Author Topic: The Fimbulvinter Saga  (Read 23961 times)


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Re: The Fimbulvinter Saga
« Reply #30 on: February 27, 2015, 12:00:28 PM »
IC: Fitt XXIV: Skjaldmær
Katla, Dagny, Kylfa, and Egil stand outside of the tunnel leading into Wulfheim. The wind blows softly though the night, bringing with it a deathly chill.

Before returning to Wulfheim, Kylfa growls and finds a heavy boulder, unmovable by any save one possessing great strength indeed. Using his spell-augmented might he wrests the boulder into place, blocking the tunnel.

Katla heads back to Wulfheim, leading the way for the others.

Meanwhile, Ragnvaldr, after a long night, rests in the Jarl's keep, but is awakened by Starkad.

"Your companions," the Thegn says. "They have entered the house of Thordis Nordskov, and not returned. I fear some ill end has found them."

"Thordis? The widow?" Ragnvaldr rises and gathers himself.

"Aye, that she-wolf," Starkad says. "She may have helped Fritjof and his Hrafnii enter Wulfheim by stealth. I have waited for some time for your friends to return..."

Ragnvaldr heads down to Thordis' house.

Katla throws the door open just as Rangvaldr is about to leave.

"Katla! What has occurred?"

"Treachery! That woman Thordis is in league with the Blóðbards! We followed the trail of the Hrafnii, leading to her house. Within we discovered a concealed trapdoor, leading through a tunnel to a ravine outside the town walls. Two riders have left eastward from that place, not long ago."

"Are there no end of traitor-worms in this town?"

Dagny steps in beside Katla, rolling her eyes. "Yeah, who would have thought the rich, sinister widow who put out a hit on her brother-in-law would have dishonourable intentions?"

"I trust there's enough reason to deal with Thordis and her retinue now, Starkad."

Starkad nods. "Aye, I'll take this to the Jarl immediately. What of the tunnel?"

"Kylfa has sealed it with a boulder, for now."

"Yes, it is blocked," Kylfa says, simply. He yawns hugely, showing his teeth and assailing you all with his breath.

Dagny twirls her wand. "If we want to blow it permanently I can whip up something."

Starkad scratches his beard. "I will speak of this at length with Jarl Wulfgar. Likely we will return to the widow's house tonight, and till then make sure she does not leave. You are sure she knew of this trapdoor? It couldn't have been a device of her husband's, put in without her knowing?"

"She did cover it anew after the wolf pelt had been partially removed by Egil," Katla says. "The pelt was what concealed it."

"Hmm. That confirms it, then. Once she is in our custody we will have Brúnn question her at the grove. But my men need rest, and so do I. Her hall, Hamdirskialf, will be watched."

Dagny peers around. "Hey, where the fuck did new guy go, anyway? I still don't like it when he starts skulking around without one of us along."

Kylfa grunts. "He went off to hunt, I think. Or to worship. Perhaps when it comes to Ullr it is much the same."

"Dagny, I'm sure he is... well... actually, maybe I am not so sure, after all the other liars and false-hearted folk we have unearthed. Perhaps you are right to be suspicious."

Dagny shrugs. "Anyway. Do you need us along when you talk to the Jarl?"

"The Jarl slumbers." Starkad looks uneasy. "If truth be told, I think he may be taking ill. I hesitate to disturb his rest... but when he rises I shall tell him at once."

The tall, fair-haired young woman you met earlier – Helga, Vatnar's daughter – is cleaning the hall and laying out fresh reeds, occasionally looking up in your direction.

"It is ill fortune that the Jarl should be in poor health at these times," Katla says. "His strength will doubtlessly be needed soon."

"Maybe Brúnn can help him," Dagny suggests. "He seems like he knows that kind of stuff."

"Aye, the Gothi may have some blessing to forestall sickness. But I doubt he knows one to keep old age at bay. Elli is a cunning goddess indeed, and steals up on a man quickly, at times. These trying days have done Jarl Wulfgar no favours. I recommend you get some rest yourselves. It has been a long night."

Dagny yawns. "Yeah. No kidding."

"Aye, some rest wouldn't go amiss," Ragnvaldr says.

"A shame that the Well of Joy was damaged in the fire," Katla says.

"You may rest here, if you wish," Starkad offers. He gestures to the Jarl's hall. "Helga and some of the servants can bring you furs to sleep upon."

"I am grateful for this hospitality."

"Or you could go with me to my house. Not that it's the Jarl's hall so whatever." Dagny shrugs.

"I will stay here," Kylfa says, yawning again. He sits down with his back to the wall and almost immediately begins snoring.

Katla settles in for the night – or what's left of it.

Ragnvaldr looks round at the others, not wanting to appear too keen to stay at Dagny's. "I'll, er, I'll come with you Dagny. I want to, er.... check on some of my things that I have stored there."

Helga approaches Ragnvadlr. "I heard it was you who slew my father's killer," she says, bowing slightly.

Ragnvaldr pauses, turning to Helga "Aye, it was. I had harsh words once for your father, but they were spoken in haste. He was, in truth, a good man."

"You have my thanks, then. Truly we are blessed to have such warriors as you defending us."

"His murderer's death was not a hard thing. Your thanks are needless, though well-received all the same."

Dagny pats Ragnvaldr on the back. "Yeah, I'm glad he's on our side."

Helga gestures to the hall. "You are not staying?"

"Er...I will go to... check on my things... at Dagny's... I think..." Ragnvaldr averts his eyes awkwardly

"Of course. Should you ever need a roof to sleep beneath, I would do my best to ensure your comfort."

"That is... kind of you, Helga."

"Your thing is always welcome with me. I mean, your things. At my house." Dagny coughs and quickly

Ragnvaldr seems to blushing, although it is hard to tell beneath his beard. He turns to go.

Dagny goes home. Which, by the way, thanks to numerous minor arcane enhancements, is quite warm and clean and bright compared to the average house around here. She sleeps what little she needs to, and spends the rest of the time reading and drawing up plans and such.

The night passes, and a cold dawn brings with it snow and chill mist. The wind has abated but the sky is dark and hazy, the sun obscured as if by a funerary shroud.

Ragnvaldr is still slumped in a snoring heap when Dagny rises.

Dagny gives a little chuckle and is also up early, and heads to the market as well.

Ragnvaldr is woken by the sound of Dagny leaving, and follows after her a few minutes later, having gathered himself

Katla gets up early, quietly leaving the Jarl's keep. She heads to the square where the peddlers have pitched their stalls. She looks for a new rope to replace the one that was burned

You enter the market of Wulfheim – hardly bustling, but a few traders still have wares to sell. The Járnmann iron-monger is still here, as are several Görnings taking refuge here in Wulfheim on their way back to their homeland. A slave-dealer from Hrafnford is also in evidence, auctioning a handful of thralls to the crowd, with little success.

Dagny goes to the iron-monger.

The bulbous-eyed merchant looks up as you approach, Dagny. "How can I help you this fine morning?" the fen-dweller says.

"Hey. You got any pots?"

"Indeed," the merchant says, and brings out a selection for you. "Copper, iron, even some silverware."

"I need something sturdy. Like, you know, if something exploded inside the pot, it wouldn't blow it open. Not that I'm... going to do that... just. Oh, fuck it. I just need a sturdy cauldron. Big, too. Needs to hold at least fifteen pounds."

He nods. "This should do the trick. It's a bit heavy, but sturdy enough..." he hefts a large metal pot and sets it down before you. "Best bog-iron in the Fens."

"You got anything that's not made from shitty ass bog-iron?"

The Járnmann eyes Dagny grumpily. "Bog-iron is strong stuff, when you work it well! I'll sell you this pot for an eyrir."

"Yeah, I'll be back in a second." Dagny ducks around a corner where nobody's looking.

You find a secluded alleyway bordering the market.

Dagny stamps her foot on the ground a few times. "Rocky. Yo, Rocky."

The elemental forms itself from the earth, bursting through into the alley and shaking off a layer of snow. "Yes, mistress?" it greets you in Chthonic.

"Can you go down and grab me a little piece of iron? Doesn't have to be a big piece. Just as long as it's the stuff the Dvergar mine up from the ground instead of that bog shit."

The elemental nods its rocky head and buries itself down into the earth. Moments later it returns, and spits out a modest chunk of iron ore.

Dagny scoops it up. "Thanks, Rock. You're the best."

The being returns to the earth with a dull rumble.

Dagny goes back to the merchant, and plunks the ore down in front of him. "Make you a deal. This for the pot. You smelt this down and you'll never want to work with that bog shit again. Then you come back to me and we'll talk about getting you more."

He looks the ore over. "Acceptable," he says. "The pot is yours."

Katla keeps on looking. Surely there's no shortage of rope, even if food is scarce nowadays?

Katla, you find a workshop at the edge of the market where a stocky woman of middle years makes and sells rope and similar goods.

Katla approaches the woman. "Hail and well met. How much for sturdy hemp rope?"

"For the shield-maiden who helped hunt down those aurochs for Jol? Five silver pennings only."

"A fair price." Katla pays the woman and collects her rope.

Ragnvaldr meanders around the market yawning and rubbing sleep from his eyes.

Katla comes across Rangvaldr by chance. "Good morning."

"Morning Katla. What does the day hold?"

"Did you... sleep well?"

Ragnvaldr grunts noncommittally.

Katla sniffs the cold air. "Today might be a good day for a foray. As good a day as we can expect in these times, anyway."

"Aye. The Ironwood, perhaps?"

"We are thinking the same thoughts."

Ragnvaldr nods solemnly and casts about for a likely source of breakfast.

Ragnvaldr, one of the serving maids at the Well of Joy by the gate serves a stew just outside the mead-hall's doors, while Kelda and Sigrid work to repair the thatching on the roof and several workers patch the walls.

Ragnvaldr gestures to the Well of Joy. "Have you eaten yet, Katla? We should not venture forth hungry."

