, elongating, till where he was sits a serpent on two legs.

Ragnvaldr stares over Andreas' shoulder at what used to be Sjack, wide-eyed. "Odin's cold wrath...."

Andreas turns.  "Ah. A witch. Useful, perhaps."

"Useful? You're a funny one, Fatherman." Ragnvaldr scoffs.  "Will it kill the Blóðbards, though? If it will, I'll forgive its ugliness."

Sjack turns his serpentine head to the other two. "Now is when we should begin to free ourselves."

Andreas runs a hand through his short and well-kept blond beard.

"Come then. Let us make Andrews of ourselves, eh?" Ragnvaldr quietly urges.

Andreas nods, and walks calmly out on to the landing at the top of the stairs.

Meanwhile Katla figures she might as well take the time to tear at the rope binding her hands.

The bed-closet is cramped and stuffy, though the warmth is welcome after many hours of bitter cold.  Sheepskins, wool blankets, and a pair of lumpy pillows cover a bed of straw.   A shield hangs on the wall over the bed.  You see something glinting under the pillow as you wriggle your bonds loose.

Katla examines the glinting object or thing.

It's a knife in a leather sheathe, likely stowed under the pillow in case the longhouse is attacked and defence is imminently required.

Katla swears under her breath for the stroke of luck. She takes the knife and the shield.

"I am running short on ideas, friend," Kylfa growls to Æskil.

Æskil gathers a handful of dirt, nods at Kylfa to do the same.

Kylfa scratches at the dirt with his broad hands, trying to see how feasible digging might be.

Digging would not be very viable.

Æskil turns to Kylfa. "Alright warlock, make me an ogre. I'd rather die on my feet than in a pantry."

Kylfa digs around his pouch for a pinch of powdered iron.  "I would not do it in this pantry, for you may be too big to fit through the door."

"Than I will make a new door."

"No, I do not think so.  Let us get through first, and then I will make you greater."

"And do you expect us to get through first witch?"


The Blóðbards are nearing the end of their meal.

"In Apoli, they burned Aaron on the pyre," Andreas says loudly to the marauders below.  "But he would not die. For three days he screamed, calling out to Our Father. At first the heathens only laughed, but as his torment stretched on and on, they began to grow afraid. Aaron died, as surely as any man must. And relief came to the men of Apoli at last. But it did not last long. Any man, woman or child who heard that scream grew ill with a great fever, and so too did they die, screaming in agony, just as Aaron did."  Andreas opens his mouth, as if to scream.

The Blóðbards turn to look at Andreas.  The youth has a handful of the Austrogoth's holy book's pages in his hand.

Sjack leaps out of the loft, attempting to land near one of the Blóðbards.  He darts his head forward, attempting to sink his fangs into the closest one.

You bite at the startled wen-faced wordsman, but your teeth crunch into mail, not flesh!

Sjack hisses. "Your death is at hand."

Andreas cries out wordlessly, inaudible to all but the youth.

The youth is startled by the scream and stumbles back, dropping your book only inches from the fire.  He claps his hands over his ears.

Katla hearing the unmistakeable sounds of a fight ensuing, springs out from the cupboards. She makes straight for the pantry door, kicking off the chair set against it and pulling it open.  "Step outside, then ruin them! Time to fight for your lives!"

Æskil steps out of the door, floorboard in hand.

Ragnvaldr steps grimly past Andreas and advances down the stairs to attack the nearest Blóðbard with the hammer.

You bash the spearman in the face, the force of the blow rippling up your arm as iron bludgeons flesh and bone.  Teeth and blood spray from his lips.

Æskil runs out of the pantry, floorboard in both hands, and swings at the nearest marauder.

Kylfa shouts like a mad beast, tosses his pinch of iron into the air, and makes him grow.

Æskil's muscles bunch and swell as the warrior grows in height to near-Troll size!  His blow sends the braided war-hammer wielder flying.  He hits the wall with a sickening smack and shakes his head, momentarily stunned.

Sjack turns and lashes out with fang, stinger, and tail at the swordsman, hissing in fury.

You sink your fangs into the swordsman again, crunching through his mail while stinging him with your tail.  He grunts in pain.  You taste his blood, hot and vaguely metallic.

Sjack hisses with laughter. "I know your taste now, Blóðbard. You are mine."

Ragnvaldr, the spearman jabs you with his weapon, drawing blood from your shoulder.

"I'll bleed you, rotten-tooth!"

"And Andrew said 'Would you strike an innocent man?' and the merchant found that he could not, for his hand burned with the fury of Our Father," Andreas proclaims.

The swordsman howls in pain as his blade glows white-hot.  He drops it on the floor and stares down at his injured hands in horror.

The fork-bearded archer fumbles with a short blade.  Drawing it, he lunges at Sjack, sinking the short sword into Sjack's coils.

Sjack hisses in anger and pain.

Katla lets out a furious war-cry and charges at the wen-faced marauder, poised to strike with her knife. "Bastard-son of Loki! I'll cut off your manhood and feed it to the wolves!"

You stab the man viciously in the neck.  Blood spurts from the wound as he screams.  Weapon-less and scalded, he flees towards the door.

Katla grabs at the wounded man's hair with her shield-arm hand, yanking at him and stabbing the knife at his shoulder.  Seeing the opening Katla gave him, Sjack's jaws lash out, clamping over the swordsman's face and digging his fangs into the man's neck.  Sjack pulls his jaw off the man and lets out a triumphant roar.

The man gurgles as blood sprays everywhere, drenching combatants and splattering across the walls and floors.  He slumps to the ground, dead.

In her berserk fury, Katla is too focused on the hated Blóðbards to pay much heed to the fact that she is fighting alongside some sort of abominable monster. She doesn't seem startled by Sjack's appearance.

The war-hammer wielder, stunned momentarily, recovers his wits and charges Æskil.  The braided man bashes at Æskil, hammering his leg.

Kylfa bellows out a guttural roar as he runs out of the pantry, his nails growing into bear-like claws and his teeth growing long and terrible...

The youth staggers back in shock and surprise, lashing out blindly with Andreas' long axe at the charging bear-shaman!  He hacks at Kylfa with desperate abandon, delivering a nasty blow to the Kvenlander's torso.

Ragnvaldr presses his attack on the spearman with a wild swing of the hammer, putting all his weight behind the blow.

You bash at the spearman, hitting his arms and torso.  He grunts, trying to back up enough to use his spear again, but you trap him against a wall.

Æskil swings his plank at the hammer-wielding raider.

The man ducks your blow nimbly

Sjack turns to the archer, his jaw dripping blood, and he lashes out with all of his fury.

The fork-bearded marauder backs up and desperately fends you off, slashing wildly with his weapon to keep you at bay.

The spearman, meanwhile, drops his weapon and draws a short blade of his own, better suited to close-quarters fighting.  He launches himself at Ragnvaldr, but the warrior sidesteps the blow easily.

"The heathen has no true sense of the world, his eyes and ears stuffed with the wool of ignorance. So crippled, how can he know to act?"  Andreas gestures at the youth.

The youth shakes his head, shrugging off the invocation's effects.  The fork-bearded Blóðbard stabs and slashes with brutal abandon, hacking at Sjack's coils.

Katla moves on to the spearman, bloodlust in her eyes.  She stabs him in the chest.

He cries out in agony as your blade penetrates his armour.  Meanwhile the war-hammer wielder takes another swing at Æskil; this time his blow is only glancing.

Kylfa snarls, revealing his unnaturally large fangs, and attempts to grapple the youth with his bear-hands!

You overcome the youth, taking him in a vicious bear hug and pinning him.  He's still somehow holding the axe, white-knuckled in his terror.  The youth squirms, attempting to slip free of your grasp, but you hold on tight.

Ragnvaldr bellows wordlessly and launches another wild swing at the wounded Blóðbard in front of him.  He smashes the simple carpenter's hammer into the man's cheek, bursting through the skin to let out a pulse of blood as the bone beneath splinters.

The spearman slumps to the floor of the longhouse, unconscious, blood pooling beneath him.

Æskil drops his viscera-soak board and clenches his ogre-sized fists, throwing a sweeping punch towards the hammer-wielding marauder.

You smash your fist into the man's face.  It comes away bloody - you have broken his nose.  He steps backwards, stunned but still conscious.

Sjack jabs the fork-bearded man with his stinger.

He shrieks in pain as the barb sinks deep into his flesh.

Andreas walks calmly down the stairs, clapping the archer on the shoulder on his way to pick up his holy tome.

The archer's eyes glaze over.

Katla darts around the dazed archer, taunting him with feints and quick jabs before going for the real strike aimed at his neck.

You stab the fork-bearded man in the neck.  This seems to bring him out of his daze.

The man with the war-hammer, seeing his companions variously dead, dying, pinned, or stabbed, drops his weapon.  "I yield!" he cries.

Æskil laughs out loud "Yield?" He grabs the raiders head in his giant hands, and with a quick snap, the marauder slumps to the floor, his neck limp.

Kylfa continues to grapple the youth, but forgoes pinning him this turn - and snaps at his face with vicious ursine jaws instead!

The youth screams as you rip off a large portion of his left cheek.  You smell something foul - the lad has soiled himself.  Desperately he attempts to scramble away, bleeding everywhere.  You swipe at him but he crawls a few feet away, whimpering, calling out to the gods to save him.

"Your gods won't save you now, boy."  Andreas idly thumbs through the pages of his mangled book of scripture.

Ragnvaldr stoops to pick up the unconscious man's spear and then almost casually thrusts it into the prone figure's neck to finish him off.

Æskil calmly picks up the war-hammer of the fallen raider and coldly brings himself to bear upon the archer.  He brings the hammer down two-handed on the archers head, shattering his skull. Bits of bone and brain fly through the room.

The youth is the only Blóðbard to remain – a whimpering, crawling, crying heap of fear and excrement.

"Keep him alive. Thiss one may have sssomething useful for usss," Sjack urges.

Æskil says, "The boy better have things to say. Otherwise, he makes three for me..."  He has no patience for cowards.  He grabs an unfinished wine-skin, pouring the contents down his throat.

Katla kicks the downed man's corpse for good measure. Resuming her combat-stance, she swings around, eyeing the less-than human looking ones among her suspiciously, but makes no gesture of aggression. She feels her berserker rage starting to calm. Seeing no immediate danger around, she goes to the dead swordsman. She takes his weapon and then starts removing his pants, presumably to make good on her earlier threat...

The boy crawls into a corner.

Ragnvaldr turns to his strange companions. "Are you all witches, then? Except you, maybe, girl?"

Kylfa spits the boy's blood from his mouth and picks at his still-massive teeth.

The ogre-magic seeps from Æskil, and shrinks back to his normal size.

Sjack stalks over to him. "Remember me, boy? I say I would remember your face."

The youth is hyperventilating.  He is still clutching the axe with one hand.  His eyes are wide.

Sjack turns his head over to Ragnvaldr. "I was chosen" before turning his head back to the boy. "Drop the axe, you pathetic worm."

Ragnvaldr gives a hearty laugh at Sjack's comment despite his fatigue, then wrenches the spear free of the dead man and sets about looting his corpse.

He whimpers and complies.  The axe hits the ground with a clatter.

"I am no witch. I am anointed in the Light of the Father. A Brother of Saint Mark," Andreas says.

"Your Father has no place here... Not that he ever seems to help anyway," Ragnvaldr says.

Andreas walks over, and picks up his axe. "The Father's place is every place," he says to Ragnvaldr.  "I carry his help wherever I should go."

Ragnvaldr looks at Andreas blankly. "I've killed more Fathermen than I can remember. They all asked Him to save them. He never did."

"Then they were not truly faithful," Andreas says darkly.  "Faith has left these lands."

Ragnvaldr shrugs and turns to Sjack's interrogation of the boy.

Kylfa takes a deep breath within his barrel-chest, and his teeth and claws return slowly to normal.

The spearman had a small coin-purse with fourteen silver pieces, a suit of chainmail, his spear, and a dagger, which is set with a small ruby.

"Quickly boy, tell usss what you know of the ressst of the camp," Sjack orders.  He remains in the shape of a legged serpent, hissing his words.

Kylfa crosses his arms and watches them interrogate the boy.

The boy stammers.  "I... I don't know.  The horses and carts will be in the stables.  Prob-b-baby g-g-guarded.  The others will be spread out amongst the other houses."  He gulps.  "Are you going to k-k-kill me?"

"I would not," Kylfa says to the boy, "but that is my word only."

"Perhapsss - I am quite hungry. Where are our belongingsss?"

"They're all in the carts.  Except for what we have here."

Katla still eyes the others warily, but sets on her bloody task. With a swift cut of the knife she severs the raider's manhood, slipping it blood-dripping under her belt like a gruesome trophy.

Æskil searches the dead man that had the war-hammer.

He has his mail hauberk, a small purse with three gold pieces and a hank of blond hair, and a knife, as well as his war-hammer.

Æskil begins putting on the chainmail after grabbing the gold and the knife.

"Speaking of, my cloak, boy," Andreas says, holding out a hand.

The boy shakily undoes the cloak.

Andreas fastens it about his neck.

Æskil puts on the chainmail form the dead man with the hammer.

Katla discards her light shield and retrieves her own shield.

Your shield was leaning against a bed, Katla.  You strap it on.

Kylfa examines the group to see if anyone is very seriously wounded

Sjack turns to the rest. "Anyone has any further questions for this worm?"

"The pantry may suit him well," Kylfa suggests.

"W-wait!  I could... I could help you."  He stammers.

"Ah. Could you?" Andreas asks.

"Do explain," Sjack says.

"I could... I could call the guards at the stables away.  Let you escape."

"And how do we know you would not just alert them to our presence?" Sjack asks.

"What a pathetic whelp," Katla sneers.  "Better to slit his throat. He'd just cry for his comrades to help him."

"I... I'll swear it on anything you want!  You have my oath!"

"You could not hide your ruined face from your comrades, in any case, boy," Andreas says.  "Though I would not have you killed, unarmed as you are. The Father will judge you, as He judges all men. "

Kylfa nods in agreement.  "I would not kill him, but his oath means nothing to me."

Sjack flicks out his tongue across the boy's cheek, drawing some of the blood, and his wounds begin to knit together.  "You will for now stay there as we consider. Someone else watch him for now."

Æskil sits down and breathes heavy breaths, his leg mangled from a hammer wound.

Sjack half walks, half slithers over to Æskil. "Your hand. Lend it to me, so that I may mend your wounds."

Æskil gives his hand to the serpent-man.

Sjack gently bites the hand, enough to draw blood, and licks the drop up, intoning. "Blood paid for blood returned."

The boy stares at you, imbecilic.  He looks like he might pass out soon.  Blood is still streaming from his ruinous cheek.

Sjack then moves over to Ragnvaldr. "Your hand."

Katla eyes the people around her curiously. "Some strange bedfellows," she mutters quietly to herself, "but better than trying to survive out there on my own."

Sjack 's head whips to her for a moment. "I believe you have the right of it. We must stay together, especially in these lands."

Katla quietly nods at Sjack.

Kylfa walks over to the door and opens it a crack, peering outside.

Ragnvaldr extends his hand to Sjack, thinking of Tyr and Fenris.  Sjack bites his hand gently and repeats the same hissing ritual.

"Is anyone walking the streets?" Æskil asks Kylfa.

Outside the longhouse, night has fallen; the world has become black and gray, moonless and desolate.  Light glimmers beneath the doors of four other wooden, steeply gabled buildings where the remaining Blóðbards must be camped.  Not far from the longhouse you can see the stables, a long, low building with covered stalls for horses; light emanates from beneath the door of the stables as well.  You can't see anyone patrolling.

Kylfa closes the door quietly and turns back to the rest of them.  "Five or so buildings with light, and the stables.  I see no man patrolling."

"Perhaps we should wait until most of them are asleep?" Katla suggests. "We could try to silently take out any guards."

"They have taken few things I truly need, but perhaps the same is not true of you..." Kylfa says.

"They have thingsss I would like, but do not require," Sjack says.

"They have my dog," Ragnvaldr says.

Kylfa nods at Ragnvaldr with a look of sympathy.  "Yes, one must care for one's own.  Very well.  I will help you."

Andreas mutters a holy word while touching the boy on the forehead.

The youth slumps into unconsciousness after Andreas invokes the Father.

"I will assist in this as well," Sjack says.

"I will gladly see them all dead. You have my blade," Katla confirms.

Ragnvaldr nods thanks to the Kvenlander, the snake-man, the shield-maiden.

"There are certain things I must retrieve," Andreas agrees.

Kylfa pokes around for anything here that might function as a club.

There's an adze from the carpentry chest which would work.

Kylfa picks up the adze.

"Even were Aslaug free, I've a mind to do bloody work of these Blóðbards," Ragnvaldr growls.  "I've never been taken captive before, and I do not find it to my liking."

"If we can capture them in smaller groups, I believe we have the strength to defeat them," Sjack suggests.

"There are many Blóðbards to kill, and I do not like their taste."  Kylfa spits the youth's blood.  "I would rather we take what you need and leave."

"I agree," Æskil says.

"Surprise will be of more use to us here than the sharpest blade," Katla declares.  "With some luck, we may kill many of them in their beds."

"Kill them or not. It matters little to me. I would sooner be on my way."  Andreas waits patiently for the group to make a decision.

"The stables must be taken. If we do not eliminate those outside the stables quietly, then those inside could call for reinforcements."

Sjack cocks his head.  "There is another way."

"A distraction may be in order," Æskil suggests.  "Perhaps a fire... we set this building a-light, and in doing so, we may throw them off our tracks for a while at least."

"I could draw them away.  They would likely find me...very distracting," Sjack says.

"They would also not recognize you as an escaped captive," Katla says. "A good plan."  She frowns.  "No fire. We would lose what of ours is kept in the house."

"I may quicken your step, should you need to flee, worm-man," Kylfa offers.

"Even if the snake-man does distract them, they will come for their men here," Æskil points out.  "And when they find this they will know we have escaped."

"Might not a distraction only stir their nest? " Ragnvaldr says.

"Hm, perhaps," Kylfa muses.

"But stir it where we wish it stirred," Sjack contends.

"Or bring them all here, including the men at the stables," Æskil agrees.

"How many at the stable?" Ragnvaldr asks.

"I could not see any men, but there was light," Kylfa grunts.

"They were preparing to only set two to guard us - they will have minimal awake guards," Sjack points out.

"Move quickly and quietly, take what is yours, and leave.  That is my word," Kylfa says.

"They're spread between five buildings.  If only two are in each of the other four, that leaves five for the stable," Ragnvaldr says.  "I do not think that too many."

"Even if we can kill the men at the stables, it will wake up the rest," Æskil says.

"The horses are too valuable to be lost," Katla points out.  "We should begin at the stables, no matter the risk."

"Let us go see who is there first, then," Kylfa says.  "Is any man quiet in the snows?"

"I am quite capable of silence," Sjack says.

"Then you go first, and we will follow, to the stables."

"Draw them here with a fire, and then we can take the few, if any, that are left at the stables," Æskil persists.  "The noise from the fire will cover us, and their eyes will be even more blind to the darkness."

"Such a love of fire, gray-beard!"  Ragnvaldr grins.

"No, draw no-one, we do not wish to raise alarm," Kylfa says.  "Let us go there in still and quiet."

Sjack nods, and pulls his legs to his body, looking more like a true serpent.  "I believe silence is best here."

Kylfa grunts and nods.

Æskil sighs.  "Very well..."

"Yes. Silence is the better way," Katla agrees.  "We can make a fiery distraction should silence fail us."

"Let the worm-man go first, he says he is quiet.  The rest will follow after."

Sjack slithers out of the longhouse towards the stables.

"Before we move, I would know your names, friends. I am Ragnvaldr."

"Andreas. Of Austerborg."

"Kylfa," the Kvenlander intones quietly.

"They call me Æskil. Some just call me the Gray."

"I am Katla."

"Well met, all," Ragnvaldr says.

Outside, light is evident beneath the door to the stables, and you can see a flicker of shadow.  Two voices can be heard within.
"- and then we fed him his own fingers," one voice says.  "He started choking on them, turning all blue in the face."  The voice's owner chuckles.

"That's nothing.  Once we found this wench, a völva and her bodyguard.  Big bastard, shoulders like a Troll, huge axe.  Anyway, back in Skrikborg, we nailed his hands and feet to the barracks wall and cut his eyelids off, so he couldn't look away, and then cooked the bitch alive over the fire, carved her up like a roast pig while she still screamed.  By the time we were through she wasn't much more than a skeleton; everyone got a piece.  I got her left calf, I remember - still raw and bloody in the middle.  At the end the bodyguard was totally mad, just raving to himself, calling out to the gods to kill us or kill him.  We left him there for fun, used him a dartboard for a few days, till his wounds festered and he started to smell."

Both laugh uproariously.

Sjack, a flicker of light from across the village draws your eye.  A Blóðbard wearing hide armour and heavy furs is crossing the snowy settlement with a torch in one hand and a steaming pot in the other.  He looks like he's heading towards the stables.

A whispered message, in the voice of the serpent-man, sounds in Katla's head. "Tell them there are two inside awake, and a third approaching."

Katla snaps suddenly, a surprised look on her face. "By the gods I know not how, but the snake-man just spoke to me with soundless words. He said there were two marauders in the stables, and a third that was drawing near it."

Sjack remains hidden, watching the man approaching.

The man doesn't seem to see you.  He nears the door.

"Just three men? Then we should strike now," Ragnvaldr says.

"We should split up, with weapons at each door," Æskil argues.

"A sound plan, Æskil the Gray," Ragnvaldr says.  "I will come last: my tread is heavy, I fear."

"I will try and take down any who flee," Kylfa says.

Sjack whispers again in Katla's head. "The third is about to enter, it seems, or perhaps provide food."

"It would seem that the new arrival is bringing them food..." Katla says.

"Open up!" the man with the pot says, as you watch him from the shadows of the building.  The doors creak open and he brings the pot in.

Sjack listens.

The Blóðbards begin their meal, chatting more about previous acts of violence.  The marauder who brought their food departs.

Sjack again in Katla's head. "Now there are only two. We must strike now."

Katla informs the others of this.

Kylfa takes a pinch of dirt from the ground and casts Longstrider upon himself.

Katla stealthily approaches the stables.

Ragnvaldr goes to the door, ready to follow after the others when they move.

"To the doors. Kylfa and I will take one," Æskil says.

Andreas shrugs.

Kylfa follows them once his spell is cast, ready to chase down any who try and flee.

You approach stealthily, in position.

Kylfa uses his transformation again, growing his teeth and claws.  He grunts.  "Ready."

Æskil wrings the war hammer with both hands and grits his teeth.

Sjack whispers to himself. "Guard thy vessel."

Ragnvaldr grips his stolen spear in one hand, ready to throw...

Æskil kicks his door open and...

Inside, two Blóðbards eat soup from a pot and warm their hands at a brazier.  One is a stout, pig-nosed fellow with a notched two-handed sword strapped to his back, the other the hunched warrior wearing Æskil's splint mail.  Horses stamp and snort in the stalls; the building smells of beasts, dung, and hay.  As you kick open the door they look up, then fumble for their weapons.

Ragnvaldr bursts in and hurls his spear at the swordsman.

The man ducks and the spear flies over his head.

Sjack flows through the opening around Æskil, going for the closest man.

You sink your teeth into the hunched man, Sjack.

Katla draws her newly acquired longsword, prepared to trust her life to the blade though she's never once used it before.  She charges the pig-nosed man.

Æskil charges, war-hammer swinging.

Katla stabs the pig-nosed man in the chest, while Æskil smacks the head of the hunched marauder nearly clean off.  He falls backwards, instantly dead.

Æskil says "Three."

Ragnvaldr looks askance at Æskil.

The horses stamp and neigh as you kicked down the door, and the sudden appearance of a giant serpent has unnerved them significantly.

Kylfa bounds forward and grapples the pig-nosed warrior.  "Kill him!" he growls, pinning the raider's arms back.

Ragnvaldr draws his dagger and strides over to slit the Blóðbard's throat.

You do the deed cleanly, Ragnvaldr, while Kylfa holds him down.

Æskil attempts to calm the horses.
"You presence is unnerving them," Katla says to Sjack. "It would be better that you wait outside."

"I have a bow, a chain shirt, and a mace among these goods," Sjack says.  "Please gather them for me."

"I will look for these items."

Sjack heads outside to keep watch. "My thanks"

The horses are calmed now that the fighting is over and Sjack has left.  The small carts have been wheeled in through the rear doors.

Ragnvaldr wipes the dagger clean, retrieves the spear and then looks around for Aslaug.

"Ah. Our property," Andreas says.

Aslaug is in one of the carts, muzzled and caged.

Andreas starts rifling through the carts, looking for his possessions.  Ragnvaldr frees the burly bitch and fusses her with an oddly soft half-smile.  Kylfa withdraws his fangs and joins the others in attempting to calm the horses.  Katla goes over to the carts to look for her own property as well as that of Sjack's.

Andreas kisses the symbol of Saint Mark, and places it reverently around his neck.

"Quickly gather your belongings, we must leave now," Æskil says.  He gathers his axe, shield, and splint mail along with his other, more mundane items.

"Very well," Kylfa says.  He seeks out his sack of trinkets, then gathers his armour, shield, and club.

Ragnvaldr goes to look for his things as soon as he's sure Aslaug is unharmed.

Sjack, two men from a nearby building have emerged, weapons drawn.  Presumably they heard the sounds of battle, or the horses neighing, and are now investigating.

Sjack whispers in Katla's head. "Two more approach."

"More foes coming here," Katla says. "Do we fight or fly?"  Having found her equipment, she makes to deliver the items listed by the snake-man.

Kylfa puts on the hide armour as speedily as he is able.

Andreas starts readying a horse.

Ragnvaldr exchanges the stolen spear for his own, muttering to anyone who'll listen "Now this, this is a spear, you see?"

"Hurry," Æskil says. "Discretion is the better part of valour. We leave."

There are thirteen horses.  Two are packhorses.

"Take what horses we need and set the rest of them free," Katla says.  "Leave none to the Blóðbards!"

"Take the horses and ride - this is not a time to stand ground," Sjack says.

"Aye, very well. Let's be off," Ragnvaldr relents.

Kylfa quickly attempts to herd the horses to the back gate, and helps any on their mounts who need it.

Sjack re-enters, and the snake falls away from him in trails of smoke, leaving a man behind.

Katla takes the reins of one riding horse and one pack-horse. She ties the latter to the saddle of the former.

You mount up as Kylfa herds the horses out the back gate.

Sjack mounts his horse, thanking Katla for his gear, and begins to ride as soon as the others are ready.

Ragnvaldr awkwardly clambers into a saddle.

Æskil clumsily gets on a horse.

Kylfa urges the horses to flee once everyone (including him) is mounted!

Katla saddles the mount as soon as she has led it out of the stall.

Once everyone is saddled you burst out of the stables, just as the marauders arrive!  One of the Blóðbards is trampled into the snow.  You hear bones cracking and splintering as you rush past the other Blóðbard, who barely stepped aside in time.  He cries out and staggers backwards, hastening to alert the other raiders!

"Let him yell, they will not catch us," Æskil laughs.

With a conterminous flick, Sjack conjures a red, horned viper in front of the man, which attempts to bite him.

The viper strikes the man and he shrieks, flailing in the snow.

"No time to waste here," Katla says.  "Pick a direction, and let the sound of the hooves herald our passage!

Ragnvaldr laughs, the taste of freedom coming sweet on the chill night air.  Aslaug bounds behind him.

Kylfa urges his horse onward, whispering encouragement in its ear.  He will once again take the rear.

In the endless blackness it is near-impossible to determine which direction is which.  Snow swirls around you and the wind howls like a beast.

Kylfa casts Know Direction.

You cannot be far from Ironwood, which lies near the eastern borders of Blóðbard territory.  The forest has an evil reputation and is said to be full of monsters, twisted beasts, and dark spirits; beyond it and to the south is the open plains-country of the Gyllirings.  Heading west will take you across the kingdom of the Blóðbards - miles of snowy wilderness crawling with roving bands of marauders - until you reach the Gjöll; beyond the Hel-River is the Eyði, the Uncertain Lands, a chaotic, ever-warring region where the shattered remnants of tribes contest with warlords, bandits, mercenary bands, and darker things.  South will be much the same, the rugged landscape eventually turning into the Fenlands of the Járnmenn.  North lie the Sea of Skulls, where Kraken and sea-serpents are said to be multiplying, and the Orm-Fells, which are Dragon-country; if you were to travel northeast, either laboriously skirting Ironwood or cutting through it, you would reach the lands of the Hrafnii (and beyond that the realm of Kvenland), while northwest would take you towards the Slaughterstone Mountains.

Through a patch of clear sky, Æskil, you sight the north star.

Kylfa can confirm which direction is which.  He grunts, feeling superfluous.

"Where do we head?" Æskil asks, nearly shouting over the wind.

"Well, the Gyllirings are good folk," Ragnvaldr says.  "For me, though... I shall be happy anywhere but here."

"My people are to the north-east, and there I would go," Kylfa says.

"Regardless, we need to find a place to stay soon," Æskil cautions.  "The winds are cold and I need ale."

"Yes," Kylfa agrees.  "We should find somewhere far enough, though, where the men we have left behind cannot catch us on foot."

Andreas casts about, his eyes held open, peering into the blowing snow. "Father, guide my sight as you did that of Mark in the depths of Black Askara."

The Star is somewhere to the east – it must have traveled north, then.

Ragnvaldr feels, despite the thrill of freedom, his fatigue weighing heavily on him... Æskil is right, they must rest soon.

Nearby there is little shelter, only snow, rocks, and the occasional copse of trees.

"I have heard tell of a place called Wulfheim, but I do not know much beyond that," Æskil says.

"Is it near?" Ragnvaldr asks.

"I will ride wherever there is gold and glory to be had," Katla declares.  "But it's far better if the way is not through Ironwood."

"I say north, outside the wood, and stop when we find a place with some cover," Kylfa suggests.

"North it is?" Æskil asks.

"North, then," Ragnvaldr assents.

Kylfa grunts and nods, satisfied.

You ride north, deeper into the frozen wastes, the ice-ravaged lands of endless winter.


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Re: The Fimbulvinter Saga
« Reply #1 on: February 13, 2012, 09:37:49 PM »
IC: Fitt II: The Blind Witch
The last hour is a blur in your memory, a discordant chaos of blood, iron, fire, and snow; the cries of the dying still ring in your ears.  Heading north from the abandoned village where your Blóðbard captors made camp you find yourself in an empty plain of snow, part of the irregular vastness called the White Waste.  Any roads that once crossed this rugged, bitter land have long since been buried.  Behind you lies death and horror; ahead, uncertainty.

Kylfa, some distance away you see a dark shape lying in the snow.  At first you take it for a rock, but then you see it move faintly - it is a woman, collapsed into a heap.

"There is a woman ahead."  Kylfa points straight ahead and grunts.

"An odd place to run into a lone woman," Katla observes.

"Aslaug! What is it, girl? Go and see," Ragnvaldr says.

Sjack, without waiting, spurs his horse towards the woman.

Aslaug bounds forward and approaches the form tentatively.

Ragnvaldr mutters under his breath at the shapeshifter's impatience.

Kylfa whispers in his horse's ear, and they proceed cautiously towards the woman.

The woman has dark red-brown hair and a voluptuous figure which her insufficient clothing - a long, diaphanous gown of Southron silk - does little to hide.  She is unconscious, her skin bluish-white.  Despite her garment she looks like a Northlander.

Æskil follows.

Andreas waits at a distance for a moment, huddling under his rich fur cloak, then joins the others.

"Is she dead?" Ragnvaldr asks.

"She lives," Sjack says.  "Barely.  Poorly dressed."

"Hmph.  If she is not dead, she must wish to be," Kylfa growls.

Sjack moves to pick her up.  "Well dressed. Poor for weather."

"How in Hel did she end up out here?" Katla asks.

"The North is full of questions with no answers, these days," Andreas observes.

"Be careful. I don't like this," Æskil says.

"She's dying." Sjack picks her up.  "Need furs."

"So she is. Wrap her up in my cloak. What little good it will do..." Andreas unclasps it and hands it to Sjack.

Sjack takes the cloak when it's offered.  He carefully wraps her in it.

Ragnvaldr throws his blanket to Sjack. "Here, this too."

Sjack takes the blanket with a nod of thanks and wraps her in it.

Katla looks around for tracks to try and determine the direction the woman may have come from.

"With her garb, she can't have been out here long, and whoever left her must be near," Æskil says.

You see a few disturbed tracks in the snow - with the wind and darkness they are hard to make out, but it looks like she came from northeast of here.  The wind is picking up, the snow falling even more densely: a true blizzard is upon you.  Your eyes water from the wind, but the tears freeze on your face.  Each breath in is an agony of cold.  You can hear nothing save the elemental wail of the wind, as loud and terrible as a Jötunn's primal roar.

"Fire and shelter." Sjack seems more concerned with the near-dead woman than the cold.

Katla bites her lip as the cold breeze whips her. She is well enough accustomed to life in these northern wastes to not be more than mildly irritated by it.

Æskil, Andreas, a white shape too large to be a snowflake swoops out of the sky towards you, only just visible through the blizzard.  As it nears you see that it is a white raven.  The creature caws, a sound somehow audible over the shriek of the wind.  It circles for a moment, lingering near you, then flaps away towards the east.

"A sign, perhaps," Andreas says.  "Another question left unanswered."

"It looks like she came from the North, whoever she is," Katla says.

"Shelter. Fire," Sjack insists.  "Or she will die."

"And us," Kylfa says.

"Maybe there's shelter to the north then," Ragnvaldr says.

"We must move," Æskil says.

Kylfa grunts and nods, urging his horse onward.

Sjack nods at Kylfa. "Move fast. I'll take her."

"On!"  Ragnvaldr clumsily spurs his horse.

Sjack puts the woman on his horse.

The raven sits in a tree to the east, watching the party.  It caws again, then flies to the head of Kylfa's horse.

Kylfa squints at the bird.

"What omen, strange beast?"

The white raven speaks a single word with a hoarse animal voice: "Follow." It flies to a small bush on the edge of the nearby forest – the dark trees of Ironwood looming to the northeast, the shadows between them black as Ginnungagap.

Sjack looks at the raven, startled. "Sacred bird. Good omen. We should follow."

Kylfa grunts.  "Agreed.  But be wary."

Katla rides with speed, scouting ahead.

The forest is almost totally black; the raven seems to glimmer in the darkness.  No footsteps, human or beast, seem to have breached the pristine surface of the snow here.

Sjack steers his horse after the raven.

Kylfa turns his horse to follow the raven, but his hand still tightly holds his knotted club.  Ragnvaldr likewise follows, hunched low against the weather.

Æskil follows, wary of a trap.

As you approach Ironwood your horses shy away, neighing with unease.  Aslaug whimpers and cringes.

"Ironwood. Dangerous without strange omen. Be wary. Know this place," Sjack says.

Katla unsheathes her sword and looks about warily before she spurs her mount forward.

Several of the horses back up, snorting, refusing to enter the wood.

Ragnvaldr grunts in anger and dismounts.

Sjack looks at the others. "Who can take her?"

"This is not a good time to abandon our mounts. I will try to soothe them."  Katla calms one of the panicked steeds.

Æskil chuckles to himself at the milk-drinkers trying to ride their horses.

Ragnvaldr scowls at Æskil, then chuckles himself as he sees the grim humour of their predicament.

Sjack looks around at the others. "Rope."  He scowls at his horse in frustration. "Stop. Now."

"Steady yourself, brave steed," Andreas urges his horse.  "Sometimes our feet lead us where we would not go."

Kylfa turns his horse about and walks to the other animals, taking their reins and attempting to call them.

Ragnvaldr ruffles Aslaug's fur and mutters reassurances.

Æskil manages a laugh at the scene around him.

Between them, Kylfa and Katla manage to calm all of the mounts.  Seeing the rest of their fellow equines enter the forest, herding instincts take over and the anxious horses fall in line.

The raven leads you through the still, snow-covered forest.  It caws impatiently.

"I need rope."  Sjack looks at the others, sighs, and searches his pack for rope.  "Hold for moment. Ironwood dangerous."

Kylfa grunts.

Sjack looks around in frustration. "Someone take her. I must shift.  Will stay away from beasts."

Andreas nods, and moves to shift the woman to his own mount.

Katla digs into her saddlebags for a moment, then tosses a coil of rope to Sjack.  "I will need that back."

Seeing Andreas will take the woman, Sjack gives Katla a nod of thanks but tosses the rope back. "No longer need."

Sjack walks a short distance away and shifts into Linnorm form, making sure to stay downwind of the horses.

"Very well then."

You press on into the dark wood, following the raven.  Presently you near a small clearing.  A wooden hut with a welcoming light under the door stands here.  The raven caws; the door opens slightly and it flaps inside.

"Well this looks like a trap if I've ever seen one," Æskil says.

Sjack looks at the others. "I shall approach first, I believe. This could easily be a trap, and I mistrust this raven. Still, I will approach first to be certain."

"No other shelter," Kyfla points out.

"If a trap it is, it must be sprung, or we freeze," Ragnvaldr observes.

Kylfa dismounts and ties his horse to a nearby tree.

Ragnvaldr dismounts and readies his spear wearily.

"This bird offers us shelter freely," Andreas says.  "Fear not. We must be gracious."

"I will take a look around," Katla says.  "Make sure there are no people skulking about in the surrounding woods."

Æskil gets off his horse, his old joints stiff from the ride and wind.

Sjack nods to Katla. "Sound plan."

Katla rides in a wide circle around the hut, her keen eyes searching the trees.

Andreas rides sedately up to the hut and dismounts, putting the woman over his shoulder.

Kylfa grunts, shakes his head, and walks directly up to the door.

Æskil sighs and follows the party up to the door, still wary.

Sirje, you sense a presence approaching your hut - a creature neither wholly human nor animal.

Sirje snaps her head up following the unseen presence

Verjartix looks at Sirje, himself a long serpent standing on two legs. He turns his head slightly to the side in curiosity. "It takes an impressive person to see me in this weather."

