Author Topic: The Fimbulvinter Saga  (Read 23960 times)


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Re: The Fimbulvinter Saga
« Reply #15 on: December 23, 2014, 10:43:41 PM »
IC: Fitt X: The Widow
The mead-hall called the Well of Joy bustles, as traders, craftsmen, warriors, and farmers fled to Wulfheim in this unending winter all huddle together around the crackling hearth, barmaids hastening to and fro to tend to them all. Gossip over recent troubles in the west fills the tavern - whispers of the walking dead, of a herd of aurochs driven mad, and of brigands from the coasts banding together to pillage inland. New arrivals crowd about the bar, frost still melting from their furs; the Jarl’s men watch them closely, weapons at hand lest trouble break out. Newly returned from their Orm-hunt, Ragnvaldr, Katla, and Dagny enter the mead-hall; Kylfa has gone to speak to the local leather-workers on the subject of his Drakkar-hide armour.

Dagny rejoins the group having visited the Gothi. "Uh... about before..." she says, a bit sheepishly, to Ragnvaldr and Katla.

Ragnvaldr orders a drink and plops his still somewhat singed body down heavily in a seat with a satisfied sigh.

The serving girl brings you a tankard of ale, Ragnvaldr.

"What is it, Dagny?" Katla asks.

"That thing, it was in my head. I... said stuff."

"I figured that it addled you much worse than it did myself."

Dagny shrugs and sits down too.

"I did wonder..." Ragnvaldr muses. "You were a wee bit more delightful than usual. It seemed suspicious."

Tígris gives their scorch-marks an impressed look. "You look to have been in pursuit of some adventure or another. End up catching that Drake, I take it?"

"Ah, the Álfr again! Well met to you. Aye, we fought the Drake - and his brother." Ragnvaldr smirks "Both now lie dead."

Dagny looks up. "Oh, hey, point-ears. Honestly, I'm sort of glad you weren't along."

A man at a nearby table looks over. "You say you slew two of those Fire-Drakes? Did you find any of their gold?"

Katla lifts a rattler made from some kind of bone from her pack, showing it to Dagny. "I've been wondering about this thing I looted some time ago. It's a curious piece. Might you be able to tell me anything about it?"

Dagny ignores the man and looks at the rattler. "Maybe..."

Dagny, the bone-rattle is some kind of primitive wand. It can be used to bestow a minor curse.

Mjorðir polishes Randgríð, espying the valkyrie-etched skeggox near the meager fire. He glances up with his cadaver-blue eyes to regard the assembled group. His long, sinewy hands continue their work unabated. Gyllhani, the golden-plumed cockerel, meanwhile perches atop Mjorðir's shield, Langlif, and surveys the Well for danger... or promise.

Ragnvaldr calls Aslaug to heel as he notices her going over to.... investigate... the stranger's cockerel.

Gyllhani regards the hound imperiously, atop its rampart. For the briefest moment, it flexes a scaled foot as if brandishing its dagger-long spur.

Mjorðir reflexively glances up at the display and then the direction of the hound and its owner.

Ragnvaldr raises his tankard. "A fine bird you have there, friend. Aslaug, sit! Sit, girl!"

The door to the mead-hall opens again, letting in a blast of snow, and a pretty, heavy-set woman steps inside. You can hear some of the drinkers murmuring as she enters. She heads over to the lazy-eyed proprietor.

Mjorðir's pallid gaze glimmers with recognition. He rises and heads over to the spear-warrior. He strides across the room, stopping only momentarily as the newcomer enters. Mjorðir raises his hand, though empty of drink, in similar fashion, "Well met, mighty feeder of crows. Your beast is indeed fine as well, no doubt a shadow of Odin's table-feasters."

Ragnvaldr sits a little straighter as Mjorðir addresses him. "And well met to you. You know of me, then?"

Mjorðir responds to Ragnvaldr, "Of your fame and valour in battle, only. Your deeds in service to the jarl are well-spread and well-received, especially to his still-loyal thegns and vassals."

"Aye, I have fought, as have my friends. You look a handy enough warrior yourself. What is your name friend?"

Mjorðir extends a hand of greeting, "I am Mjorðir Brúnnulfson, known as Véogrímr, the Gods-Mask, amongst the bards."

Tígris, your keen Elf-ears pick up a conversation across the room. It sounds like a couple of men are talking about the woman who just entered the tavern.

"That is Thordis, is it not?" says a red-bearded man seated by the hearth, eyeing the woman. "The wife of Hamdir?"

 "Aye, Wulfheim’s most recent widow," the man’s sinewy drinking companion acknowledges. "They say Hamdir hoarded quite the little fortune - all hers, now that he’s dead by his own brother’s hand."

"She must get cold, these long winter nights," the bearded fellow muses. "I would warm her well enough, and gladly share in her dead husband’s fortune."

"The Mighty Winter will end and the sun rise in the west before she remarries," the second man retorts. "Or so I hear it told. It will take a better man than you to woo her, Vikarr!"

"Hmph. No woman should be so choosy in this age of ice and death, with the Doom of all things hanging over our heads." He grumbles and returns to his mead.

Tígris smiles and shakes his head. Mortals and their petty scheming.

Ragnvaldr takes Mjorðir's hand in a firm grip "I'm glad to know you Mjorðir. Will you take a drink with us?"

"I am always glad to share Heithrún’s milk with faithful men," Mjorðir replies, "Especially in these times where men's honor so oft-fails and friends are thin as a dying jarl's beard."

Dagny shakes the rattle. "It bestows a minor curse. Are you... familiar with how to employ such things?"

Katla shakes her head. "I have no knowledge of such crafts. The rattler was in the possession of a monstrous priest of a sort. I've held on to it as a trophy. Perhaps you'd have some use for this thing?"

Dagny twirls it around. "Perhaps. I think I could bring out its curse, anyway. Though I wouldn't want to take away your trophy." She gives her a wry smile. "Wrestle you for it?"

Katla chuckles. "I'd quickly part of it for something of value. Collecting trophies is all good, but it does bother me to be carrying something filled with curses."

"Let me introduce you to Katla the Shield-Maiden and Dagny Shit Slinger!" Ragnvaldr continues. "Oh, and... that there is Tígris the Álfr."

Mjorðir regards Dagny with restrained distaste, "Rune-caller."  His icy eyes, however, widen at Tígris' introduction, "Freyja's brood..."

Dagny smirks. "You're just afraid of getting beaten by – " she starts, and then turns when she hears her name. "Wha?"

Tígris gives Mjorðir a curious glance. "That is an unusual beast that accompanies you. The cockerels of Midgard are not normally so impressive, or so I have heard."

Mjorðir bows again, with reverence and perhaps some measure of caution.

Dagny leans back. "Rune caller is better than shit slinger, anyway."

Ragnvaldr grins at Dagny "I've heard you call no runes. I have seen you sling shit."

Dagny scowls. "How about I call some runes to sling shit at you?"

Katla turns to face the newcomer. "Who is this man?"

Mjorðir bangs his shield in sincere salute at Katla, "Blessed daughter of valkyrie."

Katla nods at Mjorðir. "You are well met, though I would hear your name?"

"I am Mjorðir Brúnnulfson, adopted son of Hrigarref, sister-son of Jarl Hrothik Wulgar. And humble servant of the gods. Your valorous deeds have spread on the breath of the word-traders. Wulfheim is grateful to have such great warriors – especially those who would redeem the shrines of the gods."

"A man of good merit and of good speech, I see. It is an honour to share your company."

The woman who entered the mead-hall draws near, having finished speaking to the proprietor. In her middle years, she has long, pale hair and large, grey eyes full of sadness - and determination. She is garbed in heavy wool and furs in better condition than most of those worn by the mead-hall’s other patrons.

"Are you the one called Mjorðir?" the woman asks. "I have heard it said you are dedicated to Týr, and to the cause of justice."

Mjorðir turns, regarding the widow with a lean gaze, "Aye, and as all true men should," he responds.

"And you are the utlendar yes?" she asks, looking at each of the rest of you in turn. "New to Wulfheim?"

Dagny looks up. "I'm less new than the rest of them... but new-ish.... sure."

"I have already heard of your exploits – driving away Ivar's men, slaying Fire-Drakes, even cleansing the Gothi's sacred grove so that once more the gods may be honoured..."

"Aye, and don't forget the Kvenlander wrestling the Nine-Headed Troll!" Ragnvaldr adds. "That was the greatest deed of all!

"And don't forget the part where I fought better than half the jarl's guard with nothing but a pot and a cleaver," Dagny adds.

Tígris listens closely, curious as to the past exploits of those he's allied himself with.

"My name is Thordis Nordskov. I have a task that requires stout-hearted warriors, those devoted to justice and honour. I promise more than glory and fame, for I possess gold, also. Enough to keep you in mead for several months. Are you available for hire?"

Mjorðir accepts with a thud of his fist against his bone-mail, "Not for gold, though the vassal is worthy of the ring, but for justice."

"I would hear of your task, at the very least," Katla says.

"He can have the justice," Dagny adds. "I'll take the gold."

"I'm with Dagny," Ragnvaldr declares. "Gold is always welcome.

She nods. "I am a recent widow. My husband, Hamdir, was murdered some weeks past by his own kin – his brother, Hallvard, broke into our home and plunged a dagger into his heart. The two had long been quarrelling; my husband has always been a hard-working man, and the gods have smiled on his ventures, gifting us with wealth. Hallvard never shared my husband's devotion, preferring to laze about drinking than hunting or working the fields.

"Many times he came to Hamdir begging for coin, insisting that he would repay the debt, and each time my husband relented, but Hallvard never repaid so much as a silver penning, and squandered his money on mead. When Fimbulvinter came and the Drakkar descended from the Orm-Fells, they burned Hallvard's farm to the ground, and he and his kin fled to Wulfheim.

"Now without property, Hallvard's requests for coin only increased. Finally, after Hallvard had beseeched Hamdir for money for the seventh or eighth time, my husband refused. He offered to take Hallvard and his family in, so that Hallvard might work to feed his family and repay his debt. But Hallvard was too proud to take orders from his brother and refused outright, returning to his wife and daughter empty-handed. He had saved nothing, and a few weeks later, his poor daughter Alof starved to death.

 "In a drunken, grief-stricken fury, Hallvard broke into our home. Hamdir did not even know his niece was dead when Hallvard's knife stole his life. I called for aid, and the jarl's men came and dragged Hallvard to the keep. There was a trial; Hallvard was found guilty and ordered to pay a weregild to me as recompense for Hamdir's death. But, being penniless, he could not pay the fee, and so was cast out of Wulfheim as an outlaw.

"I would have thought the frozen waste would quickly kill such an ergi, but the Jarl's men have spotted him not far from here, and several travelers have been waylaid on the way to Wulfheim, forced to surrender food and valuables at sword-point. While it is now within the rights of any to slay Hallvard, and the duty of all honourable men to do him harm, few now leave the safety of Wulfheim's walls if they can, and the jarl cannot spare men to hunt him down.

"In different times I might have found a dozen men willing to scour the wilds from dawn till dusk, but now even warriors huddle in their homes, not daring to cross their own thresholds. Until Hallvard is brought to justice, I feel I cannot truly mourn Hamdir's passing. I will pay any who has a hand in his death two hundred and fifty aurar, if they will have it. Of course, Hallvard may have acquired other treasures himself, stolen from his victims, which his killers would have a right to."

Dagny looks at Ragnvaldr and Katla; she'll follow their lead.

Ragnvaldr nods and downs his drink, "Very well, consider the swine dead."

Katla frowns. "Too many men fall to such lowly state in these times. I would be happy enough to take his miserable life with my own hands."

Dagny nods. "Where these two go, I go. So I'm in."

Mjorðir nods appreciatively to Ragnvaldr and responds grimly, "Forseti's decree is just and must be honored. Hallvard remains banished, so law remains upheld. However, justice remains unsated. For Alof as well as Hamdir." Mjorðir accompanies his vow by slashing his cheek with Randgríð's edge. "This I so swear."

Tígris gives a grim smile. "A beast needs hunting. I will gladly assist."

She nods solemnly. "You have my thanks. If there is aught I provide to help, you need only name it."

"Do you know where we might find Hallvard?" Ragnvaldr asks. "And will he be alone?"

"Where Hallvard has been last seen would be a good bit of wisdom for us to hear," Katla agrees.

Mjorðir nods in agreement to their requests.

"There is nothing left of Hallvard's farm but a few blackened beams, so he will not be found there. Hallvard's wife, Hlif, still dwells in Wulfheim. Perhaps she might know where he has hidden himself. Last I heard she was staying at a house not far from the fletcher's - but beware her lies. She is a sly girl, given to the telling of falsehoods; if she does know her husband's whereabouts she will not divulge them to just anyone. Also, one of the traders Hallvard stole from is still in Wulfheim, selling his remaining wares in the market - a Járnmann, I think, who deals in iron goods. He might be able to tell you more. I don't know if he's alone, or whether he's fallen in with others of his ilk."

"Then let us begin with a walk about the town. I have an errand to perform myself at any rate." Ragnvaldr heaves to his feet and gathers up his spear.

"Aye," Katla concurs. "Let us get started with this task without delay."

"Your words are whetstone to our blades, good lady Thordis," Mjorðir says.

Dagny rolls her eyes at Mjorðir. "If he's going to talk like that the whole time this will be a very long adventure," she mumbles to Ragnvaldr.

Ragnvaldr turns his laughter into an unconvincing cough.

"I am heartened greatly by your aid, Mjorðir. May Forseti grant you speed and strength in your efforts."

Mjorðir bows to Thordis, ignoring the rune-caller's barbs.

Ragnvaldr tosses down a coin for his drink and heads for the door, Aslaug at his heels

Icicles dangle from every roof in Wulfheim. Today the weather is mercifully still - the winds can be heard blowing distantly out on the White Waste to the south and west, but the settlement itself is spared. Snow still falls lightly, adding to the heavy loads already covering the streets. A few men and women shovel heaps of it from their doorsteps and brush it off their roofs, worried that they might collapse. Most, however, are content to warm themselves round the braziers scattered about the small camps that fill the open spaces within the palisade.

Dagny goes home to get her axe and prepare her spells.

Ragnvaldr keeps his eyes peeled for somewhere he might buy a shield as they walk.

Katla also heads to the market.

The market is a snowy square where a handful of merchants hawk their wares. Meat and fur are at a premium, warmth and sustenance having become the most valuable commodities in this age of wind and bitter cold. A wiry Járnmann sells iron goods - tools, nails, and similar objects, principally, though also a few coats of mail, iron helms, shields, and a handful of blades and axes.

Mjorðir turns to the group, initially unconcerned by the breathless chill, "Perhaps we might first seek this trader? His words might guide us when we seek the sly-tongued wife."

"Good thoughts, Mjorðir. Could that be him over yonder?" Ragnvaldr asks.

"Perhaps, so let us see," he answers, then bellows out cordially, "Hail, monger-of-fire-beaters!"

The Járnmann is a short, large-eyed fellow missing an ear, dressed in pelts and heavy wool. His eyes light up at your words.

Mjorðir approaches, "My valiant friend, a fierce feeder of crows, is in need of a good sword-bane."

"We would also know anything you can tell us about the kinslayer-turned-highwayman Hallvard," Katla adds.

"And that," Mjorðir adds somewhat darkly at the shield-maiden's bluntness.

Ragnvaldr starts picking up the shields, hefting their weight, thumping their rims with the butt of his spear, testing the grip of the handles.

"You'll not find a finer shield outside of a Dvergar armoury!" the man insists as Ragnvaldr begins looking over his goods. His voice is thin and hoarse, bearing the accent of the swamp-folk. "As for that outlaw... yes, I saw him on the road. The man accosted me east of here, not far from the borders of that cursed forest, Ironwood: a haggard, gaunt-cheeked wretch with eyes full of hunger and sorrow. He carried a rusty blade and had a bow slung over one shoulder. He wore a pair of skis. Had my companions not perished on the journey north we would have driven the fellow off easily; I might even have bested him myself, but he had a desperate look about him, and demanded only food and a few oddments from my stock. Truth be told, a part of me pitied the man."

Dagny finishes up and wanders about looking for her group. She eventually finds her way to the market.

The trader smiles over at Ragnvaldr. "Does anything catch your eye?"

"I see that you are fairer with words than I, good Mjorðir," Katla says softly. 'I will trust you to speak with this trader on our behalf."

Dagny just hangs around, not being very fair with words at all.

"You are generous with your words, as is my friend with his gold for the good cloth of battle-children," Mjorðir says. "Might you share with us a more detailed description where this outlaw waylaid you? And whether others were with him? His pity does not compare to the sorrow or wrath of the widow whose husband, his own brother, he slew."

Ragnvaldr settles on a stout lindenwood shield with a flared boss and a grey-and-green spiralling design. "How much?"

"Seven aurar for that shield," the merchant says before turning back to Mjorðir. "I don't know these lands well, but I remember a few details... snow has long covered the paths, but I recall a stone way-marker, a cairn of stacked rocks. There was a low hill not far off, at the very border of the woods; upon it stood a building of some sort. It was too distant to see what manner of place it was."

Ragnvaldr tests the heft of the shield one last time then, satisfied, digs out the coin and hands it over. Seeing that Dagny has caught up with them, he shows her his new purchase, seemingly convinced she will find it interesting...

Katla, a young lad no more than eleven or twelve is skillfully cutting your purse! The spry, tow-haired boy looks half-starved. He wears ragged clothes and poor shoes, and bears a nasty scar on his cheek.

Katla's hand darts to secure her purse with the swiftness of a practiced sword-draw. She glares at the boy and snarls. "Are you so starved that you risk losing a hand by theft? Or did you take me for an easy target?"

"Let me go!" The boy tries to twist out of your grasp!

Dagny looks at the shield, nodding. "Yeah... that's... that's great."

Gyllhani clucks at the altercation, trying to alert the otherwise engrossed Mjorðir. Mjorðir, meanwhile, draws in the snow by spear-point, reconciling the trader's account with his own memory of the woods. "So like this?" he says, then scratches out the revisions as necessary.

The trader looks down. "That looks about right," he says, shrugging.

Katla, you keep hold of the thief! "OW! You're hurting me!" he cries. The rest of the party can now hear what's going on.

Dagny looks up at the noise.

"I'll not steal from you again... I'm sorry, just let me go!"

Katla does not let loose of her grip. "I am not. You are hurting yourself by your struggling. Cease it and answer me, boy. What has driven you to such acts of theft?"

"I'm starving. Me and some other children – orphans, all. We've no money for food, and no means of earning coin."

Tígris ignores the squirming child, instead pulling out a pale gemstone and examining it closely.

Tígris, your jewel remains dull.

Ragnvaldr watches Katla and the boy dispassionately.

Mjorðir sharply turns back, his bone-white face becoming cold as Hel's breath upon sighting the scene. A dull ache bruises his heart. He thanks the merchant, then stands and turns to the thief and shield-maiden. "What occurred?" he asks.

"This boy was trying to make off with my purse. For that he should be punished, but I would rather it be something that sets him straight. If his words are true, his intentions may be just, even if his deeds are not."

Mjorðir, as you recall, there have been a number of thefts reported recently... perhaps this boy and his accomplices are responsible.

"May I?" Mjorðir asks the shield-maiden, motioning to the boy, "If words you seek, both to fly true and be given in turn."

"What the fuck does that even MEAN?" Dagny mutters.

Ragnvaldr shrugs and stays out of this... he's done enough stealing in his time, albeit of a more direct and bloodier kind.

"I will hear your judgement," Katla assents.

"Have you heard the story of the chaining of Fenris, boy?" Mjorðir asks. "The great wolf-get of Loki and fated doom of One-Eye?"

The boy looks suspicious, then nods. "Aye. I've heard the Gothi tell of such things – and my mother, before the Bloodbeards dragged her off to Skrikborg."

Dagny rubs her sinuses. "I thought we were going to go hunt down some badass guy, not babysit some dumb kid."

"Go and speak to the ergi's wife, then," Mjorðir hisses to the wizard-wench. He turns back to the child, then asks, "Then tell me, lad, what was the price of the chaining?"

"Hey, lord of the cock, I don't take orders from you."

Mjorðir ignores the woman and holds the gaze of the thief.

"Týr put his hand in the wolf's mouth..." the boy's eyes widen. "You're not going to... to cut off my hand?!"

"You have learned well – but one far more important question, why was such necessary? Why did Fenris allow himself to be so chained, why was Týr's hand sufficient payment?" His words are calm.

Katla stares down at the boy with cold eyes as she allows Mjorðir to carry on his speech.

The boy thinks. "The wolf... the wolf asked him to, didn't he? He didn't trust the Æsir?"

"But why did he trust Týr? And not the other gods. Not men, but gods."

Dagny opens and closes her hand making a 'yap yap yap' gesture.

The boy shakes his head. "I don't remember. Wasn't it all a trick?"

"Your mother taught you well. Better than to thieve, I reckon."

"She's dead now. Or a thrall in Ivar's hall. And stories don't fill my belly."

"Even the gods must pay for breaking their word and the laws they make. You have broken a law – to fill your belly. Týr broke his word, and lost his hand, but not to simply sate his gut or save his own life, but to prevent the Doom and save the All-Father. Forseti would allow this shield-maiden to take your hand. It would be justice. However, she wishes you to learn a higher law – and that is the one that chained Fenris and prevented the Doom for many moons, even now. Týr's honour and honesty were what chained the beast more-so than the fetter. So speak true now, and the maiden of shields here might spare your hand."

Katla nods at Mjorðir's words.

Tígris chuckles at the earnestness with which this mortal speaks of the gods.

Dagny elbows Ragnvaldr. "This is the part where he 'graciously' agrees to just have the kid give him a blowjob."

Ragnvaldr can't hide his amusement this time and barks with laughter.

Dagny looks at Ragnvaldr. "You want to go talk to the guy's wife? This is bullshit."

Ragnvaldr nods then remembers something and turns back to the trader "A moment, Dagny. Tell me Járnmann, would you buy a coat of mail? It's well-used but still strong enough." Ragnvaldr hauls his old byrnie out of his pack.

The man sizes it up. "Aye, I could clean it up a bit... I'll give you seventy-five aurar for it."

"Aye, that sounds fair."

Ragnvaldr hands over the mail-coat.

Dagny waits for Ragnvaldr to finish.

The Járnmann accepts it and hands you a purse of silver and gold.

Ragnvaldr turns to Dagny. "Come then."

"Thieves beset Wulfheim like flies to a corpse, lad," Mjorðir  says. "But it was not always so, and need not be now."

The boy looks at Katla. "It's true that I'm hungry, but I should not have tried to steal your purse. It was... dishonourable."

"Swear to this woman, on the holy hand of Týr, that you will never take another's property unlawfully."

He nods, humbled. "I swear it on Týr's hand."

"He – and all the gods –  hear your oath. As does this shield-maiden of valour." Mjorðir turns to Katla to see if she is appeased.

"If I could but find honest work, I could earn my keep," he says to Katla. "Have you need of a cup-bearer, perhaps?"

"I have no need for a servant, and my travels take me to places that would be the death of a child your age. You might find work doing chores for the mead-hall. Better than begging, at least. I will accept your pardon, but just once. Next time will cost your hand, or your head. Think carefully of that." Katla releases the kid.

He nods. "Aye. I'll try the mead-hall, then. Sorry, again."

"Child,"Mjorðir says, "Do you know of the others who have fallen to crime and theft? Some flies swarm together."

He nods reluctantly, his look suddenly proud and defiant. "I do, but I'll not betray them. I swore an oath to keep their names secret, and that I'll not break."

"Oh, looks like your little speech did a lot of good," Dagny says. "Lots of help there."

"Good is not the cause," he replies to Dagny, "Justice and law, are." He turns to the pickpocket. "Perhaps we might speak more of this, later, at the Well," Mjorðir  says, untying one of his beard-beads and handing it to the lad."Fill your stomach; I shall return."

Katla shows no further interest in the boy. "Let us speak to Hallvard's wife now, though I doubt she'll be of as much use as the Járnmann."

The young pickpocket accepts the bead with a look of surprise. "I won't betray them, but I'll speak to them over the food that this buys us. Thank you."

Mjorðir nods deeply, then moves to follow the group.

Dagny makes a loose fist and moves it up and down.

Dagny, you're pretty sure you know the house by the fletcher's - lots of families are crammed in there, if you recall. Maybe Hlif is staying there?

Dagny leads the way! "C'mon, over here."

Ragnvaldr waits til the others are moving off and then bends down to the boy and whispers "Fenris trusted Týr because he was brave. Next time... don't get caught."

The boy flashes you an uncertain smile and darts into the Well of Joy.

Gyllani cocks its head and regards the warrior with a single beady, iron-black eye.

The house stands in a fenced plot. Its walls are of oak planks and poles, its roof of wooden tiles, mostly covered in snow. Smoke pours from a hole in the roof.

Ragnvaldr stumps afters the others.

"So, do you actually believe all that bullshit or is it just something for you to think about when you're jerking off?" Dagny leads them to the house.

"Did your faith fall before or after your tongue lost its manners, rune-caller?" Mjorðir asks.

Ragnvaldr gives Dagny a shocked look at Mjorðir's words. "Is what he says true? Did you truly once have manners?"

Dagny bursts out laughing. "I've got about as much use for his idea of manners as his idea of faith, how about that."

"The skalds say those who study the Dvergar's runes imbibe madness. I will excuse your rudeness and faithlessness as symptoms of lunacy, wizard-wench. I would not bicker further, not when the widow's cause awaits."

Within the house, perhaps six of seven families are crammed, along with some livestock. The air smells of sweat and animal musk. Most are gathered around the hearth, warming themselves, while others sleep, gnaw at meagre morsels of food, or repair clothing. A few children play a game of hnefatafl with bone game-pieces.

Ragnvaldr puts on a grim face and calls out to the folk in the house "Who is the wife Hallvard the Kinslayer?"

A slender, brown-haired girl who can't be more than seventeen or eighteen looks up at you warily, clad in a woolen dress and apron.

"Come here, girl."

"I am Hallvard's wife," she says, her voice filled with suspicion. "Who is asking, and why?"

"Those who care for Alof's legacy," Mjorðir answers.

Her expression softens at the sound of her dead daughter's name.

Tígris leans against the wall, keeping a sharp eye out for trouble.

"I... I see. What do you want?"

"You bore her into this world, this I see," Mjorðir says, his gaze softening from its initially suspicious mien.

"So I did, before she departed it too soon. My husband may have killed that bastard Hamdir, but only to avenge the death of our daughter. Hamdir might as well have come here and killed her himself!"

Dagny rolls her eyes. She stands behind Ragnvaldr so as to not be conspicuous, and casts Charm Person.

A slightly glazed look enters her eyes as Dagny's spell overcomes her.

Dagny steps out from behind Ragnvaldr. "Easy, easy. Don't mind lord of the cock here." She flashes a grin."We're just looking for your husband. We're worried about him and shit."

"Odin's furrows..." the skald whispers under his breath, uncertain as to what the wizard has wrought...and once more tempted to remove the woman of her uncouth tongue.

"My dear Hallvard... doubtless you've been told all manner of lies about him. That Hamdir was the industrious one, the hard-working brother, and Hallvard a lazy drunkard. Falsehoods! Hamdir didn't earn his wealth, he inherited it when his father died, using the money to buy thralls to work his fields. When Fimbulvinter came, he sold his grain at outrageous prices to increase his wealth still further. Hallvard did his best to earn us our keep, but who can farm when the snow lies two feet deep on the ground? Who can hunt when the game are all dead, and the woods filled with monsters? And then the Fire-Drakes took what little we had left, and we had to come here with nothing but the clothes on our backs..."

Mjorðir, you're unsure how much of this is true, though it's certainly true that Hamdir was a wealthy man. Dagny, you actually knew Hallvard slightly – he did spend a lot of time in the mead-hall, but not drinking. He was becoming a mead-maker. You do feel that Hlif is likely telling the truth, at least as she believes it.

Hlif rambles on. "We needed coin to feed ourselves and young Alof, and one day Hamdir refused to extend us a loan until we had repaid our previous debts. It's not as if Hamdir needed the money himself!" She looks to you, tears welling in her eyes. "Did you hear what Hamdir asked of my husband? Of us?"

Dagny rubs her forehead. "So he... ugh." She looks up. "No?"

"Hallvard begged his brother to help us. Hamdir said he would loan us the money anyway, on one condition – Hallvard was to divorce me, give me to his brother as a concubine, and sell himself into bondage. Thordis is barren and Hamdir wanted sons, though why anyone would bring a child into this world now that Ragnarök is at hand, I cannot say. Hallvard refused to sell us to his brother and left in a fury. It wasn't long after that Alof died."

Mjorðir stands silent, confused and concerned at the contradicting stories.

"I said as much at the trial, but Thordis is much-respected here, and I still little more than a girl. And so my noble Hallvard was driven out into the cold, like an animal."

Dagny exhales. "Well, shit."

Mjorðir grips Randgríð's haft tightly in silent agreement.

Dagny turns to Mjorðir. "See, this is why I don't make bold oaths 'for justice' and shit, you just end up being jerked around."

"It is those who betray those oaths that cause such injustices to fester -that is the cause of this Fumbulvinter."

Tígris thinks hard for a moment. "On Álfheim we would take this case to the völva and she would divine the truth. Does your Gothi not have some similar powers of truth-seeing?"

"He may," answers Mjorðir to the fair-one. "I swore justice would be done – and so I must – but it remains unclear to my eyes what injustice has occurred and how it be best sentenced."

Dagny rolls her eyes, then faces Hlif again. "Well... we'll let you know if we find him."

"Thank you," Hlif says to Dagny. She looks as if she still has something to say, but is holding it back...

Ragnvaldr is mentally comparing Mjorðir and Andreas... The Fatherman could be dour and stuffy, yes, but this holy man of the true gods might make him seem a paragon of relaxed permissiveness. Katla's joke about conversion rings in his ears, and he smiles to himself and shakes his head.

"Still, kinslaying is kinslaying," Katla interjects. "It is worse than denying help to your brother, or asking for prices beyond reason."

Tígris shrugs. "If her account is true, the deceased was more beast and monster than man, and it is only men who have kin."

"We would do well to seek the wisdom of the Hanged God," Mjorðir suggests. "The jarl whom we serve decided that Hallvard's kinslaying be punished by banishment, and so Hallvard is banished."

Dagny steps closer to Hlif. "Come on, out with it."

"I... I must ask something of you. Though my Hallvard has been named an outlaw he is still dear to me. If you find him... if he is dead, please return his body to me so that I can give him a proper burial."

"I might consider doing so should I happen upon his corpse," Katla says. "But I see no reason to go searching for him now."

Dagny nods. "Seems reasonable. Hard to banish a corpse."

Ragnvaldr snaps out of his reverie. "Huh? No reason? What?"

"The widow can keep her gold," Katla declares. "We won more from the Drake's nest, and without dubious circumstances to cast shadow on the glory of the deed."

Ragnvaldr stamps some warmth back into his feet, obviously becoming bored. "Oh. Then let's back to the Well's hearth then, maybe another adventure will find us?"

"There is perhaps another way justice can be meted," Mjorðir says to the group, his tone lowered away from Hlif.  "Though it be lawful that Hallvard be banished and Hlif live destitute, is it just that the latter do so and that Hamdir's gold sits idle?"

Dagny tilts her head. "Go on..."

Mjorðir then proposes a plan, suggesting that Hallvard might be visited and given a choice: forsake his life and die honorably in battle, with the promise that his death will earn Hamdir's gold which the group – or Mjorðir's share at the least – might go to Hlif.

Ragnvaldr perks up at the mention of battle and gold. "Not a bad idea, Mjorðir."

"So you basically want to just... go kill him anyway," Dagny points out.

"Such a path might sate justice's demands and fulfill our oaths, mortals we may be. I wish to give him the choice to find redemption perhaps – both for his own soul and that of his wife's mortality. For surely his brother's blood stains his hands and Hel smells it."

Dagny shrugs. "Our oaths? Personally, I didn't make any oath. If you did, your fault for jumping in without looking."

"You have long forgotten yours, Dagny, but in this life or another, you and the rest of us are all god-sworn. It all depends upon which we swear to, and how we keep those oaths."

"It would be a boon for him," Katla reasons. "It is a rare bandit that enjoys a chance to die honourably."

Mjorðir turns and nods to Katla, "And a rarer one that has the opportunity to so provide for his wife."

Dagny sighs. "I keep my oaths just fine, thanks. I owe a debt to Ragnvaldr and Katla that I can hardly repay, so, if they want to go do this STUPID FUCKING THING, then I'll do it. But for them. No one else."

"What say ye?" Mjorðir asks of the rest of the group.

Ragnvaldr opens his mouth to voice his opinion that the gods care little what we do as long as we keep them entertained, but thinks better of it and instead says, "Shall we be off, then?"

"He will surely die soon anyway; it is a harsh life out there," Katla points out. "At least this way his death may hold some meaning."

Mjorðir nods, to all.

Dagny grabs her axe, gives it a toss and spins it in the air, and catches it.

Mjorðir turns back to Hlif before parting. He takes her hand, and says, "We have heard your words; we will do that which the gods fate and allow our simple hands to render."

She nods soberly. "Thank you... it is rare to find men of honour in this age of wind and wolves..."

"It is because of the lack of such honour that the tree-breakers and hand-eaters are so fierce." Mjorðir then leaves to follow the others.

Dagny goes along with Katla and Ragnvaldr.


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Re: The Fimbulvinter Saga
« Reply #16 on: December 23, 2014, 10:49:37 PM »
IC: Fitt XI: The Outlaw
The gates of Wulfheim part and you trek out into the frozen waste, a barren emptiness of snow, interrupted only by a few dead trees and jagged rocks. To one side loom the rugged foothills and brooding peaks of the Orm-Fells; you could swear you hear the distant roars of dragon-kind in those dour mountains, caught on the wind. North and south the plain continues, but to the east you can make out a distant line of trees.

Dagny mumbles a little and glows green for an instant.

Tígris whistles and summons his cat, the wolf-sized beast padding out of the emptiness.

Mjorðir eyes the great cat with awe at seeing Freyja's folk and their beasts walk so freely among men.

Dagny still jumps at the giant cat. Even though this isn't the first time.

Katla strides ahead of the group, looking for any tracks or other hints of Hallvard's presence.

Mjorðir otherwise trails behind, to guard the rear. Gyllhani perches atop his helm, likewise vigilant.

Tígris shivers, cursing these Midgardian winters.

Ragnvaldr shudders despite his thick furs as he plods along.

Dagny gives her coat to Ragnvaldr. Again. "You seriously need to stop drinking so much. It only makes you FEEL warmer. It doesn't actually help."

Ragnvaldr doesn't protest this time, just wraps up.

"The tree-breakers are fierce, Ragnvaldr, and the sky-candle has long hid its warmth," Mjorðir intones.

Ragnvaldr grates drily "Aye, Mjorðir, the wind is cold..."

Dagny walks around in the cold in just her thin dress, without a care in the world, while the rest of you losers shiver.

Katla, you manage to find the landmark the Járnmann described. A cairn of stones thrusts up from the snow here: a way-marker that might once have stood by the side of a path. Not far from the cairn the dark eaves of Ironwood can be seen; the trees exude a brooding malevolence. You find ski-tracks in the snow – quite fresh, from the look of things.

Katla motions for the other to follow her lead. "This way. I have found a promising trail."

Dagny follows Katla, axe at the ready.

Mjorðir continues to follow at the rear, shield and javelin ready.

Following the ski-tracks, you approach a low, lightly forested hill. Upon it you can make out what looks like a building - too tall for a farmhouse, you would judge.

Katla slips her shield on her hand, to be prepared for any ambush or the like.

The building at the crown of the hill is a wooden temple with a high, tiled roof and posts carved with runes and figures - mostly animals and gods, from the look of things. The place has nearly been snowed in, but the ground about the door has been cleared, and recent ski-tracks are evident about the hof. To one side, near the entrance, is a frozen pool ringed by stones. The wood stands very close to the temple, the branches of trees nearly caressing the walls of the hof.

Mjorðir, the carvings are old and archaic. You think the gods might be Skadi and Ullr...

"Hallvard may likely flee, long before we can share our offer, should he see us," Mjorðir points out.

Katla concurs with Mjorðir's words. "We should approach quietly and surround the hof, to cut off his retreat."

Mjorðir adds."Those more subtle and fleet of foot should fan out... I not being one of them."

"I thought you wanted to talk to him before we kill him?" Ragnvaldr says.

"Yes, Ragnvaldr, I wish to offer him the chance to die honourably, but he will not likely see that as we approach."

Katla moves to circle round the building.

Tígris speaks a few words of Álfari and his outline begins to shimmer and break up.

Katla, you circle the building. There are no other obvious doors, but there are narrow windows, perhaps large enough for a man to slip through.

Tígris is suddenly no-where to be found, having blended in almost completely with the surrounding wilds...

Katla takes position to watch the windows on this side.

Ragnvaldr glances around and then shakes his head, muttering about Elf-tricks, before hefting his spear and readying himself.

Mjorðir strides towards the hof's door, seeing his allies surround the building.

"Lemme take a look inside." Dagny snaps her fingers and disappears!

Ragnvaldr shakes his head again, this time muttering about shit-slingers' tricks.

Mjorðir exchanges his javelin for Randgríð, silently muttering a mixture of consternation and gratitude at the stealth of his peers.

Ragnvaldr sticks close behind Mjorðir

Tígris sneaks his way inside the building cautiously, watching for any sign of their quarry.

Tígris, you open the door to the hof and hear a slight twang, as if something has snapped, followed by the whistle of an arrow! You move back as fast as you can, but the arrow grazes your chest, drawing blood as it passes you! You see that a bow had been cunningly placed in the rafters of the hof just inside, rigged to fire when the door was opened.

Tígris bites down on a hiss of pain, slipping through the doorway and off to one side out of the way.

The hof is gloomy and smells of damp, but has obviously seen recent use: muddy footprints and dead leaves have been tracked inside, and a ceremonial brazier smoulders near the altar-stone, upon which is set a copper bowl.

Narrow windows admit meagre light. The temple is dedicated to three wooden statues – one of a grim archer, another of a skiing woman nearing a spear, and the third of a swordsman. Pedestals about the feet of these statues are crusted with old bloodstains. Heaped against one wall is a heap of objects: firewood, a few pelts, clothing, arrows, a number of tools, a half-eaten wheel of cheese, a silver circlet etched with runes, a suit of chain-mail, a helm, several torches, and a small quantity of hack-silver and coinage.

A grizzled man with an unkempt blond beard stands by the brazier, an arrow at his bow. He's gaunt and dirty, clad in pelts and a vest of studded leather, a quiver of arrows at his waist. He bears a sword on his hip, also.

"Who goes there?" he demands, casting around but seeing no one. "What Seidr is this?"

Mjorðir calls out, "Hallvard! In the name of Alof and your still-living wife who remembers both your names, hold and listen to our words!"

He lowers his bow cautiously, but keeps the arrow nocked.

Dagny mumbles. "Shit..." A Dagny-shaped flash of yellow appears for an instant, then there is nothing. She slips inside behind Tígris.

Mjorðir looks to his compatriots as if to tell them to hold their peace, as originally agreed. "We come on behalf of your wife who still fondly remembers you. And for your own behalf as well."

Ragnvaldr waits patiently beside Mjorðir until the killing-time comes.

"Is Hlif well? How does she fare?"

Katla, hearing muffled voices from within, moves closer to the windows to listen better. She takes care not to stand in front of any window, so as to not become a target for arrows.

You can overhear things well, Katla.

Dagny slowly and quietly makes her way to the other side of the room.

Hallvard shows no sign of detecting you, Dagny.

Tígris finds a sniping position in the corner, eyeing the silver circlet and trying to identify the runes idly while he waits.

Tígris, the runes seem to be some kind of prayer, or beseechment, to the god Ullr. The prayer says something about anointing the circlet in the blood of a beast killed by the wearer's own hand...

Mjorðir does not try to soften the blow as responds truthfully, "She lives in poverty but yet has a roof over her head – though hard times befall Wulfheim. I cannot say when she last ate."

He sighs. "At least she lives. Thank the gods. Though no thanks to that she-wolf, Thordis..."

Dagny lets her axe become visible for an instant while she's behind his back, to signal to her allies.

"Yes," Mjorðir breathes, "She lives yet, and the gods should be thanked. You might yet help her live longer still."

Hallvard cocks an eyebrow. "Why are you interested in helping me? Or my wife, for that matter?"

Mjorðir answers without guile, "The widow is hiring battle-children to slay you."

Hallvard smiles grimly. "I am not surprised."

Mjorðir nods, then continues, "She sought us to see justice done. But after speaking with Hlif, we are not convinced that slaying you as like a wolf for hack-silver is just. I am Mjorðir, a vassal of Jarl Wulfgar."

Ragnvaldr cocks an eyebrow.

"Though the dvergar’s hunger gnawed at your blood-brother’s heart, kinslaying is a crime in Wulfheim, one for which Jarl Wulgar lawfully banished you. I cannot justly or lawfully seek to undo that decree. Nor can we justly halt Thordis from hiring others to hunt you down."

"I had no choice," Hallvard says. "I had to take vengeance. If I am a kinslayer, then so was Hamdir. He might as well have murdered my daughter!"

The skald does not argue, "You may have had no choice, but you have one now, Hallvard. You speak of the gods; do you seek Valhalla?"

"I have thought little of Valhalla or my fate –it has been a struggle simply to find enough to eat. But speak plainly. What choice do I have?"

Katla crouches by the window nearest to Hallvard, waiting for the offer to be made and hear the man's reaction to it. She'll be ready to intercept him should he try to escape, or to crawl in through the window herself if need be.

Mjorðir continues, holding the haggard exile's gaze with his own, "All men must die, Hallvard. But how a man lives and dies determines how he lives thereafter. Your kinslaying, however provoked, stains your hands and Hel marks it. We offer you a chance to escape her and to drink daily from Heithrún’s milk at Odin's side. Moreover...I swear to take the gold so promised by Thordis and deliver it to Hlif, that she might honour your name before the gods and that she may live well in this wolf-age."

Dagny suddenly fades into view behind Hallvard.

Mjorðir concludes, "This is your choice, Hallvard. To flee into Hel's embrace, or to fight now and honourably enter Valhalla and save your wife from Alof's fate."

Dagny looks around with a pained expression, making a 'hurry it up' gesture.

Hallvard considers your offer carefully, unaware of Dagny. "Your offer is strange, but just. So, you would fight me, then, in honourable combat?"

Mjorðir answers, "Not I, but another."

"Aye, come out with your sword held tight and I'll give you a man's death," Ragnvadlr declares.

Mjorðir just nods in affirmation of Ragnvaldr's promise.

"Ah. You bring companions. Your words hold much wisdom, but what if I won such a combat?"

"Then you will please the gods and another, such as myself or one of Wulfheim's shield-maidens, will rise to send you to Valhalla," Mjorðir says.

"I am Ragnvaldr of the Ægirians, a spear-reaver, a killer of men, a killer of Trolls, a killer of Vargr, a killer of Drakkar. You would not win."

"We all die –die gloriously and so that others such as Hlif might live, and so that others, such as Alof, might not have died in vain," Mjorðir adds.

"Hmm. Perhaps. What if I refuse? What then? Will you leave me in peace? Or slay me anyway, and bring my head back to Thordis?"

Dagny covers her face with her hand.

The skald answers, "In truth, I would leave, and you would belong to Hel. Whether my companions would still hunt you as a cur for silver, I cannot say."

Katla peeks in through the window. "If you turn coward now, you'll suffer a coward's death. I will not allow you to escape."

"Hmm. It seems I have no choice, then. I must kill you all or else be killed. Very well, Ragnvaldr. I accept your challenge."

"Come out then and die." Ragnvaldr shrugs out of Dagny's coat, and raises spear and shield as he drops into a fighting stance facing the door to the hof.

Mjorðir begins to sing to the gods, the song of battle-weather and the glories of the Gallows-Lord's mead-hall.

Hallvard takes a deep breath and lays down his bow and quiver, drawing his sword. Comically, he has still failed to see Dagny! He goes to pick up the suit of mail.

Ragnvaldr, seeing Hallvard's armaments, sets aside his own shield. Even among raiders, there are ways duels should be fought...

Tígris moves aside, getting out of their way and conveniently ending up near the pile of treasure and that intriguing circlet.

Once armoured, Hallvard steps out into the snow.

Mjorðir follows, continuing to hammer out his song with the beat of his axe upon his shield.

Dagny comes out of the hof like that's not strange at all.

Katla emerges from behind the hof to observe the duel.

"Hold tightly to your sword, Hallvard," Ragnvaldr suggests. "You shall be feasting in the corpse-hall soon, but you must hold tight."

Hallvard circles you warily, sword held lightly. He moves with grace, despite his obvious exhaustion. Suddenly he darts forward, moving fast as a viper!

Ragnvaldr side-steps, avoiding his blow!

Mjorðir calls out to the sky-curtain and the gods to watch and witness.

Hallvard turns and sees Dagny. He's taken aback!

Ragnvaldr flicks out his spear like a bolt of iron lightning.

Katla begins swashing her shield.

Ragnvaldr 's lance-blade bites and withdraws. Red spurts, staining the snow. One second Hallvard is whole, the next his side is rent open and gushing.

Dagny sits down. "Shoulda had me fight him. It might have been halfway interesting at least."

Mjorðir shouts out, as if inspiring Ragnvaldr's blow, that the blood-worm sink deep, that the gods look upon the rent bone-house of Hallvard and accept his offering.

Hallvard gasps, pressing a hand to his wound, his eyes wide. "For Alof!" he shouts, swinging his blade in a wide arc!

Ragnavdlr catches the blow with the haft of his spear and sends the man flying.

"The gods are showing their approval," Katla declares. "Clearly they are hastening his entry to Valhalla!"

Ragnvaldr approaches grimly and jabs again, a relentless strength seeming to power the thrust.

Desperately, the man ducks your spear-thrust and circles around, striking out with his own sword. Thrown off-balance by your spear-thrust, you fail to defend yourself as Hallvard drives his blade into your side, piercing your mail!

Dagny 's bored distraction abruptly ends when she sees Ragnvaldr take a wound.

"For a warrior with so many names, you bleed as any other man," Hallvard says grimly.

"The blood-swans drink deep, and the valkyries draw near!"  Mjorðir chants.

Both of you are now badly wounded, lumbering. The snow beneath your feet is crimson.
Ragnvaldr whirls his spear in great thrashing arcs around him, warding himself against attacks even as his blade sings out to strike.

Dagny tenses, holding her axe.

You deliver a glancing blow, bloodying Hallvard's temple. He grimaces in pain, trying to ignore his wounds. Once again he barrels forward with surprising quickness! Despite your footwork and the arc of your spear, he manages once again to circle around you, delivering another devastating blow! He drives his sword in deep, twisting. Pain fills your body as his blade crunches through skin and muscle, seeking your vitals. You barely manage to get free.

Mjorðir continues to chant, singing of the great slaughter-dew and the spear-sleep that awaits.

Dagny draws her axe back, ready to throw.

Ragnvaldr spits blood on the snow as he circles, then bellows wordlessly as he throws himself into a mighty thrust...

Katla raises her sword and bellows a cheer.

Ragnvaldr flies at Hallvard, his spear piercing the outlaw straight through. The barrelling speed of his rush takes him clattering into the man and they fall together. Ragnvaldr lies atop him as he breathes his last, one hand moving to the dying man's to make sure he grips his sword hilt firmly to the last. "You died well, Hallvard. Wait for me in the corpse-hall"

Hallvard gasps, blood spurting from his lips. "I shall, Ragnvaldr. One day we shall meet again, on the fields of Vígríðr, and fight side by side." With these words, he breathes his last.

Dagny exhales and sits back down.

Mjorðir ceases his war-song with a cry for Hallvard's spirit to be received, for Alof to serve him mead within Odin's shinning hall. "Drink deep of Heithrún’s milk!" he adds.

"A valiant death has taken place today. Rejoice!"

Dagny rubs her temples. "So, except for the fact that Ragnvaldr almost fucking died, how was this any different than if we just went in there and killed him?"

"You do not ask to understand, rune-caller," Mjorðir says, then heads to Ragnvaldr.

Katla turns to address Dagny. "The difference is that this death was honourable."

Mjorðir clasps Ragnvaldr, "You fought well – today you wore the god-mask. Receive their gratitude," he says, calling upon Týr to honour his champion and sacrifice of blood-sweat.

Ragnvaldr struggles to his feet, using Mjorðir for support... and bleeding on him quite a bit.

Your wounds begin to close at Mjorðir's touch.

Katla looks over the dying outlaw and declares "I, too, shall lend my share of the bounty for his wife."

Mjorðir looks to the shield-maiden and bows. "Let us carry Hallvard back to Wulfheim, so that we might fulfil our oaths – both to the dead and the living."