"You're right. A good breakfast will carry us through the hard trail through the woods."

Ragnvaldr calls Aslaug to follow him and heads over for a feed.

Ingrid, Gertrud's youngest daughter, serves up stew for a silver coin a bowl.

Dagny takes the pot to the Well of Joy, and happens to run into her companions on the way.

Katla joins Ragnvaldr for the meal.

Ragnvaldr gives Dagny a shy smile

"We're thinking about going to Ironwood today," Katla says to Dagny

Kylfa sits before the fire, his brow creased in thought.

Katla grabs two bowls, eating with the appetite of a starving wolf. She also tosses an extra silver penning for Ingrid.

She curtseys and thanks you for the coin.

Ragnvaldr sits back on his haunches against the wall and slurps his stew

Kylfa stands and trudges over to Dagny.

Dagny turns.

"Dagny.  My Dragon-scales await me at the Troll-village.  But I think we have things to speak of first."

"Yeah. How fucked are we?"

Kylfa looks at the others, and back to her.

"Perhaps," he says in a low voice, "it is time they know as well."

Dagny takes a step away, then repeats in Álfari, "Yeah? Your call."

Kylfa turns to Katla and Ragnvaldr.  "I would wish it that you come with me."

Ragnvaldr finishes his stew and belches heartily. "Alright."

"What is this about?"

"It is something I cannot speak of here," he says to Katla.

Katla nods. "There are many ears about. And we've seen more than enough minions of Ivar in Wulfheim."

Kylfa says to Dagny, "Your house, perhaps."

"Yeah. One sec." Dagny yells up to the roof. "Red! Yo, red!"

Sigrid looks down. "Yes, mistress Dagny?"

Dagny tosses her a rolled sheet of parchment. "See what you make of that."

She catches it and looks it over curiously. "What are these marks?"

Dagny just winks at her, "Look at them a while. And then you tell me." She then goes with her companions.

Katla follows Kylfa, having finished both of her bowls of stew.

Ragnvaldr traipses along with everyone.

Kylfa follows Dagny to her house as soon as she's ready.

You head to Dagny's house, a modest but comfortable home not far from the keep. Dagny's elemental has returned to the house, standing ready and awaiting any orders.

Katla glances at the strange earth-creature, quite uneasy about such being roaming the streets of the town.

"If I'd known you were all coming over I would've made something." Dagny shrugs and lets them all in.

Kylfa shrugs.  "It is no bother." He clears his throat.  "You know, of course, of the shaman of the troll-lord, and the hel-blot they have planned."

Dagny motions to various places to sit, plopping down on her bed.

Ragnvaldr stands awkwardly in a corner.

"You got gas or something? C'mon, sit." She lightly hits the bed next to her.

Ragnvaldr sits.

Katla makes herself comfortable.

Kylfa sits cross-legged on the floor.  "You know also of Ivar, and the dark magic he holds. These are things that have troubled me.  So I sought my kin – not kin of my blood, but those who speak to the beasts and walk the woods like I do."

Dagny chimes in "Yeah, including that fuckup Daire. Don't forget that part."

"Your kin? .... You don't mean... Not the Fir Bolg?"

Kylfa nods.  "You must understand, I had not met any of these people before.  Including Daire.  But they all shared my... traditions, and in that sense, they are kin. He was one of those at the conclave, that is true.."

Ragnvaldr grumbles about Fir Bolg barbarism under his breath

"He had, he said, recently escaped from Ivar's dungeons; I had no reason to think he had also been enchanted by Ivar."

"I sure hope the rest of your 'kin' were more trustworthy," Katla says.

Dagny pulls out her Dvergar book and starts flipping through it, while studying a scroll obtained from the Trollblood shaman in her other hand. "Really, I don't know why you associate yourself with such questionable sorts."

"In any case, I called this conclave because of the threats I speak of.  A war of men troubles us not; it is difficult to convince most of my kin that this place was worth knowing or protecting.  But the Helblót threatens us, as does Ivar. It was agreed, foremost, that the Troll-shaman must die; for without her there will be no blót.  But it was also agreed that it would be best if we were not the ones to kill her. For Ivar is strong; and the conclave, with my guidance, came to believe that it would be best if the strength of the trolls became our strength.  If Thrivaldi thought himself betrayed by his shaman, perhaps his kin would be our allies, not our enemies, against Ivar."

Ragnvaldr peers curiously over Dagny's shoulder.

"It's a bit optimistic to think they'd ally with us, even if the shaman were to die in disgrace," Katla points out. "But at least they might not be our enemies then."

"Yeah, at least they'd stay the fuck out of the way," Dagny agrees.

"Yes, that's so," Kylfa concurs. "But as you say, at the very least we could hope for their neutrality. The difficulty is that it seems Ivar may know of our discussion – considering Daire."

"So you think he might warn the Thrivaldii?"

"We cannot say for certain if Ivar was watching in that time.  But I think we must assume that he was."

Dagny nods. "We could always change plans."

"Or give Ivar something else to occupy himself with in the meantime," Ragnvaldr growls.

"That is possible, yes.  Of course, no specific plan was created at the conclave; that was left to me, as I was closest to Dagny, who had gained some of the shaman's confidence, and the rest of Wulfheim.  But if Ivar was watching, he knows my face, and it is possible he has warned Thrivaldi of me. Though I must add that Thrivaldi does not necessarily trust Ivar – as Thrivaldi himself has not seen our conclave, he has only Ivar's word that what he claims is true. Before the... revelation of Daire's enchantment, I had only spoken of this to Dagny.  But now I feel the situation is more dire, and perhaps it is best that you also know the truth.  For the Helblót is merely a week away, and I believe if we are to act it must be very soon."

Kylfa looks between Katla and Ragnvaldr.  "I would hear what you have to say."

Katla scratches her head. "It's hard to decide on best action, when we don't know what Thrivaldi knows and what Ivar does."

Ragnvaldr shrugs "I'll kill whoever you need me to, and then I'll kill Ivar." He starts idly picking a bit of something-or-other left over from the stew out from between his teeth

"I believe my role in this must now end – at least, my role in person.  If Ivar has warned Thrivaldi then he may not trust me.  But you – all of you – were not at this conclave."

"If Ivar was watching through Daire's eyes he knows us all now, surely?" Ragnvaldr puts in.

"And if we assume the worst, there's not much point talking to the Trollbloods, is there?" Katla asks.

"Talking, perhaps not.  Though one of my kin is preparing a magic draught that makes lies easily belie
ved, and that may still be of use to us."

"Daire spent little time with all of us.  At best he knows that you and I are known to each other.  But he has no more reason to think you are part of this plan than that the Jarl of Wulfheim is."

"Er.... well...There was the part where I stared into Daire's eyes and told Ivar I would kill him before the year's end." Ragnvaldr scratches the back of his head.

"We could always go for a more direct approach," Dagny suggests,

Kylfa raises a bushy eyebrow at Dagny.  "Direct?"

Dagny ponders a moment. "Have any of you actually seen a Helblót? Because I sure as Hel haven't."

"I have not, no," Kylfa says.

"It figures only the likes the Thrivaldii engage in such rites," Katla says.

"I do not think it is a thing the Thrivaldii commonly do, for as I understand, this is some sort of deal; Thrivaldi has allowed his shaman to perform this blót for some reward to his tribe. In any case the Trollspawn seem usually to be in the business of keeping slaves, not sacrificing them in great numbers, as is apparently required for this rite."

"So you think we could spoil it by freeing the thralls? How would we accomplish that?"

"Anyway, point is, I doubt if anyone really knows what a Helblót looks like. So what if we spoil it, then I whip up some illusion to make them think it worked... and then... whatever you want to happen."

"Wouldn't the shaman realize something's wrong?" Katla asks.

"Why would she? She was doing magic, magic happened."

Katla looks surprised. "Seid-workers don't know what they are doing? That's – that's not something I've ever considered." She seems to regard Dagny in a rather different light than before.

"Uh, Katla, if you swing your sword, and you miss, but at the same time, someone conjures an illusion of blood and guts flying everywhere and the noise of bone crunching and a wall of force that feels like you hit and... you get it. Are you really going to think your sword didn't hit? It's not so much not knowing what they're doing as, just, you know, you sell the illusion and the person will buy it."

"It seems dangerous to wait until the blót is actually under way before acting," Kylfa points out. "If we fail there will be no time for another plan."

"Well, preferably the sabotage would happen in advance. So if we fail all that happens is they know the Helblót was sabotaged."

"I think, perhaps, we should meet with these allies of yours at some point, Kylfa," Ragnvaldr says. "Maybe I am overly suspicious after Diare, but I would know who we are to stand with."

Kylfa scratches his beard.  "I can arrange the meeting.  But that will take time – days, at least.  My kin seldom stay in one place.  Though the most powerful of them, a seer, lives with her sisters at a place called Odinstoft. Another, a brother of the wolves, is not far; he would be the easiest to find.  In fact he has offered to help us in another matter."

Ragnvaldr nods "Well then, not today, but whenever it can be arranged."

"What matter would that be?" Katla asks.

"It occurred to me at one point that if Thrivaldi noticed his shaman was receiving... unexpected gifts of powerful magic, he might become suspicious, that the blót was truly to empower his greedy shaman rather than to help his tribe.  And we guessed that Thrivaldi probably does not know a powerful artifact from a mere bauble. The wolf-brother spoke of an old Kobold mine which he believed had many such trinkets, gathered by the Kobolds.  He offered to guide us there if we decided it was necessary for our task."

"Could Ivar be aware of this plan also?"

"Certainly, it was spoken of at the conclave."

"It doesn't seem very reliable then."

"Wait... why the complication?" Ragnvaldr asks. "You spoke of a potion that would make Thrivaldi believe what he is told. Surely if we use that, and then simply tell the troll-chief his shaman means to betray him, that will be enough?