You enter a small hut.  Dried herbs and small skinned animals hang from the ceiling and a small fireplace blazes with a warm glow up against the far wall.  A bubbling cauldron sits above the fireplace, full of a meaty stew; the aroma fills the room and reminds you of your hunger.  A woman stands inside the small warm hut – willowy, once pretty, marred by weather and a hard life. She has long black hair and eyes hidden by a ragged blindfold.

Kylfa raps his knuckle once on the door and peers inside.  "Who dwells?"

Andreas pushes through, the woman draped over his shoulder.   "We seek guest-right... and shelter from this storm."

Ragnvaldr approaches behind the others, still wary.

"Will you grant them this shelter?

Kylfa stands just outside the door, letting the others converse.

"She obviously seeks us," Æskil says.  "What is it that you want Blind One?"

"I... was expecting you. Some of you," Sirje says.  "Do enter.  Samran told me of your coming."  Sirje strokes the white raven and feeds him a small morsel.

"But why lead us here?" Æskil demands.  "You have a reason, I'm sure."

"Oh, reasons I have. I am just not always sure what they are." Sirje tries to smile. She seems to be out of practice.

Andreas crosses the threshold, gently placing the woman down near the fire and sits next to her.  "Regardless of your reason, you have my thanks. Your charity speaks well of you."

"I shall remain outside for now - in these woods, it's not safe to leave the edges unguarded." Verjartix looks somewhat nervously at the threshold of her door.

Ragnvaldr smiles at the serpent-creature's apparent discomfort.

"Do come in, all of you, close the door."

Katla returns from her scouting trip, just now arriving at the door.

"Very well," Kylfa says.

"I request that you allow my entrance into your dwelling: while I reside her, I will guard your blood with mine, unless you should threaten my companions," Verjartix says.

Sirje walks up to Verjartix.  "You I do not know.  Are you welcome?" Sirje puts a hand on the beast.  "Ah, but he is inside. I see. You can enter too."

Verjartix nods and crosses the threshold - small sparks erupt from the edges of his form as he does.

Ragnvaldr enters.

Kylfa shoves his cudgel in his belt and enters the hut.  "A good den."

Æskil shuffles his feet impatiently, his hand drifting to his axe, then back away.

Katla enters warily, though happy to get under some shelter.

Sirje closes the door after the last has entered, shutting out the howling wind and freezing cold.

"Speak your mind, frost-eyes," Æskil says to Sirje.  "We are cold, tired, and hungry, and I for one do not have time for childish word-games."

"Games? I offer you shelter and food. That is all."

"Some courtesy, Æskil," Andreas says.  "This woman has offered us shelter from the storm."

The hut is crowded with everyone within, but you manage to all fit.  The hearth's warmth is welcome.  Your horses will survive the night outside - the trees break the wind, at least.

Kylfa lowers his bear-hood for the first time since he joined the party, revealing his matted, dark hair tied behind his head.

"It's best we put the woman by the fire. I will warm her further." Verjartix, seeing the woman by the fire, takes his serpentine form and gently curls around her. "This body is hotter than that of a man. I will warm her more quickly."

Ragnvaldr winces at the thought of the snake-thing so close to someone.

"Who is she?" Sirje asks.

"We do not know," Verjartix says.

"We were hoping you could tell us," Æskil replies.

"I did not see her," Sirje says quietly.

"She was in the snow," Kylfa explains.

"She had been on her way, coming to the place we found her at roughly from this direction," Katla says.

Sirje offers all of the party stew from the cauldron.

"My thanks, I am hungry."  Ragnvaldr concentrates on devouring the stew for the time being.

"Then you must eat."

Kylfa enthusiastically accepts the stew, grunting appreciatively.

Andreas takes a bowl of the stew, clasping his hands in prayer before eating.

Katla takes a bowl in her hands, then begins to rapidly empty it.

Kylfa sits against a wall, trying to make his great hide-covered form as small as possible, and digs into the stew.

Æskil continues to pace, obviously anxious.

Ragnvaldr glances up from his bowl. "Sit, Æskil the Grey. If we are meant harm, it is already too late."

"I have sat long enough on horse."

Verjartix flicks his tongue towards the stew in a very snakelike gesture. "If I could have a bowl over here, I would be grateful - I'm loath to risk this woman's death."

Sirje sits by the fire and puts down a bowl beside Verjartix.  "Tomorrow you leave. And I go with you. That is why you have come here."

Æskil gives a bitter laugh. "And the woman was bait? Or a trick of the Norns?"

Verjartix laps at the stew with his forked tongue, wrapping it around chunks to pull them in his mouth. "How do you know such things?"  He seems to be getting frustrated with the difficulty he's having with the stew - eating this way, it's slow going.

"I see it in the Omens," Sirje answers.  "The Stones. The steaming entrails of a fox or a bird. Many places"

"And where does your sight see us bound, witch?" Andreas says.

"What do they tell you, other than that we leave and you with us?" Verjartix adds.  "And you did not see me..." Verjartix seems to be slightly pleased by that.

"I see many things but not everything. The woman is a riddle for you, and me, to ponder," Sirje says.  "They do not tell me more than they have to. Tomorrow I will ask them again.  Now, we eat and weather the storm outside.  There will time enough for sorrows and hopes later."

Ragnvaldr shrugs and returns his attention to the food.

Verjartix remains coiled loosely around the woman, still struggling with eating like this.

Warmed by the fire and by Sjack's serpentine coils, the woman stirs, colour returning to her cheeks.  She sleepily opens large, dark green eyes and regards everyone with a dozy look that quickly turns to fear and suspicion.  Then she notices Sjack.  She squirms and draws back, clearly terrified.

Verjartix, as she stirs, moves away from her a bit to avoid causing her to panic.

Sirje stands up suddenly, watching the woman.

"Ah! She does live," Ragnvaldr says.

She calms once you slip away.  "What are you going to do with me?" she asks, her voice querulous.

Kylfa shrugs and grunts.  "No plans."

"We are going to feed you and keep you warm," Verjartix elaborates.  "After that, we had no intentions."

Ragnvaldr grins.  "Yet."

Verjartix, seeing the woman is awake, returns to his human form, and shoots Ragnvaldr a harsh glare. "No intentions she does not wish." His voice is extremely firm.

Ragnvaldr doesn't even look at Sjack.

"She must be tougher than she looks," Katla says.  "I was quite certain she'd not survive the night."

Sirje pours the last of the soup into a bowl and hands it to her. "Eat". Then she returns to the fire.

"Who... who are you?"  She seems unsure who to be more frightened of – the shapeshifter who turns into a giant serpent or the brutish raider leering at her. She accepts the bowl and attacks the soup greedily.

"Strangers.  Men, and beasts, and men of beast-shape.  I am Kylfa."

"We should return the question," Katla says.

Æskil watches from the corner, his pacing stopped.

"I am Sjack. And you?"

"My name is Eyfura."

Katla finishes her bowl of stew, wipes her mouth on a sleeve and dryly states her name: "Katla."

"Eyfura.  What brought you to this cold in those clothes?"  Sjack's voice, oddly enough, seems cooler and more distant now that he's out of his serpent form.

Ragnvaldr licks his bowl clean and leans back in his seat, eyes hooded with exhaustion.

"I was traveling with my kinsmen.  We had fled our homeland - our crops had failed, game was scarce, and every day it grew colder and colder.  We hoped to travel South, to warmer lands where Fimbulvinter has been less cruel, but we were attacked by the brigands who roam this country and scattered.  Now I am lost, with little hope of finding my kin... and to make matters worse, I have lost my clan's greatest heirloom."

"Wandering this wasteland, starving and cold, I strayed too near the borders of Ironwood.  From out of the wood came a swarm of Kobolds  - evil vættir the size of children, but with hideous faces and claws and fangs like those of beasts.  These forest-goblins swarmed all over me, tearing off my furs and jewels, including the rune-stone necklace of my clan; these they flung into filthy sacks.  I fled before the sprites could ravish me, squirming from their grasp, but I fear my family's greatest treasure is lost forever."

Andreas, you can sense that she's pagan.

Kylfa grunts distastefully at the mention of Kobolds.

Æskil, Sjack, you're very familiar with Kobolds - unpleasant creatures who dwell in burrows and mines, causing mischief.  Notorious thieves, they are attracted by shiny objects, much like certain birds.

Æskil stops pacing at the mention of Kobolds.

"I know Kobolds," Sjack murmurs. "Nasty. Cruel. Worth killing without extra motivation."   He grunts. "Vicious magpies. Would not have ravished. Would have eaten. Collect glitter."

"And from where do you hail, Eyfura?" Andreas asks.

"From the north, at the edge of the Hrafnlands."


Æskil slowly walks to the woman and simply says "Where?"

"I... I can show you where to find them, I think, for they accosted me near a certain distinctive stone, which I would recognize."

Sjack nods at Æskil. "Kobolds - pleasure to kill. Like rats."

"This is not about pleasure, this is about debts to pay. Blood for blood."

Sjack simply nods. As cold as he seems, it's hard to imagine him taking legitimate pleasure in anything right now. "Not my pleasure. His."

"Why we seek this blood?" Kylfa asks.

"They are Kobolds," Sjack says.  "That is enough. Morning. We go to kill."

Kylfa grunts dubiously.

"Enough for you perhaps," Katla says.

Sjack looks at Katla. "Kobolds like Blóðbards but weaker. Kill, steal, eat. That is all."

Eyfura turns to Kylfa.  "If you reclaimed my family's necklace, I would give you all of my other treasures - bracelets, rings, and earrings, set with precious stones."

"My treasures, like those of the bear - warmth, sleep, and food." Kylfa grumbles.

"Treasure not needed," Sjack declares. "Will help."

"The beasts already took your treasures," Katla points out.  "We could kill them for that. Indeed. But we needn't your permission to keep them, anyway."

Andreas remains seated in silent contemplation.

"I had hoped you would take further from this forest, but I will follow you," Sirje says. "North of here they live, although I do not know where. Even I stay clear of those creatures."

Eyfura turns to Katla but says nothing.  "I... I think I will sleep again now," she says.  Her bowl is clean.

Sirje laughs. "You are all still too kind. This is the Fimbulvinter. You must take what is given to you by the gods. Take not, but turn nothing down, or none of us will live to see the spring, if it ever comes.

"The gods have deserted Midgard," she says to Sirje.  "Surely if they cared for us, they would not let us suffer so?"

"The gods are preparing for war. Or they sleep, saving their strength for hardships to come. But they have not abandoned us."

"Perhaps it is as you say," Eyfura says to Sirje.  "My mind is troubled, clouded."

"Do not worry, girl. You will see I speak the truth soon enough. Now sleep."

Sjack walks over to meet Katla's eyes.

Æskil walks to a wall, sits down and closes his eyes before saying. "I will go with the woman in the morning to the rock. Now is for sleep, later is for talk and blood." Æskil nods off.

Kylfa puts his bowl aside, crosses his arms, and nods at Sirje.  "We still give thanks."

"Katla. Shield-Madien. You are warrior. This is chance for battle. For victory. The Kobolds would treat any like Blóðbards treat you. Will you fight for this woman's pleas?"

"I will fight. But not for pleas."

Sjack maintains his hold on her eyes, not blinking. "Then for victory. For thrill of battle. We return heirloom but take rest. It is right."

"I will fight for the glory, and the plunder to be had."

Æskil snores loudly.

"I do not like to fight for... things," Kylfa says. "Even an heirloom-thing.  It is just a thing."

"Yet even warriors need food and roofs over their heads," Sirje says.

Kylfa grunts.  "We speak again of this, tomorrow."

Ragnvaldr sleeps deeply.

Kylfa pulls the bear-hood back over his head and curls up in a furry ball.

Katla settles down, facing the hut's doorway, her back against the wall. She sets her sword beside her, readily by her hand.

"Must sleep as Verjartix. Weary. Too long hidden."  Sjack begins to shift forms again.

Andreas, you think you remember some reference to these "Kobolds" in the teachings of the Faith - you believe the Church maintains they are some species of minor demon, or imp, sent by the Fallen One to do mischief.  You can remember nothing of their strengths or weaknesses, however.

Andreas stirs as he begins to fall asleep. He takes out his copy of the Acta Sanctorum, and thumbs through its pages by the flickering light of the fire.

Referring to the scriptures, you confirm that Kobolds are indeed a species of imp.  They dislike sunlight and fire intensely, and are extremely cowardly.  They are known for setting traps.  Bold displays of prowess frighten them.  They delight in stealing metal objects and gemstones, and sometimes are known to snatch weapons from sheathes and scamper away.

The party slumbers deeply, undisturbed.

Kylfa snores loudly.

The next morn all but Ragnvaldr awake.  The big-boned warrior snores, back to the wall, and refuses to be woken.

Kylfa nods and grunts approvingly at Ragnvaldr.  "That is the sleep of the winter-bear."

Verjartix, upon waking, stretches his serpentine form. "Do we leave upon having eaten, or do we wait until later in the morning?"

"Let him slumber," Katla says.  "More treasure for the rest of us."

Verjartix nods.

Eyfura stirs and stretches sleepily.  Much of her colour has returned, and she now looks healthy enough.

"It would be best to see this through as soon as we are able," Andreas urges.

She nods.  "Come.  I will lead you to where the goblins assailed me."

"I would rather we do not return," Sirje says.  "I have been here too long. I have furs and food. Take what you need. Can you walk, girl?

"Yes, I am able."

Kylfa grumbles.  "Still it is just a mere thing.  But all others are going, so... very well."

"We will eat better after battle," Katla says.  "And do battle better before eating ourselves full. Let us be on our way!"

Æskil is especially quiet this morning, but his face gives clues to thinking and memories.

"Be wary of these Kobolds," Andreas warns as the party readies itself for travel.  "They are servants of the Fallen, and are clever and malicious, delighting in trickery and traps. But as all Demons do, they fear the Father's fire."

"Hmph.  I can make only a little fire," Kyfla says.

Verjartix nods at Andreas. "Despite that, they are small and weak, easily broken and killed."

Sirje checks the small traps around her house.

One of the traps has caught a rabbit.

"If Ragnvaldr can not be woken, it would be best to return, dwell here one night," Verjartix says.

"Yes, I would not leave him," Kylfa agrees.

Sirje brings the rabbit back in and cuts its throat, its fresh blood spilling across the wooden table.  "You asked for what the future held I will find your answers."  Sirje opens the belly of the rabbit, and feels its entrails for the tell-tale signs of futures good and bad.  "I see danger in the den of the voracious ones," she says. "Things hiding in the shadows. That is to be expected yes, but certainty is of some value.  Even a small blade can gut a man, especially if he never sees it."

"How far away is this place we will be going, Eyfura?" Kylfa asks.

"I am unsure - but not far, unless you rode for many miles before bringing me here."

"We should ride then," Katla says.  "In this deep snow it might be too long to make it there and back on foot before nightfall."

"Then we ride," Andreas says.

Verjartix nods at Katla. "I will travel in this form, atop the snow - I do not sink the way a horse or man would.   I will remain ahead to avoid startling the beasts of burden."

"I have no horse of my own I'm afraid," Sirje says.  "I will ride with you if one of you will have me."

"You may use my host's... Mine. You may use mine," Verjartix offers.

"So be it.  Thank you, snake-I-do-not-know."

Verjartix seems a bit confused by his noun usage.

"May I ride with you?" Eyfura asks Sirje.

"You may."

She mounts the horse behind you.

You ride from the forest and out into the Waste.  The snow is abating, the skies clearing.  Eyfura directs you northwards.

Verjartix sets off to stay ahead of the horses, a rolling, slithering gait, his legs used to help keep him moving forward.

After a brief ride the woman locates the landmark she spoke of: a forlorn runestone inscribed with images of Ymir's murder and butchering, and the subsequent creation of Midgard from his dismembered parts - flesh for earth, hair for trees, bones for mountains, blood for sea, brains for cloud, skull for sky.

"This is where the Kobolds attacked me," Eyfura says.  "They came from yonder."  She points towards the nearby eaves of Ironwood - dark rows of conifers, tall and foreboding.

Verjartix takes a winding path because he has to move after the horses have turned from Eyfura's directions.

"I do not fight well on a horse's back," Kylfa growls.

Verjartix approaches, remaining far enough to not spook the horses.

Katla moves toward the eaves and looks for any signs of the Kobold's passage, late though it may be.

Kylfa sees Andreas at work and opts to help him.

"The forest is wrong here.  They have left their mark," Sirje says.

You find a few scattered tracks leading into the wood, but the snow has filled most of them in.  Further inside the forest they may be clearer.

"Their passage is unclear," Andreas says, frowning.  "Come, we must head further into this wood."

Kylfa grunts.

Æskil follows, wary.

"I will return to the hut," Eyfura says.  "In case the sleeping one awakes and believes you to have abandoned him."

"You will be safe alone?" Kylfa asks.

"Don't get lost," Katla says.  "Just follow the hoofmarks. They are fresh and easy to see."

"I am certain of the way.  Thank you."

"Norns guide you," Æskil says.

"Tell him to come if he does indeed awake," Sirje says.  "Quickly. He is missing. Supposed to be here."

Eyfura departs.

Within the wood the air smells of decay, only slightly sweetened by pine.  The trees press claustrophobically close; snarled roots almost seem to claw at your ankles.  You can see no discernible path.  The trees are thick enough that the ground is only partially snow-covered.  A set of tracks made by many small, clawed feet winds into the undergrowth.

Verjartix hisses in a sigh-like motion. "She is soft. Supple. Weak. I worry we'll have to bear her as a burden until we can foist her somewhere safe."  Verjartix silences upon seeing the tracks.

"And here, a path. Let us see where it leads."  Andreas presses his mount onwards.

The going is becoming very difficult for your horses.  The trees are too densely packed.

Æskil covers the rear.

Verjartix pulls in his legs to slither, making movement more simple, and follows the path, careful not to glide over it.

Kylfa grunts and dismounts, then ties his horse up and strides forward, his lumbering form moving smoothly through the brush as if it were not even there.

"Come, time for our own legs to carry us."  Æskil dismounts.

You continue to follow the tracks.

Katla gets down from the saddle and ties her mount's reins to a tree, laughing at Sjack-snake's words. "It sounds like a burden you're quite eager to bear."

Verjartix looks at Katla, grinning slightly. "While her flesh would not be displeasing, she is weak. She would not truly satisfy either of us. A strong woman, one with will and fire and desire, that would."

"Well, good luck finding one that finds snakes to her liking, then," Katla says.

He grins again at Katla. "I would not in this form - my desires do not run as they do when I am a man. But as a man..." Verjartix simply lets out a slight, hissing laugh before returning to the duty at hand.

Andreas clutches his axe tightly, picking his way through the grasping thorns and bushes.

Up ahead a decomposing human corpse has been pinned to a tree with sharpened stakes.  Based on his long, white-blond beard and runic tattoos he was a Bloodbeard raider.  His hands have been pinned to the bark above his head and his chest cavity and belly have been opened, flesh peeled back and ribs broken.  The man has been completely eviscerated, his heart, liver, stomach, intestines, and other innards removed.  The gnaw-marks and scratches covered his body suggest that his organs were consumed.

"Fallen-work, for all to see," Andreas says darkly.

"A warning," Sjack says.

"A challenge," Æskil muses.

Kylfa simply grunts in distaste.

"We are on their land now," Sirje says.

Verjartix nods. "And cruel preforms cruelty to the cruel to warn the weak. It is good than we are not weak."  

More tracks lead past the corpse.

"Let us continue.  This man is beyond anything," Æskil growls.

Kylfa grunts and nods.

"He is within Hel's grasp, as he should be," Verjartix says.

"A fitting end for a Bloodbeard, I'd say," Katla observes.

"I'll take lead, I suppose," Æskil says.

"It might be best if I take lead," Verjartix says.

"Very well, snake."

"I can move with more stealth...and the Kobolds may not attack should they see me first."

Katla proceeds some ways off on the right flank of the party.

Kylfa bends down, takes up a pinch of dirt, throws it over himself and casts Longstrider with a whisper.  "I will do so.  I will take the back."  Kylfa moves to the rear, moving swiftly despite the bulk of furs upon him.

Verjartix, you notice that the tracks swerve up ahead, and then you spot a suspicious heap of leaves and foliage - likely disguising some sort of trap.

Verjartix lets out a hissing sigh. "A trap of sorts. Stand back and toss a stone atop it, to trigger.  I would myself, but I lack the needed equipment."

Æskil throws a stone.

The camouflage collapses, revealing a pit perhaps twenty feet deep with sharpened stakes at the bottom.

"A simple trap," Verjartrix hisses.  "Be wary - Kobold snares are often more clever."

Verjartix, Æskil, you see a small shape lurking in the shadow of a tree, watching you carefully.  Child-sized and horribly hunched, the creature has filthy, mottled skin, very long, deft-looking fingers, and a mouth crowded with fangs.  Its eyes are small and clever-looking and its hair long, like hanging moss.  The hideous little being is garbed in a patchwork of poorly tanned furs culled from squirrels, rabbits, and mice.  It wears a small knife at its waist and carries a short spear.

Upon seeing it, Verjartix darts forward, snapping a bite at it before it can tell it's been spotted.

"Where there is one, there are many..." Æskil grumbles.

You clamp your jaws around the creature, striking swiftly.  It squeals in agony and stabs with its spear; you swat the weapon aside.

Kylfa turns and watches carefully for any flanking while the others maul the lone Kobold.

The creature somehow squirms free of your jaws and evades your other attacks!

Æskil takes several strides and swings at the fleeing beast.

Katla moves forth toward the sounds of combat. She emerges from the woods with bow in hand, an arrow nocked. With a swift draw and aim she lets the missile fly

Kylfa takes out his sling and waits, should the creature try to get away.

The creature ducks Æskil’s blow but Katla’s arrow strikes home.

"Slippery little misspawn," Verjartix hisses.

The arrow pins the creature to a tree, impaling it through it tiny belly.

Kylfa grunts with approval and puts his sling away.

It’s not dead.  It gibbers in pain, flailing, tugging weakly at the arrow.

Verjartix rolls up and swiftly attempts to bite its head off.

Æskil walks to the creature. "Where?"

Verjartix stops himself, fangs inches away.

Æskil yells at the beast again, spittle flying from his mouth, "Where!"

The creature gibbers further.  It appears unable to understand you.  Kylfa, you recognize its language as some bastard, degenerate dialect of Álfari.

"Hold. Let me."  Kylfa walks up to it and growls the same in Álfari - "Where."

"What do you seek?!" the creature whimpers.  "Please, release me!  I lead you to much treasure!"  It thrashes with decreasing vigour, green blood oozing from its belly.

Katla stands back, leaving the interrogation to Sjack and Kylfa. She watches their backs, keeping a look out for more Kobolds.

"A necklace.  You stole it from a woman.  Where?"

Verjartix not know what the creature is saying, keeps his jaw open near its head to provide a continued threat.

"Woman?" the creature croaks weakly.  "What woman?  Whom do you speak of?"  Greenish blood is trickling from the creature’s mouth.  You cannot tell if it speaks falsehoods or no, but you can’t see why it would lie about such a thing...

It seems to be drifting near to unconsciousness.

"A woman in silk.  Northlander.  If you do not know her, or the necklace, no reason to keep you." Kylfa raises his club over the creature's head.

Verjartix licks at the blood. "Kylfa, have you asked it where they keep the treasure?

"The necklace.  The treasure.  Now."

The creature's head jerks feebly as its life begins to slip away.  "Treasure... treasure in the warren.  Help me.  Release me.  I show you..."

Kylfa turns to the others.  "It says treasure is in the warren.  Wants release.  Says nothing of the woman, or the necklace."

Verjartix lets out a hissing sigh. "Will he take us to it? I have already tasted his blood, I could spare or end him."

"A wicked creature," Andreas declares.  "Better it dies."

"I have told you its words.  Do as you will."  Kylfa trudges back to the rear.

"You want it to live?" Sirje asks.

"Only long enough to make our task easier," Verjartix says.

"I cannot claim I care for it," Sirje says.

"It says it will lead us," Kylfa says.  "I do not trust it, but you decide."

It spasms, limbs twitching.  Soon it will be gone.

"Either we let it lead us, or look for their lair on our own," Kylfa says.

"Thank you, Blind-One, for sparing me the use of a spell on that vermin."

"My name is Sirje," Sirje says to Verjartix.  She turns to tend to the Kobold, in an effort to keep it alive, for now.

You pull the arrow from the creature’s body and tend the Kobold’s wounds, staunching its bleeding.

"I am called Thorntongue."  The creature is still desperately weak.  "I... I show you to the warren?"

Kylfa returns to translate for it once it starts speaking again.  "It is called Thorntongue. It says it shows us to the warren."

The child-sized creature leads you through the forest, scampering over roots and stones, still feeble despite Sirje’s aid.  Three times it points out other traps, tripwires and snares.

Kylfa takes a position near the front to continue translating for it, if need be.

Up ahead, an enormous dead tree rises out of the ground, blackened by fire; it stands in the midst of a small clearing.  At the huge, gnarled tree’s base a small hole is visible - perhaps just big enough to enter if stooped.  Sharpened stakes have been planted outside the tree, each bearing the decaying head of a human or wolf.

"The warren," Thorntongue says, pointing to the tree.

"I sense my ogre size-magic will not be useful here," Kylfa says sardonically.  "It says this is the warren."

Katla frowns at the sight of the tiny crevice. "Looks like we'll have trouble to enter there, if we can fit at all."

"Trouble or no, it is what we must do," Andreas insists.

"I can enter without problem. I shall lead," Verjartix hisses.

"Does it go with us, or do we leave it here?" Kylfa asks.

"Ask it if there are further traps within?" Verjartix says.

"We will be easy prey for traps and ambushes down in those tunnels," Sirje says.  "Be wary."

"Do not leave it free to cause mischief, it comes with us," Andreas says.

"Tie it up," Katla suggests.  "It'll only make trouble if we take it along further."

"Thorntongue.  Traps, within?"

"No traps in the warren, only without."

"It says there are no traps within," Kylfa translates.

"Then kill it," Verjartix  says.  "It serves no further use."

"No."  Kylfa grabs the creature by the scruff of its neck.

Verjartix turns to Kylfa.  "You were ready for its death before, Old One. Why spare it now?"

"Because to guide is hospitality.  To kill it would be níðingsverk."

"Why bicker so over the fate of this wretched creature? Death will likely claim it anyway, once we're done with the bloody work in the warren," Katla says.

"I say put its head on a spike and be done with the thing," Æskil suggests.  "It will not hesitate to kill us or warn its kin. There may be other tunnels he is not showing us."

"Thorntongue," Kylfa says in Álfari.  "I count to five, in my head."

"Weak and wounded and bereft of home, where would it go?" Katla asks.

"Their kind has no place after. They will die anyway. And if its own kind find it, and learn of what it did, they will kill it slowly, painfully. Killing it is a mercy."  Verjartix looks at Katla.  "The Shield-Madien has a point."

"You run in the forest.  If I ever see you again, I will eat you."

The creature gurgles.

Kylfa releases the creature, and calmly says to it - "One."

Thorntongue scampers away towards the edge of the clearing as fast as it can.

Katla curses, grabs her bow and prepares to let loose an arrow.

Kylfa makes no move to stop Katla.

Verjartix shrugs with his shoulders. "It is of a doomed kind anyway. No matter what, it is already dead."

"A foul thing too, but still, life is precious in winter," Sirje says.

Katla looses.

Your arrow takes it through the back of its oversized head.  It crumples to the ground at the clearing’s edge.

Kylfa shrugs and grunts.

"Life must be earned," Æskil grimly declares.

"This winter will cleanse its kind," Verjartix says. "Will cleanse many kinds. You should see this, Blind One."

"The warren may have alternative exits. It could have gone to warn it's kin of our coming," Katla says.

You hear the snap of twigs somewhere beyond the clearing.  Something is moving out there.

Verjartix whispers in a hiss. "Approaching."

Æskil draws his axe and hefts his shield.

You see the undergrowth rustling beyond the clearing, but you cannot yet see whatever is causing the disturbance.

Katla nocks another arrow and draws back the bowstring, her sights set on the tree-line. Patiently she waits for whatever is making the noises to emerge.

Andreas gets out his axe.  Æskil readies himself for battle.

"Come out. We know you are there," Sirje says.

"Kobolds might have tamed some sort of old beasts to serve them," Verjartix says.

The bushes rustle still further, and half a dozen small forms emerge from various positions around the clearing.  They prepare to throw small javelins!

"Or it could be an ambush," Verjartix hisses with a sigh.

Katla immediately shoots at the nearest figure.

Your arrow whistles over its head.

Sirje issues a murderous command, her words charged with magic.

One of the creatures suddenly turns to its fellow Kobold and flings its javelin towards it, and grazing its flesh.  The injured Kobold squeaks in pain.

Andreas charges forward, axe gleaming.  "Die, fiend!" he bellows.  The Fatherman beheads a Kobold with a single swipe of his axe.

Kylfa uses his toughness transformation, and his skin hardens into a thick hide - then he moves up to the nearest Kobold, shield and cudgel in hand.

Æskil hefts a throwing axe towards the nearest beast, ducking a javelin.

Your throw goes wide.

Kylfa swats the javelin aside and bludgeons the Kobold.

You hear a sickening smack as you lay into it.

Katla dodges a hurled javelin nimbly.

Verjartix whispers "Age of the new guard me" and a shimmering barrier appears before him as he slithers forward into the middle of the Kobolds, trying to draw their attention.

Katla puts down her bow, quickly slings her shield from her back and straps it to her arm. She draws the sword, readying herself for melee.

Sirje holds out our hand, palm down, and lower her hand slowly towards one of the Kobolds.

One of the Kobolds slumps into unconsciousness.

Æskil draws his axe, steps, and swings at the nearest Kobold.

You slash at one of the Kobolds, giving it a nasty wound.

Andreas steps forward and hacks at the nest nearest Kobold but misses.

Kylfa roars with a face full of black fur, and swings at the previously-bruised Kobold again!

You hit the creature hard, but this Kobold seems unusually tough.  It slashes at you with a small knife, but you twist aside and it trips, sprawling prone.

Kylfa laughs.

The Kobolds disappear into the undergrowth!

Verjartix snaps his head down, catching the Kobold by its head up to its waist. He thrashes the creature back and forth, snapping its spine, before turning his head straight up to swallow it whole.

It tastes foul, like rotting wood and spoiled meat.

Verjartix nods grimly. "They are foul, twisted creatures. Their time is over, as are so many."

Katla screams a howling warcry and charges to deliver a vicious downward stab on the Kobold crawling on the ground.

You skewer the Kobold.  Greenish blood spurts everywhere; it is still alive, but barely.

Æskil swings again at the Kobold, but the creature scampers away.

Andreas hacks at the Kobold crawling away, but his axe hits the earth.

Kylfa drops his shield and uses two hands to swing his club down at the prone Kobold!  He swings his knotted club downwards, and it lodges unceremoniously in the dirty creature's now-ruined skull.

The Kobolds are either dead or fled.  The warren awaits.

Katla wipes the strange monster-blood from her blade. Seeing that the rest of the Kobolds have fled, she returns to fetch the bow she dropped.

Kylfa picks up his shield and grunts.

Verjartix shifts back to human form and the Kobold's corpse, which had been lodged in his linnorm's throat, falls to the ground.


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Re: The Fimbulvinter Saga
« Reply #2 on: February 24, 2012, 05:21:14 PM »
IC: Fitt III: The Trollwife
Ragnvaldr, you awake after a very relaxing sleep to find yourself alone in the hut with Eyfura, who is making some sort of stew by the hearth.  When she sees that you have woken she crosses the room towards you with a steaming bowl of something delicious-smelling.  Once again you cannot help but notice her ample curves and refined features - no doubt but she is comely.  She bears a concerned expression, however.

"Good, you are awake," she says.  "Here, I made you some stew.  I have dark news... but please, eat.  You look like a man with... a large appetite."

"I ate my fill last night," Ragnvaldr says.  "Where are the others?"

"I fear your companions have become ensnared by the Seid of that blind witch," Eyfura says, looking grave.  "She must have woven a spell on them while they slept, for when they awoke they were... changed.  Your warrior's heart must have been too strong to turn so easily.  Where last night some of them seemed eager to help me, this morning they handled me roughly, forced me to show them the location of the den where the Kobolds have my family's necklace, threatening me with death and worse if I refused.  They plan to kill the creatures and take my clan's treasure for themselves; the witch controls them like puppets with an evil enchantment.  I managed to slip away from them when they ventured into the wood."

She hands you the bowl.  "Will you not eat?  You should keep up your strength."  She seems innocent enough.  Why else would you have been abandoned here...?

Ragnvaldr snatches the bowl. "Where have they gone? I'll eat on the way.  Well!? Answer me, woman!"

"I can lead you to them.  But do not attack them, or try to break the spell!  They will see through you and slay you on the spot.  But if you approach your ensorcelled companions and pretend to be under the blind witch's control they might let you rejoin them... then you could help them reclaim the necklace and try to get a hold of it, or bide your time and ready yourself to snatch it; then, when they leave the forest, I will await you.  Give me the necklace to me, quickly; the runes on the necklace have certain powers, which I will use to create an illusion - I will make it appear that I have transformed into a monstrous Troll.  With any luck they will be terrified and flee.  Then we can leave them behind, you and I."  

She looks deep into your eyes and touches your face with one soft hand.  "I would be... very grateful for your assistance."

You've been Charmed.  You now consider Eyfura a trusted ally.

"Such deceits are not to my liking, but you may speak wisdom. Aslaug! Up, girl, we must be away."

She smiles.  "They took the horses, but if we hurry you can reach them before they leave the forest."  Eyfura leads you through the cold, rocky waste with surprising ease, scrambling up slopes and picking her way round gullies.  She brings you to a runestone depicting the butchery of Ymir and the subsequent creation of the world from his mutilated cadaver.

"In there," she says, pointing to Ironwood.  "Follow their tracks.  That will lead you to the Kobolds' den."

"And you?"

"I will wait for you here.  Remember!  Get the necklace if you can.  Once I have it I can use it to create an illusion."

"Aye."  Ragnvaldr hurries into the Ironwood.

You press on into the wood, discovering a Bloðbard corpse pinned to the wall of a tree.

Ragnvaldr examines the corpse.

The corpse has been eviscerated and partially devoured - likely Kobold work.

Ragnvaldr shrugs and presses onwards.

Your companions' tracks lead through the snowy wood towards a clearing.  Their horses are tied up a short distance away.  You hear what sounds like a battle - shrill inhuman shrieks, the sound of weapons slicing flesh and clubs breaking bones.

As you approach, you almost step on a tripwire strung across the rough path!

Ragnvaldr curses in surprise at his narrow escape and presses on towards the fighting.

You arrive to find your companions finishing off a pack of Kobolds - vile creatures the size of children with mottled skins, moss-like hair, long fingers, and vicious fangs.  Your fellow warriors have made short work of the vættir.  At the center of the clearing a huge tree stands, with a crack in the base, just big enough for a human to squeeze through if stooped slightly.

"Ho, friends!"  Ragnvaldr grins.  "Thought you'd steal the glory as I slept, eh? You'll go no further without me!"

Andreas looks in your direction with an inscrutable expression.

Ragnvaldr pokes at a dead Kobold with his spear, then spits in disgust.

"From the looks of you, it seemed that you'd be sleeping till the end of Ragnarök!"  Katla laughs cheerfully.

Ragnvaldr grunts. "Aye, I was weary as the dead last night."

"Tired, were we?"Æskil asks.

Verjartix returns from scouting, looking at Ragvaldr. "Glad you could join us, warrior."

Kylfa grunts in agreement.

"We should set a watch on the horses, in case the Kobolds who fled make mischief with them," Sirje says.

Verjartix nods in agreement. "Especially if the Kobolds draw in more allies."

"Where is the den of these goblin-folk then?"

"The tree."  Kylfa points.

"The entrance is narrow, especially for those of you who must stand upright," Verjartix notes.

"Aye, narrow indeed," Ragnvaldr observes.

"Judging by its looks, there won't be enough room in the warrens for a large group to do much more than get on each other's way," Katla says.  "Leaving some guards out here is sound advice."

"Even better, I'll fill the tunnel with axe and shield," Æskil says. "Let them come."

"Well, I've missed enough already, I'll not stay as a guard," Ragnvaldr growls.

"I'll wait by the horses," Sirje says.  "I can see more than you might think, even without my eyes - but a burrow is no place for a blind woman."

"Very well witch," Æskil says.

Verjartix 's tongue flicks out in his approximation of a smile. "Well then, blind woman, your guardianship will be appreciated."

Ragnvaldr draws a dagger for the close-in fighting in the tunnels.

"Shall we enter this den of forsaken beings, then, to hasten their demise?"  Verjartix moves to take point.

"Aye. We've stalled long enough," Katla says.

Kylfa grunts.  "Very well."

"You may hear well, snake-man, but I've spent more years in the dark than you've spent alive," Æskil points out.

"Perhaps, but I can move more freely here than you could. A simple matter of shape - I can slither, while you must crawl or hunch, and the dark is no barrier for my eyes."

"True as that may be, there is little room to move in Kobold-tunnels."

Verjartix flicks his tongue in irritation. "Which is why it is best I move first, since I will be less hampered.  And at least you can clearly see over me, whereas others cannot the same for you."

"Very well, snake," Æskil concedes.

Kylfa scratches his beard.  "Go then."

Verjartix nods his head, proceeding. "My name is Verjartix, not snake," he hisses before entering the warren, a movement that belies his words.

Ragnvaldr will enter behind Æskil.

Katla enters the warren, hunching low.

Andreas and Kylfa follow them down.

Inside, the tree is hollow.  The inside of its bark has been painted with pictographs depicting various forest beasts, as well as humanoid figures that might be Trolls or other Jötnar.  A short distance ahead the Kobolds have dug into the ground, digging a vertical tunnel straight downwards; the roots of the tree lining the shaft.  A rickety wooden stairway spirals down the tunnel into pitch darkness.

"Darkness flees before the Light of the Father," Andreas murmurs.  His holy symbol begins to glow.