Inside the hof, Tígris reaches down and picks up the circlet, tucking it away as he slips off into the surrounding wilderness with his cat by his side in search of a wild beast. He moves through the wilderness silent and unseen as the breeze, every one of his senses and his companions trained for the sound or spoor of prey.

Your hunt reveals a small hare, its coat snow-white. You can send your cat to fetch the beast, if you wish.

Tígris gives a barely-audible growl to catch Stilke's attention, then he gestures for the big cat to go and fetch the creature.

Stilke catches the hare easily, and presents the beas.

Tígris slits the hare's throat and anoints the circlet with its life-bood as he chants a traditional hunters prayer to the Vanir Ullr in Álfari, carving out the still sluggishly-beating heart and offering it to the god as a sacrifice.

The runes of the circlet glow.

Tígris gives a ritual chant of thanks before slowly placing the circlet on his head.

Back at the hof, Dagny pats Ragnvaldr lightly on his back. "That was stupid of you. Brave, fierce, worthy of songs and all that... but stupid." She laughs softly.

Ragnvaldr spits blood again and smiles wanly "I never... claimed to be clever...."

Katla seeing Ragnvaldr is being cared for, enters the hof to search for anything of interest.

Tígris, you notice that the jewel you always carry seems to be glowing very dully - a slight flicker, so dim and brief that you might have imagined it. But a flicker nonetheless.

Tígris notes his location, memorizing the lay of the land and its orientation.

Katla, there's quite a bit of treasure here. The outlaw's trove includes a significant sum of gold and silver coin as well as hack-silver. Hallvard's stout bow also lies nearby. The silver circlet seems to be missing...

Katla examines the longbow and tests it to ensure that she can draw it; finding this to be so, she carefully un-strings it and wraps it in cloth to shield it from moisture. Katla also collects some arrows and aurar that appear to be Hallvard's loot.

Mjorðir, meanwhile, wraps Hallvard's body with his own furs and hefts the swift-chilling corpse.

Katla feels done gathering treasure, and exits the temple.

Dagny smirks. "More gold for his widow? Or perhaps you decided to make up your share and then some."

"I declared I'd donate my share of the reward. There is more loot still inside if you care to help yourselves to it."

The forest looks gloomy indeed... you can hear snapping twigs and creaking boughs within, and feel as if you are watched.

"Let us press home," Mjorðir suggests. "The Ironwood is fell and full of eyes."

Dagny shrugs. "Point-ears already yoinked the good stuff anyway." She stuffs whatever gold she can carry into her pockets and heads out. Dagny stuffs a little into Ragnvaldr's pouch too, poor guy.

"He did?" Katla smiles. "Good for him, then."

Mjorðir just raises a bone-white brow.

"Come now, Mjorðir. It is a waste to leave Hallvard's belongings in there. He has no need for them anymore, while the living need all they can muster in this time of peril."

Tígris slips back in and rejoins the party some way down the trail.

Some time after you depart, you hear howling behind you. Turning you see several large shapes at the hof - Vargar, the demon-wolves of Ironwood. They watch you as you descend back to the plain. Upon one of them you glimpse a rider – a tall, long-haired woman, with hair black as night and eyes that gleam green in the gloom. No sooner have you seen her than she and her pack lope back into the forest.

"I'm sure glad we're not wandering around here at night loaded down with gold and carrying a wounded man." Dagny mutters. "Oh wait."

The rest of your journey back to Wulfheim is uneventful. It is dark by the time you return, but when they see who it is who approaches the gate the guards open it for you.

Mjorðir shouts to the gate-wardens, "Hail and well-met, sons of Heimdall!"

"Well met, lawspeaker," a guard says, stepping through the gate. "Whose body is that you bear?"

"Hallvard, kinslayer of Hamdir, husband of Hlif, and father of Alof."

"That níðing? Why would you bring his corpse back to Wulfheim?"

"For justice and the glory of the gods."

Dagny points out, "Can't ban a corpse."

"To prove that he has been slain," Katla says.

"We seek Thordis now, and Hlif later," Mjorðir shouts.

"Very well. Enter, then."

"May your eyes pierce the night," Mjorðir adds in parting.

You pass beyond the palisade. At this time of the night the streets have mostly been cleared, though a few without roofs over their heads still huddle under the eaves of buildings.

Dagny goes home. She'll bring Katla and Ragnvaldr along if they want to hide their treasure in her house. Not point-ears or the new guy though.

"To Thordis, then," Mjorðir says when their initial affairs are settled.

Tígris whistles and sends his cat loping off outside the settlement.

Katla helps with carrying the corpse.

Thordis' residence is a fine longhouse close to the jarl's keep, well-guarded by thralls in iron collars. Unlike the house Hlif sheltered in, it looks like this home is occupied only by Thordis and her servants. When they see Hallvard's body they admit you to a warm chamber with a wolf-fur rug and a crackling hearth, where Thordis sits.

"Sorry to bother you at this hour-" Katla says. "-but important news should not wait, no?"

"Oaths do not reckon the hour," Mjorðir declares.

She rises from her seat. "The ergi is dead." She spits. "Justice has been done. Your payment." She gestures, and one of her thralls produces a chest of carved bone, brimming with coins. "May Nidhogg feast on his corpse on Náströnd..." she mutters. "Take him from my sight. I would look no more upon him."

Tígris glances curiously at the bone, trying to place the species.

This looks like Orm-bone, Tígris – the bones of a dragon.

"May justice watch you," Mjorðir says, hefting Hallvard's corpse and motioning for the others to carry the chest.  "And may Týr judge each soul's worth," he intones with a final, grim parting.

Tígris nods, following Mjorðir out. "Well spoken, bard."

Mjorðir nods, then leads the group to the now-other widow's residence, treasure and corpse in tow.

You return to Hlif's house, whose residents are now mostly sleeping, huddling close for warmth. Hlif, however, is awake, tending to the fire. Her eyes widen when she sees Hallvard. Tears roll down her cheeks.

Mjorðir tenderly carries Hallvard's body to her, than reverently retells his heroic choice, battle, and spoken love for her and their daughter. Mjorðir then presents her with Hallvard's death-gift.

Hlif is angry, at first, but sees the honour in Hallvard's death. She dries her eyes, cradling Hallvard's head. When you present the gold she cries again, but accepts it gladly.

"He was a brave and noble man," Tígris says. "I will tell the tale of his courage and honour in the halls of the Álfar before Freyr himself."

"And Freyr shall hear it and receive you as an honourable woman."

"I shall have the Gothi give him a proper funeral, if he agrees. Perhaps this tale will convince him."

“If you will allow it, my tongue shall join yours in spreading the tale; together, we shall persuade the Gothi of Hallvard’s mind’s worth. I would see him properly flame-farwelled."


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Re: The Fimbulvinter Saga
« Reply #17 on: January 03, 2015, 07:06:11 PM »
IC: Fitt XII: Jól
Traditionally, Jól is a great feasting-time in the Northlands, celebrated in the depths of mid-winter in honour of Odin in his guise as Jólnir, the Yule-Father. Usually a time of joy, Jól even lends its name to this month, the last of the year. The feast should last for three nights, with sacrifices given to Odin, Njord, and Freyr - the Jólblót - and toasts made to the King, along with the ritual burning of bonfires.

But now, in this worst of all winters, Jól looks to be a grim and humourless affair. In these ill-fated days when the bellies of all men growl like wolves and children starve in the snow, there is barely enough food to keep the dwindling populace of Midgard alive, let alone to hold a three-day feast.

With Jól approaching fast, the mood in Wulfheim is even gloomier than normal; the first of the three feast-days should be tomorrow, on Odin's Day. The normally festive atmosphere is subdued and bitter. Facing such an unpleasant Yuletide has soured the spirits of those in the settlement.

Andreas, though the Faithful no longer celebrate the heathen festival of Yule revering Odin, they still hold three feast-days to mark the revelations of Theophany, replacing the sacrifices to Jólnir with a sacramental mass in honour of the Father and his prophets. Theophany is preceded by fasting and the ceremonial repentance of the year’s sins. The wounds you suffered fighting the wolves at the thingstead have now fully healed. Your dreams have been troubled, your slumber fitful. Nightly you prayed to the Father and the Saints for guidance. On the third night, your prayers were answered, and you were granted a vision - a vision of the Star of St. Mark, or so you guess.

In your revelation you saw the green-eyed witch you glimpsed in Austerborg, fur-clad, her skin pale as snow. First you see her riding across a great plain of snow, surrounded by men and certain fell things that hovered at the edge of your vision; next she approaches a fell wood, its trees black-barked and gnarled; this she enters, passing along shadowy paths alight with the gleaming eyes of beasts or queerer things.

Finally she reaches a clearing surrounded by vast trees taller and more ancient than any you have seen. You can see the corpses of men and paler, fairer creatures that might be Elves dangling from the boughs of these behemothic trees, impaled on their branches or hung with thick creepers. A shape stirs in the gloom, and a voice speaks in the tongue of Giants. The witch kneels and takes out something from her robe - something which glows with a holy light...

Andreas huddles by the fire, leafing through his scripture. His brows furrow in concentration, and he presses a hand to his forehead as if pained by an ache.

Dagny is even more surly than usual. She's sitting in the corner of the mead-hall, scrawling on a napkin.

Katla loiters near the fireplace, sharpening her daggers for want of better things to pass the time with.

Kylfa sits cross-legged by the fire, his great weathered hands planted on his hide-clad legs.

Mjorðir presently passes Jól's eve by throwing bones with whomever will join him.  

You find a few of the Jarl's Hirdmenn to throw bones with you. One proposes a small bet on the outcome. "Five silver pennings to make things interesting?" the man asks.

Mjorðir nods somewhat, a little deep in his cup and in thought of warmer, brighter days gone. He unknots a braid-bead, glass blown and golden like summer sunrise. "Double," he says.

The man smiles. "Very well. I miss the Yule-games... I suppose there won't be many this year."

Mjorðir tosses the bones.

You win, Mjorðir. The man scowls and hands over your winnings. "Well, I'd best go to the gates. I'm due to stand guard on the palisade."

"Aye," Mjorðir says, half-attentive to his victory, "My sons also loved the games. They will be missed..." Mjorðir gathers his winning, re-braiding his bead and collecting the silver. "May Heimdall stand with you upon your watch," he says, sliding back three of the coins.

The warrior smiles. "Ah, thank you, skald. I'll catch less of an earful from my wife."

Mjorðir smiles at the parting guard. "Less is better than none."

Dagny waves to Katla and slides in next to her, glancing at Andreas. "Hey. That weirdo guy you showed up here with. What's his story?"

"Do you mean Andreas, here? He's a Fatherman from the south. Crazy as that sounds, I know, but he's proven himself in combat before my eyes, and I got no quarrel with him."

Dagny shakes her head. "Yeah... a Fatherman huh? Don't see too many of those. Trying to spread the faith and whatever? I'd love to see what lord cock has to say to him."

Katla puts away her iron dagger and continues to sharpen the strange silverly one she recently acquired, pausing to examine the fine craftsmanship. "I doubt he'll get along with Mjorðir. His kind doesn't respect our gods of the north."

Mjorðir rises, his game done, and heads over to the shield-maiden. "Greetings, Katla."

"Greetings to you as well, Mjorðir."

Andreas closes the tome with a snap. He regards Dagny from the corner of one eye, and then turns to Kylfa. "Tell me of your own traditions, Kylfa. How do the Kvenlanders welcome the coming winter?"

Kylfa hums deeply for a moment, and then replies to Andreas.  "In similar ways, I think."  He shrugs.  "I did not often partake."

"Ah. Was the company boisterous? The fire too warm?"

Kylfa scratches his beard.  "I cannot say.  It has been some time since I lived among men."

Andreas nods politely, letting it lie at that. "Myself, I have felt the hunger in my belly, and I have felt the searing heat that is the guilt of my sins dance behind my eyes. But I let it go, and remember the lesson learned in the sinning."

The hunter and Thegn of the Jarl, Starkad - a weathered, bearded man of sinewy physique - enters the Well of Joy, a bow slung over his shoulder. Spotting you, he heads over towards Katla and Dagny, nodding to Kylfa also.

"Drake-hunters," he says. "Are your blades sharp and your bow-strings taut? I have another hunt for us, if you are willing to ride by my side."

Kylfa responds to Starkad.  "It is another Drake you are after?"

Mjorðir similarly greets the Jarl's Thegn.

Dagny looks over at Starkad. "We, uh..." She shrugs and lets someone else talk.

"Well met Starkad. Enjoying the Jól?" Katla hails the Thegn. "My blade is always sharp."

"Not yet, Katla." Starkad shakes his head, but he is smiling. "And no, Kylfa, it is no Drake I propose we hunt. A great herd of aurochs has been sighted southwest of Wulfheim, in the White Waste. How such a herd has survived so long I do not know, though it’s said that they’re mad, stampeding across the plain. Hunting such beasts would be dangerous, but their meat would feed Wulfheim for weeks, and give us a Yule feast greater than any here would dare hope for. What say you?"

Kylfa 's bushy eyebrows raise, and he turns to face Starkad, still seated.  "That is interesting.  Though I
am not a skilled hunter of swift beasts."

"Warriors' arms grow weak with hunger," Katla concurs. "This bodes ill indeed, so any venture to secure meat is a worthy quest for us to take upon."

"I say a feast for all sounds good, wolf-winter or no," Mjorðir says.

Dagny sighs. "I suppose you'd rather go DO THAT than do my idea which would, you know, feed people without having to risk getting trampled?"

"What idea is that, rune-caller?" Mjorðir asks.

Starkad cocks an eyebrow. "Yes, what would you propose?"

Andreas raises his voice, just slightly. "It would be good to feed the people. But let us hear the witch's words."

"Witch?" Mjorðir says in surprise at Andreas' words.

Andreas favours Mjorðir with a raised eyebrow. "That is what she is, if I am not mistaken. It is no insult to be named as you are."

Dagny whips out the napkin, which is full of Dvergar runes. "Conjured food. Lots of it."

Starkad's face darkens. "Conjured? I'll not eat your bewitched food, no matter the quantity. Jarl Wulfgar would never sanction such a feast."

Dagny rolls her eyes. "Yeah, let's all sit in the cold and the dark and be hungry instead."

"If our arrows fly true, our bellies need not be empty," Starkad insists.

Dagny sighs. "Fine. Whatever. I'll try not to rub off my bewitchery on any of the meat I kill."

Starkad sighs. "I am sorry, Dagny. I meant no offence."

"Surely the flesh of great beasts, taken by force and daring, will prove more filling than any brought forth by witchcraft," Katla says.

"At the moment... you're completely right. I still need to perfect the incantations. It requires resources I don't have. And have basically jack shit chance of getting." Dagny eyes Starkad and Mjorðir with that last part.

"And perhaps the gods will be amused by our bravery and honour us as we honour them," Mjorðir says to group. "Our take pity on us," he says with the hint of a smile.

Starkad rubs his beard. "Perhaps... perhaps we can speak of this later, Dagny. Even if we fell an aurochs – or several – their meat will not last all Fimbulvinter." He speaks softly.

Mjorðir regards Andreas, his dress, and his book. "You must be the utlendr, the Fatherman."

"I am of the North, though perhaps not quite so much as you. The Father shepherds me on my path."

"You can count on my help with this undertaking, Starkad," Katla declares.

"I knew I could, shield-maiden! What of the rest of you?"

Dagny nods. "Mine too. Sadly, Ragnvaldr's in no shape to travel."

Starkad nods. "Aye, I heard he is recuperating after his holmgang with Hallvard. That battle was well-fought, if rumour is to be believed."

"Rumour speaks true in this case," Katla puts in. "I witnessed the duel myself."

"Well-fought, indeed, with both man and gods to witness," Mjorðir adds to the Thegn's remark.

"You must tell me more. Perhaps as we travel together.

"The provenance of food concerns me not, so long as it fills the belly and maintains the soul," Andreas proclaims. "My arm is strong, and my aim true with thrown spear. I will come on this hunt."

"My arm serves the jarl and his people, as always," Mjorðir says to Starkad.

 "I have no arrows," Kylfa says to nobody in particular, "and it is hard to catch an aurochs with claws."

Starkad turns to Kyfla. "We have arrows aplenty in the Jarl's keep," he says.

"Of course, a heavy rock thrown just so to catch a bull between its eyes will fell it as surely as an arrow," Andreas says. "How true is your aim, friend Kylfa?"

Kylfa shrugs.  "I have never shot a bow, and the log I threw to fell that drake was truthfully a very lucky one.  But perhaps I may run fast enough to help."

"Well I'll go get my axe and we can be off," Dagny declares.

Andreas stands and sweeps his rich fur cloak about himself. He adopts the posture of a man at wait.

Kylfa stands slowly. "What little aid I can give, I shall."

"I already have full quivers, although any arrows of special kind could be useful," Katla says.

Starkad turns to Katla. "We have a few of cold-forged iron, and some of silver. Would such be of interest?"

"They would indeed be. Perhaps not for piercing the hearts of aurochs – but we've seen strange and fell creatures in the night before. Such apparitions may cross our paths yet again."

"I will go an fetch them, then. I shall meet you all by the gates - do any of you require steeds?"

Katla nods at theThegn. "I have my own."

"A wind-racer would be well-received," Mjorðir answers.

"You shall have one, song-spinner," Starkad says, nodding to Mjorðir.

"I shall come and help then, both with the steed and the bow-rain," the skald replies.

Dagny gets a cup of mead to go, and brings it to Ragnvaldr while she goes home to get her axe.

Ragnvaldr gladly accepts Dagny's mead, gulping it heartily and wishing her a good Yuletide.

Katla dons her chainmail, prepares her weapons, and leaves the mead hall to head to the stables where her mounts are kept.

In the snow-strewn streets of Wulfheim there is an air of despondency. Only a few households have even bothered to put out the Yule lights - the leftover stumps of candles hoarded over the year and lit in windows and on tables to bring light to the long dark of midwinter. Along with the burning of the Yule log, these lights show the spirits of the ancestors, who sometimes return at Jól, that they are welcome in the homes of the living.

A few children scamper about dressed in goat-skins, singing songs and performing small skits re-enacting tales of the gods in exchange for a sip of beer or a morsel of food; down the street you can see a boy in a false beard performing as Thor, wrestling with a girl who has painted her face with wrinkles to resemble Elli, the personification of old age and nurse of the giant Skrymir of Utgard, played by a third and fourth child nearby, one boy sitting on another's shoulders.

As in the story, Elli defeats Thor, at which point Skrymir allows Thor and Loki - played here by a red-haired girl with another false beard - to sleep and feast in his castle. The adults the children are playing for try their best to show their appreciation, but they can spare only a small flask of wine and a bit of dried fish for the performers.

You arrive at the stables, Katla, where your horse had been fed and watered. Your fees and those of your companions have been paid by the Jarl, in thanks for slaying two of the Drakes.

Kylfa finds his horse as well.

Dagny sighs at the pathetic excuses for candles. If the Jarl hates magic food, magic light probably won't go over so well, either.

Andreas gently brushes his hand through the mane of his steed, and feeds it half a dried apple.

Kylfa whispers to the horse for a while, then very awkwardly mounts it - the sight of this stooped, hulking skin-clad man perched atop a rather normal-sized horse is more than a bit ridiculous.

Dagny shows up at the gate, no winter coat, no horse.

You lead your mounts to the gates. Wulfheim's Gothi, Brúnn, can be seen by the gates tending to a group of newcomers, some of them wounded from what looks like a wolf-attack, to judge from the bites they bear - though some also seem to have been burned. Calling on Freya to speed in the healing process, Brúnn's face looks troubled. He strokes his grey-blond beard pensively.

Starkad and Mjorðir arrive at the gate, bearing arrows and two horses, along with hunting equiupment for dragging the aurochs. The Thegn looks at Dagny curiously.

Andreas slows his mount as he observes the commotion. He catches the eye of the Gothi. "Trouble, grandfather?" he asks.

Brúnn looks up at Andreas. "Some trouble, yes..."

Andreas pulls his horse in a gentle circle, and dismounts with care. "Tell me of it, then. Perhaps I can lend my hands in aid."

Katla mounts her horse and hails the newcomers. "Travelers! Do you bring news from the road to Wulfheim?"

"We were attacked by wolves!" one of the newcomers says. "And a giantess, riding one of them, smoke-haired and spitting flame, using vipers for reins!"

"Someone's drunk," Dagny mumbles.

Brúnn ignores Dagny's words. "If their eyes did not lie I fear they glimpsed Hyrrokkin, one of the Grief-Bringer's daughters, who long dwelt in Jotunheim. They say she breathes fire and can boil a man's blood with a look. If you're venturing out to hunt you'd best be wary of her..."

"That... uh, and you're SURE you want to go out hunting? Seriously, I can almost make a biscuit that won't quite break your teeth."

"Come Dagny, I know you are no craven," Starkad says. "You who faced down a Fire-Drake in its nest!"

Dagny sighs. "Yeah, yeah."

Katla accepts the quivers from Starkad, sticking them in her saddlebags

"I met a giant once," Andreas says contemplatively. "Rude and vicious and strong. It took a dozen men to tie him down and put him to the question."

Kylfa scratches his chin.  "I have not heard of this giantess."

Starkad looks grim. "We will be riding away from Ironwood, not towards it. But we should be on our guard anyway."

Katla considers Brúnn's words. "Better to fall in glorious battle against a giantess than starve to death from fear of one! We'll dare the wilds to hunt for aurochs, this Hyrrokkin be damned." She declares boldly.

"Well spoken, shield-maiden!" Mjorðir thunders his fist against his shield in agreement.

"While battle is rarely glorious – and death less so – your sentiment is sound, Katla," Andreas says.

Katla nods at Andreas. "In that, at least, we can agree."

"Mjorðir, take care with Rimba," Starkad says, indicating your horse. "She belongs to Yngvarr, kinsman to the Jarl."

"I will honour the charge, as best as the gods allow me." Mjorðir handles Rimba, acquainting himself with Yngvarr's steed.

Dagny steps out of the gate. She murmurs a few words, flashing green for an instant. She takes a runner's stance, mumbling again. Then she takes off running, a trail of dusty snow kicked up behind her. As she reaches top speed, she leaps into the air! The snow congeals into a majestic white speed underneath her, the gallop unabated.

You head west from Wulfheim, riding across the undulating foothills. Thunder rumbles across the frigid desolation known as the White Waste. The farms and fields that once filled this plain are mostly burnt or buried in snow. To one side rise the Orm-Fells, dark and jagged against the bone-pale sky; across the plain you can see what looks like a brewing storm, crawling across the Waste towards the mountains. Starkad shivers. "Have any of you skills as trackers? To hunt these aurochs we must first find sign of them."

"Aye, I am well versed in the hunt and chase," Katla asserts. Katla rides forth in search of tracks

"I have hunted man and beast both. If they are here, I will find them." Andreas scans the drifting snows, looking for any sign.

Kylfa nods.

Mjorðir rides up to Dagny and her conjured steed, "Your snow-mount, is it birthed by runes?"

Dagny nods. "Something like that," she answers.

"It is well-done and beautiful to behold, a thing of songs and dreams."

Kylfa scratches his beard, examining the snow, but says nothing.

Dagny points in the wrong direction. "Hey, tracks, going this way."

Starkad chuckles at Dagny's mistake. "You are a woman of many talents, Dagny, but it seems tracking is not one of them."

Andreas and Katla, you find some tracks in the snow – the aurochs have been here, their hoof-prints deep. There are at least thirty of the great beasts. Some of these tracks are not those of aurochs, but of horses; most have been effaced by the aurochs, but some are still distinct.

"A mighty herd...But horses too. Does someone trail our prize?" Andreas climbs atop his horse. "Close together with the cattle. We should be quick in either case."

"Whether they are after the beasts or not, they may be in our path," Katla observes. "We'd better be wary of men, too."

Starkad nods. "Let's hasten, then."

Andreas bulls his horse through the snow.

Dagny frowns and mumbles to herself, and rides along.

You spot a dark, bulky shape lying half-buried in the snow off to one side of the path. You glimpse movement near it.

Dagny, eager to redeem herself for her earlier mistake, quickly points it out... but everyone probably already saw.

Andreas hefts a javelin in hand and trots his horse to circle wide about the form.

Katla rides slowly closer to get a better view.

Mjorðir follows, but scans the horizon.

Crouched over the eviscerated corpse of an aurochs are two squat, spindly figures - gaunt, putrescent things like walking cadavers, fell lights smouldering in their near-skeletal faces. They wear rusted armour and carry notched blades and cloven shields marked with a sigil resembling two intertwined serpents, ghastly green and monstrously fanged. The unliving pair are feasting on the dead aurochs, shoveling gobs of flesh and organs into their mouths; their bellies are swollen near to bursting with the stuff, but their appetites are insatiable.

Kylfa snarls.  "The dead!"

"Draugar," Andreas hisses, he lets a javelin fly.

Andreas, your javelin goes wide!

Katla snarls. "Fell things!" She dismounts her horse and readies her bow, nocking an arrow. "I have heard rumours of such Aptrgangar, a large horde moving in the western lands"

"Hel's teats!" Mjorðir curses at the gory sight.

Dagny, these look to be the shades of the dead, revenants of some kind, either raised by dark magic or somehow crossed over from Hel. They may resist blunt weapons, but blades would be effective against them – or fire.

Mjorðir, you're unsure what these things are, but you recognize that sigil - it belongs to none other than Loki himself!

Dagny flips her axe up into her hand, hopping off her horse and flinging it at the nearest of the two foul creatures.

Your axe embeds itself in the Aptrgangr's decomposing flesh with a spurt of half-coagulated blood. The creature makes a choked, rasping sound and tears the weapon loose.

Kylfa "dismounts" from his horse by sort of rolling off of it, grunts, and moves towards the creatures, club and shield in hand.

"Trip over your beard?" Dagny smirks.

Kylfa mutters as he hustles past her, "I do not ride."

The creatures shamble towards Kylfa, drawing their rusted swords. They are slow, lurching along and trailing blood from the dead aurochs.

Andreas charges at the Draug, his long-axe held wide – silver script glittering on the blade.

Your long axe cleaves through armour and hacks off one of the walking corpse's arms at the elbow!

Katla easily pulls back the string of her great heavy bow, her muscles bulging. She takes aim at the Aptrgangr that Andreas just dismembered, and lets the arrow fly with a sharp twang. Her arrow lands on the forehead of the again-walker, embedding into its skull with a meaty thwack. The unnatural vigour in the creature's eyes dims and vanishes as its body falls limp to the ground.

Mjorðir spurs Rimba with a mighty cry to Tyr, “Wolf-Leavings, regard thy son!” He charges the remaining aptrgangr, attempting to cleave its gods-cursed neck with Randgríð’s hungry edge. The valkyrie-carved edge bites ravenously. The Hel-shade's head falls. Mjorðir flicks the blade, sending its foul ichor like shed tears into the snow.

The head rolls away, screaming in Helmál, the torturous tongue of the dishonoured dead. It continues to screech even after severed.

Andreas rests his axe on his shoulder. "Devil's work," he spits.

"Gjöll drown out your babbling," Mjorðir says to the shrieking head.

It hisses at you and gnashes its teeth. The head seems to refuse to die.

Andreas strides over and steps on the head, crushing it under his boot.

Brains spatter beneath your boot as the skull is splintered. The thing at last falls quiet.

"Let it rage in the inferno without eyes to see or ears to hear."

Dagny's axe flies off the ground and returns to her hand. She wipes it off in the snow. "Well that was... almost not worth the time."

Kylfa grunts.

"As I said, there's been talk of these things being sighted by scouts," Katla says. "Supposedly a large herd of 'em to the west. We better take heed of that lore..."

Starkad pulls his mount up. "I'd heard rumour that such things were haunting the lands west of here, but I had no idea they'd come so close to Wulfheim..."

"If they are drawing near it might spell peril upon the town," Katla says.

Starkad nods to Katla. "We should speak of this to Hrothik when we return."

Kylfa silently returns to his mount and climbs awkwardly back up.

Katla glances disgustedly at the aurochs carcass. "I'd rather not sink my teeth on meat that has been befouled by the drool of these unclean cadavers."

"Nor I," Mjorðir agrees.

Dagny, you inspect the dead beast closely. The creature was killed by a spear-thrust - extremely neat, at a vital spot. Whoever slew it was a skilled hunter indeed. The meat, however, is mostly gone, eaten by the voracious Again-Walkers - and they may have contaminated the remaining flesh...

Dagny ambles over to the aurochs, fanning her hand in front of herself. "Me neither. Thing is, this wasn't killed by some shambling horde. A hunter did this."

"A hunter?"  Mjorðir asks.

"One spear thrust to the vitals, and dead."

"Strange that one would leave such a feast. Especially in this wolf-age."

"That is strange," Katla agrees. "Perhaps the hunter was driven away by these Draugar?"

Andreas retrieves his javelin and quietly remounts his horse.

"Perhaps," Mjorðir says to Katla's suggestion.

Starkad frowns. "Yes, you're right, wise-one. Why would a skilled hunter leave dead game? Surely this pair of wretches couldn't have driven off a seasoned warrior!"

"Perhaps it was no hunter, but a killer," Andreas muses. "I have heard of such things, slaying a beast for the joy of it."

"Such waste! Foolish killers of game should themselves be hunted down in these times." Katla returns to her horse and remounts.

Andreas nods.

"Let us seek game more hale and whole," Mjorðir urges.

Kylfa shrugs.  "If you want what is left, I could unspoil it.  But there is not much, it seems to me." Kylfa rides slowly over to the carcass. He extends a hand, hums in a low tone, and purifies the food, removing any spoilage or disease.

Dagny smirks at Starkad. "Does that count as bewitched meat?"

Starkad smirks. "Aye, I'd say so." He rubs his beard. "We should heap some snow on the beast and mark its body with a stone or spear. That way we can continue the hunt without being slowed, and retrieve the beast later."

Dagny hops back on her horse, which was waiting oddly still, not shuffling even slightly about, like a normal horse might.

"A wise suggestion, Starkad." Mjorðir spurs Rimba, "To the herd – or what is left of it!"

Starkad turns to Dagny. "No need to tell the Jarl that the Aptrgangar were feasting on it, eh?"

"I won't if you won't."

He nods and jumps down from his horse, hastily covering the aurochs with snow and marking it with a javelin before remounting. "Let's continue, then!"

Katla follows the tracks.

Dagny, you think you actually have the trail this time! Kylfa, however, leads the way, tracking carefully through the snow, Katla trailing close behind.

Mjorðir rides over to the Hel-shade's shields. He hooks each with Randgríð, defaces their sigil, and thrusts them standing up beside Starkad's javelin. Mjorðir then follows the trackers.

Kylfa hums as he follows the tracks on horseback, occasionally pausing to lean from his horse and examine the ground.

Andreas's cloak is caught by an errant gust, flying into his face as he tries to read the tracks.

Katla observes Kylfa's tracking efforts curiously. "You follow the game well, great bear. Has your nose caught scent of the trail?"

Kylfa grunts.  "And my ears."

You hear a tremendous cacophony up ahead on the plain, its sources still obscured by the swirling snow - the sound is colossal, like the multitudinous striking of Dvergar hammers on anvils of Niðavellir, or the pounding of giant drums in Jötunheim. The very ground trembles and quakes. The aurochs-herd must be nearby.

"Mjölnir's echo," the skald whispers at the hammering cacophony.

"It's hard to miss, now," Dagny says.

Starkad pulls up beside you. "How should we approach?" He readies a spear.

Dagny scratches her head. "Find out which way they're going, make a hole, let some fall in."

"Do you have magic enough for such a pit?"

Dagny nods. "I could bag one or two, I think. Depends on how many you want."

"We should observe their movement," Katla argues. "It does no good to be caught on their path should the herd panic, they might trample us."

"I do not often hunt in this way," Kylfa says. "But it is the wolf's way to find the weak ones and catch them as they lag behind.  Or we may drive them into a deadfall, as you say."

Mjorðir listens to the other's advice. Criminals, rather than aurochs, are his typical quarry.

"We should try and fell at least as many as we can drag back to Wulfheim," Katla says. "Which is not going to be very many"

"They are great creatures. We need not kill the whole herd - I doubt even a skilled hunter would even be capable of such a feat, unless he had many companions indeed. But we should try and down at least three or four, I think."

"I can make another freezing breath, as I did against the Drake," Kylfa notes. "But I do not know how well the meat would be after that."

Dagny shrugs. "I reheated plenty of frozen food back when I worked at the Well of Joy."

Kylfa nods.  "I can do this.  But I must be within thirty feet, or so."

Gyllhani rises from Mjorðir's furred mantle, to gaze upon the herd.

Kylfa, your keen ears prick up. In the distance, somewhat behind you, you can see a patch of dark cloud and frenzied flurries of snow moving rapidly across the plain, and glimpse a flash of lightning within the incipient blizzard. The thunder-call almost sounds like the blast of a hunting horn. The storm is still some ways away, but it is growing nearer.

Kylfa straightens in his saddle and turns around.  "There is a storm coming," he says. "Lightning, and thunder like a horn-call.  Or a horn-call like thunder.  It is coming this way."

"Horn-call, you say," Katla says. "Could that be a hunter's horn?"

"If it is, it is the mightiest of horns, and it is a hunter who rides in dark clouds."

"So in other words we better hurry up," Dagny puts in.

"Let's ride closer, then. I don't like the look of those clouds, distant though the thunder-call may be..."

"May it be the gods hunt themselves, to prepare a Yuletide feast of their own?" Mjorðir asks.

"Ill tidings befall us," Katla says darkly. "But we must not abandon our task."

Kylfa grunts.  "Very well.  Let us go with speed."

Andreas speeds his mount with his knees, free hand gripping tight to a javelin.

A great herd of aurochs – a breed of massive, horned cattle, some only a little smaller than Southron elephants – seethes across the blinding emptiness of the White Waste. There are perhaps thirty of these great beasts, the heat from their bodies making the snow steam, their gleaming hooves kicking up a white cloud as they charge across the plain. A chorus of panicked-sounding groans issues from the churning press of fur and flesh, though they seem to be ignoring you and your horses.

Kylfa, even from this distance you can tell that most of the herd are female. There's only one bull, marked by his size and musculature.

Kylfa shouts as they ride, "There is but one bull among them... but for him, this herd is all female!"

Dagny rides behind. "Probably thinks he's hot shit, too."

Mjorðir follows, Langlif and Randgríð held tightly. "Shall we slay the bull?"

"If you do that, they will not breed..." Kylfa reasons. "And I do not know how much longer this winter will last.  You may come to wish there were more of them."

Starkad nods. "Some of the females will provide us with plentiful meat, and likely give us less of a fight, as well."

Dagny chimes in, "Lord cock isn't big on logic."

Kylfa grunts.  "Just be ready should the male turn to defend them."

Ragnvaldr spurs his steed across the wastes, Aslaug darting close at heel.

The warrior appears out of the snow, his hound running beside his horse. He's still a bit bandaged, but he looks hale enough.

Andreas spots rider and dog, a grin springing to his lips. "Ragnvaldr!" he calls "Couldn't miss the hunt?"

Ragnvaldr hefts his spear in silent greeting, his beard slashed across by a lopsided grin

Dagny looks over her shoulder and almost falls off her horse. "You... you seriously didn't...."

"Ragnvaldr!" Mjorðir calls out.

"What the? Rangvaldr!" Katla laughs, her surprise melting away quickly. "Should have expected something like this from you."

Ragnvaldr grins around at his companions "Come now, a few sword-cuts are not enough to stay my hand for long."

Mjorðir greets the spear-warrior warmly, then turns to the bear-man and Starkad. "Wisdom you both seek. And reach with your words."

Ragnvaldr reins in alongside Andreas. "Greetings, Fatherman. How goes the hunt?"

Andreas glances forward, then back. "We have found our prey. But this storm behind seems unnatural. Perhaps it joins us." Andreas frowns at that.

Kylfa rides closely behind the others, waiting for his chance to close in for an attack.

A copse of trees is visible up ahead - the aurochs-herd begins to divide itself into two groups to avoid them. If you follow along, the herd will form two halves, each numbering about fifteen. The bull moves with the group to the left.

"Right," Andreas says "Let us ride and earn our meat."

"Aye. It is high time we begin the hunt!" Katla declares.

"We should avoid the bull, if we can..." Kylfa rides right and gestures for others to follow. He shouts, "Stay clear, follow me – I would not wish to catch you with my magic!" Kylfa rides as close as he can in an effort to get as many of the creatures as possible in range of his spell.

Dagny flips her wand into her hand and pushes her mount hard to get ahead of the herd.

You are keeping pace with the herd but fail to get very far ahead.

Kylfa calls to Andreas, "Wait!"

Andreas nods to the shaggy Kvenlander; he grips the javelin tightly as he mutters under his breath. "While other spears clattered against its hide, Antony's lance alone truck true, for his faith was sound and sure. It pierced the demon's eye, and so it fell upon the ground!"

Kylfa rides as close to the front of the herd as he can reach.  Then, straitening in the saddle, he puffs up his barrel-chest, and exhales mightily – a storm of freezing ice blasts forth from his lungs!

In the frenzy, your spell fails. Fortunately, the herd have not been alerted to your hostile intentions yet.

Kylfa is jostled too hard as he tries to cast, and instead sneezes, snow shooting out of his nostrils.

Katla waits for Dagny's spell.

Mjorðir rides close to the rune-caller, attempting to aid her sorcery, keeping watch and readying his shield.

Ragnvaldr rides up alongside Dagny and reaches across with his spear to switch at the flanks of her mount, yelling and whooping to drive it on faster.

The horse quickens its pace with a neigh, and Dagny speeds ahead!

Dagny 's horse abruptly accelerates. Dagny gets lifted up, looking a bit more like she's flying than riding. "Aieeeee!" She brings her horse to a stop. With seconds to spare, she picks out a straggler or two at the flanks of the herd, points her wand, and a pit opens underneath them!

The aurochs stumble, several falling headlong into the pit! While the aurochs are only lightly injured, several nearby swerve to try and avoid the pit, crashing into their fellows. Aurochs crash into one another in a hideous crunch of bone, fur, hooves, and flying snow. Blood stains the snow as they crush against one another, bones snapping, horns gouging.

"Odin's eye, wizard!" Mjorðir exclaims with joy at Dagny's success. "How long does this rune-pit last?"

Dagny shakes her head. "Not long. Kill them or they'll be on the run again."

Andreas takes his aim at the thick haunch of a running beast.

Your spear embeds itself in the haunch of an aurochs. It grunts and slows, tripping over itself – though still alive it is badly hurt.

Andreas hops off into knee-deep snow, breaking through it as a ship on tall waves.

Ragnvaldr switches grip and hurls his spear overhand at the beast Andreas just wounded with a grunt of effort.

You're still a little woozy, Ragnvaldr, and your spear strikes the snow!

Ragnvaldr swears "By Unnr's arse!" under his breath, scowling at his own lack of skill.

One of the aurochs swerves around the pit and fixes Dagny – still up ahead – with its glaring, panicked eyes. It charges towards her. The huge beast plows straight into Dagny, but shimmering force sends it reeling. It shakes its head and gallops off into the snow.

One of the straggling aurochs bears down on Andreas, another on Kylfa. The beasts trample past Andreas and Kylfa, hooves pounding! Their heads are lowered, and they toss them to either side, snorting madly.

Andreas grunts as the cow bowls him over.

Katla halts her horse and rolls off the saddle, pulling an arrow from her quiver. Nocking it on her bow she targets the aurochs trying to escape from the pit.

Your arrow takes the aurochs in the neck. It groans in pain and slips back down into the pit!

Mjorðir charges up to the pit-snared beast injured by Katla’s arrow, leans down low, and swings his bearded axe in a vicious slash.

You hack at the great beast, injuring it badly. Blood begins to fill the pit as the aurochs within pant and paw at the slippery snow, trying vainly to free themselves.

Dagny first tries to get out of the way of the rampaging beast!

Dagny, you're free of the beast and well off the path of the rest of the stampede.

Dagny circles around and flings her axe at one of the trapped beasts. Her axe goes spinning through the air and hits the aurochs in the head with a crunch and splat. "Beef for dinner tonight!"

Ragnvaldr rides over to retrieve his fallen spear.

Andreas races after the injured aurochs, snow flying everywhere, long axe held tightly.

Your axe glances against the creature's horns.

Ragnvaldr hurls his spear again, aiming for the general confused mess of flesh, blood, mud and angry bellowing that is the pit.

Your spear slightly overshoots the pit. Clearly the mead you drank earlier went to your head!

Kylfa groans and knits his massive internal injuries.

The aurochs try and fail to leave the pit! The injured one paws the ground and charges Andreas, but it plows past him, kicking up a white cloud of snow.

Katla lets loose another arrow, aimed at the aurochs that just missed Andreas. Her shot arcs whistling across the cold air, piercing the neck of the beast, the arrowhead protruding from the opposite side as the shaft becomes stuck. Blood sprays out from the wound and the animal's mouth as it thrashes and bellows in its death-throes, its cries turning into gurgling noises as the great bulk stumbles and falls on the ground.

Ragnvaldr cheers Katla's killing-shot with a hoarse shout and a raised clenched fist.

Mjorðir continues to hack at the ensnared kine.

Unfortunately the angle is poor, and your axe fails to connect, but you lose your balance and stumble into the pit!

Starkad hurls his spear at one of the aurochs, injuring it badly as it drives deep into the beast's flank.

Dagny scoffs. "Seriously? Seriously, lord cock? SERIOUSLY?"

"Silence, wench!" the skald shouts as he falls from Rimba's side, down into the churning steers, bloodied axe in hand.

As the remaining animals gallop off, a peal of thunder sounds, and you hear the blast a hunting horn. From out of the blizzard moving rapidly towards you some distance half a dozen riders emerge, appearing so suddenly it is as if the snow shaped itself into their forms.

Astride black horses, the riders are corpse-pale and dark-eyed, with streaming hair. Armoured in the hides of beasts, they carry spears and bows, as well as bone hunting horns. Each hunter bears the antlers of a great stag, thrusting up from their heads. Running alongside the riders are two huge, slavering wolf-hounds.

Dagny is about to say something else, but just sees this and doesn't manage anything other than "Well... shit..."


  • Modron
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Re: The Fimbulvinter Saga
« Reply #18 on: January 04, 2015, 07:02:18 AM »
Dagny gets a cup of mead to go, and brings it to Ragnvaldr while she goes home to get her axe.

D'awww, it's almost like she really cares!
all hail the reapers of hope


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Re: The Fimbulvinter Saga
« Reply #19 on: January 04, 2015, 01:23:59 PM »
IC: Fitt XIII: The Wild Hunt
Andreas, these fell riders match heathen accounts of the Wild Hunt, also known as the Raging Host. Formed from the shades of the fallen, the Wild Hunt appears at Yule, bringing storms and snow. They are said to be an ill omen prophesying war and death, and are usually led by Odin himself in the guise of Valkjosandi, the Chooser of the Slain.

Those captured or slain by the Hunt are supposedly swept off to Asgard; the worthy become members of the Host itself, while the unworthy become its prey, released to be hunted through the lands of the dead. Though comprised of spirits of the honoured dead, the Wild Hunt are without mercy and will give no succour even to those dedicated to the Æsir.

Your own teachings holds that the leader of the hunt is not Odin, but Saint Penwald or Saint Nikolaos. Some claim, however, that the Fallen One himself leads the hunt, and that the riders are not the virtuous dead but demons from the Inferno, or damned souls.

Dagny points. "Uh... anyone got any ideas what to do about... you know?"

Ragnvaldr looks at the approaching Wild Hunt, sets his features into a grim, stony mask and goes over to collect his spear once more.

Andreas hefts his last javelin in hand and lets fly. He watches his throw as it speeds through the sky. The javelin arcs gently, falling to drop squarely into the back of a struggling cow, severing its spine.

Mjorðir hacks at the remaining aurochs as it tries to escape, severing one of its limbs. Blood spurts, staining him and the snow.

Kylfa squints at the distance.  "They wish to hunt, not to eat..."  He casts Longstrider on himself and starts moving, on foot, perpendicular to the direction the oncoming riders are coming.

Mjorðir shouts out to the wind and the Wild Hunt: "Odin, God of the Hunt! We hunt for you, for Jól, for Yuletide!"

Mad laughter bellows out across the plain. Make of it what you will!

Dagny calls out, getting slightly more worried, "Are we staying or leaving?"

Kylfa is very obviously leaving.

"I would not stand against the All-father! Let us fly!" Ragnvaldr bellows.

"I have no idea what that is but it doesn't seem... okay, yeah."

Katla mounts her horse, setting away her bow and equipping her shield and longsword. "I do not approve of abandoning our prize." She frowns.

"We'll come back for it. They aren't going to care about prey that is already dead." Dagny rides northwards.

Starkad looks at you in wonder, Katla. "You have a warrior's heart, shield-maiden." He says, preparing to ride.

Katla looks to see what everyone else is going to do.

Kylfa is, in fact, not riding, but running.

Mjorðir hacks with abandon, slick with battle-dew and snow. "Odin, receive your feast!"

Ragnvaldr takes off after Kylfa and Dagny, heels battering at his mount.

Dagny does look over her shoulder as the pit expires to make sure lord cock made it out ok. She's not completely heartless.

Mjorðir, the ground beneath you swells and quakes, and you are returned to the plain.

Mjorðir grabs hold of the last aurochs' horn, half-slipping from the gore, as he shoves Randgríð deep into the beast's gullet, unleashing a font of hot blood to further baptize the skald amidst the pit's slaughter.

Andreas hoists himself into the saddle, furling his cloak imperiously. He fixes the leading hunter with his stern gaze and hoists the sigil of St. Mark before him. "Huntsmen! Know that you are beneath the gaze of the Imperishable Flame! It swirls about you, and it knows you. End your ride, or face the Father's wrath!"

Katla shakes her head at Andreas' words. "The gods of the north care naught for the names you invoke, southerner. They will only respect the edge of your steel, if it is proven worthy."

Ragnvaldr gives a wrenching laugh as the Fatherman's words reach him, shooting a glance back over his shoulder without slackening his pace. "That Fatherman is truly mad!"

Mjorðir is blood-drenched, but as the ground rises below his feet, he looks about, to see if Rimba is in sight.

Rimba is safe and in sight, Mjorðir.

Mjorðir calls to her.

The riders advance, hooves churning the snow beneath them. Three of them are slowing, while three peel off to pursue Dagny, Kylfa, and Ragnvaldr. One wolf follows each hunting-group.

Dagny shakes her head, riding on. She notices the three peeling off. "It looks like his problem is about to become all of our problem..."

Ragnvaldr sees the Wild Huntsmen in pursuit and curses again, then calls out "Dagny! They are after us! Ride!" Then, with a grunt and a shake of his head and a mutter of "Ran's tits!" he pulls up his horse and dismounts.

"You will not touch me, Rider!" Andreas declares.

The leader rider curses as his weapon sizzles. He drops it and it falls to the snow.

"You dare to defy the Furious Host?" the lead rider demands, slowing to a halt. "Get on your horse and give us a chase, or die where you stand." The other two riders draw their bows back.

"And would you riddle me with arrows like a coward? I laugh at you! Face me in honest battle, Huntsman!"

Katla raises her shield and strikes the iron boss once with the blade of Styrkr. Her voice rings loud and clear in the bitter cold air. "Blades will be crossed and strength will test strength, blood will be spilled upon the snow! It is the hour of glory! VALHALLA! I AM READY!"

Dagny throws her hands up and stops her horse. "MAYBE THE REST OF US AREN'T!"

"Very well!" the huntsman declares. The riders dismount!

Katla dismounts as well and advances toward the riders. A furious battle-cry bellows from the bottom of her lungs.

Andreas steps lightly from his horse, long axe on his shoulder.

Katla throws herself at the nearest Wild Hunter.

Your charge takes the hunter by surprise, and he flinches back in pain as your blade sinks into his shoulder.

Mjorðir calls out to the Huntsmen, his lips slick with battle-gore as he chants to the gods above and his allies below."A raven’s toast, we raise to you, Huntsmen! An offering of axe-din and weapon-weather, followed by the wine of the breast-hoard to slake your blood-thirst of ours – for tonight we battle for the pleasure of the Gallows-Lord! I am Mjorðir, Destroyer of Eagle’s Hunger – may the Valkyrie claim their prize!” Mjorðir grimly walks towards his foes, Langlif and Randgríð spread wide like an eagle's wings.

Andreas leaps into the fray, axe held high!

Andreas, you strike at the Wild Hunter before you, drawing dark blood from the shade's chest.

Dagny snaps her fingers and makes a sweeping gesture with her hand, sticky webbing enveloping as many riders and hounds as possible!

One of the riders is snared in the web, along with the wolf! The other two manage to divert their mounts in time.