"The potion is being prepared by another kin, a sister of my homeland.  It is possible we could meet her as well.  But while it is said to be powerful magic, it is not perfect; it will be stronger if the lie is already something Thrivaldi is inclined to believe, or suspect."

"I'm with Ragnvaldr," Dagny says. "Keep it simple. Tell him something's up, if they go ahead with the Helblót, sabotage it and make it look like a clusterfuck. The whole complicated-ass plan probably got compromised so we should probably dump it."

Kylfa scratches his beard.  "Perhaps you are right.  If that is the case, then, would it benefit you to return to the shaman's hut, to learn of the ritual or to effect this... sabotage in some way? For I am due back at the Troll-village to take my armour, and that would be a good excuse for you to join me there."

"Yeah, good call."

Kylfa wrinkles his nose.  "And the lion-skin is becoming somewhat foul."

"I didn't notice. You kinda smell like that all the time."

Kylfa nods, taking no apparent offense.  "I believe the Dragon-scale should be done by now.  We could go as soon as you feel you are ready.  I can prepare whatever magic may be helpful."

"Better hope that Thrivaldi doesn't know too much, then," Katla says. "Or believe too much of what Ivar might have told him. Going there might be very dangerous now. If you are willing to risk it, though, I'll come with you."

Kylfa shrugs.  "At this point, the most Thrivaldi may know is that Ivar has warned him of me.  But I see no reason to think they trust one another; I think indeed Thrivaldi may trust me more than Ivar."

"No Ironwood today, then?" Ragnvaldr asks.

"I would not abandon Dagny and Kylfa to enter the Trollbloods' lands alone. Would you, Ragnvaldr?"

"The question is whether we ought to gain this potion I spoke of before we go, or afterwards," Kylfa says. "I am not exactly sure when is the best time to use its magic, nor the best words."

"Where do we get this potion from, Kylfa?" Ragnvaldr asks.

"A sister of my homeland.  Her name is Maddji.  She said she dwells at a camp north of here and east of the mountains, where the forest and hills meet."

"More Kvenlanders," Katla says. "Are they all as... bearish as you?"

"Maddji is a herder; she is more fond of reindeer, I think, than the forest-cousin. Certainly she is more personable than the wolf-brother.  I am afraid most of my kin are... more comfortable around beasts and leaves than men-folk."

"I can imagine."

"It strikes me it would be better to have the potion sooner, but not need it until later, than to need it sooner and not have it until later," Ragnvaldr suggests.

Kylfa grunts.  "That is wise."

"Lemme just finish up here and we can be off." Dagny flips through her book, finishing the preparation of her spells.

"I did prepare to travel today, so it makes little difference whether the route is to Ironwood or to the hills northeast," Katla says.

"I cannot offer you a... reward for doing all this, as the Jarl can," Kylfa admits. "But it seems to me that it must be done."

Ragnvaldr shrugs "Bloodying the nose of Ivar's plans is reward in itself."

"It's a wild plan as far as I'm concerned," Katla says. "But should it succeed, it just might make the difference between Wulfheim falling and standing firm."

"All our plans are wild plans," Dagny points out. "Seriously, if we ever do something well-considered and reasonable, I'll probably leave you all behind because we've obviously lost our touch."

"I must sit a while and contemplate," Kylfa grunts. "Soon I shall be ready to join you."

"We riding or walking?"

"Riding," Ragnvaldr says.

"We'll reach our destination faster on horseback," Katla agrees. "And it's possible that we might have to retreat if things go sour in Trolltown."

Kylfa grumbles ruefully but does not contradict them.

Dagny nods.

Ragnvaldr clambers to his feet and makes for the door.

Dagny grabs her axe, giving it a twirl, and follows Ragnvaldr out.

Kylfa joins them as soon as he's done with his Contemplations on the Bear.

Your new steeds are fine beasts – a black stallion, Glaer, a fine roan mare, Sinir, and two white geldings, Falhofnir and Skeidbrimr.

Katla mounts Skeidbrimr.

Ragnvaldr heaves himself into Sinir's saddle with a grunt.

Kylfa looks Falhofnir in the eyes.

The horse nods its head, as if acknowledging your mastery.

"I apologize," he says, before awkwardly climbing up its back.

"No offense, but I brought my own." Dagny gives Glaer a pat on the head.

Glaer snorts, nuzzling Dagny's hand.

Kylfa scratches his beard.  "Snow is a good color for a horse this season."

"Yeah. Black would kind of stick out. Besides, that's far too fine a horse to risk if we don't have to."

"Let's ride!" Ragnvaldr exclaims.

Dagny gets a running start and leaps into the air, snow whipping up beneath her and congealing into a somewhat eerie pure white horse.

Ragnvaldr trots along with Aslaug in his wake.

Mounted, you set out from Wulfheim's gates, riding north and east into the snow-covered hills.

As you ride through the wintry wilds you stumble upon a grotesque sight, about half an hour outside of Wulfheim: the remnants of a caravan, wagons broken and looted, horses fled or stolen. Several of the wagons have been set alight or broken to kindling, strewn about the blood-spattered snow. Bodies have been dragged to one side, now half-buried by snow; red smears lead to their broken and dismembered forms. Some bristle with arrows; others bear grievous wounds from axe and spear, and most are missing limbs, arms and legs hacked off. Hideously, all of the corpses lack faces: someone has flayed them off. The white, lidless eyes of the dead stare at the grey and sullen sky, forever frozen in expressions of horror.

"Fucking fuck on a stick," Dagny curses. "That's always a nice thing to find."


Dagny looks slightly ill, shaking her head as if to clear it.

Ragnvaldr sends Aslaug to sniff through the wreckage.

"Who mutilates their foes in such way, I wonder?" Katla asks.

Kylfa surveys the scene briefly, but seems uninterested.

You're reminded only of the man that Katla slew – Ingjuld One-Eye, who once wore a cape made from the faces of the dead. But he was slain by the shield-maiden last year, shortly after her arrival in Wulfheim.

Dagny nods to Katla. "That guy you killed did that sort of thing, didn't he?"

A chill goes through you at the memory, Katla. You remember the quiver of your sword as your blade bit into his neck, cutting through flesh and spine. You still bear scars from that battle...

"Ingjuld, was it? He is dead. But he may have shared this things with others."

Dagny shrugs. "Well, not much we can do now. Except maybe not stay around here."

"If there are more men like him here, I would like to see them dead," Katla says.

You hear wolves howling nearby, somewhere to the east, near to the eaves of Ironwood. The dark forest is visible now, its brooding presence at the edge of your sight.

"Those howlers will soon find a feast in these corpses, I think."

Ragnvaldr drops heavily from his mount and follows Aslaug into the wreckage, poking about with the butt of his spear.

Dagny idly casts Detect Magic.

Katla looks for any loot that the attackers might have missed.

You discern no magic.

"Nothing but rubbish and dead men," Ragnvaldr says. "We should ride on."

Kylfa grunts.  "We should not tarry."

Aslaug, after a sniff about, drags forth something the looters missed: a small portion of food, mostly dried fish.

Ragnvaldr takes the rations, then stomps back and remounts.

Katla, your search turns up a small coin-purse containing thirteen aurar and thirty silver pennings.

Katla pockets the coins, returning to her horse.

You ride on, continuing towards the likely location of the Kvenlander camp.

Katla is distracted by stirring memories of her duel with Ingjuld, unable to put her mind into the search.

Dagny follows along behind.

Kylfa and Ragnvaldr, you lead the way through the wilderness, eventually spotting a small trickle of smoke – likely the Kvenlander camp. You crest a low hill, and look down upon a frozen lake at the edge of Ironwood. Nestled between the lakeside and the encroaching forest is a camp: a dozen tents, both small hide lavvu and larger goahti of timber, earth, and snow. Campfires flicker amongst these shelters, and you can see people and reindeer moving about. The camp is surrounded by a low fence on two sides, the other sides sheltered by trees and ice.

Then you hear the shouts of alarm, the screams, the hiss of arrows and the flicker of flames lapping at the tents, and see the glint of mail and weapons along the south side of the camp as a group of marauders, several bearing torches, assail the Kvenlanders. Already you can see red stains on the snow where several of the nomads have fallen.

Dagny quickly murmurs a spell and glows yellow a moment.

Kylfa snarls under his breath and casts Aspect of the Bear on himself as Dagny casts Mage Armour.

Kylfa rides to Katla's side.  "I will taste the blood of those who bear blades against my kin today.  Now give me your hand!"

"As I promised earlier, so I shall lend my sword to your service!"

Kylfa grabs her arm and squeezes, muttering under his breath; the strength of his iron grip spreads into her arm and throughout her body as he casts Bull's Strength on her. He also casts Bull's Strength and Longstrider on himself.  Now he's ready!

Dagny rides up next to Ragnvaldr. "Here, consider this a late Jól present." She hits him on the back and casts Bull's Strength, also, the impact causing his strength to surge.

You can see the marauders charging into the Kvenlander camp, setting fires and slaughtering as they go!

Dagny jumps off her horse and runs for the fence. Atop the fence, she flings her axe down at the nearby marauder.

Nearby, one of the warriors is setting fire to a lavvu. Judging from his fair hair and sharpened teeth, he's a Blóðbard.

Dagny's axe spins through the air with a loud swish! The marauder looks up just in time to get hit in the face, of course, the axe embedding itself right between his eyes. She snaps her fingers, causing the axe to fly back into her open hand. "Who else wants some?"

Kylfa likewise hustles forward on foot and climbs the fence, trying to close with the enemy as fast as possible.

You clumsily clamber over the fence.

Kylfa runs up to the closest marauder, growling and gnashing his teeth.

The Kvenlanders – men, women, and children garbed in reindeer-hides – flee before the Blóðbards, some snatching at spears and other weapons, others emerging from their tents.

Katla boldly urges Skeidbrimr forward, attempting a leap over the fencing! She stays near Kylfa, charging at the marauder.

The fair-haired man looks up, a mouthful of Kvenlander flesh still in his mouth, his axe dripping with gore.