The stairs creak as everyone descends, but manage to hold.  At the bottom of the stair, three tunnels wind off into blackness, one sloping down and the other two running level.  Roots protrude from the ceiling.  The air smells of carrion, earth, urine, and wet fur.  The ceiling is very low - you will have to stoop to progress.

Æskil, these tunnels are a bloody deathtrap - no proper support, no engineering.  You'd better be very, very careful.

Verjartix quietly lets out a smug hiss at the size of the tunnel proving him right.

"Don't do anything mad," Æskil says.  "This place is about to fall."

Verjartix nods and hisses a quiet question. "In such a place, loud noises are a danger, same as the snow on a mountain, no?"

Kylfa grumbles quietly, his great form surely testing the structure.

Æskil draws his longsword instead of an axe, as it may be easier to thrust than swing in the cramped tunnels.  He puts his finger to his lips and points towards the passage that leads down.

Verjartix nods and follows the more experienced spelunker's direction, glancing back when possible to check for further instructions.

The tunnel slopes downwards, then levels out and branches yet again.

Verjartix looks at the two branches, then back at Æskil in a silent question.

Without Andreas' light it would be pitch-black down here.  You hear murmurs and sounds of Álfari speech coming from the left-hand tunnel.

Æskil nods towards the left-hand tunnel.

Verjartix, you hear what sounds like eating-noises from the right-hand tunnel.

Verjartix nods at Æskil, but flicks his tongue down the right-hand tunnel, and silently sends a message to Æskil 's mind. "I hear eating to the opposite direction."

Katla asks, whispering, "Which way shall we head, snake-man?"

Æskil thinks for a second, and decides it may not be wise to interrupt a Kobold's meal. Plus, the ones eating may be sufficiently distracted if a fight breaks out.

Verjartix looks at Katla, then looks at Æskil, waiting for the man to indicate his choice  with the new information.  He nods to Æskil and heads down the left-hand tunnel.

Katla follows close behind.

The tunnel worms this way and that, twisting and turning.  Up ahead it looks like it opens into a roughly dug chamber.

Kylfa follows them as well, stout club in hand.

"Sleepy-one, lend me knife.  Close tunnels make close killing."  Æskil gestures for a knife with his hands.

Ragnvaldr presses a dirk into Æskil's hand with a grim nod.

Andreas clutches his seaxe tightly.

Verjartix, taking lead, you see a large warren open before you.  Half a dozen Kobolds sleep, talk, or carve weapons here.

Verjartix pauses, and sends a message to each of them. "I see six. Some slumber, some craft, some chatter."

As Katla and Ragnvaldr stamp through the passages, some of the Kobolds look up, though they look unsure rather than truly alarmed.

Verjartix pauses, giving Katla and Ragnvaldr a look, and then sending a message to each in turn.  "Cleric, dim your light for now."

Andreas nods and runs a hand over the sunburst of the Faith. The light vanishes.

You are plunged into total blackness.

"I will attempt to remove as many as I can before we attack in full, to avoid alerting the others. If I am spotted, resume the light and begin the battle in full."

Katla slows down, stepping as lightly as she manages.

Ragnvaldr simply stops and waits, straining his ears in the blackness.

Kylfa stops and closes his eyes, breathing deeply and waiting...

Verjartix moves through the darkness, giving whoever is behind him a light brush of his tail to indicate his departure.

The nearest Kobold sits on the skull of an aurochs and sharpens a spear.  It seems unaware of you.  Another sleeps nearby.

Verjartix hovers over the sleeping one, waiting for none of the vermin to be glancing at their sleeping comrades. He snaps his head down, grasping the Kobold and pulling it to the ceiling as silently as possible.

You snap the Kobold into your jaws.  The Kobold is slain almost instantly, without so much as a squeak.

One of the Kobolds seems to have detected movement, but not yet seen you.  The creature lumbers over near to where you are coiled.  It gibbers something in the crude tongue the Kobolds speak.  More of the grubby vættar take notice.

Verjartix clings as closely to the ceiling as possible, the slain Kobold silently swallowed.

They still haven't seen you.  The chamber has plenty of nooks and crannies to hide in.  Small niches like rat-holes riddle the walls where the creatures have stashed small trinkets and other personal possessions.

Verjartix moves away from the spot, heading into a nook to wait for their attention to wane, messaging the group. "I have slain one. Will await the others to grow bored of the anomaly."  Verjartix avoids the temptation to steal some of the possessions for himself.

Kylfa yawns.

Æskil draws his dagger through the earth impatiently.

Two of the Kobolds depart the chamber via one of the two other connecting tunnels.  The remaining four go back to their previous activities.

Verjartix sends a message to the others, alerting them that two have departed down a different tunnel, before attempting to silently kill whichever Kobold is furthest from the rest.

Æskil grins and readies himself.

Katla crouches in silence, like a stalking cat prepared to pounce. She awaits with anticipation the moment to spring forth into the fray.

Verjartix slips his jaw down, biting it and covering it's head, and snaps his stinger into the creature's back to cease its struggling.  Verjartix again pulls the corpse up, stashing it in one of the nooks.

The Kobold makes a muffled cry as you strike before going limp from your sting.  The others whip around and clutch at weapons - mostly small knives and javelins.

Verjartix sends a message to the priest: "Prepare yourself, this will begin soon."

The Kobolds, seeing you, shout in terror and promptly flee.

Andreas passes a hand over his symbol, flooding the tunnel with its illumination.

Verjartix remains on the ceiling behind, to avoid impeding the rest of the group.

As the light bursts from Andreas' symbol the Kobolds squeal in disorientation.  They are momentarily dazed.

Katla seeing the first rays of light begin to shine, instantly snaps into action, moving toward the entrance to the large chamber, to meet any Kobold coming her way.

Æskil grins at the chance to do battle like the gods intended!

Andreas, Kyfla, you hear small footsteps heading towards you from behind!

Æskil shouts and charges - waddles - at the nearest Kobold.

Andreas turns, bringing his seaxe to bear.

Kylfa turns straight about and casts Shillelagh on his club.

Katla darts at the shape of a Kobold faintly illuminated before her, lunging savagely with her dagger, digging the blade into the creature's eye-socket and skewering its tiny brain.

The whole party can now see a group of Kobold warriors armoured in tanned hides and wielding spears and knives approaching from behind.

Ragnvaldr shuffles around and bulls past those behind him with surprising speed considering his hunched posture and heavy mail, heading for the newly-arrived Kobolds, dagger in hand.

The Kobolds dart backwards as you barrel forwards, avoiding your swings with the dagger.

Kylfa barrels past Ragnvaldr and swats at one of the Kobolds with his mighty cudgel.  He grunts and slams his cudgel into the Kobold's side, folding its back in two like a twig.

Æskil draws his green-blooded dagger from the Kobolds corpse, turns on his heel, and lets fly the dagger, the green ichor spaying from the knife.

The knife bounces off Ragnvaldr's back.

Ragnvaldr grunts in surprise as the dagger pings harmlessly off his mail.

Katla, realizing there isn't enough room for her to join the fight in the rear, moves forth.

Kylfa blocks both blows easily with his hide-covered shield.

The Kobolds jab with their spears, but Anderas' light has them dazzled.

Katla, a javelin arcs out of the darkness of a tunnel towards you, striking you in the thigh.  You can now make out more diminutive shapes hunched in the gloom - perhaps four or five of them.  The javelin was poisoned - you immediately feel a stinging sensation, and rapidly become woozy.

Katla curses and grunts in pain as she reaches to pull the missile off her side. "There are more of them here!" She shouts, fire in her voice.

"When a thousand voices cry out in righteous rage, the Fallen can do naught but cower!" Andreas opens his mouth as if to scream

One of the Kobolds is dazed and squeals in agony.

Verjartix, several Kobolds are approaching from a side-tunnel - one of them just flung a javelin at Katla.

Verjartix moves across the ceiling and lunges with a bite at the first one he can reach.

You lash out at one of the Kobolds but the vættir darts back, avoiding your strike.

Ragnvaldr lunges for a Kobold with a grunt of effort.

You continue to press the attack, but the Kobolds are too quick.  They weave around your blows, chittering angrily.

Kylfa leapfrogs Ragnvaldr yet again and strikes at the Kobold Ragnvalder barely missed.

You smack the Kobold in the head, sending it reeling, though it remains on its feet.

Æskil draws his axe and moves towards the nearest Kobolds.

Katla leaps at the Kobold that threw the javelin at her, screaming murderously. Her eyes flare with wild abandon, betraying the berserk fury that consumes her.

You stab your blade deep into the Kobold's body.  It screams in pain, greenish blood spurting from the wound.

Katla, the Kobold you struck desperately lashes out with a knife.  In your berserk state you fail to defend yourself and the blade slashes across your face, cutting your cheek.

Katla, lost in her, rage barely notices the cut, though it draws a vicious bleeding and smears the side of the her face and much of her hair in crimson.

The Kobolds jab with their spears at Æskil and Verjartix but to no avail.

One of the Kobolds jabs at you with its spear, Kylfa, drawing blood.

Kylfa grunts.

Andreas , hearing Katla's cry, hurries to her aid.  He lunges at a Kobold, seaxe held before him; he hammers his seaxe down through the top of the wounded Kobold's head with a meaty thud.

Verjartix drops down on the nearest Kobold, unleashing his full fury.

You land on the Kobold, biting and lashing out with your sting.  The creature makes a gurgled cry and dies.

Ragnvaldr slashes out at the nearest Kobold again, frustrated by its nimbleness.  He grunts in satisfaction as his knife finally plunges between the little vaettir's ribs.

Kylfa roars and strikes at the previously injured Kobold again.

The Kobold ducks, shrieking in alarm as Kylfa clubs at it.

Kylfa growls and gnashes his teeth in frustration.

Katla steps over the fallen Kobold before her, stomping its wretched corpse beneath her boots as she bulldozes her way directly to the next one up ahead.

You skewer a second Kobold.  It shrieks, green blood spurting from its mouth.

Æskil swings at the nearest Kobold with his black-bladed axe.

You slash off one of the Kobold's arms.  It chitters in surprise and anguish.

Badly wounded, the Kobolds scatter, withdrawing down the cramped tunnels en masse.

Andreas lunges, stabbing a fleeing Kobold through the heart.  "And so the Imps scatter before Father's Fury."

Verjartix snaps out with his jaw, clasping onto a fleeing Kobold and snapping it's neck in twain.

"Quickly, let's see if we can find that jewellery before they get fire back in their bellies," Æskil says.  "Don't even think about going deeper by yourselves, bear-man. If you knew what awaited you..."

Kylfa growls, but lowers his club and lets the creatures flee.  "Necklace, then, and go."

Æskil picks up Ragnvaldr's dagger, and gives it back.

"My thanks, Æskil," Ragnvaldr says.

Verjartix nods. "The miner is right. We best search for treasure - they have it hidden in nooks and crannies."

Kylfa remains where he is as long as Andreas' light still reaches him, to make sure the Kobolds don't return from this side.

Verjartix heads into the darker areas outside the light, using his vision to see what the others cannot.

Katla drops to one knee, allowing her berserk rage to calm away. She cuts a piece of cloth off her sleeve with a knife, then uses it to make a tourniquet to the spear-wound on the side of her thigh

You search the small niches holding various treasures and find a small trove of valuables: a silver ring set with a bloodstone, half a dozen brass rings, three gold arm-bands, a smattering of coin, and a silver circlet set with a moonstone.  There is, however, no sign of the necklace.  It must be elsewhere in the warren.

Kylfa grunts, giving little regard for the trinkets.

"Glory and gold, bear-man, glory and gold," Æskil says.

Ragnvaldr goes to take the arm-bands, glancing at the others to see if they object.  He secretes his share about his person with a satisfied nod.

Verjartix hisses in displeasure at the valuables, but focuses his senses to see if any bear enchantment.

One of the otherwise totally unremarkable brass rings is actually enchanted.  Looking closer you spot small runes etched inside the band.

Verjartix glances at the ring. "I would like to investigate the runed one further."  He flicks his tongue in and out.  "Æskil, lead the others on.  I will cover the rear passages and make sure no more Kobolds sneak up on us."

You hear a few distant echoes of Kobold chittering down the right-hand passage.

"Who's for smashing some skulls?" Æskil asks.

Kylfa grunts and nods, hefting his club.

Ragnvaldr dons the golden arm-rings and hefts his spear. "Aye."

Æskil pockets the rings, then goes down the right-hand tunnel, motioning the others to be keep quiet.

You come to a three-way fork in the path.  One broad passage leads into darkness; a narrower passage slopes upwards.  In the tunnel straight ahead, Æskil discerns the sound of Kobolds moving and speaking.

Æskil draws his axe, nods towards the Kobold-chattering, and looks back for a consensus.

Ragnvaldr gives a fierce nod of assent.

Kylfa bares his teeth.

Katla reequips her shield and draws her dagger, eager to slay more Kobolds.

Æskil steadily heads down the corridor with the noises.

Ragnvaldr follows close behind Æskil, ready to thrust past him if need be.

You enter a rather large circular chamber which seems to be a shrine.  A number of animal skulls - moose, giant wolves, aurochs, stags - are arrayed around the room, with sacrificial offerings in various states of putrescence placed on stone slabs before them.  The skulls peer at you with black sockets, making your flesh creep.  Three Kobolds wearing the skulls of immature wolves as helmets or headdresses lead a band of five warriors here.  One of the skull-wearers holds a bone rattle; another wears a necklace of runic stones around its neck.  As you enter the chamber they shriek in fear and anger and prepare to do battle.

Ragnvaldr rushes into the chamber with a grim battle-shout and thrusts with all his might at the first Kobold he comes to.  He slams his war-spear through the pathetic creature's frail body and then wrenches it clear in one clean motion, spilling verdant gore onto the floor of the chamber and letting the ragged little corpse collapse before him.

One of the skull-wearers shakes his bone rattle and chitters a gibberish prayer to dark powers.  Æskil, a feeling of intense dread fills you.  Why have you come down here?  Surely you will die in this pit of death and darkness!

A third Kobold chirrups yet another vile prayer, and you all feel a wave of unease ripple over you.

Kylfa snarls and transforms, growing claws and teeth, and moves to join the warriors in their fight against the filthy beasts.

Ragnvadlr, a Kobold stabs you in the side with his spear, punching through your armour.  You feel a burning sensation as poison creeps into your veins!

Æskil charges towards the shaman with the necklace.

A Kobold jabs you viciously in the calf as you dart past it.  The creature's spear slides into agonizingly into your flesh, splintering as it does so.

Æskil ignores the wound and attacks the shaman.

The shaman ducks your blow.

Andreas charges into the midst of the battle, hewing at a Kobold with his long axe.  "And though the fiendlings were all about her, Iovana did not cry out, for the power of the Father was with her!"

Katla charges at the Kobold warrior that broke its spear attacking Æskil.

The Kobolds flinch before Andreas' charge, scrambling backwards madly, trying desperately to avoid his slashing strikes.  One is caught off guard by Katla's charge and stabbed in the back.  It dies instantly, its heart pierced by the blow.

Ragnvaldr wheels on the unfortunate Kobold that managed to wound him with vengeance flashing in his eyes and lashes out with his spear.

You impale the Kobold, ramming through its tiny body with your spear.  It clings tenaciously to life, green blood oozing from the wound.

The shamans mutter and shriek, dancing around Æskil and chanting their evil spells.

Æskil spits blood from his mouth, turns on his heel, and in one smooth swipe, takes the head off the shaman with the runic necklace, its head and talisman flying into the air, its body trying to finish its dance before it slumps into a heap.

The other Kobolds attempt to muster some malignant spell, but they are distracted and terrified by the loss of their comrade.

Kylfa drops his club and shield, and slashes with fang and claw at one of the other warriors.

You fasten your jaws round one Kobold warrior's neck, ripping and tearing at its skin.  The creature tastes horrible, like rotting leaves and mud.  It madly it lashes out at you with its spear.

The impaled Kobold at the end of Ragnvadlr's spear desperately lunges with its own weapon.  Another Kobold thrusts at Katla but the shield-maiden avoids the blow.

Æskil swings at one of the two shamans prancing about him.

You hack at the creature, splitting its skull-helm into two.  The cloven bone fragments fall to the cave-floor.  The shaman blinks in surprise, its dance interrupted.

Katla assails the remaining uninjured shaman, the blade of her dagger aimed at its underbelly.

The shaman screeches in terror and turns tail.

Andreas directs a vicious swing at a Kobold warrior.  He buries the blade of the long axe in the Kobold's chest, lifts it from the ground, and throws it across the room where it hits the cavern wall with a meaty smack.

Ragnvaldr, the Kobold impaled on your spear thrashes and manages to free itself from the weapon.  It croaks and gurgles, badly wounded.  You stab at the creature but in the gloom you fail to hit it again.

One of the shamans now cowers in a corner, terrified beyond belief.  The remaining shaman shakes its bone rattle again.

Kylfa continues his furious attack against the once-bitten yet inexplicably not twice-shy Kobold.  He grabs the beast by the throat with his bear-like jaws, tosses it aside like a ragdoll, and bares his bloody maw at the remaining warriors.

Æskil swings at same shaman whose helm he shattered, but it looks like the old man has drank a dozen barrels of mead.

The Kobold chitters in what might be a mad taunt.

Katla corners the cowering shaman and resumes her merciless assault, intent to not give the wretched creature any chance to escape.

Andreas calmly wipes the blood from the blade of his axe, and does not move to attack.

Katla disembowels the skull-helmeted vættir with a swift and messy cut.

Ragnvaldr shrugs and turns away from the fleeing Kobold warrior and stalks over to the shaman, spear held high at first, then descending quickly in a wild stab.  He whips the spear around at the last minute, using the spearhead as a slashing blade to neatly rip out the shaman's throat.

Kylfa , growling, picks up his club from the ground and throws it at the pitiful crawling Kobold.

There is a sharp smack as the Kobold's skull is shattered.  Its brains and fragments of bone fly everywhere.

Kylfa wipes the blood from his mouth with a distasteful grunt and retrieves his shield and club.

The Kobolds' greenish blood churns the earthen ground to mud.

"Filthy vættar!" Katla snarls.

Ragnvaldr grunts in satisfaction and wipes his spear-blade clean.

Æskil shakes his head and seems to clear up. He kicks aside the head of shaman he beheaded and picks up his runic talisman.

Katla searches the shamans' bodies, taking the curious bone rattle

Apart from the rattle and a small knife, the shamans had little of value.  You do find a crude scroll made of animal flesh, scrawled with runes in the primitive form of Elven these creatures use.

Katla holds the rattle up, struggling to view it in the dim of the warren. "What sort of witchery is this?" She wonders aloud.

Ragnvaldr stands closer to Æskil than might be deemed normal.

Æskil gives an odd look at Ragnvaldr .

Katla shrugs and pockets the rattler, figuring that she'll be better off taking a look at it in the sunlight.

"Shall we be off? If that is the necklace we seek," Ragnvadlr says.  "I'm sure Eyfura will be eager to... see it returned to her.

"I do not much like lingering in the tunnels of these Implings," Andreas says.

"Very well, back to the snows..." Æskil says.

Kylfa grunts.  "Good."

"We've found loot and slain our foes," Katla agrees, blood still streaming down her face.  "Let us leave these warrens."

Ragnvaldr, it seems Eyfura must have been mistaken about your comrades... still, she asked for the necklace, and you must bring it to her at any cost.  If your companions refuse to give it to her, you may have to step in.

Ragnvaldr stays close to Æskil as they return to the surface

You backtrack through the tunnels, rejoining Verjartix.  Katla, one of the wooden steps that leads up breaks as you ascend, but you nimbly leap to the next one.

"Careful with these steps," Katla says.  "Bloody things must be as rotten as the cadavers in the bony chamber!"

Æskil, you manage to find the same set of tracks leading out of the woods, and reclaim your horses, which Sirje was minding.  The blind völva is unharmed.

As you leave the woods, however, you notice something strange, Æskil – the small Kobold tracks leading out of the woods abruptly become what look like human footprints, made by small, bare feet...

Æskil draws his ax and becomes increasingly wary.

The runestone depicting Ymir's death lies just ahead.  You can see Eyfura standing in its shadow.

Ragnvaldr grips his spear and keeps a wary eye on Æskil.

"There is fell magic around us..." Æskil mutters.

Kylfa grunts in assent, and hefts his club on his shoulder.

"How do you figure?" Katla asks of Æskil, alarmed by his drawing his weapon.

"Look at the prints..." Æskil points to the change in the prints.

Katla eyes the tracks, furrowing her brow. "These are not the prints we spied earlier."

Ragnvadlr, seeing the prints something seems to pass from your mind.  Suddenly you realize that you have been bewitched!

"Hold, friends," Ragnvaldr says.

"Hm?" Kylfa mumbles.

"I must tell you something.  When you left me in the witch's hut, Eyfura lied to me. She told me you were bewitched and had threatened her. I now believe it is I who was bewitched, by her. We must be wary."

Kylfa grunts.  "I knew this was a foolish errand."

"Then let us turn the tables upon the witch," Æskil suggests. "Who can move quietly and quickly?"

"I could go to her, pretend to still be subject to her charm," Ragnvaldr says. "A distraction while you prepare your attack."

"Hmm... I concur," Æskil says.

"Hmm.  Would she know it?  That you were free?" Kylfa asks.

"We can find out."

Kylfa grunts.

"But I say do not take the necklace," Æskil suggests.  "We do now know what it does, and would rather her not have it."

"I will approach her unseen, gods be willing," Katla says.

Sjack, back to human form, nods.  "Aye.  I dare not turn back into my other shape, lest I startle the horses and alert her to our presence."

"Aye," Ragnvadlr aseents.

"Here, take my headband, and read her reaction."  Æskil takes off his headband and gives it to Ragnvaldr.

"Your headband? Is it magical?"

"No. But she will wary if you come back with nothing at all more than if you bring back something wrong. "

Ragnvaldr shrugs and takes the headband, then kicks his horse towards Eyfura, calling loudly for Aslaug to follow.

Katla removes her chainmail and sneaks round the woods to get as close to the runestone as she dares, trying to remain hidden from Eyfura's sight.

Æskil crouches in the forest, in the shadows, ready to charge if need be.

Ragnvaldr, you approach Eyfura even as Katla slinks closer, crouching low.  Eyfura, distracted by Ragnvadlr's approach, doesn't notice Katla.

"Do you have the necklace?" she asks, green eyes strabely hungry.

Ragnvaldr curbs his horse as he nears her, then dismounts even more awkwardly than normal, trying to buy time.

Katla awaits quietly, observing how things pass. Her sword is drawn and she is ready to charge out of hiding at the first sign of violence.  She keeps her signal horn ready.

Katla, by keeping low and waiting until Eyfura isn't looking, you manage to reach the runestone itself, and now hide just behind it.

Æskil switches his battleax for a throwing ax, just in case.

Kylfa rolls a pinch of iron dust between his fingers.

Ragnvaldr stumps up to Eyfura, giving her an intense look but saying nothing just yet

Eyfura looks at you expectantly, Ragnvadlr.  She clearly still believes you to be charmed.


Ragnvaldr goes down on one knee and bows his head. "I have failed you, sweet Eyfura." He then throws Æskil's headband down at her feet.

A sneer of disgust passes over her face.  "What is this?  What happened?"

After as long a pause as he dares, Ragnvaldr says, "They were too many. I could not overcome them."

"I see.  Where are they now?"

Ragnvaldr stands and approaches, as if to embrace her. "Do not fear, my love. I will keep you safe from them."

Eyfura shoves you away in disgust.  "Foolish mortal.  You have proved a worthless tool."  Her voice has grown strangely deep.  Suddenly her gown swishes and you see that she is has a short tail which is elongating beneath her clothes.  "I have no further use for you."

As Eyfura speaks her skin begins to ripple beneath her clothing.  You can hear sounds of tautening sinews and clicking joints as she begins to change, her flesh turning greyish-green, her muscles bunching and swelling hugely, teeth elongating into enormous fangs, nails sharpening into claws.  Her tail lashes the air behind her as her silken gown is shredded, revealing a strong but misshapen body beneath, an awful, monstrous parody of the female form.  Her breasts are huge and swollen, hanging pendulously from her brawny chest; her belly bears the wrinkled marks of many children.  She grows considerably in height as well, towering above you at, at least eight feet tall.

Ragnvaldr lunges at her with his spear "Nor I you, Troll-bitch!"

Your spear glances off the Trollwife's thick hide.  She laughs at you.

Katla springs out from behind the runestone, blasting her signal horn and flourishing her longsword.

Andreas charges forward.  "Die, servant of the Fallen One!" he yells.

Sjack follows after, morphing into his linnorm form.

Sirje seems uncertain of what to do.  She advances warily from Ironwood.

Æskil charges out of the brush as far as he can while still leaving time to heave his throwing ax at the She-Troll.

The axe spins through the air and strikes the runestone.  It clatters to the ground and Eyfura looks up, alarmed.

Katla bolts agilely forth like a pouncing lynx, moving to flank the fell monster. The blade of her sword whirls in a descending arc of an overhead cut.

Your blow connects, but the monstrosity's thick Troll-hide protects her from the blow.  Your sword rebounds as if it had struck a shield!

Kylfa bounds up to Ragnvadlr.

Ragnvaldr stabs again.

On your second blow you drive your spear deep into her flesh.  She screams in pain, eyes glowing green with fury.

Andreas charges in beside you and hacks at her leg, wounding her a second time.

Sjack lashes out, but his teeth cannot penetrate her thick skin.

Turning to Ragnvadlr, Eyfura growls in anger.  The monstrous hag claws at you viciously, raking her talons over your flesh.  You feel an awful weakness fill your limbs as you black out.

Sirje rushes up to Ragnvadlr and chants a spell.

Your claw-wounds begin to close and you regain consciousness.

Æskil draws his ax and charges at the She-Troll, hacking wildly.

Your weapon sinks into her skin, biting at her flesh.  She howls in anguish.

Kylfa reaches to Ragnvaldr and mutters a Kvennic incantation to heal his wounds further.

Katla lets out a fierce battle-cry, her voice like the growl of a vicious wolf. "For the glory of the Ægir! Gods of old be with us today, and witness this onslaught!" With a savage motion she swings her blade again at the Troll's hideous form.

Once again your blow rebounds.

Ragnvaldr lurches up from the ground with a grunt, spear thrust up at the Trollwife.

In your weakened state your blow glances off her iron-hard hide.

Andreas continues to hack at her, as if chopping wood.  He speaks a Southron prayer, quoting from his foreign scriptures.

Sjack lashes out with fangs and sting, viciously assailing the Trollwife.

She rakes your with her claws, stabbing into your flesh with malice, while flailing her tail at Katla.

Sirje leaps forward and touches the creature, a spell on her lips.

Frost forms on her skin, which blackens under Sirje's touch.

Æskil cringes in pain, but strides forward and puts a measured swing of his ax at the She-Troll.  He moves steadily to the Troll, and dodging a swing from her claws, steps aside and brings his ax down with the force of a Jotunn, severing her head clear from her body.

The Trollwife's misshappen form totters, then falls.  Her head rolls to your feet, Æskil.  As her filthy life-blood leeches from the stump of her neck, her severed head snarls a death-curse!

"In the name of Loki Scar-Lip, Mischief-Monger
Sin-Sly, Giant-Child, Lie-Smith, Sky-Walker,
Wolf-Father, Mare-Mother, Hel-Sire, Fire-Kin,
I curse thee for all of thy days and nights –
May thy wounds never close, nor heal, nor scar,
May thy cuts fester, thy blood be tainted,
May thy flesh be putrefied and poison'd,
May worms feast upon thy still-leaving meat,
May wolves follow thy faltering footsteps,
May ravens hunger for thy rotting hide,
Till thou art a foul, decaying carcass,
Stinking of the barrow, longing for death,
Yet walking still, a corpse with a heartbeat,
Thine ev'ry rancid breath an agony."

She closes her mouth, blood seeping from her lips, and dies with a gurgling rasp.

Katla bellows a vehement cheer as the Trollwife falls, raising her sword to the sky.

Kylfa winces at the Trollwife's fell words, and shivers even as she lies dead.

Before leaving, Æskil cuts off the Trolls ears, and makes a nice necklace from them.

"Well slain, bold Æskil!" Katla commends the old warrior.


  • Flail Snail
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Re: The Fimbulvinter Saga
« Reply #3 on: February 24, 2012, 05:39:07 PM »
Hm. I had been interested to see how that turned out after Ragnvaldr was charmed--a very traditional story that :)

O Senhor Leetz

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Re: The Fimbulvinter Saga
« Reply #5 on: February 24, 2012, 08:21:21 PM »
Quote from: Steerpike
Yeah that was a fun one to play.  I wonder if anyone actually suspected she was a Troll?

Frankly, I knew something was up when we found a scantily clad woman in the snow all by herself. Snow's cold dude.
Let's go teach these monkeys about evolution.
-Mark Wahlberg


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Re: The Fimbulvinter Saga
« Reply #6 on: February 24, 2012, 08:34:48 PM »
Well, When I first read this, it seemed a little odd:
Where last night some of them seemed eager to help me, this morning they handled me roughly, forced me to show them the location of the den where the Kobolds have my family's necklace, threatening me with death and worse if I refused.  They plan to kill the creatures and take my clan's treasure for themselves; the witch controls them like puppets with an evil enchantment.  I managed to slip away from them when they ventured into the wood."
But I immediately thought she was probably evil when you wrote "she seems innocent enough"... those are dangerous words :D

She hands you the bowl.  "Will you not eat?  You should keep up your strength."  She seems innocent enough.  Why else would you have been abandoned here...?


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Re: The Fimbulvinter Saga
« Reply #7 on: February 28, 2012, 07:42:46 PM »
IC: Fitt IV: The Vargar
You stand at the runestone depicting Ymir's slaughter, the corpse of the Trollwife Eyfura mirroring the primordial giant's massacre.  Blackish-green blood still pumps from the stump of Eyfura's thick, mottled neck.  Her huge, deformed body twitches now and then, and the evil words of her death-curse seem to hover in the air, echoing across the White Waste...

Katla stands a few feet from the Troll-carcass, dripping red blood on the snow. Though grievously injured, she bears her wounds with rugged stoicism.

Kylfa looks over his shoulder, back at the deeper forest.  "No need to remain."

Agreed, I feel... tired," Æskil says.

"We have won great glory today. Rest is deserved," Katla concurs.

"It is good that this creature is dead, though glory was not in it," Andreas says.  "Its soul burns in the Inferno, and that is enough."

"The strength of the bear is all but spent," Kylfa says.  "I have little else to give today."

"So, my brave companions, which way is it?" Sirje asks.

"Do you know of any place of shelter in half a day's ride from here?" Katla asks.

"Sirje - can we make it back to you hut before night falls?" Æskil asks.

"We might, but we could continue on as well.   It will not bring us closer to the end of the woods – quite the opposite.  It would be wise to decide where you want to go from here; I'm afraid my cabin can't keep you warm and fed for long."

Ragnvadlr breathes heavily.  "I would not linger here.  I've had enough of this wood and its denizens."  He spits on Eyfura's corpse.  Aslaug is gnawing on her leg.

"Ah, and you have been here for a far shorter time than I!" Sirje says.

Kylfa grunts and shrugs.

"True," Æskil notes.  "I say we make for fire, warmth, and mead."

"Mead I have little of," Sirje says.

"Then we search for a town, I suppose," Æskil says.

Sjack, back in human form nods.  "The longer we stay in these lands the greater chance my kinsmen have of recapturing us.  There is a small but well-fortified town, Wulfheim, a day's ride north of here.  We could make it there by tomorrow night if we ride hard."

"Then Wulfheim it is," Æskil responds.

"Very well," Kylfa says.

Ragnvaldr and Sjack go to get the horses from the border of the wood.

"I hope your sense of direction is correct," Katla says.  "Still, it is the best suggestion brought up thus far."

"A sense of direction..."  Kylfa makes a sound somewhere between a growl and a mumble, and casts Know Direction.

"There is also town, north of here," Sirje says.  "Hrafnford. We'll be in the lands of the Hrafnii then. I do not care much for them I must admit."

You can now lead the party north, Kylfa.

"Follow."  Kylfa mounts his horse and leads the party on.

You ride across the White Waste, over snowy fields and the occasional frozen brook or barren hill.  Though the snow has stopped the sky is still a mass of clouds, a corpse-gray shroud matching the pallid desolation below.

Quite abruptly the sky begins to darken.  Soon is has turned black as Draugr's flesh, an ugly bruise-colour shot through the patches of cadaverous gray.  The first peal of thunder sounds like a Jötunn yawning, searing the sky.  Abruptly, snow begins to fall as the clouds overhead burst.

"We should seek cover," Sirje says.

Ragnvaldr nods.

Æskil coughs, and spits out blood that is nearly black. "Agreed."

Up ahead, just visible in the swirling snow, is a large hill crowned by a circle of standing stones.  In times past such a circle would be used as a thingstead, where lawspeakers would hear the grievances of the local people.  Now, in the harsh and lawless time of Fimbulvinter, such judge circles stand perennially empty, for the standards of justice and decency have been abandoned in the North, and indeed throughout all of Midgard, if rumour is believed.  Still, the stones are tall and broad, and would provide some measure of shelter against the wind.

"The stones, ahead," Kylfa says.

"Yes, let us hurry," Æskil agrees.

The sky is now totally black with cloud.  Lightning strikes again, closer now.  You lead your mounts up into the circle of stones, which provide some measure of protection - they're large enough to break the wind, at least.

"Anyone have any firewood?" Sjack asks.

Kylfa grunts and shakes his head.

Katla dismounts and tends to the horses, striving to keep them calm throughout this frightening tempest.

Along the hill there is also a small depression where a few might shelter - not large enough for the whole party and their mounts, though.

"Katla, come help me gather wood."  Æskil looks around first though, wary of more "damsels in distress."

"I will look after our mounts. You go."

You don't find any damsels, distressed or otherwise, but your search does turn up a bit of damp kindling.

Kylfa wraps his furs around his hands and begins piling and packing snow to further bolster the depression.

"I'd prefer to stay in the circle of rocks," Sirje says, stopping the bear shaman.

Lightning strikes the copse of trees not far away.  Almost instantly one of them is aflame.

Æskil laughs, "Fire's ready."  He goes to the copse and get a branch that's alight to bring back to the circle.

Kylfa grunts and ascends the hill, then makes walls of snow between the stones.

Ragnvaldr helps Kylfa in his efforts, as does Sjack.

You soon have a merry fire going and have reinforced your shelter with banks of snow.  Night steals onwards.

Kylfa grunts as he labors.  "Upon the hill, I fear we tempt the lightning..."

Ragnvadlr nods.  "Best to remove any armour you might be wearing."  He keeps his spear lowered.

"As long as the rocks stand taller I think we are safe," Sirje says.

"Then keep not too close to them," Kylfa advises.

"I agree with the witch and Ragnvadlr." Æskil removes his armour.

"Witch? is that how you speak of your former hostess?" Sire smiles.

Katla crouches by the fire to warm some of her rations.

You make a meal round the fire while people remove their armour.  The storm is terrible, but in your shelter you manage to keep yourselves from the worst of it.

"We had best decide watches before we all succumb to sleep," Æskil says.

"I will take the first guard," Katla volunteers.

Ragnvaldr nods.  "I'll take second."

"Third," Kylfa grunts.

"I will keep watch in the early morning," Sirje says.  "Dawn is a time of old power and hidden wisdom."

Sjack offers to take a watch between Sirje and Kylfa.

You turn in for the night.  Katla's watch is uneventful.  She wakens Ragnvaldr when she deems roughly two hours have past; he in turn wakens Kylfa.

Kylfa, most of your watch passes without event, but near the end of it, you spot something approaching the camp from multiple directions - shapes blacker than the darkness around you, stalking across the snow towards the hill.  Lightning flashes, temporarily illuminating the night - there are at least half a dozen of them, loping towards you.

Kylfa takes out his signal horn and blows a series of loud blasts!

Everyone is awakened.

Katla snaps awake, instinctively reaching for the sword by her side.

"Who is out there?  Or what?" Sirje asks.

Kylfa, as they near you see that they are a pack of wolves - eight or nine of them, with night-black fur padding soundlessly over the snow towards your camp, closing in on you from every side.  They are prodigious in size, with uncannily long teeth and eyes that glimmer red.  These are no ordinary wolves - they are Vargar, demon-wolves born of Trollwives in the depths of Ironwood.

"Awake, awake!  Heat the blood and draw the iron, fell wolves are upon us!"  Kylfa grabs his shield and club, and hopes that wood and hide will be enough.

Sirje, such creatures are cunning and strong.  Though they dislike fire, they will not be deterred by it.  Some of them are known to speak the tongue of men.  Kill the pack-leader and the rest may scatter.

Ragnvaldr grabs for his spear.  Aslaug bares her teeth.

Sjack grimaces and grabs for his short bow.

Æskil jumps awake, grabbing ax and shield and helm.

Katla springs up from beneath the pile of furs she was sleeping under, hastily sheathing the sword and equipping her bow. She clambers to peer over the walls of snow made by Kylfa, looking to pick a target from among the beasts.

One of them is much larger than the others, Katla, though you fear that in this wind arrows may not find their mark easily.

"I spy one among these wolves of size greater than the rest."  Katla points at the particularly big one.

"Who will take the final charm of the bear, to take great size?" Kylfa asks.

"Fell beasts, halt! We wish you no harm if you but return to whence you came and leave us alone," Sirje says.  "Otherwise we will cut you down atop this ancient hill."

The wolves halt.  The huge one leading the pack steps forward towards the hill.  It speaks in a voice like a growl.

"I am called Illhund, son of Mánagarm, son of the Great Wolf Fenrir," the creature snarls.  "My pack has you surrounded.  Our hunger is great.  We could kill you all, but several of our number would perish.  Give us your horses to eat and we will spare your lives.  Refuse and we will feast on your entrails."

"Friends, they are your horses," Sirje says to her companions.  "I would offer them but I'm inured to the cold of this eternal winter. You might not consider the next step of our journey so lightly."