Kylfa stops running.  "If they are pursuing us, I cannot outrun them."  He casts Aspect of the Bear on himself.

Dagny pumps her fist. "NOT SO TOUGH NOW ARE YOU?"

Ragnvaldr 's battle-voice rings out from between gritted teeth as the riders bear down on him. "Come for me chosen ones! I'll enrich my blade with your redness!" His spear is levelled as the wild huntsmen reach him, and takes the first in the midriff, lifting him from the back of his mount and hurling him backwards into the snow in a shower of gore.

Starkad wheels his mount around and hurls a spear at the remaining rider. The spear rips across the rider's thigh, spraying dark blood.

The Huntsman fighting Andreas jabs the Fatherman with his spear, catching his side. Mjorðir receives a glancing blow.

The Huntsman fighting Katla grimaces in pain, blood oozing slowly from his shoulder. He hisses and and lashes out, impaling her with his spear!

Katla grunts and spits blood, nearly overwhelmed by the terrible wound. She gives herself completely to the feral berserk rush, carrying on fighting, her only concern to slay her opponent before the Valkyries arrive to fetch her soul. She smites the rider with a ferocious blow. Katla cuts the figure before her diagonally across his chest, drawing a bursting spray of blood. The rider staggers back on pain and Katla pulls out her sword, spinning round on her heels to deliver another strike that slashes the man's face, cutting it in half. The figure stands and wobbles on its feet for a heartbeat before it collapses, staining the snow in blood and gore.

Mjorðir accepts the glancing blow, halting neither his grim march nor death-chant. His song calls out to the Maimed God and Týr answers. His wounded flesh reknits itself, healing the worst of his injuries. Then, with the fury of the eagles, the skald leaps, Langlif rushing forward, parting at the last moment so Randgríð can answers with her own sharp-edged song!

The Hunter dodges aside, Mjorðir. The shades move with sickening speed. Overbalancing, you slip on aurochs-blood and nearly fall prone, barely keeping your feet!

Dagny sighs. "This has really gotten out of hand." She points her wand skyward. With a snap of her fingers, rocks of all sizes begin to rain down on the entangled ones, as well as the one that is free.

The wolf whimpers and the riders shriek in pain and fury as stones pelt them.

Overhead, the sky roils with a storm, a rumbling mass of wind, snow, and jagged yellow lightning. You hear cries up above, and see that more riders are actually galloping across the storm-clouds, in pursuit of the remaining aurochs, their hunting horns blowing.

Andreas steps close to the Huntsman, attempting to throw its guard.

The Hunter laughs and dodges your blow, twisting around with preternatural agility. "Your Father will not protect you," he snarls. "Our leader is the All-Father, Lord of the Hunt. Do you think your little god can keep you from me? We will drag your shade back to our hunting ground and make you run before us through the woods of Asgard, and you shall never know respite!"

"The Father saves a man who would save himself. Today is not the day that I will die!"

Ragnvaldr charges one of the remaining Hunters with his spear!

The Hunter moans as the warrior's spear sinks into his thigh.

Kylfa roars and barrels forward to assist Ragnvaldr. His huge club smashes the rider's head, snapping off one of his antlers. Black blood streams down the creature's face. It is near death!

Starkad retreats from the ensnared riders, assuming a protective stance near Dagny, his axe drawn.

Dagny smirks. "What, you don't think I can take care of myself?"

Andreas, the hunter you missed ducks low and jabs out with his spear, catching you high on the chest. The spearpoint pierces your armour with a crunch. Blood spurts from the wound as the shade withdraws his weapon.

Mjorðir, you block the other Hunter's blow.

The Hunter still trapped in Dagny's web struggles to free himself but fails - her magic is too strong.

Katla roars like a beast, driven by her berserk rage. She rushes at the hunter currently engaged with Andreas in attempt to ram it on the ground with her shield.

The shade twists aside, and Katla barrels past, overbalanced.

Mjorðir continues his thunderous war-song, inspiring his allies to fight whilst Randgríð attempts once more to drink deeply of the Hunter's blood. "Retribution!" he cries with lips still bathed in aurochs-blood, even as his own wounds miraculously staunch.

Randgríð strikes the Hunter deep, carving a huge, bloody gash. The shade's ichor seeps from the wound, tainting the snow shadow-black.

The huge wolf circles the combat, then pounces upon Mjorðir, savaging the skald with its long, yellow fangs!

The other wolf struggles, but fails to free itself from Dagny's webbing.

Egil comes upon the melee while tracking the aurochs' path. His bow at the ready, he looses an arrow at the Wild Huntsman attacking Mjorðir. His arrow hurtles through the air, penetrating the Hunter's skull from behind and coming out through the shade's eye. The creature shrieks in pain, clutching at the arrow, then falls forward in a spreading pool of blackish blood.

Mjorðir snarls through the savage wolf-pain, gnashing out his war-chant with wound-fury – and then surprise as the unknown archer and its arrow slay the Hunter!

Kylfa roars to Ragnvaldr, "Circle him – but watch your back!"

Ragnvaldr steps to one side to flank the Hunter he and Kylfa fight, then jabs with his spear once more. He skewers the Hunter, his spear thrusting through the shade's black, unliving heart!

Dagny nods to Starkad. "Stand firm, this'll take a little time-- if that webbing gives out, things might get ugly." She begins working on a lengthier incantation.

Andreas sighs as the spear pierces his flesh, breath fleeing his body. He falls to his knees, eyes fluttering as blood drips down onto churned and dirty snow. But strange power is at work here, and the tang of copper wafts upon the air. Andreas gasps as his eyes open. He struggles to his feet, muttering a prayer: "Though the shadows of death are all about me, I shall fear no Evil. Though my body is wracked in the grasp of Torment, I cannot surrender. Though all the hatred of the Inferno should beset me, I will not bow before the Throne." Andreas grasps his axe in shaking hands, striking once more at the foe!

Your axe slices into the shade's flesh, the runes along its haft glowing. It twists aside, spitting oaths. "You think you know Torment now? You know nothing of true pain!"

Kylfa thumps his club on the snowy ground and snarls, the mace-handle growing gnarled and heavy looking.  He runs around to stand on the other side of Ragnvaldr, awaiting the web-snared foes.

Starkad gets out his bow and takes careful aim. His arrow grazes the wolf trapped in the web.

Andreas, the Hunter you're dueling makes a half-hearted spear-thrust, but you turn the blow aside easily. The other Hunter finally wrests free of Dagny's webbing!

Dagny looks up, snarling as she continues to cast.

No sooner has he tried to free himself from the webs than he becomes ensnared once more!

Katla turns around, recovering from her overshot rush. Still consumed by bloodlust, she assails the shade with a relentless sword-stab.

Mjorðir swings wide his heraldic shield, turning to face the Hel-hound with both blade and gaze. His chant rises, blood and spittle freezing upon his lips. The war-chant's words mingle with the terrible thunder, yet its echo hammers in the heart of his allies:

"The whirling blades!
Send them leaping afar,
Red in their thirst for war;
Odin laughs above the stars,
At the screaming of the blades!

Far let the white-ones fly,
The whirling blades!
Afar off the ravens spy,
Death-shadows cloud the sky.
Let the wolves of the Hel die
'Neath the screaming blades!

The Shining Ones yonder,
High in Valhalla,
Shout now, with thunder:
Drive the Hel-Hunt under,
Cleave them asunder
- Blades of Valhalla!"

Mjorðir finishes his war-cry as he buries his blade in the Hel-cur.

The wolf whimpers in pain as your axe hacks at its fur, a spurt of blood spattering you afresh.

The other wolf tears itself free of Dagny's webs and lopes towards Kylfa and Ragnvaldr. Kylfa, the wolf leaps at you, nearly bowling you over as its teeth find your shoulder, tearing at your flesh!

Egil draws and fires another arrow at the Huntsman fighting Katla and Andreas, then hastens forward.

Your arrow goes wide this time, burying itself in the snow a few feet from the Hunter.

Ragnvaldr circles to help Kylfa against the wolf, but his blow misses outright.

A creature made of solid rock bursts out of the ground in flanking position with Kylfa and facing Ragnvaldr! It regards each with a quick, somewhat disinterested nod, to signal that is an ally, and then lumbers forward, attacking the wolf!

The elemental's rocky fists pummel the wolf, and you can hear the snap of ribs as it batters the creature's flanks.

Meanwhile Dagny circles around behind Starkad, letting her axe fly!

The wolf dodges aside at the last second and your axe hits the frost-bitten earth.

"Repent, Hunstman, and bare your soul to the sky. Father show mercy: end the suffering of this tortured shade and let it partake of gentle oblivion in the grey waters of Purgatorio." Andreas raises his axe high for the death blow.

"What is this you babble, Fatherman?" the shade demands, but then its eyes widen as your weapon descends!

Andreas grits his teeth against the pain as his axe descends. The heavy blade buries itself with a meaty thunk in the Huntsman's shoulder, cutting down to its black and shriveled heart. The unliving light in its eyes flickers once, then twice, and then it is gone. Andreas let's go his axe and sinks to his knees, laying hand upon brow of his departed foe. "Fly now, Huntsman. Rest in deserved peace."

Kylfa bothers with no fancy phrases – only a guttural roar and a swipe from his gnarled cudgel!

Your blow sends the wolf reeling, and you hear a sickening snap as one of its limbs is broken by your mighty blow. The creature limps, buffeted between warriors.

Starkad sends another arrow towards the snared Hunter, but again inflicts little damage.

Dagny motions forward. "Shall we?" She snaps her fingers, sending her axe back into her hand.

The remaining Hunter again pulls himself free, but rather than charge forward he readies his spear to throw instead. With a hiss he sends it hurtling towards the summoned elemental. The spear snaps against the summoned being's rocky hide.

Seeing the hunter slain, Katla looks about for another foe to smite. In this state she cares only for the battle. Her dead-eyed glare spotting the Hel-wolf nearby, she immediately springs toward it, Styrkr swung in a descending arc. "Taste steel and choke on it, worthless whelp!"

The wolf shrieks in agony as Styrkr hacks at it, delivering a terrible wound to its flank!

Mjorðir circles the beast, as Randgríð falls once more, attempting to fell the Hel-beast.

Randgríð falls as if you were chopping wood, sinking once more into the wild beast's flesh. The bleeding wolf darts forward, snapping at your legs and tearing flesh from your thigh. You are tripped up and knocked prone!

Mjorðir bellows, then snarls as the beast rips out both footing and flesh. Randgríð, however, remains firmly in his grip.

The other wolf turns and leaps at the elemental, tearing with its teeth. There's a horrible sound as it crunches through the rock, destroying one of the thing's limbs.

Egil continues forward with bow at the ready, looking for a good shot, then looses an arrow at the wolf savaging Mjorðir.

Your arrow grazes the wolf, clipping its ear. It twists, fixing you with its beady red eyes.

Katla somehow continues to stand, despite her grievous wound gushing blood and her breathing becoming ragged. Right now she looks almost as much a walking corpse as the Wild Hunters.

With a triumphant bellow, Ragnvaldr puts his spear through the roof of the wolf's maw. It shudders and lies still, impaled on his weapon.

Dagny advances to the edge of the field of debris, and flings her throwing axe once again at the huntsman! A moment later, the elemental, feeling no pain or fear, lumbers over to it, to attack with its remaining stone fist. Her axe flies towards the Huntsman... and it catches it! It's ready to throw it back at Dagny, but the elemental comes lumbering up, punching it mercilessly, giving it no chance to.

Andreas takes up his axe once more, half-crawling, half-stumbling towards the grizzled wolf. "Give up your willful rage, hound. Embrace serenity," he whispers. He gathers his strength, swinging his axe one last time.

The wolf darts back, away from the blow.

Andreas slumps in the snow, exhausted.

Kylfa hustles towards the only foe still remaining.

The stones littering the battlefield crumble into dust as people run over them, no longer creating any obstacle at all.

Mjorðir shouts as he flashes his blade, "Strike true, strike deep, shield-maiden!"

Katla continues to cut and jab at the wolf, determined to spend the final bit of strength left in her in an effort to destroy this beast. Her furious assault forces the wolf to give ground, but she follows up relentlessly and strikes with fearless determination. The blade of Styrkr falls down into the beast's head, and through it, sinking down to the hilt. At the same moment as the great wolf dies, Katla herself falls on her knee, gasping and coughing blood. She then collapses on the snow, right beside the canine corpse.

"I think," Kylfa grunts to Starkad as they lope on towards the western group, "that was not Odin."

Dagny 's elemental sinks back into the earth, while Dagny herself hurries over to join the other group, scooping up her axe along the way.

Mjorðir rises from the blood-steaming snow, heedless of his own wolf-ravaged legs. He rushes to the fallen warrioress, then lays Randgríð's flat-edge upon the shield-maiden's fiercest wound. He utters a humble pray. "Well-fought, this battle, accept the blood yet shed, mighty Tyr, and drink no more this day." As the benediction ends, godly power heats the axe-steel and burns closed the wound.

Dagny is about to make a wisecrack, but when she sees Katla down and not moving, she just starts to run. "Katla! What..."

Egil lowers his bow, but keeps it at hand, studying the survivors of the Wild Hunt attack.

Andreas rolls onto his back. He places his hand on his heart and speaks to the sky: "Father, make safe the lifeblood of your humble servant. Grant me the gift of your boundless grace."

Starkad lopes closer. A horn-call is audible distantly, and suddenly the corpses of the Wild Hunters and their hounds dissipate, turning into snow to be carried off on the wind.

Andreas, you notice they left something behind - a hunting horn.

Andreas limps over to the horn, taking it in hand. He studies the horn, a light in his eye.

It's made of bone and engraved with runes. Its touch fills you with unease. It's definitely magical. Studying the runes more closely, you suspect that it will inspire fear in the hearts of those who hear it – but might it also summon the Wild Hunt?

Andreas turns the horn over in his hands.

"That thing's fucking dangerous," Dagny notes.

"It is a dangerous thing indeed, witchling. I shall take it to the keeping of my Brothers and Sisters whence I return to them, there to keep it safe."

Katla lays still for moment, a strange expression of contentment on her face. But as Mjorðir's benediction begins to take effect, she suddenly stirs. Her eyes shoot open and, although bloodshot, are again vibrant with life and strength of will. "So, the Valkyries would not have me today, after all?" She murmurs, almost disappointedly.

"Is anyone else seriously hurt?" Starkad asks.

Kylfa slows as he approaches the group.  Seeing Katla awake again, he turns and peers to the south.

Mjorðir smiles at the shield-maiden as vigor returns to her gaze. "Forgive me, Katla, for we mortals have yet greater need of you than they... for now, Valhalla must wait."

Egil decides there is no more danger and puts away his weapon, moving towards the group.

Dagny glares at Andreas. "I'm thinking it was you... and what the fuck is that?"

"Greetings! I am Egil, Warpriest of Ullr." Egil is a tallish man, wiry and lean. His gear is all hides and fur, with a pair of skis strapped to his back. The holy symbol of Ullr hangs on his neck. Holy symbol aside, he looks like any other hunter in the wilds. "I can lend healing to anyone in need."

Dagny looks around at everyone in pretty sorry shape. "So who had the DUMB AS SHIT idea to fight instead of just fucking off?"

"Had we all ran, they would still have caught us," Kylfa says.

"Yeah, except for the part about them stumbling over rocks and getting stuck in webs."

"Cease your womanly wails, rune-caller, the blood was well-reckoned." Mjorðir then turns his attention to the newcomer. "Well-met, Egil! Twice your arrows saved my blood and split that of mine enemies. For both, I am grateful."

"You arrived fortuitously, Egil," Andreas says. "A hunter on the trail come upon us. Your shots were well placed, you have my gratitude, and a share of meat, should you wish it."

Kylfa rests his club on his bear-skinned shoulder and regards the man from head to foot.  "Hm.  Lucky indeed."

Starkad looks at the newcomer somewhat more suspiciously than the rest of you. "There are many hunters on the trail of these aurochs," he says, arms crossed.

Katla rises to sit, stiffly. She looks about her, surveying the field of battle and the aftermath. The stranger archer catches her attention; in her berserk fury, she'd failed to notice his appearance.

"I am Mjorðir, vassal of Jarl Hrothik of Wulfheim and god-servant of the Wolf's Leavings."

"A fellow god-servant. Greetings."

"Kylfa," Kylfa grunts, then turns back to the group.  "We still have the aurochs."

Katla getting slowly back on her feet acknowledges the hunter. "You have made battle alongside us. That is all I know, and that is well and good enough. I am Katla of the Ægir. You are well met."

Egil nods to Katla.

Starkad busies himself rigging means of dragging the dead aurochs with your horses.

"We're faced with a choice, friends," Starkad says. "We can drag the aurochs back over the plain, facing wind and any wolves who wander across it from Ironwood, or we can try to travel through the foothills of the Orm-Fells.  The first path is the quicker, but perhaps the more perilous - we will be exposed, but we would reach Wulfheim before dawn tomorrow. If we choose the second path we will arrive sometime towards midday tomorrow, for it'll be tougher going across the crags, and those hills near here are close to the lands of Thrivaldi and his children. What say you?"

Mjorðir offers to tend Katla's remaining wounds, cleaning and binding them.

These wounds were made by weapons forged by no mortal hand, Mjorðir. They are beyond your skill to heal, at least not without the aid of the gods.

Kylfa grunts.  "Mm.  I am injured and have little of my power remaining.  If we are attacked again today..." He trails off.

Egil walks to Kylfa and raises his hands in prayer, after a short chant he touches them to Kylfa's wounds. "Katla, I shall attend your wounds in a moment."

Kylfa grunts and nods to Egil.

Katla nods to Mjorðir. "I am grateful of your assistance. The battle was fierce and my wounds leave me weak yet."

"I help as the gods allow me," he says, standing vigil beside her.

Dagny shrugs. "I'm not hurt, but I'm pretty worn out. I'm more worried if we get attacked again, dumbfuck over there is going to get a bright idea to blow that horn."

"This horn is not for my lips, witch. Not yet, at least. Still your nattering tongue. We shall take the safer route, lest we risk this meat. Hungry bellies await us."

You can hear the storm – and the thundering aurochs – growing more distant. It seems the Wild Hunt pursue the herd still.

After looking at Kylfa's wounds, Egil goes over to Katla and repeats his prayer.

Katla raises a brow. "You are truly generous. We did not plead for your aid, nor do you owe us anything. I shall remember this deed and think well of your name."

Ragnvaldr assists Starkad with the dead aurochs, lashing them behind the horses on wooden frames.

Andreas nods to Starkad and Ragnvaldr, lending the strength of his arms and back to the work.

Mjorðir sees his aid needed elsewhere, and so leaves Katla in the Gothi's care in order to assist Starkard. Meanwhile, he calls for both Rimba and Gyllhani to return.

"The hills, then." Starkad nods and mounts his horse. "Egil, do you wish to ride with us? Wulfheim is a haven in these wild lands, and would welcome one with your talents."

"And one of the true ways," Mjorðir adds, unconsciously glancing at the Fatherman.

"I would be grateful; I had come this way as there was a shrine to Ullr in these parts. Perhaps it was divine providence that led me to this encounter."

"The Gods are bloodthirsty and mysterious, but not without humor or honor," the skald replies to the Gothi as he mounts Rimba and greets Gyllhani with a brush of his rimed plumage.

"Alight. Enough tarrying about," Katla says, much recovered. "We'll lick our wounds within the walls of Wulfheim; now we must ride."

"Aye, Katla," Starkad agrees. "I'm eager to find a warm Jól-fire to warm myself."

Dagny tries to snatch the horn while Andreas is distracted with work.

You manage to snatch the horn!

She whistles innocently and puts it in her pouch.

Katla walks to her horse, which has drifted some ways off from the site of battle. She grunts as she mounts it - her wounds may be partially healed by the power of the gods, but they still test her resolve through pain.

You ride north, into the foothills of the Orm-Fells. As you once more enter the hills, you hear hooves scraping against stone. A horseman appears on a crag above you, staring down with one eye, the other an empty socket puckered with scar tissue. Garbed in wolf-furs, the riders carries a long spear, and a severed head swings at his hip, tied to his belt by its hair. The man’s steed shifts, and you realize it has eight legs instead of four. With a low growl, two huge wolves pad out of the snow to stand beside the horse and its rider.

"Hail, aurochs-slayers, dewed with the sweat of the spear-din," the rider says, his voice deep and booming. "You have hunted the hunters, left the rainbow-road crowded with the rage-hearted-riders of the Furious Host. Few of the children of Ask and Embla have bested spear-bearers in my service. In the coming weather of weapons when the sword-rain makes Vigrid a wound-sea, those of stout sword-arm will be much prized; though soon all who walk this middle-world will be flame-farewelled - at least if the Völva is believed - your valour deserves reward. Before the slaughter-storm falls on Midgard and all sleep the sleep of the sword you should enjoy some of Draupnir's Drop!"

He smiles grimly and holds out his hand, which bears a gold ring. This shimmers, runes upon the band glowing, and then almost seems to become molten, though retaining its shape. Drops of liquid gold fall from the ring, but when they strike the ground they become rings themselves, solid and cool - one for each of you.

Andreas, you recognize Saint Nikolaos, the Wonderworker himself! Egil, Mjorðir, you recognize this figure as none other than Odin, the All-Father, ruler of the Æsir!

Kylfa squints at the man and crouches slightly, feeling unsure.

"Saintly Grandfather." Andreas bows his head. "I did not think to look for you. I will cherish this boon. What more might I do in your service, that I should be worthy of it?"

Dagny looks around at everyone, having no idea what's going on.

Egil touches his holy symbol at the appearance of the rider, murmuring a prayer

Dagny gives a half-hearted bow because everyone else is.

"All-Father..." Mjorðir breathes with utter reverence. He dismounts, and bows, bloodied shield and axe both raised, then accepts the god's gift.

Andreas looks askance at Mjorðir. "Do not demean the Wonderworker with your heathen titles!"

Egil shouts Glory to Odin, the All-Father, raising his bow in salute.

"Holy shit..." Dagny swears.

Katla regards the figure with a measured gaze, her eyes bespeaking of respect and cautious awareness.

"You have already done great deeds, warrior," the Wonderworker declares with a smile, looking down upon Andreas. "Rest, now, and continue on your quest for the Star."

Andreas clasps his hands and couches his tongue. "Yes, Grandfather."

Dagny cautiously picks up one of the rings.

Kylfa scratches his beard, still looking suspicious, and takes a ring – sniffing it first.

Egil takes a ring.

Katla approaches after Mjorðir to also claim a ring, emulating his reverent gestures.

Ragnvaldr picks up a ring as well.

Egil puts on his ring.

Dagny puts on the ring. "Thanks..." she says, suddenly feeling the urge to climb a tree.

Kylfa slowly puts on the ring after sniffing it, looking at the one-eye man the whole time.

Katla raises the ring to the sky in a brief gesture, then loops it on a finger of her sword arm.

Mjorðir places the band upon his finger, "Great Gallows-Lord, your glory and hoard-hate are boundless. We go now to Wulfheim, to bring the slaughtered beasts, so we might feast in your holy name! For even in the wolf-depths of Fimbulvinter, our minds-worth does not forget Jól!"

"Who are you, ring-giver," shouts out Kylfa, sort of surprised he's the only one to ask this.

Mjorðir half-chokes at Kylfa's question.

"Ah, Kylfa, do you not recognize Brúni, the Brown Bear?" The one-eyed man grins. "In your tongue you might call me Otso, the Metsän Kuningas."

Kylfa looks taken aback.  "In a man's skin?  In stars and fur I have seen the Great Bear, but in this guise..."

"Are you not a shapeshifter as well, good Kylfa?" He laughs. "In truth, I am known by many names, and take many forms... more than you could count! But I must leave you now, for the Wild Hunt calls. I will see many of you soon, in the heavenly halls, of this I have no doubt. I wish you good Jól, and a safe journey home!"

"Feast well, brother Honey-paws," Kylfa replies.

With that, the figure guides his horse away, his wolves padding after him. There is a swirl of snow, and the rider is gone...

Andreas sits his horse pensively, a look of consideration on his face.

Katla declares solemnly: "I shall bear this gift to my death. By the name of my forefathers I do so swear."

Starkad looks at his ring in wonder. "It may have been worth facing the Wild Hunt to see one of the Aesir in the flesh..." he mutters.

Dagny nods. "Thanks..." she says, waving.

Mjorðir kneels in awe. "...the All-Father," he once more whispers reverently.

Dagny looks around after he's gone. "So, what's yours do? Mine is for... climbing or some shit."

"The All-Father also blessed me with a climbing ring," Egil says.

Kylfa turns to Dagny, then looks down at his ring.  "I am unsure.  Some boon from the Forestcousin, it seems."

"Nikolaos has been kind indeed, to let you see him as your heart would desire. He must have seen truth waiting in some depth of your soul. Cherish this above the ring you have been granted."

Dagny eyes Egil. "Oh, hey, you're the guy who..." She never introduced herself. "I'm Dagny by the way."

Egil nods to Dagny. "I am Egil."

Dagny turns to Mjorðir. "So that was him? The big man himself?"

Mjorðir looks down upon the aurelian ring, "Aye, it was. The others may know him by different names, but he accepts their valor and will embrace them. The blood was reckoned," he repeats, "and the gods are not without honor."

Kylfa chuckles.  "A man he was not.  But big, yes."

Dagny shrugs. "Ok, the big... you know. The All-Father." She looks at her ring, mouth opening slightly. "Well shit."

"I do not know if he was telling the truth," Kylfa continues. "But I suppose it may be that it was the Forest-King in man's flesh."

"We should press on," Starkad urges. "Find a place to rest."

Kylfa grunts and nods to Starkad.

Mjorðir looks down upon his ring once more, raising it to his lips, "I feel the taste of Heithrún’s milk, and as the bards say, its touch takes away the earthly pangs of both hunger and thirst..."

Dagny shrugs. "Figures he'd give you a useful one."

Katla concurs with Starkad. "Wise words." She remounts, eager to go on.

You ride on. A short time later, you see a dark shape crowning one of the hills: hoisted on a high knoll of earth and snow is a crucified skeleton, its skull marked with a distinctive rune.

Starkad spits. "Trollblood territory," he says.

"We must step lightly, then," Andreas cautions.

Dagny muses, "You know, their chief is surprisingly reasonable."

Kylfa grunts.  "I am not sure I can repeat that feat, if we meet him today."

"They will attack us at their peril," Katla declares, and prepares her bow.

"There is glory to be gained from felling the Troll-blooded," Egil observes.

Kylfa waves a hand in front of Egil.

"We met a Troll-chief, and left in peace, after I bested him.  If these are his trolls we should not provoke them."

You hear something moving to the north, and glimpse movement on a nearby ridge – perhaps someone patrolling the edge of the Thrivaldii territory.

Dagny shoves her palm in her face. "Am I the only one who has had enough battle for today?"

Katla watches the distant signs of movement carefully. If they approach, she'll make a warning shot – an obvious one that shouldn't be mistaken for an attack.

The watcher seems to have retreated, perhaps to inform others of the tribe of your presence.

"My concern is the hunger of the people," Andreas says. "We would do well to be cautious, lest we lose what we have gained. Let us ride on for Wulfheim. We are expected."

"The meat isn't going to go bad in this cold," Dagny points out. "And if we don't make it back it does nobody any good."

"Hmph. I will leave this decision to Starkad," Andreas declares. "He knows these lands. He is our guide in this wilderness, we would do well to heed his wisdom."

"I think we should find a sheltered place to camp, somewhere out of the way, beyond the reach of prying eyes. Riding through the hills in the dark could be perilous; better to reach Wulfheim later than to lame a horse trying to ride through the night."

"My blade will stay by your side," Katla says.

Kylfa nods.

"The longer we take to get back, the greater our chances of being attacked," Egil argues. "We should press on; the greatest threat is time."

Dagny shrugs. "You know, you did us a solid back there, so thanks. But, yeah, you can feel free to go ahead, since, you know, I've known you for exactly less than a day and I don't really give a fuck about your opinion."

"Sheath your knife-tongue, witch," Andreas snaps. "Your words are ill-considered."

Dagny shrugs. "You sheath your tongue in my cunt."

Andreas bristles, but lets it lie.

Kylfa, you scent a bear-scent, though somewhat faint. You think you could take the party to a cave once occupied by a bear. Andreas, you can help locate this cave. Egil, you actually know of it – a large cavern, though well-hidden, about an hour from here. You came across it while hunting.

Egil sighs. "There is an old cave an hour's ride from here. Would that suffice Starkad?"

"That would be ideal, yes. My thanks, Egil."

Kylfa grunts. "It smells of the bear.  But it is faint, and perhaps it is no longer used by that brother." Kylfa shrugs.  "And if it is, I shall speak to him."

"If you know it to be safe, let us make for it," Andreas declares.

Egil guides the way to the cave.

Mjorðir follows the group, silent in tongue and deep in thought.

You reach the cave - a broad, dry cavern with a narrow entrance adorned with faded cave-paintings, perhaps done by the local hillfolk. Scattered, gnawed bones, now crumbling to dust, indicate that a bear or other beast might once have dwelt here. Near the back of the cave, there's a narrow crack, just big enough for someone to squeeze through if they were walking sidelong.

Kylfa invokes the totem of the bear and smells around for anything interesting.

Dagny quietly asks Kylfa. "You know of this cave, too, right? I'm a little suspicious if it's all the new guy's idea."

Kylfa nods to Dagny, and continues to sniff about.

"We must tether the horses outside," Katla says. "Guards should be posted to watch after them, as well as to watch for intruders."

Starkad tends to the horses and drags the aurochs within.

Dagny 's horse disintegrates into the snow whence it came.

Kylfa, peering and sniffing through the gloom, you can see that the crack broadens after a time into another chamber. There's a queer scent... musty, and old. It's hard to describe; it reminds you almost of an Elf-scent, but that's not quite right…

Egil casts Light on one of his arrows, causing it to glow like a torch

Dagny sniffs the air.

Dagny, this scent is strangely familiar, but you can't place it.

Egil's light illuminates the cave, allowing you to peer some way down the crack if you wish.

Egil walks to the crack, seeing if he has a clear shot to shoot the glowing arrow through.

"Some strange scent... like Álfr-scent.  Aged, it is." Kylfa says.

Katla begins to gather firewood from the vicinity of the cave.

"I will make us a small fire. It will melt the cold from our bones." Andreas joins Katla sets to work gathering kindling.

"Yeah. Smells a little like point-ears." Dagny says. "And... eh, I can't tell."

Kylfa shakes his head.  "No ordinary beast smells in that fashion.  But I cannot say what it is… I am put at unease by a smell I do not know."

Egil peers down the crack, looking to see anything interesting.

Egil, you can just make out the edges of a cave, or perhaps even some kind of chamber, but you will have to press on to explore it thoroughly.

Andreas arranges the wood and puts a spark to it.

Katla looks around but fails to find any dry wood, her senses still dulled by the near-death of not so long ago.

Seeing the cave's darkness, Mjorðir calls for Freyja's light to guide their eyes. Ghostly flames emerge from another of the Nine Worlds, forming the shape of a woman. The fiery figure walks the darkness back into the cave's far reaches.

A merry fire now crackles in the cave, and you are all warmed and refreshed after your battle. The flame throws strange shadows on the walls, making the old paintings of wolves, dragons, and aurochs dance.

Egil casts Detect Magic towards chamber behind the cave.

The lights fill the chamber beyond. You can make out the dim outlines of what looks like a room of worked stone. There is a dim magical aura, Egil, but it is curiously vague, unfocused.

Andreas warms his hands over the small blaze, occasionally feeding in a new stick. "Best leave well enough alone, friends. There are old and vile things in this world."

Kylfa nods and grunts.  "So long as someone takes the watch, I would not pry further."

Katla sits by the fire and quietly grips her sealed wound, still covered in a thick coating of dried blood. "I would stand the first watch."

"I will follow," Kylfa offers.

Starkad nods. "I'll take third."

"Last one, then," Dagny says.

"Wake me for the last stretch," Andreas says. "I will welcome the morning's light."

Dagny sighs. "Oh good. We get to stand watch together then."

"So be it then," Katla states and gets up, leaving the cave

"I will watch with the shield-maiden," Mjorðir says.

"I would enjoy your company, Mjorðir. But shouldn't we take many shorter turns, that we can better rest our aching bones?"

"There are many perils these nights. I would rather have twice the eyes and twice the arms than twice the sleep."

"Very well then."

"The room is magical; it has a faint aura of illusion," Egil says.

Kylfa replies to Egil, "We merely borrow this cave.  I would not trespass further, lest we awaken something that was better left alone."

"Then I shall not trespass," Egil says.

"The bear-warrior speaks wisdom," Mjorðir agrees. "Let us be vigilant, but hospitable, guests."

Kylfa nods.  "Still, whoever watches ought to keep an eye on that crack, as well as the outside."

Egil makes his bedroll far from the back, leaving his weapons close at hand.

Kylfa has no bedroll at all, but curls in a great bear-skinned ball, rumbling with heavy snoring.

Dagny looks around. "So, uh, I packed light. Anyone feel like sharing warmth? I promise I won't fart in the bedroll."

Gyllhani is in no mood to waste the night, but falls deep asleep Mjorðir's wolf-pelt. "Your sire would be ashamed," he chides the beast half-humorously. He then offers his mantle to Dagny. "Forgive the battle-dew."

Dagny looks a bit wistfully over at the already snoring-away Ragnvaldr, but then nods. "Thanks..."

Katla finds a suitable watch spot near the horses, a place where she can lean against a tree.

Katla, out of the black night, over the howling wind, you can make out the sound of flapping wings, and glimpse something darker that the sky behind it wheel overhead. You think you smell smoke.

Katla approaches Mjorðir and whispers, "I spy something up in the black sky, though I cannot tell quite what it is. It sounds of wings, not unlike those of a drake. And if my nose isn't deceiving me, it smells of smoke."

"Drakkar?" Mjorðir asks the shield-maiden with a whisper.

"I cannot say for certain. We should lay quiet here, and keep the horses so also."

Mjorðir, you whisper soothing words, and the horses are quieted. The shapes seem to have gone... at least for now.

"Lay a line of shield to block the flame-light," he beckons to the warrioress.

Katla nods and proceeds to do so.

The flapping dwindles. Whatever was flying about has gone.

Katla makes a point of warning the next watcher of what she saw and heard, before laying down for the night.

Your watch passes uneventfully. The Drake, if such it was, does not return.

During the last watch the night seems calm. Near dawn, however, you hear something very strange indeed – voices whispering, from near the crack.

Andreas seems oblivious.

Dagny creeps closer.

You hear the voices – they're speaking in Dvergar!

Dagny nudges whoever is nearest and makes a shh gesture quickly, then turns to listen.

Ragnvaldr wakens.

Ragnvaldr rubs his eyes and mutters "Kólga's quim what happened?" under his breath.

"Dvergar," she mouths, pointing.

"They have rings formed from Draupnir's own gold!" one of them is saying.

"There's too many!" the other insists. "We must hasten back to Nidavellir."

"Very well," the first voice says begrudgingly.

Creeping closer still, you can see two small, hunched shapes in the chamber beyond...

Dagny won't bother to wake anyone else up if it seems clear for now, but she keeps watching attentively, leaving Andreas to mind the front.

Ragnvaldr perks up and whispers to Dagny "Where are we? I don't recall a thing past the... oh, Dúfa's thighs, the Hunt came for us, didn't it? Are we alive?"

Dagny nods. "As far as I can tell. Unless the new guy slit our throats in our sleep."

Ragnvaldr looks around "New? Who is new?"

You hear footsteps down the passage, Dagny – it sounds like they're moving away from you. Squinting through the gloom, Dagny, you can see movement in the chamber... it looks like the Dvergar are leaving.

Dagny breathes a sigh of relief, then, and gets to work preparing her spells for the new day.


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Re: The Fimbulvinter Saga
« Reply #20 on: January 13, 2015, 04:32:49 AM »
IC: Fitt XIV: The Nisse
You arrive back at Wulfheim battered, cold, but victorious. The gates open before you, and as you drag the aurochs past the palisade heads turn in wonder and joy. Half-starved children and their parents shout with astonishment as the rich bounty is brought through the gates towards the timber keep. Jarl Hrothik Wulfgar himself hobbles out into the snow, and for once his expression is not grim, but mirthful.

"Bold hunters!" he proclaims. "Faithful champions of Wulfheim all! You have turned this Jól from a time of evil into one of merriment. Tonight we feast, and hold a Jólblót to honour the Yule-Father!"

Dagny gives a playful and slightly less mocking than usual salute. "And if you want more food, well, there are ways."

The Jarl lifts an eyebrow. "We should speak at the feast, perhaps..." he says.

Kylfa smiles graciously, but does not seem terribly excited.

Dagny nods. "For now I'm going to get really fucking drunk."

Tígris gives an admiring nod of greeting from the crowd, impressed at the size of the beasts you all managed to bring down.

Egil moves to the forefront of the group, to introduce himself to the Jarl.

The Jarl looks Egil up and down. "And who is this newcomer?" he asks.

"Greetings Jarl, I am Egil, Warpriest of Ullr. I happened upon the group as they were battling the Wild Hunt."

"Oh, yeah, we did THAT TOO," Dagny adds.

"The Wild Hunt?" the Jarl says, bewildered. "Odin's Raging Host?"

"Indeed, the Raging Host," Egil continues. "After the battle the group allowed me to follow to Wulfheim."

"Well, if you assisted them in their aurochs-hunt, you are welcome within my walls. I hope you will join us at tonight's feast."

Andreas goes to pray, while Mjorðir heads to the Jarl's keep to tell his lord more of the hunt, Starkad beside him.

Dagny goes to the Well of Joy to get a jump on the festivities. She still remembers how to cook up a beast-steak.

Kylfa decides to follow along after Dagny.

Tígris slinks through the crowd after them, curious as to how their encounter with the All-Father had gone.

Egil bows to the Jarl and follows his companions to the mead-hall.

Inside the now-busy mead-hall, he proprietor of the Well of Joy, Gertrud, is placating a patron who swears that his ale tastes of urine.

"Piss, I tell you!" the man stammers. "I like a Jól-prank as much as the next man, but I will not stand for this insult!"

"You'd know what piss tastes like, huh?"

The lout – a Gylliring with matted blond hair – shoots a black look at Dagny. "Who asked you, wench? Best keep your foul tongue in your mouth, if you know what's good for you!"

Dagny shrugs. "What are you going to do about it, asshole?"

Egil turns to Kylfa and Tígris. "Is she always this... hostile?"
Kylfa shrugs.  "I have seen her more hostile."

Tígris chuckles and grins at Egil. "I haven't known her as long, but this doesn't seem unusual."

The Gylliring throws his tankard to the ground, shattering it, and makes to draw the knife at his belt!

Dagny sits down. "I've killed a Drakkar, I fought the fucking Wild Hunt, you seriously should just turn around and walk away right the fuck now. I'm not going to let you ruin my getting my drunk on."

The man flinches as you rattle of your list of deeds, and he puts his hands down. "Hrafnii bitch..." he mutters, storming out of the mead-hall. Kelda, one of the barmaids, begins cleaning up the broken cup.

Dagny flashes Gertrud the closest thing she can manage to a winning smile.

Kylfa sits down at the fire, as usual, and returns to warming his hands.

"It's that Nisse again," Gertrud says, shaking her head. "I swear, that thing will be the death of me..."

"Well, if anything will draw it out, it'll be these festivities? In between the drinking and the partying I'll nose around, hmm?"

"Thank you," she says sincerely. "You and your companions drink free tonight. Without you there'd be no feast!"

Tígris raises an eyebrow, overhearing. "A Nisse? It has been long years since I last met such a one of my cousins. With your permission, Dagny, I would join you on your search."

Dagny nods. "Oh, yeah, sure point-ears." Dagny idly fiddles with the ring on her finger.

Egil shrugs and sits down with a drink.

Tígris settles down next to Egil with a jug of mead. "So, a priest of Ullr?"

"Warpriest. I am more martial than my Gothi brethren."

Tígris nods. "Ullr did always prefer warriors to scholars, or so the gossip went."

"Very true Tígris, I have mostly honored Ullr with my yew bow."

Tígris nods. "As I have as well, in the past."

"How does one of your kind come to Wulfheim?"

"I came on the word of a völva, who prophesied a group of heroes." He gestures around at the party, "With whose help the sword of Frey would be reclaimed. And so here I am."

Egil, Frey's sword is Lævateinn, the Bright-Sword which can fight by itself. You know that he gave it to his shield-bearer, Skyrnir, in exchange for his aid in wooing a giantess. Because Frey lacks his sword, it is said that at Ragnarök - the Doom of the Gods - the Fire Giant, Surtr, will slay him and set fire to the world.

"An important quest in these times. I am still struggling find out why Ullr has guided me here."

One of the Jarl's Housecarls – Vatnar – comes by the mead-hall with several leather purses jingling with gold and silver. "Your reward, for the hunting of those great beasts on the plain," he declares.

Kylfa accepts the gift, a bit curiously, and sets about sniffing the purse. He looks slightly disappointed when it turns out to contain gold.

Dagny walks over to Kylfa. "I'm going to go put this away in the hiding place. You want me to keep yours safe too?"

Kylfa nods.  "Yes.  I should not know what to do with it."

"Well, you'll be able to buy the services of an armourer, hopefully."

"If it comes to that.  But it may not."

Dagny shrugs. "Well, let me know." She takes the purse from Kylfa and goes home.

Kylfa huddles in his seat and hums quietly.

Dagny, outside the fort is preparing for the festivities to come – setting up tables, kindling fires, and setting out more candle-stubs for the Yule-lights.

With the successful return of the hunting party that set out to stalk a wild herd of aurochs in the White Waste, Wulfheim for once rejoices, and even the dread cold and endless despair of Fimbulvinter are temporarily banished by the roaring bonfires of Jól – and by large quantities of mulled wine, fresh-broached casks of mead, and generous portions of sizzling meat. Though much of the aurochs-flesh will be carefully rationed, one of the beasts has been carved up in its entirety to provide the settlement with a feast.

The previous gloom has been relieved, and now the streets flicker with Yule lights - candle-stubs set in windows, on tables, and in the skulls of animals. Children perform plays in the streets while adults sing songs of old, going from door to door and exchanging small gifts. The feast itself will take place in the Jarl's keep, and later the Gothi, Brúnn, will lead the Jólblót. Oaths will be sworn by the fires at the grove, and bouts of glíma, skofuleikr, and toga hónk will be found outside the keep, hnutukast and skinnleikr within. There are rumours that a drinking game will be held at the Well of Joy, where there will also be riddling competitions. The Jólblót will be held at midnight at the sacred grove outside of Wulfheim; here there will be offerings of aurochs-meat as sacrifice, along with rituals to Odin, Njord, and Frey.

You and most other folk of note in Wulfheim are gathered within the walls of Jarl Wulfgar's keep, where a great trestle table has been set. Most of the aurochs-meat has by now been preserved in vats of sour whey or smoked, but the brawn set aside for the Jól-feast has been spiced, then boiled and braised in cauldrons and served with a few portions of smoked and dried fish, cheese, nuts, a bit of hard but tasty bread, and even a handful of vegetables (mostly pickled). Mjorðir, as Jarl Hrothik's skald, is asked to recite the tale of the hunt before the feast, for rumours of the encounter with the Wild Hunt have already begun to circulate.

"We owe this feast not only to the Yule-Father but to the heroes who sit before me," Jarl Hrothik Wulfgar proclaims. "In these dark days, when Sol's chariot speeds across the sky in but a few hours to evade the jaws of Skoll, such deeds of renown as those undertaken by these brave hunters are rare indeed. For their great service to Wulfheim the first toast should be drunk in their name. Always will a seat at my bench be offered them should they wish it, and be it the desire of any of these warriors to join my Hird and household, I will here name them Housecarls."

Dagny drinks a toast in her own name! And everyone else's, too.

Kylfa toasts with the rest, but only lightly sips his ale.

"And now, let us toast the gods," the Jarl proclaims. "Odin Jólnir, Yule-Father; Njord, god of sea and wind; and Frey, god of kings, of peace and plenty!" A second draught is speedily drunk, and then the eating begins in earnest.

Tígris toasts to Frey solemnly, feeling slightly gloomy with home-longing.

Egil toasts to the gods, adding Ullrs name to end of the list.

Dagny toasts eagerly.

As the merriment continues, the Jarl approaches the party. "Dagny Lyrkenja, I would have a word with you," he says.

Dagny stands up, not sure if this is a good thing.

He beckons you away from the table, speaking quietly. "Starkad has told me of your use of Seidr to snare the aurochs that now grace our table, and in the slaying of the Fire-Drakes that plague Wulfheim. It is clear that my distrust of your sorcery was misplaced. You have proved yourself a friend to my people, and so I release you from the oath you swore to me not to use objects of power within the walls of Wulfheim."

Dagny grins. "Well shit! Thanks!"

The Jarl gives you a small smile. "There is another matter I would speak of... but I do not wish to distract you from the feast."

"It's fine, I don't think even Ragnvaldr will drink everything before I get back..."

The Jarl nods grimly to Dagny. "Very well. As you know, Ivar the Perverse - that argr sorcerer of Skrikborg, who once I called my King - is also skilled with the Seid, a weaver of evil spells. Once I would have scorned use of the arcane arts, even against such a foe, but now I see that in this dread winter fire must sometimes be fought with fire. It is only a matter of time before he moves against me, now that I have openly defied him, but I lack the warriors to respond in kind: where he has armies, I have but a few men, and they are needed here in Wulfheim lest other enemies than Ivar menace us. Ivar is said to protect himself with wards and enchantments, as well as Hel-wraiths bound to the bodies of the dead and other fell creatures birthed through vile witchery.

"Even if we manage to thwart Ivar for a time, eventually his forces will overwhelm us. You and your companions, however, possess skills beyond those of my retainers. Were you to steal into Skrikborg and put an end to the Blóðbard King – when the time comes – then I would reward you as richly as I am able. With Ivar dead then under sacred law a Thing would be called an election held for a new King. Though these lands have been ravaged and misused, there might yet be hope to restore some measure of peace."

Dagny opens her mouth slightly. "That whole rich reward thing. I... sort of have an idea about that."

The Jarl inclines his head. "Indeed?"

Dagny nods "Look, it's no secret that food is a little short around here. And I think I can do something about that... but it's not cheap. Things have to be made to certain specifications, rare materials need to be bought or found, I'm probably going to have to pay off some Dvergar asshole."

"Dwarves?" The Jarl says. "I have heard rumours of their kind, abroad in Midgard – especially to the west, in the Slaughterstone Mountains, but also near Hrafnford."

"Imagine a cauldron. A vat. With a lid. Put in fifteen pounds of... whatever. Anything. Pull the lever. Steam comes out, it makes a horrific sound. Open it up, fifteen pounds of hot steaming stew. Not the tastiest, but... you can do this, all day, every day, as fast as you can load it and run it." Dagny looks at him. "With the funds, with the support, I can build this."

"A magical cauldron, you say? I have heard the skalds tell stories of such things. It sounds... well, it sounds as if it could feed many. If you assist me with Ivar, you would certainly have my aid with this device."

Dagny tilts her head. "That'll work, although the thing isn't just for my sake, so it's sort of like... help me, and then I'll let you help me more. But I understand you need help with the Ivar thing too."

The Jarl nods.

Dagny nods. "So, here's my counter offer. You agree to not just help me with this project, but any future project I may bring to you as well, as long as you agree it's in the best interests of Wulfheim. Call it an... unofficial appointment to the position of chief shit-fixer-upper."

The Jarl considers this. "Should you continue to aid us, you will have the coin for such endeavours – if I can spare it. Sadly, my coffers begin to dwindle, but as more folk come to Wulfheim they may fill once more."

Dagny offers her hand. "Handsal on it, then?"

The Jarl shakes your hand. "As far as I am able, you will have my aid, so long as it helps those under my protection. This I swear in Frey's name."

Tígris gathers a small portion of the meat and wraps it in cloth, tucking it away to feed to his cat later.

Kylfa, though not much of a drinker, eagerly digs into the proffered food. He disregards any knives or spoons, tearing into the roast meat like an animal.

The Jarl's Hirdmenn laugh and clap at your display, Kylfa. "We have a bear in our midst, men!" Vatnar cries.

Kylfa growls gutturally as he eats, juice streaming down his chin.

"Later, I would play a game of bone-throwing with you," Vatnar continues. "You look like you could hold your own.

Kylfa looks up from his haunch.  "Mh gmh?"  He swallows.  "A game?  What sort do you mean?"

"Hnutukast. Bone-throwing." Vatnar gestures with an aurochs bone. "We throw these bones at one another and try to hit one another while catching the other man's bone. The first to yield loses."

Kylfa wipes at his grease-covered beard with his hand.  "A strange sort of game.  Very well, if that is the way of things here."