Katla swings at the foe with Styrkr. She catches the man by surprise, the momentum of her charge driving the sword through the side of his face, cleaving a horrible wound that nearly cuts off his jaw. The man grabs his head frantically as blood gushes out. He falls onto the snow, gurgling with his dying breath.

Ragnvaldr, leaving Sinir outside the camp, charges through the open gateway on foot, swinging Dagnöskur two-handed at the marauder to his right with a wordless, bellowing battle-cry. He carves a wide furrow clean through the Bloodbeard's torso, splintering ribs and spine and spraying gore across the snow. The unfortunate marauder hits the ground in two pieces.

The Blóðbards, realizing they're under attack, turn to face you. Two rush Ragnvaldr at the gate, while another pair go after Kylfa and Katla.

Ragnvaldr yells at the Blóðbards. "Come and die, worms! Dagnöskur hungers! Ragnvaldr is come! Your lives are at an end!"

Katla, you narrowly parry a blow from one of the Blóðbards, turning it aside with Styrkr a moment before it strikes.

Katla taunts her assailant. "Dance with me the deadly dance of blades, cur! I'll lead you straight to Hel's bosom!"

Kylfa, one of the marauders jabs with a spear. You dodge aside, but not in time, and the spear-point finds your side, drawing blood.

Ragnvaldr, the marauders surround you, one lashing out with a sword, another thrusting with a spear, a third battering you with a heavy axe. You dodge the axe, but sustain a wound to your thigh, a second to your shoulder. Blood trickles from your wounds. You dodge and parry, but the three are closing in.

Ragnvaldr howls like a wild beast in pain and rage.

Dagny leaps off the fence, running up behind another marauder trying to go for Ragnvaldr, tossing her axe once again.

Your axe hits the man in the back, nearly felling him! With a gasp he rips it free, and it flies back to your hand, torn from his fingers. He's bleeding badly, hideously injured.

Meanwhile, a figure steps forth from the smoke and ruin – the Blóðbard leader. His gruesome cape flaps in the wind, fashioned from flayed human faces. Flies buzz about him, and a carrion reek wafts towards you as he emerges from the haze of battle, fixing you with his one-eyed gaze. Stitches encircle his neck where his head, once severed by Katla's blade, has been sewed back on. Fell runes smoulder with unholy light on his gaunt, worm-eaten cheeks. Ingjuld One-Eye grins, freshly spilled blood seeping from between his sharpened yellow teeth, dribbling down his matted beard.

"You!" the revenant snarls, pointing his spear towards Katla, spattering blood across the snow. His voice is a ruinous thing, as torn and ragged as the unhealed wounds that mar his body, teeming with grave-worms. "Shield-maiden! I have been awaiting this moment – have hungered for it, for your flesh!"

"Ingjuld! I have slain you once, and will gladly slay you again! Only this time, I will not be as gentle! Your wretched frame will not walk again, for I will see that it feeds the bellies of the ravenous wolves of Ironwood!"

Kylfa throws his shoulder between Katla and the marauder she's fighting, shoving his way between two of the Blóðbards, and then lashes out with tooth and claw in all directions. He grabs one marauder with his claws and drags him along, screaming, as he barrels into the other one, locking his jaws around the second man's throat.  A shake of his head throws a spray of blood in every direction – and both bodies fall as Kylfa turns to look at Ingjuld, panting, blood running down his face and bear-hide.

Katla anticipates revenant-Ingjuld's attack and prepares herself to receive it.

Ragnvaldr hammers Dagnöskur down in a mighty blow straight at the face of the marauder in front of him, all brute force and blinding speed! Ragnvaldr drops the Blóðbard, the corpse landing with everything above the shoulders an unrecognisable red ruin. "Death! Death to Ivar's bastard dogs! I'll make raven-feasts of you all!"

The wounded marauder falls back, while those still facing Ragnvaldr assail him once more. Clearly they are shaken by the death of their comrade, and Ragnvaldr evades their blows.

Katla sheathes Styrkr and draws the star-metal sword, trusting it's fiery blade to cut the unliving flesh of the foe.

Dagny comes charging in behind the spear-man, trying to wrench him away from Ragnvaldr.

You dodge his panicked spear-thrust as you approach.

Dagny grabs him, yanking his arms behind his back.

He yells, struggling against your surprising grip.

"Step aside, bear-worshipper!" Ingjuld snarls at Kylfa as he rushes towards Katla, spear readied.

Kylfa snaps at the revenant as he barrels past, biting at his rancid flesh.

Katla thrusts with her sword, impaling the marauder as he charges.

Flames lick at his flesh and beard, but he seems to feel no pain! Katla, Ingjuld lashes out with his spear, piercing your side and punching through your mail. You nearly fall from your saddle.

The revenant grins, flames licking his putrescent features. "When Loki rules from Asgard and Hel from Folkvangr, your torment will be everlasting," he boasts. "I shall hunt your spirit through all the Nine Worlds, and you shall die a thousand deaths at my hand."

Katla spits blood. "I will kill you first. Over and over."

Kylfa growls, his hand beginning to glow with pale blue rime.  He covers the distance to the hulking abomination in a few long strides and plants his hand on it, attempting to sear it with unearthly cold.

Rime frosts the revenant's flesh, but Ingjuld scarcely seems to feel it.

Maddji, the Kvenlander shaman, steps forth from the chaos. She beats a drum and chants, invoking the spirits to aid you in combat!

Katla roars like an enraged lioness, her eyes flaring with blood-lusted fury. Committing herself fully to the attack she strikes at the revenant.

Your blade lashes out, flickering with crimson flame, searing the revenant's undead flesh. You slice him open, and his putrid guts spill from his belly. Ingjuld laughs hideously, with a lunatic abandon. Flames wreathe his worm-eaten visage as his beard smoulders, his remaining eye gleaming white and horrible in its socket.

"Tonight my men shall feast, and you shall be the main course!" Ingjuld declares.

At the gate, Ragnvaldr swings a savage upwards backhand at the axeman, grunting with effort. Dagnöskur's Dragon-bone blade bites at him from waist-height. He carves into the Blóðbard, opening him from crotch to breast, leaving him to whimper his last in the snow, his innards spilling out in a steaming pile.

Egil slides down the embankment, alerted to the fight by the fire and billowing smoke. He takes aim and looses an arrow at the marauder standing over Dagny.

The arrow clatters off the Blóðbard's helm. He flinches, looking up towards the warpriest in alarm.

Dagny shoves the grappled guy over towards Ragnvaldr and steps backwards. "Okay, both of you are fucking toast." She casts Burning Hands, letting loose a torrent of flame from her hands.

The Blóðbards throw up their hands to shield themselves from the flames, but one is consumed utterly, the other merely badly scorched. The dying Blóðbard screams in pain, his flesh running like tallow, eyes boiling their sockets, skin blackened and split.

Dagny pays special attention to incinerate the one that stabbed her, perhaps not focusing on the other as much as she should've.

Ingjuld grimaces, twisting away from Kylfa contemptuously, and renews his assault on Katla with single-minded fury.

Ingjuld's spear-thrust takes you through the chest. You feel searing pain as his spearhead punches through mail, flesh, and bone to find your heart. You taste blood, and then blackness takes you.

Katla falls from her horse.

Maddji continues her drum-beat, lending those who still stand strength.

Ragnvaldr favours Dagny with a terrifying grin through the fountain of gore as the Blóðbard dies.

Dagny grins right back, quite pleased with how this turned out... until she looks over the other direction.

Katla lays still on the ground, her blood staining the snow around her. The fire of life has vanished from her eyes, and her expression betrays a strange combination of defiance and unfulfilled glory.

Kylfa leaps upon the rotting fiend and they both fall into the snow together; atop him, Kylfa is a blur of fur and claws and teeth, tearing and rending Ingjuld's putrid flesh until the undead warrior is still, his face and torso a tattered, unrecognizable ruin.

The revenant lets out a tortured scream as Kylfa claws him to pieces!

Kylfa continues to savage the body for a few seconds, then looks up at the fallen Katla, panting heavily, his eyes wide with fury.

Dagny ignores the pain in her side and runs over to Katla as fast as she can.

Ragnvaldr follows Dagny's gaze and his face falls. With a surprisingly childlike gasp, he rushes towards the fallen shield-maiden.

Egil rushes after the group.

Kylfa examines Katla to see whether his fears are confirmed.

Kylfa, she is dead. The spear-thrust pierced her heart.

Kylfa wipes blood at strips of putrefied flesh from his face.  "She is dead."

Dagny says, "Of course she isn't, she's fucking Katla," as she nonetheless can't help her eyes filling with tears. She shakes her head quickly.

Ragnvaldr places a hand on Dagny's shoulder, at a loss for words.

Katla, you seem to regain consciousness. You see your companions all around you, looking down upon you. Then you see an ethereal figure stands over you – an armoured maiden, bearing a spear, astride a white steed. Wings unfurl from her back as she reaches down to pull you to your feet.

"You have fought bravely, Katla," the chooser-of-the-slain tells you. "Will you accept a place in Valhalla, and fight once more on the plain of Vigrid on the day of Ragnarök?"


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Re: The Fimbulvinter Saga
« Reply #31 on: March 03, 2015, 03:11:42 PM »
IC: Fitt XXV: The Shaman
You stand amidst the devastation of the Blóðbards, bodies strewn about the camp of the Kvenlanders. Tents flicker with flame; Kvenlanders rush to and fro, trying to corrall reindeer and put out fires. Katla's broken body lies on the ground, a pool of blood spreading beneath it. Her gelding, Skeidbrimr, noses her gently, as if trying to wake her from sleep.

Maddji approaches, her look sad. Her drumbeat has ceased. A small, blonde-haired woman dressed in reindeer hides, she carries a staff made from antler-bone, carved with sacred marks.

Dagny sniffles and wipes a tear away. "No... oh fucking Hel, no."