"Trust not the wicked tongue of a wolf-beast," Katla declares.  "No doubt they would stalk us as we trudge through the woods horseless and cold."

"It shames me to barter with such beasts, but I feel we would be ill served to fight..." Æskil says.

"Out there they'd pick us off one by one," Katla says.  "Better fight here, when we have advantage of this hilltop."

Kylfa scratches his beard.  "Who among you can be a good falsehood-teller?"

"A victory here will scatter them and send them into the woods with a grudge," Sirje points out.

"It is weakness to bargain," Katla insists.  "The beasts are not beholden to their word, so why settle for just horses when they can have our flesh as well?"

"What holds you to your words, spirit-wolves?" Sirje asks.

Illhund barks.  "Give us the horses and I will swear on the pelt of Fenris himself, we will leave you be."

"Wait," Kylfa grumbles.

"Back to the darkness, fell dogs!" Æskil yells as he tosses his troll-ear necklace before the alpha. "Do not trifle with us, pup, for you do not know who you face..."

Some of the Vargar growl and take a step back from the grisly trophy, but Illhund snarls in what might be laughter.  "You think to frighten me with some Troll-bitch's ears?"

"I'd just as soon add your ears to that rope, but I'm feeling kind tonight..." Æskil says, boasting proudly for a man newly cursed.

Illhund seems undeterred.  "You cannot scare me so easily."

"But your kin do not seem as brave, mangy one."  Æskil  growls.  "It is easy to be brave with an army.  Now get, before I lose my patience."

Illhund looks back at his pack and barks, "Do you fear this puny human more than me?!" He bares his teeth.  "The first to run will find my teeth round his muzzle."  He turns back to Æskil.

Katla smiles even as she keeps an arrow aimed at the pack-leader. The defiant boastfulness of the cursed warrior pleases her.

"You are bold, human, I give you that.  Three horses, then.  Give us three, and we leave you be."

"Leave your 'leader' to us, and the rest may go free..." Æskil declares, speaking to the rest of the pack.

Your words seem only to have angered the beasts.  Illhund laughs.  "Enough of this.  Make your choice."

Kylfa grunts.  "I wish nothing for these cursed wolves.  Enough!"

Kylfa hunches down, casts Enlarge Person on himself, and then stands to show his height to the wolves.  "To MEN, you might be frightening."  He booms.  "Here is my promise - the LAST to run will find my cudgel in his skull!  Come and die, bastards of Loki!"

The wolves snarl and bound forward, spurred by their leader.

Katla releases the arrow with a sharp twang of the bowstring, sending the shaft flying toward the large Vargr. Her hand immediately darts to pull the next missile from the quiver.

Your arrow flies true, but the wind knocks it aside, and it only grazes the monstrous Illhund.

"Don't be foolish wolf-beasts! Turn back before it is too late," Sirje says.  "You desire the flesh of fated creatures, and you will not have it. Look at the weak thing you call a leader, he will fall beneath our blade and you will scatter like the whimpering pups you are. Begone!"

The wolves ignore your words and leap forward, enraged by Kylfa's taunt.

Sjack looses an arrow at Illhund.

The arrow embeds itself in the beast's side.  It ignores the wound completely.

"Kill Illhund first.  He will suffer in Hel for his decision!" Sirje says.

The Vargar bound up towards you with terrible speed, leaping over the walls of snow.  Suddenly they are upon you, and the stone circle becomes a chaos of fur, fangs, blood, and claws!

Kylfa gives thanks to the gods he is so tall, for his great reach may allow him to get an opportunistic smack at the first of the whelps as they move in.

You swing your club, but the nearest wolf ducks under the blow and lunges towards you.

Kylfa snarls and beats the creature away.

Katla drops her bow and is in the middle of drawing her sword when one of the monstrous wolves digs its jaws on her left shoulder, knocking her down and tearing chunks of flesh off. Somehow the shield-maiden manages to stay conscious and strike at the fell beast.

You sink your blade deep into the beast's flesh.  It howls in agony and backs away.

Andreas steps from the shadows where he had been silently praying.  He swings his long axe at the wolf Katla injured.

Andreas' blade hits the creature in the skull.  It slumps to the ground, dead.

Kylfa takes a step back and swings his oversized club at the Vargr he missed earlier.

Your club again strikes snow.  The wolf growls and hunches low, preparing to leap again.

Illhund bounds up with his pack and leaps at Kylfa, sinking his teeth into the enlarged warrior's side.

Ragnvaldr drives his spear into the Vargr savaging him.

Æskil shouts and swings at Illhund with his ax.

Illhund draws back and your blow goes wide.

Sirje lays a healing hand on Kylfa.  "The spirits do not wish to see you go to Valhöll just yet."

Kylfa grunts as his wounds close, scab, and scar in moments.

Sjack gets out his mace and bashes the nearest wolf.

The wolf snaps its jaws, keeping you at bay.

Andreas grunts in pain as a wolf leaps on him, gnawing at his arm.

Ragnvaldr stabs at a wolf whose jaws are clamped round his leg.

Katla is completely consumed by bloodlust, the world around her fading to red mist in her eyes. She strikes with reckless abandon, no longer bearing the slightest thought to survival - living and fighting only to slay her foes.

The wolf whimpers and backs up, avoiding your wild blows.  You singe your hand in the fire and drop your sword.

Andreas takes a burning brand from the flames and lobs it at Illhund.

The brand falls short, but lands amidst several other wolves.  They bark in surprise and bound backwards.

Kylfa steps back again, keeping distance between him and Illhund, and swings at the beast with his treelike club.

You bash at the beast, hitting it on the jaw.  There is an ugly cracking sound.

Kylfa bares his teeth at the beast, daring it to strike!

Illhund bounds forward, meeting you.

Æskil, your ax bites deep into Illhund, slicing off a huge section of fur and muscle.

Illhund leaps at Kylfa, teeth flashing, and tears at the flesh of the shaman's thigh.

Ragnvaldr stabs the wolf savaging him in the head with his spear.  It whimpers and falls still.

Æskil swings again at the wolf-beast, hoping the Gods are with him this time.

Sirje continues to heal Kylfa's wounds.

You hack at the beast but in the chaos of the melee your blow goes wide.

Sjack flails with his mace, to little avail.

The horses are now in a full panic.  One of them rears, striking out at a Vargr; it whimpers and recoils, drawing back from the creature's hooves.

One of the wolves leaps at Katla and bears her to the ground, jaws fastening round her neck and tearing.   Blood spatters the snow as the warrior's life begins to ebb.

Andreas is severely injured as another of the Vargr tears at him viciously.  He bellows a war cry of Austrogötaland and charges at Illhund, long axe raised.

The gigantic wolf howls as you sink your axe into its face, putting out one of its eyes.  Blood and humours spurt everywhere.

"And James stood before the door, and his eyes blazed with the light of Our Father, and he cried "Get yea gone from here, wretched beasts, and trouble my flock no more!"

Kylfa backs up, swinging his club to fend of Illhund and the Vargar.  He lands a third blow upon the unbearable cur!

Andreas, the huge wolf bounds up to you and lunges for your face, teeth bared.  It sinks its fangs into your body, savaging  you horribly, and you are borne to the ground.  Your head strikes a stone and you black out.

Ragnvadlr turns his attention to Illhund and sinks his spear deep into the beast's side.

Illhund snarls at Æskil, who in turn punches his fist into the beasts head, stunning it long enough to bring his ax clearly between its red, glowing eyes.

Illhund goes limp and brain and viscera spray across the snow as the ax is pulled from its skull.  The Vargar panic as their leader dies.  The fell wolves of Ironwood flee, whimpering.  They scatter and are soon lost in the snow.

Kylfa gives a bestial roar, before shrinking back to his normal size and falling to his knees, panting raggedly.

Æskil is about makes good on his promise and add Illhund's ears to his necklace that already hold the troll ears but thinks twice, and instead skins Illhund, thinking to wear its pelt, head and all.

Sirje tends to the wounds of the injured.

Sjack assists with his Orm-magic.

Æskil, you slip into pain-haunted slumber.  As you fall into sleep, a vision appears before you out of the darkness.  You feel fully awake, yet are conscious of sleeping: this is like no dream you have ever experienced.  You stand in a great hall of vast dimensions with a silvery roof held up by enormous rune-graven columns.  Shields and weapons hang on the walls.  Seated on a huge chair at the far end of the room is a gigantic figure - a prodigiously muscular, grim-faced man at least twenty feet tall, with dark hair and beard.  He is armoured in mail and is missing one hand; he rests the scarred stump of it on one arm of the chair.

"Welcome to Valaskjalf, warrior," the towering figure says, his voice booming.  "One of my father's many halls here in Asgard.  You are not dead - I have simply called your shade to this place for a time, so that we may speak."

"Then speak."

"From this chair, the Hlidskjalf, one can see throughout all of the Nine Worlds.  Often has the gaze of the Æsir been fixed on Midgard of late, for soon we shall descend to meet our doom there.  Watching from the high seat I saw you slay the wolf known as Illhund, one of the descendents of Fenrir the Fame-Wolf, who bit my hand from my wrist.  This great deed should not go unrecognized.

"There is a magical sword which bears my name: the weapon known as Tyrfing, forged by the Dvergar in ages past.  Its history is long and bloody, for the sword has known many wielders.  During the great battle with the Húna it drank the life of many fierce foes; shortly later the blade was lost, passing into legend.

"As a reward for destroying Illhund I will reveal to you the location of Tyrfing.  The blade was last wielded by a hero named Emund Ironheart who traveled the land seeking glory.  He heard tell of a sea serpent that dwelt in the Sea of Skulls, a monster which dragged ships to the ocean floor.  Hoping to win great fame for himself Emund sailed out into the Sea and waited for many days for the creature to appear.  When it finally did so the brave warrior did battle with the beast, but the serpent swallowed him whole, and try as he might he could not cut his way out.  He drowned in the creature's belly, Tyrfing still in his grasp.

"Before he was swallowed, however, Emund had struck a terrible blow to the serpent's heart, having found a chink in the beast's scales.  The serpent died shortly after.  Its carcass washed ashore on a rocky island in the midst of the Sea of Skulls, a forsaken place called Grayfang Isle.  Sailors shun it, for it is known to the haunt of certain Sea-Draugar, whose briny grasp you must evade if you seek the sword; Tyrfing still lies within the serpent's skeleton."

"Should you fall in battle and be conveyed to Valhalla, you will make a fearsome Einherjar.  I look forward to fighting by your side at Ragnarök."

"Let's just hope that's it later, rather than sooner."


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Re: The Fimbulvinter Saga
« Reply #8 on: March 16, 2012, 08:26:23 PM »
IC: Fitt V: Wulfheim
After the battle with the Vargar the party is battered and bruised, your wounds fresh, your joints aching.  The thunderstorm and snow have mercifully abated.

Æskil the Gray moans as he awakes; his injuries ooze blood and pus.  The warrior is deathly pale.

Katla lays resting against one of the standing stone, clutching her savaged shoulder.

Ragnvaldr, you see Aslaug making her way across the snow towards the hill.  She has something in her mouth...

Ragnvaldr calls out to Aslaug.

The dog bounds up towards the circle of standing stones and deposits a grisly gift at your feet - a severed human limb.  The arm is muscular and tattooed, with rings on its fingers.

Ragnvaldr takes the rings and inspects the tattoos on the arm.

The tattoos are crudely made - tribal markings in the Giant tongue.

Ragnvaldr peers out from the thingstead in the direction Aslaug came from.

It looks like Aslaug was roaming the foothills of the Orm-Fells.

Sirje wanders up to Ragnvaldr.  "What is this?"

"An arm."

Sirje gets down on her knee and inspects it.  She slides a hand almost affectionately over the bloodied arm.

"Likely leftovers from the wolves' latest meal," Katla remarks.

The tattoos look to record certain deeds: the number of men slain and wives kept, predominantly.

"It bears strange marks."

"There are Giant letters on it. I can sense it. The markings speak to me."  Sirje's fingertips trace the tattoos.  "It's a record of the man's deeds – may they serve him well in the life after this. With a wound of this sort I'm sure he is no longer amongst the living."

Your horses stamp and neigh restlessly.

Katla curses and gets up, trying to calm the mounts.

"Quiet the beasts," Sirje urges.

Ragnvaldr goes to help Katla.

The horses are calmed.

"Something is making them nervous," Katla says.  "Could be just staying so long near this accursed wood."

"Samran, take to the skies," Sirje says in the Elf-tongue.  "See if danger approaches."

The raven caws and flies away.

"We will be gone soon enough. But yes, the sooner the better. There are bad things here, and it has only gotten worse since the winter began."

Ragnvaldr takes another good look around from the top of the thingstead.

Apart from a few scattered wolf-tracks and bloodstains from last night, you don't see anything alarming.

The raven returns presently.  "Corpses, corpses in the snow," it caws.

"Which way old friend?"

"North, north."

"I will see what messages the gods have for me before we depart."  Sirje walks to the highest point of the thingstead and stares across the woodlands below, her dress billowing in the wind.

"Depart?" Ragnvaldr asks.

"We are not thinking of leaving this place?" Sirje asks.

"It is no good wasting time here," Katla says.  "We must move on.  We should make good use of every passing hour of daylight. Another night spent in these woods could be the end of us."

Sirje, you read the signs of the sky and other omens.  Death lies ahead of you, but it would be perilous to linger here.

"There is death in every direction. I suppose that is the way of things in these times. Yet we should press on. There are bodies buried in the snow to the north. Do we dare investigate?"

"Our way goes northward regardless, doesn't it?" Katla says.  "We might as well see if there is any loot to be had."

"If those rings were anything to go by, there will be loot," Ragnvaldr observes.

"And if we are going into civilized lands we will need gold. Lots of it," Sirje points out.

"What of Æskil the Grey? Can he be moved?" Ragnvaldr looks to the injured warrior.

Æskil gets to his feet, haggard.  "I can walk.  Or ride."  The grizzled warrior looks like death.

You saddle your hoses and set out.  You continue north, pressing onwards into increasingly hilly terrain.  The Orm-Fells, a range of coastal mountains where all manner of Dragonkind are known to lurk, rise up to the northwest.  After several hours of riding you spot a tendril of wood-smoke on the horizon, curling up towards the corpse-grey sky.

A shorter distance ahead, you see perhaps two dozen dead bodies, half-buried in the snow.  Some are black-haired, pallid folk garbed in leather armour; many of these seem to be archers, quivers full of arrows fletched with black feathers, more of which litter the snow and protrude from the frozen corpses of the other bodies.

The second group are dressed in furs and clutch crude weapons of bone and stone in their lifeless hands.  One of them, a tall, prodigiously muscular man with a gnarled club, obviously possessed some Troll blood - his skin is grayish and stony, and his mouth is crowded by a pair of enormous tusks.

Ragnvaldr dismounts and searches the bodies.

Sirje sneers.  "Hrafnii."

Katla grabs re-stocks her own quiver with arrows, whilst looking for anything worth looting.

Ragnvaldr, you find little of value - in fact, many of the bodies seem to have already been looted.  You do find a smattering of silver coins in a pouch, and a gold pendant of Thor's hammer, Mjöllnir.

Katla, you have slightly better luck - you discover a short sword made of strange dark metal that shimmers queerly, half-covered by stone.  It has a bloodstone at the pommel.  It must have flown from the grasp of whoever wielded it.

Katla takes the sword and cleans it from snow, examining the blade in sunlight.

The sword is warm to the touch.  It actually steams slightly in the cold air.

Ragnvaldr dons the pendant, and the rings he took from the severed arm. Along with the golden arm-bands he took from the Kobolds' den he is now starting to look wealthy, though he is, of course, as poor as the others...

Sirje "watches" the edges of the woods while the others loot the bodies.

"A fine sword," Katla says.  "It was certainly worth coming here."

Andreas sits atop his horse, staring coldly down at the bodies. "Heathens are best left to rot where they lie."

"Looks like the raven-folk lost then, eh?" Ragnvaldr grunts.

"It looks like they all lost," Sirje responds.

"Shall we go on to yonder smoke?"

"It might be a village. It might be something burning. But yes, we should go."

"If they all died here, then who came before us to plunder them?" Ragnvaldr asks

"The victors, of course," Andreas says.  "But who won? I could not say."

"Who won matters little," Katla says.  "It was not our battle."

"We should press on.  The heat of the fire would do me some good."  Andreas places a hand on one of his wounds gingerly.

"Do you need help, Southron?" Sirje asks.

Ragnvaldr remounts.

"It would be best to approach quietly.  We know not yet whether it'll be friend or foe that we find there.  I will ride ahead and report what I see."  Katla spurs her mount forward, scouting ahead

"Go, then," Ragnvaldr urges.

The terrain gets increasingly hilly and rugged as you approach the source of the wood-smoke.  Off to the west you see a dark smudge marring the whiteness of the snow - it looks like the charred remnants of a farmstead...

The blackened skeleton of a house stands here amidst the ash-strewn remnants of a farm, the orchard behind it reduced to a pile of cold cinders, then wooden pens where livestock would have been kept splintered and incinerated.  There are no bodies.  Some of the trees and wooden beams also bear what looks like claw-marks.

Katla returns to her horse and remounts, carrying on toward the source of the smoke.

The smoke rises from the hills of the Orm-Fells - it looks like it might be emanating from a settlement.

Katla decides to try and approach from the direction most concealed by trees, hoping to get to a vantage point such as a hilltop undetected.

Katla, you reach a vantage point from which you can see the settlement, still fairly distant.  The smoke is emanating from the hearths of a settlement nestled in the hills, a fortified village surrounded by a palisade of sharpened logs, a ditch, and ramparts where archers might patrol.  You can see a large wooden keep rising over the town.

You're fairly certain the settlement is Wulfheim.  The Jarl there, Hrothrik Wulfgar, owes an oath of fealty to King Ivar the Perverse, and was a loyal servant of Ivar's father; however, during Fimbulvinter relations between Skrikborg and Wulfheim have grown nearly as cold as the weather, for Hrothik greatly disapproves of the King's dark excesses.

It is rumoured that Jarl Wulfgar has even openly voiced suspicions about the circumstances surrounding Ivar's succession: though it is practically an open secret that Ivar employed some form of sorcery during his ascent to the throne, most of his Jarls have been bewitched, bought, or threatened into submission, and few openly question the King's right to rule.  Wulfgar has not declared war or actually broken his oath, but Wulfheim is now functionally independent from the rest of the Blóðlands.

Katla turns round and returns to the party to inform them of her findings. "Friends! I have spied the walls and rooftops of a sizable town. I believe it must be Wulfheim, the stronghold of Hrothrik Wulfgar."

"You know him?" Sirje asks.  "Or of him?"

"Only of him."  Katla laughs

"Will he welcome travellers, or must we cut our way to the hearth?" Ragnvaldr takes out a dagger and scrapes dirt from under his fingernails as he rides.

"Never before have I set foot this far north, but the names and deeds of Jarls are known far. I recall this Hrothrik has fallen out of favour with king Ivar. But as far as I know, there is no open war here yet.  Of course, things may have changed. There is a burned homestead along the way. And the corpses we found not long ago."

"Signs of giants and blood of trolls as well," Sirje notes.

"If Ivar hates him, he can't be all bad," Ragnvaldr says.

"Ah, so this Ivar is a man we want to avoid?" Sirje asks.

Sjack nods.  "An enemy of Ivar's is a friend of ours.  It was Ivar's men that held us thrall.  We may be met with suspicion, but we will find safety there, I think."

"Far more safety than out in the Ironwood, of that I'm sure," Katla observes.

"The snake-boy speaks sense," Ragnvaldr says.

"Ah, let us hope that they haven't overcome their common grievances then," Sirje says.  "Sometimes hate can be a blessing.  Maybe some of us should hang back until we are sure everything is in order."

"Hang back if you wish, Sirje, I'm for the fireside," Ragnvaldr says.  "The cold is deep in my bones today."

"If you rush in you will soon enough have an axe deep in your bones and I assure that is a sharper coldness than the one you feel now."

Ragnvaldr gives Sirje a black look but says nothing.

Katla leads the way, guiding the party toward the town.

You ride for Wulfheim and after some time arrive at the fortified settlement.  Two muscular warriors armed with atgeirar guard the gates; several archers are evident manning the palisade behind them.  Both guards are wearing heavy mail and half-hems and carry hand-axes as well as their polearms.

Kylfa grunts.  "Town-folk."  Kylfa proceeds, but riding behind the others.

"Halt, travelers," one guard says, an older man whose graying hair hangs down his back in a long braid.  "What are your names, and what brings you to Wulfheim?"

Katla holds up a hand and calls to the guards "Hail! I am Katla, and we seek warmth of the hearth after hard ride through Ironwood."

"Sjack," Sjack says simply.

"I am Ragnvaldr, and I seek shelter from the cold. I have some coin, if that will make you more hospitable."

Sirje hangs back, waiting for the gates to open.

Æskil murmurs his name faintly.

"Kylfa.  Of Kvenland.  With them."


"Very well," the gate-guard says to the party.  "As foreigners, to enter the gates you must each pay a toll of two aurar, or the equivalent in goods."

Dagny yells from inside the gate. "What's the holdup? Open the damn door or I'm dumping this thing right here!"

"Hold a moment, wench," a guard on the palisade yells down at Dagny.

Dagny yells back up. "You hold a moment. Hold THIS, I mean. In your hands. Where you can SMELL it."

Kylfa squints, then sifts through a pouch of animal teeth, smooth stones, iron filings, and berries.  He scratches his beard.

Ragnvaldr takes off the Mjölnir pendant he found and holds it up. "Would you accept this?"

The guard nods at Ragnvaldr.  "Acceptable."

Katla digs into her pouch, thankful that she had managed to recover her monies from the Blóðbards. "I shall pay your toll and enter in goodwill."

Ragnvaldr rides up and throws the pendant to the guard.

Æskil and Sjack pay the toll.

"I have nothing but the favour of the Bear," Kylfa grunts.  "But how much does it cost a town-man for his meal?"

"Friends," Sirje says.  "I have little to offer this guard. I gave you food and shelter in the woods, will you repay me that kindness?"

"Aye, Sirje, I shall," Ragnvaldr says.  "As you see, there are no axes here for us. Friends of Wulfheim, would you accept these rings for the woman's entry?"  Ragnvaldr shows them the silver rings.

"Yes.  And for his as well."  The guard nods at Kylfa.  "Open the gate!" he yells.

"Not for us anyway," Sirje says.  "But I thank you, Rangvaldr."

Kylfa shrugs, and says to the others, "You need not have paid for me."

The gate groans open.

Dagny steps out as soon as the gate opens. "Finally! You can thank me later. You do NOT want this inside your walls."  She empties a chamber pot.  Dagny would be better looking if she wasn't a bit slovenly at the moment, but she's a rather nice looking woman, with long and scraggly black hair, a bit on the thin side.

Ragnvaldr laughs heartily at Dagny despite the cold. "A fine welcome, woman!"

Dagny waves. "Yeah. Fine welcome. Whatever. Make yourselves the FUCK at home. Pull up a chamber pot."

"Now," says the guard.  "The rest of Midgard may have gone mad but here in Wulfheim we uphold the law.  Keep the peace and you will have no trouble.  Break it and you must pay the appropriate weregild or else forfeit your possessions and be branded as an outlaw.  Is that clear?"

Kylfa nods and grunts in affirmation.

"Yes, my friend, it is clear," Ragnvaldr assents.  "We want no trouble here."

"Then welcome to Wulfheim.  If your throat needs wetting than you may drink your fill at the tavern.  If your weapons and armour need tending, we've a smith, Liulfr.  If you have wounds that need tending we've a Gothi, Brúnn, who is skilled in the healing arts.  If it's work you're looking for then you'd best speak to the Jarl; these days there's always need for a few more blades, and strong arms to swing them.  You'll find him in the keep."

Dagny mumbles. "And if your throat needs slitting, you'll find that around here soon enough, too."

Katla dismounts and leads her horses in through the gate.

Ragnvaldr follows Katla through the gate, still chuckling.

Through the gates, a broad, snow-strewn street leads to a mound of turf from which a central timber keep rises.  The buildings are of logs, stone, and thatch.  Most look to be dwellings, warehouses, and workshops: a tannery, a fletcher, a carpenter's shop, an ironworks, a smithy, and a prominent meadery are all evident.

The rough dirt street is crowded - the place is packed, though the inhabitants look ill-fed and wary-eyed, and some are clearly afflicted with sickness.  Likely the inhabitants of other nearby villages have fled here.  As you enter Wulfheim you are greeted only by suspicious looks and scowls.

The only friendly-looking face is that of a drunk staggering out of the local tavern, a sprawling establishment called the Well of Joy attached to the meadery.  He stumbles a few steps and then is violently sick in the street.  Further on, you can see a small marketplace off to the left and to the right a number of granaries.

"I will take Æskil to this healer in the morning," Sirje says.  "Maybe he will know how to get rid of the curse"

Æskil groans.  "Perhaps."

Kylfa nods.

"The gods know I could benefit from a visit to the healer as well," Katla says.

"Katla, I can help you as well if you so wish," Sirje says.

"I would appreciate it, Sirje."

"Let us find a place to rest and I will tend to your wounds as well as I can."

Kylfa scratches his beard.  "I would see this healer as well.  But you say tomorrow, so be it."

Dagny stops in front of the drunk, throwing her hands up. "I swear, I go through all that trouble and you... you..."

The drunk smiles groggily and makes a grab for Dagny, but succeeds only in tripping and falling comatose in the snow.

Kylfa looks about at the strange place, slowly fixing his expressionless, hairy face on each sign and citizen in turn.

Ragnvaldr points to the tavern. "That way lies my path, at least for now."

Kylfa grunts.  "What is there?"

"Mead, friend Kylfa. Mead and good company.  Or at least just mead."

Dagny deftly avoids him, bonking him on the head with the chamber pot. "Shit on the head for a shithead! HA!" She shakes her head. "Give me another week, and I'll probably go for it."

Andreas sniffs .  "A nest of unbelievers."

Katla laughs loudly at the southerner's words. "What did you expect to find here, a flock of your faithful?"

"I would not expect to find any of the Faith so far from Austrogötaland. That does not mean to be so deep among the heathens is not offensive to my soul."

Kylfa raises his voice slightly to catch Dagny's attention.  "You, pot-woman."

Dagny turns around. "Yes, beard-man?"

"Where here is a bush of berries I may pick a handful?"

Dagny shrugs. "Try your ass if it looks anything like your face. Must be hell to wipe."

Kylfa frowns slightly in incomprehension.  "You have none?"

Dagny hisses a little, pressing her hand to her sinuses. "I... oh, fuck it. We don't have any fucking berry bushes. You can get food in the tavern, though."

Ragnvaldr approaches the tavern. "Tomorrow, then, to heal the wounds. Today, to heal the soul."

A groom from a stables near the tavern approaches you.  "Are you stopping at the Well, travelers?  Do you need stabling for your beasts?"

"Aye, how much?" Ragnvaldr says.

"A silver coin each," the groom says.

Kylfa turns from the pot-woman with a grunt, and rides slowly over to the groom.

"Stabling and fodder, Katla says.  "The poor horses have not much to graze on those snowy fields out there."

Kylfa leans from his saddle towards the man and... sniffs him.

The man takes a step back, a bit alarmed by the strange, shaggy Kvenlander smelling him.

Ragnvaldr tuts, but dismounts and hands the man a coin.

He nods to Ragnvaldr and takes the reins of his horse.

Andreas flicks him a coin, and steps from his horse.  "See to it."

Katla pays the groom and hands him the reins, but takes care to first empty her saddlebags of valuables. Better not to tempt the boy!

"Hmmmm.  Yes, you will do.  The beasts, treat them well."  Kylfa dismounts with a heavy thud.

The groom gets everyone's horses stabled for the nonce.

Kylfa scratches his beard and mutters to himself while looking at the tavern.  "Food, but no berries...  hmmm."

Dagny grabs a handful of snow to clean her hands off, and then goes back into the tavern. Guess who your charming barmaid is?

The Well of Joy is a smoky, dim hall crowded with men in furs drinking flagons of mead and eating meals of salted meat and roast fowl, seated at long tables arrayed around a central hearth.  With Fimbulvinter upon the land, there are few crops: vegetables are scarce, so men must mostly subsist on game and fish.

The proprietor is an aging woman with iron-gray hair and a lazy eye; she is assisted by three serving girls, one fourteen, one sixteen, and the dark-haired woman you saw at the gate.  The girls seem adept at avoiding groping hands and ignoring lewd jibes.  A scrawny skald recites a poem by the fireside, a poem recounting the deeds of a previous Jarl, Erik Wulfgar.  He is currently recounting the Jarl's death during a valiant raid and his subsequent reception at Valhalla.

Ragnvaldr goes to find a seat by the fire, his cold currently stronger than his thirst.

Kylfa joins Ragnvaldr.

Andreas seats himself by the fire, somewhat apart from the others.

Dagny walks up to Ragnvaldr and recites in a dull monotone. "Welcome to the Well of Joy what would you like today."

"Ah, it's you; shit-slinger!"  Ragnvaldr favours Dagny with a broad grin.  "Mead, lass. And what food is there?"

Dagny opens her mouth like she's about to say something, but she just shakes her head with a sigh.

"I want the largest tankard in your tavern, filled to the brim with ale," Katla declares.

Dagny nods. "One mead. One ale. Like there's a difference anymore. And we've got salt meat, roast fowl, foul fowl, and the uh, daily special."

"The roast bird then. And bring mead for my Southron friend too, he looks like he needs some."

"My thanks, Ragnvaldr. Your northern mead differs from the drink of the South, but as long as it warms the blood..."

"Think nothing of it, Andreas of Austragötaland."

"I'll take the roast fowl, to boot," Katla says.

Kylfa shrugs and turns back to the fire.

"Not hungry, Kylfa?" Ragnvaldr asks.

"I have no silver."

"But you had bravery aplenty amongst the Blóðbards. That's worth silver to me. Shit-slinger! Another fowl!"

Dagny yells to the back. "Burn down the henhouse and piss on it!"

Kylfa nods to Ragnvaldr and grunts appreciatively.  "If they had berries," Kylfa says plainly, "I would not need silver."

A very large, very drunk man stinking of mead lurches across the tavern towards you.  A hand-axe and a dirk swing from his belt-loop, and he wears a stained leather jerkin.

"Haven't seen you before, wench," he says to Sirje, his speech slurred.  "What's wrong with yer eyes, then?  Blind, is it?"

"It would appear so." Sirje lifts the blindfold ever so slightly letting the drunk see the Evil Eye.

The drunk man gulps and steps backwards from Sirje.  "Ah, nevermind..." he says.  His attention, however fixes on Katla.  The drunkard slides in beside her.  "Hmm. I don't mind a big woman," he says, eyeing her up and down lewdly.  "I figure all our days're numbered."  He puts a hand on Katla's leg.  "I've a room here.  I'll pay you good coin.  A silver penning a thrust."

Katla glares at the drunkard for a heartbeat, then draws a dagger to his throat. "I'll give you one chance to back off, just because I don't like killing miserable drunks. Too little glory to be had there. Now beat it!"

The man pales and recoils, nearly falling off his bench.  He mutters a curse and shuffles away to harass somebody else.

Katla ignores him, taking a hearty swig of her ale.

Dagny comes back with the tankards, deftly setting one in front of each customer. She's a bit listless, but she's got the moves down.

Ragnvaldr nods to Dagny and takes a long gulp followed by a sigh and a burp.

Dagny "accidentally" trips over the drunk as she passes, giving him a swift kick in the side.

The drunk growls and turns to Dagny.  "Hey!  You did that on purpose!"

Dagny just smiles sweetly and scampers back to the kitchen.

Kylfa sniffs the tankard of... mead, is it?

"What plans now, then, friends?" Ragnvaldr says.  "We have our freedom, and now we have made it through the wilds to a place of safety. What shall we do with ourselves?"

"Before I was captured, I was sleeping," Kylfa reflects.  "Perhaps I will do that."

"You can't sleep forever," Sirje points out.  "And perhaps it is still winter when you wake. Better to wait for the right time."

"The bear can sleep a long time."

"But long enough?"

"I should speak to the healer," Æskil grunts, sipping at a flagon of mead.

"Yes, we will go to him tomorrow," Sirje says.  "I will ask for guidance as well. See what help the gods have for us."

"It might," Andreas says.

"For now, I will rest," Katla says.  "But soon enough I will be looking for glory and gold. Such is the path I walk."

Dagny comes back out with the roasted chicken. It's overcooked on the outside, but looks moist and succulent on the inside.

Ragnvaldr flips Dagny a coin and tucks into his meal.  "Well said, Katla, but where do you plan to look?"

"It might be fine to see if the Jarl has need for swift blades."

"If his relationship with his lord is as bad as I believe I do think he would be on the lookout for more men to bolster his ranks," Sirje observes.

"And if he doesn't, one can ride on," Katla says.  "There must be other places of interest in the north."

Dagny nods her thanks. "If you're looking to see the healer, you might have a long wait. He's in some tough shit at the moment."

"How so?" Sirje asks.

"Indeed – what do you mean, pot-woman?" Kylfa asks.

Dagny looks at him. "Name's Dagny. But whatever. Pot-woman." She brushes a bit of unkempt black hair away from her face.

Kylfa nods.  "Dagny."

Dagny sits down, clearly pleased with herself at having made herself the center of attention. "His sacred grove. Dark Elves or something showed up, made a real clusterfuck of it."

"But he is well?" Kylfa asks.

"Gah, Elves..." Ragnvaldr hawks and spits to ward off evil.

Dagny shrugs. "As well as a Gothi who lost his sacred grove can be, I guess. Kind of like a dire witch who lost her spellbook, NOT THAT I'D KNOW ABOUT THAT."

Andreas, the Faith tells of these creatures.  While the heathens believe them to be "Dark Elves," the Church teaches that these beings are demons, the evil agents of the Fallen One, the Tempter who seeks to lure humanity into damnation.

Kylfa scratches his beard thoughtfully.  "I would help this man."

Katla frowns. "Foulness permeates every place here, it seems," she says between bites of roasted fowl.

Dagny smirks. "You're telling me. You should see the chamber pots."

Kylfa turns his attention to the bird and begins inhaling it.

Ragnvaldr laughs between mouthfuls

"Ha! I like your jokes, pot-woman," Katla says.

Dagny shrugs. "Glad to be good for something."

"Dark Elves," Andreas muses.  "Messengers of destruction and damnation. Tools of the Fallen One. The world would be better for their deaths."

"Tell me, Father-Man, who is this Fallen One? You speak much of him," Ragnvaldr muses.

"And rarely of the Father," Sirje notes.

"The Fallen One is all the Father is not. He is the grasping darkness to the Father's cleansing light. He is the clinging filth of sin to the liberation of the Father's Truth."

"Is he a god?" Ragnvaldr asks.

"No. He is not. He was the greatest servant of the Father, until it came into his mind that he should serve no longer. He set to make of himself a God, but the Father cast him down into the depths of the Inferno."

"The Father is strong, then, eh?" Ragnvaldr muses.  "This Fallen One should have used stealth. If there is a Father, is there a Mother also?"

Andreas purses his lips and narrows his eyes.  "There are some of the Faith who might say so. But there are more that do not. My Order does not involve itself in such debates of theology."

"I have seen only men in your monasteries, which puzzled me," Ragnvaldr says. "Although in truth, they died like women."

"What is your 'order'?" Sirje asks.

"I am a Brother of Saint Mark. It is our task to seek out the evils of the Fallen One wherever we might find them, and send them reeling back to the Inferno."

Katla chuckles at her comrade's curiosity. "You planning to convert, Ragnvaldr? You'd make one gut-busting Fatherman!"

Ragnvaldr bellows with laughter at the idea. "I can see myself now, shaven-headed and wearing a dress! Ha!"

"It is true, Ragnvaldr, that there are fewer Sisters of the Faith than Brothers," Andreas says.  "Their Cloisters are well hidden, and the Order of Saint Alyssa is ever vigilant in their watch."

"No, I find the Southron ways strange, is all, and would have them explained to me," Ragnvaldr says.  "So many of the Father-Men are weak and womanly, but then there is brave Andreas here, who though just as strange, is as much a man as any here."

"There is more to the Faith than mere contemplation of the Deeds of the Saints," Andreas says.  "Though every man of True Faith is duty bound to know of them."

"I have never met a Southron before, but yes, you are an interesting man Andreas," Sirje says.  "Strong of faith even if I can't say what in. There is strength in not following the old ways as well. Strength and folly."

"There are many Orders Militant among the numbers of the Faithful. Those who do the work of the Father, and strive to emulate our greatest Saints."

"Saint is the Southron word for Jarl, yes?" Ragnvaldr asks.

Andreas runs his hand through the short, well-trimmed hair of his beard.  "A Saint is greater than a Jarl. But a Saint is not necessarily a leader of men."

"Bah, now you play with words," Ragnvaldr says.  "So a saint is hero? A great warrior who stands alone against danger?"

"Those who were greatest, and most Faithful in life. Who spread the Truth of the Father wherever they should walk. Those are our Saints, and only in death do we consider them so."

"Ah! So they are like the Einherjar!"

Andreas pauses.  "Yes. I suppose that is a comparison one could make, though the priesthood would not consider it fondly."

"Dagny, you have mead," Kylfa states.  "Is there honey, then?"

Dagny shrugs. "Do I look like a goddamn bee?"

Kylfa grunts. "Strange tastes have town-men," he grumbles.

Dagny goes to the back, returning with a pot shaped like a bear.  She sits down again. "I do have to say, you are the most interesting lot of... well, anyone. To come through here in a while."

Kylfa eyes the bear-pot.  "The Blóðbards made us one.  All captured together."  Kylfa points a fowl-bone in his hand at Dagny's bear-pot.  "What have you brought?"

Dagny pushes the pot towards him. "Honey. You wanted that, right?"

Kylfa frowns.  "Yes.  But a strange pot to put it in."

Dagny thinks. "You mentioned Blóðbards?"

"Wicked men.  We killed ours."  Kylfa takes the bear-pot and simply pours a bit straight into his mouth.