"Well, that is the way amongst those with hair on their chests!" Vatnar declares. "It is not a game for the meek. There are many cracked skulls. Sometimes the odd death. But that just adds excitement!"

Kylfa nods.  "I have hair there, and many other places.  Though I would not wish to kill anyone in a game."

Tígris chuckles at Kylfa's quip, amused by the braggadocio of this Vatnar.

"Any without the stomach to continue can drop out of such a game at any time," Vatnar insists. "Those who play know the risks."

"Very well, I will play if you wish that.  I am among Wulfheim men for now, and I would not spurn their traditions."

Tígris cocks his head, looking over at the Jarl's Hirdmenn. "And what other games do you Midgardians play at this time, other than this bone-throwing?"

Egil looks on in interest at the bone-throwing.

Vatnar looks over at Tígris. "Well, there is skofuleikr," he says. "A game of scrapping, with two horns. Then there is skinnleikr, a game of skin-throwing. And glíma, or wrestling. Then there is toga hönk, played with a rope. And riddling, of course." He counts them off on his fingers. "And I have even heard there is to be a proper drinking contest, as it was in days of old!"

Kylfa cracks his enormous knuckles.  "Wrestling I would enjoy.  That is good sport."

Tígris nods and grins. "Skin-throwing, you say? Tell me more about what strange mannish tradition this is."

Vatnar continues his description. "A wolf-skin is thrown between four men, with a fifth in the middle. If he catches it, the one who threw it must take his place. Others around the sides try to trip and taunt the players, to provoke a mistake. It is most amusing!"

"It sounds much like a game we play in Álfheim, but we used a cloth sung from firelight that burns if you hold it too long."

The feast itself is beginning to wind down, and games are now being set up outside and even within the hall.

Tígris grins at Kylfa. "Aye, and a sport you're good at. After that troll will anyone here challenge you, Skin-Changer?"

Kylfa shrugs.  "To make it a fair fight, I made myself the troll's size.  That would not be fair against a man.  Perhaps I shall be easier to defeat then."

A large group of men and women are now becoming involved in a game of skinnleikr using an old wolf-hide. Four players throw the skin back and forth between one another while a fifth tries to catch it. When he or she does, they take the place of the one who threw the skin. Around the periphery, a hooting crowd yell taunts and batter good-naturedly at the players, attempting to distract them and trip them up. Meanwhile, Vatnar and some others of the Jarl's Hird begin a game of hnutukast. This small group of rather crazed-looking men are playing in pairs. Within moments several are already bleeding from the brow, arms, and chest and developing yellowing bruises.

Dagny is feeling pretty good about herself right about now! She takes one more big drink, finishing her cup, and heads outside.

Outside the keep, the Jarl's men and other inhabitants of the Wulfheim have gathered to play a variety of boisterous games - primarily scraper-games, wrestling, and tug-of-war. A large audience watches the competitors, sipping from wineskins and sometimes betting on outcomes.

Off to one side a group of children and adolescents act out the story of Odin's bet with the Giant Hrungir that Sleipnir could outrace the Giant's stead, Gullfaxi. Two of the older girls with long hair (black for Sleipnir, gold for Gullfaxi) play the horses, letting younger children ride on their shoulders. Odin, played by a young boy in a tattered robe who always keeps one eye closed, wins the bet, but the riders end the race in Asgard. Enraged and humiliated, Hrungir - humorously played by quite a small child with a false beard - begins taunting the gods, threatening to burn down Valhalla and to carry Sif and Freya back to Jotunheim as concubines.

The Æsir ignore him until he proclaims that he will drink all of their ale, at which point Thor arrives, played by a boy even younger than the one played Hrungir and carrying a smith's hammer to represent MJólnir. Thor and Hrungir fight a duel, Hrungir battling with a whetstone that he flings at Thor. The boy moans and clasps his head, pretending that a piece of the stone ha embedded itself in his head, although his own blow dashes out the brains of Hrungir, whose enthusiastic death-spasms draw applause from the audience. Despite efforts from the sorceress Groa (played by a willowy girl on the verge of womanhood), the fragment of stone remains lodged in Thor's head. Appreciative audience-members throw coins to the players and offer them drink in recompense for their Yuletide performance.

Egil grins, enjoying the atmosphere and spectating the games.

Kylfa watches the children perform, then follows Vatnar, having agreed to play his game.

Perhaps the most dangerous Jól-game is that of hnutukast, a potentially injurious contest in which the participants throw leftover bones at one another. The goal is simply to hit an opponent while catching or dodging a thrown bone oneself. This missile-game is well known to cause bruises, broken noses and jaws, and other wounds, as well as the occasional fatality. The game continues until one player yields.

Vatnar hands you a large, greasy aurochs bone with a grin. "Now, you will try to catch the bone I throw, or dodge it, and then throw your own." He steps backwards, then flings his own aurochs-bone towards you! The bone smacks against your temple – a good hit! You feel a trickle of blood ooze down your scalp. Vatnar's grin widens. "Come on, Kvenlander! Let me see what you've got!"

Kylfa grunts and rubs his head.  "Perhaps you have an advantage on me; I am not known for my swiftness." He throws his bone, aiming for the Housecarl.

Your own blow hits Vatnar hard, sending him reeling backwards. He rubs his bruised head and picks up the bone you threw. He ducks down, then hurls the bone back at you, but this time you catch it easily!

Kylfa grins at Vatnar and hurls it back at him a moment later.

Your second throw is nearly as strong as the first, bashing Vatnar's cheek. He shakes his head, his eyes crossed for a moment. His grip seems to be a bit weak, but he doesn't yield yet. "I'm jush geshing warmed... warmed up," he says, slurring his words.

Kylfa readies his hands to catch, his brow furrowing with concentration.

Vatnar manages to land a second blow, clipping your shoulder.

Tígris watches Kylfa's match idly, keeping an eye out for any signs of Nisse or other Álfar activity.

Tígris, the Nisse probably haunts a particular building –in this case, the mead-hall specifically.

"I should like this game more were it closer at hand," Kylfa says, and hurls the bone back.

Your blow catches Vatnar on the jaw! The Housecarl stumbles backwards, his head bouncing against a wall. He slumps downwards, losing consciousness.

Kylfa strides over to Vatnar, just to make sure he's not seriously injured.

Egil follows Kylfa.

He wakes a moment later and looks at you, bleary-eyed. "Well played, Bear!" he says, getting to his feet.

"By you as well.  Though I am not sure this is my favorite game."

"I think that's enough hnutukast for me. I must find some more mead!"

Egil grabs Vatnar as he leaves, chanting a small prayer to heal the man's wounds.

"My thanks, friend," Vatnar says, recovering some of his wits as his wounds close and bruises fade.

Kylfa looks over at Egil.  "To be fair, I have had some practice; this was much like bringing down the dragon."

Egil looks to Kylfa "Would you let me tend your wounds?"

"I am in no great need, but I will let you, if that is your wish." Kylfa wipes at the blood on the side of his head.  "He was a good shot, I think."

Dagny wanders around, keeping her eye on things.

Dagny, you spot the lout who complained about his mead earlier, groping one of the serving women. She is trying to extricate herself from his drunken grasp.

Dagny chants a spell softly, then she grabs a greasy aurochs-bone and walks over to him, poking him with it.

The drunk scowls at you. "What is it now, wench?" he demands.

"You and me, asshole. You want to settle this?"

Dagny grins wickedly as she offers the bone.

"Ah, a little holmgang? Very well. In the spirit of Jól." He relinquishes the woman and picks up the bone.

Dagny swiftly picks up another bone and tosses it!

Your bone grazes him, Dagny! He stumbles, then hurls his own back at you, but you catch it nimbly!

Kylfa crosses his arms and watches the new bone-battle, looking concerned.

Dagny smirks and flings it back!

Your blow hits him right between the eyes, Dagny. He is stunned!

"Give up, dumbass?"

He backs away, recovering his wits, then picks the bone up, staggering slightly. "Not yet, wench," he declares. "Care to make this more interesting?"

"I'm listening."

"Ten aurar I knock you out first," he offers.

Dagny shrugs. "Uh, yeah, sure."

He flings the bone with all the strength he can muster.

Dagny gets hit and doesn't even flinch.

He looks at you in puzzlement, shaking his head.

Dagny grins and picks the bone up, tossing it back.

You hit him again, right in the eye. His lid begins to swell up, but now that money is on the line he is determined not to lose! He throws the bone back.

Dagny gets hit in the head and doesn't even blink.

The man looks baffled. "What the..."

Dagny flings!

Your throw breaks the man's nose! Blood streams from both nostrils. "I yield!" he declares. "I yield!" He tosses a handful of coins on the ground.

"Good. Now don't be an asshole. And if you ever touch Ingrid again next time it'll be an axe not just a bone."

Tígris heads back off towards the mead-hall, shimmering out of sight as he steps through the door and beginning to look around.

Dagny goes back into the mead-hall as well. "You know, that game looks stupid but it's actually pretty fun when you're playing against some dumbfuck who deserves to get his face smashed in."

Kylfa scratches his beard and says quietly, "It is not wise to stir up bees' nests where there is no honey."

"Tell that to the girl he won't be probably raping now."

Kylfa shrugs.  "As you say."

"It is good to see feasting and games," Egil comments.

Dagny sits down, hitting him lightly on the back. "Don't look so glum, beard-man. It's a feast."

"Yes, and the food has been good.  Still, this is more... people... than I am used to."

"Yeah... there's that. Wanna get away from here, then, and skulk around in the cellar?"

"The Nisse hunt?" Egil asks.

Dagny nods. "Yeah."

"Actually, I meant to ask you something," Kylfa says to Dagny.

Dagny looks at Kylfa again. "Yeah?"

Kylfa clears his throat.  "This is not a matter for today.  But I think will go see the troll-kin again."

"You sure that's a good idea? Chiefy seemed ok, but some of his people are serious dicks."

Kylfa nods.  "I do not enjoy their company.  But it seems to me that of all these folk, they would know best the crafting of dragon-hide, and if this is a thing I desire there may be no good alternative."

"Well, if you need my axe or my spells, I'm along for the ride."

"You are sure?  I wouldn't ask for anyone to come simply on my account.  It is my trade alone to make."

Dagny smiles. "You went there with me for something that was, more or less, my trade alone to make. I owe you."

"Hmm.  Very well.  But as I said, perhaps not today."

"No, definitely not today. Today, I'm crawling around in the cellar."

"You are after these... spirits?"

"Yeah. Nisse." Dagny stands up. "New guy, as long as you don't trip over your dick, you can come too if you want."

"I shall endeavour not too," Egil says.

"Was not the problem that there was no porridge to feed them with?" Kylfa asks. "Now there is much meat... can they not simply be fed again, or are they like aurochs themselves, eating no meat?"

Dagny shrugs. "I don't know what they eat. I suppose we could offer it some."

"Very well.  I do not think I shall find anyone willing to wrestle me anyway," Kylfa says with a small smirk.

"Eh, just find someone drunk enough. Maybe new guy would take you on. Hell, I would, except I've got shit to do right now." She offers her own smirk.

Kylfa shakes his head.  "Wrestling a man in his ale would be no more sporting than if I should use the Great Bear's magic on myself first."

Dagny shrugs. "Or maybe it's just making use of every advantage you can get."

Kylfa grunts. "We will see this cellar, then."

"A hunt!" Egil declares excitedly.

"Or a talk.  Perhaps the spirit will take some meat after all."  Kylfa raises his eyebrows.  "Perhaps I should take some with us, if that be the case."

Dagny nods. "Yeah, grab some."

"But to find it, we must first track it," Egil points out. "Not all hunts end in battle, only the most glorious ones do."

Dagny rubs her temples. "Oh gods another one of those."

Kylfa trudges back to the fest-hall to find some modest but choice cuts – if any remain!

Outside the meadery, lots are being prepared for the Jól drinking game. All who wish to participate have their names written out on scraps of goatskin, separated into male and female piles. These lots are then drawn, pairing off the drinkers. One's drinking partner becomes one's companion for the evening, and must be matched drink-for-drink. The goal of the game is to out-drink one's partner without passing out or throwing up. If both partners last till evening's end, the contest is settled with an exchange of verse: each partner must compose a line ridiculing their partner in some way or boasting of their own reputation, then drink a mug of ale, mead, or wine. This continues until one of the two partners passes out, throws up, or is unable to come up with a witty taunt or brag. As with all games, anyone is allowed to bow out honourably at any time; it is a drinking-partner's sacred duty to protect his or her companion should liquor leave them sick or senseless.

Inside the Well of Joy, contests of wits and wordplay are being held. Man and women sit about the hearth exchanging riddles, wagering drinks, coin, and small items on the outcome. Occasionally, participants switch partners once they've used up their riddles. Others simply sit around telling tales and reciting poems.

Kylfa selects several leftover cuts to placate the Nisse and returns to the mead-hall. He makes sure to dress in his hide armor beforehand, but his arms are not in hand, to appear not so threatening.

Tígris, you are unseen and unheard. While scouting the mead-hall you see no direct sign of the Nisse, but you do note several small footprints – it looks like the creature has been tracking spilled mead, mud, and snow through the mead-hall. Now that you've got its tracks you can help locate it down below.

You descend a rickety wooden ladder into the rooms below the Well of Joy - a series of underground chambers dug out of the hillside. You're currently in a small, square antechamber with exposed beams, cobwebs cluttering the corners. Three stout wooden doors lead to other rooms; upon one is carved the words "Larder," another reads "Storage," and the third is labelled "Cellar." The larder door is slightly ajar; a rat scurries from a hole in the wall through this gap into the room beyond.

Dagny whips out her wand and casts light on the end of it.

There's now enough light to see by down here, no matter which room you choose.

Kylfa , having nothing to add to this display of magical sleuthery at present, follows along quietly. He keeps an eye out for any mammalian creature down here.  Perhaps he could ask one of the rats or something.

Egil mutters words of power to detect magical auras, focusing on the cellar door.

Dagny does the same for the larder.

There's no aura from the cellar, currently. Dagny, you catch a glimmer of something from the larder – a faint aura of illusion-magic.

Dagny points to the larder, peering in there.

Through the crack in the door, you can see a room where smoked meat hangs from overhead.

Tígris is satisfied with what he's found upstairs and follows the others down into the cellar, keeping his eyes peeled.

Kylfa looks about for the rat, looking to the larder and then looks at Dagny questioningly.

Dagny steps inside, off to the side to let others in.

You dodge nimbly aside – poised atop the door was a chamber pot, filled to the brim! It shatters as it hits the floor, spraying filth everywhere, but you are quick enough to avoid it!

"Oh, that's real classy." Dagny shakes her head, then snaps her fingers, prestidigitating the mess on the floor away.

Egil grimaces.

 The larder is a cool room with dirt walls and floor, its wooden ceiling held up with stout beams. Smoked meat hangs from overhead – mostly venison, elk, rabbit, and fish – though these stores are growing a bit meagre. Cooked meat is stored in vats of sour whey. Dried herbs and a few vegetables are stored in shelves, but most of these are shrivelled and malformed. There's some grain, barley, flour, and nuts here, too, but likewise in short supply. A doorway leads to an adjoining chamber.

Kylfa pokes around for the rat.

Tígris, you find a series of Nisse-prints down in the antechamber, which abruptly become small paw-prints, like those of a rat! They lead to a hole in the wall, then out again and towards the larder.

Kylfa, you find rat-droppings scattered about here, as well as some nibbled bags of grain.

"Well, it was here, I'm pretty sure," Dagny mutters.

Tígris moves up behind Dagny and whispers, seemingly out of thin air. "It's the wearing the shape of a rat."

Dagny jumps. "Don't sneak up on me like that, point-ears. But thanks. Let's look over this way."

Kylfa, as you're looking about your keen ears pick up a sound, like liquid being poured, in the other room.

 Kylfa invokes the totem of the bear to gain its powers of scent and sight, and sniffs about for the rat.

You can smell the rat well – although it's mixed with a peculiar scent not unlike that of a Kobold or similar wight.

Kylfa sniffs in the direction of the other room, and moves in that direction, trying to catch a familiar scent – or any scent at all that seems unusual.

Tígris continues to sneak around, following Kylfa silently in case he finds anything.

The scent-trail leads to the chamber nearby. You look into the dairy, where more vats of whey are kept along with wheels of cheese, several barrels of milk, and a butter churn. Several of the cheeses look nibbled. There's a sour smell in here. Standing over one of the barrels and urinating gleefully directly into the milk is a tiny, wizened creature that somehow combines the characteristics of an extraordinarily ugly old man and a malformed child. It still keeps the tail and whiskers of a rat. No higher than your knee, the Nisse has a look of mischief on its wrinkled, warty face as it pisses with abandon.

Kylfa looks over his shoulder at the others, and points silently if they hadn't seen it yet.

Dagny whispers, "Oh yeah. REAL classy."

Egil looks at the others, gauging their reactions, not reaching for his weapons yet.

Tígris chuckles slightly, familiar with the mischief of Nisser.
It seems very... involved in its task. And its bladder is very, very full.

Kylfa whispers to Dagny, "I could try and subdue it.  Though it may be too fast."

"You take left side, I take right?"

Tígris replies. "And then we negotiate, I hope? I would not see this cousin slain without other avenues being tried."

"I will not hurt it," Kylfa whispers.

"Yeah," Dagny murmurs. "Easier to negotiate when it can't run away and piss on something else."

Kylfa invokes the totem of the bear, overriding the earlier transformation effect, to give himself claws and teeth.

Egil chants a prayer to Ullr.

The Nisse's ears prick up as you begin your spell.

Dagny figures she'd better just act, and charges into the room, trying to grab it.

Dagny, you stumble as you charge into the room, knocking over the milk-barrel the Nisse is urinating in. The disgusting mixture spills everywhere, and the Nisse hisses in surprise, trying to keep its balance!

Dagny lunges and grabs... the barrel? "Bghgh!" she yells, muffled by the awful mess.

Tígris silently grabs his bow and nocks an arrow, taking careful aim ready to shoot if necessary.

Kylfa charges at the creature, attempting to wrestle it to the ground.

You bear the tiny creature to the floor easily! It squirms and wriggles, but you keep a tight grip.

"Let me go! Let me go!" it squeaks in Álfari. "I'll hex you all! You'll rue the day you trapped Nils!"

Tígris shimmers back into view, holding his hands up. "Easy cousin, easy. We mean you no harm. We understand you've been insulted, and have come to make peace."

Dagny picks herself up and prestidigitates herself clean.

"I... will not... hurt you," Kylfa growls in Álfari as they struggle, "unless... you cannot be... still!"

You keep a tight hold of it and it ceases squirming, at least for a moment, Kylfa. "Set me down! Set me down! I'll not run, you big stinking bear-lout!"

Egil frowns, unable to comprehend the Nisse's chattering; with another short prayer a look of comprehension covers his face.

Tígris looks it dead in the eye. "Do you swear by our lord Frey, Nils?

The Nisse looks over towards the Light Elf. "Aye. I swear in Frey's name not to run, unless one of you lays a hand on me in anger again."

You hear truth in the creature's words, Tígris. It would be unwise indeed to break an oath to Frey during Jól.

Kylfa looks at the Elf questioningly.

"Now set me down, you disgusting lump of fur!"

Dagny idly messes with the ring on her finger while they're talking.

Tígris nods at Kylfa. "Nils speaks the truth. You can release it." He turns back towards the Nisse. "Now, shall we speak of your trouble with this hall?"

Kylfa grunts grudgingly, and sets the Nisse down at his feet.

The Nisse brushes itself off. "Sure, I've been pissing in the milk and playing a few tricks," it says, shrugging. "Like any good house-goblin would in my position! Have you HEARD the clatter and bang going on up there? And nary a bowl of oats to be found in the place!"

Tígris chuckles. "And so it is your right to do, cousin. But the lack of oats is no insult or slight – this winter means there's none to be had. And the clatter is from those sheltering to not freeze."

"There are no oats for you because there's no fucking oats for anyone," Dagny mutters.

Nils crosses its little arms. "Does that look like my problem?"

Tígris gives a warning look to Dagny.

"Perhaps there's no oats, but they could make an effort, at least! Leave me out SOMETHING. But no, it's just endless yammering and cursing and dirty feet tromping on my ceiling!"

"Now, I would propose an exchange with you," Tígris says. "A horse of your own, to keep as companion, from the owner of this hall and a tankard of mead each week in exchange for your word that you will let peace be restored." He gives a rueful wince. "And I will see if I can convince them to do something about the noise."

"A... a horse?" the creature says, delighted. "I would like that! Horses make far better company than humans, you know. I would braid its mane, take care of it and keep it sleek and healthy. Others could ride it, if they wanted, but it must always come home to the Well of Joy."

Kylfa says to the others in Northspeech: "We also have the meat.  If he eats it."

Nils looks over at Kylfa. "I'll accept your offering, if it's meant graciously. Yes, I speak Northspeech as well, bear-man."

Dagny shakes her head.

Kylfa raises his eyebrows, and then nods.  "We have had some aurochs to eat, and I brought some cuts of that.  Truthfully I did not know if this would please a sprite or offend it."

"Well, it's not my first choice but if there's no oats around... and, well, if there's a horse on offer!"

Kylfa provides it with the meat he was able to glean from the festhall.

Tígris smiles at his cousin. "Then we have a deal, Nils? Peace in this house in exchange for a horse, mead each week, food when it can be spared, and our best effort convincing them to quiet the racket somewhat?"

The Nisse nods, accepting the meat from Kylfa. "A deal, certainly. Although I don't see what the big fuss was about. All I did was pull a few pranks!"

Egil nods, pleased that the Nisse issue is resolved.

Dagny just presses her fingertips to her forehead and shakes her head again, walking out.

"A man nearly died from bad mead," intones Kylfa.

"Whaa? No, that wasn't me. Must have been that other fellow."

"Other... fellow?"

Dagny stops. "What?"

Tígris chants a spell in Álfari, making passes with his hands through the air to outline the shape of a fey pony from Alfheim that slowly begins to take on physical form. "Your horse, as promised. Now, cousin, what is this about another fellow?"

The Nisse approaches the Elf-pony in wonderment and whispers words of power to hold it in this realm. "Yeah," he says, stroking the pony's mane. "A shifty fellow, snuck down here while the place was busy upstairs. I was attending to a few things - alright, I was loosening the tap on one of the kegs – when I saw him creeping about, all shifty-eyed, with a vial of something in hand. He was a handsome bastard, with long black hair and eyes to match; on his arm he had these runes tattooed. Wearing bits of leather and some nasty-looking axes at his hip. There was something else too... he was missing two fingers on his left hand. I watched as he cut a little hole in one of the kegs and poured in a dark liquid from the vial."

Tígris looks around. "My friends, do any of you recognize the description? Have you met such a man?"

Dagny muses. "No..."

"No, I've newly arrived to these halls," Egil says.

"You mean you speak of a man, not another fey-creature?" Kylfa queries.

It looks at Kylfa as it runs its fingers through the pony's mane. "Aye, a man, yes. One of you big clattering louts."

Kylfa scratches his beard.  "I do not think I have seen this man.  But the way you have described him seems very distinctive. I should think everyone would be at the games, or the festhall.  Perhaps we should look for him."

Tígris nods. "You should, my friends. For my part, I will take Nils here to see the owner of this hall –Gudrun, wasn't it? – and see this truce negotiated and oath-bound.

Kylfa nods.

"The hunt continues, now for a more serious prey," Egil intones. "If this man was adding poison to the casks..."

"Yeah. But one sec." Dagny looks at the creature. "That thing you did to keep the horse here. If you're able and willing to do that again with some other stuff, we can work out a deal."

"What, that little trick? Not exactly difficult. What kind of deal you thinking?"

"I dunno. Surely there's more stuff you could want than just a horse and some mead. I'm a conjurer, I make stuff. Keeping it around, that's harder. So I figure, I make some stuff for you, I make some stuff for me."

The Nisse cocks his head. "Ah, a völva, I see! Well, you bring me something interesting, and perhaps we could come to an arrangement. Maybe something to keep the noise down?"

"Yeah, definitely doable."

It nods. "Well. I have a mane to braid." It makes a gesture, and the milk barrel rights itself, all of the milk flowing back into it, seemingly untainted.

Tígris smiles. "If you could hold off on grooming Starjnafax there for a few moments more, I would like to go upstairs with you and have you and the hall's owner confirm your truce, cousin."

The Nisse shrugs. "Alright, if you like." Nils twitches its whiskers and assumes rat-shape. It scampers up Tígris' leg and perches on his shoulder. "Lead on," it chitters into the Elf's ear.

"Is it really a good idea to bring... that... up into the mead-hall?" Dagny asks. She looks at her companions to see if there is anything more for now.

"I suppose you will want next to find this long-haired poisoner," Kylfa says to Dagny.

Dagny nods to Kylfa. "Yup."

"Excellent," Egil says.

Dagny shakes her head again. "You know, now I know how some people must feel about me."

Kylfa casts Longstrider on himself, conscious that he might have to chase someone today.

Dagny goes back up, keeping an eye out for the man.

Kylfa follows her out and goes to mix with the revelers, keeping an eye out for a man who matches the Nisse's description.


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Re: The Fimbulvinter Saga
« Reply #21 on: January 14, 2015, 01:56:40 AM »
IC: Fitt XV: The Assassin
Tígris heads up into the mead-hall, casting a quick eye around for the other man described but really looking for the mortal women with whatever name it is she has.

You return to the mead-hall just as the drinking competition is about to get started – or, at least the first bout. You look around for a man matching the Nisse's description, but the mead-hall is very crowded. You do see a Hrafnii man somewhere outside with black hair, but you're too far away to confirm the other details. Tígris, you spot the proprietor.

Tígris heads over to the proprietor and smiles. "Can I speak to you in private, please?"

The owner looks up to Tígris. "Aye, of course." She spots the rat on your shoulder and her eyes widen. "Is that...?"

Tígris nods to her. "It is. We've reached terms, but now I want you both sworn to honour them."

She looks at the rat and opens her mouth, then closes it. "Tell me these terms," she says presently.

Tígris smiles. "I've given him a gift, to begin with. For your part, you will honour him with a tankard of mead each week, give him offering of mead or grain when you can spare it, and see if you can do something about the noise in here. Though I understand he and Dagny may be working on their own deal in that regard. In exchange, there will be peace in this hall. Is that acceptable?"

"The mead I can manage, certainly. The grain may be harder, but when I have some to spare, it's his. I agree to the terms, good Nisse." She inclines her head to the rat solemnly.

Nils twitches his whiskers in recognition and scampers down to the floor and into a rat-hole, evidently pleased with the deal.

"Thank you, good lady. May your mead ever flow and your hall be prosperous." Tígris dips a bow and then leaves the hall, having a look around outside for his companions and the man they seek.

"Remind Dagny to come pick up that Dvergar mead!" Gertrud says as you leave.

Dagny figures a vague lead is better than no lead, and makes her way outside.

Kylfa will follow Dagny if he also sees the black hair in the crowd.

You make your way through the crowd, Dagny. Brúnn, the village Gothi, stops you just outside the mead hall. "Ah, Dagny!" the man says, beaming. "Will you be joining us at the Jólblót tonight? In the sacred grove?" The priest isn't drunk, but he's certainly had a mead or three!

"Yeah, possibly."

Kylfa will leave Dagny behind and continue looking for the man.

Egil follows Kylfa.

"Little busy now, Brúnn. Maybe we can talk later?"

"Oh, of course, of course! Jólnir bless you!"

Dagny nods, "You too," she says, though she doesn't really know what he's on about. She tries to catch up to Kylfa.

Kylfa, you spot a dark-haired man moving towards the Jarl's keep. He's definitely Hrafnii.

Kylfa follows him, not too hurriedly.

Dagny, you are able to get quite close to the raven-haired man, and note that he has all of his fingers. If the Nisse's description is to be believed, this isn't the man you're looking for. He stops beside a game of toga hönk. Several of the Jarl's Hird are playing at the tug-of-war, where two players each seize one end of a rope and brace their feet against one another with knees bent; the first to pull over his opponent wins. A small crowd of warriors and other onlookers are betting on the outcomes of such matches while waiting their turns. Nearby there's also some wrestling - Ragnvaldr, shirtless and quite drunk is currently grappling with Starkad.

Dagny quickly holds up her hand to Kylfa, wiggling each finger in turn.

Kylfa grunts and walks over to her. "You saw his fingers?"  He asks Dagny in Álfari.

Dagny nods to Kylfa. "Yeah. I saw all of 'em."

Kylfa grunts, again.  "Shame.  I have seen no other men with such hair."

"Perhaps we can ask at the inn?" Egil asks.

Kylfa wanders around the games at the Jarl's hall, watching them but also looking for any other dark-haired men meeting that description.

Only the most reckless dare to play at skofuleikr, the scraper-game, which uses the leftover horns of the butchered aurochs – while only one of the beasts was cooked for the feast they have all been cut up at this point. The "game" is more of a mock-combat in which the combatants can only wield the horns, stabbing and blocking with them frantically. While nominally points are scored for direct hits, in practice bouts continue until one fighter yields by throwing down their horns. Only the clumsiness of the horns keeps the game from being regularly deadly, but even so many acquire serious wounds while playing. Currently the reigning champion seems to be a burly Gylliring man with long, red-blond hair and several missing teeth.

Your circuit of the games proves fruitful; you spot a second dark-haired man. Looking closely, you see he's missing two fingers from his left hand. Armoured in leather, he has several small axes in his belt, and a raven sits on his shoulder. He's watching the scraper-game closely.

Dagny is walking around, looking also.

Kylfa gestures to Dagny and nods towards the second dark-haired man.

Tígris spots the man as well.

Egil notices Kylfa's gesture and looks for the man.

You see him. He's turning away from the game and heading around the keep.

"Maybe we could challenge him to one of these asinine games and make the whole thing look like an accident," Dagny mumbles.

"I have not promised to kill him," says Kylfa.  "Perhaps this is a thing to tell the jarl about."

"We should bring him to the Jarl, to explain himself," Egil says.

"Yeah, maybe," Dagny says. "But I'd like a bit more than the word of a Nisse before we start that."

Kylfa scratches his beard.  "What do you propose?"

"Simply ask him to accompany us," Egil suggests.

"If you will follow him, best now, I think.  I will follow.  I truthfully do not know what is best done with this man."

The shady fellow is continue to slink slowly towards the periphery of the keep, almost sauntering.

Tígris calls on Álfari magic to shimmer out of sight before pulling out his bow and starting to move after the man.

You see him salute one of the Jarl's men. The guard gives a lazy nod back – clearly they know each other. You keep to the shadows, your Elf-magic making you a part of the night. Your tread is soundless.

Egil follows the suspected poisoner as well.

Kylfa is going to watch him from a distance, not closing with him but trying to keep him in sight.

Tígris keeps close enough that he could take a shot at him from point-blank range, waiting until he's out of everyone's sight before firing an arrow straight at his throat.

Tígris, he's a ways away from the crowd when he takes out a piece of parchment and begins tying it to the raven's leg.

Tígris fires at him before he's done tying it.

Dagny was about to lay out a really clever plan to get him to confess. No, seriously, it was awesome. Then Tígris fired.

Kylfa reaches to scratch his beard.  By the time his finger reaches his chin, it's already over.

The arrow flies true, but the assassin has almost preternaturally sharpened reflexes – he must have heard your bow-string twang, for he twitches aside at the last moment, and your arrow, which should have impaled his throat, merely gouges a nasty wound across his neck. The parchment falls to the ground and his raven caws in irritation, flapping it wings. He turns, an axe in his hand!

Tígris fires at him again, now openly visible.

The man darts back; your second arrow takes him in the thigh. Blood spatters the snow. So far the combat has been deathly quiet save for the raven's caw, neither of you uttering so much as a whisper.

Egil takes aim and shoots an arrow at the assassin.

The assassin ducks, and your arrow quivers in a nearby building. He hurls his axe

 Tígris dodges aside with Elven grace.

The axe embeds itself in the wall behind Tígris. You can see there was something smeared on the blade.

Dagny sighs. "Subtlety is apparently not happening any more..." She comes running forward, getting to within about ten feet., then extends her hand, a cone of every colour of the rainbow blasting out of it.

The assassin is temporarily stunned by the radiant flash!

"Now maybe you don't have to kill him... so we can find out what the fuck's up?"

Kylfa , seeing the fight start and the man drop, does nothing save continue to watch from a distance.

Dagny points to the downed man. "Hold him down or something!"

Tígris considers giving him mercy, but decides that safe is better than sorry. He fires.

Ragnvaldr, hearing Dagny's yell, saunters over with a horn of ale in hand, just as Tígris puts an arrow in the man's chest.

The assassin vomits blood on the snow.

Ragnvaldr hurries up to the group, spear in hand. "A fight?!" he declares, somewhat hopefully.

Egil watches as the arrow takes the assassin in the gut, causing him fall to the ground, bleeding. "Someone get ready to hold him down, I can stop him from dying."

"FINALLY. Thank you." Dagny quickly goes over and holds him down.

Ragnvaldr approaches the man and pokes him with his spear. "You're sure? I could stick him if you want."

Egil invokes Ullr to stop the assassin's bleeding.

Ragnvaldr shrugs and pins him, then notices the parchment. "Some sort of note," he says, waving it.

Tígris quirks an eyebrow. "What does it say? If he was sneaking around to send it by raven, he's probably spying."

The warrior has a dagger at his throat. "I don't know what the note says... too dark for my eyes. Have a look, Tígris."

The man's wounds heal rapidly and he regains consciousness, but is held down by Ragnvaldr and Dagny.

Tígris takes a look.

The ntoe reads:





Kylfa continues to watch from a distance.

Fritjof spits blood and begins to laugh raggedly.

Dagny looks at Fritjof, then at Tígris. "What is it?"

"Proof?" Egil asks.

Tígris scowls. "He was poisoning the supplies. That could include the mead – move fast! We need to let the Jarl know he may have poisoned the Jól supplies and that he was planning the assassination of the garrison and the Jarl himself. As well as all of you, incidentally." He shrugs.

Dagny casts web and cocoons up the man nice and tight. "You stay here."

"I'll stand watch over the bugger," Ragnavdlr adds.

"You won't stop him," Fritjof snarls, before the webs silence him. "You're all dead!" The webs close over his mouth before he can say more.

Kylfa finally walks over to the assembled group. He crosses his arms and looks at the man on the ground, then up at the rest of them.  "You have captured him.  What will you do now?"

"Tell the Jarl. We have proof now." Dagny says.
Kylfa raises his bushy eyebrows.  "That he poisoned the mead?:

Dagny hurries after Tígris. "Try to keep up, beard-man!"

Kylfa follows Dagny.

"Wanted to kill us as well," Egil mutters.

Kylfa can, fortunately, keep up, on account of his prescient Longstrider casting.  Keeping up on the narrative, however, has no corresponding spell.

You arrive at the Jarl's keep, where Hrothik is enjoying a horn of ale.

Tígris looks around for the Jarl as he moves quickly through the crowd, doing nothing to hide his Elfish grace or his inhuman features.

Hirdmenn look at you in alarm as you storm inside the feasting-hall, past bone-throwing and a frenzied game of skeinnleikr. The Jarl looks you up and down.

"Who..." he begins. He's probably had a few drinks himself.

Dagny says, a bit out of breath, "We've captured a man who was... up to shit. He's outside."

"Hmm? Jól-pranks, is it? That sort of mischief is common enough at Yuletide."

"If you count poisoning the water and mead as a prank, yeah sure."

"What?!" The Jarl blusters. "Men! Head to the Well of Joy at once! And someone find Brúnn!"

"I can assist with the purification," Kylfa says, and hurries off to the tavern to use his Purify Food and Drink spell on any water or mead around.

Dagny motions to Tígris. "Show him the note, point-ears."

Tígris offers the Jarl the note, mentioning as he does. "The Nisse in the Well of Joy told us he'd poisoned the mead there. We caught him about to send this note by raven. And judging by the poison on the axe he threw at me, he didn't want us to know this information."

The Jarl scans the note hurriedly, then crumples it in fury. "That ergi! We must stop the drinking-games at once, until Brunn can purify the mead. Thank Odin you stopped this scoundrel in time!"

"His name was ...Fritjof?" Tígris says. "Something like that? I'm not good with mortal names."

"An apt name. You say you have him captive? Bring him here; we'll deal with him at our leisure. I'm sure we'll have many questions for him."

"He's outside," Dagny indicates. "The one that looks like a giant grey hairball."

Starkad, who is nearby, nods at Dagny's comment. "I'll go fetch him."

Dagny grins as Starkad brings him back. "Seidr-strands, those. They'll last another.... oh, quarter hour or so. Beyond that it's up to you."

Moments later, Ragnvaldr and Starkad drag the man inside.

Dagny idly fiddles with her ring while she watches the goings-on.

While Kylfa and Brúnn manage to prevent catastrophe due to your swift intervention, some of the poisoned mead-casks have been broached, and you find several men and women in need of healing.

Tígris heads out to help with the treatment of those poisoned.

Kylfa uses his healing arts to aid the poison-victims.

One of the poisoned men is aided by your efforts, recovering swiftly. Another gasps nearby, his face turning black.

Kylfa grunts and turns to the other man.

With Tígris' help, you assist the second man. It looks like the rest have been tended by Brunn and others with healing skills. Ivar's agent may have been insidious, but he failed to take a single life this Jól!

 Back at the keep, Starkad cuts the webbing from Fritjof's mouth. "Speak, villain," he commands. "Tell us of Ivar's plan. Your note hints at an attack."

"Bugger that," Fritjof sneers. "I'm dead anyway, and so are all of you."

Kylfa stays at the tavern as long as is necessary to ensure all the mead/water is purified, then returns to the Jarl's hall.

"You want me to, uh, encourage him to talk?"

The Jarl looks over at you. "You can certainly be persuasive, Dagny. Go ahead."

Dagny gives Fritjof a crooked smile. "Let's let bygones be bygones, hmm?" She mumbles a few words and snaps her fingers.

Fritjof strains for a moment, but then the charm takes effect.

"Now, come on. Tell us what you know."

He nods slowly, the words tumbling forth as if on their own accord. "Ivar's gathering an army, mustering at Skrikborg. He's got two hundred Blóðbard berzerkers thirsty for blood, and other things besides - Trolls from out of Ironwood, and his revenants, Nair brought back from Hel with the aid of black Seidr. He's still gathering men, but he planned to march as soon as the Jarl here was dead."

Dagny looks at Fritjof, then at the Jarl.

"He hired me to soften Wulfheim up... axe a few men, poison the drink, and take out Hrothik."

Egil chuckles. "Foiled because of an errant Nisse."

Fritjof turns his head towards Egil. "What? A house-goblin?"

Kylfa nods appreciatively.  "To think back on it, I am glad I asked it about the poisoning of the man."

"We'll have more questions for this wretch later," the Jarl says. "Starkad, lock him away."

The Thegn nods and begins dragging Fritjof into some dark corner of the keep.

"He'll go back to being an asshole in a little bit. Let me know if you need me again tomorrow."

The Jarl nods. "A good trick, rune-caller."

"Why is this man Ivar so interested in fighting this place?" Kylfa says to nobody in particular.

The Jarl shakes his head. "He desires dominion – and Wulfheim lies at a strategic location, at the border of the Hrafnlands. If he can seize it, he will use it as a staging point for further conquests - raids into the Hrafnlands and other realms to the east."

 Kylfa grunts and blows some air through his bushy moustache with annoyance.  "I find these blood-beard men very bothersome.  They woke me from my sleep, you know."

"Indeed? That was foolish of them. Most would not dare to wake a sleeping bear."

"It did not end well for them."
"As I recall, Ingjuld said that you and your companions slew eight of Ivar's men before coming here. Eight fewer marauders to put down like rabid dogs."

 Kylfa frowns.  "Nevertheless that sounds like many men, and trolls.  But I know nothing of war."

"It is a great many indeed. We will have to think of some plan; Wulfheim cannot stand long against such a force. Our garrison is small and our allies are few, these days... but with the Heroes of Hunt here in Wulfheim, perhaps there is hope for our survival."

Kylfa shrugs.  "I have little elsewhere to go, and I do rather like some of these folk.  I suppose I will stay.  But I am a poor vessel of the Forest-friend, and this plan-making is not a strength of mine."

Tígris frowns thoughtfully. "I will see if I can send word to Álfheim and if they may send some aid. It is certainly the right night to call on my Lord Freyr."

 "I, uh, might have some ideas about that too," Dagny adds.

"After Jól is over, we will hold a council of war... but for now, let us return to merriment. No blood has been spilled save that of an honourless vargr, and there is still cause to rejoice!"

"Sounds good to me. I missed out on a lot of drinking doing all this other shit."

Kylfa looks lost in thought, his brow creased like a wide furrowed field.


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Re: The Fimbulvinter Saga
« Reply #22 on: January 19, 2015, 01:00:54 AM »
IC: Fitt XVI: The Aptrgangar
You travel through the wintry darkness with a procession of men and women bearing torches, led by the Gothi, Brúnn. Though a storm still rumbles in the west - perhaps the Wild Hunt raging across the White Waste, still pursuing their quarry - in the hills outside of Wulfheim it is cold and still. Snow falls quietly upon the pale hills, gleaming like silver in the bone-white light of the moon.

Dagny needs someone to practically drag her along considering how drunk she is.

After some time you reach the sacred grove, cleansed of the Dark Elves. Despite the desolation elsewhere evident in the world the trees here look healthy and green. The procession walk through the trees in silence to arrive at a clearing where nine statues to the gods preside - Odin, Thor, Týr, Baldr, Heimdall, Frey, Freya, Frigg, and Njord. Their stony faces look down upon the gathering sombrely.

Setting offerings of meat before the states of Odin, Frey, and Njord, Brúnn begins the ritual chants of the Jólblót while others kindle a bonfire at the centre of the clearing. He smears the statues with blood, the fire flickering, casting strange shadows.

Dagny looks around. "Hey. This is where we fought those guys..." she mumbles drunkenly, plopping down somewhere inconvenient.

Hlif – Hallvard's widow – is present here, and chuckles at Dagny's intoxication.

"Odin Jólnir, One-Eye, Raven-Lord, Yule-Father," Brúnn intones. "God of Runes, Mover of Constellations, Wish-God and Weather-Maker, Wise in Spells and Lord of the Hanged! Hear as we hail you and honour our workings; waken our word-skill by your blessing. Sunna sinks down to the darkened sea while wolf and wind howl outside the walls. Winter shakes out her snowy bed; now are life-fires hid in Yew-Night, and Odin's Grey-Steed, Sleipnir, Spawn of Loki Mare's Mother, Svaldifari-sired, leads ghosts on the wind. Well may all who watch this night be warded when Sunna stands in her lowest stead, when lost is all light and life is sleeping; when the frost-cold wights hold their icy rule and Odin, from Yew-Dales, howls with his riders from the north. Odin All-Father, we hail you from darkness deepest; lead us through this night unending, through all dire dooms!"

Brúnn lights candles at Odin's feet, then moves on to Njord, and the rite continues, with more chants, prayers, and sacrifices.
Jól is a time for the swearing of oaths to be kept throughout the coming year, some of them boasts promising feats of renown. A hunter, for example, might swear to bring down a boar of a particular weight; a brewer might swear to brew so many gallons of ale; a warrior might swear to slay a certain number of foes. Others might forsake some iniquity or take on some handicap or burden voluntarily as part of a boast. The Gothi, Brúnn, presides over this year's oaths. Men and women step forward towards the crackling fire swear their oaths before Frey, who bestows good fortune on mortals. Those who keep their oaths will find their endeavours blessed by the god of prosperity, but those who break their oaths will suffer a curse, and if they die before it is lifted they will be condemned to  Náströnd, the Corpse Shore, where Nidhogg gnaws at the shades of the mansworn. Those who fulfill particularly grand boasts invite further favour from Frey and much fame.

Dagny picks herself up and shambles over towards the fire.

Katla stands up, unsheathing her sword and thrusting it into the snow while kneeling before the image of Freyr. "Many of the Drakkar that menace this town have been slain, but some of them yet remain, eluding our blades and growing fat from raiding the country. I shall not abide by this. I will hunt down the rest of that batch, and see each and every last of them dead. This I swear, by my sword and the blood of my kin!"

You feel a righteous fury flow through your blade and up your arm, strengthening your resolve as Frey looks on in recognition of your boast!

Dagny looks at Katla. "Yeah... Katla... you're real strong."

Katla raises her head, a fiery determination visible in her yes. She stands up quietly, sheaths her sword and backs gracefully from the statue. "I appreciate your compliment Dagny."

Dagny shakes her head, then makes her own oath. She's clearly drunk. "I swear to... uh, to feed this entire fucking town. Yeah. Feed it food. And bring light and shit, because it's fucking dark. Maybe build a giant..." A giant what? She slurs some Dvergar word nobody can understand. It probably sounds like inane drunken ramblings.

Despite the drunkenness of your boast, Frey honours you, and you can feel a force of inspiration filling your mind and your heart, gifting you with will and focus!

The townsfolk look somewhat askance at Dagny's ramblings, but others whisper of her role in the hunt, and of other deeds of renown.

"A powerful Völva, Dagny," one mutters.

"Her witchery will bring death to us all!" another grumbles.

Dagny 's eyes suddenly get wide. "Shit... holy shit... HOLY SHIT."

Egil kneels in front of the statue of Frey, bowing his head. He takes the Draupnir ring from his finger "I swear on this ring, under the watch of Ullr, Frey and Odin that my arrows will be true as I hunt the beasts and monsters of this dark winter. I vow to hunt a dozen of the deadliest beasts that threaten the lands."

You feel your sinews tauten, your reflexes quicken, your sight sharpen.

Dagny sees the ring. "That's it! That's it!"

Dagny runs over to Katla, grabbing her in an embrace. "Half a twist to the left! Half a twist to the left!! I knew the All-Father wouldn't jerk us around!!"

Katla, you can smell a lot of mead on Dagny's breath...

Katla staggers slightly, surprised by Dagny's outburst. "Uh, what are you talking about?"

Dagny holds up her ring. "They're not random. They're EVERYTHING."

"In any case, I think you've drunk a little too much tonight."

Egil slips the ring back on his finger and looks worriedly at Dagny.

Dagny starts messing with her ring rather compulsively. "You just have to... twist it... like this... but in your mind...."

In her drunken state Dagny is having trouble concentrating.

Dagny keeps messing with the ring, as if driven to something.

Katla just shakes her head. She gently grabs Dagny by the shoulder and guides her out of the thickest crowd. "Come on now. You need to sleep off that mead-haze."

Dagny halts. "No... look. We both got climbing, right? But look now." Dagny shows that the runes on her ring and Katla's are now different.

The runes have indeed changed, Dagny's glowing dully in the gloom!

"You can twist it... in your mind... and make it different."

Katla looks surprised. "That- whu- what did you do? Is this more of your Seidr tricks?"

Dagny shakes her head. "No... I mean yes... but no... you can do it too..."

"I have no gift for such hex-work. And I would not try to mess with a gift bestowed by Odin himself."

"No... he wants you to... it's part of the magic... anyone can do it."

Egil, you scent something foul on the air, and think you hear something moving in the sacred grove.

Egil draws his weapon "Beware! There is something foul on the winds Brúnn! Gather the townsfolk into the center of the grove!

Brúnn, looking up from his rites, begins urging the townsfolk to gather at the centre of the grove.

"Enough about this. There's something going on. We must be alert and ready!" Katla stays beside Dagny, seeign that she gets to the grove safely.

Dagny nods. "Alert and ready... got it." She promptly falls face down on the ground.

Katla, something moves in the darkness, rustling through the sacred grove. You glimpse dark shapes shuffling through the trees, dragging themselves slowly up towards the crown of the hill. Low moans are audible, and the tortured hiss of some fell language.

"There are many of them... whatever they are! They are coming up the hill!"

Egil nocks an arrow and looses one of the revenants shambling from the wood. "Impede their movement!"

You hear a dull groan from your target, and it stumbles into the light, an arrow protruding from its putrescent chest. More rotting corpses, clad in tattered oddments of clothing and armour, are lurching up the hill. Some bear shields upon which a serpentine symbol is scrawled; others are frost-bitten, their bodies torn and half-eaten, gangrenous wounds writhing with maggots or black from exposure. The revenants exude a vile stench.

Dagny mumbles, "Give them some of this mead... that will impede their movement..." She starts drunkenly casting a spell.

The villagers, shrieking, huddle round the fire, though a few back away from the advancing revenants, and some look like they might bolt in terror!

"People, arm yourselves! Grab torches and stones if you must, and prepare to fight for your lives now! Stay together!" Katla shouts at the villagers without looking at them, her eyes fixed at the oncoming foes as she readies her bow and shoots at the nearest revenant.

Your arrow takes one of the revenants in the head, but it barely seems to feel the wound. It stumbles forward, hands clutching the air, hissing in Helmál!