Kylfa takes a deep breath, and his claws and fangs sink back into his form, though his furred body remains covered in fresh blood and putrid gore.

Ragnvaldr speaks up "She died with sword in hand, as a warrior should." Despite his brave words, his cheeks are wet with tears.

Dagny yells upward. "Good for you, you got your death wish, now you're on your way to Valhalla. But what about the rest of us? We're alone, now, we're without you and we fucking needed you! You stupid fucking blood-crazed berserker!"

Maddji draws nearer. "Your companion fought bravely," the Kvenlander shaman says. "Truly she was favoured by Turisas, who the westerners call Tyr. I will pray for Death's Maid to lead her safely past Surma and across the River of the Dead, so that she might find peace in Tuonela." She surveys the camp - dead marauders and Kvenlanders strewn about the camp, fires flickering. "We must break camp soon, in case more of these flesh-eaters are about, Loviatar curse them..."

"Our companion had fought that man once before, when he was still a man," Kylfa says. "He died at her hand; now, she has died at his."

"Fuck it." Dagny says. "We came here for something. Where is it?"

She looks to Kylfa. "Countryman. I wish I could have given you a more hospitable welcome."

Kylfa turns to Maddji and gives a respectful nod.  "Likewise, sister.  Though I am afraid I bear some responsibility for all of this."

She shakes her head. "How could you know these vile men would attack? This is not your doing, friend Kylfa."

"Not directly, no.  But I do not think it an accident that Ingjuld was here.  As we have discovered, Daire was enchanted by Ivar, and Ivar could see through his eyes."  He grunts.  "It may be that he saw you, and that this happened as a result."

"The Fir Bolg? I see... this Ivar you speak of is even more devious than I believed."

"I am only sorry we could not warn you earlier," Kylfa says to Maddji.  "I came as soon as I was able, after Daire was taken and Ivar's other spies were rooted out of Wulfheim."

"You helped defeat these black-hearted men, even if the cost was high. You have saved many lives. It was no coincidence that you arrived when you did, I am sure of it. The gods weave the weft of fate, and led you here."

"Certainly it was more than coincidence that she and Ingjuld would meet again."

Maddji nods. "Yes, it is so. In this dark time near the world's end, fate has grown capricious indeed." She looks around. "We will tend our wounds, but then we must be leaving."

Ragnvaldr points to what remains of Ingjuld. "Make sure your people burn this one before you go. I would not see him rise again." He wipes his eyes on the back of his hand and tries to compose himself.

Maddji nods to Ragnvaldr. "We shall consign him to the fire." Katla's sword has already done a good job of incinerating most of the corpse as it is. She whistles, and a sleigh drawn by reindeer appears. "Here," she says. "For your companion.

Egil has a grim and defeated look about him.

Ragnvaldr stoops down to Katla's body. Pausing a moment, he takes a deep, ragged breath, then lifts the dead warrior gently onto the sleigh.

The reindeer eye you incuriously, Ragnvaldr. Steam rises from their bodies and from Katla's, heat dissipating into the cold air.

Ragnvaldr reaches out a shaking hand and closes Katla's eyelids. "I will see you again in the corpse-hall, Katla. Wait for me there," he mutters. He just stands numbly beside the sleigh, gazing vacantly into the middle distance.

Your grief consumes you; you are dead to the world.

Dagny repeats. "We came here for something. Where the fuck is it? I want to know what the fuck Katla died for."

Maddji turns to Dagny. "Perhaps it was this?" she holds out a small leather flask; you can hear liquid sloshing inside. "An elixir, to honey one's tongue."

Kylfa nods.  "Mm."

Dagny shrugs. "I guess." She takes it, examining it briefly.

There's enough elixir here for three doses. Any who drinks of the elixir will tell lies with great facility.

Dagny puts it away. "Well, that's that."

A young boy approaches you, Dagny. His face is besmeared with blood, but he seems unhurt himself. He is perhaps twelve years old, with a shock of white hair and strange, pale eyes that seem older than their owner. He watches you, saying nothing.

Dagny spots the boy, eyeing him. Perhaps for the first time she notices she's wounded, fairly badly at that, and sits down with a loud breath.

The boy approaches curiously. "What you did before," he says, gesturing to the blackened body of the Blóðbard you killed with a spell. "Conjuring fire with your hands – the words you spoke. That was a runo, was it not? A poem so powerful it makes the world bend to its sound?" He speaks North-Speech quite ably.

Dagny looks up at him, or over to him, depending on how short he is with her down at this level. "Something like that."

"I have heard of such things, of magic like and yet unlike the skills of the Noaidi." The boy smiles an eerie, knowing smile. "Will you teach me?"

"This kind of shit is nothing but trouble. At least that's all it usually brings me."

Ragnvaldr's mouth moves silently for a few moment, then he snaps out of it, seeming to have come to a decision. He limps over to Dagny, wincing at the pain in his wounds with every step.

Dagny looks up. "Kid, meet Ragnvaldr. Ragnvaldr, meet, uh... this kid."

He looks up to Ragnvaldr. "Greetings," he says. "I am Kauko."

Maddji sees you conversing and watches curiously.

Ragnvaldr grunts at Kauko, then turns back to Dagny. "Dagny the Rune-Caller. It may be that I follow Katla to Valhalla soon. Until that time I am yours, except in that I have sworn to slay Ivar before the year's end. In all other things, I shall do what you ask of me, be it within my power."

Dagny gives Ragnvaldr a weak smile. "Thanks. For the time being... just help me up?" She reaches a hand upward.

Ragnvaldr takes Dagny's hand and pulls.

The boy tilts his head at you Dagny. "But you slew those men. They would have killed us, otherwise. Such power is a gift." He speaks like someone much older than he seems.

Dagny tilts her head, asking the boy a question in the Dvergar language.

The boy shakes his head. "Is that another runo? I do not know this tongue..."

"It's something you'll have to learn. The language of the Dvergar. They're assholes, but they know their runes." Dagny stands up. "Kauko. Not gonna lie. Shit is not good right now. There might not be much teaching and a whole lot of bullshit."

Ragnvaldr looks back at Kauko curiously. "You're coming with us, lad?"

Kauko looks to Ragnvaldr. "If my company is welcome."

Ragnvaldr tries to smile. "I suppose that's up to Dagny, but we could always use a skilled, brave man such as yourself."

Dagny sighs to Ragnvaldr, speaking softly. "I don't know about this. He's just a kid. And we've suffered enough loss for one day. If anything happened to him, fuck."

Ragnvaldr shrugs. "Sorry lad. Maybe we'll meet again though."

Kauko shrugs. "If that is your will. Perhaps we will meet again." He continues examining the still-smouldering bodies with strange detachment.

Maddji, sharp-eared, has overhead you. She draws close. "Kauko is a Stormchild," she says. "Sired by the god Ukko. His mother went up to a Seita on a mountaintop and prayed to the thunder-god. Her prayers were answered and she was struck by lightning. In due course she gave birth to Kauko. See his eyes, his hair? They mark him as one of the Stormchildren."


Dagny, as a Hrafnii you heard a few tales of the Stormchildren. They're said to be naturally skilled in the Seid, although they can make use of runes just as the Dvergar. In particular they are skilled in weather-magic.

Dagny sighs. "Look, I didn't say no. It's just... fuck. Today has been a really shitty day, ok?"

Kauko shrugs. "I merely wish to learn. You would seem an appropriate teacher."

"You know this land better than I," Maddji says to Kylfa. "Where might we seek shelter? The hills, the wood?"

Kylfa shakes his head.  "I am unsure I know of a place that is not under threat.  It was safer, perhaps, in our homeland."

"That is no longer so. Ogres roam the land, and a terrible blizzard destroys all in its path. There is a great eagle that swoops and soars overhead, fanning the winds with his fell wings. Men and mammoth freeze to death, and those that survive the cold become food for Biegkegaellies and his Stallos."

Egil perks up at the mention of a great eagle.

Egil, the prophecies of the Völvur do speak of a great eagle, the Corpse-Swallower Hrӕsvelgr. He sits at the end of the world and causes the wind to blow with the flapping of his wings. As for the giants who come from a bitter blizzard, the prophecies also speak of the Frost Giants, or Hrímthurs, who hail from Niflheim, the world of cold and ice that lies near to Hel.

"Hraesvelgr... Kylfa, the Ogres she speaks of, I believe them to be Frost Giants from Niflheim."

Kylfa runs his hand through his tangled beard.  "Mm.  I fear no place is a sanctum, any longer, unless you are a Dwarf under the earth."

Kylfa stretches out a hand to Maddji.  "Send a message to me in Wulfheim when you find a new pasture.  You and your people have paid enough, but in time we may need each other again."

Maddji nods. "I shall send a spirit to you, or a beast, to let you know when we find a safe place to camp. This Wulfheim - would there be space for our people there? Is it a refuge from the bitter winds?"

Kylfa furrows his brow.  "No place is a refuge.  We have found safety there, for now, and food enough since the aurochs hunt, but it is squarely fixed in Ivar's covetous eye."

She looks to the sky. "Then we shall find another place to camp. Perhaps, as you say, we shall seek out the land of the Dwarves." She smiles.

Dagny quickly turns. "You don't want to go there."

Kylfa rubs his brow.  "I wish there was more I could offer you, sister..."

Maddji shakes her head. "You have done enough. Were you not to arrive when you did, we might all be dead. Even I could not have stood against that abomination." Maddji turns to Dagny. "No? You have been to the land of the Dwarfs?"

"Been there. Dragged kicking and screaming. And fought my way back out." Dagny shakes her head. "Especially since you're a woman. No woman should go near that place."

"Then we shall not stray near their lands either," she says with a smile.

"I think they should go to Wulfheim," Egil puts in. "We need to begin building a new... coalition against Ivar. Even if we kill Ivar, his forces will still roll over Wulfheim and snuff it out. Wulfheim needs to become... more than it is now. A bastion if we are to survive."