Dagny nods. "I believe I fought some of their allies. Which did NOT GO WELL. But whatever. Good for you. You probably weren't stuck with people who had no clue what they were doing."

"One one them thought to have his way with me," Katla says.  "I cut off his manhood and threw it to the crows."

Dagny snickers at Katla's comment. "Hey, that's... really... that's just. Hey!"

"Of course, that was after he was killed.  It's easier when they're lying still and not fighting back, you know."  Katla empties her tankard with a long draught

"They do not taste good either."  Kylfa lifts the bear-pot again and continues drinking from it.

Dagny nods in agreement. "No they do not." She looks at Katla. "You want some more?"

"I've had enough. I enjoy the ale as much as anyone, but I'd rather not end up like the staggering fool I had to scare off."

Dagny nods and makes a sweep around the tavern, taking orders and such.

Kylfa hands the empty bear pot back to Dagny and grunts appreciatively.

Another man has been violently ill, Dagny.  You are tasked with cleaning up the mess.

Dagny shows up with a mop and some sawdust. "I swear, one of these days..." She presses her hand to her sinuses and shrugs, cleaning up the mess.

Ragnvaldr pushes away the remnants of his meal and sups the last of his mead.

"Yes.  Let us go."  Kylfa wipes the honey from his bearded face and shifts the bear-skin on his shoulders.

Andreas stands from his seat.  "I think there is some hope for you, Ragnvaldr. I would not wish to see you burn in the Inferno. Perhaps through your own deeds you might yet display your virtue, and so embrace the peaceful slumber of Purgatorio."

"I know not what you just said, Andreas, but I think it was a compliment, and so thank you."

"Are we to see this Jarl, then?" Andreas asks.

Kylfa shrugs.  "I will sleep.  Speak to him if you wish.  I would not have much to say. Perhaps wait for morning."

"Morning is wiser than the eve," Katla observes.  "Better enjoy the comfort of fireside and tavern-songs now."

Dagny rolls her eyes. "Yeah, gotta love those tavern songs. They're so original and charming."  She begins to sing, to demonstrate.

"Where do we sleep?" Kylfa asks.

Dagny, someone spills a flagon of mead, drenching you with liquid.  Your song is interrupted by the mead splashing all over you.

Dagny gets interrupted from her singing, which was actually pretty good! "Hey, you worthless son of a..." She hisses. "You're lucky I don't incinerate you..." She snaps her fingers and grabs her dress, ruffling it a few times. The mess is completely dried.

Kylfa raises his eyebrows at Dagny, but says nothing.

Andreas looks at Dagny out of the corners of his eyes.

Dagny mumbles. "Wish it was that easy to clean the floor."

"Hm.  Yes, sleep." Kylfa mutters and passes a hand over his remaining injuries, casts Cure Light Wounds, and then proceeds to curl up in a hide-covered ball next to the fire.

Ragnvaldr begins to laugh at Dagny, then stops, shocked at what seems to be her magic ability to dry herself.

Sirje heals some of Katla's wounds with her magic.

Katla nods to the blind witch. "Thank you. The battles took a toll on me."

Ragnvaldr reaches out and pokes Dagny's dress to see if it really is dry.

Dagny figures it's just another drunkard playing grab-ass, and slaps his hand away.  She sees who it is, then. "Really, Ragnvaldr? You're one of THOSE kind?"

"What kind are you, is more the question. I seem ever surrounded by witches these last few days."  He turns to Sirje.  "Not that there is anything wrong with witches."

"I will take a room for the night, maid," Andreas says.  "How much is the fee?"

Dagny leans back. She points Andreas to the counter. "Ask her. I don't handle that stuff."

Kylfa starts snoring loudly within a minute or so of curling up, heedless of the continuing commotion.  The great ball of fur rumbles on the floor by the fire.

"Our bear of a comrade won't be needing a room, from the looks of it," Katla notes.

Andreas proceeds over to the counter and repeats his inquiry.

"Two aurar a night," the proprietor says.  "Or you're welcome to sleep in the mead-hall free of charge."

"I will pay. So long as your rooms are clean and well kept."

Dagny yells over. "Cleanest chamber pots in town, THANK YOU VERY MUCH!"

"I'll take the room. Been long enough since I graced my back on a bed."  Katla pays the price.

Sjack takes a room as well.

She nods and shows you to small but neat rooms with pallets and furs.

Andreas thanks her, and sets his gear down gratefully.

Æskil sleeps by the hearth, near Kylfa.

Kylfa continues to snore like a mountain rockslide.  One hopes Æskil is a sound sleeper.

"You have the gift of the Norns Dagny?" Sirje darts forward and grabs Dagnys hand caringly.  She slides her fingers over Dagny's palm, reading the lines and furrows like others would read a book.  Sirje looks up unseeingly. "What are you?"

Dagny liked being the center of attention before. Not so much now. "I'm... just someone who has cultivated certain talents."

Dagny sighs, talking to Sirje. "I'm not so lucky as those who just have their power come to them from the gods or beyond or whatever. I learned mine meticulously, from dead languages that warp your mind just to read them."

Ragnvaldr chuckles again. "Well, Dagny Shit-Slinger, witch or no, I like you. But not as much as I'd like another flagon, if you would?"

Dagny nods and goes to the back, returning a moment later with another flagon.

Sirje follows Dagny. "What language? Whose secrets do you keep in your mind?  How can you learn without guidance?"

Dagny sighs. "I cannot, anymore. I once learned from a book... but that book was taken from me."

"What texts could tell you how to receive?  Who gave you this divine book?"

Dagny winks. "Some things I don't give away on the first date." Dagny nods and smiles a bit, and retires to her own room. Which probably smells funny. But WHATEVER.

Ragnvaldr sleeps in the mead-hall.


  • Owlbear
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Re: The Fimbulvinter Saga
« Reply #9 on: March 19, 2012, 01:11:04 PM »
Steerpike, these look great! I have to ask... where do you get the material for your maps? Are they hand drawn or done by computer?


  • Modron
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Re: The Fimbulvinter Saga
« Reply #10 on: March 19, 2012, 01:28:12 PM »
That theological discussion was so much fun.
all hail the reapers of hope


  • Flumph
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Re: The Fimbulvinter Saga
« Reply #11 on: April 01, 2012, 03:49:20 PM »
IC: Fitt VI: Holmgang
Morning comes.  You awake from the most restful sleep you've had in a long time.

Dagny is back entirely too early banging a pot in the mead-hall. "Up, all you sleepyheads! Gotta make room for the breakfast crowd!"

Kylfa grunts. "Hmmgh.  Then I will go see this healer."

"How much will you be payed today, Dagny?" Ragnvaldr asks.  "I'll double it to let me sleep longer."

Dagny smirks. "Oh, pretty generous now, aren't you? You should've gotten a room."

Ragnvaldr hauls himself to his feet and mock-punches at Dagny for her insolence.

Andreas emerges from his room with a studious expression on his face, the Acta Sanctorum held open in his hands.

"What do we wish from this man?" Kylfa asks.

Æskil groans.  "I will remain here for now," he says.  "I will feel stronger with food in my belly.  We can speak to this healer later.  Go on and speak to the Jarl, if it please you."

Katla joins the party in the mead-hall, stretching and yawning loudly.

Dagny is slightly more cheerful in the morning. Maybe it's just that she hasn't had to clean up any filth yet today.

Ragnvaldr stretches, yawns, scratches, and goes to look for somewhere to piss.

Dagny presses her hand to her sinuses.

"Many words are brought to the ears of powerful men, Kylfa of Kvenland. I would hear what he knows," Andreas says.

"Why is it you have come all this way to the North where the winter is coldest, Andreas? Do you seek something?" Sirje asks.

"Winter is everywhere upon the world. It is little colder here than elsewhere. The people of Austerborg lie frozen in their homes, or else their corpses wander the streets, refusing to embrace their deaths. It is no more a burden to be here, than to be there."

"You did not answer my question."

"It is true that I am a Seeker. One of the last named by my Order. There are but eight of us who remain, and fewer seek to the title each year. When the world most needs the wisdom of Saint Mark, it finds itself lacking. No longer do we go to the south, the great Bishops there resent our mission, and no longer tolerate the Authority vested in us by Saint Mark himself."

Ragnvaldr returns with an empty bladder. "Are we off to see the Jarl or what?"

"We are," Sirje affirms.

Kylfa grunts.

"Will you fetch me some breakfast?" Katla says to Dagny with a sleepy voice.

Dagny nods. "Just so you know, breakfast is mostly the same as dinner. Maybe I can find an egg somewhere..."

"Good enough, so long as it's filling."

Dagny brings breakfast.

After a meagre breakfast you leave the tavern and head to the Jarl's fortress.  The timber keep is guarded by more of the Jarl's men.  An exceptionally tall, heavily muscled man who was seated on a stool by the entrance and sharpening his sword stands to meet you.  His eyes are like two chips of ice, an eerie pale blue.

"I'm Vatnar, Jarl Wulfgar's Housecarl," he says, his gaze cold and steady.  "What business have you with the Jarl?"

Kylfa stands in the back of the group, letting the more town-folk-savvy companions speak for him.

"Hail and well met," Katla says.  "The guard at the gate told us yesterday that the Jarl may wish to hire some blades."

"We would know if he has work for men and women of stout hearts, and stouter arms, and we would hear what news has come to Wulfheim," Andreas says.

The man chuckles.  "I suppose you lot fancy yourself warriors, is that it?  I see a weak-hearted Fatherman, a queer foreign sorcerer, two women - you are no warriors.  I won't waste my master's time with the likes of you."

Dagny is scavenging around for something to put in the 'daily special.' Times are tough and there are a lot of well-preserved dead bodies not too far from here, so you don't want to ask too many questions.

Ragnvaldr gestures to Katla.  "That woman is more a warrior that you, Vatnar Stool-Sitter."

"You question the strength of my Faith, heathen?" Andreas grumbles.

"That sounds like a challenge," Katla says. "Are you itching to test your steel, Housecarl?"

"Were I in a fouler temper I would take that for an insult," he says to Ragnvaldr grunting.  "And I don't care a whit for your Faith, milk-drinker.  You Austrogoths have forsaken the true ways, the old ways.  As for you, wench, it is beneath my dignity to fight a woman."

"Would it be beneath your dignity to be bested by one?"

"The world changes around us all, and we must adapt to it," Andreas says. "If Truth is revealed, it is man's duty to accept it."

"Let us in or I shall put you on your arse," Ragnvadlr says, less cryptically than Andreas.

"We have beaten Wargs, Trollkonen, Kobolds and worse to come here," Sirje declares. "Do not dare question our worth as warriors."

Kylfa shrugs.  "If we are not worthy, then where he sends us, we will die, and then you will be rid of us."

Vatnar frowns.  "You begin to try my patience.  I will not trouble the Jarl with every band of riffraff who arrive at his door begging for scraps..."

Kylfa, you hear the beating of what sound like great wings.

Kylfa perks up and begins sniffing. "Something flies this way..."

"What is it, Kylfa?" Katla asks.

A dark shape swoops out of the sky and hovers over Wulfheim, casting its shadow across the timber keep: a formidable reptilian creature, serpentine in shape, with two clawed limbs and a pair of massive bat-like wings.  Its scales are coal-black, its eyes slitted and flame-orange, its teeth a gleaming white; it is the size of a small house.

Kylfa snarls and looks skyward.  "Drakkar!"

The townsfolk of Wulfheim flee in terror while the guards converge on the beast with weapons drawn.  Vatnar the Housecarl charges forwards, sword in hand, while a group of four men with atgeirar approach the monstrosity from the gate.

Dagny, you hear screams and sounds of commotion outside.

"Thor's turds! Now you'll see how we fight, Vatnar the Fool!" Ragnvaldr hefts his spear and runs towards the dragon.

Andreas, dragons are beasts warped by the influence of the Fallen One, who often appears as a serpent.  It is said that when the Great Flood wiped out all life, the Fallen One gave Dragons wings with which to fly over the waters, sparing them from the Father's wrath.

Kylfa roars and casts Aspect of the Bear upon himself; though there are no obvious physical changes, somehow Kylfa seems even more hulking, bestial, and... hairy.  He then moves twenty feet towards the dragon, and pulls out his shield while doing so.

The creature twists its sinuous neck towards the advancing guardsmen.  Its jaws open, and a stream of fire bursts from its maw, making the air quiver around it with heat and the snow turn to water.

Two of the guards are incinerated, reduced to charred husks.  Another two dart aside, scorched but alive.

Dagny comes dashing out of the back of the kitchen. "What in the..." She's got a meat cleaver in her hand, which she now brandishes like a weapon. Upon seeing the creature belch out fire, she stamps her foot. "I'M SUPPOSED TO BE THE ONE DOING THAT!'

Sirje follows Kylfa, trying to stay in cover along the way

Kylfa yells to Katla, "hold a moment!"

Dagny snarls and flings the meat cleaver at the thing.

The cleaver sinks into the beast's scaled flesh.  It grunts and twists towards Dagny.

Dagny snaps her fingers, and the cleaver comes spiraling back into her hand, which she catches on the run.

Kylfa begins intoning in a guttural, growling tongue, then raises his hand towards the drake and shouts, as the area around the beast glimmers and freezes with instantly-appearing frost.

Katla advances bow in hand, an arrow nocked.  Without showing any haste she draws, takes aim and looses a shot at the Drakkar.

The beast growls in pain as rime dapples its scales and an arrow embeds itself in its neck.

Vatnar charges forwards, shrieking a war-cry, blade gleaming!  The creature flaps its wings, buffeting him and causing his swing to miss.

"Father, lend the Strength of your Fire to my blade!" Andreas calls out. "My work is not done until this beast is sent back to the torments of its master!"

The creature's shimmering black scales deflect your blow.

The surviving guards charge forward and stab with their weapons, but they too cannot penetrate the beast's thick hide.

Ragnvaldr pounds towards the reptilian horror and delivers a mighty thrust with his spear!

You sink your spear deep into the monster's body!  It snarls in pain and turns its head towards you, lunging at you, but your chainmail protects you from harm.

It swings its tail towards Vatnar but the warrior nimbly leaps aside.

Sirje reaches out and tries to quell the soul of the reptilian beast.

The spell has no effect.

Kylfa throws a pinch of powdered iron over himself, roars, and becomes huge!

Katla drops her bow, grabbing the shield slung across her back and strapping it on her shield-arm, now somewhat healed but still bearing the marks of wolf-bites. She bellows a mighty warcry and charges the beast, drawing her longsword as she sprints toward it, the same motion bringing the blade to its scaled hide.

Your blade hews into its flesh, and its hot, black blood spurts from the resulting wound!

Dagny runs around the back side of the inn, joining the rest of the group. Well, sort of. They all went into melee. She's not going to do -that-. She lets the cleaver fly again.

Once again the cleaver strikes true, this time slicing one of the creatures' wings.

Dagny catches as it comes back. "I'm going to have daily specials for the WHOLE DAMN MONTH when I'm done with you!"

Andreas swings once more.

The dragon snaps its jaws at you and brings its head back, avoiding your axe.

The guards strikes with their weapons, one of them drawing blood from the beast.

Dagny snarls. "You're do realize you're all being outfought by a scullery maid!"

Ragnvaldr, wary after the beast's last attack, swings his spear in glittering arcs, distracting and fending it off, before delivering a quick thrust.

Your thrust fends the creature off but doesn't strike it.  It turns its attention to Vatnar.  The creature savages the Housecarl viciously, taking him in its jaws and hurling him across the street.  Vatnar goes flying and hits a nearby wall, his sword flying from his grasp.  Its tail swings towards Andreas but the Fatherman ducks in time.

Sirje tears off her blindfold and strides towards the dragon muttering curses in Álfari.

The Drake jerks back from your gaze, disconcerted.

Dagny sees Ragnvaldr having some trouble fending the beast off. She runs up behind the man who was kind to her earlier. She is brandishing the cleaver, tossing it up in the air and making herself a distraction. "HEY! YOU! SOON-TO-BE-DRAGONSTEAKS!"

Kylfa shouts to Katla, "You, right!"  He moves to the beast's left side and swings his club.

You distract the beast for a moment, swinging your club towards its head.

Katla ducks and rolls when the drake is distracted, using this opportunity to get to its other side. She slashed at the creature's belly as she moves.

You swing your blade, opening a huge rent along its belly.  Steaming viscera gush from the wound!

The guards chop at the beast while Andreas swings at its coils.

The monster is terribly wounded.

Ragnvaldr suddenly comes out of the whirling defensive movement for a single powerful blow.

The creature jerks back, bleeding from a dozen wounds.  Roaring, it takes to the air.

Kylfa the hulking bear-man leans back, hefting his club behind him, and hurls it with a mighty shout befitting his great stature.  It tumbles through the air like a tree trunk in a hurricane, striking the beast square in the back with a resounding crack, and bringing it crashing to the ground!

The dragon hits one of the granaries, smashing it to timbers.  Fortunately the building was almost bereft of food.

Kylfa gives a victorious roar.

Dagny flings her cleaver into the serpent, where it sticks with a rather sickening little crunch. "So. Yeah. We were going to see the Jarl, yeah?"

Katla sheathes her sword and calmly walks back to pick up her dropped bow.

Vatnar, Jarl Wulfgar's housecarl, approaches you, limping and rubbing his head.

"It seems I was wrong about you," Vatnar concedes.  He winces as he tries to move his injured shoulder.  "You may not look it, but you are valiant warriors; I have insulted you unjustly, and am in your debt.  Had you not driven it away the Fire-Drake would have wrought much worse damage.  If you still wish to speak to the Jarl, I will bring you to him now."

Dagny shrugs. "Yeah, thanks, not like you were in any state to stop us, so we were going in there anyway."

Vatnar frowns, but his expression shifts quickly and he laughs.

"Though the destruction of a servant of the Infernal Prince is reward in itself, we would be most honoured to speak with the Jarl," Andreas says.

Dagny helps Ragnvaldr up.

Sirje, you know little of these Drakkar, save for a few obscure legends.  Some claim they were once Dwarves who grew too greedy that they transformed into monstrous serpents.  Others insist they are all the spawn of Loki, through the World Serpent, sire of all Dragonkind.

"Vatnar, is this the first creature of its kind that you and your men have spotted?" Sirje says. "You did not seem terribly surprised by its arrival – at least not more than any man would be to see something unexpected."

"It is one of a clutch... I'll let the Jarl tell you more."

"Thank you." Sirje turns to the others.  "Let us leave this fell beast and go see the Jarl. I wish to speak to him."

Dagny, you recall something of the Dwarven view of Dragons.  The Dvergar speak of Drakkar as those corrupted by the urge to hoard rather than to obtain.  Dwarves seek always to consume, to acquire, to innovate - Dragons seek instead only to accumulate, to brood over their treasures with miserly avarice...

Vatnar leads you into the timber keep, through a broad foyer and into the central hall.  Shields and swords hang on the walls, along with tapestries depicting battles between men, Trolls, wolves, and stranger creatures.  At the end of the hall is a richly carved wooden chair.  A grim-faced older man is hobbling down the hall with a crutch, waving off retainers offering assistance.  It looks like his left leg is crippled, withered and lifeless, dragging along the ground.  He ignores it disdainfully.

"What happened out there Vatnar?!" the aging man demands, his voice booming.  "I heard sounds of battle!"

"One of the Fire-Drakes, my Jarl," the housecarl replies.  "They grow bolder with each passing day.  This time it seems one of them was not satisfied with burning farmsteads; it ventured into Wulfheim itself.  Had these travelers not stepped in , I fear it would have killed me, and many others besides.  We lost only two men."

Dagny taps two fingers against her forehead, a mocking salute.

"I see," Jarl Hrothik Wulfgar says, looking at each of you in turn.  "Quite a motley band of vagabonds - but looks can be deceiving.  What has brought you to Wulfheim, warriors?"  He ignores Dagny.

"The road has brought us here, and we only follow its course," Andreas says.

Dagny mumbles to Ragnvaldr and Katla. "Be so good as to mention that I fought right along with the rest of you, if you wouldn't mind."

"I do not speak for the others," Katla says. "I have come seeking gold and glory. Not necessarily in that order."

"We have come seeking food, shelter, and employ," Sirje says. "Your man tells us you can tell us more of these Drakes?"

"The Fire-Drakes, yes... a clutch of five in all - four now - has been preying on caravans and farmsteads.  They are new-hatched and small, nowhere near the size or ferocity of the elder Drakes and Linnorms who lurk in the high peaks of the Orm-Fells - but, as you witnessed, they can be dangerous enough, even singly.  Hunters and some of my own scouts have reported that all manner of Dragon-kind have been breeding in unusually high numbers up in the mountains.  I suspect that the prolonged cold of Fimbulvinter is to blame; as mares go into heat during the spring, it is said that Dragons do in the winter.  Whatever the case, the Fire-Drakes are becoming a serious problem for Wulfheim.  Whether they are hungry or merely playing with us as cats with mice they threaten my people daily.  I have sent men to deal with them before, but none returned; and I will rot in Hel before I ask the King for help.

"Clearly you are a capable band of warriors.  There is a little coin left in Wulfheim's coffers, and I can offer you other rewards: horses, weapons, food, equipment; and, like all Drakkar Fire-Drakes have a curious love of gold and jewels, which they use to nest upon.  What say you?  Will you slay these vile creatures and rid Wulfheim of their depredations?"

Dagny steps forward. "Just don't go giving away anything that's not yours - you know what I mean, and what I want."

The Jarl looks towards Dagny.  "You must understand why I insisted you surrender the sorcerous objects.  During this evil winter men and women often forsake honour to do desperate things."

Dagny shrugs. "I fought to defend this place just like the rest. If that doesn't tell you about my honor I don't know what does."

"I am duty-bound to see to the destruction of such creatures, if able," Andreas states. "If my companions are in agreement, I would see to it, and would gladly accept any material aid so offered."

"Such a trial of might would be glorious indeed. I would undertake it, should my companions stand beside me," Katla states.

"I follow the rest till the end," Sirje assents.

"The skalds will compose songs in your honour, I am sure of it.  I will have one of my Thegns show you to their lair; return with some trophy taken from their bodies and I will reward you."  He looks again to Dagny.  "It is true you have done a service to Wulfheim, if you helped slay the Drake," he says.  "I will relinquish the objects I took into your care if you swear an oath never to use them within the walls of Wulfheim.

"You should not mistrust the young woman," Sirje says.  "She fought valiantly alongside us. Not all sorcery is of the black kind and in these times the lines between what is right and wrong tend to blur. For better and for worse."

Dagny shakes her head. "That oath would do neither of us any good. If one of those things came back..."

"If you slay the foul creatures in their lair, they will trouble us no longer."

Dagny nods. "Yeah, yeah. Kill 'em over there so they don't come over here. I've heard that before."  Dagny raises her right hand. "Fine. I, Dagny Lyrkenja do solemnly swear not to use my magical artifacts within the walls of Wulfheim EVEN IF IT'S TO HELP YOU AND THE TOWN IS BURNING DOWN so FUCK YOU for making me take such a stupid oath so whatever."

The Jarl mutters something and waves a hand to a retainer, who fetches a small wooden chest and gives it to Dagny.

Katla chuckles at Dagny's outburst. "She's got some fire in her soul. I like that!"

Dagny grins and opens the chest.

Inside are a number of scrolls, as well as a strange Dvergar device - a collapsible metal wand graven with Dwarf-runes, and your other arcane effects, including your eldritch pendant and your dagger.

Dagny pulls out a weird golden pendant, in the shape of some kind of insectoid ammonite thing, giving off a very faint green glow. She puts that around her neck. She then collects the scrolls into a small bag, and flips the wand and the dagger in her hand. "Now this is more like it."

Suddenly the doors to the hall burst open and the gate-guard with the gray braid enters the room.

"Jarl Wulfgar," he says, kneeling.  "Pardon my interruption.  A band of Ivar's men has entered Wulfheim.  I tried to deter them but they claim to be on the King's business.  I dared not turn them away.  They are well-armed, and ride horses that look near-dead with exhaustion."

"Who leads them?  How many are they?" the Jarl demands.

"Ingjuld One-Eye commands them, my Jarl.  There are eleven of them, seasoned warriors all."

"I see.  Thank you, Gunnarr. Assemble the guards outside the keep.  I will speak with Ingjuld soon."

The gray-braided guard bows and departs.  Jarl Wulfgar turns to Vatnar.

"Too many for us to risk killing them.  We would lose half the garrison, now that they're within the walls."

Jarl Wulfgar hobbles towards the exit.

Dagny shrugs. "Wish I could help, but, hey, oaths are oaths."

"We are not in good terms with the king's goons," Katla says. "We'd do the Jarl a disservice to be present while he parlays with them."

Dagny quietly addresses the group. "There's still one thing missing. My book of spells. Now that I have the rest of my stuff, I'm going to be wanting to get it back. I'll follow you as long as our paths are roughly the same."  Dagny continues, "You're free to follow me of course. Bastards who took it have some nice weapons you might be inclined to grab."

Ragnvaldr perks up.  "Indeed?"

"Dagny continues, "Flaming meteor weapons or something. I'm not really sure. They didn't really trust me enough to let me actually handle one. But I saw them in combat, and they were some nasty shit."

You are welcome to my company, the others can speak for themselves," Sirje says.

"I would gladly bear you along, Dagny," Katla says.

You can here raised voices outside.  Katla, you make out the voices. "Jarl Wulfgar," a deep, all-too familiar voice says.  "We are seeking a band of wretched criminals who have murdered seven warriors in the King's service."  You recognize the speaker as the one-eyed man with the cape of flayed human faces who led the band of marauders that held you captive.

"I know not of whom you speak," the Jarl says.  "None pass the gates without my knowledge.  The criminals you are searching for must be elsewhere.  Go now, and trouble Wulfheim no more."

Katla hisses a curse. "I swear it's that one-eyed bastard whose thugs put us in chains!"

"Indeed?" Ingjuld One-Eye responds.  "We have seen their stolen horses in the stables.  You lie, old man!"

"They are under my protection now," the Jarl declares.  "I will not hand them over to the likes of you, Ingjuld.  Now run back to your master.  You are not welcome in Wulfheim."

"To think they've rode all the way here to seek us! Almost flattering."

"You dare defy your rightful King?"  One-Eye laughs.  "I name you a traitor and níðing!  I will fight you with sword or spear or axe.  Name your weapon and we shall hold a holmgang, here and now!"

You hear someone stumble and fall - probably the Jarl.  Vatnar curses loudly.

Katla gets visibly tense. "He's challenging the Jarl to a duel!"

"My Jarl, I am sorry," the Housecarl says.  "I hit my skull during the fight with the Fire-Drake  and now my vision is blurred, my head clouded, and my stomach roils as if filled with serpents - I fear I would make a poor champion."

You hear the Housecarl yell.  "Will any man here fight as the Jarl's champion?"

Dagny opens her mouth, and then mumbles something about an oath.

"They call for a man to fight for him. I would do so, but it may cast shame on the Jarl."

"I am in no state to fight," Ragnvaldr mumbles.  "If these are the men who tracked us here, and the Jarl's champion loses, we'll likely be bound for Skrikborg once more."

"It serves us not to hide; either way we might as well crawl out of these cowardly shadows," Sirje says.

"Still, if the local men are not up to the task, they deserve to be shamed. I will at least offer my sword!"  Katla stomps out to intervene with the scene.

Dagny sighs. "I'm not about to let something happen to the first NON-FUCKUPS I've met in this place in... I don't even know."  She quickly follows behind.

"Aha!" Ingjuld One-Eye growls as Katla emerges.  "There is one of them now!"

"Ingjuld! You maggot-ridden whelp! I will fight you in the holmgang, and I will take your head!"

Sirje follows Katla out of the main hall.

"You!?  A woman?  Ha!  Is this who you would fight in your stead, Wulfgar?  Truly, you are níðing!"

"This shield-maiden helped slay a Fire-Drake but a short time past," Vatnar bellows.  "She is more man than you, Ingjuld!"

"The Jarl can wait for his turn," Katla declares. "Not that he will get it, for you will breathe no more when I'm done with you! Or are too cowardly to face me, Ingjuld? How about it?"

Dagny sidles up to Wulfgar. "Y'know, if this gets ugly, I do believe the Jarl can release people from their oaths..." Dagny offers with a little smirk.

The Jarl looks down at Ingjuld.  "If this woman defeats you, your men must leave without further bloodshed," he says.

A look of livid fury passes swiftly over Ingjuld's face, to be replaced with a crooked grin.  "You really think you are a match for me?" he asks, fixing you with his sole remaining eye.  "I've killed more men than I can count."  He grins at you, a flash of yellow from out of his long, pale beard.  "But you know, I think I won't kill you.  I'll cripple you instead, and drag you back to Skrikborg to feed to my dogs.  I have a litter of them, half-wolf beasts with a great hunger."

"Too bad that your pups will soon be all the hungrier, and masterless."

Ingjuld snarls.  "Face me then, whore!  I will cut off your hands and feet and give you to my men, to be shared amongst them!"

Vatnar steps forward.  "You will fight till one of you yields or is slain, or if one of you steps outside the borders of the battle-space."

The Jarl's men scratch the space into the earth with their spears.

Dagny softly asks Katla, "You want me to give him a seriously bad day?" She holds up a tattered bar napkin with runes and formulas written all over it. "Nobody ever said I couldn't use this."

"I know not what you intend, but I'll trust your judgment."  Katla says to Dagny.  She spits "You better not yield, Ingjuld."

Dagny sings a song of battle.

Katla falls into a semi-crouched combat stance, eyeing her opponent and waiting for his move.

"Perhaps I'll make a gift of you to Ivar," Ingjuld says.  "Do you know what the King does with thralls like you?  He likes to carve runes into their flesh, call up spirits to invade their bodies, to use them like puppets.  You'll be stuck in your own skin, feeling everything while the spirits squabble over your hide and pull you this way and that."

Dagny joins in the chorus of people yelling. Hey, it's a fight, there's got to be taunting and cheering and such. "Hey asshole! Yeah! I'm talkin' to you! YEAH YOU! Look over here! Haha made you look!"

Ingjuld twitches, trying to ignore Dagny.  He suddenly lunges forwards, his spear flashing out with startling speed!

Katla, ready for him, lunges forward, and her sword plunges through Ingjuld's mail and into his flesh. She slashes at her attacker with lightning speed, bringing her blade to his flesh just as he's stepping forth.

He grunts in pain, continuing his lunge, and jabs his weapon into your thigh.  He wrenches his weapon away and steps back, staggering, blood streaming from his side where you pre-emptively slashed him.

Ingjuld snarls, wary.  "I think I'll just flay you to the bone.  My cloak needs patching, and though your face may not be pretty, it'll do well enough."

Dagny looks at Sirje, a bit nervously.  She jumps up. "C'mon, Katla! Snap out of it. Don't let this MOTHERFUCKER win!"

Ingjuld shouts at Dagny without looking.  "Shut your mouth, wench, or when I'm done with this one I'll give you reason to scream."

Sirje fixes the Evil Eye on Ingjuld One-eye, empty orifice to empty orifice, and strip his fortunes from him, casting doubt in his mind.

Ingjuld shudders and looks away as his cyclopean gaze meets your own eyeless stare.

Katla grimaces at the Blóðbard's stinging words. She feels a primal fury flare up within her.  She suddenly leaps forth like a tiger, howling in rage, and launches herself at Ingjuld.  Katla springs forth with her sword flourishing in a wide arc, then suddenly side-steps with wicked swiftness, redirecting her blade to get around Ingjuld's attempt at a parry. The weapon finds its way to his armpit, drawing a spray of blood as she steps back from her attack.

Ingjuld is staggered and badly wounded, blood streaming down his mail.  He coughs raggedly; his words seem to have deserted him.  Warily, he shifts his spear to a one-handed grip and plucks a throwing axe from his belt, which he hurls at Katla.

Katla blocks the axe with her shield.

Dagny pumps her fist. "You couldn't hit a fat one-legged donkey if it was close enough to piss on you!"

"Shut up!" Ingjuld yells, turning his head towards Dagny.  "When this is over I will bugger you bloody with my spear!"

Katla ignores the man's ranting, all too happy to exploit his inability to keep his attention on her. Letting out a sudden, loud scream she rushes to ram him with her shield.

Ingjuld tries to dart back, but you barrel into him shield-first and bear him to the ground!  He desperately rips a dagger from its sheathe and slashes at your legs.

 Katla kicks his hand away.  She proceeds to bear down on her opponent, raining vicious cuts with her sword.

Sirje just watches quietly from the side, waiting to see what fate has been chosen for her and her comrades.

You slash off Ingjuld's ear and give him vicious wounds on his face, neck, arms, and chest!  Ingjuld roars in pain and fury and staggers to his feet, snatching up his spear!

Katla slashes out as the warrior gets to his feet, hoping to cut him down.

He ducks your cut and makes a vicious, desperate lunge with his spear!  Ingjuld impales you with his weapon, his spear punching through the mail at your shoulder and out your back, missing your lungs by mere inches.

Dagny winces.

Katla coughs a burst of blood, but stays on her feet. Driven on by her maddening berserk fury, she continues her assault despite the grievous injury.

Ingjuld staggers backwards, barely avoiding your blows.  He looks like he will continue to press his assault, but suddenly collapse to his hands and knees, his spear falling from his grasp.

"Fucking whore," he croaks.  "End it!  I won't live having been beaten by such as you!"

Katla seeing the foe defeated, falls down on one knee, balancing herself with her sword thrust to the ground.

"I would have it no other way, whelp of a sea-troll!"

Katla musters her last ounces of strength to heave her sword up, bringing it down in a mighty arc to behead the Blóðbard.

Dagny winces again, though this time it is more exaggerated and not actually concerned. "Aaaannd boom goes the alchemical powder."

Ingjuld's head drops from the spurting stump of his neck and rolls towards his own men.

The Blóðbards finger their weapons and look, for a moment, as if they might attack, but they are surrounded by the Jarl's archers and spearmen.  Muttering curses they mount their horses and ride out of Wulfheim.

Jarl Wulfgar approaches you.  "You have my thanks, shield-maiden.  You must see a healer."

"You are now either free men or dead men depending on the tales they carry back," Sirje comments.

Katla takes a good while catching her breath. Eventually, she staggers to her feed, raising Ingjuld's severed head skyward. A satisfied, somewhat macabre smile graces her bloodied face.

"I will attend to your wounds Katla, come with me," Sirje says.

"There will be more blood before the end," Vatnar says.  "Mark my words.  Ivar will not take this news lightly."

Sirje leads Katla to the backroom where they were hiding if she is willing to follow.

Dagny helps Katla, too.

Katla follows the witch, feeling at ease.

Sirje rinses her hands with clean water and slides them carefully over the deep gashes in the shield-maiden's scarred skin.

Katla silently endures the searing pain of her wounds being cleaned.

Sirje the flesh hears her beckoning and closes of its own accord, as if time sped up in front of one's eyes, wound turning to scar turning to bruise turning to unmarked skin.

The Jarl returns to his keep.  As Sirje looks to Katla's wounds, Jarl Wulfgar removes a ring from his finger.  "For fighting so valiantly, I give you this ring, an heirloom of my clan.  It is said to protect any who wear it from harm."

Dagny can't really do much, but she does sit next to Katla, trying to reassure her. "That was really something. You ripped that big motherfucker a new one."

"Again I must thank you for your craft, Sirje," Katlsa says. "Thank you also for your support, Dagny."  Katla turns to regard the Jarl. "It was an honor to fight on your behalf. I accept your gift, and will bear it proudly."

"When you decide to seek out the Fire-Drakes, find my Thegn, Starkad," Jarl Wulfgar says.  "He is riding back from the Hrafnlands; he should arrive tonight.  I suggest you all rest and prepare yourselves."

Dagny teases, "Killing Dragons in the morning, dueling fucking bastards in the afternoon, do you think you'll get into another fight before dinner?"

Katla nods. "The rest will be needed. And we still must pay a visit to the Gothi."

"I will need rest before we leave," Sirje says. "Keeping you alive is more tiring work than it might appear."

"You wish to speak to Brúnn?" Vatnar asks.  "I can send for him."

"Our friend will surely need to see him before we depart," Sirje says.  "He is stricken with something foul."

"Sickness?  You brought this man into Wulfheim?"  Vatnar's face darkens.

"No sickness. Foul witchery," Katla says.

"You misunderstand – this is a sickness of the more personal sort," Sirje explaisn.  "A curse cast upon his soul and his soul alone."

"I see.  Where is this accursed man?"

"Resting fitfully in his bed at the inn," Sirje says.  "His wounds refuse to close even under my administrations and they start to fester."

"I will send the Gothi to him.  He will meet you at the Well."  Vatnar barks orders and a guard departs the keep in search of the Gothi.

"He will serve you as valiantly as us," Sirje says. "And I dare say you will secure a most loyal man by sending the Gothi to his side."

"We should head there without further ado," Katla says. "Thank you for your hospitality."

Vatnar nods.  "Wulfheim thanks you."

Dagny gives a mocking salute.

Katla collects her belonging and departs.


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Re: The Fimbulvinter Saga
« Reply #12 on: December 03, 2014, 03:03:37 PM »
IC: Fitt VII: The Dökkálfar
At the Well of Joy, a tall, robed man with a gray-blond beard and a staff kneels beside Æskil, who sits on the floor with his back to the wall, eyes glazed with delirium, staring ahead.  His wounds have become horribly infected, and he gives off an evil stench.

Dagny fans the air in front of her. "Well that's uh... good for business..."

The man intones a prayer to Freyja, beseeching the goddess to heal Æskil - to no effect.

Katla grimaces seeing the warrior whose valour she's come to admire in such terrible condition.

He stands.  "You are this man's companions?"

"That we are."

"I've heard of your deeds," the robed man says.  "Surely the Æsir have guided you here.  I am Brúnn, Gothi of Wulfheim.  I think I can help your friend, but if I am to do so you must help me first."

"Yes," Sirje declares. "Anything if you can save our companion."

"We are prepared to fight for him," Katla indicates. "If need be."