Brúnn seizes his staff and begins uttering prayers to Odin. His eyes flash bright, and he lays a hand on Katla's arm. "Strength of the Æsir be with you, shield-maiden!" Katla, you feel great strength flow into you!

Some of the villagers heed Katla's words, but others look unsure. A few begin grabbing burning brands, or setting branches afire.

The Aptrgangar begin closing in, now fully illuminated by the firelight. Their movements are slow, sluggish, as if afflicted by rigor mortis or the stiffness of cold.

Egil takes a deep breath, he draws and looses another arrow at the same revenant.

In the darkness, with the firelight casting weird shadows, aiming is difficult. Your arrow hits a tree with a dull thunk.

Egil takes a few steps back.

Dagny didn't bring her axe, but she has her trusty dagger. She flings that at the nearest revenant! An instant after it hits, an earth elemental bursts up from the ground, pounding that same Aptrgangr!

Your dagger slices through flesh, cutting open the revenant's entrails! It stumbles attempting to pick them up, while the elemental batters at it ineffectively. Your blade seemed far more effective than arrows.

The villagers are forming a line against the revenants, torches in hand, lit from the crackling fire. A few of Wulfheim's townsfolk, however, have fled into the woods.

Brúnn steps forward, spreading his arms and directing his staff in a wide arc. The statues around him glow softly, as if lending the Gothi strength. The revenants recoil before Brúnn's holy presence, the light shining from his staff searing their flesh.

Katla drops her bow, seeing as it's not very effective against these things. She draws the silver dagger from its holster and tosses it to Hlif. "Use this if they close in on you!" She shouts, arming herself with her shield and the short sword. She moves over to Egil, where most of the revenants seem to be about to assault.

The revenants continue forward, some raising clubs, severed limbs, or rusted blades as they advance!

Dagny's elemental is attacked by the eviscerated revenant, but the corpse's rotten teeth and overgrown nails fail to penetrate its rocky hide.

Egil knocks an arrow and looses at the closest revenant attacking Katla.

Your arrow nearly knocks the revenant off its feet, Egil! The thing stumbles, clawing at Katla to regain its footing.

Katla shoves the hideous figure off with her shield.

Dagny's elemental keeps pounding away at the same revenant! It knocks the Aptrgangr's head clean off with a mighty punch of a stone fist!

Dagny herself draws back towards the fire.

As you turn to fall back, one of the creatures launches itself at you, its claws tearing at your flesh as it grabs you, pulling you toward it. You feel cold breath on your skin as the Aptrgangr sinks its carious teeth into your torso.

Dagny snarls in pain, falling back, flinging her dagger as she goes. The blade rips the revenant open, and she smirks. "Yeah... that's what you get for biting me... fucker." She snaps her fingers, sending her dagger flying back into her hand.

The townsfolk, torches in hand, charge to aid you and the Gothi in combat! Two of the revenants are set aflame, including the one attacking Katla. The villagers batter at the undead till they lie still. Fire is spreading from one walking corpse to another.

Brúnn calls upon Týr to lend him strength and skill in battle, then strides forward to meet one of the revenants.

Katla steps toward the closest standing cadaver, crouching behind her shield and striking a low cut with her sword, its blade now alight with flames hungry for revenant flesh. Her devious cut takes the foe by surprise, slicing open its gut. But instead of retracting the blade, Katla twists it and continues to cut in an upward direction, slashing up across the creature's chest all the way to its neck, her blade driven through ribs with seeming ease by her phenomenally boosted strength.

The worshippers of Wulfheim scream as the revenants swarm over them. One man has his neck torn open, spattering his fellow with blood; another is bitten on the arm, the Aptrgangr fastening its cadaverous jaws on the poor woman. Brúnn himself is injured as one of the things rakes at him with its claws.

Kylfa 's ears prick up with the sound of battle as he attends to a particular errand in the forest. The bear shaman takes his club and shield in his hands and moves in the direction of the scent.

You approach the edge of the sacred grove of the Æsir. A group of walking corpses are molesting the worshippers honouring Odin at the Jólblót! Dagny, Katla, and Egil, as well as Brúnn and the widow Hlif, can all be seen, fighting for their lives against the unliving warriors.

Dagny's elemental does what it does best, turning to its right to aid Brúnn, still pounding away with rocky fists.

The elemental is strong, but clumsy, its blows failing to connect.

Egil lights one of his arrows from the central fire, then knocks it and looses in a smooth motion towards the far left revenant attacking a villager. He watches as the arrow strikes the revenant in the neck, engulfing the desiccated flesh. It falls to the ground, the remains of its head a smoking ruin.

Fire flicker at the base of a tree. If it is not put out, the grove may be set aflame!

Dagny sticks her hands right into the fire, unaffected by the flames, rubbing them together with a wicked grin. She then runs forward, releasing a cone of flame from her hands, also mostly hitting Brúnn's statue to avoid frying her elemental. Dagny immolates the revenant in a huge rush of flame. Nothing is left but some smoking charred bones.

The villagers, wounded and terrified, retreat towards the bonfire.

Brúnn, shouting war-cries and invoking the power of Týr, smashes one of the reanimated dead with his staff, cracking its skull so that brains leak from its broken head. Somehow, the thing remains on its frostbitten feet.

Katla moves to attack the currently unengaged revenant, her strike going for its neck. Her flaming sword severs the striding corpse's putrid head before it can so much as lift an arm at her. The head is sent flying by the force of the blow and smacks against a tree trunk before the body itself hits the ground.

One of the revenants assails Brúnn, but the Gothi blocks with his staff.

More flames lick at the trees – in the damp they may not catch, but they pose a threat to the grove!

Kylfa, seeing one revenant remaining and a fire smouldering nearby, opts to deal with both – moving close enough to take a deep breath and expectorate a cone of freezing snow. Kylfa exhales mightily; a sheet of crackling snow flies right in front of Katla's face, and when it clears he still sees the revenant – but it is still as stone and covered in icicles, moving no more.

The blast of snow puts out one of the incipient fires. Katla, you're close enough to feel the cold, though not so close as to be caught in the bear shaman's blizzard-breath.

Katla dodges instinctively to avoid the burst of ice that would have narrowly missed her regardless.

Dagny's elemental smashes the frozen revenant.

Dagny seems to have sobered up a bit due to the battle.

Brúnn shouts to everyone. "We must burn these bodies! If they are not destroyed by flame they will rise again!"

A few flames are still licking at the edge of the grove, though these seem likely to go out on their own.

Dagny motions to the Aptrgangr she burned. "Yeah... got it covered." Her elemental grabs the revenant it destroyed, lumbers over to the fire, and tosses it in, before disappearing back into the earth whence it came.

Brúnn nods. "Your skill in Seid proves invaluable once again, Dagny."

Kylfa runs right by them without stopping to attend first to the still-smoldering part of the grove. He takes his bear-cloak and attempts to beat down the smoldering fire on the grove's edge before returning to the others.

The villagers hasten to throw the bodies of the slain in the flames. Several have minor wounds, and one of them is dead, his throat torn out. He, too, is consigned to the bonfire.

Katla goes around sticking the corpses with her flaming blade, taking care not to allow the fire to spread. "No doubt these were from the larger horde."

Dagny smiles and tries to take a bow, but winces. She has a nasty bite in her midsection. "Fucker got me. I got him worse, though."

Egil, your keen sight picks up movement on the ridge above the grove – a rider! You glimpse a spear bearing a serpent banner, an emaciated horse, too bony to be a living mount, and a pair of reddish eyes, watching from above.

Egil lights another arrow, loosing into the distance, the light from the fiery arrow illuminates a dark rider before landing in the snow and extinguishing itself. "Beware! There is revenant rider in the distance

Brúnn looks up as Egil sends his arrow flying. "Evil taints even this most sacred time. Is there no respite in this cursed winter, this endless night?"

"A rider!?" Katla says. "What manner of horse would accept a revenant on its back?"

The rider spurs its horse and disappears into the night, hooves crunching on snow.

Dagny watches him go. "A revenant horse?"

"With a rider." Egil says. "Dagny, would you be willing to let me heal your wounds?"

Dagny shrugs. "Yeah, sure, new guy. As long as there's no funny stuff."

Egil shakes his head at Dagny's mistrust and begins a prayer to Ullr.

Katla spits. "Abominable beast for an abominable horseman."

Your wound closes rapidly, Dagny, the pain fading.

Dagny looks at the wound, or rather, where there is no more wound. "Hey, thanks, new guy. You're all right." She gives him a pat on the shoulder.

Kylfa, returning the bear cloak to his shoulders, trundles over to the others within the sacred circle.

Brúnn looks downcast as the last corpses are given to the fire. "We should return to Wulfheim. I must speak with the Jarl. Thank you, again, for your aid. It seems the sacred grove is not as safe as I had hoped."

Katla collets her dropped bow and, seeing that Dagny is being healed, goes to Hlif to make sure that the widow is alright, and to have her silver dagger returned.

The widow is shaken, but unhurt. She hands you back the dagger. "My thanks, shield-maiden."

"Come, Hlif. We return to the safety of Wulfheim's walls. You were brave tonight. Braver than some of those men." Katla glares at the distant figures of villagers that broke and fled from the shrine.

She shivers in the cold. "I could use another drink. Or three."

Katla nods. "We all could."

Kylfa grunts. "I did not expect to meet people here.  Least of all you."

"You arrival here was welcome, although I would rather it'd been a little sooner," Katla says.

"Been a busy night." Dagny adds: "That was some shit, Katla. Remind me never to piss you off."

Kylfa looks around at the people.  "What are they doing in these woods?"

"The Jólblót, friend Kylfa," the Gothi says. "Where oaths are sworn before the All-Father, Njord, and Frey."

"We are clearly being observed my some foe," Egil says. "I do not believe this attack random."

Kylfa nods as the folk of Wulfheim begin the trek back to its walls.  "Hmm.  Yes, I suppose my work is done here for now."

You return to the settlement of Wulfheim with the villagers and Brúnn. Revelry is still in progress despite the lateness of the hour. The drinking contest is still in full-swing, and though most of the more violent games have ended, riddling and storytelling continue at the Well of Joy.

Dagny buys drinks for everyone who stayed, and conspicuously does not for everyone that broke ranks and fled.

"Perhaps we should speak with the Jarl," Katla suggests. "I fear that Wulfheim itself may be attacked soon."

Brúnn nods. "Will you accompany me to the keep?"

"I will. I have no heart for revelries now, after what just happened at the shrine."

"I can bear witness to the battle as well," Egil adds.

At the keep at the centre of Wulfheim, Jarl Hrothik Wulfgar broods over the remnants of the Yule-feast, Starkad and a few of his Hird in close conversation. The aging leader looks up as you enter. "Ah, Brúnn. Did the Jólblót go well?"

"Yes... until we were attacked. Attacked by the shades of the dishonoured dead!" Brúnn's face is grim. "These warriors can tell you further."

Katla kneels in greeting to the Jarl.

"Rise, Katla, and tell me of this fell incident."

"We were indeed assailed by vile Aptrgangar. I suspect they were forerunners of the large host that has been spotted moving in the west. We encountered a couple of these creatures during our hunt for aurochs earlier."

"Yes, Starkad mentioned your encounter with them. It is evil news indeed, if they have moved eastward so swiftly."

"Ordinary weapons of iron seem to bear little impact on their rotted flesh, but fire and silver at least appear to be potent. If it truly is that the horde is moving toward Wulfheim, it may be at the town's gates before soon. If I may be so bold, I would advise that scouts are sent to determine their true numbers and nearness."

The Jarl considers this carefully. "We shall need pitch to fight these things, if they assail Wulfheim. Silver weapons we have in short supply, and I can think of no easy means of securing more, unless some trader were to brave the road and seek such weapons elsewhere. Starkad, take your best hunters and set a patrol around Wulfheim to the west. If you encounter these things singly or in small groups, try to pick them off, but do not risk your lives; stay on horseback, and retreat if their numbers are too great. We must locate their main host." He looks to Egil. "Warpriest – are you skilled in the battle-art? Do you have any advice?"

"None that has not been said. However there was also a mounted Revenant observing the battle. Clearly the dead are more organized than we would think.

"Mounted? Aptrgangar on steeds... truly our doom draws nigh. If the Norns are kind then most of their number will be foot-soldiers."

"The rider bore a spear marked with the Serpent of Loki

Brúnn nods. "Aye. It is as the seers foretold. The Trickster and his daughter, Hel, are allied against the forces of the Aesir, and all who revere them in Midgard."

The Jarl's expression is grim indeed. "Rest, now. We will consider all this at greater length, once Jól is concluded. For now let us keep a sharp watch. Vatnar, ensure that enough men are sober to man the walls. It would be a poor Yuletide indeed if Ivar's men or Aptrgangar slay us in our sleep..."

"Wise words, Jarl." Katla bows and takes her leave.


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Re: The Fimbulvinter Saga
« Reply #23 on: January 20, 2015, 06:54:57 PM »
IC: Fitt XVII: The Thrivaldii
Dawn is grey and dull, the sun red and inflamed behind clouds as black as frostbitten flesh. Wulfheim still recovers from the revelries the night before, many sleeping late in their beds rather than rising for the morning chores. In the Well of Joy, the Nisse, Nils, can be seen humming to itself and magically aiding with tasks around the mead hall, to the delight of Gertrud and her daughters.

Kylfa looks for Dagny.

Katla is up early, having been spared the hangover she'd probably suffered if the events in the growe had not curbed her enthusiasm for drink

Dagny talks to Gertrud and then to Nils.

Kylfa , who was also in the Well of Joy, walks over behind Dagny and clears his throat softly.

Dagny turns around. "Yeah?"

"Mmm.  Dagny, I ask you for the gold you have kindly been keeping for me.  Soon I think I shall see what can be done with it among the troll-kin."

Dagny nods. "Sure thing, beard-man. Let's go get it."

Kylfa follows her.

Dagny heads for her home. She looks around to make sure nothing's up and then releases the arcane lock on her door. "C'mon in."

Kylfa stoops to get through the presumably more Dagny-sized door.

Dagny's home is surprisingly clean and bright, having been enhanced with all sorts of minor arcane improvements.

Dagny asks, "You hungry?"

"Often," Kylfa replies.

Dagny smirks and leans over, rummaging around under her bed, coming up with a bag. "Here you go," she says, looking into it to make sure it's all there, and then handing it over.

Kylfa rummages around through the bag.  "Is this rather a lot?"

Dagny shrugs. "It's a decent amount. More than most people here have. Depends on what you want to buy I guess."

Kylfa nods.  "I believe I will go there today, weather permitting."

Though dark and cold, the day is still, and there is little snow or hail.

"I'll come along, if you want," Dagny says.

"If they will not take gold, perhaps there is some other boon I can give.  But I should rather give them metal, which I care nothing about, than my own labor."

Dagny also explains to Kylfa how to 'turn the ring in his mind.'

Kylfa squints, uncomprehending. After some time, he nods. "You are welcome to come.  Though I cannot say how dangerous this may be.  I do not know how they will behave this time."

"All the better you don't go alone then."

Abruptly, an earth elemental appears in the corner, warily eyeing Kylfa!

Kylfa regards her for a moment, scratching his beard, and then nods.  "Yes.  Then –"

"Oh yeah. Meet Rocky."

Kylfa grunts. "Hmm.  Yes, well.  I am ready to depart as soon as you are."

Dagny pats Rocky on the head. "Keep watch, k?" She smiles and gathers up her axe and other possessions. "Truth is, I've got my own business with them, probably." She grabs a few coins, makes sure everything is locked up, and heads out.

Egil shows up at the Well of Joy from wherever he spent the night.

Katla approaches him. "Warrior-priest. You fought well yesterday."

"Thank you Katla, you also fared well in the battle."

"I can see that you are very capable with the bow. If you would like to, I would practice the draw and shot with you. Perhaps hold a friendly contest of archery someday?"

"I would be honored to, Katla."

Katla smiles. "Good to hear. Æsir know that we might need every arrow in the times ahead."

Egil concentrates trying to 'turn the ring in his mind' as Dagny described.

The ring responds to your thoughts, its rune shifting on the band.

"I understand that you excel in the hunt of game, as well. I am a tracker myself, though more out of necessity than profession. Should you plan to undertake any major hunts and need companions along, I would be interested to know."

"Indeed, my oath last night was to hunt a dozen of the beasts plaguing the land. It would be a great boon to have you on these hunts. Before these dark times, it was with hunting that I paid tribute to Ullr."

"Indeed? I am sworn to hunt and bring down the remaining Drakkar, myself."

"It seems our oaths converge then."

"A war-priest of Ullr would be most welcome on such a quest"

Then it is settled, when you ride to slay the Drakkar, I will ride alongside you."

"So be it, Egil."

Katla, having little to do, seats herself on a bench and sets about to clean her weapons.

Katla, Egil, you can hear the gates being opened outside. It sounds like someone's leaving Wulfheim, or entering it.

Katla gets up from the bench and peeks outside to see what's going on.

Egil wanders over to the gates, curious as to who would arrive or leave.

Kylfa and Dagny look like they're preparing to head out into the wild once more.

"What the –? What are those two doing, leaving the town? They certainly know how dangerous it is out there. There must be a good reason for this." Katla quickly gathers her armaments and head out herself, eager to find out what this is all about. "Egil," Katla says. "I am going to ask where they're going. I might not be any of my business, but I'd rather they don't attempt anything stupid without asking for backup."

Egil gathers his belongings from the Jarl's keep, then heads to the gate. "Dagny, Kylfa, why are you leaving Wulfheim in such dangerous times?"

"I have a trade I wish to offer the Troll-bloods in their hills," Kylfa says.

"The Troll-bloods?" Katla asks. "You do realize how foolish it is to go there alone, even if the chieftain did invite you to another match. I know not what your business is, but if it's important enough to risk your life, why not take more swords along?"

"This seems particularly dangerous, especially with Loki's forces about," Egil adds.

Kylfa shrugs.  "I do not expect I can fight them, nor can what I want be acquired with swords."

"They may choose to fight you," Katla points out. "It is then that swords by your side will count."

Kylfa squints.  "I do not wish to endanger anyone else in a cause that is not their own..."

"Hey, you wanna tag along, I'm all for it," Dagny declares.

"Are you involved in this business as well, Dagny?"

Dagny shakes her head. "I'm just along for the same reason as you. Don't want to let Kylfa go alone. Although... I wonder if that shaman might know something... eh, worth a try when we get there."

"Ah. In that case he should have no complaints about one or two more companions."

Kylfa chuckes.  "She, like you, insisted on following.  If you are as stubborn then I suppose I cannot stop you, either."

"They would be less likely to attack a larger group – safety in numbers," Egil says. "Perhaps our mere presence could aid you."

"Kylfa. You truly are brave as a bear," Katla says. "It is commendable, but there is no shame in accepting help when heading to such dangerous places."

Dagny softly murmurs a few words, flashing a bright green for an instant before heading out into the wilds.

Kylfa begins trudging off.  "Very well.  Though I hope I do not need your help."

You make your way across the barren, wind-blasted hills in the shadow of the Orm-Fells, where distant shapes wheel and flicker near the far-off peaks - birds or Dragonkind, you cannot be certain. Eventually you reach the edge of Thrivaldii territory, marked by a crucified skeleton.

Dagny bends over, gathering something off the ground, paying very little attention to surroundings.

Katla, you are being followed. At least half a dozen hunched shapes are tracking you through the foothills, scuttling from stone to stone, hiding behind withered bushes and the occasional tree. You glimpse grey-green flesh smeared with war-paint, tusks, pelts, and bone weapons.

Kylfa, you smell a Troll-smell on the wind.

"I think the Thrivaldii are shadowing us," Katla indicates.

Kylfa stops and sniffs the air. "I think that is so, yes."

"They are trying to stay hidden, but not good enough."

"Then let us speak to them."

"We do come to make trade, not war."

"What, huh?" Dagny asks. "Oh. Yeah."

Kylfa yells loudly, looking in various directions.  "I am Kylfa, of Kvenland!  Who wrestled the Troll-kin-chief!  He has granted me safe return to this land!  Make trouble for me, and you shall trouble him also!"

A hulking Troll-blooded savage bearing a bow emerges from the stunted undergrowth. Three heads crowd upon his thick shoulders, all fanged and adorned with tribal markings. He wears a huge cape made from wolf-hide.

Egil grimaces at the sight of the ugly savage.

Dagny yells the same decree in Giantish.

"Welcome to the lands of Thrivaldi, Troll-Wrestler!" the three-headed man snarls in guttural North-Speech. "We saw your aurochs-hunt was successful, yet you passed through our lands without offering us any of your bounty."

Katla, being unfamiliar with the tongue of the Jötnar, is left out of the parlay, but tries her best to gauge the situation from tone and postures.

Kylfa grunts.  "This is a winter of men's weakness; the troll-kin I would not insult by offering to hunt for them.  In any case, pursuing the beasts and pursued by the Wild Hunt, I do not think we knew whose territory we strayed upon."

The archer inclines one of his heads. "We mark out territory well, but you shall not be harmed for your trespass. What is your purpose in our lands?"

"I know well the Troll-kin and their bravery against Drakkar.  Of these beasts we have slain several, and have their stony hides.  I am here merely to trade; to gain the service of a hide-worker, as skilled against the Drakkar as your warriors."

Dagny adds, "And I'd like to perhaps trade as well, in my own way, if your shamans are as talented as your hide-workers."

The brute nods with another of his heads. "Our chieftain has given you leave to enter our lands. Three of you we recognize, but this other man is a stranger to us. Who is he?" He looks to Egil.

Egil replies in Giantish "Egil, Warpriest of Ullr"

"Oh, him? He's harmless. Really, he's fine. I mean, if he fucks up, I'm not responsible for his fuckup, but really, he should be fine."

Kylfa grunts.  "He is a battle-priest who came to our aid against the Wild Hunt which pursued us.  I will vouch for him."

The Trollspawn raises an eyebrow of a third head. "Servant of the Vanir, you may enter these lands with these others, so long as you swear on your god not to harm any of our village." He speaks in Giantish, now.

Egil nods and replies, holding up the Draupnir ring. "I swear on this ring, with Ullr watching, that I will bring no harm to any of your village, save they bring harm to me or my companions first"

The barbarian grunts. "Good enough. Come, now. We will show you the way, lest you get lost like bleating goats and wander into a ravine." He and the other hunters turn to guide you through the harsh lands of the Troll-kin.

Dagny muses to Kylfa, quietly in Álfari, "They really are surprisingly reasonable."

The village of the Thrivaldii consists of a handful of huts made of wood and tanned hides, clustered around a central fire-pit strewn with the bones of humans and animals. The village is surrounded by a wall of sharpened stakes, its gates consisting of a massive dragon-skull with gaping maw. Within, the hillfolk sit about the fire cooking, mending clothes and weapons, and muttering in crude pidgin of Giantish and North-Speech. Many sport extra limbs, heads, tails, or other signs of their Jotun heritage. Off to one side, several pits have been dug. Apart from the imposing chieftain's hall and the witch's hut with its hideous idols of carven bone, the only places of note is a tannery not from the stinking cesspits. You are admitted to the village; Thrivaldi, nine-headed and huge, emerges from his hall once word is brought to him of Kylfa's coming.

"Great Bear! You have returned, to trade I hear!" He speaks from several heads at once. "And I see you have brought back the fetching maidens that accompanied you before. Perhaps you will part with them this time, hmm?"

Dagny salutes him in the same playful, not-quite-respectful manner she does the Jarl. "Nice to see you again, chief."

One of his heads looks down at Dagny, leering appreciatively.

Katla is just as displeased by the milieu here as during her previous visit, but hides her impression stoically. No need to pick any fights now.

Another head ogles Katla. A third never takes its gaze from Egil, watching the warpriest closely.

Kylfa walks before the others to give first greeting to Thrivaldi.  "Hail," he says.  "Ah – they are with me of their own will; they are not what I bring to trade today."

He shakes one of his heads. "Ah, well. You are here for hides, my people tell me; seek Gnissa the Hide-Smith, Stealer of Skins and Flayer of Beasts. She will aid you, if you meet her price."

This I will do," Kylfa responds.  "We are grateful for your hospitality."

Dagny inquires, "You mind if I talk to your shaman?"

He grunts. "Speak with her if you will," he says, somewhat dismissively.

Branded slaves attend many of the Troll-kin here. They eye you hopefully.

Once pleasantries with the chief have been sufficiently exchanged, Kylfa will go and seek Gnissa's tent.

Katla remains with Dagny, following her close by and keeping eyes out for any Trollbloods getting stupid ideas about harassing their chieftain's guests.

Dagny goes with Kylfa, first.

The malodorous reek of urine, feces, putrescent flesh, and lye emanate from the tannery, a series of bone racks where fat is scraped from hide, skins are cured with salt, and leather is tanned with the aid of dung, brains, and piss stored in a huge wooden vat. Seemingly oblivious to the stupendous stench, a tall, broad-shouldered woman labours, her hair bound behind her; beneath her stained leather clothing her skin is pale grey, and her yellow eyes, ram's horns, and great stature betray her Troll blood. She barely looks up as you approach.

"Ah, the Kvenlander," she says. "I had not expected to see you again so soon."

Kylfa grunts.  "I had not expected to be here.  But between then and now, more Dragons have fallen by our hands."  He scratches his cheek.  "That, too, I did not expect so soon. I am here for your service, Gnissa the Beast-flayer; for these beasts I have flayed, but all else is beyond me, to make a coat of them."

"Aye, the Drakkar breed at a great rate," Gnissa says. "They usually go into heat only in midwinter. But in this endless cold...

Kylfa hums appreciatively.  "Many things are made unnatural by this long winter.  Some it seems thrive in it, while others wither."

Gnissa nods at this wisdom. "I am well-versed in the working of dragon-scales," she asserts. "But such an undertaking would involve much toil, and delay other tasks. What do you offer in return?"

Kylfa produces the sack of gold and valuables and sets it before you.  "I am no mean merchant or hoarding-magpie.  All that I have which is said to be valuable I have here, to offer you."

Dagny mumbles to Katla, "Not much of a bargainer, is he?"

"I'm not one to know the value of a coat of dragon scale for a bearish man. But armour that lets you prevail in battle is worth much indeed. What good is gold and silver you you're slain?"

She considers your treasure. "Gold and silver I have some use for, but their value lessens with each passing day. But I know of your prowess, saw you grapple Thrivaldi himself to the ground. Aid me in a task of my choosing, and I will make this coat of scales for a lesser price."

Dagny starts messing with her ring. Fast talking might be in order, she isn't sure yet. She suddenly feels hungry. "Dammit..."

Kylfa produces the hides from his sack.  "Before we speak of that, perhaps you will tell me what exactly can be made from these, and how much shall remain, if any, if a breast-plate is made of them."

She takes the scales in hand, examining them. "A third would remain, if I fashioned these into a breast-plate," she says, after a time.

"If I wished to gird a larger animal – say, a horse – how many more would I need?"

She rubs her chin. "A horse, you say? You would need more hide than this, but there are strong scales here. Another Drake of the same size would suffice, I think."

"Hm.  Very well.  In time perhaps I will possess that, but for now, it is merely the breast-plate that interests me."  Kylfa grunts.  "If you will take the gold I have, then that will suffice.  But if I do this labor for you, perhaps with the gold, you will count it towards the hide I may yet bring you in the future."

She nods. "This seems reasonable. I shall begin the breast-plate at once, and count the gold towards further work. As for the task..." she takes a breath. "I have born three sons in my time - proud hunters of Jotunn blood, who would bring me the skins of wild things, as their father did before them. One day the eldest, Flegg, walked the cold plain in search of prey with other hunters. As they stalked game, a great beast came upon them: a cave lion of vast size, grown fat on the flesh of aurochs, boar, and men. Flegg flung his father's bone spear but it broke off in the beast's hide. The lion tore him apart, slaying others of the hunting-party. Only one survived, fleeing back to the village with the tale.

"When my second son, Fyrnir, heard of Flegg's death, he took up his grandfather's bow and set off to seek vengeance on the beast. He did not return, but several days later the cave lion was spotted sporting several arrows buried in its flank. Finally my third son, Fjólvor, swore to hunt the cave-lion down and took up a great axe of dragon-bone, Hidesplitter, which belonged to his grandfather's father. He, too, has not returned, but the lion has been seen abroad with a scar across one eye.

"This beast has claimed the lives of all three of my sons. I am a leather-worker, not a warrior or a hunter. I would ask that you slay the cave lion and bring me its pelt as proof of its death. Its den lies north of here at the base of the Broken Tusk, near the runestone that tells of Sivard the Dragonslayer and his victory over the Linnorm Fafnir."

Kylfa scratches his beard.

Egil seems please at the Troll-blood's words: a great hunt in the making.

"It would be a glorious deed to overcome a great beast like that," Katla muses.

"Oh, just go slay a cave lion, what are we going to do after lunch, then?" Dagny interjects.

She looks over at Dagny. "Is this one of your wives, Bear? Her tongue is wicked. Perhaps you have not been beating her often enough."

Kylfa grunts.  "No, she is not mine; but others have said so about her tongue.  This sounds like a powerful beast... but I will do this.  How long will it take to make the breast-plate, do you suppose?"

She considers. "I have some other tasks, but I can set them aside. By week's end, certainly."

"Then before that time, if the gods are willing, I will return to you with this hide."  Leaving the sack of gold and the Drakkar-hides with the leatherworker, he nods, then turns and leaves without further ceremony.

Dagny leaves too, pressing her hand to her temples. "Great. Real great. That's some sharp bargaining acumen, there." She shrugs and goes towards the creepy hut.

Katla goes where Dagny goes.

Kylfa ignores Dagny's comment and follows after her to her appointment.

Egil follows the group, lost in thought and looking quite pleased.

Dagny peers around, looking for the shaman. "Anyone home?"

The interior of the hut smells of rot and pungent herbs.  A squat, monstrous woman with a third eye and greyish-green skin hunkers over a rusty iron cauldron simmering with fetid liquid.  Various reagents, preserved organs, stone jars, and an array of talismans and charms are stuffed into rickety wooden shelves around the hut’s periphery.  Several wrinkled hide scrolls are spread out on a low wooden table, along with several torn-looking pages filled with a crabbed, runic script. Dagny, those look suspiciously like pages of Dvergar writing.

Katla opts to stand guard by the doorway, reluctant to enter this hovel of dark sorcery and unwholesome lore. She tries not to think about the cryptic transactions about to take place therein.

Egil elects to stand outside with Katla.

Kylfa , meanwhile, is engaged in sniffing everything in the hut within smelling-distance.

Kylfa, the Trollblood village absolutely reeks of filth, blood, cooked human and animal flesh, leather, and rot.

Kylfa 's brow wrinkes in displeasure.

Dagny peers nonchalantly at them as she steps inside. "Hey."

The shaman looks at you as you enter with all three eyes, a snake-like tongue flickering out between her thin lips.

"Ah, greetings, witch," she hisses. "I am Skrikja Slit-Tongue. I recognize you from our chieftain's hall. What brings you to my home?" She glances nervously over at the pages, as if hoping that you haven't noticed them.

Dagny nods. "I, uh, wondered if you wanted to trade. As it were. You know, swap some spells, arcane techniques, all that stuff."

The shaman nods. "Ah, I see. You have come to me seeking the secrets of Jotunn-magic. I know many charms and spells. What is it you desire to learn?"

"Whatever you're willing to teach, really. I'm all for Jötunn-magic. Or Dvergar-magic, for that matter, I know a bit of that." Dagny glances a little over at the pages.

Dagny, these are definitely missing pages from your spellbook that the witch has removed.

The shaman looks nervously at you. "Ah. Perhaps you would be interested in a sleeping charm? Or the means of bestowing a curse? Or a spell to conceal yourself from the sight of beasts?"

"Do you know anything about, oh, say, commanding the undead? I know such spells are usually the domain of dark Gothi, but I know that witches and others of our ilk sometimes dabble in it..."

"Ah, I know many spells concerning revenants – both their creation and their banishment. I can give you a spell to command them, yes. What do you offer in exchange?"

Dagny grins wryly. "You can keep those book pages you're so nervous about."

Her eyes widen – all three of them – and she hisses softly. "Ah... yes. Well. That seems a fair trade, then!"

Dagny busily copies away. She idly asks "Hey, do you speak Dvergar?" but asks as she's reading something so it seems like she's just reading out loud if she doesn't understand.

"Well me the tongue of Dwarves know," the shaman says, mangling the complicated Dvergar grammar almost beyond recognition.

"I… uh. Yeah. Do you know the one where you open up your hands, a rainbow comes out, and it knocks guys on their asses?"

She shakes her head. "That is the magic of Elves, not of Jötunn."

"Want to learn? Offer me something good."

The shaman considers. "Do you seek more knowledge of the dead and their ways? Or charms to win the hearts of handsome men, perhaps?"

Dagny ponders. "Knowing about the dead is good. Or the living. Or, hey, you don't know anything about conjuring food and stuff, do you?"

She shakes her head. "Such spells are beyond my skill. But I can teach you to speak with the shades of the fallen."

"That for the spray of color? And I'll throw in this one... trust me, you'll like it if you want to charm handsome men."

Dagny also offers to throw in Unnatural Lust.

The shaman grins and accepts your trade gladly.

Dagny finishes copying, then flips her spellbook around to let the shaman see the offered spells.

The shaman copies the spells eagerly.

Dagny hands the shaman a few coins. "Here you go. For the arcane ink and the hospitality."

The shaman chuckles, pleasantly surprised. "Return any time, Völva!"

Outside, one of the human slaves bearing wood for the Thrivaldii's fire approaches Egil nervously. "You bear a symbol of Ullr..." she says. "Are you a Gothi?"

Egil looks at the slave "Yes, although I've always had a more martial bent than my brothers."

The slave nods. She's a scrawny woman with red-brown hair and a thin face. "Please, Gothi, you must aid us. These monsters... they are ungodly, worshipping Loki and his spawn. Their shaman is preparing some kind of ritual, and I fear for our lives. I have heard that their ilk often sacrifice thralls for their dark purposes.

Egil frowns "Have any creatures bearing the mark of Loki been through the village? It is a Serpent banner. Do you know more of the ritual?"

The slave girl thinks. "There was a rider... he came on a Helhest, gaunt and ill-favoured, with three legs instead of four. I did not see him well, but he spoke with the chieftain. I think his spear bore a serpent banner, yes."

"I have no doubts about the unpleasantness of our host's plans for their thralls," Katla says. "Even so, we are their guests, come here under the banner of peace. We must honor their hospitality, no matter how distasteful."

"What my friend says is true," Egil says. "I have sworn not to cause harm to the village. However, I thank you for the information. I will pray to Ullr to send aid."

Kylfa wanders over to Egil and Katla as Dagny copies spells in the tent.

The slave-girl looks at Katla. "You have a heart of stone, shield-maiden. You would leave us to our fate and the evil uses of these Trollspawn?"

"Every warrior must have a heart of stone. And every thrall should be wary of careless talk."

One of the Thrivaldii sees her talking with you and begins walking over, a stern look on his two faces.

"Kylfa, I believe the revenant rider we saw last night has been speaking with the chief," Egil says.

Kylfa grunts.  "I know little of this rider."

Katla nudges her head slightly to let the thrall notice the approaching guard.

The thrall hastens back to carrying wood. The frowning Thrivaldii curses at her but approaches you still. He speaks in Giantish. "A troublesome slave," he says. "In truth I would be rid of her. Do you wish to purchase her?"

Kylfa watches the thrall go, saying nothing.

Egil looks at the Thrivaldii "What would you ask for such a slave?"

"Hmm. You have gold with you? Fifty of your golden coins would suffice," the Thrivaldii goes on.

Egil turns to Katla and Kylfa, speaking in North-Speech "The Thrivaldii is offering to sell the thrall, for fifty gold coins"

Kylfa looks disinterested.  "I need no thrall.  In any case, you have already seen that I have spent all my gold today."

"I have no gold with me, but plenty awaiting in Wulfheim," Katla says. "I will compensate this price in full should you pay it now."

Egil turns to the Troll-blood "I will offer forty gold pieces, paid now."

The Thrivaldii grunts. "Very well. Forty it is. Thrall! Come here!" he shouts. The red-haired woman approaches timidly.

Egil counts out and hands forty aurar to the Troll-blood.

"This is your new master," he says. "Serve him well." He shoves her towards Egil. "I hope you get better use out of her than I did."

The slave-girl nods, trying to suppress a smile.

"It seems Ullr has answered your prayers for freedom," Egil says to the thrall "What is your name?"

"Sigrid," the woman says. "Of the Görnings." Her cheek has been branded with a Jötunn rune, Egil, and she looks poorly fed, but she is not obviously diseased or crippled.

"You may soon wish that we'd left you here, Sigrid," Katla declares. "We are going to hunt for a cave-lion, one that has devoured many a hunting party."

"I'd rather face death at the hands of a cave-lion than be sacrificed to Hel-Father," she says.

"You have some spirit in you. Perhaps you will survive."

Kylfa scratches his head.  "What do you need of a slave, priest?"

"I do not need a slave, she will be free once we are gone from this place."

Dagny comes outside, looking pleased with herself. She stops, looking less pleased. "Wait, what's going on, who's getting sacrificed to Hel-Father?"

Sigrid looks afraid of Dagny; she did just come out of the shaman's hut, after all. She says nothing, her eyes downcast.

"The priest has purchased a thrall, to free her, I think," Kylfa says.

"Sigrid here says that the revenant rider has been in talks with the chief," Egil says. "And that the shaman is planning some spell that requires human sacrifice."

"Wait... what?" Dagny asks.

"We should probably discuss such things outside of this town," Katla warns.

Egil nods at Katlas words "Well said, shield-maiden."

"Yes," Kylfa agrees. "My task here is done; my task with the lion begins."

"Me and the shaman are tight now. One sec." Dagny ducks back into the hut. She puts on her best winning smile. "Hey, one more thing? I heard some rumors about a human sacrifice. I love me a good human sacrifice, mmm mmm good. So, you know, I'm kinda curious about that."

"Ah! The chieftain has decreed that I hold a ceremony, yes – a Helblót. Such rites require flesh and blood, as I'm sure you know, being a wise-woman yourself."

Dagny nods. "Ooh, right, a Helblót. What sort of rite? What are you going to do?" She tries to look all conspiratorial.

"The Helblót opens a gate to the underworld, of course, so that we may call forth the souls of the dead."

"That sounds very dangerous and a very stup– I mean, great. It sounds great."

The witch waves a hand. "It was after that rider came, and spoke to our chieftain. They struck some form of deal."

Dagny nods. "Well, best of luck to you on that...!" She ducks out of the hut quickly and returns to her group at a fairly brisk pace. "This shit is not good." She tells them what she learned.

"This is… fell news," Egil says. "Perhaps we should discuss with the Jarl and act, after Kylfa has gotten his armor?

"It is one thing to hold slaves," says Kylfa, "but another to consort with the dead."

Katla frowns. "Jarl Wulfgar should be informed quickly. Shall we delay the hunt, then?"

"When is this blót to be held?" Kylfa asks.

Sigrid shivers. "I heard it'll be held in a fortnight. At somewhere called the Trollhörgr."

A hörgr is a sacred stone-heap or altar; thus a Trollhörgr would be a shrine for Trolls. Much as the folk of Wulfheim worship the gods in a sacred grove outside the settlement itself, so do the Thrivaldii likely conduct their rites in a location other than their village.

Dagny explains this to anyone who doesn't know. Or even people who do.

"If it is in a fortnight, then I would wait," Kylfa says. "But I will tell my brothers of this."

"In any case, let us leave this place already," Katla says. "We have 'enjoyed' our stay long enough."

Kylfa nods.

"Agreed," says Egil.

Dagny shakes her head. "They really do seem like such reasonable people. But yeah, let's get going."


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Re: The Fimbulvinter Saga
« Reply #24 on: January 21, 2015, 01:12:56 PM »
IC: Fitt XVIII: The Conclave
Having left certain marks drawn from the primal, secret tongue known only to those learned in the ways and wisdom of the wild, you have traveled to meet any who heed the marks in a secluded copse in the hills, sheltered from wind and snow. Near the centre of the copse there is a clearing where a stone stands, shaped by wind and rain into a shape resembling that of a leaping moose. This is what your people would call a Seita, a places where the spirits are strong. You stand now at the edge of the copse, preparing to enter.

Kylfa pulls his bear-cloak tightly around him and sniffs at the air.

The scent is of the woods, and its beasts – although there is an Elf-scent on the wind, as well. Such would not be unusual for a Seita.

Kylfa enters the copse, looking out for any others.

A series of small, hunched creatures like twisted little children with furry skins scamper stealthily through the undergrowth alongside you. Their pale eyes gleam softly from out of the green shadows, and their feet leave no footprints; small tails swish behind them.

These spirits are Hiidet - goblins found most often in places of spiritual power, like Seita. Your companions might call such beings vӕttir or wights: spirits of nature, divided into different clans or Vaki, as you know them. Hiidet are communal creatures, usually found in considerable numbers. Like most sprites, they can be mischievous, malignant, or helpful depending on how they are treated. They will be led by some sort of chieftain, the Hiisi. The correct sacrifice to such creatures is blood, preferably your own. They may also respond well to offerings of food or drink, but take care not to harm any creature in the copse.

"Mm," grunts Kylfa.  He removes the clay jug from his sack, as well as his antler-handled knife, the sole piece of iron on his person. He rolls up one fur sleeve and cuts across his arm with the knife, letting some of his blood flow into the empty jug.

The Hiidet watch you curiously, seemingly unwilling to approach, but you see one sitting in the branches of a tree licks its greenish lips.

Kylfa says in Alfari, "May this please you, thicket-treaders; I, Broad-foot's brother, give it freely."

There is a susurrus of low voices all around you. The beings seem pleased. The clearing where the sacred stone, or Storjunkare, is located can be glimpsed up ahead.

Kylfa leaves the jug for the Hiidet, cleans off his knife in the snow, and walks onward slowly towards the sacred stone.

You reach the centre of the grove. Sitting on the boulder resembling a leaping moose is a small, grinning figure with large, faintly luminous eyes, goat-like horns, and sharp teeth. Its skin is covered in soft fur, mingling with lichen; a long, flexible tail dangles down from its hindquarters.

"Fine is it to find one who respects the old ways," the Hiisi declares, hopping down from its perch. "Use our copse as you will, friend – though know that if you cut so much as a single branch or kill so much as a field-mouse, you will owe us recompense."

"They are the ways of the Great Bear." Kylfa responds, and nods at his words.  "That I shall."

The Hissi nods, transforms itself into the shape of a large squirrel, and scampers into the undergrowth. You appear to be the first of your prospective council to arrive.

Kylfa finds a good, centrally located place to sit, and then sits there cross-legged.

After some time, a lean, grey-bearded man with tawny eyes enters the clearing. He garbs himself in the furs of a wolf: you take him for an Úlfheðinn, shapestrong berserkers who worship Odin in his guise as Hildolfr, the Battle Wolf. Able to assume the form of wolves, Úlfhéðnar are said to all be half-mad when they hamask. This one wields a long spear carved with runes and wears charms made from the skulls of small beasts. Apart from his wolf-pelts he is naked, apparently unworried by the cold. His beard comes down nearly past his waist. He stops, regarding you closely, saying nothing.

"Hail," says Kylfa, now in the Shamanic tongue.

"Well met," the man says, his voice a low, bestial growl. "You must be the one who left the marks?"

"That I am; and they were not lightly done.  Sit with me, brother wolf.  I hope you will not be the last to come."

"I sighted another on my way here. Riding a tasty-looking reindeer." He grins, rather unpleasantly.

"Hmm," Kylfa grumbles deeply, and nods.

The second to arrive is a Kvenlander like yourself, carrying a ritual drum adorned with sacred marks. Where you are of the Bear Cult, this shaman is one of the Noaidi, mediators between the mortal world and the spirit world, skilled in interpreting dreams and capable of leaving their bodies to travel far. Healers and guides, the Noaidi usually accompany nomadic bands of reindeer-herders. This shaman, a small woman with dark golden hair and wind-chapped features, rides a massive reindeer. She regards you both with sly, inscrutable eyes and fidgets with a bone knife.

"Greetings, countryman," she says, nodding to you and dismounting warily.

The wolf-shaman's stomach growls. He eyes the reindeer with obvious hunger, but makes no movement.

"Hail," says Kylfa again, lifting his great hide-wrapped hands briefly in greeting.

The third to arrive is a foreigner – you think a Fir Bolg, judging from his red hair and green eyes. The Fir Bolg hail from the western isles and are often captured as thralls. Their shamans are known as Druids: law-speakers, poets, healers, and worshippers of strange gods. It is widely known that they practice human sacrifice, burning captives in great wicker men to appease deities such as Nodens, Lugus, and Taranis. This one, a wild-looking man with long crimson hair, several missing teeth, and elaborate tattoos, favours a sling and a short spear. He saunters into the clearing almost jauntily.

"Well this is a fine to-do!" the Fir Bolg says. "Well met to you all, I'm sure. Name's Daire, Daire mac Sin."

"Hail," says Kylfa again.  "You must have come far, brother."

"Not so far," he says. "Been in Skrikborg these last, oh, eight, nine years? Hard to keep track when every day's the same. Twas only recently I managed to slip my bonds. Blóðbards got sloppy."

"Mmmm," grunts Kylfa, his forehead creasing.  "The same men woke me from my slumber.  It was but through strength and fortune I escaped."

"Aye, they're a vicious breed, to be sure," Daire says. "I've got the scars to prove it."

As he speaks another arrives: a Spӕkona, a wise-woman and healer. Such women once traveled the breadth of the North providing advice, fortune-telling, and other spiritual services to those they encountered. Grey-eyed and grey-haired, she carries a ritual Seidstafr and wears an amulet of Freyja around her neck; a carved wand is tucked into her belt, next to a heavy pouch. Her garb is rich, including a black cloak sewed with small gems at the hem. A snowy owl perches on her shoulder.

"Hail," says Kylfa, as always.

The newcomer says nothing, but settles on a log, staff in hand.

Kylfa looks about, watching for any others that might still be arriving.

The council lapses into silence. It seems everyone is here.

Kylfa sets his hands on his haunches, still seated.  "The Winter-sleeper does not move quickly; strong, he is, and deliberate, like a glacier.  So have my thoughts been.  It was I who called this conclave."

”I see," the Spӕkona says, looking up from her ruminations. "To what end?"

"Hold a minute!" Daire says. "Shouldn't we all, you know, introduce ourselves, like civilized folk?"

"I am not 'civilized folk'," the Úlfheðinn growls.

Kylfa opens his mouth as if to respond to the Spӕkona, then turns to Daire and nods.  "The Great Bear has many names; I have a few, and they are as true or false as you wish them.  But among men of this land I am Kylfa."

"Maddji, of Kainuu," the Noaidi says, inclining her head. "My tribe flee southwards from Biegkegaellies and his Stallos, ogres of the winter wind, and seek a new land to herd and hunt. Praise be to you, countryman, for calling this conclave; may Mielikki watch over you."

Kylfa nods graciously to Maddji, and looks to the others in case they wish to introduce themselves as well.

"Daire," Daire says, grinning. "Though I think I said that already."

"I am Magnhild, of the Görnings," the Spӕkona declares. "I seek a way back to my homeland in the Slaughterstones. My foresight has shown me much peril in the lands to the west, however. The dead no longer sleep in their graves, but have awakened to walk the world once more."

"Hrodulf," the Úlfheðinn reluctantly says. "Long have I dwelt in this land, in the great Ironwood, though the wolves of that place, who were once my pack-mates, heed my words no longer, and I am shunned from their company."

Suddenly a great, white-tailed eagle swoops down into the clearing, making Magnhild's owl hoot with surprise and Hrodulf growl. The eagle regards you all with its huge eyes, cocks its head, and covers itself with its wings. When the wings part they have become a feathered cloak, and a mischievous-looking man stands before you - a Gonogas, a bird-shaman. Like the Úlfheðinn he is hamrammr, a shape-shifter. He scratches his scraggly hair with long, black nails, a smirk playing across his lips.

"Sorry I'm late!" he says, breathlessly.

"But not too late," says Kylfa.  "Sit with us."

"I'm Aren," he adds.

The others repeat their names to the bird-shaman, save Hrodulf, who simply picks his teeth with a sliver of bone. Aren seats himself on the ground, still panting.

Kylfa clears his throat with a low growl.  "Already a few of you have spoken of what I shall.  But these are separate stars; I am here, because the shape of the constellation has shown itself to me."

The Noaidi, Maddji, nods, hearing the wisdom in your words.

"Of late I have been in the company of men of Wulfheim.  They are as any men; you know them, even if you do not.  I speak to you of one man among them who, less than a week ago, was captured by them."

Hrodulf mutters impatiently. "Why should I concern myself with such matters? I care not for the ways of men, for their deeds or politics."