"Mmm," Kylfa rumbles, and nods as Egil sees to Ragnvaldr.  "Maddji... I do not know what is to come.  I will not ask you to Wulfheim or any other place.   I will finish this business I have started with the trolls and their blót, or die doing so; but your path can only be your own."

She nods. "Perhaps we will journey with you for a time, and camp not far from Wulfheim. My messenger will find you once we are settled."

Ragnvaldr turns to Kylfa and Egil, gesturing at his wounds, and Dagny's. "Have you any words of power to speak, friends? The words that might bind flesh?" He is swaying slightly

"My apologies Ragnvaldr, I should have acted sooner." Egil touches the large warriors shoulder with a softly glowing hand.

"My thanks, Egil."

Dagny shrugs. "It's nothing."

Maddji sees your skill, Egil. "I also have some skill in knitting bone and healing flesh. If any of you need aid, I am glad to give it."

"Maddji, I would strongly urge you to bring your clan to Wulfheim," Egil reiterates.

She looks to Egil. "Would the chieftain there not mistrust us? Kvenlanders are not much-beloved in these lands."

"After all we have done for him, the chieftain should heed our council," Ragnvaldr says. "If we say you are welcome, you will be welcome."

"I would offer to speak for you," Kylfa adds. "But the last one of our conclave who I brought to Wulfheim was Daire, so I doubt that means much."

The Jarl is not an unkind man," Egil says. "Tell him that we have sent you. That should smooth over most issues."

"Hmm. You speak wisdom. We shall camp nearby, and then perhaps we can arrange a meeting. If all goes well, we will join in Wulfheim; but for now I think it wise if we camp at least a short distance away."

"Tell Brúnn, the Gothii of Wulfheim, that I Egil, Warpriest of Ullr, sent you."

"I shall. I am sure your name will carry much weight, servant of Ullr."

Dagny chimes in, "And that Dagny sent you, too. Just in case nobody knows who the fuck Egil is."

She laughs, nodding.

"Well kid," Dagny says to Kauko. "It seems like your people are coming with us regardless, so you might as well tag along too."

Dagny said it was nothing but she's clearly in pain as she moves.

Maddji she beckons Dagny over.

Dagny sighs and goes over to her.

The shaman brushes her fingertips over your wounds, and they rapidly heal.

Dagny takes a deep breath. "Wow..."

Ragnvaldr takes out a rag and starts to wipe the blood from Dagnöskur.... and from where it is spattered over the rest of him.

Maddji motions for you to follow her. "Here, all of you. Come with me a moment, before you leave. I would give you something as further thanks for your aid."

Ragnvaldr casts a long glance at the sleigh with its grim burden, then follows Maddji

She beckons you over to her goahti, a shelter of earth, snow, and wood, a door set in its side, marked by mammoth-tusks. You can smell herbs and smoke from within. She enters, and returns a moment later with several leather flasks.

She hands each of you a flask. Within, a pungent liquid can be smelled. "Quaff from these to cure any wound you suffer," she says.

"Hey, thanks," Dagny says.

"Thank you." Egil stows the flask.

Kylfa accepts the gift and bows graciously. "Walk with wisdom, sister."

Ragnvaldr nods his gratitude.

You break camp, returning to your mounts as the Kvenlanders pack up their lavvu and other shelters with astonishing swiftness. Many ride reindeer themselves or else use sleighs drawn by the creatures.

Dagny gets back on her magic horse.

Egil mounts Katla's horse, Skeidbrimr.

Kauko approaches the sleigh. "Am I to come with you, then, or travel with my people?"

Ragnvaldr gives Kauko a blank look, then shouts ahead to Dagny. "Hey! Is the boy coming or not?!"

Dagny shrugs. "Up to him, I'm all out of fucks at this point."

Kauko nods, then jumps up onto the sleigh next to Katla's remains, which do not seem to worry him in the slightest.

Ragnvaldr frowns at Kauko, then reaches out a brawny arm and hauls the boy off the sleigh to sit in front of him atop Sinir. "Let her be, Kauko. She has earned her rest."

Kauko looks up at you. "As you say."

Dagny can't help but laugh. She pulls up next to Egil as they're riding. "New guy, were you serious about all that stuff you said, about making Wulfheim a bastion and all that?"

Egil sighs as Dagny's approach. "Yes. I am not in the mood for a tongue lashing ether. If you would argue, save it for another time."

"Stop being a fuckstick. I was going to agree with you."

"Ullr's Blessing, agreement from Dagny. Ragnarök is truly at hand."

You set out into the white waste, snow falling all around you. To the east, the trees of Ironwood glower; to the west, the Orm-Fells reach skyward with stony talons.

Kylfa rides awkwardly up to Dagny, his great form teetering on his saddle.  "Now we must choose whether we are to go straightaway to the Troll-camp.  In truth I am still not sure what we will say, even with this magic draught."

Dagny then answers Kylfa, "I say we go back to Wulfheim first. I don't really feel like dragging Katla to that shitty place. Or bringing a kid along."

Kylfa nods.

Ragnvaldr rides close to the sleigh bearing Katla.

Hróar is hiding in a copse of trees not far off the path the group travels. He quietly watches them as they approach, wondering who these people might be – and whether following them might lead him to a place where he could find a roof over his head and a warm fireside?

You hear frantic cries not far away – and the howling of wolves!

Kylfa turns his head and growls.

"Vargar?" Ragnvaldr asks.

"Fuck... what a fucking day..." Dagny curses.

Hróar continues watching the riders, but he is suddenly distracted by the howls. His body tenses, as he tries to determine the direction of the beasts.

Hróar, the sounds come from the south, near a frozen pond not far from the edge of Ironwood.

"The herders may be in danger from a wolf-pack," Kylfa notes. "We should stay close."

A scream cuts through the chill air; it could belong to a woman, or a child.

Ragnvaldr takes out Dagnöskur.

Dagny takes out her axe as well.

Hróar frowns. He realizes that these riders may be heading toward a pack of ravenous wolves. Then the scream catches his attention.

You ride nearer. A pack of black, terrifying Vargar, the monstrous wolves said to be birthed by Trollwives in the haunted depths of Ironwood, are attacking a small caravan of travelers - two men and a woman, along with three children and a pair of pack-horses. One of the men lies dying, his belly torn open, entrails steaming hot in the frigid air; he cradles his spilt intestines and cries in anguish. One of the horses is dead as well, its throat torn out, blood pooling on the white snow. The woman, you notice, is heavily pregnant, though she fights as bravely as the man beside her, the two of them fending off the demon-wolves with wood-axes, circling to protect the children behind them. The man bears the iron collar of a thrall. One child, a girl of fourteen, pelts the night-furred spawn of Fenris with a sling. Despite such defenses the Vargar seem undeterred, laughing bestially and howling as they dart in and out, trying to savage their prey with knife-long yellow fangs. The remaining packhorse is panicking, neighing and kicking; it looks like it might bolt if it gets the chance.

Kylfa straps his shield to his arm.  "The gods give us an abundance of blood today."

Ragnvaldr reigns in. "Kauko, get down. You stay here with the sleigh. I need a good man to guard it."

Kauko takes the knife, his face quite serious-looking.

Meanwhile, the wolves circle the travellers, then lunge for the kill, moving as one. The man is badly injured as a wolf savages him, and the woman is likewise bitten. One of the children shrieks as a wolf seizes hold of his leg, dragging him away from the group!

The girl hits the wolf dragging the child away with a sling-stone, to little effect, but the man hacks out with his woodaxe, fending one of the Vargar off.

Ragnvaldr spurs Sinir into a charge at the nearest wolf, swinging Dagnöskur grimly at it as he thunders towards the beast. He hacks at the Vargr, sending it flying into the air with the force of the impact, steaming wolf-blood spraying across the snow.

Dagny rides forward as quickly as her horse will carry her.

Kylfa rides after Dagny towards the bloody scene, jostling around in his saddle ridiculously.

Egil urges his horse forward and invokes Ullr's divine favour.

The strength of Ullr flows into you, lending you might and focus.

Hróar seeing the corageous charge of these strangers makes up his mind. He will lend his hand in protecting the children. Without bothering to announce his presence in any way, he simply rushes out from his hiding place, running straight toward the battlegrounds with his axe held high. Though his appearance may be surprising, it is also strangely inspiring. Those near him feel an odd surge of battle-resolve.

A strange, wild-haired man appears from a copse of trees. His sinewy arms seem somewhat over-long, and his beard is even bushier than Kylfa's. A tail whips behind him.

Dagny twists around. "Uh, behind us..." Seeing a weird crazy guy charging out with axe drawn might give her the wrong idea.

The children back up, towards their parents. The wolves, seeing you approach, growl in fury and bound towards you, but the travellers lash out with their axes, wounding several. The Vargar snap at your mounts and legs.

Dagny, one of the wolves seizes your leg in its jaws, teeth sinking into your calf, tearing at your flesh! The other leaps at Kylfa, yellow fangs tearing into the bear-shaman!

Dagny flails around. "FUCKING..!"

Ragnvaldr, you fend off two Vargar, your warhorse neighing and kicking at the beasts.

The travellers both assail one of the wolves with their axes, hacking at as if they were chopping wood. Though no warriors, they produce a whimper of pain from one. The girl sends another sling-stone towards the wolf attacking Dagny. It connects, and the wolf releases her calf.

Ragnvaldr, hearing Dagny's yell, wheels Sinir and charges the wolf menacing her, swinging his axe.

One of the wolves snaps at your heals, managing to take a bite out of you as you charge.

The wolf vanishes in a spray of crimson. Dagny, one moment the wolf is still savaging you, the next Ragnvaldr has reduced it to tatters with swift swipe from his Orm-bone axe. It doesn't even have time to whimper as his weapon cleaves through its skull.

Dagny rides on, over to protect the children, putting herself between the wolves and them. She flings her axe at the nearest wolf on the way.