"There is a sacred grove in the hills, northwest of Wulfheim.  Here stand the idols and altars of the Æsir, through which the gods may be worshipped.  Once I held many rites there, and through the holiness of the grove was gifted with certain powers and blessings.  One of these rites is the Álfablót - a sacrifice to the Light Elves, held during the autumn when the crops are harvested and animals are fat.  The sacrifice beseeches the Ljósálfar to shorten the coming winter and bring the light of spring soon.  Sometimes during the rite the Light Elves themselves appear for a brief time, descending to Midgard from their radiant halls in Álfheim itself to honour us with their presence.

"Last year I dared not hold the Álfablót, as there was no autumn, only winter.  This year, however, the suffering of my people was so great that I conducted the sacrifice, smearing the trees and stones with bull's blood and leaving offerings of meat at the grove, hoping that the Light Elves would take mercy upon us, offer some respite from Fimbulvinter.  But though the date for the Álfablót was the right one, the season was not.  Instead of the Ljósálfar, the Álfablót summoned the Dökkálfar, the twisted Dark Elves.  A great crack appeared in the hillside, and out came a swarm of creatures with skins black as night and eyes full of wickedness.  They killed many with strange, cruel weapons and captured others, dragging them screaming back to their caverns.  I led as many as I could to safety.

"Since then the Dark Elves have desecrated the grove, defiled it with evil rituals of the vilest depravity: I have heard their witch-chants in the night, have glimpsed the horror of their ceremonies in visions sent by Heimdall, god of keen sight.  They have not yet ventured far beyond the shadowy confines of the grove: they dislike sunlight and cold, being used to the heat and darkness of their underground homes near the warm heart of the earth, but it is only a matter of time before they grow bold enough to sally forth in numbers.  While they pollute the grove I can conduct no rituals or sacrifices, and the people of Wulfheim suffer more than ever before.

"There is a ritual I can perform to cleanse the grove, but it will take many hours to complete, and if I attempted it myself I would surely be slain.  Jarl Wulfgar cannot risk any warriors to drive the Dökkálfar back to their cave.  But perhaps you would be willing to assist me.  I can offer no material rewards, but once the grove is cleansed I can use its power to heal your companion."

Dagny smirks. "You know, after a fuckup of that magnitude I don't feel so bad about just losing a book."

"Ah, yes.  You are the witch the Jarl spoke of.  You should not seek that tome out again - better to forget its contents."

Dagny shrugs. "Excuse me if I don't take magical advice from a guy who took a steaming shit all over his own sacred grove and is now asking me to go fix it."

The Gothi's eyes flash in anger at Dagny's words.

"Our success would be more certain if our man was on his legs and healed of his malady," Sirje says. "If you cure him I'll gladly pledge myself to defend your grove for the duration of the cleansing."

"Agreed," Katla says. "We should see this business over with before any other"

He turns to Sirje.  "I may be able to forestall the curse from worsening, but without the grove's power I cannot remove it."

"Very well," Sirje says. "Æskil might very well die without a cure soon."

"Then we must cleanse the grove as soon as possible."

Dagny gets a room ready.

You pass the night at the Well of Joy.  The owner, thankful for your efforts at sparing her establishment from fiery decimation, gives you room and board free of charge.

The Gothi told you he could be found treating the burned guards injured during the Fire-Drake attack.

Sirje leads the party to the Gothi.

Brúnn is tending to the wounded guards, praying over them in their barracks-room within the wooden keep of Jarl Wulfgar.  Already his prayers have had an effect - the guards' burns are scabbed and peeling, fresh skin growing.

"Are you prepared?"

"We are - as prepared as will be, anyway."

"I am ready," Katla affirms.

"Very well.  Best leave your horses here.  They will not do well riding over steep rocks and through narrow passes in the hills, and the grove is not far.  I can help you drive the Dark Elves back into the earth, but once I begin the ritual to cleanse the grove I must not be interrupted; you will have to protect me while I perform the purification.  It will take me nine hours to complete the ritual."

Dagny spent a bit of time (and the princely sum of 37.5 gold pieces) scrawling out another Mage Armour, just in case. Part of why it cost so much is because she used a BRAND NEW napkin this time.

Brúnn leads you through Wulfheim's gates and northwest, into the foothills of the Orm-Fells.  The occasional crow, perched on a boulder or a dead tree, watches your progress into the rocky wild, but mostly the hills are eerily devoid of animals.  Freezing rain and spattered hail fall intermittently, rattling off your armour, making the ground treacherous and slippery.  Presently the sacred grove becomes visible up ahead: a cluster of dark trees huddled atop a high slope like a dark and jagged crown.  A well-worn path winds up the hillside to the grove.

"The Dark Elves use poisoned arrows," Brúnn warns you as you near the grove, his voice low.  "Those struck by one suffer from Elf-Shot: you will feel sick and weak, and may slip into sleep.  The Dökkálfar dart in once a foe is unconscious, to slit the throats of the slumbering.  Now: you are the warriors.  How should we approach?"

"Katla, do you wish to scout ahead?" Sirje asks.

"It is better that I will," Katla replies.  Katla having said that, ups her pace and heads off, though she take scare not to venture far from the party this time - being horseless.

Dagny puts on some boots and a coat and trudges along behind. She's somewhat pleased to be out wandering, although this isn't exactly the nicest place.

The path winds into the desecrated grove.  The air reeks of death and decay, and the shadows between the tall, gloomy trees are black and predatory, flickering, encroaching on the light.  The trees themselves seem subtly wrong as well, rustling as if whispering to one another, branches stirring uncannily, boughs creaking and hissing with voiceless malignity.  There is an intense sensation of being watched.  As you enter the grove a feeling of nausea and fear fills you, an instinctual revulsion that urges you to flee.

As you approach the grove, you make out four shapes, crouched, moving through the undergrowth towards you!  They seem to be wielding bows.  The shadows obscure them, so you can only just make them out.

Katla sways back at the first sign of these shapes, striding toward the party. She calls out a warning to them as she runs.

Arrows whistle past you from the trees, clattering against stones.  One streaks past your ear, so close you can feel it hiss through the air.

Dagny draws her dagger, giving it a twirl. "What's the plan, ladies?"

"Something along the lines of removing their stain from this sacred earth I believe," Sirje says. "If this involves us spilling their blood, then so be it."

You can see Katla running down the hill, with arrows striking near her.  She's yelling a warning.

"Prepare your weapons, friends!" Sirje calls.

"Stick together!" Katla yells. "Don't let yourselves be lured into the bushes."

Dagny fumbles around in her bag for a scroll.

Sirje places herself alongside Dagny

The Gothi speaks a prayer to Thor, and the air around him shimmers and crackles.

Katla walks forward at the front of the group, keeping pace with her comrades.

Arrows arc down towards you.  Three of their shafts fall short, but one grazes Dagny, barely brushing her flesh.  Nonetheless, the Elf-Shot takes instant effect, and she falls into a deep slumber.

Dagny spins around on one foot. "I drink I had too much to think..." *THUMP*

Sirje runs to Dagnys side and try to drag her behind the cover of a tree (a nearby one preferably).

You get Dagny into cover.

Sirje tries to wake her.

She wakens quickly.

"Be careful. You have poison in your veins. There is little I can do for you at the moment. If the Gothi speaks the truth no harm will befall you, unless we fall as well. Try and stay awake." Sirje waits for the Elves to close.

Dagny looks at the wound, shaking her head. "Great. Just great."

Brúnn shouts a prayer to Odin and heads up the hill, staff in hand.

"The fool of a priest is charging ahead," Sirje groans. "He will be out in the open."

Katla runs before the Gothi, determined to protect him.

Two arrows strike Katla, one grazing you slightly, the other embedding its cruel barbs in your leg.  You slip into unconsciousness!

"Can you stand Dagny?" Sirje asks. "We must follow. Can we get cover behind something?"

Dagny shakes her head. "Yeah, good idea. One idiot charges ahead so LET'S ALL CHARGE AHEAD!"

"We don't know how many there are Dagny! We are in more danger here than out there. Without Katla and Brúnn we are as good as dead. Grab that bark over there, we will need all the cover we can get."

Dagny pops out of cover. "I was hoping to save this, but this is turning into a fucking clusterfuck..." She clutches her bonded amulet in one hand, snapping the fingers of her other hand.

"We can move around, through the trees. It might our best and only option now."

You hear shouts in Álfari as the Elves are snared by your magical web.

Dagny shouts back. "DON'T LIKE IT, DO YOU?"

Your eldritch filaments snare three of the Dark Elves, trapping them in place with sticky strands of magic.

Sirje runs into the underbrush and up the hill.

Dagny flicks some hair out of her face. "You were all, hey, I'm gonna take you out of the battle with my cheapass poison arrow, now you're all oooh look at me I can't move because I'm covered in snot!"

Sirje speaks a hex.

A pair of nearby ravens swoop down to peck at the Elf you hexed.  They circle, cawing and flapping their wings, angrily attacking the Elf.

The Gothi, seeing Katla fall, stoops to wake her.

Sirje sends Samran out to get an aerial view as well.

Katla snaps out of the Elfshot-induced slumber, shakes her head, and springs to action. Spotting a Dökkálfar nearby, she charges at it with her sword posed to strike.

Still woozy from the poison, your sword-stroke misses its mark, and your blade embeds itself in a nearby tree.

The Dark Elf - an androgynous, shapely creature with a cruel, sensual face, ink-black skin, and strange armour of dark metal - prepares to fire a shot at you point-blank.

The shot takes you in the side, the arrow sinking into your flesh.

Katla lets go of her sword and reaches for the battleaxe, worn across her back. With the same motion as she draws the weapon, she brings it to bear against the Elf. Her axe sinks into the nape of the Dark Elf's neck with a fleshly thudding sound. A heartbeat passes and the shield-maiden wrenches the weapon out, evoking a massive burst of black blood that stains her armor and the snow all around the dying creature.

One of the Dark Elves cuts itself free of the webbing with a serrated dagger.  The other two remain trapped.

Dagny runs forward. "Oh, did I say you could come out? NO I DIDN'T SAY YOU COULD COME OUT." Dagny gets close and lets her dagger fly, spinning through the air, whooshing past the Dark Elf. It kind of sneers at her - but then the dagger turns around, ripping through the foul creature on the way back, leaving it with a gaping hole in its chest. "Yeah, bet you didn't see that coming, did you."

The ravens peck at the corpse of Dark Elf Katla slew.

The Gothi charges forward and strikes a Dark Elf across the head, sending it reeling.  He bashes it again and again, till little remains of the creature's face but a bloody pulp.

Katla attacks the final foe that's still standing.

Katla swings at the elf, but her axe gets tangled in the webs.

The Elf remains entangled.

Sirje sends dark whispers into the minds of the Dark Elf, causing him to turn against what he loves the most: himself.

The Dark Elf stabs itself through its own withered heart.

Having slain the Dark Elves guarding the path into the grove, you now stand at the edge of the desecrated holy ground.  A feeling of palpable dread emanates from inside, along with a foul odour, as of gangrenous flesh.

Katla yanks her longsword off the tree trunk it's stuck on, checks the blade's condition and sheathes it.

Dagny gives her dagger a twirl. "Well that was easy."

"If you could heal my wounds before beginning the ceremony, I would appreciate it," Katla says to Brúnn.

Dagny walks up to Brúnn, giving him a light punch on the shoulder. "See that sticky goop that saved our asses? I learned that from that book you hate so much."

Brúnn gives Dagny a dark look and tends to Katla's wounds.

Kylfa, having tracked your companions' footprints, you approach a high hill with a grove of snow-clad trees atop it.

You spot several of your companions near the top - Sirje, Katla, and Dagny, as well as a bearded man with a staff.

Kylfa grunts and begins trudging up the hill.

Dagny smirks. "Well look who showed up."

Katla thanks the Gothi and turns to regard the approaching Kylfa.

Brúnn turns to look at Kylfa, then back to Dagny.  "Who is this Kvenlander?"

Kylfa nods solemnly to the group once he approaches. "Kylfa."

Dagny shrugs. "He's just beard-man, don't mind him."

"He is a companion of ours," Katla says simply.

"I see.  Well, we can use every blade against the Dökkálfar."

Dagny glances around. "So, uh, as much as I love standing around in dark spooky evil places just making chit-chat... and really, YOU KNOW I DO. But yeah. Can we get on with it?" She coughs a bit, and spits on the ground, putting her hand on her chest. "Ugh."

Kylfa scratches his beard in silence, feeling very resilient today.

"Are we ready to enter the grove?" the priest says, shivering in the winter wind.

Dagny rolls her eyes. "Hey what a fucking brilliant idea."

 "We have agreed to guard Gothi Brúnn while he performs a ceremony to cleanse his defiled grove," Katla says. "In return he will help cure Æskil of his curse. Will you stand guard with us, Kylfa?"

"Hmm.  Very well."

A scream rips through the grove, somewhere from the gloom up ahead.  You can hear someone sobbing, pleading nonsensically.  Their weeping is drowned out by cruel laughter and a sibilant, rhythmic chant in Álfari.

Dagny knows Álfari!

Dagny, Kylfa, you recognize the words - a prayer to thrice-married Nótt, the spirit of the night and the daughter of Narvi, one of Loki's sons, whose entrails were torn out to fetter the Trickster-god.  They seem to be offering the blood of a sacrifice to the night-goddess. There are at least four or five voices.

Dagny listens. "Yeah this is... not good."

Kylfa makes a low growl.

Katla slings her shield across her back and equips her bow, nocking an arrow

Brúnn gestures for you to follow and enters the grove.

Kylfa produces his club and shield.

Katla keeps next to Brúnn as they enter the grove.

Dagny holds one finger up, rummaging through her pouch a moment before following.

You near the centre of the grove.  The trees part, revealing a dim clearing where grim stone idols stand, statues of Odin, Thor, Tyr, Frey and Freya, Frigg, Njord, Heimdall, and Baldr.  These statues have now been spattered with crimson, butchered bodies laid at their feet, unspeakably mutilated and partially devoured.

More than a dozen unsettling creatures are arrayed about the clearing: beings with skin and hair as black as a moonless night and horrible pale eyes, pointed ears and sharp white teeth.  The Dökkálfar are androgynous and elegant, their movements sensuous and obscene, their grinning faces full of lust and malice.  Five of them writhe together in a mass of naked, red-smeared flesh, their mouths red with gore and bodies slathered in dripping human blood; three others with sickles intone sybaritic witch-chants while another begins to carve up a sacrifice, a screaming, naked woman bound to an altar stone with barbed chains, Álfari glyphs already cut into her body.  Four more Dark Elves, warriors in strange spiked armour, stand guard over the vile ritual, two wielding hideous curved swords and shields forged into twisted faces, two others bearing serrated war-scythes.

Further on, the path winds towards what looks like a crack in the hillside.

Dagny whips out a bar napkin with a bunch of runes on it. She reads it aloud, and it bursts into orange flames, which seem to light her hand and arm on fire, but the flames just melt away.

Kylfa pinches a few bear hairs from his bearskin cloak and tosses them at Katla as he mutters some unintelligible words.

Sirje fixes one of the cultists with her eyeless stare.

The Dark Elf witch shrieks and covers its eyes.

Katla immediately draws and releases a shaft at the Elf mutilating the woman.

The arrow takes the creature in the shoulder.  It ceases its butchery and looks up with a snarl, even as the guards prepare to attack! While the uncloathed Dark Elves disentangle themselves the scythe-wielding guards charge towards Katla and Brúnn, while the swordsmen dart towards Kylfa and Dagny.

One of the Dark Elf swordsmen slashes at Dagny, grazing her side with his blade as she jumps back.  The others engage, but their attacks are parried or evaded.

Dagny looks at the rip in her coat and her dress. "Hey! You fucking piece of..." She takes a step back and flings her dagger at the swordsman.

The sword-wielderparries the dagger, and it flies into the woods.

Dagny scowls, snapping her fingers. The dagger comes flipping out of the woods, landing in her hand. Better luck next time, apparently.

Brúnn smacks his assailant in the head, bellowing prayers to Thor.

Katla drops her bow and draws her sword with a lightning-swift motion, slashing at her attacker. Her cut proves too quick for the Dökkálf to evade, as the blade connects with its neck in a blink of an eye. For a moment the creature just stands still, an incredulous look on it's face - then its head slumps, left hanging by a strip of flesh from the blood-springing stump of a neck, even as it's body collapses on the ground.

Sirje darts forward, mouthing a spell, and reaches out to strike one of the Dark Elves.

The creature jerks back, out of her reach.

Kylfa shudders and snarls, his teeth growing into fangs and his nails stretching into claws.  He breaks to one side, towards one of the swordsman trying to flank them, pulling the shield from his arm as he does so.

The witches chanting cease their twisted prayer and concentrate their efforts on Kylfa, weaving the Seid into maleficent spells!

You shake off the effects of the spell, Dagny, overcoming a bout of extreme drowsiness.

Kyfla, terror grips your heart and you are filled with the urge to flee, but you shake off the effect.

Dagny yawns. "Don't mind me. Just gettin' a little bored because you guys are WEAK ASS!"

Katla, a searing pain fills your vision and everything goes black.  You are blind!

Katla, suddenly very disoriented, curses. "In Odin's name, what witchery veils my eyes!? I'll flay your wretched hides for this!"

The Dark Elves press their attack, but you hold them off.

Dagny dashes backwards.

A Dark Elf slashes as you move, but you duck the blow.

Dagny ducks out of the way, grabbing her scroll and reading it on the run. It starts to catch multicolored flames. She stops in front of the witches. "So you like magic? Try this!" The scroll explodes in a blinding multicolored flash as she throws it amid the witches. "TASTE THE RAINBOW BITCHES!"

The Dark Elves curse, staggering backwards as the spell blinds them.  Only one managed to escape the spell's effects.

Brúnn takes another swipe at the nearest warrior; he brains the creature and it slumps to the ground, unconscious.

Katla growls and falls into a defensive stance, unsure where to strike

Kylfa roars at the swords-Elf before him and lashes out with ursine fury, though dulled by a lingering fear.

The Dark Elf retreats rapidly, avoiding your blows.  "Die, beast!" it spits.

Sirje attempts her spell a second time, but the Dark Elves are too nimble.

The remaining Dark Elf witch-priest approaches Dagny with sickle held high.  The blade gleams as it swings!

Dagny twists away, avoiding the evil blade.

The swordsman lashes out at Kylfa but he bats the attack aside.  The sycthe-wielder charges at Katla but she blocks the strike with her shield.

Dagny twists backward after the attack, flipping backwards 5 feet or so, and hurls her dagger at her new attacker.

The dagger cuts across the Dark Elf's cheek, drawing blood.  "How dare you strike me, mortal?!  I will make your death last for days!"

Dagny snaps her fingers, sending her dagger back into her hand. "Yeah, well, you won't be around for days, so good luck with that."

Brúnn approaches Katla and intones a prayer to Frigga.  Instantly her vision clears.

Not a heartbeat later than she can again see, Katla snaps out of her guarded stance to strike at the swordsman in front of her. Her sudden attack takes her opponent by surprise, the dark elf apparently having expected her to be blind as a bat. She stabs the creature at and upward angle, the blade penetrating it's abdomen and exiting between it's shoulder blades. Katla unceremoniously pulls her sword off the dying creature, her left hand reaching to grab the shield currently slung on her back.

Kylfa continues his savage, heedless attack on the swords-Elf with bestial claws and teeth.

The Dark Elf continues its retreat, ducking round one of the statues in terror.

 Sirje seems unsure what to do.  She unsheathes her dagger and approaches the Dark Elf witch fighting Dagny.

The witch-priest didn't notice Sirje's approach, and the blind woman drives her knife deep into the creature's side. The witch grows dizzy as frost discolours its flesh, spreading from Sirje's wound.  In desperation it lashes out with its sickle.

Sirje gasps in pain as the sickle pierces her chest, slicing deep into her body!

The remaining sword-wielder flees the battle, towards the crack in the wall!

Kylfa bites at open air, and then silently facepaws as the elf flees unharmed.

The Dark Elf vanishes into the narrow tunnel in the cliff-face.

Dagny steps back if she needs a bit of room, and flings her dagger at the nasty one once again.

The Dark Elf jerks to one side, and the blade goes wide.

Dagny sighs and snaps her fingers, sending the dagger flying back into her hand. "Lil help here..."

Brúnn hastens to Sirje side. He lays a hand on the wound the witch-priest dealt and it closes.

Katla, having equipped her shield, sees the witch-priest threatening Sirje. She shouts her lungs out in a fearsome battle-cry and charges the cur. She beheads the creature with a wide-arcing swing, sending it's head rolling across the bloodstained ground.

Dagny smirks. "Yeah, uh, look out behind you." She steps out of the way as Katla comes barrelling in.

Kylfa hustles over to the nearest witch – twenty feet away – and bites it.

You savage the Dark Elf and it cries out in pain and surprise!

Sirje hastens to free the prisoner from the altar, cutting her bonds.

Dagny smirks down at the beheaded corpse, and tosses her dagger at one of the disoriented Elves before it sees what's coming.

The vicious strike takes the creature in the neck.  It gurgles, disoriented and bleeding badly!

Dagny sends the dagger flying back into her hand, leaving a trail of blood behind it.

Brúnn strides over and batters at one of the Dark Elves with his staff, but the creature stumbles backwards blindly, avoiding him.

Katla spins on her heels and rushes one of the disoriented shamans, eager to take advantage of their state. She disembowels her foe, grunting satisfactorily as her gore-dripping blade claims yet another life.

Dagny smirks. "Always need me to soften 'em up for you, huh Katla?"

Kylfa bites and claws at the still-stunned witch beside him. He tears into the reeling witch like a kitten on a pile of string.

The remaining witch-priest, recovering its sight but not its wits, cowers in the shadow of Odin's statue.

Brúnn smacks the creature in the side, breaking ribs.

Katla allows her rage to calm down. She approaches the remaining Elf slowly, her blade poised, but does not strike yet.

Dagny flips her dagger around and starts scavenging for corpses of the other three for magical goodies. "Yeah, you got this."

The sickles of the witch-priests glow as you speak a spell to discern magic.  They seem to be shedding some malignant energy.

Kylfa runs at the remaining witch and tries to grapple it so it won't get away.

You pin the Dark Elf's limbs. As it recovers its senses the witch-priest spits curses in Álfari but does not struggle excessively.

Release me, mortal, or my spirit will hunt you through Hel for eternity!"

 "Should we interrogate it? If anyone can understand that ear-wrenching speech."

Dagny looks up from her scavenger hunt. "I can, but it's not saying anything useful." She goes back to hunting for goodies. Preferably non-malignant ones.

The weapons of the Dökkálfar are deftly made, but of strange design.  Their armour is likewise well-crafted but fitted for Elves, not humans.

You also find a scroll-tube one of the witch-priests was carrying which concealed its content's aura and discover several vellum scrolls adorned with spidery runes.

"It it can't tell us anything then better to just kill it," Katla says.

Kylfa growls gutturally.  "Idle threats," he spits in Álfari, and then bites her.

You savage the Elf, tearing at its flesh.  It screams and pleads for mercy.

Dagny casts Read Magic, attempting to decipher the strange scrolls.

Katla watches Kylfa mangle the eElf without any sign of pity in her eyes. She has none to spare for these vile creatures.

Kylfa snarls in Álfari, "Be still, demon, and your death will be merciful."

Dagny looks at the scrolls. "Really, nobody writes down happy thoughts any more." She shrugs and goes over to Sirje and the prisoner.

Katla growing tired of this plunges her sword toward the Elf's face.

Dagny peers over at the comical scene with Katla and Kylfa. "You know, when those things said something about making our deaths last for days, I don't think that kind of thing is what they had in mind. But hey, what do I know. What goes around comes around, eh?"

Brúnn begins removing the mutilated bodies from the feet of the idols.  "I will pray to each of the gods in turn.  You must watch over me while I complete the ritual.  The Dark Elves may try to retake the grove - now that we have slain some of them, they will be hungry for vengeance."

Dagny presses her hand to her sinuses. "You mean they will... great." She sighs. "Get on with it, then."

"I will take this poor woman back to Wulfheim," Sirje says, supporting the would-be sacrifice.  The injured woman is muttering to herself, her eyes mad and fearful.  "I will return as soon as I can."

Dagny turns. "Oh, yeah, Dark Elf bastards might be coming back, OH MAYBE I SHOULD GO BACK TO TOWN." She makes another gesture of exasperation.

The Gothi kneels before the statue of Odin and begins to chant.

One of the Dark Elves moans dully, dying.

Katla, whilst catching her breath in anticipation for the next battle, takes out the strangle shimmering short sword she looted from the corpses on the way to Wulfheim. "Any idea what this gleaming light is?"

Sirje runs her hands over the blade before leaving with the madwoman. "It's made from the heart of a fallen star," she says, frowning.  "It will still burn with a star's fire when it cuts."

"Quite a blade," Katla says. "And quite some luck to find it lying in the snow."

Dagny chimes in. "They had more of 'em."

Katla sheathes the short sword happily.

Kylfa wipes the blood from his face, retrieves his club and shield, and brains the dying Elf with the cudgel as the others talk.

The trees and stones around the crack in the hill are caked with dried blood from Brúnn's botched Álfablót.  The rift itself is a black slit, tall and narrow, big enough perhaps for two Dark Elves to exit at a time.  You can see only a little ways inside; the tunnel winds downwards along a series of natural steps.  The rift exudes a palpable malevolence.

Kylfa eyes the rift.  "They will come from there?"

"I wonder, could we try and barricade that crack?" Katla wonders. "Even just so as to slow them down?"

"Perhaps so."

Dagny sits on a rock. "Personally, I'm just going to take a moment and enjoy the not-having-bloodthirsty-Dark-Elves-trying-to-rip-off-my-face-ness."

Kylfa looks around to see if there is anything that could be quickly fashioned into a wall or barricade.

Dagny peers around, too.

Katla alsp looks around, though she takes care not to wander too far

Kylfa, you find a mid-sized boulder, but it would be very difficult to move.

Kylfa digs around in his pouch for a pinch of iron, throws it over his head, and becomes the size of an ogre!

You roll the boulder towards the cave entrance. With a mighty heave you roll the boulder so that it blocks much of the crack!

Katla, you hear screams and shouted Álfari orders echoing up from below!

Kylfa the Giant leans on the now-in-place boulder and wipes his brow.

You hear a susurration from the depths of the rift, and shadow begins to seep out of the crack in the rock like black mist, tendrils of unlight curling through the air.

You hear footsteps and Álfari curses from behind the boulder. Next a cruel, sultry voice is audible: "Mortals," the voice says in Álfari.  "Do any of you speak the Elf-tongue?"

Katla steps back from the seeping shadows, eyeing them warily

Dagny hops off her rock and smirks. "Right here, me and Mr. Beard do."

Kylfa backs away from the rock, but rests his foot on the boulder still, trying to keep some pressure on it until the shadow grows too close...

"You have proven yourselves skillful in the slaughter-dance, deft death-dealers all.  We Dökkálfar hold such mighty mortiferousness in high esteem.  We can offer you much more than the mortal manling who brought you here: down in our deep-dwellings are many treasures torn from the earth's bosom which we might give to those we consider friends, and the favour of the Dark Elves is a thing much-sought.  When Ragnarök comes upon the land and the world above flickers with fierce flames those below will be spared that ineluctable incineration; the petty gods of Asgard will perish and the supremacy of shadow will commence.  Will you not forsake your futile fealties and instead swear your blades to the service of Darkness?"

Dagny shrugs. "Yeah, you might give us stuff, or you might... you know, take us down there and rip out our toenails."

Kylfa frowns, trying to decipher that rather advanced Álfari, and responds – "What?"

Katla ignores the Elfspeech, being unable to comprehend it. She observes the reactions of her comrades curiously.

"You refuse our most reasonable request, then?"

Dagny shakes her head. "Hey now. I didn't say that. How about this? Toss one of those treasures out here and we'll see what we can do."

"Very well.  Behold: a jewel ripped from the deepest darkness of the earth!"

The shadows seem to coagulate before you, and a fist-sized black gemstone appears on the ground in front of the boulder.

Dagny kneels down, examining it. "Yeah, that's nice... real nice..." She turns and mouths, 'hurry up' to Brúnn.

Kylfa looks at the gemstone suspiciously, keeping his massive hide-covered foot on the boulder.

Katla scratches her head, wondering just what the Hel is going on. Nobody's bothered to explain her.

Kylfa nods to Dagny and awkwardly adds "Yes. Nice."

Dagny leans against the boulder, continuing to try to stall the Elves. "So, tell me about this deal. What do you want? What else do we get? Are there contracts to sign? Overage charges?"

Kylfa raises his eyebrows at Dagny

Dagny mumbles. "If they're talkin', they're not fightin', and then maybe Slowy Slowenheim can finish his ritual."

"We can give you weapons, jewels, whatever your hearts desire... just drive off the damned priest, and return this place to our care."

Dagny replies, "Yeah, sure, I'll get right on that. Start tossing 'em out there, while I get to work."

Dagny turns to Katla. "Start clanging your sword. Make like we're fighting."

"Remove the obstruction," the Dark Elf voice insists.

Katla shrugs, annoyed that she's missed the entire conversation, but does as Dagny asked.

Dagny is too busy staging her elaborate production to be paying much attention, thank you very much!

You're uncertain whether or not the Dark Elf can be held to its word or if it's trying to trick you.  Obviously you suspect the latter.

Kylfa rests his club on his shoulder while his foot rests on the boulder, oblivious.

Dagny replies, "There's a big guy in the way. I'm trying!"

Kylfa stares at her for a moment, then his eyes light up, and starts thumping on the boulder with his club and growling somewhat theatrically.

Dagny says loudly, "This grove belongs to the Dark Elves! Begone, foul... guy!" She then prestidigitates some poofs of what would be very powerful magic if only you could see it.

Kylfa shouts in Álfari, "Arg, not even all of you will defeat the great bear."

Dagny bangs her dagger on the boulder. "Oh we are going to lose! If only we had some more magical weapons and scrolls and things! Help help."

Kylfa thumps his club against his shield.

Katla swashes her shield, quite amused by this show.

"Now, soldiers of darkness!  Come to the aid of our allies above!"

Kylfa actually does cast Shillelagh on his club, and growls back "Puny magic of men cannot defeat bear-magic!"

Dagny quickly waves her hands. "No no, no soldiers. Just stuff! Stuff only. Not soldiers. Don't need soldiers."

The boulder begins to move as bodies on the other side heave against it.  As it does so it rolls towards the jewel - but instead of crushing it, the jewel simply vanishes into the boulder - it was only an illusion!

Kylfa heaves against the boulder as hard as he can!

Katla ceases her noise-making and joins Kylfa.

Dagny leaps back, lending her own meagre strength to the effort. She feels her strength surge, adrenaline flowing from the situation nearly getting out of hand!

You heave the boulder back into place - but not before one of the Dark Elves manages to slip through, a monstrous shadow-fleshed figure with a cruelly spiked chain!

Katla frowns and draws her meteoric short sword.

The Dark Elf looks around, unsure of who to attack.

Dagny yells over to Brúnn. "ANY TIME you want to finish whatever it is you're doing... it would be GREAT!"

Kylfa snarls at it and swings his club at the Elf from ten feet away.

The Dark Elf lashes out with its chain, lashing its weapon round your club, but you keep a firm grip.

Kylfa raises his club over his head and shouts as he slams it earthwards.

It darts aside, and your club hits the cliff.

The boulder moves a foot forwards!

Kylfa stays near the boulder, even if he's not able to push on it while fighting.

Dagny whips out her wand, pointing it at the chain. "Nice weapon. Sure would be a shame if SOMETHING BAD HAPPENED TO IT!"

The spiked chain quivers and rattles but resists the spell.

Kylfa shouts "Push!"

Dagny hisses and makes an annoyed gesture with her free hand, strangling the air.

"I have this one.  Push!"

Katla breaks contact with the boulder to spring at the Dark Elf, brandishing her sword that now has flames flickering along the blade

The creature twists and ducks the flaming sword.

Katla avoids its lashing chains!

Kylfa scowls and swings at the Elf again, hoping the boulder will hold with its weight alone...

Again your club smashes only stone. Another Dark Elf squeezes through the gap, slashing at Kylfa with a serrated war-scythe.

Kylfa swings his club, but these nimble elves are too agile!

The boulder, fortunately, stays in place.

Brúnn is approaching from the grove.

Dagny runs over to try to hold the boulder, tossing her dagger at the newcomer. She sends the blade flipping through the air. The emerging Elf tries to dodge, but the dagger slices its neck open, and it collapses, foul blood spilling everywhere. Dagny snaps her fingers, sending the dagger back into her hand.

Katla continues to assault the chain-wielding elf, making quick feinting jabs followed by a real attack.

The Elf madly dodges, tumbling from side to side as Katla makes vicious strikes. Once again it sends its chains whipping towards you, but you block with your shield.

"Rargh!" Kylfa roars.

The Elf spots Kylfa's attack and lashes out with its chain, disarming the warrior.  Your club flies into the undergrowth!

The boulder holds fast as Brúnn approaches and begins speaking a prayer to the Æsir.

Katla grits her teeth, determined to overcome this foe no matter how long it takes.

This Elf is preternaturally dextrous, avoiding each blow.

Kylfa growls in a manner that's half-sigh and runs over to retrieve his club, then pushes against the boulder.

You grunt and strain, trying to roll the boulder back. Another Elf leaps through the gap, this one wielding a curved sword. It hacks at you, Kylfa, but you block with your club.

Dagny pushes the boulder a few inches back.

Katla circles her opponent, crouched low, looking for an opening. She roars and plunges at the Elf with increased ferocity. She darts forward to strike the Elf, who tries in vain to swat her attack aside, but ends up with the flaming short sword thrust from under its chin through the back of its skull. The creature's head lights up like a lantern, flames shooting out of it's ears and eye-sockets.

Kylfa abandons the boulder and strikes at the swords-Elf, bashing out its brains!

As Kylfa reduces the warrior to Elf-paste, Brúnn scribes a mark on the stone above the rift with his staff.  The mark glows with a golden light - a five-pointed star.  There is a distant rumbling sound, followed by a harsh grinding as the entrance to the realm of the Dark Elves slams shut.

"It is done," Brúnn says.  "The Elf-Cross will keep the Dökkálfar from returning to the surface this way.  You have done the people of Wulfheim a great service."


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Re: The Fimbulvinter Saga
« Reply #13 on: December 11, 2014, 09:24:57 PM »
IC: Fitt VIII: Glíma
The mead-hall called the Well of Joy is crowded, but somewhat sleepy. Men and women nurse tankards of drink, savouring each sip and speaking in low voices. A few doze, while those with coin enough for a meal sup on dishes of salted meat; grains and vegetables are now all but impossible to come by, with the snow piled deep and growing ever deeper over the farms that once would have surrounded Wulfheim. The crackling hearth in the room’s middle at least fills the hall with warmth, providing respite from the merciless cold outside – you can hear the wind howling like some monstrous beast, as if Fenris-Wolf himself were already loosed and devouring the world. A skald in the corner occasionally musters the energy to blow a few notes on a wooden flute to the languorous audience.

Though the departure of Sirje Isrelund, Æskil the Gray, and Beardless Sjack for the Görnlands to the west has left the companions who escaped the Blóðbards diminished in number, several remain in Wulfheim, and other adventurers are said to be abroad in the region.

Kylfa sits before the fire like a great lump of brown fur, warming his weathered hands.  He has no food or drink with him.

Tígris sits on a bench near the door, obviously wary and uncomfortable with his surroundings.

Tígris you have arrived on Midgard seeking a band of heroes fated by the seers of Alfheim to shape the coming Doom of the Gods - that is, if they survive long enough. While travelling the Middle-World you have been instructed also to seek the blade Lævateinn, the Bright-Sword which can fight by itself, given by Frey to his shield-bearer Skirnir, and to lead these warriors to the sword. Where the weapon might be even keen-sighted Heimdallr is unsure, but the Seidkona has given you a white jewel that will glow if the blade is near. Skirnir's final fate is unknown for he resides not in Valhalla nor in the Field of the Host. Some say he dwelt for a time in Myrkwood, others that he travelled west to the isle of Ériu or even to distant Thule...

Ragnvaldr is sat by the hearth, nursing the dregs of a tankard... a tankard bought with the last of the money he came to Wulfheim with.

Dagny sits next to Ragnvaldr with one of her own. "You want another? It's on me, no problem."

Ragnvaldr flashes Dagny a broad grin. "Ah, shit-slinger, that's a tempting offer, and a kind one! But I shouldn't sit here getting drunk forever."

Katla lazes on a bench by the back wall, a mostly emptied cracked mug in her hand. The slight frown on her face bespeaks her increasing boredom at this idleness, as her fiery soul yearns for acts of derring-do and glory.

Dagny smirks. "I want you as drunk as possible considering what I'm about to ask of you."

Ragnvaldr's eyes widen at Dagny's remark, his mouth forming a comical "o" beneath his beard.

Dagny rolls her eyes. "Uh... I meant I'm going to go get my book. And I need help."

"Right! Yes, your book. Well, if it's help you need, you have my spear. I mean... I'll fight for you if need be. My... this spear, not..." Ragnvaldr trails off lamely.

Kylfa starts humming in a soft, low monotone.  "Hmmmmm...."

Dagny pats him on the back. "Thanks." She looks at Kylfa. "You in, too, beard-man?"

Kylfa stops humming abruptly and turns to Dagny, brown eyes twinkling in his rugged face. "Help?"

"When did you plan to set out?" Ragnvaldr asks.

"Whenever the weather manages to not be complete and utter shit."

Tígris, you can overhear much of this conversation.

Tígris grins and chuckles at the exchange between Dagny and Ragnvaldr, his mirth a touch too open to be socially acceptable.

Ragnvaldr scowls at Tígris' laughter, but otherwise decides to leave stranger be.

Tígris spots Ragnvaldr's scowl and calls over: "No offence intended, my friend." His accent is strange, lilting and liquid.

Ragnvaldr responds to Tígris with a non-committal grunt and a vague hand-gesture before returning his attention to what Dagny's telling him.

Katla raises her head at their talk. She's grown bored enough for her mind to be stirred by any hint of possible adventure.