"Patience, brother; you will see.  Daire has spoken of captivity by the men called Blóðbards.  I have shared this too.  The man who is their chief is called by men 'Ivar,' and the man who became a captive in Wulfheim was his servant."

Daire spits. "Aye, I've had more than one run in with the Perverse. I hope you gutted his servant well, friend Kylfa. He and his minions are a treacherous breed."

Magnhild nods at your words. "News of King Ivar's depredations have reached far and wide."

Kylfa grunts.  "Were this a matter of men I would not have called you.  But I have seen other things.  I have seen the dead walk, and ride; I have seen them in the woods, and on the snows. The captured man said this to the men of Wulfheim – that the man Ivar has in his tribe not merely Blóðbard-men, not merely Trolls from the ironwood – those things he has, to be sure.  But the revenants, it seems, are also his; Nair brought back from Hel with 'black Seiðr.'"

Magnhild shifts. "That may be... but the prophecies speak also of Naglfar, the ship of nails, and the giant Hrym, its captain. That fell vessel will bear the dead to Midgard during Fimbulvinter, which now ravages the land. Are you certain that all of these Aptrgangar are Ivar's creations?"

Kylfa nods.  "All is not known to me; it is in part to learn, as well as speak, that I have brought you.  I will say that a captain of the dead was seen on horse-back, and that he bore a serpent banner."

"Loki's sigil," Magnhild says. "Yes. Hel is Loki's daughter, as you know. In the coming battle she will side with her father, and her legions as well."

"Battle?" Daire asks. "Is that this Doom everyone up here in the North keeps grumbling about? Ragna-something-or-other?"

"There is something else," Kylfa says.  "Perhaps you know of the Troll-kin, called the Thrivaldii."

Hrodulf nods. "Oh, that nine-headed bastard's brood? He's sent his hunters after me on more than one occasion. I've tasted more Thrivaldii blood than I care to."

"I was in his camp of late; I wrestled their chief once, and he does not trouble me.  Thrivaldii the Chief has a shaman, who has said thus: That the troll-kin chief met this rider under the serpent banner, and struck a deal with him.  The full terms of this deal I know not; but to fulfill it, this shaman shall hold in little more than a week's time a Helblót, to open a gate to Hel with the sacrifice of Men."

Maddji hisses. "A gate to Tuonela," she says. "The shades of the slain will pour forth on this land."

"Perhaps you see now what I see – these stars aligning.  It is a shape I do not recognize; but together they form something, something which I do not like.  These are not merely deeds of men; men, I think, are but puppets here, shadows of what is truly upon us."

"The Lie-Smith has ever snared gods and men in his webs," Magnhild says. "He is cunning beyond all measure."

"In any other season you, and I, would care little for Wulfheim; or for the wars of men and trolls.  But this is a war of the dead and the living."  Kylfa thumps his broad chest with his great hands.  "Know well that I stand for the living."

Aren, who seemed to have been napping, opens an eye. "So, Kylfa, what would you have us do? I mean, I'm all for living as well, but if Loki's mischief is behind all this, what hope do we have?"

Magnhild tilts her head. "The Norns have foreseen all. We are bound by the threads the Dísir spin, by the will of Fate. Soon Ragnarök will come, and all will be destroyed..."

Kylfa nods, his brow creasing.  "Strength is the creed of the Forestcousin.  Yet strength dims in these times; the strength of both men and beast. But let me say this – who among you knows the world that shall be remade?" Kylfa looks between each of them.

"I do," Magnhild proclaims, sounding uncertain. "There will be a new world, after Surtr destroys Midgard with his flames. A green world, ruled by Baldr reborn, and the sons of Thor."

Hrodulf grumbles. "That's not how the Jötnar tell it, you know. Their version of events is a bit different. The gods are destroyed, and the world lapses back into primal chaos, Ginnungagap. It's Ymir gets reborn, not Baldr."

"Lies of Loki!" Magnhild hisses.

"The Giants say it's Odin who lied," Hrodulf claims.

Kylfa reaches down and takes a handful of cold earth in his hand.  "This is the world I know.  The world that has been beneath our feet since the first leaf unfolded.  I do not know what is to come. It seems to me that the same seed grows in different ways as it is tended; the sun shall make it strong, and the darkness sickly."

"Yes," Maddji says. "Much is uncertain. Fate does not spin one thread, but many, Magnhild."

"Indeed.  Can you say certainly that it will not matter, who tends the seed of this new world?"

Magnhild looks uncomfortable. "I know only what the prophecies foretell... but I think I see the wisdom of your words."

Daire shakes his head. "This all sounds a bit out of my depth! My own people believe that the world is indestructible. As the dead return in new flesh from the Otherworld, so will the world return after the World Tree is burned to ash. But you're talking about shaping such events!"

Hrodulf laughs – a rather horrible sound. "I do not tend seeds like a farmer in his field. I am a hunter, not a gardener."

"All will flow from the earth, brother.  Even the hares and the reindeer; in the end, even you.  A world in the hands of the dead of Hel, this one or the one to come, will be a bitter feast."

Hrodulf grunts. "You may have a point there. I can stomach much, but Draugr-flesh is not savoury to feed on."

Kylfa grunts.  "And if we speak of feasts, I have seen the dead gorging themselves on the beasts you would hunt, feeding nothing and only despoiling.  They mock you."

"There is scarce enough game as it is. If only my pack would have me once more, I would lead them out onto the plain, and destroy these Again-Walkers." He looks around him. "But perhaps I must face realities. Angrboða rules the Vargr of Ironwood, and I must seek a new pack."

Kylfa nods and turns to the others.  "Those are my words.  I do not possess strength that I may watch the world pass into such hands.  I care not whether you stand for this world or the next; but will you stand?"

Maddji nods. "The world was hatched from the egg of a waterfowl. Within was the sky, the land, and Tuonela beneath. Now, perhaps, a new egg has been laid in Lintukoto. I will help you tend it."

Aren stands up, stretching, his feather-cloak rasping. "I scarce know how I might contribute, but I'm willing to try, if only to do something interesting for a change. It's been nothing but snow, snow, snow up in the sky for weeks, now, and it's nice to talk to someone other than frozen-winged seagulls and Hrafnii messenger-ravens dodging Dragons in the Orm-Fells."

Hrodulf yawns, showing his teeth. "If it means more prey and fewer revenants feeding on my game, then I'm in."

Magnhild looks unconvinced. "These matters... they will be settled by the Æsir, the Vanir, the Jötnar. What right have we to intervene in the affairs of the Gods?"

Daire is more ambivalent. "What exactly do you propose, Kylfa? There's been a lot of talk of the end of the world, and stars in the sky, but is there some plan of action to be had?"

Kylfa raises his hands.  "First, to you, sister," he says to Magnhild.  "It seems to me that if the gods decided all these things, Loki would not need a dead-rider to carry his banner here; nor would he make deals with men and Trolls.  Hel and its creatures do not bargain with the living for sport, I think.  If the gods act as though men and beasts mattered in what is to come, will you say otherwise?"

She crosses her arms, looking stern, but you can see her mind working. "I am unsure. I was taught that the end of things was fixed, pre-ordained, but of late my foresight has been... shadowed. There is a darkness up ahead that I have never experienced; perhaps even the wisest Völvur cannot see all. "I will hear you out, at least. I wish I could consult with my sisters in the temple at Odinstoft."

Aren cocks his head. "Well, I can always get a message to them, you know..." he says.

Magnhild looks over to him. "That may be useful indeed. But for now, I would hear more of what Kylfa proposes."

Kylfa nods and then looks to Daire.  "I do not claim to be the wisest among you, nor that I have every answer.  But it seems to me that the dead wear two horns – the host of Ivar against Wulfheim, and the opening of the gate by the Troll-kin."

Hrodulf scratches his beard, dislodging fleas. "Yes, two fronts at least. Add the Vargr of Ironwood and that may be three, though how close the Grief-Bringer is allied with Ivar, I am not certain."

"Even the Troll-kin chief, whom I have met, does not bear the title "Perverse" as Ivar does.  He has struck a bargain; he wants something, and for this will open this hel-mouth.  I do not think he is as rotten as Ivar.  Perhaps, if faced with an alternative, he may turn away from this cause."

"Most of the Giants will side with Loki," Magnhild reasons. "But they are greedy creatures, and short-sighted, sometimes. Devourers, they are sometimes called in the prophecies: if you offer Thrivaldi a richer feast than that set by Loki's Hel-spawn, the Jötunn might shift his allegiance, as you say."

"In any case I think this is also the most pressing; for as I have said, the time for this blot is little more than a week away."

Maddji tosses her bone knife idly. "That seems the first priority. If you do change Thrivaldi's mind, could we stop this ritual without bloodshed?"

Hrodulf murmurs. "The Jötnar are traitorous and false. Better to slay them all than try to treat with them."

"If that is what must be done, then so be it.  But we must remember that Ivar also builds an army, and this one may well be the greater – with not only Trolls, but his berserkers and the dead themselves.  It would not do to subdue the lesser foe only to be exhausted when the greater one comes." Kylfa looks to Aren.  "You wondered how you might help us.  The birds see much; knowing when and where the enemy gathers, seeing where the dead and their riders go, this will help us much.  Your vigilant eyes upon both these threats would be of great aid."

Aren shivers, ruffling his feather-cloak. "I can fly far above the enemy hosts, and count their numbers, too. I'm sharp-eyed, and the winds will send me far."

"Might we actually convince this Thrivaldi fellow to side with us?" Daire asks. "You know, recruit him against Ivar? If the Perverse thought that this Troll was his ally, but we'd subverted him... it could be a significant advantage."

"It would," Kylfa says, scratching his beard.  "Perhaps if Thrivaldi thought himself betrayed?  He is not one to take that well.  Yet I am not sure how we might convince him of this, without knowing more of the nature of their association, and this deal Thrivaldi has made."

Magnhild closes her eyes. "I can see many things – past, present, and future. It may be that I can scry upon Thrivaldi to learn more of his plans, and his relationship with Loki's legions."

"That would be good.  Also – perhaps his shaman, who is opening this Hel-mouth... from what I have seen, Thrivaldi does not have great regard or love for her.  That may be the weakest joint; if Thrivaldi were to think that his shaman was conducting this blot for her own purposes, or Loki's, and deceiving Thrivaldi."

Maddji smiles. "Make it look like the shaman will turn on Thrivaldi, yes! You say the Troll-chief trusts you, Kylfa? Could you try to drive a wedge between him and the shaman?" She thinks to herself. "I could brew you a potion to honey your words, make you seem more... convincing."

Kylfa 's brown eyes twinkle and he continues scratching his beard.  "That may work.  I also wonder...  the ritual calls for the great sacrifice of men.  What if there were another part of this ritual, unknown to Thrivaldi... which called for a great sacrifice of Trolls as well?  If he were to realize that the dead, having demanded this sacrifice, intended to sacrifice his tribe in turn."

Hrodulf laughs. "You have a talent for deception, Kylfa. Would you need some kind of proof?"

Daire runs a hand through his red hair. "A forgery?"

"Yes," Kylfa says, "I would.  Alas I know little of this shaman's magic.  If she consults with animal-spirits, well, those of us here take many forms; perhaps her "true plan" could be "accidentally" revealed by just such a spirit.  I think we would need to observe her, to know more about this ritual and those powers she speaks with."

Hrodulf grumbles. "Well. I can take the form of a wolf, if need be. I dislike the idea of prancing about inside Thrivaldi's den, but if it came to that."

"Alternatively, if the shaman's true master is the dead, rather than her chief, rich and unexplained gifts to this shaman – gifts that seem as if they could be given by the dead – might arouse the chief's suspicion."

"I will try to observe this shaman with my second sight," Magnhild says. "Can you tell me anything of her?"

"Gifts of the dead..." Daire muses. "Arawn is said to have many treasures. What did you have in mind?"

Kylfa nods, and tries to give a description of the woman as best he can.  "Also," he says, "I know well a woman in Wulfheim who is in the confidence of this shaman; they share magic.  If there is some token you need of her, perhaps this could be arranged; and I will prevail upon this woman to learn more."

"Can we trust this woman?" Daire asks. "If she's so close with the shaman, are we sure she'll be eager to help us?"

"She is the one who caused the shaman to reveal the nature of this Helblót, and has been of great aid to me.  I trust her intentions in this matter."

"Good enough for me, then," Daire says.

"I can make myself look like one of Tuonela's shades, if it would help," Maddji puts in.

Kylfa nods.  "That may be quite useful, sister.  As for treasures, It seems to me that Thrivaldi himself likely knows little of magic.  Any fell-looking items with even a small amount of magic power that turn up with his shaman, and he may start wondering.  The only one who can know they are not of great power is his own shaman; but of course that is just what she would say, were she receiving gifts from the dead. Thus it may also be helpful to know if there are any other shamans or magic-workers among the Thrivaldii who might compromise that plan."

"I may be able to find that out as well," Magnhild says.

"As for magical objects," Daire says. "I can imagine Ivar's got more than a few, though they'll be locked up tight in the Hall of Screams."

"I may have another means of acquiring such objects," Hrodulf says. "There's a Kobold den in the hills. I've been picking them off for some time; the little thieves often hoard items of value."

"There are rumours of Dvergar at Hrafnford," Magnhild says. "The Dwarves can sell you trinkets, if it comes to that. To reach the Hrafnii town in time you'd need to be fleet of foot, however."

"Trinkets of small magic but great foreboding would work best for us.  There are some among the men who I know who might delve this Kobold-den if you think they have such things, brother-wolf. As for the dwarves, I am concerned I have very little to offer them; I do not hoard gold as men do.  But this also I will think over."

Hrodulf nods. "I will lead you to the Kobold den and join you in the hunt, if you'll have me." He scratches his beard again. "The place is treacherous, though. An old mine, long divested of riches. There are tunnels which might collapse at any moment; and there is something foul lurking in the lower levels. The Kobolds seem to revere it."

Daire lazes against a tree. "Well, it seems everyone's got their role in this save me! Anything I can contribute to the endeavour, Kylfa?"

Kylfa scratches his beard.  "That I would like," he says.  "I know little of your strengths and ways, brother."

"Bit of this, bit of that, really. I'm a mite sneakier than most, as it happens, and like the rest of you lot I've got certain magical talents. Perhaps if you need someone stealthy to plant the items on this witch, I could be of service."

Kylfa nods.  "That may be needed.  But it is possible you may be needed for something else, in case this deception fails. It is likely the shaman alone can conduct this ritual.  If Thrivaldi cannot be turned on Ivar, and our plan fails, at the very least we may stop this Helblót by the shaman's death."

Hrodulf shifts. "That seems the easiest way to me, as well. On the other hand, killing her and then getting out alive might be difficult."

"Yes," Kylfa responds to Hrodulf, it may be easiest; and we may yet do it.  But if our deception works, the shaman will die anyway by her chief's own hand, and we will have the Troll-kin with us.  Any ally against Ivar will be welcome."

"This Wulfheim place you're staying at," Daire says. "What's it like? Do they have good drink?"

"Wulfheim..." Kylfa shrugs.  "It is a town of men.  Some are wicked and some are good, but they are above all men.  Their chief is concerned for his people and his safety, particularly against Ivar.  The Wulfheim men do not share or know what we know, but for now, they are our allies in this, knowingly or not."  Kylfa shrugs.  "As for the drink, I do not much see the point of fermenting good honey; but that they do."

"Sounds a pleasant enough place," Daire says. "A far sight better than Skrikborg, anyway! If you don't mind, I'll come with you on your way back there. Wouldn't mind a warm bed and some pleasurable company, if there be willing women."

Hrodulf nods. "That's true enough," he says. "I'd rather not fight alongside Trolls, but better the dead and the Jotnar kill one another than hunt for my skin."

Aren stretches. "Well. I'd best go see what I can see, then!" he says.

Kylfa shrugs.  "You may do so if you wish," he says to Daire.  "But do not let drink, or anything else, betray you.  Ivar has had at least one spy there; there may be more.  Not a word of what we have spoken of can be shared with anyone there."

Daire puts a finger to his lips. "I'll keep quiet. About our little palaver, anyway!"

"It is settled, then.  If any of you have messages for the rest, it seems best to leave them here. Within one week, and little more, we must resolve this matter of the Troll-shaman.  Remember this."

Maddji mounts her reindeer. "If there is nothing else, I will return to my people and begin brewing a draught for you Kylfa. You are welcome to visit our herds, if you wish. You can find us north of here and east of the mountains, where the forest and the hills meet."

Kylfa bows.  "Before this winter ends, I hope to accept your hospitality."

Magnhild gets up, her joints creaking slightly. "I must ponder what I have heard today closely, and I shall do my best to scry out the secrets of this Thrivaldi, and other things besides."

Hrodulf's nose twitches. "I have a hunger; I must go and hunt. If you wish to seek out the den of Kobolds, Kylfa, I can meet you here."

"I have business with men, now.  I am grateful for your help, all of you sisters and brothers."  He nods to Hrodulf.  "We will soon attend to that.  I will try to convince the men with strength whom I trust to join us as soon as possible."

Maddji nods and rides from the clearing; Hrodulf says nothing further, merely loping into the undergrowth. Aren and Magnhild likewise depart.

Kylfa rises, pulling his bear-cloak tighter over his stooped shoulders.

Daire stretches his limbs. "So then," he says with a grin. "About that drink..."

"Ah," Kylfa says.  "Yes; we shall go to Wulfheim.  As I said, I have business with men."


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Re: The Fimbulvinter Saga
« Reply #25 on: February 01, 2015, 08:21:21 PM »
IC: Fitt XIX: The Cave Lion
You sit round a smouldering fire in a small hunting camp set up by Katla and Egil, sheltered from wind and snow. You're in the foothills of the Orm-Fells, their long shadows like claws raking the frost-bitten lands below. Wolves howl in the distance. Kylfa, you have just returned from your conclave.

Egil sits, quietly enjoying the fire.

Dagny is sharpening her axe and preparing spells and just doing basic campfire stuff.

Katla hails to the bear-shaman. "Welcome back!"

Kylfa grunts, trudging over to the fire. "Yes, I am back." He sniffs the air and examines their campsite.  "What happens here?"

"We're preparing for the hunt. Assuming you are still intent on slaying that cave lion."

Kylfa nods.  "Oh yes.  That is even more important now."

"Indeed? Did something happen on this little foray of yours?"

"Mmm.  Yes, perhaps."

"Well, I'm not going to ask where you've been. Wise-men have their ways."

Kylfa nods, and changes the subject.  "I have prepared for this deed."

Dagny, Cave lions are rare this far north, being more common in Southron lands, but a few of these great predators prowl the northern wastes, sometimes singly, sometimes in prides. They are capable of taking down aurochs and even mammoths, if stories are true. Cunning in the extreme, they are often hated by local hill-tribes and the like, who hunt them mercilessly. Such beasts are not above devouring men and women, especially in times of famine such as Fimbulvinter. Beware their pounce - they rake with their back claws as well as their front, and can leap from surprisingly long distances.

Dagny shrugs. "Well if we're going to get to it then we'd better get to it. This isn't going to be easy."

"On the matter of the hunt to come," Katla says. We should take care to approach from below the wind. Time our arrival when the beast is asleep, if possible. but first, we'll have to locate it's lair."

"From what I know of these things, they're big and tough..." Dagny says. "But also sneaky. Can leap out of nowhere and then attack with its full ferocity."

"It would be best if we could find it in its lair; for it takes some time for me to work my own magic." Kylfa notes.

"The crucial question is whether we find the beast before it finds us," Katla interjects.

Kylfa scratches his beard.  "Mmm."

"Ullr will guide is on this hunt," Egil says. "I am proficient at tracking; with Ullr's blessing we should be able to find its lair."

"If Ullr wants to help, he's welcome to," Dagny says. "But I'm not going to count on anything but our own blades and magic to fell this beast."

Egil nods.

Kylfa shifts the bear-hide on his shoulders and begins walking in the direction of the first landmark.

Katla gathers her equipment and follows.

You journey north, deeper into the cold foothills of the Orm-Fells, scrambling now up steeper slopes where fewer trees cling, wind-blown places of scoured rock and undisturbed snow.

Kylfa, you lead the party towards the Broken Tusk. Amongst the lower hills rises a sterner peak, a curved mass of rock splintered towards the summit. Sparse trees, many of them dead, cover the lower slopes, but the shattered crown of the mountain is naked beneath the corpse-pale sky.

Your keen eyes discern the shape of a runestone near the base of the mountain, at the edge of the dead and dying trees foresting the lower slopes.

Dagny trudges onward. "Well this is charming."

Kylfa gestures towards the runestone.  "Best that we be on our guard."

"Remember, keep under the wind as long as possible," Katla says. "Try and stay quiet, too."

Kylfa squints and sniffs the wind. "It is possible... that I could keep a watch from higher up."

"Higher up the mountain?" Egil asks.

"No." Kylfa grabs the sides of his bear cloak and starts flapping them, ridiculously. Kylfa hops from one foot to the other, then crouches and throws it around him; the hair of the cloak ripples and turns into black feathers.  It opens, and in Kylfa's place, a vulture spreads its wings.

Kylfa shakes his feathers and launches up into the sky, using both sight and scent (vultures have scent!) to patrol above the party.

Katla is amazed by Kylfa's transformation, but the need to stay quiet prevents her from expressing it by more than a wide-eyed look on her face.

Katla, despite your equipment you make very little noise as you stalk through the stunted undergrowth and scramble down rugged slopes.

Egil, you are mostly quiet, but dislodge a few rocks on your way down the slopes.

Dagny, you are staying very quiet, your feet barely crunching through the snow.

Kylfa, you peer down into the woods, but see nothing, and catch no scent of carrion nor beast. You could swoop down lower to try and discern scents better.

Kylfa will swoop down lower; it's more important to sense what's near the party than to see for miles.

Kylfa, you smell the musky scent of an animal – a trail, leading through the woods.

Kylfa attempts to track the animal by scent.

Those on the ground approach the runestone while Kylfa tracks from above.

A huge stone monolith, topped with snow, rises up from a low hill near the base of the mountain. The massive runestone is carved with intricate sigils and images, telling the story of Sivurd the Dragonslayer. The images begins with the Fafnir's murder of the Dvergar King Hreidmar when both were in Dwarf-form; then the Dwarf transforms into a Dragon, and Sivurd, fostered by the Dwarf-King, has the smith Regin forge him a sword fit to kill the Linnorm. The first sword shatters, as does the second, but Sivurd gives Regin the fragments of his father Sigmund's sword, which had been sundered by Odin. The reforged sword, Gram, splits the anvil upon which it is forged and is taken up by Sivard.

The warrior sets out to slay Fafnir, and is advised by Odin in disguise -the picture depicts an old man, with the shadow of a great warrior -to dig pits and trenches to snare the Dragon and collect its blood, and to bathe and drink the slaughter-dew. Sivurd does as suggested, killing Fafnir and drinking his blood, and smearing it over his body. This seems to confer invulnerability on Sivurd, as well as the ability to speak with beasts. Birds warn the warrior that Regin, the very smith who forged Gram plans to betray Sivurd to gain the Dragon's treasure. So forewarned, Sivurd beheads Regin, then roasts and consumes Fafnir's heart to gain further wisdom.

The images end with the meeting of Sivurd and Brynhildr, the valkyrie. Runes repeating the story and detailing other mysteries wind about the images and along the edges of the runestone.

Kylfa, the scent trail leads up to a cave somewhat higher up the slope of the Broken Tusk. As you fly through the air, however, you scent a more recent trail, leading back into the woods.

Dagny looks to see if there are any arcane runes on the runestone.

Dagny, there are many arcane runes graven on this stone. With time and study, you could learn much from them.

Kylfa makes vulture squawks at the party and follows the more recent trail.

Kylfa, the cave lion's scent is strong here - it's stalking through the dead woods, not far from the runestone, though you cannot tell if it's seen the party yet. You're unable to see it - it's moving too stealthily, and the woods are dark - but you are sure it is nearby.

Kylfa dives down to the party and returns back to his normal shape. "It is close, but I cannot see it – I think we should go to its lair.  We know it must return there.  I do not wish to be surprised in these woods."

Egil casts Detect Magic on the runestone.

Egil, the runestone radiates magic strongly.

Kylfa casts Longstrider on himself after landing and speaking.

"The lion will know of our presence," Katla notes. "But then it will not ambush us, either."

"Let it know," Kylfa says. "We may even lay a trap for it, at its lair; but here we are vulnerable.  Come!"

Dagny quickly scrawls down the runes for Spiked Pit – one of the runestone's spells – on a spare page of her spellbook.

Kylfa gestures to the others and moves as quickly as he can towards the lair.  "Now!"

Egil says a quick prayer to Ullr and follows after Kylfa.

"I must admit I didn't expect you to be such a skinchanger," Katla whispers. "At least, not one who would assume the form of a bird instead of a bear."

Katla, you catch a glimpse of movement in the underbrush. Something very large but very quiet is stalking you. It's still some distance away - sixty feet or so.

Kylfa crashes through the brush.  "I do not think we should hide," he grumbles.  "We should go as fast as possible, and hope the beast has not seen us yet."

"Hold on! I see something. There, in the woods!" Katla points at the movement. "I don't know if it's the lion, but it sure is something large."

Kylfa spins about.

Dagny is distracted with the runestone and is neither particularly stealthy nor perceptive.

Kylfa, you follow Katla's finger and see the flash of eyes in the darkness. For a moment you meet the beast's gaze - and then it lopes off into the woods. Without the element of surprise, it seems, the creature is unwilling to attack.

Kylfa grunts.  "You may have saved us, there."

"We should continue on. It'll try and get us again."

"It will.  I think our chance of surprising it, out here, is nothing.  Its lair, there we will go." Kylfa uses one of his Totem Transformations to gain the senses of a bear.

Dagny ponders. "What if we got it while it was trying to get something else?"

"We can think about that once we reach the den," Katla whispers.

Kylfa sniffs the air as he continues moving on to the den.  "Hm?"

Dagny mumbles, "Yeah, because prey always just shows up at its den... well WE do apparently."

Kylfa, it's far enough away that you can no longer scent it, only the vestiges of its trail.

"There... is another way," says Kylfa.

"I'm all for other ways," Dagny says.

"It seemed likely to me that a certain magic would be useful to us.  I can shroud the four of us from its sight, once, for..." Kylfa scratches his beard.  "Forty minutes, or so."

"Only it's sight?" Katla asks. "What about its ears, its scent?"

"I do not think any sense it has can penetrate this magic; but only on animals does it work."

"Very well. If it works we'll have great advantage here."

Kylfa nods.  "Come, gather around me."

"Will we be able to track and find it in forty minutes?" Egil asks.

Dagny steps closer, adding, "I could conjure an illusion of a wounded aurochs. We'd have to put it upwind, so the lack of scent wouldn't cause the creature suspicion. But that would certainly draw it out, once it noticed."

Egil stands close to Kylfa

Katla gets close to the shaman, eyeing the woods warily

Kylfa nods at Dagny.  "Very well.  But you must all know that if you strike or touch any animal, the ward will end for us all."

Kylfa casts Hide from Animals, touching himself and his three companions.

You perceive no immediate change, but a slight shiver runs through you as the spell takes effect.

"We are free to speak," Kylfa says. "Make this lure, Dagny, if you think it will work..."

"Should we not find a suitable place for our ambush?" Egil asks.

Dagny looks around. "So... somewhere open. A good ambush site... for it and for us." She sniffs the air. "And somewhere the lack of scent won't be suspicious."

"Yes," Katla agrees. "The lion might escape if we can't take it down quickly."

You can see the creature's cave not far from your current position. The woods extend for some distance, but grow sparser a bit further up the mountain.

Kylfa licks his finger and tests the wind.

Kylfa, you can find a clear space downwind from the woods, so that the lion will not be able to discern the auroch's lack of scent till is is nearly upon the illusion.

"Come, make your specter here," says Kylfa, walking over to the clear space.

Egil looks for a sturdy tree near the ambush site.

You find a barren, open space on the slope, with fewer trees. A cairn of stones emerges from the snow; your guess would be someone is buried here. There are no markings indicating the identity of the dead. You set up an ambush location near the edge of the woods, some distance from the cairn.

Katla also clambers up a tree, putting away her shield to use her bow.

Dagny motions for Kylfa to get back and then begins to concentrate on the illusion.

Kylfa draws back from the place Dagny will be casting. "Keep your eyes open, Egil; I should like as much time as possible, once we see it coming."

"If the creature cannot hear us, I will speak out as soon as I see it."

Dagny conjures the image of a large aurochs, healthy in build-- lots of meat. But not so healthy now, it is staggering about, seemingly wounded or otherwise weakened.

A huge, shaggy lion, tawny-furred and rippling with muscle, stalks silently out of the wood, venturing into open ground. Its prodigious yellow fangs and long, razor-sharp claws gleam in the dying sunlight. The beast's eyes glow as it sniffs the air, growling. Old scars from countless struggles riddle its hide, some obviously from other animals, others from weapons.

Dagny is concentrating on maintaining the illusion so can't do much.

Kylfa casts Bull's Strength on himself.

The huge beast moves slowly towards the aurochs, sniffing. It crouches low, stalking the illusion, oblivious to your presence.

Katla has nocked an arrow, but refrains from drawing the bowstring. She waits for the lion to get closer.

Kylfa casts Aspect of the Bear on himself, too.

Dagny makes the aurochs stumble around with its back to the lion, trying to look as oblivious as possible.

The lion now waits by a tree, crouched, its tail twitching slightly. It seems slightly confused, nostrils flaring.

Egil watches the scarred beast approach and chants a prayer of the hunt to Ullr.

"Hold a moment..."  If the others are willing to delay, Kylfa will use Totem Transformation for teeth and claws.

Katla waits. There is chance the beast might draw nearer still. But in any case, she should attack at the same time with the Ullr warpriest, for best effect. She holds her shot for now.

Egil chants another prayer to Ullr, for divine favor.

The beast tenses, then pounces towards the aurochs, sinking its fangs into - air! It casts around, confused, clawing the illusion, hissing and spitting!

Kylfa bellows, "STRIKE!"

Dagny stops concentrating, causing the aurochs to vanish into thin air. Before the lion can react, sticky tendrils envelop it from all directions!

The lion snarls as the sticky web shoots out towards it, leaping back with great agility to avoid the snare!

Dagny curses as the web fails to anchor on anything, and the creature easily bats it away.

Kylfa moves up five feet, growls, and attempts to lay a hand on the creature, which now glows an eerie bluish-white.

You lay a hand on the creature easily, frost from your fingertips freezing fur and flesh. Its ears snap back as it yowls in pain!

Dagny calls up to the trees, "We're blown! Might as well let it have it!"

Katla looses an arrow with a sharp snap of bowstring.

Your arrow grazes the creature's ear, dealing no significant damage!

The cave lion, still mostly oblivious to the archers and staggered from Kylfa's spell, lunges with its fangs, attempting to bite the bear-shaman. The creature sinks its teeth into your arm, grabbing with its powerful jaws, but you shake the beast off. It snarls in frustration, its fetid breath hot on your skin. Blood pours from the deep fang-wounds on your arm.

Dagny snaps her fingers, causing the ground under the lion's hind legs to disappear in an instant!

The lion stumbles into the pit as the ground caves beneath its paws! The creature scrabbles with its claws, trying to get out of the pit.

Kylfa breathes a heavy sigh of relief, moves a bit to cut off the creature's potential escape to the south, and casts Cure Light Wounds on himself.

The bite wounds begin to rapidly close and scab, though they were deep indeed.

Katla , hardly disheartened by their initial misfortune, continues pelting the lion with iron-tipped shafts.

Your second arrow flies true, striking the lion's shoulder.

Egil looses his own arrow.

Egil's arrow embeds itself in the lion's flank. It roars in frustration and mounting panic. The beast attempts to leap out of the pit, but the steep walls keep it penned.

Dagny waves her hand, and then points at the pit. A gooey slime fills the bottom of the pit, further hampering the beast's attempts to escape.

The cave lion slips in the greasy slick, losing its footing.

Kylfa casts Enlarge Person on himself, growing to the size of an ogre.  Then he awaits the lion...

Katla unsurprisingly keeps on shooting.

Your next arrow finds the creature's neck. It hisses and paws the shaft, breaking it off with the arrowhead still embedded.

Egil knocks and looses an arrow

Egil's arrow also flies true, striking the lion's chest. It spits blood, badly injured, and makes another attempt to free itself from the pit. Once again it remains trapped within the pit's depths.

Dagny jumps up on giant kylfa, and then readies her axe. She flings it into the pit!

Kylfa grunts as he is climbed on.

You bloody the beast's snout with a deep cut from your axe. The cave lion's attempts to escape are growing weaker.

"Don't mind me beard-man... but we gotta kill this thing!" Dagny snaps her fingers, sending her axe flying back up out of the pit into her hand.

Kylfa, having little else to do, readies an attack if the lion should escape on his side of the pit.

Katla shoots again, wondering how many arrows it might take to fell this mighty beast.

Your shot takes the creature in the hind-leg. Now bristling with arrows, it somehow remains alive.

Egil knocks and looses, a look of holy fervor in his eyes

The beast knocks your arrow from the air with a roar, now desperate. It slips on the grease as it once more fails to extricate itself from the pit.

Dagny tosses her axe from her left hand to her right, and then lets it fly once again into the pit. Her axe goes spinning through the air, just as the creature again struggles to climb up the side of the pit. Just as its head pokes out, the axe hits it squarely between the eyes! Blood sprays out, and it slumps back down onto the ground.

The beast is dying, felled by many arrows and Dagny's axe.

Katla cheers out loud at the sight of the cave lion's death, aims upwards and lets loose an arrow to the sky in celebration

Kylfa picks up Dagny and sets her on the ground.

Dagny dusts herself off. "Was that all? And here I thought it was going to be hard... heh."

Kylfa pokes his wound, tenderly.  "Hmm."

"You ok, beard-man?"

Kylfa grunts.  "I will be well."

You hear hoarse breathing from the pit. While the beast is unconscious and terribly injured, it yet clings to life.

Kylfa shrinks back down to normal size.  "That did not go how I expected; but perhaps that is for the best."

Dagny 's magic fades, the ground beneath the lion reappears.

Egil glances at Dagny "Ullr has truly blessed this hunt." He makes his way down from the tree, joining the others.

Katla climbs down from her tree, jumping from the lowest branch.

Kylfa towers over the lion and takes out his club. "Be at peace; you have hunted well," he says to the lion in lion-talk. Kylfa raises his club and ends the beast's life quickly.

The lion lies still as its spirit departs.

"This hunt is something to speak of in the mead-hall of Wulfheim," Katla says. "I would urge us to search its den though. Who knows, maybe this beast has litter of cubs?"

Kylfa says a silent prayer, shrinks back to normal size, takes out his antler knife, and begins the process of skinning the beast.

Dagny opens her hand, the axe quickly flying through the air into it. She cleans it off with a flick.

The huge animal will take some time to skin, and the sun will have sunk below the mountains by the time you are finished. Steam rises from the lion's body as you remove its pelt.

Kylfa continues his task, allowing the others to poke about the cave as they wish.

Egil looks about to recover any arrows that still in working condition.

Katla goes to check out the animal's den in the meantime.

"If you should find its cubs, or other creatures not hostile to us, fetch me," Kylfa notes.

"I will"

Dagny follows Katla.

Icicles drool like white fangs from the gaping entrance to the lion's den, a cave whose uneven stone floor is covered with snow for some distance. A second row of teeth, these of stone, jut from the high ceiling or thrust up through the snow, some nearly meeting in the middle. There is a thick, musty smell, and here and there are crusted old bloodstains, as well as long claw-marks. Three tunnels diverge from this central cavern, winding into the mountains; the middle is very broad, while the other two are narrower. Lying on the floor of the cave is a huge recurve bow, reinforced with bone and antler, its string snapped.

Dagny idly casts Detect Magic, you never know.

Dagny, the bow is not magical, and you don't see any other signs of magic here.

Katla searches for tracks or other clues.

Katla, the snow stops part way into the cavern, making tracking very difficult.

Egil walks up and casts Detect Magic down the large central branch

You see a faint glimmer of magic down the central tunnel, Egil. It's dark here, though - you'll need some kind of light source to proceed.

Dagny pulls out her wand, snapping her wrist to extend it. She mumurs a word in Dvergar, and the end of the wand begins to glow brightly.

"There is magic afoot Dagny," Egil notes. "Faintly down this tunnel."

You can glimpse a large cavern, carpeted with bones. You'll need to press on further to see how far back it goes.

"We should search the biggest tunnel first. It's where the lion would have fit most easily." Katla proceeds into the tunnel, staying close to Dagny and her glowing light.

Dagny muses, "Hmm... none in the entrance... just watch for funny business." She holds her wand up like a torch.

Egil casts light on one of his arrows, causing it to have a glowing light.

Bones are scattered everywhere across the floor of this large cavern, its walls gleaming with ice -you see antlered stags, aurochs skulls, and boar-tusks, but also the bones of wolves, bears, and humans. In addition to these gruesome remains, weapons, armour, clothing, and other items are strewn about: broken helms, blood-spattered mail, cloven shields, and shattered spears. Amongst these, a battleaxe of bone is visible; it radiates magic to those who can perceive it. Another tunnel winds into darkness to one side.

Dagny goes over to the axe, but doesn't pick it up. "Hmm... what's this..."

This axe is enchanted with Jötunn-magic, Dagny. The runes carved into its shaft name it Hidesplitter. It's hard to estimate its value, but it bears a potent magical charm, able to seek out vital spots, guiding a warrior's hand.

Egil knocks his glowing arrow and looses it down the dark tunnel, keeping an eye out for anything moving inside.

Egil, you don't see any movement down the other tunnel, but here a dull dripping, and glimpse what looks like a pool.

Dagny picks up the axe. "Ragnvaldr's gonna love this."

"If you say so," Katla says. "He seems to favours the spear, though."

Dagny frowns.

Kylfa rolls up the lion hide, puts away his knife, and hustles towards the cave to catch up with the rest.

Kylfa, you see light coming from the central tunnel, and can see shadows moving within.

Kylfa readies his club and shield and moves in.

Katla will move down the path when Dagny does.

You join your companions, Kylfa.

Dagny makes sure there's nothing else of value here, and is ready to move on, but readies herself when she hears sounds behind her. "Watch out for... oh, wait. Hey, beard-man."

Kylfa sniffs about.  "Empty thus far?"

Egil points towards the southern tunnel "There is water, probably fresh this way. Should we finish exploring the cave? Who knows what could be found within…"

Dagny nods. "Might as well."

Kylfa grunts.  "She said nothing of a mate; I expect were there two such beasts, that would be known."

Dagny carries around the axe like she's some sort of badass.

Kylfa looks sidelong at Dagny's axe.  "That is from here?"

Kylfa will also follow Katla, as he's a bit wounded.

Dagny nods.

"Likely the axe of one of the leatherworker's sons, who fell to the beast."

"I won't tell we took it if you don't."

Kylfa shrugs.  "I will not lie to her, if she asks about any trace of her sons."

Katla heads into the passage.

A frozen pool glistens in the darkness in this long, low cavern. There's barely room to stand up in here; if you don't take care your head will bump against the rough cave-ceiling in places. The musty animal smell is strong. Another tunnel leads to an adjacent cave.

"Well, nothing here," Katla says.

Egil inspects the pool, and recovers his glowing arrow.

Dagny casts Detect Magic in this room.

Nothing magical is evident here.

Katla continues into the tunnel and back to the main cave. She pauses to pick up the bow still lying in there.

Katla, this bow is well made, though it requires repair.

Kylfa walks over to Katla.  "With a few minutes, I may be able to repair this, though if it has magic that is lost - that is beyond my ability to restore."

Dagny keeps following Katla, eyes peeled for any danger.

Only one tunnel remains unexplored; the cave lion could scarcely have fit through it, so narrow is it.

Dagny holds her 'torch' outward to try to see, and also casts Detect Magic down the tunnel.

No sign of magic is discernable.

"Nothing magical."

"One small tunnel left," Katla notes. "Let's see it and be done with this place."

Kylfa uses another minute of Totem Transformation to give himself the olfactory sensitives of a bear, and follows Katla, sniffing the air.

Egil follows after the others.

The passage extends for some distance.

Katla continues further in.

A long, relatively narrow cavern opens before you. The air here smells foul, but not with the animal musk of the other caves; there is a stranger scent here, stale and unwholesome. At the end of the cavern, a passage winds downwards into darkness. The walls of the cave are daubed with pictures, primitive ideograms and symbols; many are of wolves, bears, aurochs, lions, mammoths, horses, men, and women, but others depict massive serpents winding through the earth, erupting from beneath to devour whole villages, swallowing beasts and human beings indiscriminately before returning to the darkness.

Dagny lets Katla lead the way, staying in the middle to provide light to the group.

"Someone was here, painting on walls before the lion made it's lair in this cave," Katla says. "Many pictures of great Orms. Perhaps fitting, given the name of these fells.'"

Kylfa grunts, still sniffing the air.

Egil casts Detect Magic on the passage at the back of the cave.

There's no sign of magic.

Kylfa, the smell reminds you of men, yet ranker, fouler... somehow, older.

"This is a man-smell, but different.  Older."

"I take it means that these are very old paintings, then," Katla says.


Dagny contemplates the paintings.

Dagny, there are local legends of certain groups of men from the early days of the world, shaggy like woodwoses. These wild men dwelled in caves, and were driven down into the darkness of the mountains by the ancestors of the Blóðbards who seized this land for themselves. Some say they bred with Dark Elves or worse things in the caverns that riddle the mountains. As for the Linnorms, these are elder Dragons that have long slumbered in the Orm-Fells and have not stirred for many a century. You recognize amongst them Svafnir, the Sleep-Bringer, whose sweet sting brings endless slumber.

"I remember tales of shaggy, bearded men." She looks at Kylfa, and then shakes her head. "No, I mean, like, wild men." She looks at him again. "No, like.... eh. Anyway. Supposedly they are still around, somewhere, hiding in the cave. Some people say they bred with Dark Elves or Dvergar or whatever... I don't know much past that. Nobody does, really."

"Folk tales?" Egil wonders.

Dagny looks at the Dragon paintings, too, and tells what she knows of them, including the bit about Svafnir.

Kylfa grunts.  "I do not think this smell was made many centuries ago.  Old may these men be, but they live still, I should think."

Dagny nods.

"We should probably not venture very deep into yonder tunnel in that case," Katla advises. "I would rather not trespass into the homes of these shaggy men's descendants. We've accomplished what we set out to do. Let us return now."

Dagny is just walking along minding her own business after leaving the spooky cave.

"Dagny," Kylfa says in Álfari, "A word."

Dagny scoots closer. "Hmm?"

"I was gone of late.  I gathered... a conclave, of those like me."

"Of beard guys?"

"Mmm.  No – of those who share the old ways, like I do.  None of the bear-folk there were, but those of many different shapes; seers and bird-folk and speakers with the spirits."

Dagny nods. "Sounds... interesting."

"I had called them.  Because... of things, of late, that trouble me.  Such as the dead. The conclave is –we are – not very attached to the ways of men.  It was not easy to make them see that they should care.  But in the end some things were resolved."

Dagny listens. "Yeah?"

"It was foremost decided that the Troll-shaman, who will call this Helblót, must die." Kylfa watches for her response.

 Dagny shrugs. "Yeah, probably. Can I have her stuff after you're done?"

"Hm.  If you like.  But it was also decided that we should not be the ones to kill her. We would prefer for Thrivaldi to do that."

Dagny starts, "So you want me to..." and then breathes a bit of a sigh of relief. "Oh. Yes. That would be pretty convenient."

"While the shaman is our nearest fear, the conclave is also wary of Ivar. The conclave thinks it wise if Thrivaldi believes himself... betrayed by the dead.  Then perhaps he would take our side; or at the very least, not Ivar's."

Dagny ponders. "How dirty are you willing to get?"

"One of my kinsmen at the conclave may make draughts that cause one's spoken lies to be very believable.  This we will use, I think.  But I believe there should be other signs of the shaman's traitorousness."

"She taught me an incantation to control the dead who walk. I intended upon only using it defensively, in case we encountered revenants or the like again. But... What better way to convince Thrivaldi that he's been betrayed by the dead than by having the dead, you know, betray him?"

Kylfa scratches his beard.  "That may work.  What I had been thinking of is this shaman – Thrivaldi, I think, knows little of magic.  He has agreed to do this ritual, but it may be only his shaman understands it.  And I did not see that he had great regard for her."

Dagny mumbles, "Yeah, that kind of goes with the territory."

"We spoke on this long – how to make Thrivaldi believe his shaman deceives him.  That it, in truth, will give her power alone. One of my sisters said she may appear as a shade of the dead as she wishes; this makes me think of what you have said."

 Dagny nods. "Yeah. The more the better, I say."

"We also wondered if it may be possible to make it seem as if the shaman is receiving gifts of power from the dead; even small magic baubles of little worth, if they look fell enough, may work.  The shaman may be the only one who knows their true value, and her protestations they are worthless will only look more suspicious. A wolf-brother said there is a Kobold-den nearby where he thinks there are such trinkets. In any case, what I seek is your counsel on this.  This sort of... trickery is not my great strength."  Kylfa taps his chin and nods, reflectively.  "Strength is my strength."

Dagny smirks. "Tricking Thrivaldi is going to be a little more involved than tricking a cave lion, I'm sure. But I can manage something, I'm sure of it."

"I thought I would tell you of this before we delivered this lion-skin.  Bringing it back will be a good excuse to be in their camp again.  We must make use of it. And if you think this Kobold-den may have something of use, I must tell my wolf-brother, as he waits for me."

Dagny ponders. "You know, what if it's all true?"


"What if the reason that the shaman seems like going to betray Thrivaldi is... what if she is? Why not set her up, and then just let him find out?"

Kylfa frowns.  "How would we know?  And if we did, how would we show this to Thrivaldi?"

Dagny> "We'd know because we set her up."

"Well, yes... and that is what I am pondering, how to do this."

"We approach her under the guise of being emissaries from some dark power with which she'd surely like to meddle, if she could get away with it. One thing I can tell you, she was very happy to learn any spell I offered to teach her. So, you know, if she had a chance to actually betray Thrivaldi and gain power for herself... I think she'd take it. And if she's actually leaning in that direction, it makes the whole show all the more convincing."

"Can you... appear to be such a thing?  The skins of animals are all that I can take."

"Illusions and such. And if she detects them as such, well, of course the dead will make use of illusion to walk among men."

"Hm.  And what power would we offer, that would make Thrivaldi think himself betrayed?"

"Some Kobold-trinkets to show our 'good faith,' but, as for the actual offer to lure her in... probably the dark power we know she craves. That type can't resist it."

"Mmm.  Then it is a matter of making Thrivaldi see..."

"Which shouldn't be too hard to convince her it's go time if she thinks she's got the backing of some kind of undead lord."

"If you wish, I can speak again with my sister who can appear in shade-form.  And as soon as I have these lie-draughts, I will tell you. My brothers and sisters are watchful, and some are powerful; but they are often loathe to act.  I fear despite their assistance, it will be we who must do this, in the main."

"If we have to sell the act ourselves, it won't be the worst thing. Maybe we'll have to go round up some revenants. Sad truth is they shouldn't be too hard to find."

Kylfa nods.  "It must be said that you are the only one outside the conclave who now knows of our plans. Of these men I have traveled with, I trust you the most.  I do not know if others are ready to know."

"Hey, your secret's safe with me. It's not like a whole lot of people listen to me anyway."

"You should know there is a man named Daire at Wulfheim who is one of our conclave.  He knows this as well, though he is... inexperienced.  I am not sure how much help he will be."

Dagny smiles. "I trust Ragnvaldr and Katla as much as I do you, but I also know their hearts are... pure. They are warriors to the end. They don't understand the murky world that you and I sometimes walk in. To be honest, I don't understand it myself half the time..."

"Mmm.  Murky indeed.  But the world that is coming is a new seed; and we shall not plant it in the earth with clean hands."

"World that is coming?"

Kylfa squints down at her, with a slight smile on his lips not at all reflected in his eyes.  "It is said the world is ending."

Dagny shrugs. "Yeah, no shit. And here I thought things were just great."

"This world may die; all things do.  But every creature that sees the winter knows there will be spring."

"This winter has been pretty long without a spring. And to tell you the truth, I don't really feel like just sitting around and waiting to find out. This crapsack if what we've got now, and that's what we've got to deal with."

"Mm.  On these things there is much disagreement in the conclave.  Will there be another world; if it will be, is it fated to be so, or is it in the hands of mortals to make."

Dagny holds up her wand. "The Dvergar are assholes, but they do know how to build crazy shit. Crazy shit that might save our lives."

"You think their magic will last this winter?"

"I don't know, but I can tell you this much. That lore book contains not only Dvergar incantations, but a great many secrets of Dvergar craftsmanship as well. Conjured food, conjured heat, conjured light. I don't know if it'll survive whatever is coming, but it'll help us survive what's out there now."