Slightly shaken, your axe-throw goes wide, striking the rime-crusted earth. It returns to your hand.

Kylfa grunts and drops from his horse like a great fur-covered sack of flour, and roars out as he swings .his club overhead with abandon. His cudgel swings in an arc above his head and buries itself between the wolf's ears with a solid crunch.  It collapses headfirst into the snow without so much as a squeal of pain.

Ragnvaldr notices the onrushing Hróar and bellows out "Who goes there?"

Egil moves his horse to block the charging Trollkin, then knocks an arrow and looses at the wolf threatening Dagny.

The Vargr howls in pain as Egil's arrow finds its mark in the beast's flank.

Hróar grunts and dashes around Egil. "No time for idle chatter! There's wolves to kill!" He rushes forth without paying more attention to the warpriest, the blade of his axe dripping with hissing liquid as it falls down toward the nearest wolf. His axe cleaves through the wolf's neck, the blade smashing down into the ground below. Steam evaporates with a hiss from the snow as the acidic liquid smears into it.

The remaining wolves, seeing they are outmatched, turn to flee, bounding away into the snow.

Kylfa grunts.

Dagny flings her axe at a retreating wolf, feeling perhaps a bit vindictive today. It falls short, and she just snarls, snapping her fingers to bring it back to her hand.

"Who is this," Kylfa says, turning towards Hróar.  He still grips his bloody cudgel firmly in his hand.

Hróar stands still, catching his breath. He looks around him, carefully scrutinizing the temperaments of these strangers.

Ragnvaldr seeing the enemy withdraws, quickly takes a head-count, over-worried today at the thought of losing more comrades. He sighs with relief to see they are all whole.

As the wolves flee, you hear something strange – fell words being spoken, the words like a thunderclap. The sky seems to darken for a moment. Kauko, standing by the sleigh, seems to be the one speaking. Suddenly a bolt of lightning coalesces in front of him, lancing towards the fleeing wolf! The bolt scorches the earth, turning snow to steam, but misses the Vargr narrowly.

Dagny, Kauko's inborn magical talents are asserting themselves: the power came from within the boy himself.

Ragnvaldr stares at Kauko, wide-eyed and slack-jawed.

The sky lightens somewhat. Kauko sits against the sleigh, looking nonchalant.

Egil knocks and looses an arrow at one of the fleeing wolves.

You injure the wolf as it hastens away. It leaves a trail of blood through the snow, if you wished to track it.

"We should track the wolves and destroy them," Egil says.

Hróar lets his axe rest against the wolf-corpse, but does not remove his hand's grip from the handle. He does not seem overly startled by the bolt of lightning. "Hail." He simply grunts, "It looked like these travelers were in need of a bit of help."

Kylfa approaches Hróar, his weapon still in hand, until he stands face to face with him.

Hróar faces the bear-shaman.

Kylfa squints at him for a few seconds.  Then he leans forward slightly, and sniffs him.

Hróar grins, somehow amused by Kylfa's sniffing.

Kylfa grunts at Hróar, "Of Thrivaldi's clan?"

"Thrivaldi? Do you mean that chieftain who is said to rile over a whole tribe of Trollbloods? I've heard bits and pieces about it, but don't know much. I come from distant Thule."

"Mm.  That seems a long way," Kylfa replies.  "What brings you here?"

"The winds. For many upon many moons now I've been wandering these lands. Wherever I go, though, it seems that the accursed winter gives no way."

Ragnvaldr looks at Dagny, and gestures at Kauko. "Did you see...?"

Dagny nods. "Yeah. I'll deal with that later. Right now we should deal with..."

Ragnvaldr shakes his head as if to clear it. "Remind me never to anger that boy."

Egil quietly knocks another arrow, but keeps his bow lowered.

Dagny keeps her axe at the ready. "Thanks for the backup. We'll be on our way now. Best you do the same."

The woman approaches you, panting and bloody. "You have our thanks, friends," she says. "Were it not for your help those wolves would have devoured us. We were bound for Wulfheim when they attacked. Blóðbard reavers burned our village to the ground, killing any who resisted, enslaving those who surrendered – doubtless to be eaten alive back in Skrikborg. We barely escaped, and lost half our number during our flight. Travelling the wild during this evil winter seems foolish, but we heard that Wulfheim is the only place left in these lands not subject to Ivar's will. Tell me, does it still stand, or has the King burned it, too?"

One of the children, though alive, is badly hurt. The man who previously was crying out seems to have expired.

"Wulfheim still stands," Dagny tells her. "At least it did this morning. With the fucking day we've had, who knows."

"Thank the Æsir." She wipes her brow. "I am Finna," she says. "This is my thrall, Agmundr, and my children, Drifa, Yrsa, and Olav."


Agmundr approaches. You see he has the iron-collar of a thrall.

"That thrall earned his freedom today and then some." She brandishes her axe. "Are we clear?"

The woman eyes your axe warily. "When we reach Wulfheim, I will grant him his freedom," she says. "You are right… the old ways no longer hold, and he has been a loyal servant."

Dagny nods. "Anyway, you can come with us too. Seems like we're all going to Wulfheim."

Ragnvaldr notices the wounded child and swings down from the saddle to approach, taking out the potion Maddji gave him. "Here, drink this. It will help."

Having decided there are no close threats Egil waves away Ragnvaldr's attempt to give the child the potion and walks over to the wounded child to heal his wounds. "Save the potion for a more pressing time; I still have plenty of Ullr's blessing to spread around."

"Ah, more healing touches, Egil? Very well. I was unsure if your powers might have been spent." Ragnvaldr puts the potion away and remounts.

The wounded child recovers. "Thank you," he gasps to Egil.

"Does anyone else require healing?"

Ragnvaldr is still moving stiffly from the fight with the marauders.

Dagny looks down at her leg, which has a clearly evident bite mark. She just shrugs. "Don't go to any trouble for my sake."

Egil heals Kylfa, Dagny and Ragnvaldr.

"You say that there is safety to be found in this Wulfheim?" Hróar asks. "Or at least, shelter from the frost and blizzards?"

Kylfa grunts upon being healed, still watching Hróar.  "Mm.  Shelter, that's so.  But for a Troll-kin, safety I cannot say."

Hróar shrugs. "I know little of these lands. But I am no stranger to threats and challenges from 'pure' bloods. My kin has always been reviled, back in Thule and also everywhere I've been since leaving my land of birth."

"Well I guess we're all going to Wulfheim," Dagny says.

Ragnvaldr, having received his healing, rides cautiously back over to Kauko. "The fray is done, lad. Bring the sleigh, let's rejoin the others."

Kauko nods, and whistles to the reindeer. They begin moving once more.

"Trollkin, you say you come from Thule?" Egil asks. "What brings you such a distance, to troubled lands no less?

Hróar turns to Egil. "I would not expect you've heard any news from the island. I can tell you though, that it is doomed. Drowning in chaos as the men turn to banditry and forsake their laws, drowning in snow as the merciless blizzards fall from the sky. I did wisely to leave while I could, I think." He pauses. "Hróar is my name. You should know that much, now that I've made battle by your side."

"I am named Egil. If you are willing to hunt the wolves with me, come to Wulfheim with us."

"Hunting wolves would be good. There are too many of the beasts now. And some of them are... twisted, like these ones we slew."

Kylfa nods, takes a final cursory sniff of Hróar, and walks back to his horse.

"You know, Kauko, sometimes I wonder if there are any normal folk left," Ragnvaldr says. "It seems I am ever surrounded by witchcraft these days."

Kauko smiles. "Did no one tell you it's the end of the world? Many things that once were strange will soon become commonplace."

Dagny just chimes in, "Neat trick."

Ragnvaldr shrugs and gives the boy a wan smile. "Maybe you didn't notice, but your lightning missed. My axe did not."

He frowns. "I am not yet... I need more practice."

"Make you a deal," Dagny offers. "You teach that to me, I'll teach you a few things."

He considers. "I'm not sure I know how to teach you that. The power came from... inside me. But I'll try."

"You'll be alright Kauko. I might not understand your ways, but let us just say they are not exactly hateful to me." Ragnvaldr eyes Dagny as he speaks

"Well, that's good news. I'd hate to be your enemy. I saw what you did to those wolves." He spits. "Accursed creatures. The Warpriest spoke true. They should be tracked down, and extinguished."

Kylfa mounts his horse with some difficulty, nearly falling off the other side before righting himself.  As he unstraps the shield from his arm, he says to nobody in particular, "Let us go."

Hróar swipes his axe in the snow to clean the blade from excess blood, rests the large weapon on his shoulder, and makes to follow these people to Wulfheim.

Ragnvaldr gives Hróar a cautious nod of greeting as they rejoin the others. "Nice axe."

Dagny shrugs and rides on, next to Ragnvaldr. "You know, it occurred to me, you've done me an honor I haven't repaid."

Ragnvaldr raises an eyebrow to Dagny "What honour?"

Dagny holds up her axe. "This has been bloodied enough times... it deserves a name. What about Ragnvaldrok? Seems fitting, end of the world and all."

Ragnvaldr laughs. "Aye, maybe that would fit."


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Re: The Fimbulvinter Saga
« Reply #32 on: March 23, 2015, 02:41:37 PM »
IC: Fitt XXVI: Proposals
You return to Wulfheim with Finna, Agmundr, and the children.  The hill-town's gates open, welcoming you - but Hróar is stopped by the Jarl's Hirdmenn. "Who or what is this... thing?" one of them demands, looking the warrior up and down.

Hróar grins. He expected as much.

"He's with us," Ragnvaldr says.

Dagny doesn't bother to say anything.

Egil brings his horse around to the guards. "He's a guest; he has slain the wolves of the Ironwood."

Kylfa ignores the entire conversation and waits patiently.

"I am Hróar, from Thule. A mighty warrior and a... medicine-man of some skill."

"Hmph, very well. So long as Fritjof's killer and champion of Wulfheim'll vouch for you, Hróar, I suppose you can come in."