Dagny tilts her head. "Yeaaah...?"

"Oy. What're you planning?"

Dagny grins at Katla. "I'm going to get my lore-book back from those hillfolk bastards."

"If we're going a-roving and a-reaving, it'd be a shame not to have you with us, Katla," Ragnvaldr says.

"A book?" Kylfa muses. "Hmm. What reading is worth so much in these times?"

"The arcane kind. The kind that might actually help in these times."

"Help in these times..." Kylfa's bushy eyebrows raise.  "Is it a cookbook?"

"It's... yeah, it's a cookbook. A cookbook for the fuckin' universe. But sure. Cookbook."

"Ah," Katla says. "Now that's a good bit of trouble to get into. I grow weary of sitting still here, freezing my tits. Do tell me more!"

Dagny, you've spent the last few days asking around and consulting maps of the region. You've pinpointed where you think the hillfolk village is: about half a day's travel west of here, into the foothills of the Orm-Fells. This particular clan are known as the Thrivaldii. They're said to be led by a Troll named Thrivaldi, a nine-headed monster. He's been capturing travellers for some time now. In fact, the Jarl may well offer a reward for his slaying.

Dagny pulls out a tattered map and – after shoving away a nearly-passed out drunk – unfolds it on a table. She then tells Ragnvaldr and Katla what she knows.

Katla yawns and get up from the bench, slowly making her way over to Dagny and Ragnvaldr.

Three of Jarl Wulfgar's housecarls are seated at a table near the hearth, looking thirsty. One of the barmaids brings over a tray of mead and places it on the table.

"The first draught of a new cask," she says with a smile.

The warriors thank her; one takes a hearty gulp and sets his tankard down with a sigh of satisfaction.

Katla downs what's left of the sub-par mead in her mug and eyes Tígris warily. "If fetching it means we'll be getting better meals than the local fare, it's worth cutting a few hill-men-throats."

Dagny rubs her temples. "Beard-man, you in or not? I really am not in the mood for bullshit right now."

"Come, Kylfa of Kvenland, join us! We'd be grateful for your bear-strength, I'm sure."

Kylfa makes a low humming sound again, and then stands.  "All things worth knowing were written on the first leaf.  But if this book means much to you... in truth I am not in a mood to sleep."

Tígris makes his way towards this cluster of interesting travellers. "You speak of trouble and journeying, my friends. I am curious, would another arm be welcome in your company on the journey?"

The housecarl who drank is beginning to cough and splutter a bit. Perhaps something went down the wrong way?


The housecarl is now hacking and scratching at his throat. His face is turning black; he stands back from the table, his chair falling over. The other housecarls rise in alarm.

"Is he choking?" one demands.

"He didn't eat anything!" the other insists.

Ragnvaldr starts to his feet at the housecarl's predicament.

Dagny rolls her eyes. "Could be magic. No clue. Can't do much about it, OATHS AND ALL."

The man is writhing about on the floor while patrons scatter. Someone yells to find a healer.

"It looks to me as if the man's dying," Katla observes.

Kylfa moves swiftly towards the man and lays his great hands upon him.

Kylfa, this man has been poisoned, but it is beyond your skill to help him. If nothing is done he has minutes to live!

Ragnvaldr casts a fearful look at the dregs of cloudy liquid at the bottom of his tankard.

"He is poisoned," Kylfa says simply.  "I have not the skill to help him.  He will soon die."

Tígris wanders over with deceptive haste and starts checking for signs of poison, both with magic and more mundane senses.

Using Elven arts, you aid the man; Kylfa assists. The poison begins to subside, but he is not out of the woods yet! You're unsure what kind of poison this is, Tígris, but it's definitely magical in nature.

Katla spits on the floor. "Poison. How cowardly! Men are losing their courage in these wretched times."

Ragnvaldr sets the last of his drink aside, just in case.

Dagny folds up her map. "I swear, I stop working here and the place goes to hell..." She looks around for the barmaid that served the drinks.

Dagny, you approach the terrified looking barmaid.

"It was a fresh cask..." she says, hands at her mouth.

"It's alright, Kelda. They won't blame you. Well, actually, they probably will. But, eh... fuck 'em. Where's the cask?"

"In the cellar," Kelda says. "Perhaps you'd best speak to my mother..."

Ragnvaldr, knowing he can do nothing to help the housecarl, trails after Dagny

Katla stands back, her arms crossed. She observes the two's curing efforts with mild interest.

Tígris, your efforts are not in vain: colour returns to the man's face and he gets to his feet unsteadily. "My thanks," he says, his voice somewhat hoarse.

Tígris looks at the recovered man, inhuman eyes visible. "You are welcome, my friend. No debt is owed between us."

"You are fortunate," Kylfa intones.  "Your life-thread is not yet cut." He rises and brushes off his knees.  

"Even so, should you need a favour, you will find me at Jarl Wulfgar's keep," he says to Tígris. "Ask for Uhtred."

The proprietor emerges from the kitchens, looking alarmed. "What's going on here?" she demands.

"Aye, what is going on here?" Ragnvaldr grumbles.

"I stopped working here and the place went all to shit."

The proprietor approaches Dagny, looking anxious. You notice her hand is heavily bandaged.

"I wouldn't serve any more ale from that cask until I knew what was going on.... uh, what happened to your hand?"

"An accident in the kitchen... you say some ale went bad?"

"Mead, mother," Kelda says. "I think it was... you know."

The proprietor shakes her head.

Dagny belches loudly. "Uh... sorry..."

"Gods... if I didn't know better I'd think it was one of your tricks, Dagny… But I think I know what is responsible."

Dagny nods. "Good, so you can fix it then." She starts to walk away. "Anyway, about going and getting my book."

She sighs again. 'Wait. Please, a moment."

Dagny turns. "Yeah?"

"I know that you have some skill in the ways of Seidr... it pains me to ask, Dagny, but would you, perhaps, consider assisting me, when you can spare the time to do so? I can offer you a little coin, as well as free room and board so long as you stay here in Wulfheim. And, also, I have something else I could give you - a small cask of mead a Dvergar once sold me. He claimed the stuff was a sample of the Mead of Poetry - honey mixed with the blood of Kvasir, the wisest man ever created by the gods. A single sip endows the drinker with the wit of a skald and the knowledge of a lore-master."

"Sure, I'll assist you, when I can spare the time to do so. Which isn't now."

"Very well. When you have a moment, let me know."

"I'll be much more use to you after I've done what I have to do."

"Thank you, Dagny. You may not always have got along with the customers, but... you are a good friend."

"You took me in when I was half-dead. If anyone owes anyone anything..." She just smiles. An actual smile, rare for Dagny. She nods.

"You are a skilled healer," Kylfa says to Tígris.

Tígris smiles at Kylfa. "So are you, my friend, though my skills are nothing compared to the rest of my people. My thanks for your assistance." He nods his head in acknowledgment before migrating over to the cluster forming around the proprietor.

Kylfa replies to Tígris in Álfari, "Truly it was nothing."

"And who might your people be, stranger?" Katla asks of Tígris.

Tígris smiles at Katla, cat-like eyes visible this close, and pushes back his hair to reveal a pointed ear. "The Ljósálfar," He answers softly.

Katla's eyes widen but for a heartbeat, to quickly narrow as she regards the man for the first time with true interest. "Do you jest?" Her voice is serious.

Dagny rejoins her cohorts... plus one, it seems.

Ragnvaldr grunts sourly "Why should you be surprised, Katla? We've stood together beside witches, and snakes that walk as men do... In this Fimbulvinter, why shouldn't an Álfr walk amongst us?"

Tígris grins and gives Ragnvaldr a thankful nod. "You speak the truth, Wave-Warrior."

Ragnvaldr doesn't return the smile. His acceptance, it seems, doesn't stretch to friendship.

Katla scratches the back of her head, still fairly bewildered. "Hm. It is true that the priest-man we helped did perform his rite to summon the Ljósalfar. Still, it is surprising to find one biding his time amongst men in a mead-hall."

Tígris chuckles and tells Katla. "That is a long story, my friend, and one I would prefer not tell where other ears can overhear."

Dagny motions to Tígris with her thumb, asking Ragnvaldr and Katla, "He coming along?"

Ragnvaldr shrugs "This is your outing, shit-slinger. You're chief."

Katla shrugs. "Man or Elf-thing, if he can be of use in battle or the hunt he's welcome along. If not, well, he won't last very long then, anyway."

Dagny smirks. "You want in, point-ears?"

Tígris nods. "A better pastime than drinking here, it sounds."

"What need you all do to make ready?" Ragnvaldr asks. "I can set forth as soon as you wish, I have all my belongings to hand."

"My blade has rested in its sheath for too long. I'll lend it to this cause, Dagny."

Dagny nods and smiles at Katla. She glances over to the window. "It's already late and the weather's shit. I say we wait until first thing tomorrow."

"A sound plan."

Kylfa shrugs.  "A winter's day tomorrow, same as the last."

Tígris shrugs also. "Today, tomorrow, next month – it is all the same."

Dagny waves a dismissive hand.

The night passes, and a new day dawns. Though it's still bitterly cold, the howling winds have been replaced with thick white fog. You gather outside the Well of Joy, your breath forming little clouds before you.

Wulfheim has somehow grown even more crowded as refugees from across the Blóðlands continue to gather behind its palisade, fleeing the blizzards, wolves, and bands of cannibal marauders that plague the lands to the south. Carts drawn by gaunt, shivering horses and herds of ill-fed goats are crammed into the small settlement. Some people have set up camps in those few open spaces within the walls, cooking what little food they have left over crackling fires.

The timber keep at Wulfheim's centre rises up from a mound of heaped earth, throwing its shadow across the market and the small workshops nearby: a blacksmith, a fletcher, a carpenter, an ironworks, a tannery. Near the walls, a group of men are working to rebuild a damaged granary. A few of the Jarl's Hirdmenn bearing spears and atgeirar patrol the snowy, wood-paved streets, resolving disputes and keeping order as best they can.

The gates are closed, but the guards will open them for you if you wish to depart.

Ragnvaldr fusses Aslaug as he waits for the others to be ready.

Dagny checks her map again, and heads for the gate.

The gates open and you step out into the cold...

Katla sits astride on the saddle of her riding horse, quietly trotting onward.

Tígris whistles as he steps out into the cold, his sabre-toothed cat padding up through the snow to join him.

Dagny jumps at the sight of the cat. "... the FUCK?"

Ragnvaldr's eyes widen at the elf's beast. He glances at it, at Aslaug, then at it again, blowing out his cheeks in wonderment and exasperation.

Aslaug seems strangely unconcerned by the creature.

Kylfa regards the cat with interest, but does not seem frightened.

Katla glares at the beast. "Keep that thing away from my horse. I don't want it getting jumpy."

Tígris smiles at Katla. "He doesn't hunt horse – not enough sport."

Ragnvaldr shrugs and marches on. He keeps a dog, somehow it makes sense that an Elf would keep a pet that was... more unusual.

The Orm-Fells rise up ahead - a series of jagged, treeless mountains gleaming white with snow, like the fangs of some monstrous beast.  The foothills are bad enough, a wilderness of cumbersome slopes, patchily forested with scabrous pines.  Eagles and the occasional fox (fur now perpetually white, unchanging) are occasionally visible, but little else seems to live in this frigid badland. Mercifully, the snow has stopped for now, though the cold is still terrible, and a thick, white mist is settling over the hills.

Dagny flips her wand into her hand, snapping her wrist so that it extends. Her other hand is ready to draw her dagger. Just in case.

Ragnvaldr seems to be enjoying the walk after being cooped up in Wulfheim.

Up ahead the rough path you are following leads past a pair of crude wooden frames to which human skeletons have been crucified.  The skulls have been painted with Jötunn runes.

Dagny, your researches into the Thrivaldii suggest that this is probably a territorial marker. The runes are those of warning – essentially a sign that trespassers should turn away now.

Katla drifts ahead of the group a bit to scout, as she has done before.

Tígris keeps a curious eye out for wyrm-sign, not sure if the linnorms are still around this century.

Dagny looks over at the skeletons. "Well that's lovely." She stays alert.

Kylfa hums monotonously.  "I have heard of a bear-brother who once wrestled a giant."

Ragnvaldr keeps his distance from the crucified men, but keeps plodding along. "Wrestled a giant, eh? I can believe it, friend Kylfa – you look like you could give a giant a fair challenge yourself!"

Tígris smiles. "Have you, Kylfa Skin-Changer."

Dagny mumbles a few words and glows yellow for an instant.

Up ahead it looks like the path leads to a little ravine through which a frozen stream winds. You're about an hour or so from your destination.

Katla, scouting ahead you spot motion near the top of the gorge – a shape, half-obscured by a boulder and a morass of snow-covered trees. Kylfa, Tígris, you see this motion too.

Kylfa crouches down abruply.  "We are watched."

Dagny stops, peering around, but not seeing much.

Ragnvaldr grips his spear tight and hisses "Where?"

Katla, you hear a bow-string tauten. They're armed.

Katla stops her horse and spins it round, returning to the group at a steady pace.

Tígris nods, moving smoothly into cover and standing very still, pointing up the hill for Ragnvaldr.

"The top of the gorge," Kylfa whispers. "Behind a stone, near the trees."

Tígris nods at Kylfa. "Apologies. I think I may go and see what it is." His outline, and that of the cat, suddenly start to waver and blur like a mirage.

Dagny slowly draws her dagger.

"Do not point," says Kylfa.  "Better that it not know that we know."

Katla keeps her eyes to the hilltops, her shield raised.

Ragnvaldr stays close to Kylfa, squinting into the whiteness in the indicated direction

Kylfa rises and continues walking, albeit a bit slower.

Kylfa, as you approach the ravine you hear the sound of bows being drawn and a group of savages emerge from their hiding places, three gaunt men wearing the pelts of wolverines, wolves, and bears, their faces haggard and hungry-looking, their eyes glimmering from sunken sockets.  They look to have Troll blood, judging from their grayish-green skins, fanged mouths, and lashing tails. Their leader is a burly brute with two monstrous heads, faces daubed with war-paint.

"You trespass on the territory of the Thrivaldii," he hisses from one head, in accented Northspeech.  "What will you give in exchange for your lives?" the other demands.

"I have nothing to offer the Thrivaldii, unless they desire dried reindeer.  But my life does not come cheap."

Dagny sighs. "Seriously, just turn around and walk away and pretend you didn't see us."

"What I'll give is cold steel sunk deep into your flesh." Katla flourishes her longsword for added effect to her words

Ragnvaldr fixes the two-headed one with a cruel glare that speaks of storm-whipped seas and cold-hearted slaughter "Aye, it's your own lives you'd best fear for if you mean to stop us."

Dagny nods. "These two, they don't mess around."

Tígris moves slowly and carefully up the path, maneuvering into a position to shoot from.

The Trollspawn flinch at the threats of Ragnvaldr, Katla, and Dagny. "What is it you want?" The leader's heads scowl. "Passage through our lands?"

Tígris, you are utterly unseen as you and your companion creep towards the Trollspawn.

Ragnvaldr grins wickedly "What is it we want, asks he of the two faces and no balls! Well, what do we want, chief Dagny?"

Dagny nods. "We're going to… uh..." She thinks. "Thrivaldi's village, I guess you'd call it."

"Hmm. You wish an audience with our chieftain?"

"Would be nice."

"Very well. Follow us. We will lead you to him, if that is your wish." His scowls are replaced with a pair of gruesome grins.

"I get the idea that things are going to go to shit sooner rather than later," Dagny murmurs softly to Ragnvaldr.

Ragnvaldr mumbles back "Let the Norns weave as they will, my spear stays ready."

"How long is it to this village?"

"Not long. An hour's walk – faster, by the route we will take you."

Kylfa nods and follows them.  Once they have begun walking, Kylfa casts Longstrider on himself.

Dagny cautiously follows their 'escorts.' "Don't go getting too creative with the route, we can handle the hike." She's mindful of ambushes.

The hillfolk gesture for you to follow, leading you deeper into the hills through paths that initially seem impassable but which let you cut through the worst crags with minimal effort.

Katla does not unsheathe her blade, nor does she take her eyes off the Trollspawn, though she gives them enough berth as to not provoke them.

Tígris stalks along behind with his cat, ready to intervene should anything look to go wrong.

Ragnvaldr whistles and gestures to Aslaug, sending her off to scout the flanks of their route.

The hillfolk settlement is tucked into a broad cleft in the mountain, surrounded on the three sides by walls of wind-weathered stone.  An uneven wall of wooden stakes protects the fourth side of the village; the gate is formed from a massive Drakkar skull, gaping mouth filled with a crude wooden portcullis.  A guard is evident on a small watchtower beside the skull-gate.

"We have visitors for the chieftain," the two-headed brute yells up to the guard. The gate opens.

Dagny muses, "They literally live IN A SKULL. We got some badasses over here."

"How is it a book of yours came to these men," Kylfa asks Dagny quietly.

Dagny replies, quietly, in Álfari, "They stole it."

Kylfa replies to Dagny in Álfari, "Do you suppose they will give it back?"

Tígris, you're crouched on a hilltop outside, looking down. Your keen ears pick up most of the conversation.

Ragnvaldr pauses before the gate, then shrugs, mutters something that sounds like "well, it would be a glorious death..." to himself, and starts to enter warily

Kylfa follows behind.

Beyond the gate the ramshackle settlement of the hillfolk sprawls, a squalid collection of rude wooden and hide huts.  At a central fire strewn with charred bones roasts a human figure, sending wafts of a sickening pork-like scent through the air towards you.  Two structures stand out from the otherwise unremarkable habitations of the bestial hill-people: a large, imposing hall marked by skulls mounted on spears, and a sinister-looking hut with grotesque totemic idols of carven bone arrayed about its entrance. A deep pit is evident not far from the fire, and further along you glimpse a cesspit.

A dozen warriors armed mostly with wooden spears, crude bone blades, or stone axes lounge about the fire; some possess ugly wooden shields.  Three of the warriors wield obviously stolen weapons of blackish metal that steam subtly in the cold air.  A goodly number have Troll ancestry - one has three heads, another has a long tail, a third is at least eight feet tall, and a fourth bares a mouthful of yellow fangs.  They gibber in their barbaric language, a guttural hybrid of Northspeech, Giantish, and a more obscure mountain-tongue.

Dagny would be more sickened if she didn't know what went into the 'daily special' at the Well of Joy sometimes.

Katla swears quietly by the Æsir that if she should fall in this forsaken place, she'll take a handful of the Trollspawn with her.

The two-headed hill-man gestures to the larger hall. "This way."

Ragnvaldr 's lips curl at the squalor and stink of the place

Dagny follows behind, shaking her head at just what she's gotten herself into.

The interior of the hall is smoky and dim; shadows cast by a flickering fire dance on the columns of carved Dragon-bone and the walls of tanned animal hides.  At the far end of this hall seated on a great chair of bones sprawls a monstrous figure, at least ten feet tall, with gnarled, greenish-gray flesh.  Sprouting from the creature's broad, prodigiously muscular shoulders are nine hideous heads, each sporting a pair of tusks.  The Troll wears wolverine pelts and leathers; he rests one hand on the pommel of a gigantic iron sword, and an impressive axe etched with Jötunn runes leans against his macabre throne.  Sprawled about the Troll chieftain's clawed feet are five women, two of them with noticeable Troll blood, three of them visibly pregnant.  A pair of two-headed Troll warriors armed with long spears stand guard here as well.

In one corner of the hall there's a heap of stolen treasure - coins and hack-silver, jewellery, and furs, mostly.

"Well at least the stories were true," Dagny mumbles, shaking her head again.

"Chieftain," says your escort. "We found these outsiders wandering about the borders of your lands. They wished an audience."

Ragnvaldr nudges Katla and whispers "Nine heads... but how many brains, eh?"

Katla, having dismounted right outside the hall, hopes grimly that her horse will not be eaten during their visit. She regards the chieftain with a grudging respect, acknowledging his obvious strength-at-arms. "Brains or not, he knows the way of blades." She replies in whisper to Ragnvaldr.

"Indeed?" one of Thrivaldi's heads says as the giant rises. He stinks hideously. Several of the women flinch as he moves. "And what would a wench as comely as yourself want an audience with me for?" He is curiously well-spoken for such a disgusting creature.

Dagny looks around to see who he's talking about and then pales a bit when he realizes he means her.

Ragnvaldr moves to stand at Dagny's side, trying to look grim and imposing – not usually a difficult task for him, but in the presence of the troll he might seem comparatively meek

Dagny shrugs. "Look, we just want to trade. You've got a, uh, book. It's probably the only book you've got here, since you don't seem the bookish type."

All nine heads bellow in laughter. "Ah, that little thing? I gave it to my shaman. I suppose you offer something of equal value to trade?"

Dagny, Thrivaldi is a formidable warrior indeed. He is reputed to have slain a Drake single-handed - possibly the same Dragon whose head now adorns the gate.

"Well, depends on what you think is equal value, I guess. I mean, there's always gold, everyone likes gold, right?"

Kylfa crosses his arms and hums quietly, waiting for a deal to be struck.

"Gold is worth less and less these days. But I see you bring others with you. My people are hungry. Are any of these your thralls? What of that woman near the door?"

Katla grunts in a very unwomanly fashion. "I am no thrall, but a shield-maiden." She states.

"A shield-maiden eh? I'm sure you'd make an estimable bride, and bear many strong warriors. Your hips look broad enough to birth an army."

Ragnvaldr suppresses a snigger at the Troll's hips comment.

Dagny waves her hand a few times. "Look, look, we can work all that out. First, I'd like to make sure you even HAVE the book."

"You wound me," the giant bellows from one head. "Fetch the shaman!" he snarls with another.

Moments later two warriors escort a squat, monstrous woman with a third eye and greyish-green skin into the hall. She bears with her your spellbook, Dagny.

Ragnvaldr spits to ward off evil as the shaman enters.

Dagny turns to Katla. "This is going surprisingly well. You mind playing along? You know damn well I'm not going to actually leave you at the mercy of these fuckers."

"I'd be dead, along a with a score of others, long before any man here could bed me." Katla states nonchalantly, as if it was the most obvious thing.

Dagny motions to Katla. "She'll, uh... take some convincing."

Kylfa scratches his beard and speaks quietly to Dagny in Álfari.  "Perhaps I could challenge him to wrestle me."

Dagny nods. "Good idea, beard-man." She speaks up, "You know what would really be convincing? A show of your strength. You up for it?"

"HA!" the heads boom, again, filling hall with guttural laughter. "What did you have in mind?"

Dagny scratches the back of her head. "Uh... wrestling? You guys do that, right?"

Ragnvaldr, not having understood the exchange in Álfari, shifts nervously, hoping Dagny isn't about to suggest him as an opponent for Thrivaldi.

"I figure, you win, who could resist you? But if you lose, you give the book and I won't tell anyone."

"Which of you could wrestle me?" the giant demands scornfully.

Dagny motions with her thumb to Kylfa.

Kylfa steps forward, and stands up to his full height - unusually, as the great man is almost always stooped.  "Kylfa I am, in Kvenland called Kylva, brother of the Great Bear."

Ragnvaldr grates out in a flat, resonant voice "Kylfa of Kvenland has the strength of a bear! Oak-like his thews, stone-breaking his hands, relentless his muscles!"

"And you believe yourself capable of besting me? Very well. We shall wrestle: should I win, you and your companions will join the other prisoners in the pit. Should you win, the book is yours, and you may go on your way. Is this... acceptable?"

Dagny nods. "Deal." She pats Kylfa on the back. "It's all up to you, beard-man."

Kylfa 's voice thunders out.  "Very well!  But one condition have I!"

Thrivaldi seems amused. "State it," his central head spits.

"It is not right for a warrior to fight on an empty stomach, nor with his bowels full.  I have had a good meal of late!  Point me the way to your latrine."

Ragnvaldr bites his lip to keep from laughing

"HAHAHAHA! You amuse me, bear-man. Someone lead this champion to the cesspit."

Kylfa follows the "someone" to the cesspit.

Katla is markedly less amused, keeping her dour demeanor.

Dagny quickly follows. "Yeah, I gotta go too."

Katla follows, staying by Dagny's side.

Ragnvaldr trails after as well, unsure what's going on.

You follow a pair of guards out of the hall; they lead you to the edge of the village, where a huge pit full of steaming excrement can be found.

"Do what you must," one guard chuckles.

Kylfa stands, waiting.

"Modest one are you? Very well." They turn to give you a modicum of privacy.

Kylfa squats and begins a low chant.

One of the savages raises an eyebrow as the chant begins but does not turn. "Foreigners..." he mutters.

While their backs are turned, Kylfa casts Bull's Strength and Aspect of the Bear on himself, waving the verbal components into his latrine-chant.

Your hair bristles and your teeth elongate slightly. Great strength fills you as your muscles bunch and ripple.

When he is done – both with the magic and his business - Kylfa wipes his hands in the snow, dries them on his bearskin, and roars out "I have finished!  Let us go!"

The hillfolk look over in surprise and back away slowly as you make your way back to the hall.

Kylfa strides back into the throne room, once escorted back.

Thrivaldi grimaces as you enter. He has stripped himself down to a fur loincloth.

"Now!"  Kylfa speaks loudly to the chieftain.  "The first to be pinned shall be the loser.  The hands shall be empty – no weapons shall be used, neither teeth nor claws or nails!  Strength alone!"

Dagny comes back in. "I hope this works. Plan B is grab the book, run," she says quietly to Ragnvaldr and Katla.

Ragnvaldr nods grimly.

Katla agrees. "There is no glory in a retreat, but against overwhelming numbers it is not shameful."

"And if you are indeed proud of your strength, you will not mind, then, if you shall wrestle someone your own size!" Kylfa casts Enlarge Person, so he stands as tall as the chieftain!

Thrivaldi crosses his arms. "Your witchery will not be enough to best me, bear-man! I agree to your terms!

"Haha!  Let us see!"

Dagny lines up alongside. "Get 'em, beardy!"

Meanwhile, outside the hall…

Tígris whistles to his companion, instructing Stilke to remain in place, and wanders over to the base of the watchtower beside the skull-gate. Clouding the guard's mind briefly with Álfari magic he begins slowly climbing, reaching the top still as silent and stealthy as a wight. He aims an arrow at the guard and fires point blank.

Your arrow bounces off the Trollspawn's helm, an inch from his eye! He snarls in surprise, reaching for his horn while jabbing with his javelin! He delivers a shallow wound, then prepares to blow his horn to raise the alarm!

Tígris mutters a spell, and a flash of light bursts forth from his fingertips.

The guard stumbles back, dazzled! The hill-man drops his horn and snarls, thrusting again with his javelin.

Tígris dodges nimbly aside and looses another arrow, but this one goes wide!

He grunts and grabs for his horn.

Tígris moves fast and shoots an arrow towards the horn.

You put an arrow through the guard's hand! The horn clatters away and falls to the ground below. The Trollblood grunts in annoyance and stabs again with his javelin, skewering you on the thigh.

"Chase me if you can, you lumbering fat-bound swine. Or did your mother raise a bloated slothful oaf as well as an ergi coward?" Ignoring the wound, Tígris leaps nimbly down while whistling for his cat.

The guard snarls and begins clambering down after you, his hand still bleeding.

Stilke leaps on the man the moment he reaches the ground, mauling him and tearing at his throat! The cat drags the corpse into the bushes outside the village.

Back in the hall of Thrivaldi, the combatants circle one another…

Ragnvaldr starts to beat the butt of his spear on the hall's floor in a battle-rhythm as the two brutes close for combat.

Katla swashes her sword to her shield in rhythm with Ragnvaldr.

Kyfla slams into the Troll with a huge smacking sound. "Rah!"

Dagny jumps up and down. "Yeah! Beard-man!"

Thrivaldi struggles to fight back, but you bear him to the ground!

Kylfa growls and moves to pin the great Troll-chieftain.

Dagny punches the air. "Get him beard man!"

You pin Thrivaldi to the ground. His heads snarl and snap, one whimpering in pain as you crush him against the floor of the hall! He attempts to butt you with one of them, but you avoid the blow.

Kylfa slams him to the ground, holding him helplessly against the floor.  "YIELD," he roars in the chieftain's ear!

Dagny pumps her fists.

Katla raises her sword in a gesture of approval and cheers.

Thrivaldi grunts and makes a desperate effort to free himself.

Dagny sidles over to the shaman and waggles her fingers in the universal gesture of 'gimme.'

"Victory for Kylfa!" Ragnvaldr shouts. "Victory for the bear-brother!"

Kylfa keeps him down, and snarls "YIELD" again, louder!

Dagny coughs, addressing the shaman. "I think your chief is looking a bit blue in the faces. So, uh, wanna hand it over?"

The giant's heads grunt. "Get off! Get off! Enough! I YIELD!"

Kylfa springs off him, and beats his fists against his chest, still massive in size.

Ragnvaldr grins and flourishes his spear with a cheer.

Dagny looks tense. She's not quite ready to celebrate until the book is back in her hands.

"The match is settled!" Katla says. "We will depart with our prize and trouble you no more."

Thrivaldi clambers to his feet, his heads looking furious... but then he relents and laughs once again. "It is rare to find one with strength enough to best me!"

"Haha!  You are strong, but you wrestled the Great Bear!" Kylfa extends his hand to give him a bone-crushing hand-clasp.

"Very well, wench. Take your book. And you, Great Bear – you are welcome here any time you wish to wrestle again!" He clasps your hand in return.

Kylfa nods back to him.  "You are marked as a man of strength and honor.  We shall go, and we shall remember this."

Dagny looks at the shaman insistently, still making the 'gimme' gesture.

The shaman reluctantly hands over the book to you, Dagny.

Dagny holds it up victoriously.

Katla accompanies Dagny, watching her back.

Kylfa follows the group out, still huge.

Dagny checks to make sure it's the right book, and then heads out. "Thanks chiefy. You're all right."

Ragnvaldr does likewise.

Katla exits with Dagny and, assuming her steed has not yet ended up in a cauldron, mounts it.

Dagny muses, "That went... surprisingly well."

You exit the hall. The hillfolk follow you out, returning to their business, and the gates are opened before you. You notice that the guard from the watch-tower is missing, curiously enough...

"Thanks, beard-man. Good job."

Ragnvaldr reaches up to clap Kylfa on his hulking shoulder.

Kylfa cracks his enormous knuckles as they depart.  "You are welcome.  In truth, I enjoyed it."  Once they have left the compound, he shrinks back down to normal size.

"Your display of strength for astounding, Kylfa," Katla says. "The gods themselves must look upon you with admiration."

"What I possess comes merely from the emulation of the great bear."

"And thank you two, too, for coming along," Dagny says, giving Ragnvalder and Katla each a light slap on the back. "And uh..." Dagny peers around. "Where's point-ears?"

"He did something... Elfy... and vanished," Ragnvaldr says, frowning. "Back when we first met the hillfolk."

Kylfa, you spot the Elf – he's up in the watch-tower, concealing himself.

Tígris smiles and lets just his fingers be seen waving merrily from the tower, before leaping down out of it once he sees you're all still alive and unharmed.

"Verily he was busy with something," Katla says.

Dagny makes sure that their group is back together, and starts to head back towards Wulfheim.

You have walked some distance from the village when you see something curious – up ahead the snow has melted, and the rock beneath bears black soot-stains. A bit of steam still rises from the snow. It's still misty, but somewhere in the fog you think you hear the sound of huge wings.

"What the..."

"...Drakkar?" Ragnvaldr says.

"Well if it's going to go raid shitty shit-town, I don't much care," Dagny muses. "C'mon."

"No point chasing after one," Katla says. "We'll fight if it comes for us."

Kylfa, Ragnvaldr, you think you know which way it went if you want to follow it. Dagny is too immersed in her book to care.

Tígris nods. "Drake. Their larger cousins used to be rather active around this area, back when I was last in these parts."

Kylfa looks to Ragnvaldr, and the others. "We slew one some time back in that village.  Perhaps this one has also come to burn towns."

"It can go burn shitty shit-town, then."

Kylfa scratches his beard and shrugs.  "The chief of that town wished them all dead, very much."

"The last of its kin did not die easy," Ragnvaldr notes. "And it is not in our path."

"They fly swiftly while we must slog through this snow and underbrush," Katla points out. "If you want to take it down, you'd need to lure it here."

"I say we continue on our way. If it comes for us, we fight. If not... maybe we shall meet it another day, maybe not."

"The surest way of course is to slay them at their nests. Not the easiest, mind you."

Dagny says, "The book has a whole chapter on Drakkar. They're kinda like Dvergar. They love gold, can't get enough of it." Dagny reads aloud, translating, telling them the information.

Tígris reaches down into a pocket and pulls out a cloudy white jewel the size of a hen's egg, peering at it and examining it closely with half an ear to the conversation.

The jewel remains dull, Tígris.

"So... there might be gold in the thing's nest?" Ragnvaldr asks.

Katla smirks. "Perhaps Thrivaldi will get to wrestle a Drakkar to make up for his loss, then."

"Maybe we should seek out this nest..." Ragnvaldr says. "We reclaimed the book more easily than we might have... And to be honest I could use the coin."

"Plans for tomorrow then?" Katla suggests.

"Aye, we could return to Wulfheim and strike out again in the morning."

Dagny nods. "Hey, you went with me on my crazy adventure, I'm game for one of yours. But yeah, not until I've got this put away safe."

"Right," Katla proclaims. "Tomorrow we hunt Drakkar. But tonight we celebrate this success!"

Kylfa grunts approvingly.

Tígris gives Kylfa an admiring glance. "You beat their chieftain then? Well fought, my friend."

"Yes," Kylfa responds to Tígris, "We wrestled.  He was strong, but not of the great bear."

Tígris grins. "And you are of the great bear indeed, Skin-Changer."

Ragnvaldr, Katla, between you, you guide the party back through the paths taken by the hillfolk, careful to take the same route – it's probable that they have traps on the more obvious paths, anyway.

You return to Wulfheim well before nightfall, as the wind picks up once more and snow begins to fall.

Dagny goes home and makes sure nobody's skulking around and secures the book in her hidey-hole.

"Dagny," Kylfa says, as she emerges from her house.

Dagny jumps! Someone was skulking! She approaches.

"I was wondering..." Kylfa scratches his beard.  "I have a favor to ask."

Dagny nods. "You helped me out big time today. Name it."

"When we slew the Drake before.  I took its hide.  I thought to make armor of it, but I have not the skill.  I would find a man who can do this.  But even if I did so, town-men love gold, and I have none.  It does not please me, and I do not carry it.  Perhaps if I find such a man, he will accept a favor instead of gold.  But if not, perhaps you will help me make this thing that I desire.  If it is... no great cost."

Dagny nods. "You got it, beard-man."

Kylfa nods.  "Thank you.  And perhaps if we should meet these other Drakes, I will have more to work with."

"And if what Ragnvaldr said is right, plenty of gold for the, uh, town-men.

Kylfa grunts.  "Yes, you and them can have it as you like.  This Drake-hide matter is the first time its absence has confounded me."

"I'll carry your share for you, and pitch in my share besides, if it'll buy you your armour."

Kylfa gives a stooped bow to Dagny.  "Thank you.  I have not... hm... lived with others much.  But in these times it seems I must rely on them.  I am fortunate that they should be such as you."

Dagny slaps him on the back. "No problem, beard-man. You're really something. Pretty good at wrestling, too."

Kylfa grins.  "Ah, but compared to my brothers, I am only a cub."

"You and me oughta go, once. I mean, uh, without all the magic."

Kylfa roars with laughter. "That I will indulge you, if ever you wish it."

Katla stays in the mead hall carousing with any of her comrades that care to accompany her. She'll buy drinks for Kylfa as a compliment for his wrestling victory.

Ragnvaldr goes along with Katla... but lays off the mead, having seen what happened to the housecarl earlier. That, and he can't afford it.

Katla, as you seat yourself at the hearth, your chair collapses beneath you! Someone had partially sawed through the chair-leg!

Katla springs up, red-faced. "Who'se playing pranks on me! Stand up if you've got a pair!"

Ragnvaldr roars with laughter "No more ale for you, Katla of the Broad Hips! You'll grow wide enough to birth TWO armies!"

Patrons laugh and point as a barmaid helps you to your feet. "I'm very sorry!" she apologizes. "Your drink is on the house."

Katla curses like a pirate and casts angry glares about but, seeing as no one present admits to the prank, eventually settles down and sulks grumpily.

Tígris starts networking and making friends, asking after local folklore and rumours and a particular name.

Tígris, your efforts yield little fruit, unfortunately – most folk are ill-tempered in these dark days. Nonetheless you gather a few local rumours.

Ragnvaldr starts telling anyone who'll listen in the tavern about Kylfa wrestling with the nine-headed Troll.

Dagny enters the Well of Joy and buys drinks for everyone who came along! Everyone who wants them, anyway.

Tígris drinks merrily with his new comrades, hearing the story of their wrestle with the Troll-chief.

Kylfa sniffs the mead.  "In truth," he says to nobody in particular, "I prefer honey when it has not gone sour." He nevertheless accepts a tankard from Dagny, gamely giving it an occasional sip.

Katla appears more at ease around Tígris now, perhaps due to all the drinks she's had.

Ragnvaldr takes a tankard from Dagny gratefully without missing a beat in his mimed re-enactment of the earlier fight.

Kylfa smiles, amused, as Ragnvaldr acts out the earlier match.

The proprietor of the mead-hall glances at Dagny meaningfully.

Dagny smirks. "Uh... excuse me a sec." She goes back over. "So, about that thing."

"I take it your errand went well?"

Dagny nods.

"Thank you for hearing me out." She takes a breath as she launches into her explanation. "The Well of Joy has long been the residence of a spirit, one of the Nisse - a house-goblin. Such creatures hide themselves in nooks and crannies and watch over a household; if pleased with the appropriate sacrifices they are helpful, making small repairs or causing gardens to grow swiftly, but if displeased they can become mischievous, performing pranks. If truly offended they can become violent, killing livestock and setting traps for the unwary, though I've never heard one kill a person before.