"That..."  Kylfa takes a deep breath.  "That is well.  What you can save, you must."  He doesn't sound very convinced.

Dagny shrugs and keeps walking.


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Re: The Fimbulvinter Saga
« Reply #26 on: February 05, 2015, 08:43:17 PM »
IC: Fitt XX: The Murder
Wulfheim shivers - its people, its tattered flags, its wooden walls. Fimbulvinter claws at those who wander the streets or huddle about braziers. Though the new year has come and midwinter passed, the days get no longer. Now, daylight strains through the shroud above for but a few meagre hours before the sun sinks sullenly beneath the horizon, plunging the world into a funereal gloaming that quickly gives way to uttermost night, black and cold and hungry, illumined only by a few cruel slivers of warmthless moonlight - a fell, seemingly endless night filled with the howling of wolves and the mindless, mournful gasping of the wind. Those recently returned from hunting a cave-lion stumble into the Well of Joy, hands numbed and bellies empty – save those enjoying the protections of magic.

In a corner of the mead-hall, a red-headed man with missing teeth and scarred skin sits with an empty flagon before him, scribbling madly at a piece of calfskin parchment..

Ragnvaldr grins up at the others as they enter. "Ah, they return! Good hunting, friends?"

"Mm," rumbles Kylfa.

"It is good to see you Ragnvaldr," Katla says.

"And you Katla."

Dagny 's got Endure Elements up and her ring's set to Sustenance. She's actually quite comfy. She grins at Ragnvaldr, holding up a battered but fine axe. "Brought ya something."

"Oh! I... er. A gift?"

Dagny grins wryly. "Well, if you want to give me something for it, you can."

Kylfa settles by the fire.

You notice the red-headed man occasionally glancing longingly at Kelda, the barmaid. Kylfa, you recognize Daire, the Druid.

Kylfa takes note of Daire, but stays put, humming quietly and holding his hands by the hearth.

The Fir Bolg doesn't seem to have noticed you - he's intent on his writing.

Egil goes to get a mug of mead before finding a seat.

Ragnvaldr scratches at his beard and averts his eyes, mumbling something about having nothing to give in return, but takes the axe anyway. "It's a fine limb-pruner, truly. My thanks. I shall name it Dagnöskur in your honour. If... that is, with your permission...."

Dagny grins. "It had another name, but I like yours better. Beyond being just a fine axe, it's got a magical enchantment. It will guide your hand to the vitals of your foe."

"We have hunted and felled a great beast," Katla says. "A deed worthy of a minor feasting, at least."

Katla takes a seat near Ragnvaldr and calls for the maids to deliver roasted meat on the table, expensive or not.

Kelda brings you some of the aurochs meat, heavily salted.

Ragnvaldr gazes at the axe for a moment, then snaps out of it and turns to Katla. "So, tell me of your deeds since last I saw you, shield-maiden!"

Dagny, Gertrud approaches you with a somewhat worried look. She tugs at her grey braid of hair fretfully.

Dagny gives Ragnvaldr a playful smack on the back and then turns. "Yeah?"

"Dagny, there's something I must speak with you about," Gertrud says. She motions that you follow her to a quiet corner.

Dagny follows her. "Go ahead."

"Since we now have a Felag regarding the mead-hall, it's best you know these things. Our supply of drink is beginning to dwindle. More was drunk during the Jol feast than I had anticipated, and now our stores are growing increasingly limited; meanwhile, more desperate souls crowd into Wulfheim every day, fleeing wolves and marauders. If things continue this way, I fear our supply will be exhausted by the end of the month. We have some honey, to make more mead, but not nearly enough to keep the drink flowing."

"You think people will drink fermented... uh... you know, I don't even know what you'd call it."

She raises an eyebrow.

Kylfa, your bearish ears perk up at the sound of the word "honey."

Kylfa 's head slowly swivels to look at Dagny and Gertrud speaking in the corner.

Dagny clasps her hands together and concentrates for a moment. She then hands Gertrud a limp strand of something that looks like wet seaweed. "Because in a few weeks we're going to have more of THIS than we know what to do with."

Kylfa stands slowly.

Gertrud picks up the stuff. "What... what is this...? Some form of kelp?"

"I'm calling it allfood, lacking a better name for it. Because it sort of tastes like everything. Which actually isn't a very good taste."

Kylfa trundles over to Dagny and the tavern-owner, straightening his back to loom over them.

"Try it."

Gertrud tastes some of it, chewing. "For something that tastes of everything the flavour is still almost bland... but perhaps we could attempt to brew some sort of spirits from it? It will take time to perfect a recipe, however."

"The point is, it won't be long before we're going to be able to make this stuff in such quantities that supply won't ever be an issue. So we might as well figure out as much we can do with it as we can."

Gertrud nods. "I shall see what we can produce. In the meantime, if during your travels you come across any mead or ale and can find a means to bring them here, it would help the Well of Joy greatly."

"Yeah, no problem."

"What is this you say about honey?" Kylfa rumbles, looking intently at Gertrud.

"Hey, interrupting bear, give us a minute, ok?"

She looks towards Kylfa, somewhat alarmed by the huge, hulking bear-shaman. "You wouldn't know of any mead-source, would you?" she asks the bear shaman.

Kylfa starts to turn away at Dagny's insistence, but stops when Gertrud speaks.  "No.  But I may speak with beasts who know these things."  He shrugs.

She tilts her head. "I have not heard of beasts brewing mead! But if you hear anything, let me know and I'll make sure you're rewarded."

"I..." Kylfa clears his throat.  "Honey is what I meant.  To make... hm."  Kylfa grunts and returns to the hearth.

"Here is your cut of the mead-hall's proceeds," she says, handing Dagny a small bag of coins.

Dagny takes the bag. "Oh, hey, thanks." She thinks a moment, then adds, "Oh, did you get a girl in here, youngish, red hair, probably a little spooked looking, said I sent her?"

"Ah, yes - the girl Sigrid. She is sleeping at the moment, but she should make an able serving girl."

"You can take her pay out of my cut. I have a job for her."

"Friend Kylfa had some business that took him to the town of the Trollbloods," Katla says. "So I accompanied him there with Dagny and the warpriest, Egil."

"Business with the Thrivaldii eh?" Ragnvaldr asks.

"I happened that his business required a hunt for a cave lion, a giant beast that had devoured many of the Thrivaldii, despite their skill at the hunt."

"Thus we took this quest upon us, deeming it a worthy undertaking. We journeyed to the Orm-Fells in search for the lion's den, but found it stalking us in the woods on our way."

"Ah, if only I could have hunted with you! I believe some trace of that spy's poison found its way into my cup on the Jól night, I have been week as a babe since." Ragnvaldr does not look weak at all

"Now, Kylfa is quite the trickster and wise-man. Not only he surprised us by walking – nay, flying! – in the skin of a vulture, but his spell made us unseen and unheard and unsmelled by the beast. And thus were we able to set an ambush and lure it to a bait conjured by Dagny."

"A vulture now, as well as a bear! Is he truly a man at all, do you think? Either way I am glad to call him friend, but I do wonder at times..." Ragnvaldr takes up his new axe again, holding it up to the light to examine the edge, testing the balance, even giving it a couple of idle swings to feel its heft.

Ragnvaldr, the axe is exceptionally balanced, the Dragon-bone surprisingly light.

"The great cat was ferocious indeed, and it tooks us a fair while to pierce its thick hide. But it was caught in Dagny's witch-crafted pit – like the one she made when he hunted the aurochs - and thus could neither escape our arrows, nor pounce at us. That is how the lion was felled."

"A clever trap, then. It sounds like you hunted well, Katla. I'm sad not to have been with you, and glad to see you returned whole."

"Your words warm my heart, Ragnvaldr. You like that axe, don't you? I had you penned as a man of the spear."

Ragnvaldr starts at Katla's comment, seemingly flustered. "Well, I... a true warrior should be adept with all the tools of battle, as well you should know Katla."

Katla nods approvingly. "May that blade serve you well, then."

Egil quietly begins his third mug of mead.

Egil, the mead here is excellent.

Kylfa looks over at the two of them discussing the axe.  "I suspect that is the axe of the leatherworker's son, who with his brothers died in battle with the lion."

"Speaking of the tools of battle, I found a bow stronger than any I've ever bent in that same cave your axe was in," Katla says. "The string is snapped though, and the bow itself is in need of maintenance, having laid in the cave for so long. I'll need to get it fixed."

Kylfa nods at the bow.  "And likewise that."

Ragnvaldr looks over to Kylfa. "A brave death then. I will carry his memory along with his weapon."

Dagny goes over to Kylfa, tapping him lightly, and moving over to another corner.

Kylfa grunts and follows her.

Ha, for all I have just said, Katla, I have never been reckoned a great archer. Perhaps though you could find someone in the Jarl's service who would help you fix your bow."

"We should return to the cave," Egil says.

"Return? Why?" Katla asks. "We already searched it, save for that one tunnel that's better left unexplored."

"The tunnel we found at the back, past the painted walls. There are Dragons of some kind below."

"Either Orms alseep, or the descendants of those who made the paintings."

"Should Loki's forces march, they could very well waken the Orms."

"Sleeping dragons are not what we should worry about for now. Other Drakkar still soar the sky, and the Again-Walkers march in the west. It is foolish to risk waking up the sleepers when we've yet to deal with these foes."

Egil shrugs.

"Ragnvaldr, I don't know if you've learned of it already, but I've sworn an oath to track down and kill the last remaining Drakkar that menace the lands around Wulfheim. I would be honored if you were to fight by my side."

"Aye, and a worthy oath it is too! In this, and in any other fight, it would be my pleasure to stand by your side again Katla! You're as fine a battle-worker as I've met."

"Your words flatter me. I should say the same of you! We'll probably find the Drakes in the Orm-Fells. I reckon it's better to go after them soon, before they grow bigger than they already are."

"So, about the other thing," Dagny says quietly to Kylfa. "What do you want to do, tomorrow?"

Kylfa scratches his cheek and responds to her quietly, in Álfari.  "I am unsure.  Perhaps we should meet the wolf-brother and see this Kobold-cave; but if you do not think baubles there are worth our time, perhaps there is some other thing to do."

Dagny replies in the same. "Well, I haven't seen them for myself, so I don't know if they are or not. If they've got the right magic, they can help."

"It will be three days tomorrow since I was with the Troll-kin, and the leatherworker will be done four days from then, or so she said.  At the latest that is when we must return."

"We better get moving then. How far is this Kobold-cave?"

"A day's journey, I should think."

"Which direction?"

"It is in the hills.  But I do not know exactly where; we must meet the wolf-brother first. The place where we are to meet my brother is eastward, in the woods."

"Seems like a good trip for tomorrow, then."

"Mm. Another brother is here.  I should speak with him before we go."

Dagny nods. "I've got stuff to do, too. Meet you here in the morning?"

Kylfa stops briefly at the fire, then walks over to Daire. ""Hail, brother. You have found what you were looking for, I see," he says to Daire, standing behind him.

He looks up in surprise. "Ah, friend Kylfa!" he says. "Well met. I must thank you for bringing me here. The drink tastes a bit funny, but it's been years since I've had a warm bed and a full belly." His green eyes look glazed with drink. "And the women are something to see, too," he adds.

Kylfa nods.

A red-haired woman - Sigrid, the thrall Egil bought and freed - emerges from one of the Well of Joy's chambers. Seeing Egil, she approaches the warpriest shyly.

"You have returned," she says. "I am grateful for freeing me. And to the woman – Dagny, she is called? – for sending me here."

Egil nods towards the freed thrall.

She nods to your cup. "Do you need more mead?"

"Not this night, I feel like we are soon to retire. Dawn will bring another hunt. I am glad that you made it to Wulfheim. Hopefully you find a pleasant stay."

Katla turns toward Egil and Sigrid "I see you've made it to Wulfheim alive. You've earned your freedom by that, far as I'm concerned. The route is perilous and difficult."

Sigrid looks to Katla. "Aye, I'm handy in the wild. I used to farm these lands, before the Mighty Winter came."

Kylfa walks over to Katla.  "Give me the bow.  I will mend it for you."

Katla turns to answer Kylfa. "You know how to mend a bow?"

Kylfa glances at Sigrid and nods briefly, but takes no further notice of her and replies to Katla.  "I know nothing of bows.  Nevertheless, I can mend it."

Katla looks puzzled. "Do you speak of wise-man ways, now?"

"Mm," says Kylfa.

Katla shrugs and hands the battered bow to the bear-shaman, curious to see what he can do about it.

Kylfa turns it over in his weathered hands, and nods.  "Perhaps an hour or two.  I will return it to you here, in the morning."

"Very well. I look forward to the results of your craft."

Kylfa grunts, nods, and looks around for Daire, if he's still here ogling the barmaids.

"If you can mend the bow, I will be in your debt Kylfa. Should you need that debt repaid, you need but give the call and my sword will be in your service."

Kylfa nods.  "Mm.  I will do what I can."

Daire is madly scribbling on his calfskin, while still darting glances at Kelda.

Dagny returns to the group. "Hey, red, you got a sec?"

"Yes?" Sigrid looks to Dagny.

"You want a job?"

She still seems slightly scared of you, but she's obviously grateful. "What kind of job?" she asks, uncertain.

"A... job job. Going and getting stuff. Hauling stuff in buckets. Like, basically what you'd do anyway, except you're free and I'll pay you instead of someone just telling you to do it."

Sigrid considers this. "That sounds like honest work. What would be my pay?"

"About fifteen aurar a month. Five silver pennings a day."

Ragnvaldr grins at Dagny "you paying others to sling the shit for you now, eh?"

"Why not?" Dagny turns back to Sigrid. "So what do you think?"

"Aye," she says. "I'll work for you. Here, in the Well of Joy?"

"Here. In town. Where needed. Nothing flat-out dangerous, unless you agree to it."

Sigrid nods. "That sounds reasonable. Let me know what you need done and I'll see to it."

Dagny reaches into the small bag and h5ands Sigrid five aurar. "Here's the first bit in advance, so you can get yourself settled in town."

Her eyes widen at the sight of gold. "Ah, thank you mistress Dagny!" she says, taking the coins.

"I'm not gonna lie. I don't mind if you call me that." Dagny smirks.

Kylfa approaches Daire.  "Have you seen much, aside from... the tavern?"

He waves a hand. "This and that. It's cold out there, you know! And, well... I've been inspired, so to speak."

"Have you," he grunts.  "Well.  I shall see brother Hrodulf soon, I think."

"Oh yes," he says, somewhat dismissively. "That hairy fellow. Ah, no offense."

Kylfa gestures to Dagny, pointing her out to Daire.  "That is the woman I spoke of, at the conclave.  And she... works here, I believe.  At this tavern."

Daire looks over at Dagny. "Fine looking lass," he comments. "I'm sure she's trustworthy, as you say."

"Mm.  Yes."  Kylfa looks around idly, struggling for some words.  "Well.  Keep well this hearth, then.  Mm."

Katla settles down to enjoy the food and drink, filling her empty stomach quickly.

Ragnvaldr leans forward in his seat, reaching down to scratch behind Aslaug's ear with a blunt finger, happy to be amidst friends again, and happy to let them do whatever talking there is to be done.

Egil wanders off to sleep.

Kylfa nods and wanders off to the fire to curl up. He is going to cast Mending on Katla's bow as he sits by the fire, before sleeping.  

Dagny returns to her house to sleep.

Dagny, you're awakened early by a knock at your door.

Dagny grumbles and rolls out of bed. She wraps the sheet around herself and peeks outside.

The Jarl's Thegn, Starkad stands at the door, his face grim.

Dagny opens the door. "Uh... hello?"

"Dagny," he says. "Come with me... we must fetch your companions. Something has happened."

"Let me put some clothes on first."

His voice catches slightly; he's supressing his emotions somewhat. He nods. "I will go to the mead-hall, to waken some of your friends. Meet me at the keep."

Ragnvaldr, Kylfa, Egil, you're shaken awake by Starkad.

Kylfa awakens with a snort.

"What? What is it?" Ragnvaldr asks.

"What...?" Egil says blearily.

"Friends, I beg you to come with me. The Jarl will explain."

Kylfa grunts and stands up.

Ragnvaldr rises and makes ready without complaint, hearing the urgency in Starkad's voice.

"Hm."  Kylfa yawns cavernously and follows Ragnvaldr out of the tavern.

Dagny quickly puts on her customary drab brown dress and grabs her axe. She gives Rocky a pebble or whatever would be a good 'treat' for him and then hurries to the mead hall, not even having had a chance to prepare her spells.

It is still dark outside, Dagny, but the settlement is abuzz, guards surrounding the keep and keeping curious onlookers at a distance, weapons gleaming in the torchlight.

Dagny casts light on her wand and continues to the mead hall.

You arrive at the mead-hall as your companions leave, hastening after Starkad.

Egil gathers his belongings, and following, an unusual grim cast to his face.

Dagny tosses her hands up in slight frustration and continues to follow.

At Starkad's order, you are admitted to the keep. Within the timbered hall, Hrothik Wulfgar and his men stand over a body, its throat cut. You recognize the dead man - it is Vatnar, one of the Jarl's Housecarls. The corpse has been mutilated, its chest scratched with an X: the Gebo rune, signifying a gift. The Jarl's expression is stony. Brúnn kneels by the body, mouthing prayers to Odin and the Valkyries to accept Vatnar into Asgard.

The Jarl looks up at you, his expression one of cold fury.

"That vile nithing Fritjof slipped his bonds," he says. "When Vatnar came to interrogate him, he was waiting. How he got a blade I don't know. We found the body only a short time ago, but his blood had already run cold."

Dagny starts. "That's..." She just sighs. "You try to do one nice thing for people. Seriously."

"Fritjof has escaped?" Ragnvaldr exclaims. "He can't have gone far."

Starkad's sombre expression darkens further. "Perhaps not, Ragnvaldr. There are no horses missing."

Ragnvaldr shoots a solemn look at Vatnar's corpse "Then let us find him. He must surely die for this."

Kylfa scratches his beard.  "This is Ivar's man you speak of?"

The Jarl nods to Kylfa. "Yes, the Hrafnii assassin. He may have had aid in his escape. Another of Ivar's agents may have infiltrated Wulfheim."

"Likely," Egil agrees.

"I don't wanna be the one to say it," Dagny says. "But, I guess I will be. It sucks and all, but this sounds like a whole big pile of not my problem."

"Until he slits your throat in your sleep," Egil points out.

"Or opens the gates to the Blóðards and the Draugar," Ragnvaldr adds.

"The Jarl scowls. "You are right, Dagny. I do not demand your aid in bringing Fritjof to justice – though if you come upon him, be sure to bring him a swift end."

Dagny's mouth opens slightly, and then she sighs, pressing her hand to her face in frustration. "Yeah, fine, fine. How do you want to do this?"

Kylfa grunts.  "Do you possess anything of his?  A cloth he wore when imprisoned.  A hair."

Brúnn looks up from the body. "There is a black hair here – not one of Vatnar's. Why do you ask, Kylfa?"

"I am not a seer.  And if this man remains here, soon to strike, there is nothing I can do to find him.  But I know of folk who are far-seers, and in the days to come, perhaps that hair will be of use to them." Kylfa grunts. "But I can promise nothing."

Brúnn nods. "Here, take it to these Völvur then. I will pray that it helps speed the nithing Fritjof's death."

Kylfa takes the hair from him and carefully stows it away in his component-pouch. "Aside from this I do not know what can be done.  I know nothing of the man or what he will do."

"It is likely Fritjof flies to his master in Skrikborg," Starkad suggests. "Or else to the hold to the west, Drekaborg, garrisoned with Ivar's men."

"Perhaps," the Jarl says. "Or he may quit these lands entirely. He is Hrafnii, not one of Ivar's clan, and he has failed in his task. It may be that he hopes to flee the wrath of the Perverse as much as ours - he could be making for Hrafnford, to the north and east."

The Jarl looks back to Dagny, and to the party as a whole. "Many matters pester at us, these dark days, and you have helped keep Wulfheim safe from many dangers. I will leave it to you to judge what must be done first. But if you can bring me Fritjof's head, I will reward you as handsomely as I can afford."

Ragnvaldr looks round at the others to see their reactions

Dagny considers, and says, "I can't promise you his head." She adds, with a wry grin, "There may not be that much left."

Starkad flashes you a humourless smile, Dagny.

"He should be stopped, but I have no special way of finding him," Egil says.

Kylfa is expressionless.

Ragnvaldr shrugs and agrees "If we find him, he dies. If not.... well, we find him later, and he dies later. How's that?"

"That is good enough for me, Ragnvaldr," the Jarl says, inclining his head. "I trust no one with this more than you - not even my own men, save Starkad and a few others. But I know you all to be enemies of the Blóðbards."

"Aye, you could say that." Ragnvaldr gives a hard, joyless smile.

"It is said that you swore to kill Ivar, Ragnvaldr," Starkad says. "Is this true?"

"It is."

"If by my axe or bow I can you help you, I will fight by your side gladly," he says.

"The year is yet young, I thought maybe to let the Perverse wretch live a little while longer, that he might fear my coming before his end. But after this, well... we shall see."

Kylfa grunts and trudges out of the hall, leaving the others to their discussion.

"I may once have had harsh words for Vatnar, but they were spoken in haste," Ragnvaldr says. "He was a good man, and shall be missed. He was not deserving of this death." Ragnvaldr follows him back to the tavern, frowning.

The guards let you pass. A small crowd shivers out in the cold darkness of the morning, whispering in speculation.

Dagny motions to Brúnn when he's done.

The Gothi stands and walks over to you, Dagny.

"Each morning, I study my book of runes to fill my mind with the day's incantations. You pray and mediate in a similar process, right? Have you done so yet today?"

Brúnn shakes his head, his brown beard wagging. "Not yet, no..."

Brúnn ponders. "Perhaps. I will pray, and think on it. The gods may see fit to aid us."

"Ok, good enough for me. And on that note..." She sits herself down in a comfortable corner and pulls out her little bundle of scrolls.

Kylfa walks towards the tavern, looking to find Daire.

"Is there anything you could do to help us in this search? I know that, by virtue of getting them directly from above, you have access to far more incantations than I could ever fit in my rune-book."
Daire still snores by the hearth, his writing fallen by hand.

Kylfa grunts at him loudly.

He snorts and wakes with a start.

"Brother," Kylfa says to Daire, "there is one of Ivar's men loose here."

"Arawn take us..." he curses. "How'd you know?"

"He killed another in his escape."

Daire shakes his head. "Crafty bastard. So he's left Wulfheim, then?"

"Perhaps not.  It is said that no horse is missing from the stable."

Kylfa describes the man to Daire.  "Perhaps you did not see many faces as a captive.  But if you should see this man... I will be gone for some time.  The jarl here must know if he is here."

"Aye, I'll keep a sharp eye," Daire says. "I'll let the Jarl know if I see him... you did let him know not to suspect my involvement in anything, yes? As a foreigner I'll doubtless be a suspect, wouldn't you say?"

Kylfa shrugs.  "I have seen nothing.  But if you see him, his men will wish to know, no matter who you are."


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Re: The Fimbulvinter Saga
« Reply #27 on: February 13, 2015, 03:02:43 PM »
IC: Fitt XXI: Svartrún
In the pre-dawn darkness, Wulfheim seems especially sombre - a solemnity only compounded by the recent death of Vatnar, the Housecarl, and the escape of the Hrafnii assassin Fritjof. Folk huddle round braziers, murmuring to one another and looking distrustfully about the settlement. Suspicions are rampant; many believe that Fritjof must have had accomplices.

Ragnvaldr wakes, as usual, in the common room of the Well of Joy, stiff but well enough rested. He stumbles outside, searching for a good pissing-spot.

There's no dearth of snow-drifts in which to relieve oneself – though a good many side-streets are now crowded with refugees huddled into Wulfheim, fleeing Ivar's marauders, wolves from Ironwood, or the dark things that stir in the west.

Ragnvaldr unleashes on a secluded drift which a groggy "Ahhhh, Hefring's hips that's better...." under his breath.

Katla has yet to hear of this recent bloodletting, so she continues her peaceful slumber until the noises of the early-working girls awaken her.

You're shaken awake by Gertrud, Katla, and immediately handed a memory-horn – a draught of ceremony ale, drank to honour the gods and remember those who have passed from Midgard.

"Waken, shield-maiden," she says. "The Housecarl Vatnar is dead. We drink a toast to his memory."

Katla blinks drowsily, not immediately realizing what's happened. "Dead...? What, VATNAR?"

She shakes her head. "The nithing Fritjof - that Hrafnii your companions apprehended - he's escaped. He slew Vatnar and stole from the Jarl's keep."

Ragnvaldr stumps back in out of the cold. "Aye, Katla. A dark turn, for certain. That shit-beard Fritjof slew him in escaping his bonds."

Katla suddenly stirs from her half-sleepy state, quite alarmed by the news as it sinks in. "Hel's cunt! That worthless cur must be made to pay."

Dagny comes wandering back to where everyone else is.

Ragnvaldr, Dagny, you're both handed a horn of funereal ale to be drunk in Vatnar's honour.

Ragnvaldr nods solemn thanks for the horn.

"May the spirit of Vatnar, the Housecarl, find an afterworld worthy of his life's deeds. And may he give no rest for his slayer for as long as that wretch still walks in this world." Katla toasts and takes a deep draw of the drink.

Ragnvaldr lifts his ale to his lips reverently, then glugs somewhat less reverently.

Daire, the Druid, quaffs his funeral ale and returns to whatever it is he's been writing.

Ragnvaldr approaches Daire.

The red-headed Fir Bolg looks up with raised eyebrows. "Hello there. You must be one of Kylfa's friends?"

"Aye. You know the Kvenlander, eh? Are you a skin-changer yourself?"

"Some Druids can change their shape, but I'm afraid I never got the hang of it," he says, shrugging.

"Druid, are you? I have seen your Ériu. Seen it down the shaft of a spear. A great, green land it is. Breeds fierce warriors. None fierce enough though, eh? For I still live…" Ragnvaldr's face is unreadable.
"I've not set eyes on my homeland for many a year. You Northmen have done your damndest to see its green hills burn. I was taken from it during a raid. Might well have shared a longboat with you, without knowing it." He grunts. "Well, let bygones be bygones, I suppose. My grudge is with the Bloodbeards, not you folk."

"Aye, the Bloodbeards..."

Dagny drinks the ale, and wipes her mouth off. "So, are we gonna find this guy? Or just not give a fuck? I can see a good argument either way."

"If he has not gotten far away, he should be caught and killed without mercy. I know not whence he has fled though, nor how."

Dagny shrugs. "Well, no horses are gone. So he couldn't have gone too far. He might even have stuck around trying to finish his job... Ivar doesn't seem to be the type to just forgive failure."

"Then it would be worth looking for tracks, at least."

"Beard-man was supposed to have figured something out... and Brúnn too. Dunno where they went."

"Yes. Kylfa would be truly valuable when it comes to tracking this man. I've spied his ways; they may be strange and... bearish, but there is no doubting his ability."

As you're speaking, Brúnn returns to the mead-hall. The Gothi looks gaunt and tired, but there is a spark in his eyes. He approaches Dagny and Katla.

Ragnvaldr moves away from Daire and rejoins the group.

The Gothi nods grimly to Ragnvaldr.

"I have thought and prayed long on the matters set before us," he says. "I know of no way to locate Fritjof, but I may have a means of exposing any who helped him escape. The gods have shown me how to bless the sacred grove in such a way that no lie can be told by those who stand within it. If you find someone you suspect may have aided the Hrafnii, bring him to the grove. We can question him there."

Dagny steps over to him. "Like that guy over there?" she mumbles, glancing at Daire.

Brúnn nods. "Do you have reason to suspect his involvement?"

"Who is this outlander anyway?" Katla just now seems to take notice of the man from Ériu.

"A Druid," Ragnvadlr growls. "They are like the Gothi of Ériu. Well, somewhat like the Gothi anyhow.

Brúnn strokes his beard. "I have heard of their kind. It's known that they burn sacrifices in great wicker men, to ensure the harvest is good."

"They are cruel, it's true."

"As far as I'm concerned we should just march everyone who might possibly have had anything to do with anything through there."

"That might take some time. Unless you have a small number in mind."

"Might as well begin with him then. It's not as though we have better suspects."

Ragnvaldr nods to Katla and turns back to Daire. "On your feet, Fir Bolg. We're going for a walk."

Daire looks up. "Where to?"

"On. Your feet."

He gets up quickly - almost reflexively. Years of thralldom have doubtless given him a fear of the whip...

Dagny looks around to see if Sigrid is here.

Sigrid is helping Kelda lay out some fresh reeds on the floor.

Dagny goes over and taps her on the shoulder. "It's going to be a busy day for me, probably. If you could go gather some stones suitable for building, that would be great."

Sigrid nods. "I'll see what I can find."

Dagny nods. "Thanks, red." She then goes off with the group.

Ragnvaldr looks round at the others "Shall we?"

"No sense stalling things here." Katla gather her arms, including the now-mended strongbow, which she examines carefully before going after the others.

Ragnvaldr gestures for Daire to go first.

You leave the mead-hall and walk out the gates of Wulfheim out into the dark and frozen morning. Snow is lightly falling, and the wind beginning to pick up. The Gothi falls in beside Dagny.

"Another thing has occurred to me," Brúnn says. "In but two weeks' time it will be Modraniht, the correct day to hold what is known as a Dísablót – a rite honouring the Dísir, protective spirits of the dead. The rite has not been held in many years, for one should not call lightly upon the shades of the slain. But in these dark times, I believe it may be prudent to hold the Dísablót. However, I cannot conduct the Dísablót myself. The Dísir are feminine spirits, and will not heed the call of a man. I will need to find a woman to conduct the rite – I could instruct either you or Katla, if necessary. We must also sacrifice an animal, preferably a horse, to anoint the grove and statues there with its blood."

"It'd also be a good time for a Helblót, right? I mean, not that I'm planning on holding one. Just saying."

He looks at you in alarm. "Where have you heard of such a vile rite?"

"You know I read some pretty fucked up shit."

"Indeed..." his face darkens. He walks ahead, to Ragnvaldr.

Ragnvaldr is keeping his eyes on Daire and his hand near Dagnöskur as they walk.

"I heard it said that you have sworn to slay King Ivar," Brúnn says, carefully.

"You have heard truth, then, Brúnn."

"Though I would be glad to see the Perverse dead, there may be some value in capturing him and bringing him here before killing him. There is... a rite. A sacrifice. It has not been conducted for centuries, but I have heard of it... It is the sacrifice of a King." The Gothi seems almost reluctant to give voice to such an idea. "It is said that in times of great famine and despair, when the crops would not grow, our ancestors would offer up the flesh and blood of their Kings to the gods. King and land are bound together, and as good and just King helps the land to thrive, so does an evil King cause it to wither. Though Ivar the Perverse is no friend of Wulfheim, he is still our King by law. Were he to be captured alive and brought here to be sacrificed, perhaps it would restore the land, at least for a time. Doubtless even Ivar's death cannot stop Fimbulvinter, but if we could bring back some measure of health to the realm, I believe Ivar's death is a small price to pay."

As he speaks you approach the sacred grove of the Æsir, Daire shivering in the cold. The trees creak in the wind; the snow is turning to freezing rain.

"He will die by my hand, Brúnn. If it is in your grove or on the battlefield, it will be by my hand. Would that fit with your rite?"

"It would. You may administer the killing-blow. I can instruct you in what to say."

Ragnvaldr nods grimly. "I will try, then. But know this Brúnn; if I face him in battle, and am hard-pressed, he may die before he reaches the grove. I am making no promises."

Brúnn nods. "Of course. If he is slain... well, it may be that another of his blood might be found."

Dagny's Endure Elements is wearing off. She shivers a moment, then murmurs a few words and glows green for an instant. And looks far more comfortable.

You reach the circle of statues at the crown of the hill. Daire, still shivering, looks around, his breath misting the air. "Nuada preserve me, why've you brought me out to this forsaken place?"

"It used to be a lot more forsaken, trust me," Dagny says.

The Gothi, speaks a prayer to Forseti, beseeching the god of truth and justice to bless the grove. He anoints the sacred grove with holy water.

Katla departs from the group to stride in a wide circle around the grove, scouting for any intruders so that there won't be a repetition of the Aptrgangar onslaught.

Katla, you find no onslaught – however, you do discover a putrefying corpse, that of a villager, his throat torn out, though whether by wolf or revenant you cannot be sure. He'd fallen in amongst the undergrowth and is now partially covered by snow.

Katla takes the time to mark the corpse with a stick, so that it can be retrieved and given the proper rites. Having finished this task, she returns to the grove.

Dagny slides over to Ragnvaldr. "Hey, you know, remember when you said you wouldn't have anything to trade for the axe? I mean, I'm not asking for a trade, but there is something..."

"Anythi... I mean, what would you ask, Dagny?"

Ragnvaldr tries to glower at Daire with half his face and smile at Dagny with the other.... with interesting results.

"You have a lot of aurar stashed away at my house. I've gotten involved in certain... projects. That are expensive. If I could use it, for the time being, that would be really great. I'd pay you back when I could."

"Oh. Yes, yes you may. Of course. As long as you leave me enough for a horn of mead every now and then I shall be happy enough, I'm sure."

Brúnn finishes his rites.

"You may ask your questions," the Gothi says.

Dagny smiles. "Thanks." Her eyes widen and she turns to him. "Ragnvaldr, I really like –" She takes a large step back. "– mead. I really like mead. So yeah. Definitely leaving you enough for mead."

Katla approaches the Gothi and speaks to him quietly. "There is a dead man half-buried in snow in the woods. Probably slain in the attack of the revenants. I have marked the spot with an upright stick."

Brúnn nods. "I shall see to it he is burned, and given the proper rites.

"You know Dagny... I too am very fond of... mead," Ragnvaldr admits. "Anyway, we are here for a purpose. Let us be on with it."

Daire's characteristic good cheer seems to have dwindled somewhat...

"Listen, Druid! We will ask, you will answer, understood?"

Dagny steps back into the circle. "Yeah, and don't try any funny business or we'll fuck you up."

Daire nods. "Ask away! Though I don't see why you couldn't talk to me in the bloody mead-hall."

Ragnvaldr grins nastily. "Really? You really have no idea why not?"

"All I know is that I'm freezing cold and you have a look in your eye I last saw in a Blóðbard torturer's!"

"Your forget, Daire, we ask you answer. Do you really have no idea why we brought you here to answer our questions? Answer."

"Perhaps you think I had something to do with this murderous fellow's escape? I had naught to do with that, I can assure you!"

Ragnvaldr looks askance at Brúnn

The Gothi shrugs. "He speaks the truth."

"I've just been sitting by the hearth, writing a poem for that lass Kelda..."

Dagny, amongst Northmen love poetry is prohibited by law – though the law is flouted often, the penalties can be steep. It is considered a form of spell or charm, and any caught reciting it to a woman must pay a fine or face outlawry. Essentially, a love poem is a slur on a woman's reputation and seen as an attempt to tarnish her honour by twisting her heart.

Dagny looks up. "Wait, you were writing what?"

"Just a poem for Kelda. We Druids are poets. It's what we do. How else should I woo such a fair maiden? I'm a penniless outlander."

Dagny looks at Ragnvaldr and then at Katla and then back at Daire."You really have no clue how things work around here do you?"

Ragnvaldr spits "aye, that's true enough. I've heard these Druids sing for hours." Something in his tone says that their songs were not to his liking...

Brúnn shakes his head. "Mansongar... Foolish utlendr."

"Okay, so this guy is just a dumbshit and this is a waste of time."

"Bloody fool," Katla grumbles. "He comes here in a time when children and good men starve. And he thinks it's a good idea to go about wooing the maidens?"

"Oh, come down off your high horse, lass! We're all dead soon enough. We might as well seek what happiness we can in the time we have left!"

Dagny asks, just to confirm, "So right now you have absolutely no idea where Fritjof is, right?"

Daire nods. "No clue where this bugger is... although, I would hazard the bastard's not heading back to Skrikborg in any hurry. Disappointing Ivar is hazardous to one's health."

"See, told you. But yeah."

"We've spent time enough here, I think," Katla declares. "Let us return to the warmth of the mead-hall."

"One more question," Ragnvaldr says.


"Were you truly a captive of the Blóðbards?"

"Of course! I can show you the bloody brand Ivar put on me himself..." Daire pales as if he's revealed something he shouldn't have.

"Ivar himself?"

He makes a coughing, choking sound, as if trying to keep the words in. "Yes. The Perverse branded me with his own hand." He takes a step backwards.

"Stand where you are!"

He freezes in place, tensed.

Katla glares at the outlander, fingering her bow.

"You did not escape, did you? They let you go, didn't they? Show us the brand."

"He shakes his head, refusing. He splutters, but speaks. "I... I walked out. The guards were gone... I got lucky..."

"Likely story," Katla snaps. "And I'm the queen of Ériu!"

He hangs his head. "They must've let me go," he relents, as if he has convinced himself. "There's no way they got that sloppy."

"The brand," Ragnvaldr insists.

He shakes his head again, backing into a statue of Thor.

"Do you want to do this the easy way or the hard way?"

"You wouldn't harm me, would ye lass?" he asks Dagny, looking at her fearfully, pleadingly.

Dagny just shrugs and runs up and grabs him.

He gasps as you wind him, shoving him against the statue.

Dagny grunts as she holds him, "This doesn't count as harm. You'll be fine. Now. Brand."

Katla bursts into laughter at the sight of the man being tackled by Dagny

Shaking, he unbuttons his shirt to reveal a hideous runic brand on his chest, over his heart.

Dagny lets him go.

Dagny, this divinatory symbol is one of the Svartrúnar – the Black Runes. This particular rune can be used as a kind of scrying-mark. If its creator wishes it, he could see through the eyes and hear through the ears of the one he branded.

Dagny's eyes widen, taking a step back.

"What is that?" Katla asks.

"What is it, Dagny?" Ragnvaldr asks. "What does it mean?"

"You," Dagny declares. "Close your eyes and cover your ears."

"Why?" he demands. "What're you going to do?" His breathing is hoarse.

"I'm going to take a dump and I don't want you watching. Just do it already."

"Do what she says!" Ragnvaldr orders. "Now!"

He's frightened enough to obey the order. Daire clasps his hands over his ears and closes his eyes.

Dagny suddenly feels the need to add, "I'm not actually going to do that. I went not that long ago." She shakes her head. "That rune is for scrying. Ivar can see through his eyes, hear through his ears. He's a spy, not intentionally I'd think, but a spy nonetheless."

Ragnvaldr's eyes widen. "Ivar... saw, heard, all of this? And before, ever since the Fir Bolg came here?"

"Might have. I don't know if he was 'watching,' or if it's him or one of his Völvur... but basically."

"So, he knows that his spy has escaped and that we've yet to find a trail, at least," Katla says flatly. "We should assume that much."

Ragnvaldr grins "He knows I'm going to kill him."

"Wait, wait. If Fritjof is around, and he knows Daire is blown, he might try to, you know, tie up loose ends."

"And... oh. You're saying we use the Fir Bolg as bait?"

Dagny shrugs. "Could work." She glances back to make sure that Daire is still not watching and listening.

He still has his eyes squeezed shut and ears clasped.

"What do you propose?" Katla asks. "That we set him loose in the woods?"

Dagny thinks, then says, "I was thinking take him into captivity, somewhere an assassin could penetrate. Let word get around what's up. And set up an ambush."

Ragnvaldr nods. "It is a sound plan."

"A far shot but better than nothing," Katla adds.

Brúnn scratches his beard. "It may work, if Fritjof is still in Ivar's employ - or if he hopes to return to his favour."

"Where should we keep him?" Ragnvaldr asks.

"Considering how badly he fucked up, he's probably looking for a chance to redeem himself," Dagny muses. "I mean, what's the alternative?"

"Trudge through leagues of snow in hopes of reaching the Hrafnii land," Katla says.

"Been there, done that. Well, going the other direction. It's not fun."

Brúnn nods. "It would be something of a journey, though Fritjof may see no alternative – unless one was presented to him."

Dagny nods. "Well then let's present one."

Brúnn looks to Daire. "What's to be done with this rune? As I see it, we either remove it ourselves, or else blind and deafen this man."

Ragnvaldr shrugs and draws a dagger. "Or... both? Just to be sure..."

Dagny goes over and nudges Daire with her foot.

Daire opens his eyes as Dagny nudges him, and tentatively unclasps his ears.

Dagny starts, "So, we came up with an idea, we're going to..." she snarls, pressing her hand to her forehead and walking a few steps away. "Anyway."

As Daire sees the blade in Ragnvaldr's hands his eyes widen, and he begins moving his hands and murmuring some kind of chant... Dagny, it sounds like the beginnings of a spell to animate the plants nearby in some fashion, probably to try and snare you!

Ragnvaldr strides over and gives Daire a savage kick in the bollocks.

You knock the wind out of Daire, and he stumbles back against the statue of Thor.

Katla draws her strongbow and releases an arrow aimed at the druid's left foot

Your arrow takes Daire through the foot. Blood spurts and he screams in pain. He's in no spell-casting shape! He looks as if he might pass out from the pain.

Dagny runs up and tries to tackle him again.

You easily take him down.

"Alright, I yield, I yield!" he cries.


"For Belenus' sake, get this arrow out of my foot!"

Dagny keeps holding him down. "Are you going to try anything like that again?"

"No, for the love of Lugus, no!"

"Then bear the pain," Katla advises. "It'll pass and you'll live."

He looks woozy. There's quite a bit of blood.

"I do think we should do something about that wound, though" Katla walks over to them and tries to lessen the bleeding

You staunch the bleeding, removing the arrow and binding the wound. He will live, though he won't be able to run very far if he tries to escape.

"Now we're taking you in," Dagny says.

Daire says nothing, but hobbles to his feet.

"There's still the matter of the rune," Brúnn reminds you.

Dagny is still holding him in a grapple.

Ragnvaldr looms over the pinned Druid, dagger in hand, grinning dangerously.

"Yeah, uh, the pain isn't quite over."

"Dagny, you said our friend can see from his eyes, hear from his ears... can he also feel his pain?"

Daire struggles, but Dagny has a tight grip, and he's weak from blood-loss.

Dagny looks up at Ragnvaldr. "Uh, don't go too overboard... you just gotta scratch out the rune."

"Hey," Katla barks. "Don't try to squirm free now. You can't run away in that condition anyway, and it'll only bring you more pain."

"Moritasgus curse you all... someone get me something to bite down on."

Ragnvaldr kneels down and leans so that his face is inches from Daire's, staring straight into the Fir Bolg's eyes. "Ivar, if you're in there.... I'll be seeing you before the year is out. And I shall be the last thing you see."

Katla hands him the shamanic bone rattle to use as a biting stick. "Bite on that!"

Daire grits his teeth round the charm.

Ragnvaldr sets to work on the rune.

You scratch and mutilate the brand till little remains of it. Daire shakes and screams through the charm, then falls unconscious.

Ragnvaldr cleans his dagger on the snow, then rises. "Will that do it?"

Dagny lets go once he's out. "Should, yes."

"Let's get him back to Wulheim then, eh?"

Katla plucks the rattler from the Druid's mouth and grabs a hold of his legs."We'll have to carry him."

Ragnvaldr grabs Daire under the armpits and lifts him with Katla.

You make your way back towards Wulfheim as the sun rises, red beams spilling over the pale snow, trees and mountains long, black shadows like gouges in bloodied flesh. The gates of the hill-town open and you drag the unconscious Druid back into Wulfheim.

"Where should we take him?" Ragnvaldr asks.

"The Jarl's keep perhaps?" Katla suggests,

"The dungeon has an empty cell," Brúnn points out.

"The fewer people that know what we're really up to, the better," Dagny says. "You never know who could have been helping Fritjof."

"Fritjof already escaped the dungeon once," Katla reasons. "He would know how to get back in I think."

Dagny nods. "Works for me."

Ragnvaldr moves off towards to keep, hefting Daire along.

You arrive at the dungeons of the Jarl's keep, Starkad letting you past the guards. Kylfa seems to be investigating the cells.

"Hey, beard-man," Dagny greets him. "Any leads?"

Kylfa is on all fours, sniffing the walls.

Kylfa, your companions seem to have been... busy. Daire, bloodied and unconscious, is carried by Ragnvaldr and Katla.

Kylfa grunts.  "Maybe.  Maybe not.  I need grain, and cheese."  He looks over his shoulders and his bushy eyebrows raise.  "What... is this?"

"You should choose your allies more carefully, friend Kylfa," Ragnvaldr says.

Dagny nods. "Scrying rune. Everything that he saw or heard, Ivar saw." She adds, a bit pointedly, to Kylfa in particular, "Everything."

Kylfa scowls.  "...A shame."

Brúnn talks quietly to Starkad, explaining the plan in low tones. Kylfa, you think you have caught Fritjof's scent; his wounds were slightly infected, and he gave off an unpleasant reek.

Kylfa is not so interested in Fritjof's scent as in animal scents, but he'll pay attention to man-scents as well.

There are lots of rats down here, though they're a bit timid around the lumbering Kylfa.

Dagny sits down on top of a crate or a barrel or something and just lets the others go about their business for now.

Starkad carefully locks Daire in a cell.

"So, we just wait now?" Ragnvaldr asks.

Kylfa sighs heavily.  "All is lost.  But I will be of some use as long as I remain here."  He runs his fingers through his tangled hair under his hood.  "Grain, and cheese."

Starkad barks orders, and a wheel of hard cheese, only slightly mouldy, is brought for Kylfa at once.

Brúnn moves to Kylfa. "Dagny may be exaggerating," he says. "It may be that Ivar did not hear everything."

"It's better to assume that he did," Katla says.

Brúnn nods to Katla. "Perhaps. But we need not despair, just yet."

Ragnvaldr goes and sits next to Dagny, self-consciously trying to wipe a few patches off Daire's blood off his clothes.

Dagny smiles a bit at Ragnvaldr. "So what'd you think of that, huh? Pretty good for a rune-caller?"

"You're a fine grappler, Dagny. Very fast. You move... uh, you move well."

"I didn't know you had talent for wrestling Dagny," Katla says. "You should have used it during the Jólblot!"

Dagny smirks at Katla. "I wanted to. But things got a little, you know, hectic."

"They did. I lost my own appetite for games, too."

Kylfa grunts.  "Is Daire a traitor, or just used?  If he is false, I will eat him."

Brúnn shakes his head. "Such appetites are indulged only by wild-men and Blóðbards, Kylfa!"

Several rats are sniffing the air, having obviously scented the cheese.

Kylfa spits.  "Perhaps I am a wild man, and here I have forgotten my place."  Kylfa looks over his shoulder at the rats.  "Now you must all leave, or at least stay well back, and silent."

Dagny shrugs and hops off the barrel. "Fine with me. This place smells worse than Ragnvaldr's farts."

Kylfa sits cross-legged on the ground with the wheel of cheese in his lap, facing the rodents.

Ragnvaldr chuckles and follows

The rats tentatively approach, Kylfa.

Katla withdraws away from the rodents.

Dagny withdraws to the steps and sits on them, speaking quietly. "I hope things aren't always going to be like this. If I have my way, they won't be."

Kylfa speaks in the squeaky tongue of rats.  "Clever brothers, strong-teeth, I have something for you, if you have something for me."

The rats squeak. "Give us the tasty morsel!"

"Ah, but you are clever; before I give you what you want, you must give the bear what he wants.  I wish to know who has been here before the rising of the sun this day; what man or beast has tread down here, among you.Surely hear you see and smell all!"

"There was the black-haired one, foul of scent," the rat squeaks. "He had slipped his iron bonds. When the long-haired guard came to feed him, he was ready. He knocked him senseless and took his key and cut his throat. The one with the bald-pate was here, too, and gave him a bag, and then they both left."

"What did the bald-pate man smell like, look like?"

Ragnvaldr watches Kylfa talk to the rats, fascinated.

"Hmm, we have seen him often. A cruel man, portly of belly but strong of arm, clad all in metal rings."

Dagny turns to Katla. "Are you willing to part with that rattle? It has more use than a biting stick."

"What would you offer for it?"

Dagny shrugs. "Depends on what you want. I don't have an awful lot. For what it's worth, the only reason I want it is to try to ease some of the suffering in Wulfheim."

"I have no use for it myself," Katla says. "You can take it, and consider it a favour."

Kylfa produces his small knife and begins cutting chunks of cheese from the wheel.  "Hmmm.  Is there anything else you may tell me of bald-pate man?"

"Hmm. We do not understand man-speech... the two of them jabbered." The rats crane up, trying to reach the cheese. "They left together. The bald-pated one often carries a pointy stick."

"Very well; the bear has what he desires, and he keeps his word."  Kylfa places the handful of cheese chunks before them, one for each of the rats.