"I have long thought the Well of Joy harboured a Nisse, but used to only glimpse it near the winter solstice, when I would leave out a bowl of porridge for it; Nisse sleep the rest of the year. But in this endless winter, perhaps the spirit has become awakened more permanently. The mead-hall has become very over-crowded of recent, and Nisse don't like change: they're traditionalists, you see. Also, I lack porridge to feed the creature regularly - all the oats in Wulfheim are needed to feed our few remaining horses. For the last little while there's been a string of bad luck: a chair collapsed when a patron sat on it just now, yesterday a pot burned my hand terribly, and the day before that we found a chicken dead, like its neck had been wrung; there've been things gone missing too, even stolen from rooms. Now, I fear that the Nisse may have used its powers to poison some of the mead.

"I never saw the creature well, but when I did catch a glimpse of it, it was always lingering in the cellar-rooms and the larder. If you could find a way to banish or placate the spirit - or, if need be, destroy it - I would be very grateful. As I said, I have little coin, but I could scrape together some, and the Dwarf-mead would be yours."

Dagny thinks. "What if I could get you some oats?"

"If you could find a regular supply, that would certainly keep the spirit in check! Or so I hope..."

"How regular are we talking?"

"I used to put out a fresh bowl every few days. It would linger for a short while round the solstice and then be off, usually."

Dagny nods. "I'm not sure if there will be that many to spare... but I'll think of something."

"You have my thanks."

Dagny goes back and rejoins the group.

Ragnvaldr sets the tankard aside, less a couple of hearty swigs, just in time to hurl himself to the floor, playing the part of Thrivaldi being borne down by Kylfa.

"Say, Elf-man." Katla addresses Tígris in slightly slurred words. "What mischief WERE you up to in the time we were parlaying with the Trollish chieftain?"

Tígris chuckles ruefully. "I expected things to go less well, so thought having someone up in that tower to cover any escape would be wise. But my cat couldn't follow me up and the guard got lucky, and so I am rather the worse for wear." He shows the pair of javelin wounds, one quite serious.

Dagny comes back just as he shows the wounds. "Whoa, whoa, what happened to you?"

Ragnvaldr, having finished, dusts himself off and takes a seat

Overhearing, Kylfa says to Tígris, "I can mend your wounds if you wish it."

Katla nods. "Bear your battle-wounds proudly. Or at least the scars."

Tígris nods. "That would be most appreciated. They do sting a little." He turns to Dagny. "The guard in the tower and I had a disagreement. My cat weighed in on my side."

Kylfa murmurs and casts Cure Light Wounds on Tígris.

"I'm just glad it didn't get out of hand," Dagny says. "Especially after things went so well."


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Re: The Fimbulvinter Saga
« Reply #14 on: December 17, 2014, 11:42:54 PM »
IC: Fitt IX: The Orm-Hunt
After the incident with the poisoned cask of mead, the Well of Joy suffered a distinct lack of patronage, but Wulfheim's Gothi, Brúnn, has reportedly purified the meadery's reserves - at least for the time being - and patrons are once more crowding the warm tavern, huddled about the central hearth and seated at long tables, cautiously sipping tankards of ale and mead.

A Hrafnii man with a long, black braid drinks a glass of wine in the corner and scribbles something on a piece of parchment; a party of Gylliring horse-traders and their thralls, all of them reeking of the stables, carouse in a corner with a group of local women and boys reduced to harlotry to survive; a handful of mercenaries lounge about the periphery swapping tales of battle in the Uncertain Lands of the Eyði, a scarred, tumultuous region contested by dozens of squabbling war-bands and clans.

Ragnvaldr is up and dressed surprisingly early today, keen to be off and doing again.

Dagny stumbles in late, having stayed up way too late last night reading the Dvergar lore-book.

Kylfa is seated at the fire, warming his hands, as usual.

Katla has finished her morning meal, light as it was, and is now checking her weapons in a corner away from the louder patrons. She has already donned her armour in preparation for the action to come.

Dagny gives a playful salute to her comrades and plops down in a bit unladylike fashion.

Ragnvaldr grins expectantly around at the others, saying simply "So... Drakkar?"

Dagny smirks. "This may be a stupid idea. But you came along for my stupid idea so... lead the way."

Katla grunts in reply. "Today's a good day to hunt. I can feel it in my bones."

Kylfa hums quietly.

Dagny looks around. "Is point-ears around? I wouldn't mind if we left before he showed up. He's kind of a weirdo."

Kylfa looks up at Dagny.  "In truth I still wonder why it is he followed us."

Ragnvaldr shrugs "Who can know the comings and goings of Elves?"

"The minds of Álfar are not like those of men," Katla agrees.

Dagny shrugs. "Anyway, you're coming, right, beard-man? Get you some makings of armor and some coin to pay for armoring it."

Kylfa pulls at a twig in his beard and flicks it into the fire.  "I suppose I shall."

"So, shall we away to see this Thegn?" Ragnvaldr suggests.

"Lead the way." Katla goes along the group

Dagny nods and follows Ragnvaldr.

With the ever-lengthening nights of Fimbulvinter, sunrise seems to come later each day. Today the dawn is dim and cold, blotches of blood-red light spattering the clouded firmament like drips from a new-made wound.

Heavy snows have engulfed Wulfheim in white, camp-fires and braziers turning the drifts to puddles and churning the ground to mud. The herds of goats, pigs, and sheep packed into the settlement are beginning to thin, and want of feed is making them scrawny. With the continued influx of travelers seeking succor within the palisade, the place is becoming increasingly over-crowded.

Ragnvaldr stumps through the slush in the direction of the keep

Vatnar and two other of Jarl Wulfgar's Hird guard the doors of the timber keep.

"Well met, Ragnvaldr," Vatnar says as you approach. "What can I do for you this morn?"

Dagny lets someone else do the talking.

"Vatnar. We're here to see Starkad."

"Ah, yes. He's in the armoury, I believe." He gestures for you and your companions to enter.

Ragnvaldr nods his thanks and continues.

Dagny stuffs her hands in her pockets and follows.

Kylfa trundles along behind Dagny silently.

Katla greets the guardsmen briefly and enters the armoury.

The armoury of Wulfheim is well-stocked with spears, polearms, swords, and axes. Shields hang on the walls, along with spare suits of mail and hide. Inspecting the weapons is a lean man with a short brown beard and studded leather armour.  A bow is strung over his shoulder, and an axe hangs at his waist.

He turns towards you as you enter. "Good morn," he says simply.

"Well met. Are you the Thegn Starkad?

"Indeed I am. And you must be the warriors that Hrothik spoke of."

"Hail to you, Thegn. I am Katla the shield-maiden." Katla speaks respectfully, a warrior to another.

"I am the one who wrestled the troll-chief," Kylfa intones.

"Ah yes, the tale of your Glíma-match with Thrivaldi is now the talk of the town, Great Bear," Starkad says.

Dagny doesn't introduce herself. This guy already knows her anyway, probably.

Ragnvaldr cuts to the chase, "We saw dragon-sign yesterday, Thegn."

"…And heard," Kylfa adds.

Dagny adds, "…And smelled."

"Yes, the Fire-Drakes... I tracked them to their lair some months ago.  Their mother seems to be dead or departed; the hatchlings were left to fend for themselves.  The way to their den is difficult.  There are cliffs and steep slopes, and other things lurk in the crags: wolves, cave lions, the occasional rogue Troll, and various wights. If we are to brave such a journey we must be on our guard. I would suggest leaving your horses here for the hunt, for the Orm-Fells are rugged, and even the most sure-footed mount is like to lame itself scrambling over the high hills."

"How distant is this lair?" Ragnvaldr asks.

"Perilously close to Wulfheim itself – we should reach it by sundown, if we hasten. You mean to track the Drakes today?"

"Indeed we do." Kylfa shrugs.

Ragnvaldr smiles grimly. "As good a day as any."

"Should you need any arms or armour, please avail yourself here - though in truth you look well-equipped."

Dagny idly picks up an axe and acts like she knows anything about axes.

Ragnvaldr runs an appraising eye over the racks of spears, and the suits of mail.

Katla searches about for any suitable-looking equipment.

Most of the weapons here are of superb quality, as is the mail.

Dagny puts the axe down and looks for a slightly smaller one.

You find half a dozen throwing axes, exquisitely balanced.

Dagny grabs a throwing axe, tossing and catching it a couple of times. "These are nice."

Kylfa looks about briefly for any "masterwork cudgels," but holds out little hope.

"These are fine arms you have here," Katla says.

"Yes, weapons are one thing we do not lack for in this wolf-age... some of them are centuries old, acquired long ago from Dvergar forges, or so it is said."

Ragnvaldr, after grunting thanks to Starkad, starts to struggle out of his old, battered mail and into a somewhat finer coat from the armoury.

Katla picks a long-bladed sword, raising it to a beam of sunlight shot from a window-hole to examine the blade.

Katla, the blade is inscribed with ancient runes of a kind you cannot read.

Kylfa inspects a spear.  "I do not care for iron," he says to nobody.

Kylfa, you find no clubs, though you do find several rather exotic-looking maces. These are obviously from outside of the Northlands.

"You have some fine spears here..." Ragnvaldr observes.  "But though many equal my own, none I can see are its better."

Kylfa looks for a good and heavy, well-balanced mace with a wooden haft, and attempts to pry the head off of it.

You remove the head of the mace. Starkad looks to you in alarm.

Kylfa smiles.  "Fine wood."

"I see..." he says, puzzled. He shrugs and mutters what might be "utlendr..." under his breath.

Kylfa stuffs the mace-handle in his furs and carefully places the mace-head back where he found the mace.

Kylfa looks about for a fine large wooden shield, if one exists.

You find a stout shield of oak. Most of the shields are bound in iron, but this one is plain.

Kylfa weighs the wooden shield in his hands, then nods and slings it over his back. "I am satisfied."

Katla furrows her brows at the rune-work. "This blade is marked, but I know not the meaning of it. Can you tell me anything about this?"

Dagny nudges Katla. "Leave it to guys to make it all about wood and spears huh."

"The mark of the smith, then?"

Dagny peeks at the runes, too.

"They're said to be Dvergar runes," Starkad says. "As I said, some of these blades are supposedly from a Dwarf-forge."

Ragnvaldr looks at the runes curiously, but is well aware of his own ignorance.

Dagny, the runes proclaim the blade's name is "Styrkr."

Dagny mentions this to Katla.

"Dvergar... The blade should be well-made indeed then." Katla nods to Dagny. "A name worthy of the blade."

Dagny shrugs. "The assholes had better know how to make good weapons because they're not good for much else."

"You've had dealings with Dwarf-kind?" Starkad says, eyebrow raised.

Dagny waves her hand. "Dealings. That's one word for it."

Katla takes one more looks at Styrkr at sunlight, running a finger along its steel, before she sheathes it, replacing the longsword she'd looted from the Blóðbard raider.

"Well, I for one am keen to set out," Ragnvaldr says.

Dagny puts the throwing axe in a loop on her belt suited to such purpose and nods. "I'm ready when you are."

Kylfa watches Dagny mess about with her weapons.  "I hope they suit you well.  For my part I trust in my hands and fingers most of all, but these things are not without use."

Dagny nods to Kylfa. "Mainly, I just want all the help I can get."

"If you are equipped, let us set out, then," Starkad assents.

"I will be sure to put Styrkr into good use. Hopefully by the night's fall. I'm ready to go when you are."

The Thegn leads you out of Wulfheim's gates and into the foothills Orm-Fells, a rocky, frost-encrusted desolation where the leafless skeletons of dead trees thrust themselves up from the stony earth.  The wind whines through narrow defiles like a tortured thing, whistling past shards of jagged stone, carrying the occasional flurry of snow or freezing rain.

Dagny shivers. She mumbles a word and glows faintly green for a moment.

Ragnvaldr huffs and puffs and shivers, but trudges on stoically, breath freezing in his beard.

Dagny takes off her coat and wraps it around Ragnvaldr. Oddly, she seems quite comfortable in this weather just in her plain dress. "Here, you need this more than me."

Ragnvaldr starts to protest but then notices Dagny genuinely doesn't seem to be cold... with an odd look, he mumbles his thanks.

The snow is increasing in intensity, reducing visibility. "Watch your step," Starkad urges.  "Footing can be treacherous in the hills, and this snow will not help matters.

Katla wraps her arms around her as she trudges in the biting cold weather.

Starkad falls beside Katla as you journey deeper into the hills. "It was you who slew Ingjuld One-Eye, was it not? You must be a mighty shield-maiden indeed to fell such a man. In better times I was proud to ride beside a warrior of such renown."

"I did slay him in single combat, yea. A foe worthy by skill-at-arms, if not by his honor."

"I am worried that this dragon, should we find it, will simply escape us," Kylfa says. "It was in truth mere good fortune that I struck the last dragon we fought as it tried the same."

"This time we take the fight to their lair, though," Katla points out. "They may prove more ferocious there."

Kylfa grunts.  "My strength avails me little against things I cannot reach."

"We must try to pen the creatures in their lair, as Katla says," Starkad agrees. "And, if need be, lure them with gold. They can smell the stuff as you or I would a haunch of roasting meat."

Kylfa, you hear the echo of a horrid, heart-wrenching wailing resounding off the hills – the sound of an infant crying, wailing wordlessly.

Kylfa stops dead in his tracks.

Dagny sees Kylfa stop and stops a step later. "Wha?" she asks softly.

Ragnvaldr, suddenly Aslaug is whimpering and whining, as if she doesn't want to go on...

Kylfa frowns.  "It sounds to me as if a child was crying."

Katla halts to see what's up with the bear-man.

Ragnvaldr goes down on one knee and extends a shivering hand to comfort Aslaug "What's wrong girl? what is it?"

You calm Aslaug; she is perturbed, but will continue on.

Kylfa continues speaking, cupping his great hands around his ears.  "It is very distant... but I am certain it sounds this way."

Dagny shrugs. "It sounds to me like the wind. But bears and dogs have better hearing, so..." She shrugs. "What do you wanna do?"

"A child would not survive in this cold alone," Katla says. "If there's one really here, there must be grown-ups nearby."

Kylfa shrugs.  "Or it is a trick." Kylfa trudges on forward through the snow.

Starkad gives you a dark look. "Since Fimbulvinter began, many have despaired; some mothers cannot bear to bring children into a world so doomed.  Out of love for their own children they abandon them here in the hills – a quick death is more merciful than a lifetime of misery. It may be the cries of such a babe... or merely a trick of the wind..."

Ragnvaldr follows, his fur's and the loaned coat pulled tight.

"Shit like that's why I drink night tea every chance I can get my hands on some, thanks," Dagny says.

Kylfa looks behind him at the group.  "I do not think it is the wind.  But we will follow it or follow this dragon, as you wish."

Starkad crosses his arms. "I am your guide, but I leave the matter to you. Whatever the will of the group, I will abide by it."

"We should investigate," Ragnvaldr insists. "If it is a trick, I'd sooner not have danger along our path home as we return."

"I am a warrior, not a nursing maid," Katla declares. "I have no time to care for a lost child, though I would not wish to see one abandoned here. If someone else will look after it, I won't object."

"You wanna burn daylight, go ahead," Dagny says. "But I travel light. So if we have to camp one of you better be ready to scoot over in your bedroll."

"Aslaug is no coward, she would not be frightened by a normal child. I believe it must be something else."

"What, though?" Katla asks. "A Trollspawn?"

"Let us go and see, eh?"

Katla draws her newly acquired sword, in case it indeed turns out to be a Troll or something equally nasty.

Kylfa says nothing, but turns and trudges towards the voice.

You press onwards in the direction of the wail. Moments later, you glimpse a figure in the swirling snow: a young child, naked and forlorn, seemingly lost in the hills.  As it nears, you see that is blue with cold, and that it moves with a stiff gait, shivering badly.  It opens its mouth and cries mournfully, then toddles back into the mist on its short legs.

Dagny gives a soft sigh. She flips her wand into her left hand, snapping her wrist to extend it. She's ready to draw her axe, too.

Kylfa grimaces. "This cannot be natural."

"Okay... that's not right..."

"How can the child still walk, naked in this weather?" Katla asks.

"I know of a few ways. But none of them are natural." Dagny indicates her own lack of winter wear.

Katla grimaces. "Witchery."

Ragnvaldr strains his eyes to see if he can make out anything else through the snowfall... any other figures, perhaps.

Ragnvaldr, you don't see any other figures - but you notice that the child has left no tracks in the snow.

"Thor's hammer... it must be a ghost!"

Kylfa grunts.  "This is no child in need of help.  I see no reason to stay."

"We should leave while we can," Katla urges. "There's no telling if steel can even touch such restless spirits."

"Aye, perhaps we should avoid it after all," Ragnvaldr says.

Kylfa turns to leave, but keeps an eye out over his shoulder, and keeps his club firmly in hand.

Katla backs away from the strange child-thing.

Dagny stares into the mist, Katla's words making her think. "It's... the spirit of an unburied child, I think. The presence of women draws them, they're looking for their mothers."

"A Myling. Pay it no heed," Starkad urges. "It can bring only ill."

Once again the echoing cry can be heard, more insistent this time. But this time, it comes from behind you, back the way you came.

Dagny nods. "The way to put them to rest is to bury their remains. I... have no idea where we'd find those."

"All the more reason for us to avoid this one," Katla reiterates. "If we can..."

* Kylfa growls.  "Tarry not."  He continues walking in the supposed direction of the dragon's lair, perhaps a bit faster now.

Dagny follows quickly.

Ragnvaldr does likewise. "The dead are the dead, how soundly they sleep should be their own business, not that of the living."

Katla tags along, sword still in hand.

As you turn back the way you came, an apparition emerges from the flurries of snow, crying despondently.  It approaches you, its dead eyes weeping bloody tears, its hands outstretched.  Its wail fills you with crushing despair and emptiness, numbing and terrible!

The creature toddles forward, trying to grasp at Katla! Its touch fills you with a horrible numbness, as if it is stealing the life-force from your body.

Katla utters a disgusted groan as the dead thing reaches for her; she was surprised by its unnatural nimbleness.

Ragnvaldr swings his spear at the thing, growling "Back to Hel with you!"

Ragnvaldr, your spear strikes the creature – and passes straight through its body.

Kylfa, seeing the result of Ragnvaldr's attack, casts Shillelagh on his club and moves into melee range.

The creature seems to shrink before the bear-shaman.

Starkad backs away, drawing back his bow. "We should flee!" he says. "Unless one of you can send this shade back to Hel!"

Kylfa growls back to Starkad and the others as he advances on it, "aid me then; I may strike true!"

Katla makes a quick stabs at the creature before stepping away from it.

The creature has sapped your strength, and your blow falls short. It continues its wailing, but turns now towards Dagny.

Katla mutters with gritted teeth: "Styrkr, you're not going to be much good against a ghost, are you...?"

Dagny frowns. "Only magic can harm this thing, it would seem..." She leaps at the thing, wand glowing white. She stabs at it with the wand.

Dagny, the creature recoils from your wand, but latches onto you with its frigid, tiny hands, and you feel a terrible coldness fill your body!

Dagny falls down. "GODDAMN MOTHER FUCKING SON OF A HORSE FUCKING SACK OF SHIT THAT HURT." Dagny is even less charming than usual, somehow.

Ragnvaldr whirls his spear in great whistling arcs... he knows he can't hurt the thing, but maybe he can distract it at least...

Kylfa roars and strikes at the spectre with his mace-handle.

The spectre shrieks in pain as your club connects, sending it reeling across the snow. Its dead eyes fix themselves upon you, filled with anguish and fury!

Dagny picks herself up. "Someone kill this ugly fucking thing already or I'm just going to taste the rainbow the lot of you motherfuckers and clean up afterwards."

Dagny yells. "KILL IT ALREADY"

Katla places the longsword back into its scabbard, deeming the weapon unsuitable for combating a spirit. She lets out a battlecry as she charges forward, simultaneously taking the shield off her back and drawing her other sword - the shoter-bladed one, just in time to strike at the child-thing. Her blade leaves a faint trail of smoke in the cold air as it descends upon the monster.

Flames lick at the unborn child-spirit as your blade cuts its flesh. It shrieks again, its jaw unhinging like a snake so that its mouth is a huge, black hole. Its bloody tears spatter the snow.

Dagny falls down in the snow.

The Myling wails, and then seems to fade, its body born away on the wind.

Katla spits. "Begone and stay gone, foul wraith."

Kylfa growls and turns away.  "A good time to leave."  He offers a hand to help Dagny up.

Dagny stands up, or is pulled up. "My head fucking hurts..."

Ragnvaldr takes off Dagny's coat and drapes it around her shoulders.

Starkad shakes his head. "I would rather face all four of the Drakkar than that thing again."

"Aye, Starkad," Ragnvaldr agrees. "At least you can cut Drakkar-flesh with steel."

Dagny shakes her head, waving it away. "I'm not cold. I've just got a headache."

"I am well," Kylfa confirms.

"Let's press on, then. The Drakes' nest is not far."

Ragnvaldr ignores Dagny's protest and leaves the coat with her "Let's be on our way," he agrees.

"I'm injured by the fact that my companions on this quest are morons," Dagny adds.

"Whatever that thing was, it's mere touch left me feeling dirty, as if I hand't bathed for months," Katla says. "Aside from that, I believe I'm uninjured."

Dagny grabs at her head. "Gya... you haven't bathed for months, you smelly cunt."

"I have. And you speak with foul mouth today, Dagny. More than usual, I mean."

"She is not herself," Starkad says quietly to Kylfa. "She's been wraith-touched. Best keep an eye on her."

Kylfa grunts and nods.

You forge ahead, trying to forget the memory of the child-shade. Up ahead a series of cliffs rise up out of the hills, strewn with dead creepers, some of them scorched-looking. They're still somewhat distant.

"There," Starkad says, pointing towards the top of the cliffs.  "The Fire-Drakes lair in that cavern."  You see a cave entrance where he points, a darkness in the cliffside gaping like an open mouth.

"So, how should we approach then, friends?" Ragnvaldr asks. "All shining blades and war-cries, or should we attempt stealth?"

"First we should try and get a look," Katla suggests. "Then we can decide."

Kylfa frowns.  "If they fly we shall lose them.  A good hunter does not give himself away early."

"Yeah, shining blades and war-cries did so well last time, you idiotic fuck," Dagny curses.

"You're not helping us here at all, addle-brain," Katla says.

Ragnvaldr gives Dagny a cheerful, but not overly gentle, cuff round the ear but otherwise ignores her. "Should we try to climb closer?"

Dagny grabs at her head and winces, shut up for the moment.

Kylfa leads the way and attempts to climb up to the mouth.

Ragnvaldr follows close behind Kylfa.

You claw at the creepers, but they tear loose. Clearly reaching the cave-mouth will take some time.

Katla clambers behind them

Katla, you climb speedily up, finding hand- and foot-holds with ease. Starkad follows you, assisting any you lag behind.

Kylfa looks about for any animals nearby.

You find signs of several beasts – a few birds, a hare, and the recent tracks of a mountain-goat.

Dagny attempts to climb up as well.

Dagny, with the aid of Starkad you manage to haul yourself up the wall. You're light enough that the vines can bear your weight well.

Dagny looks down expectantly at Ragnvaldr and Kylfa. "Seriously? I made it up here before you?"

Katla perches on the edge of the cliff, preparing her shield and weapon. She's back to wielding the Styrkr, not trusting a fire-blessed weapon to prevail against Fire-Drakes.

Ragnvaldr finally hauls himself awkwardly onto the ledge.

Kylfa scratches his chin, then turns away from the tracks and attempts to follow the others, gamely trying at the cliff again. He frowns.  "It may be that I am too heavy."

Dagny mumbles a few words and flashes yellow for an instant. She reaches down. "C'mon you fat fuck. One more try."

Kylfa sighs, heavily.

Dagny sits and holds her head. While she waits, she prestidigitates minor illusions of Ragnvaldr and Katla performing vulgar sexual acts on each other.

Katla fortunately doesn't notice Dagny's antics, her attention being taken by her struggling comrades. Otherwise she might have given more than an earful for that! She sighs in frustration and lowers a length of rope for the bear-man.

Dagny helps pull Kylfa up. "Uggghhh you're fat. Now I know why we don't have much food. You ate it all."

With the aid of the rope, you pull yourself up and into the cave.  A natural tunnel winds into blackness up ahead.  The air smells stale and unwholesomely musky.

Kylfa , grunting, finally makes it up. He shrugs.  "I considered asking a goat for the best way, but perhaps this was easier."

Ragnvaldr dusts himself off and peers down to the bottom of the cliff where Aslaug is left to wait. He gives the bitch a wave and then hefts his spear and turns to the cave...

Dagny casts light on the end of her wand, holding it up like a torch.

Katla enters the cave now that the tiresome climbing efforts are over and done with.

Strips of translucent, shredded material, scaly in texture, cover the floor of the tunnel.  Up ahead, the cave broadens considerably into a larger cavern. A side-passage winds off into gloom.

"Which way?" Starkad asks, his axe in hand.

Dagny trudges along behind. "Aren't you supposed to know?"

"I never entered the lair, merely tracked them to it."

"You know, when I went hunting for something, first, I, you know, actually made sure I knew WHERE IT WAS."

Kylfa taps Dangy on the shoulder, and holds a finger to his lips.  "Let us not be too loud," he murmurs.

Katla attempts to find clues as to the direction of the lair.

Katla, the side-passage looks too narrow for a Fire-Drake to enter.

"They are in the larger cavern ahead."

"On, then." Ragnvaldr starts forward, spear held out and ready.

Kylfa, you notice some guano on the cave-floor; there might be some bats in this cave, as well as Fire-Drakes. The charred bones of various creatures – aurochs, wild boar, moose, humans – are scattered about the uneven, ash-strewn floor of the cave here.  In one corner of the cavern a very broad, near-vertical tunnel extends deeper into the earth; to the left, the cave narrows into a somewhat smaller passage, this one more-or-less level.  Stalactites drool down from the ceiling like stone teeth. There are signs of Drakes all around – both down the smaller passage and the steep tunnel – in the form of more shed skins.

Kylfa keeps an eye open for bats, or any other mammals.

Kylfa, you spot a few brave bats roosting here, apparently unmolested by the Drakes.

Kylfa cautiously approaches the bats as best he can.

One of the bats stretches its wings sleepily as you approach, Kylfa.

Katla continues her tracking efforts, trying to determine the most promising path.

Dagny trudges behind, doing nothing of use save for providing the light source.

Katla, the easiest way forward would be the level passage; the steep tunnel would require more climbing to traverse.

"The Drakes may find it easy to fly up and down, but that tunnel looks too perilous for us. Especially after the great success SOME of us had climbing just little ago."

Katla, your search also turns up several aurar at the edge of the level passage.

Katla heads for the somewhat level passage. "We should approach this way." She pockets the coins while she's at it.

Kylfa uses Totem Transformation on himself.

"Hello cave-master," Kylfa says to the bat in bat-language.

"He's taking to a bat," Dagny says. "He's talking to a fucking bat."

The bat squeaks. "Greetings, bear. If you seek a cave to sleep in, I would search elsewhere. Great lizards have taken to nesting here."

Dagny talks to a charred skeleton in Chthonic.

 "This is why I am here, cave-master; I seek such a lizard.  Are there many here now?"

"There are two, I think," the bat chirps, yawning and showing its fangs. "Why would you be looking for such creatures?"

"The drakes have preyed upon my folk.  I would be most grateful if you could tell me where they lie."

"There's one in the metal nest," the bat says. "And another down in the pool."

Kylfa turns to the others in the group.  "My friend says there are two Drakes here. One, he says is in the 'metal nest,' and the other in the 'pool'. If you would have me ask any other questions, say them now, and I shall do my best."

"You can speak with such creatures?" Starkad says. "You have many strange talents, Kvenlander!"

Ragnvaldr raises an eyebrow. "Can your friend point us in the direction of this pool and this nest of metal?"

Kylfa turns back to the bat and chirp-talks at it again.  "Can you tell me in what way these places lie, the metal-nest and the pool, cave-master?"

"The nest lies just off this cavern; the pool, below." It flutters from its perch and lands on Kylfa's shoulder.

"Thank you, cave-master."  Kylfa turns to the others.  "He says that the nest is just off this cavern, and that the pool is below."

Dagny chirps at the bat in a bad imitation of Kylfa's speech.

"So there's one of them beyond this passage," Katla says from the mouth of the level passage. "It's the easier ground for us to fight, so we should head there first."

"Agreed, Katla," Ragnvaldr says.

"The others are out hunting, I think," the bat adds, chittering in Kyfla's ear.

"You mean easier for fat fucks who can't climb," Dagny comments.

Ragnvaldr thwacks Dagny again, then moves purposefully after Katla.

Dagny snarls and quickly catches up with the group.

Katla smirks at Dagny as she get thwacked, turns around and heads into the passage.

Kylfa replies to the bat, "You have been of great help to us; we shall now be in the hands of fate.  Take your family and kin and make sure they do not draw too close to us and the drake, for I would not wish them harmed."

The bat flutters away and chirps to the others; the creatures then flit from the cavern hurriedly, into the gloom outside.

Kylfa moves towards the "metal nest" off the cavern, or at least where he thinks it is.  For the few rounds he still has scent, he sniffs the air to detect any drake-scents.

Kylfa, you smell a strong, musty reek coming from the level passage.

"A strong smell close," Kylfa says.  "Let us prepare."  He casts Bull's Strength on himself.

"Stronger than you?" Dagny puts in.

"Mmmm.  We will see."

A sizeable hoard of gold and silver coins and hack-silver ingots is heaped at the far end of this long, narrow cave, along with various bracelets, arm-bands, circlets, rings, and similar treasures.  Coiled atop this bed of riches is one of the Fire-Drakes, its scaly hide as black as midnight.  Smoke trickles from the dragon's nostrils, and its wings are drawn up to half-cover its serpentine form.  The creature occupies only a small area of the glimmering "nest."

Dagny accindentally kicks over a gem-encrusted arm-band which rolls along the floor and strikes the Drake on the snout.

The Drake stirs, lazily opening one eye...

Katla hisses between gritted teeth "stupidclumsybitch !!!"

"Oh for Thor's sake..." Ragnvaldr curses.

"You wanted to fight this thing, so now we fight it..." Dagny snaps her fingers, conjuring sticky fibres of webbing to restrain the Drake before it can get moving.

The Drake thrashes and roars as the webbing begins to ensnare it, its huge wings batting the eldritch material away and scattering coins everywhere!

Dagny growls. "FUCKING FUCK! GYAA!"

Ragnvaldr leaps forward, his spearhead gleaming in the dim cave as is lashes out lightning-fast, straight for the Drakkar's open, roaring maw.

You impale the beast through the roof of its mouth, and it wrenches its head back in pain. You keep hold of your weapon, tearing it out of the reptilian monster!

Kylfa growls, his teeth growing and his nails elongating into claws.

Katla advances, circling half-crouched around the beast to get into position to flank it with Ragnvaldr. She cuts at it's scaly side with Styrkr.

The creature's scales deflect even Styrkr's keen edge!

Starkad hacks at the thing with his axe and delivers a glancing blow.

Dagny waves her wand around. "EAT HEL-SPAWN YOU FUCKER"

Ragnvaldr redirects his spear with darting quickness for another blow. He Ragnvaldr slashes with his spear's long blade at the Fire-Drake's face, gashing across one eye and spraying ichorous gore across the cave

Kylfa roars and claws and bites at the dragon!

You taste Drakkar-blood as you tear at the creature's scales, your bear-jaws closing round its coils! In pain and fury the creature roars back, and fire spurts from its maw! Flames lick at your flesh, singing you and Ragnvaldr badly.

Katla stabs her blade between the Drake's scales when it's attention is diverted at Kylfa and Ragnvalder; Styrkr sinks into the beast's flesh.

Your blade has pierced something vital! The Drake shrieks in agony as you twist the sword deeper.

Starkad hacks at the Drakkar with his axe, this time managing to penetrate its thick scales! You hear roar down the tunnel behind you, and can hear the sound of beating wings and scraping claws – it sounds like the Drake's sibling has heard the Drake's distress!

Dagny finishes her summoning ritual and points her wand at the Drake. A creature made of stone emerges out of the ground directly under the dragon. It comes ripping through, spend entrails splattering everywhere. Dagny whirls around, content with that, and sends the throwing axe flying at the approaching second Drake! Her axe goes "clang" against its scales!

Kylfa holds a hand out at Ragnvaldr, and yells, "Wait – not yet!"

Ragnvaldr starts to turn away from the steaming wreckage of the first Drakkar to go after the new arrival, but pulls up, puzzled, at Kylfa's command.

"Let it come – ready yourself instead!"

Kylfa hustles up twenty feet, takes an enormously deep breath, and exhales – and a gout of freezing snowballs magically spew from his lungs!

The snowballs spatter against the Drake, freezing its scales and flesh where they strike!

Dagny does a double take at that display.

Kylfa shouts out to Ragnvaldr raggedly as soon as he's done, "Strike!"

Ragnvaldr barrels past Kylfa hot on the heels of his spell and thrusts at the Drake, his weapon already coated in its' brother's blood. "Spit you like a hog, worm-thing!"

You charge the Drakkar as it recoils from the magical snow, driving your spear through its neck!

Dagny joins in. "EAT IT, FUCKER!"

Katla stares in awe at Kylfa's snow-breathing spectacle before snapping back to her senses. She bellows a battle-cry and charges after Ragnvaldr to smite the drake with all her might

Starkad moves into position to hack at the creature should it make it past Ragnvaldr and Katla, his axe dripping steaming blood across the silver on the cave-floor.

Katla spins the blade of Styrkr in blindingly swift arcs as she closes in on the creature, leaping forward and up when she's just a few paces from its towering form. As she hurls herself at the beast, her sword crashes down at its neck like a meteor, slicing off a large chunk of meat and splattering blood.

The Drake roars in pain and lashes out at Katla, fire spurting from its jaws as it savages her, fangs digging deep into her flesh!

Dagny yells a command in Chthonic, and her summoned beast disappears into the ground. A moment later, it emerges on the other side of the dragon, slamming into it with stone fists!

The Drakkar swats with its tail, and the summoned being's fists are deflected!

Dagny yells, "YOU USELESS HUNK OF ROCK." She snaps her fingers, calling her throwing axe back into her hand, and flings it again. She sends her axe flying squarely into the creature's skull. It roars in pain, completely distracted!

Ragnvaldr throws all his might into a single thrust right at the drake, so hard his heels leave the ground. The tapering blade of his spear bites into its breast and pierces it's monstrous heart. With a shrill screech it thrashes, then falls still.

Kylfa abruptly and loudly sneezes, expelling a last bit of snow from his nose.

Dagny goes over and pulls her bloody axe out, while the earth-spawn melds back into the ground.

Katla glares at the dead Drake and clutches at her wounded and burned shoulder.

Ragnvaldr watches the earth-thing's departure, then turns his wide-eyed gaze to Dagny, mouth hanging slightly open.

Starkad wipes his brow. "Two dead more. You are stalwart warriors indeed..."

"That's three of them down. We have won great glory again. And more than just glory!" Katla glances at the pile of gold.

Kylfa grunts appreciatively.  "Well fought.  But there are others, out hunting.  I will take what dragon-hide I can, and stay no longer."

"Yeah, we know." Dagny grabs a handful of coins. "This makes all the rest of this bullshit worthwhile."

"So she slings shit that can fight as well as the regular kind..." Ragnvaldr shrugs and turns his attention to the hoard.

Kylfa, not pausing for celebration or gold, grabs his bone skinning-knife and sets about stripping away any choice pieces of hide he can get.  It doesn't need to be... clean. Once finished with that task, Kylfa returns to the cave entrance to keep a lookout while the others plunder.

Ragnvaldr starts unceremoniously stuffing coins and hack-silver into his pack.

Katla gathers littered silver and gold to her back.

Dagny loads up on easily carried things like bracelets and arm-bands. She probably looks like some kind of a harlot. "Beard-man, are you seriously going to make me carry your shit?" Dagny asks.

Kylfa  returns to the group. "I will carry what you wish," says Kylfa.  "I was merely looking out for the other Drakes."

Dagny motions to some of the treasure. "Yeah, you carry this shit, beard-man."

Kylfa puts whatever is pointed out to him in his sack.

 Katla grabs the silver dagger and inspects it.

It's a masterfully crafted silver blade.

Katla figures that dagger is worth-much-something, if not as a weapon, then at least as a precious item.

Ragnvaldr, your keen raider's eye spies something unusual - what looks at first like a plain brass ring but which has small runes graven on the inside of the band.

Ragnvaldr plucks up the ring and takes it over to Dagny "What do you make of these runes?"

Dagny, you translate the runes and realize this is a Ring of Lore.

The Ring of Lore appears as an unremarkable brass ring with runes etched on the inside of the band.  When worn, the Ring of Lore endows the wearer with a vast wealth of knowledge in every conceivable field, though this knowledge is largely unconscious until called to mind.  For example, someone wearing the Ring of Lore who is asked to identify an unusual plant may not realize that he or she possesses the relevant knowledge until he or she concentrates on retrieving that knowledge.  The Ring of Lore does have a considerable catch: each time the ring is worn, it steals a year of the wearer's life.  Those who keep the ring on at all times age a year every hour.

"It's a piece of shit that'll send you to your grave. Sell it and buy some books."

Ragnvaldr shoves the ring into Dagny's hand and goes back to scooping coin into his pack.

Outside, the sun is setting. You could attempt to return home, but you would be travelling by night - which may be treacherous in the foothills of the Orm-Fells.

"More Drakkar may be arriving here if we tarry for long," Katla points out. "It would be safer to camp outside, a good distance from here. Even then the drakes may find us, but here we might be trapped with no escape."

Kylfa gives an appreciative bow to the bats if he sees them on the way out. He likewise recommends leaving the lair and camping elsewhere.  On account of the Drakes and all.

"I agree," Starkad concurs. "We should put distance between ourselves and the lair before nightfall."

"Aye, and perhaps a goodly distance from where we came upon that child-wraith earlier, just in case," Ragnvaldr adds.

Dagny mumbles and follows along. She wraps her coat around herself so she's not an obvious robbery target with all the jewelry she's got on.