The rats descend upon the cheese with squeaks of excitement.

Kylfa puts away his knife and stands with the rest of the cheese wheel in hand.

Dagny nods. "Thanks, Katla. You ever need anything, just ask."

Kylfa speaks - in North-speech, this time - to the rest of the group.  "The man called Fritjof was aided by a man with a bald pate, portly but strong, who this night was clad in metal rings and carried a 'pointy stick.'  He gave a bag of something to Fritjof and escaped with him."

"We should tell the Jarl immediately.," Katla says. "Without any unneeded eyes and ears about."

"This bald man sounds like Aldulfr," Starkad says. "But I do not know if I trust the accusations of rats..."
"They do not trust you either," Kylfa says. "But I think rats have no reason to lie about these things; whether Ivar or your Jarl rules here, they will be fed either way."

"What of the watch on Daire?" Ragnvaldr asks. "Are we still to hope Fritjof might come for him?"

"I will keep watch on him with several men," Starkad assures you. "Even this Thief-of-Peace will not best us."

"We can put that to test. Let this Adulfr hear about the captive."

Starkad nods at your wisdom, Katla. "That seems an apt test. He's one of my garrison - should be on the wall, if I recall correctly. I'll let slip that Daire has been captured. If he's in contact with Fritjof, he'll doubtless let the nithing know. Meanwhile, I'll ensure that he's not posted anywhere critical."

Brúnn crosses his arms. "Tomorrow, we can repeat the rite I performed earlier and put him to the question, if need be."

Kylfa tosses the wheel of cheese at Starkad.  "Do what you wish."

Starkad wraps it carefully.

"So," Katla says. "Shall we await here for Fritjof's attempt?"

Dagny shrugs. "Might be a while. Word has to get around."

"So what do you suggest we do in the meanwhile?"

Kylfa rubs his temples.

"Do you all remember those that watched us leave after the death of the outlaw Hallvard? They have been on my mind, since..."

This town is beset by ill things in four directions," Katla growls.

Dagny nods. "Yeah. That was.... weird."

"Aye, it was strange. At least as strange as anything else these days, at any rate. If we have time to spend, perhaps we should go to find out more..." Ragnvaldr grins "And I have yet to wet Dagnöskur, of course."

"The nithing will probably strike in the cover of night, if he is to do so at all," Katla says.


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Re: The Fimbulvinter Saga
« Reply #28 on: February 18, 2015, 03:38:43 PM »
IC: Fitt XXII: The Trap
Dread has settled once more over Wulfheim, the wind outside seeming to carry with it distant screams from across the White Waste. You stand at the Jarl's keep of timber and earth, Daire the Druid imprisoned beneath it in the cells. Starkad and his men keep watch over the dungeon, in case the murderous Fritjof returns to Wulfheim to seek redemption for his failures.

Egil, you've spent the day repairing weaponry and resting from your recent adventures, but word of the Druid's interrogation reached you. Apparently, Ragnvaldr, Dagny, and Katla exposed him as an agent of King Ivar, albeit perhaps an unwitting one.

Ragnvaldr leans against a wall, having been convinced to await Fritjof.

Kylfa sits cross-legged on the floor, brooding.  At length, he speaks.  "I do not hide well.  Others that do, these should be lookouts.  I must be out of sight."

"Yeah, too bad you can't turn into an animal. Oh wait."

Kylfa grunts.  "To be a rat is not in my power, and perhaps you will tell me other skins that would not be out of place in a cellar like this."

As you're waiting for nightfall, a woman approaches you, carrying a tray bearing mugs of something steaming. Though young, she is quite tall and strong-looking, nearly of a height with Ragnvaldr or Kylfa. Her eyes look red, as if she has been crying, but her expression is demure.

"Mulled wine," she offers. "Watered so that your wits will not be dulled."

Kylfa puts up a hand, refusing silently, and returns to his brooding.

Egil takes a cup, drinking slowly.

Dagny shrugs. "I wonder if it wouldn't make more sense for you to be outside anyway. Give us some more warning that he's coming and all. I can go totally invisible but only for a few minutes at time... so that won't work unless we have some warning."

"Hm.  Very well.  Is there only one entrance to the hall?" Kylfa asks.

"The main doors are the only way in or out," Starkad assures you.

"He will have to walk this corridor to reach the cells, then," Katla says. "We might lay our ambush anywhere along it."

"If you are sure of that, then I will watch from outside."  Kylfa scratches his beard.  "Do you still have that cheese?"

The young woman, hearing you, nods. "I'll fetch it for you, brave Kylfa," she says.

"I would think the dairy makes for a good hideout," Katla reasons. "It allows us a view straight down the tunnel where the cells lie. If we were to split our numbers between the dairy and the storage room, we might confront the nithing from two directions"

You ascend from the dungeons to the main chamber of the keep. The doors stand open. The armoury is also accessible from this chamber, as are the Jarl's rooms. The woman returns, presenting you with the wheel of cheese, wrapped in cloth.

Kylfa breaks a small chunk off, nods, and returns the wheel to her.  Then he goes to wherever the jarl and his men are pouring over documents and attempts to acquire a scrap of parchment and a writing implement, like a bit of charcoal or something.

You approach the Jarl's table. Parchment and charcoal can be found here, and ink also.

Jarl Wulfgar looks up. "Can we aid you, friend Kylfa?"

"I am to be a lookout, outside.  I need a scrap of parchment, some charcoal, and... perhaps a bit of twine.

Dagny looks over someone's shoulder at the documents.

Dagny, these documents look mostly to be maps of the region, with varying levels of detail. There are also several letters, drafted both to King Sigmund of the Gornings and to King Hrokr of the Hrafnii.

"Take what you require," the Jarl says. He seems distracted, his face haggard. One of the guards finds you a piece of twine.

Kylfa grunts, takes the necessary items, and proceeds towards the main door.

Outside, night is falling fast, the moon rising in the sky, shedding light the colour of an old tooth. You step into the wintry chill. Braziers and cooking fires are being kindled.

Kylfa trudges off a ways, to find some uninhabited alleyway.

You depart the keep and find a darkened alley not far from the market.

Kylfa huddles in a corner in the alleyway, grabs his bear-cloak by the edges, and flaps the cloak like wings.  In the darkness, fur turns into feathers, and the cloak and the man become one.  A black vulture squawks and takes a few awkward steps before taking off into the air.

You rise over Wulfheim. By the light of the sallow moon you can see quite far over the hills surrounding the fortified settlement. Currently there is no sign of movement - no indication of an attack.

Kylfa flies in a slow, gliding circle above the settlement, directly above the street outside the hall's main entrance - an ill omen over Wulfheim.

Back in the dungeons, you plan for the coming ambush.

"Let's make it two watchers in the storage and one in the dairy," Katla says. "Pin that bastard between us"

Dagny glances around, evaluating the hiding places. "Me, I can go anywhere. I can follow him unseen."

Ragnvaldr twirls his axe. "I'll wait in the dairy."

"Katla speaks sense," Egil agrees. "A proper ambush should encircle the target."

"I will be in the storage, then"

"New guy, I'm still not entirely convinced you're not in on this, so you go to the storage so you're not by yourself."

Starkad speaks in quiet tones. "How many guards shall we post at the door, and how many here in the guard-room?"

"Enough to look normal, but enough that he's got a way in. But, you know, make him think he cleverly found it."

Starkad nods. "As always, your sense of strategy is sound, Dagny rune-caller."

You settle in to wait. The hours crawl by, seeming to slow, as if the Norns were tautening the strings of time on their loom. In the dungeons, the only sounds are the squeaking of rats and the occasional moans of Daire in his cell.

Dagny idly scrawls on a piece of parchment, softly singing an old Hrafnii song. "I get up... and nothing gets me down... You got it tough? ... I've seen the toughest around..."

Egil waits patiently, quietly reciting the odd prayer or snatch of hymn.

Katla stand still in the storage room, eyes cast at the corridor.

As the light dies away, the vulture settles on a roof somewhere across the street from the hall.

Kylfa, from your perch you can survey much of the town and its doings. As night settles most return to their homes, if they have them. Others sleep under the eaves of buildings, huddled close for warmth. However, you catch a brief glimpse of a figure carrying a bow, skulking through an alleyway. He didn't look like he was headed for the keep...

Kylfa attempts to hop to a roof close enough to smell the figure, to see if it has a scent he recognizes.

You jump closer. This man has an unfamiliar scent. He seems to be heading towards the gates, or perhaps the Well of Joy.

Kylfa returns to his perch near the hall; he can't risk leaving his post even if this person seems to be up to no good.

You continue your watch and see a second figure, prowling near the timber wall of the Jarl's keep. This one carries a short sword. You only see him for a moment before he retreats into shadow.

Kylfa keeps a watch on the door.

A few moments later, you smell a whiff of smoke – not in itself unsual. Then the smoky smell grows stronger, and your keen vulture' eyes spot its sources – fire. Fire, flickering from a thatched roof. Fire, at the mead-hall!

Kylfa backs up from the edge of the roof, so he won't be seen, changes back to his own form, and takes out the cheese, parchment, and twine. He writes, "Saw skulking figure, Mead hall on fire, distraction?" and then starts to cast Animal Messenger, using the cheese as bait for a rat/mouse.

The fire is still small, the thatch damp, but it is spreading. If it is not dealt with it may move to other buildings. You stand on the roof of the Jarl's hall, twine, parchment, and cheese ready.

Dagny has no idea any of this is going on.

A rat – ubiquitous in Wulfheim – scurries up the side of the building and eagerly accepts your gift of cheese.

Kylfa ties the message to the rat with the twine and mentally commands it to take this message to the location in the dungeon where Kylfa's allies wait.

Kylfa then hops down from the building on a side not facing the hall, casts Longstrider on himself, and goes to the mead-hall as fast as possible.

Dagny, you see a rat scurry boldly down the steps. One of the guards curses and gets out his cudgel; you see that it has a piece of parchment tied to it. Starkad stands next to you, in the guard-room of the dungeon.

Dagny stops the guard. "Wait, wait."

The guard pauses. "Hmm?"

Dagny picks up the note and reads it. She then turns, and sharply whispers to Starkad. "Fire at the mead-hall. Send some men to go deal with it? If this is a distraction, keeping your men busy is exactly what they want anyway."

Starkad nods. "I'll make all haste!" He tells one of the men to go make sure the fire is dealt with.

Kylfa, you race toward the mead-hall with magically altered speed. As you're racing towards it you catch a glimpse of a figure scaling the wall of the keep!

You reach the Well of Joy. Fire licks at one wall and spreads up along the roof, crackling fiercely. Guards from the keep arrive, some hauling buckets of water.

Dagny meanwhile waits until the men are gone and then steps around a corner and chants a soft incantation. Nobody seems to step back out. She begins to patrol likely points of ingress.

Kylfa quickly scans the scene to see if they appear to have the situation in hand.

The guards are scrambling madly, trying to put out the fire, but their efforts are limited. The thatch is catching, the fire still spreading

Kylfa, with nothing to add here that any regular Wulfheim inhabitant couldn't, grunts and returns as fast as possible to the hall's wall.  He has priorities.

Dagny, you think you might have heard a muffled yell from up above, and perhaps the sound of a blade splintering wood.

Dagny hurries to the source of the noise!

You hasten outside, arriving just in time to find Fritjof cleaning a handaxe on the jerkin of a dying guard, a second lying unconscious beside him, bleed streaming from a terrible wound. He and two black-haired Hrafnii in studded leather armour, both carrying short blades and bows, drag the bodies away. It seems Fritjof desires more than an easy way in – he couldn't resist the opportunity for mayhem.

Dagny frowns at Starkad's men's apparently inability to follow directions, but can't do anything for them at this point.

Fritjof and the other Hrafnii head into the keep through the unguarded door, making immediately for the dungeon.

Dagny follows.

Meanwhile, Kylfa arrives at the keep. Kylfa, you hear hoarse breathing: a man is slumped against the wall, blood trickling from a wound at his side. He moans weakly; he's not yet dead. Another man lies beside him, still, also gravely wounded.

Dagny, you hear Fritjof whisper to his men. "In and out, then back to the widow's house and out of this shithole town."

Kylfa checks the men to see if they need immediate attention.

One of them needs immediate attention; the other, though wounded, might survive on his own. Though unconscious, his wound is not critical.

Kylfa draws on his power to heal the guard that seems to be dying, and then opens the door a crack.  He moves in, down the stairs to the dungeon.

Katla, despite their soft foot-falls you can hear men entering the guard room nearby - at least two of them, possibly more. She withdraws a little deeper into the storage room, to make sure she is well-hidden, waiting for the foes to pass the juncture in the tunnel. She also urges Starkad and the guard to do likewise.

You hear footsteps approaching – the men are approaching your door! They're moving slowly, taking care to be stealthy.

Egil does nothing, waiting for the others to make a move.

Dagny advances a bit down the stairs and begins a soft incantation.

The footsteps pass your door, Katl – at least three men.

Katla, hearing the footsteps to have passed, sneaks out, motioning for Starkad and the guard to follow her. She rounds the corner...

You hear whispers outside: "This is too easy..." Rounding the corner, you see three armoured men, one of them recognizably Fritjof. The other two are armed with short blades; Fritjof, as usual, favours a light axe, balancing for throwing.

Coming up at the Hrafnii, Katla immediately leaps at the attack, bellowing a fierce warcry as she swings Styrkr at the nearest man.

Your strike takes the man in the shoulder, biting through leather, flesh, and bone! He screams in pain, struggling to twist around. Fritjof snaps his head around in alarm, raising his axe!

Katla continues her assault, pressing hard on the man she's already wounded. She sidesteps the Hrafnii's panicked sword-thrust and smites him in the face with her shield, following up with a deft upward stab at his underbelly, her blade piercing his vitals.

Fritjof snarls, and makes to hurl one of his axes.

Katla ducks reflexively to avoid the axe, only to realize Fritjof never hurled it.

You're thrown temporarily off-balance! The guard rushes into the corridor behind you as Ragnvaldr barrels round the corner, bellowing a war cry and swinging his axe!

With a single swipe, Ragnvaldr nearly beheads the second Hrafnii, leaving Fritjof trapped between Katla and himself.

Dagny dashes forward as an elemental emerges from the ground. She runs past, seeing Katla momentarily off-guard. She shouts a quick command in Chthonic, ordering the elemental to descend into the stone floor, and emerge in a position to protect Katla.

Starkad, finding the corridor blocked, keeps his weapon at ready and waits.

The elemental pummels Fritjof with a stone fist. It smashes Fritjof in the stomach, knocking him back against the wall. He vomits blood!

Egil follows Ragnvaldr into the corridor, knocking an arrow and loosing.

Your arrow takes Fritjof in the back. He jerks around, the momentum nearly knocking him off his feet!

Kylfa hustles down the corridor.  Seeing the fight unfolding, but unable to reach it, he casts Aspect of the Bear on himself.

Katla squeezes forward next to the summoned earth-creature, eager to sink her sword in Fritjof's flesh!

You thrust with your blade, catching Fritjof's head and shearing an ear clean off!

"Ægirian bitch!" he snarls. "May you rot in Hel!"

He swings his axe in a vicious arc, but your chainmail protects you!

Ragnvaldr steps forward, Dagnöskur in both hands. He buries his axe in the back of Fritjof's head. There's a sickening sound as the Hrafnii's skull cracks and splinters, spraying fragments of blood and bone on all nearby. The assassin slumps to the ground, blood pooling beneath him.

Kylfa growls.

"Ran's tits, this is a fine weapon," Ragnvaldr laughs, his beard matted with brains and gore.

"Dagnöskur has been properly wetted!" Katla agrees.

Egil puts away his weapons. "Still believe I am to betray Wulfheim?"

"You have my message?" Kylfa asks. "They set the tavern on fire.  I do not think they are doing well.  There was little I could do to help them there, so I came here.  It may still be aflame."

"The Well of Joy in flames?" Katla exclaims. "We should make haste!"

Dagny's elemental gives a grunt and vanishes into the ground. Dagny, meanwhile, doesn't answer, because she's hurrying to the tavern.

Egil shakes his head and begins searching the bodies of the slain.

When you reach the mead-hall you find the guards and several of the townsfolk struggling to put out the blaze that now flickers merrily not only from the roof of the Well of Joy but from a nearby house as well.

Katla also arrives on the scene and tries to help the firefighting folk as much as she's able

Dagny, from the slight greenish tinge to the flames, you suspect these are not wholly natural, but produced through fell magic.

Kylfa follows Dagny to the tavern, though he has little to offer.

Getrud, Kelda, Sigrid, and others have safely left the mead-hall. There is no sign of Nils.

Dagny finds a fairly good angle and motions in a wide gesture. "Get back a sec!"

The guards and locals rush back at Dagny's cry.

Dagny points her wand and snaps her fingers, sending a big blast of snow towards the fire.

Katla works hard at hauling water with buckets.

Kylfa starts conjuring an elemental of water to aid in the fire-fighting efforts.

Your flurry of snow diminishes the fire to a smoulder, and Kylfa's elemental douses the remainder. With Katla's aid, you put out the fire on the nearby house as well. The Well of Joy has been damaged, but still stands. Smoking holes mar the thatch.

Dagny twirls her wand and puts it away. "What would you do without me, huh?" she pats Gertrud on the back.

Getrud shakes her head. "Thank you, Dagny. I thought all was lost. We'll start work repairing the roof tomorrow."

Kylfa dispels the elemental and returns to the dungeon in the Jarl's hall.

Dagny stays behind to talk to Gertrud a bit. "Are you going to need Sigrid on the roof?"

Gertrud considers. "Unless you have a more pressing need. But the sooner we repair the roof the better."

"I do have a pressing need, but a roof is... probably more pressing. So yeah." Dagny calls out. "New job, red. Forget the stones for now, we gotta fix the roof."

Sigrid nods to you, Dagny. "I'll attend to it at first light."

"I bet the Jarl will be interested to hear what lured Fritjof into this ill-advised attack." Katla goes looking for Starkad.

Dagny hurries to catch up to the group.

You find Starkad hauling up the bodies of the Hrafnii while others tend to the wounded. It seems that both of those ambushed by Fritjof and his men will live.

Egil helps with the healing of the wounded, using his magic and fervor where he can.

Kylfa is interested not in Fritjof, but in Daire, and whether he is conscious.

"Starkad. Have you yet spoken to Wulfgar, about the clues that led us to stage this ambush?"

Starkad nods. "The Druid's Black Rune? Yes, I told him. Although mysteries still linger. How did this many men enter Wulfheim undetected?"

"I meant also what was revealed – by the bear-shaman"

"Where is the Jarl anyway?" Dagny asks. "We promised him Fritjof's head and I want to see it delivered."

No sooner have you spoken then Jarl Hrothik Wulfgar enters the hall, supported by the young woman you saw earlier.

Katla turns to greet the Jarl.

Dagny turns around, giving the customary salute – not really mocking at all anymore, just a bit irreverent, like Dagny herself.

"The Thief-of-Peace is slain," the Jarl says. "You shall be richly rewarded for this task!"

Guards are sent down to the vaults to fetch gold: two hundred aurar for each of you.

"We have slain the Hrafnii and his cohorts, that is true," Katla says. "But other associates of his may yet continue to do ill work within this town."

The Jarl nods. "They must be rooted out, whether they dwell here in Wulfheim or have fled the town. I give to each of you a horse from my stable, battle-trained and hardy. Use them well."

Dagny starts to smile, then looks at the bag of gold. "Uh... thanks."

"Nothing can we learn from these blackhairs now that they are dead," Katla says. "But there is someone that should be questioned at the grove, under Brúnn's direction." Katla turns toward Starkad. "The rotten blood must be culled before it leads to death. You may not believe in squeakings of mice, but at least believe in what men can speak when compelled to truth by Brúnn's blessings."

Starkad nods. "Aye, Adulfr must be put to the question, once the grove is readied. Perhaps he can tell us more."

Dagny slides up to the Jarl. "Look, this is nice and all, but is this reallu the best you can do? I'm not asking because I'm greedy, I'm asking because I'm trying to save this town from the shit it's buried in and that costs some serious coin."

The Jarl turns to you, Dagny. "In truth, Dagny rune-caller, these coins represent near the last of my wealth. My coffers nearly run bare. I have heard, though, that you have no need of a horse, being able to conjure one yourself from snow. A Gylliring trader visits Wulfheim; the steed I gave you will doubtless fetch a handsome price."

Dagny sighs. "Didn't think even you were broke. Things really are shit."

He shakes his head. "I have bought as much food and drink as I can, to keep the townsfolk fed. My funds are low, and even the toll to enter the walls is barely sufficient to keep us from starvation." He thinks for a moment. "There is one other source of wealth... one I had not considered. My family has a barrow, in the hills. In it, many treasures are kept, buried with my ancestors. In other times, I would be loathe to disturb their bones, and yet, in this evil winter, their riches will serve the living better than the dead."

Dagny frowns. "You'd... you'd not mind that?"

"It seems but a small wickedness, if it will keep the bellies of Wulfheim's people full and its defenders justly rewarded... if you were to return with riches from the barrow, I would grant you half of them. Is that fitting?"

"Half of them, and loan me the other half, paid back as the situation improves."

He looks stern for a moment, but relents. "If it will help you in your quest to protect Wulfheim and feed its people, then I agree. I ask only that you bring me one thing - the blade of Kolbjorn Wulfgar, founder of my line. This I would not part with for all the gold in Nidavellir."

"Where lies this barrow?"

The Jarl looks to Katla. "To the north, shieldmaiden. In the very shadow of the Orm-Fells, where the hills become true mountains. You should journey with Brúnn – he may be helpful in unsealing the door, which is guarded by certain runes."

"Fuck, sometimes it seems like I care more about this town than you," Dagny says. "I mean, I don't want all the gold in Nidavellir, I want to put an end to the starving masses in the street. Who gives a shit about some old sword next to that?"

The Jarl's brows furrow. "There is gold aplenty to be found in the barrow, and this I will gladly spend. But the blade is a symbol of my clan, and its honour. It is no small thing, to violate the sleep of the dead – let alone the resting place of my own kin. But the sword of my forefather is not to be bartered or bought."

"If the sword is to be found in the barrow, retrieving it along with the other treasure should not be a problem," Katla says.

Dagny opens her mouth a bit, then shrugs. "Fine, I'll bring it back if I can."

Egil shakes his head at Dagny's words.

Kylfa, you find Daire in the cell, pressed against the far wall. He's conscious, albeit groggy and pained.

"You are very exalted by Ivar, it seems," Kylfa growls to Daire in the secret shamanic tongue.  "His men have come to fetch you."

Daire looks up at you. "Gods be good, Kylfa, I never meant for this to happen. I didn't know what that brand did!"

Kylfa snarls his reply.  "You have undone everything I have tried to accomplish here.  Do you tell me that you are merely a fool, not a traitor?"

Daire looks up at Kylfa, wearied immensely. "I've told you all I know. Perhaps I am a fool; but if I did betray you, it was not my intention."

Kylfa takes a deep breath, his great hands clenched in fists. He wordlessly trudges out of the dungeon and returns to the gathering in the hall.

Starkad approaches Katla. He's carrying a small flask of dark liquid.

"What is that flask Starkad? Was it in the possession of Fritjof?"

Starkad holds out the flask. "Yes, I found this on the Hrafnii's corpse," he says. "Perhaps a poison of some sort?"

"Could be. Better be careful with it. There's no telling what foul trickery it contains."

Kylfa grunts.  "Either he was here to save Daire or to silence him.  A poison could have been for him.  Or it could have been for the Jarl, whose death he promised to Ivar. If Daire betrayed us, then I will have him.  But perhaps he is unwitting as he says."  He sighs heavily.  "Perhaps it does not matter; he has ruined things, either way."

Egil wanders over to the group around the Jarl, after spending his healing magic on the wounded.

The young woman who served mulled wine approaches you, Egil. "You have my thanks, warrior," she says. "My father's death has been avenged."

Egil nods to the young woman "Fritjof reaped what he sowed. He was dishonourable, and his end was well-deserved."

The woman bows her head. "I almost wish his death had not been so swift. If the Gods are good he will rot on the Corpse-Shore." She smiles at the thought. "I am called Helga. Daughter of Vatnar. With my father dead I am left here alone, with no family to call my own, though the Jarl has taken me into his own household. He is an honourable man."

"Aye, more honorable than some of my comrades it seems."

Dagny overhears that remark and tenses a moment, then exhales loudly.

"I have heard you are in the service of Ullr?"

"Indeed, I am a Gothii of Ullr."

She looks to Fritjof's corpse, where your arrow still quivers. "That is your shaft, is it not, Gothi?"

Egil nods again "I managed to strike him one. However I feel like this is all my fault, I was the one who healed him when we originally found his plot. He should have been left to die then."

She shakes her head. "You did not know that he would escape. Any wrongdoing you have more than repaid. If you do not need your arrow back, I would keep it."

"The arrow is yours."

She curtseys and crosses the floor to Fritjof's body, to wrest the arrow from his back.

"Don't blame yourself for the crimes of a nithing, Egil," Katla says.

"New guy, when you got a sec." Dagny beckons.

Egil marches over to Dagny, now sporting a frown.

"Shit's rough right now. Maybe I haven't given you a fair shot. But if you look out the window... nobody's got a fair shot in this weather." She holds out her hand. "I'll make you a deal. Give me your bag of gold right now and trust me that I'll do more good with it than you ever could. You do that, and you have my word, we're cool from now on."

"Wow, Dagny," Katla says. "Your goodwill sure comes with a hefty price."

"It's not my goodwill. It's the starving masses in the street. Priests are supposed to care about that shit. So do you care, priest?"

"Not enough to entrust this to you."

"Then go fuck yourself."

Egil shakes his head in disgust.

"Just how do you intend to feed them?" Katla asks. "I don't think I've heard you explain this grand plan yet."

Dagny turns to Katla. "You got some parchment? I'll show you."

"I'm all eyes, but have no parchment at hand."

Dagny goes to a nearby empty wall, and starts drawing on it with her finger. A faintly glowing red trail appears where she 'draws.' "Eh, this'll do. See, I intend to build a cauldron of sturdy metal, infused with Dvergar... uh... well, there's not really a word for it in any language other than Dvergar. But basically the stuff that makes their weird shit tick."

Katla observes Dagny's actions with a mix of curiosity and trepidation.

"You put in snow, or dirt, or dog shit. Anything really. Fifteen pounds at a time." Dagny draws a cylindrical shape, and then an arrow pointing to the top.

"Dog shit into a cauldron...?" Katla feels quite queasy at the thought.

"Then you pull these levers, and the ts'k-vai... er, that's the, uh, I don't know how you'd translate it. Anyway. A bunch of steam comes out here, and then you open it up again, and there's 15 pounds of food in it."

Dagny conjures a small green leaf in her hand that looks akin to badly over-boiled spinach. "This stuff. Try a taste. Doesn't look like much, but it's hearty."

Katla blinks, not quite able make sense of this witchery. "You made this from... what?" She looks doubtful.

"Made what? This? I conjured it. It's all in the runes."

"You will swear it's not made with dog shit?" Katla takes the leaf in her hand, looking at it intently.

Dagny laughs a little. "It can be snow. Imagine it as snow. This is actually made out of air. But fifteen lbs of air wouldn't fit in the machine. So for larger things, we have to use solids."

Katla glares at Dagny, but shrugs and nibbles a bit off the edge of the leaf.

Katla, the very idea that air might have weight is strange to you, but the taste is palatable enough, if somewhat bland. You've eaten worse – once, you recall digging up lye-treated fish that had spoiled. Your belly feels full, however, even from the small bite you took.

"At least it doesn't taste like shit. If this can truly feed people, it's better than starvation. So is this what you need all that gold for?"

Kylfa folds his arms and watches.

Dagny nods. "But it doesn't come free. So I'm trying to scrape up every coin I can. Even if some people won't help." She glares at Egil.

"I have plenty of gold, as you well know. I could certainly spare some for this cause. Not much I can buy with it here, anyway."

Dagny smiles. "Thanks, Katla. You're all right."

Kylfa grunts.  "Strange sorcery."

"Strange, but effective."

Kylfa shrugs. "I suppose I also have this reward that was given."

"Hey, you wanna chip in, beard-man, I'm not gonna say no."

Starkad approaches Kylfa. "Do you know what manner of liquid this is, shaman?"

Kylfa takes the vial from Starkad and examines it, but responds to Dagny.  "Will this artifact stave off the end of the world?"

"Uh.... I don't think so. Unless the end of the world is caused by lack of food."

"Starkad, I have no use for vile poisons," Katla says. "If you wish to reward me, offer something suitable for a warrior. Say, do you happen to have any quality armours in store? This one I've been wearing is getting a bit rusty and bloodstained."

Starkad nods. "There are several suits of mail in the armoury. Come, Katla, we will find mail fit for one of your stature."

Katla nods. "My gratitude."

Kylfa, this does look venemous, but you're not sure what manner of poison it is.

"I do not know it," Kylfa says to Starkad, and hands the vial back.

"Mind if I take a look?" Dagny asks.

Starkad hands Dagny the flask, then gestures for Katla to follow him to the armoury.

She follows the Thegn.

Dagny, this is eitr – a form of poison milked from Dragonkind. It's rare and valuable.

Kylfa rumbles his reply as he turns the vial over in his hand.  "The deer starve, the wolves go hungry, the birds fall to the earth.  Those who know, see this is the last winter of this world.  It is good to see to the feeding of one's own, that is true; but in the end we will all be buried in the snow."

Dagny shrugs. "Whatever. If we all die, we all die, but it'll be a Hel of a lot more than just starvation."

Katla, you enter the armoury, and Starkad finds you a suit of chainmail, masterfully made. "Better that you wear this in battle than letting it gather dust in here," he says. "You fought well today, shield-maiden."

"Thank you for your words. I will put this mail to use for the good of Wulfheim in days to come."

Katla leaves her old armour in the armoury, in case a local warrior should find it to be useful. She returns to the main hall with Starkad.

"I fear our days are numbered," Starkad says. "I do not wish to despair, yet, but Ivar's forces are great. We nearly lost two men tonight, and that was merely to Ivar's henchman. How can we fight an army?"

Kylfa grunts, and replies to Starkad.  "Daire has endangered more than you know.  But my kin have many eyes, and this town is not alone."

"The odds are grim," Katla agrees. "But the ages of past have seen battles where few stood against many, and did not falter. In any case though, the future is not something to be ran away from. Only disaster comes to those who try to defy the fate the Norns have woven."

Dagny looks around. "Uh, I'll keep this flask, if nobody minds."

"To turn it into food or to sell it to a merchant and hoard the gold?" Egil asks.

"Let me clarify, when I said if nobody minds, I meant people whose opinions I actually give a fuck about."

"Is there a reason you despise each other so?" Kylfa asks.

Dagny shrugs. "He's an asshole. Reason enough."

"She is dishonorable and has treated me as if I was a Fritjof himself. Now she is upset that I am not giving her all my gold"

"He has a duty to a god which is not known to you," Kylfa points out. "I have also not offered to help you; am I suspect as well?"

"You've already helped me plenty and you know it."

"I have done what my charge demanded.  I see no reason to think he has done less."

Dagny shrugs. "Anyway, to answer the question, it should be obvious, but I'm not going to fucking sell it. It's way too useful for that. This stuff can run the – eh, fuck it, you wouldn't understand anyway. But no. I'm not."

"As you know I have tried to give any ally I can to these people, for the sake of destroying our enemy.  All I will say is that you should do the same."

"Yeah, well, I told him a way we could be cool but he'd rather keep the gold and see people go hungry. So fuck him. Ullr's a shitty god if that's what his followers do."

"What good does all this bickering?" Katla asks. "Breeding enmity seems foolish when we all have enemies aplenty already and friends too far and few for these times."

Starkad steps forth. "Speaking of which, I have been speaking to the Jarl. He wishes to know how Fritjof and his minions re-entered Wulfheim."

"That I cannot say at the moment; I only observed them as they were inside.  If their scent is still strong enough, I could try to find their trail out of the city, I suppose."

Starkad nods. "If such a thing is possible, it could aid our search. Though I instructed the men to let Fritjof into the settlement, none of them report him scaling the wall. It could be that he never left, but what of his associates? None have been admitted to Wulfheim for some days. I would know if these warriors had passed the gates."

Egil features have a grim cast as he hears Dagny's words. "Kylfa, where did you first see Fritjof this night? I would attempt to track their steps to their point of entrance."

"I flew over the city as the sun fell, and saw a man in an alleyway with a bow in his hand; slinking off in a direction that may have been the gate or the tavern.  After the fire started, I suspected the latter.  But he did not smell like Fritjof.  It may have been one of the others." Kylfa scratches his beard.  "Bring up the bodies of Fritjof and the others; bring them to the gates of the hall where they entered.  I will smell them there, and we will see if their scents can be followed."

Starkad issues orders, and the corpses are brought forth.

Dagny makes a dismissive gesture. "Anyway, I'm going home for a while. Anything you want me to keep for you, I'll take it with me."


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Re: The Fimbulvinter Saga
« Reply #29 on: February 20, 2015, 02:21:58 PM »
IC: Fitt XXIII: Treachery
Kylfa says to the others that follow him to the gate, "I have little time in which to do this tonight.  In the morning I may track them for longer in another skin, but by then the trail will be more difficult to follow.  So we must move quickly."

"I will stay by your side tonight," Katla says.

Kylfa invokes the totem of the bear to gift himself with ursine scent, smells the bodies, and begins attempting to "track" the dead men.

Kylfa, you catch the scent-trail of Fritjof and his men, following it through the streets of Wulfheim. You do not have to go far: the trail leads to a house not far from the Jarl's keep.

Kylfa growls as he follows the path.  "The man I smelled in the streets is not one of the men you killed today..."

Katla, you have been here before. This is the house of Thordis, the widow.

"Here.  The smell leads to this house."

"Æsir lend us strength!" Katla snarls. "Just how many of these spies are lurking in the town? Wait, I know this house!"

"Who dwells here?"

"Thordis, the widow whose husband's killer I apprehended with companions before the Jólblót Could she be involved with the Hrafnii?"

"Where is this woman now?"

"She might be home right now."

Thordis' residence is a handsome longhouse of fine, dark wood close to the Jarl's keep. Unlike most homes in Wulfheim, Thordis' house has two storeys. Thralls in iron collars and a handful of mercenaries armed with spears, kesja, and battleaxes guard the estate; they wear padded armour or leather jerkins. Apart from the longhouse itself the property includes a pantry, an outhouse, and a small workshop of some kind. The house and outbuildings are ringed by a wooden fence. Curiously for the hour, the household seems to have woken.

Kylfa looks up at the eaves of the house.  "Either we enter by subterfuge, or we have the jarl's men come and compel them to let us in."

"Thordis might admit me into her house since I helped her," Katla reasons. "But word has probably gone out that I donated my share of the reward to the wife of her husband's killer. That would surely anger her."

Starkad studies the house. "Thordis is a woman of wealth and influence... but if need be we can have her questioned." He shifts in place. "She has several men, however. If she were to resist arrest, things might go ill. More bloodshed in the streets of Wulfheim is to be avoided, if possible."

"I do not think she knows me," Kylfa says. "Nor the priest."

Dagny is walking home and notices that everyone seems to be following her. She quickly drops her stuff off and then goes to catch up with them.

Kylfa snorts.  "If she is a traitor, all of these men will have to die anyway.  I do not see a way without bloodshed."

Dagny jogs up behind them. "You guys just never give it a rest, do you? I thought we were done for now."

"If I had waited, the scent would have faded." Kylfa says to Dagny/

Starkad runs a hand through his hair. "You may be right, Kylfa. Katla, you had dealings with the widow before, yes? Perhaps she would trust you?"

"I don't think she'd trust me, but might be willing to sit down and talk. Worth trying, I guess."

"The rings we have may be used to help one speak untruths," Kylfa advises before she departs.  "That may be useful."

Katla approaches the gate. "I am Katla of the Ægir. I once did a bit of work for the widow of this house, seeing the killer and kinslayer of her husband brought to justice. I would speak with her now, with my companions here." Katla points at the others.

The guard grunts. "The hour is late. Can this not wait till morning?"

"It is quite urgent and, uh, not something to discuss with servants and the like."

"I'll need a reason to disturb my mistress' sleep."

Katla sighs. "I guess I'm just wasting my time here."

Kylfa examines the outer fence.

Kylfa, the fence could be climbed quite easily.

Katla turns and walks back to the group. "No luck."

"You want in?" Dagny asks.

"A way in the compound is easy," Kylfa says. "A way in the house – difficult, if there are many guards there."

"It seems that Thordis has something to do with the Hrafnii bastards," Katla observes. "This could get pretty ugly if we try to force our way in though, and Starkad isn't keen on causing a bloody fight."

"I have no more skins to wear tonight; my ability to sneak in is very limited."

Starkad leans against the wall. "On the morrow I could muster men, if need be, and mount a thorough investigation... but as I said, it may lead to bloodshed. If you think you could steal inside quietly I would ensure any charge of trespass was dropped. Still, you must be careful. If you kill any of Thordis' thralls, you will owe her gold for them, and if you slay her guards there will be a weregild to pay, unless you can prove them accomplices to her deeds." He looks skywards. "If she has indeed helped the Hrafnii at all, of course."

"What are we looking for in there anyway?"

"A good question," Starkad says. "Proof, I suppose, of ill-doing. Though what that might be? I cannot say."

"I know nothing except that the scent of those you killed in the dungeons leads to this house," Kylfa says.

"The Hrafnii's trail leads here," Egil says. "The arsonist."

"We don't know if that man is in the house right now, though."

Kylfa scratches his chin.  "Our enemies tried to distract us tonight, to get at their true aims.  Perhaps we return the favor."

"What do you have in mind?"

Dagny scratches her head. "Yeah, well, if nobody's got a better idea, I say... yeah, distract 'em and sneak in."

Starkad looks concerned. "So long as you don't set fire to anything," he says.

"Not really. But that's not a bad idea."

Kylfa wrinkles his nose.  "Something that will gain the attention of many guards."

"I cannot condone arson. A fire is too dangerous."

Dagny saunters up to the guard. "Hey, you might wanna check around the corner." Dagny points somewhat insistently.

The guard looks Dagny up and down. "What?"

Kylfa raises his eyebrows.

The guard turns and looks.

Dagny conjures up a silent image of a small fire starting, when he's not looking at her.

"Ah! Fire! Fire!" he shouts, flinging the gates wide!

Dagny keeps concentrating on the illusion, but flashes a smirk to her cohorts.

Thralls and guards rush towards the fire and the household is thrown into temporary confusion!

Kylfa attunes his ring to climbing, and runs around to the south of the compound.  He tries to climb over enough to peer and see if anyone is there.

Dagny keeps it small so the lack of sound or a strong smoky smell isn't too off-putting.

Kylfa, you climb the the fence quite easily. There's no one guarding the south side of the house, where the side-door and the pantry can be found.

Egil also changes his ring to one of climbing and follows Kylfa.

Katla clambers up after Kylfa.

You scale the fence with ease.

Kylfa leaps over the fence and runs to the side door.

You're on the other side of the fence, and rush to the side door.

Kylfa looks at the others.  "Perhaps someone should investigate the outbuilding.  We do not know what we are after."

Egil whispers "Kylfa, can you detect the scent inside the compound?"

Kylfa grunts, and uses Totem Transformation again.

You can smell food – quite a bit of it – inside the pantry. Inside the house, you can smell a wood-fire and at least one person.

Dagny keeps maintaining the illusion, so it reacts properly. If water is splashed on it, she makes the fire seem to falter for a moment, then resurge.

"We can't tarry for long here," Katla whispers. That witch-fire will not distract the guards forever."

"I smell him... but he is not here.  It is an old scent.  Should we enter anyway? It is surely from within the main house, but as I said, he is likely not here now."

"If he is not here... he either has killed the widow or has left evidence inside," Egil points out. "But it is a risk."

"We can't count on securing evidence here," Katla says.

Outside, the thralls are trying to put out the illusory fire with buckets of water. Having expended their supply one of them makes for the well.

Kylfa growls and opens the door.

Kylfa, Egil, Katla, you hear footsteps approaching – moments before Kylfa opens the door. The Gods are kind: it is unlocked.

"Quickly, get inside," Katla hisses.

Kylfa slips in quickly and motions for the others to follow.

The warm main chamber of the longhouse has a rug of wolf-fur and a crackling hearth. Fine hangings depicting stories of the gods adorn the walls. A stairway leads up to the loft level. In one corner, several crates are stacked. Egil, you notice something unusual: the wolf-fur rug is askew. You think you see something beneath it.

"If we could capture the widow and exit without being seen, we could avoid bloodshed," Katla says. "But it's a daunting task."

As they investigate, Kylfa looks for ways to bolt, bar, or otherwise secure the doors from the inside.

There is a bar that can be placed on the door, and the front door as well.

Kylfa goes to bar both doors.

The doors are barred. You think you hear movement upstairs.

"The wolf-fur rug; there's something beneath it" Egil goes and moves the rug aside.

"Then look," Kylfa hisses under his breath.  "We have little time."

You discover a trapdoor. It's locked.

"Trapdoor, locked. This must be how they got in to Wulfheim."

You hear a door open upstairs.

"Breaking the lock would be loud," Katla whispers. "It might alert the guards."

"You want a hand?" Dagny asks the thralls, and saunters in the door, grabbing a bucket.

The thralls look askance for a moment, then nod. "Aye, fetch more water!" one of them says, tossing you a pail.

"The widow may be upstairs," Katla suggest. "We should head there."

Kylfa scurries over to the crates in the corner and attempts to conceal himself either within or beneath them.

Katla quickly does likewise.

Egil attempts to hide as well.

You conceal yourselves as best you can. You hear Thordis on the stairs. "Who's there?" she says. "What's going on out there? She obviously heard the commotion outside,or perhaps you moving around the chamber, but hasn't yet seen you. She moves to the rug and tugs it back into place.

Dagny brings a bucket over and, figuring this illusion is nearing the end of its credibility, lets the fire be 'doused' by the next round of buckets.

Kylfa waits to see if she goes for the door to go outside, or tries to search the bottom story.

"Egil, do you think you could sneak up on her and overpower her quietly?" Katla whispers. "Put a hand over her mouth?"

"Uh... unlikely. I am most adept at shooting things with my bow. She might hear me approach."

The widow goes to a wall-hanging and lifts it aside, getting out a small blade from a space behind it. She then moves to the front door and makes to un-bar it.

"Hey, close call, huh?" Dagny says outside. "Never can be too careful with fire these days."

Kylfa puts a finger over his mouth and looks at the others, then waits to see if the woman exits.

The thralls, having doused the "flames," look relieved.

"Thank you," one of them says to Dagny. "Our mistress would've had us whipped if the fire had spread."

One of the guards looks at the fence curiously, noting that the fire has done no visible damage...

Meanwhile, Thordis unbars the door and flings it open, stepping outside. "What is going on here?" she demands, keeping the blade behind her back.

Dagny nods. "Lucky. Even though it's cold, a fire can always start. Well, glad I could help, I'll be on my way now." She starts nonchalantly backing away.

"Fire?" Thordis asks. "I see no smoke..."

"So, we must either make out exit now, or lock her outside," Katla observes.

Kylfa sprints at the front door.

"It's the cold weather. A fire just starts up and... then it's gone. Because it's so cold."

"You are the one called Dagny, are you not?"

Dagny nods. "Yup. That's me. Nice meeting you."

Thordis rubs her eyes sleepily. "Yes... very well. Men, get back to your posts."

Kylfa tries to slam the door shut behind her, and bolt it.

The door is slammed shut! Dagny, Thordis turns in alarm.

"Must be the wind..." one of the thralls mutters.

Thordis tries to open the door to no avail. "What's going on here!" she demands.

Kylfa casts Bull's Strength on himself, muscles bunching and swelling. As soon as his spell is cast, he turns to the trap door.

"Help me," he hisses to Egil and Katla.

"I will help you," Katla offers.

Egil goes to aid Kylfa.

You hear someone trying to get in the side-door.

Kylfa tries to force the door open with brute strength.

You groan and strain, but the door holds.

Kylfa hisses, "Again!"

"We'd need tools to break this lock," Katla grunts.

"Tools we don't have.  So heave with me, or think of something else."

"One more time, then."

Dagny sniffs the air. "Hey, that smells good. Don't suppose helping out with the fire earned me some breakfast, huh?"

Thordis cocks an eyebrow. "Very well. Someone fetch Dagny something from the pantry. The rest of you, I want these doors open. Something strange is going on here."

As she speaks, there's a splintering sound from within the longhouse. The trapdoor has been wrenched from its hinges!

A tunnel winds down into the earth through the trapdoor; you'd need a rope to reach the bottom without risk of injury. You can feel a draft wafting upwards from below - this tunnel must have an exit somewhere outside.

Kylfa turns to the others.  "Any rope?"

Thordis looks in alarm at the longhouse.

"Wait here," she snaps at Dagny, hastening round to the side-door with several guards.

"What's wrong?"

"I don't know," she says. "There's something going on inside my home!"

Katla uncoils her hemp rope. "It will be hard to find our way down there due to the darkness."

"Darkness will be no issue," Egil assures her.

Kylfa looks for anything to secure the rope to up top.

There are several heavy-looking pieces of furniture, or you could tie it off round a post.

"That is no problem," Kylfa says.  "But let us get down there – we have no way out, up here."


Egil casts Light on one of his arrows and shoots it down the tunnel.

Dagny kicks the door lightly. "I'M JUST WAITING HERE IN FRONT OF THE DOOR."

Katla snaps at the sound of Dagny's voice and rushes to the door, unbolting it.

Someone is heaving themselves at the side-door. It holds – for now.

Kylfa attempts to secure the rope to whatever seems most steady.

You tie the rope carefully.

"You know what?" Dagny yells round the house. "Forget about breakfast. You're clearly busy. Thanks for the offer." Dagny quickly steps inside.

Kylfa shimmies down the rope as soon as he's able.

You climb down with the skill of a bear climbing for honey!

Dagny quickly takes stock of the situation and joins the group.

Katla quickly slams the door shut and bolts it again.

Kylfa whirls around, looking for any threat down here.

Egil's arrow provides light. A low tunnel extends for some distance here, winding away into darkness.

Katla is next one down the well.

The door begins to splinter!

Kylfa waits for the others to come down.

Katla, you also make it down the rope.

Dagny climbs down next.

Egil casts Detect Magic, trying to get as much of the room as possible, while waiting for Katla and Kylfa to climb down the rope.

You don't notice anything magical, Egil.

Dagny slips down the rope, her grip faltering!

Katla tries to catch Dagny as she falls.

Dagny, you manage to catch yourself on the rope - and a good thing, too, because you were about to fall on Katla! Your hands are rope-burned but you haven't broken anything.

"Yikes! Don't scare me like that, Dagny." Katla says.

"I scared me more, don't worry."

The door buckles momentarily but stays strong.

"Hurry up, Egil!" Katla shouts up.

Dagny spits on her hands to soothe them as best she can and hops down.

Kylfa attempts to discern any scent trail down here.

Egil climbs down the rope after Dagny has made it safely to the bottom

Egil, you climb down easily enough.

Kylfa, several men – including Fritjof, and the arsonist – have used this passage recently.

"Fritjof, and the man I followed who likely burned the tavern, have been here; I can smell them."

"Now we must find the way out," Katla says.

It sounds like the door is still holding upstairs. You think you hear an axe bite wood.

"We should follow the tunnel to the exit," Egil says.

Kylfa casts spark thrirty-five feet up the rope as soon as everyone is down, then starts following the scent trail out of the cave.

Egil picks up his glowing arrow and shoots it down the tunnel.

The arrow clatters against the walls. You don't see any peril.

"A tunnel like this would spell doom on the town if it were used during siege," Katla notes. "A small team of warriors might sneak in and open the gates in the dark of night!"

Dagny casts Light on the tip of her wand as well, holding it up like a torch.

The tunnel extends for quite some distance, winding occasionally. After a time you can see a wooden door at the end, a dull grey light visible beneath it. The scent-trail certainly leads here, but you don't smell anyone in the immediate vicinity.

Kylfa tries the door.  Maybe it's unlocked.

This door, thankfully, is unlocked. You open the door, dislodging some dead foliage that had been heaped to conceal it from the outside. You're standing in a narrow defile leading out into the hills, wind whistling past it beyond.

"I think we have solved this mystery," Kylfa says.

You spot some hoof-prints in the snow, leading away across the hills. A horse was here recently.

"The spy flees, bringing word to Skrikborg," Katla says.

Looking closely, you see that there were at least two men, and that they both had horses. Their trail leads east.

"There were two men," Egil notes. "Our arsonist and at least one other."

"We cannot catch a horseman," Kylfa growls. "Perhaps all we can do now is to tell the jarl that we have found the route he was looking for, and see that it is closed."