Ragnvaldr spits at the mention of the Nithing Fritjof.

Hróar smiles slyly and nods at the guard. His tail worms under cover of his clothes, so as to not draw undue attention.

You enter Wulfheim. Repairs to the mead-hall are proceeding well, but the walls still need some work.

Ragnvaldr turns to Hróar and says evenly, "If you turn out to be a spy, I'll cut off your head."

"I've nothing to fear then. I serve no chief nor king, and know naught of local quarrels."

"We should take... Katla... to the Gothi."

Dagny's horse disintegrates beneath her and she flops down in front of the mead-hall.

"It may be too close to dark to go to the troll-camp now," Kylfa muses.

"And after the day we've had I'd rather not," Dagny says.

"I think we should rest this night," Egil says, wearily.

"Yeah, let's go to the Gothi, and then I don't know about you, but I'm going to get fucking drunk."

Ragnvaldr nods solemnly. "Yes. Drunk." He looks exhausted.

Hróar startles at Kylfa's words. "You speak of a troll-camp? Do you mean the tribe of Thrivaldi you spoke of earlier?"

"That is so."

"That is interesting. I didn't know men made much business with my kin."

"Mm... I wrestled once with their chief, to win back a possession of Dagny's.  And at present, I have business with their leather-worker."

"Perhaps I should travel to that camp myself. It might be a more hospitable place for me than this town of manfolk."

"Unless you enjoy dark sorcery, I would think not," Egil points out. "The trolls are cannibals and worse."

"Dark sorcery? People always tell such tall tales about my kind. I admit, not all of them are unfounded – but much are nothing but lies to bedevil us."

"We should speak of this, perhaps," Kylfa mutters to Hróar in Shamanic, testing whether he knows it.  "Let us wait on this matter until tomorrow."

Hróar responds in Shamanic: "Indeed. We should speak, you and I. Tomorrow it is, then."

Ragnvaldr leads the way to meet with Brúnn.

You find Brúnn at the Jarl's keep.

The Gothi tends to the wounds of those warriors injured during Fritjof's attack.

Ragnvaldr says bluntly "Brúnn... Katla the Shieldmaiden is dead." Overcome at speaking the fact aloud, he sheds a tear despite himself.

Brúnn looks up in shock. "What? Katla, dead? She seemed... invulnerable. I had seen her fight, more than once. How could this come to pass?"

"Ingjuld One-Eye... he had risen from the dead, and returned to hunt her down."

Dagny shrugs. "She fought like she was. But nobody's invulnerable." She sighs, sniffing a bit herself. "Is there anything you can do?"

Brúnn puts his head in his hands. "No. Raising the dead is beyond my power. I wish it were otherwise, but if the gods have seen fit to take her... well, rest assured that she will have a place of honour in Odin's hall."

Dagny gives Ragnvaldr a cold glance. "You know what that means, right?"

Ragnvaldr looks askance at Dagny.

Dagny caresses his axe lightly, and then her own. "Only one way we'll ever see her again. We have to win our places there, too."

Ragnvaldr puts an arm around Dagny, at first gingerly as if expecting to be burnt, but then more firmly. "We shall.... we shall. We should give her as great a funeral as these mean times allow."

The Jarl appears, the crippled lord drags his withered leg behind him, refusing the aid of his servants. "A great funeral she shall have," he says. "Once I gave Katla an heirloom of my house, a ring of power. Now I shall extend to her a similar courtesy. She shall be buried amongst my kinsmen, in the barrow of Clan Wulfgar."

"Brúnn, we must speak," Egil says to his fellow Gothi. "There are a group of Kvenlanders who will wish to join Wulfheim."

Brúnn looks to Egil. "Kvenlanders, you say? How many? And why would they seek Wulfheim?"

Dagny leans into Ragnvaldr, seeming almost... comfortable. But only for a moment. At the Jarl's words, she speaks up. "On that note."

Kylfa closes his eyes, humming to himself quietly as the others converse.

"Many, and because I told them too. We are sitting idle at Wulfheim too long. We must make it more than it is, a bastion that will withstand the end times.

Brúnn nods. "Perhaps we could meet. There is little room for them here, but some arrangement might be made."

"Normally I'd say the dead should be honored and such," Dagny says. "But these are troubled times. I believe Katla's ring and sword will continue to defend Wulfheim even though she no longer can. May we take them?"

"She had two swords," Ragnvaldr says. "She should go to her grave with one, at least. It is only proper."

Dagny nods. "Styrkr, then. The flame-sword has power within it... power that can defend us still. And you should wear the ring, to keep you safe."

The Jarl considers. "She was your companion. She should be buried with whatever treasures you see fit to leave her with."

Later that night, the Jarl makes good on his word and prepares a funerary feast.

One of Wulfheim's champions has fallen, and the settlement mourns. Though the feast must be modest in size - already the provisions of Wulfheim are beginning to thin, despite the abundance of aurochs-meat Katla herself helped bring to the hill-town - it promises to be worthy of the valiant warrior. You gather now in the Jarl's hall, the wind outside howling like a ravenous wolf, hungry for the flesh of men.

The Jarl, his Thegn Starkad, and the Gothi Brúnn stand at the high table, where a place of honour has been set for Katla's companions. In a corner, Helga, daughter of Vatnar, works to weave a wall-hanging recording some of the shield-maiden's deeds: the slaying of Ingjuld One-Eye in a holmgang, the cleansing of the sacred grove of Dark Elves, the battle with the Wild Hunt, and the capture of Fritjof the Blackhearted, to name but a few.

Horns of funeral ale are being passed round to all in attendance at the keep. Most of the town are gathered to honour the fallen warrior.

Ragnvaldr has bags under his eyes. His grief weighs heavy upon him, and he has not felt able to rest since they returned to Wulfheim.

Dagny's off getting drunk, as promised.

Outside, Sjack approaches the gates of the ill-fated town, haggard from a long journey...

Sjack looks at the gates of Wulfheim, sighing in relief – Made it. Hope we're not too late –  and approaches.

The guards - tired-looking men in chainmail, armed with atgeirar - greet you warily. "Who would enter Wulfheim at so late an hour?" one demands.

"I am Sjack. I have travelled far to reach your town, with a warning for your Jarl."

The grey-haired guard at the gate eyes you with suspicion. "Is that so? A warning of what?"

"Death. Death and an approaching army, just a couple weeks behind my path."

The guard shifts. "The Blóðbards? We know of Ivar's host." He spits contemptuously.

"Worse than Blóðbards. Please, I must get warning to your Jarl...or at least a chance to rest and dine."

The guard narrows his eyes. "Very well. You may enter, though know that we keep to the old ways here in Wulfheim, no matter how savage this darkened world grows beyond our walls. You'll find the Jarl in the keep, at the top of the hill."

Sjack nods gratefully. "Thank you kindly." He enters and makes his way towards the keep, keeping his eyes open.

You pass the gates into the snow-filled street, strangely deserted. Torches flicker in the town, many clustered at the steps leading up to the keep of timber and heaped earth at the settlement's centre.

Meanwhile, in the Jarl's keep, he Jarl proposes a toast in Katla's name, while Brúnn offers a prayer to the Valkyries and Odin to accept the warrior into Valhalla. Tales are told of Katla's many heroic deeds. Those who wish to honour the shield-maiden with their words are welcome to speak.

Ragnvaldr slumps at his place at the high table, eyes glazed with ale and sadness.

Kylfa sits stone-faced at the feasting table, his drink untouched.

Sjack draws his cloak closer around him to shut out a chill deeper than that of the air. It seems that misfortune has struck here as well. He continues to the keep.

You arrive at the doors to the keep. The guards admit you readily - there seems to be a gathering in progress.

Hróar seems much more into the drinking part than the mourning part. Though he didn't know this shield-maiden, he feels grateful of being allowed to attend.

Sjack gathers around the edge of the gathering, listening. He does not wish to interrupt the proceedings.

Sjack, you spot several of your former companions in the hall, including Ragnvaldr and Kylfa. It sounds as if someone has died - a great warrior, judging from the sound of things.

Sjack's face brightens slightly, although it becomes somber as he hears of the death, and heads towards the familiar faces.

Dagny, you notice that Thordis, the widow, is in attendance. Clearly Starkad has not yet arrested her.

Dagny staggers drunkenly over to Thordis. "What are you.... what are you doing here?"

Thordis looks up at Dagny, an eyebrow raised. The handsome widow gives you a thin smile. "Ah, Dagny was it? Thank you again for your help with that little fire."

"Yeah, no problem."

"I was saddened to hear of your companion's passing. She was a brave woman."

"Yeah... brave." Dagny forgets what she was going to say and goes to look for Starkad.

The Thegn drinks at the high table, at the right hand of the Jarl, Dagny.

Dagny drunkenly ambles over to him.

Starkad looks up from his drink, his expression sombre.

"Hey... why's she here?" She points over to Thordis. "I thought you were gonna arrest her."

Starkad nods. "Aye, we still plan to. In fact, I am planning to send some of my men to search her home while the feast proceeds. Once we confirm your story, we will take her into custody here at the keep, to await questioning on the morrow."

Ragnvaldr looks up at Sjack's approach, surprised to see him again. "You still alive, then, boy?"

Sjack stands there, as thin as he was when he left, his face still unbearded, not even a hint of stubble. His clothing is more worn than it was when he left, and he looks exhausted. "And so are you, it seems. It's been some time." He offers a hand with more confidence than he had when they last met. "I just got back, so am painfully unaware of what has transpired. Who has fallen?"

He takes another quaff of ale. "If you wish to assist them, your help would be welcome."

"Uh.... remember the Fritjof thing? Your security here is shit."

He smiles grimly. "We have not enough men," he says. "I have left guards at the palisade, and I am watching her closely here. Do you think she plans something?"

"I dunno... but yeah... I'll help. I can get Ragnvaldr too... if you want..."

Starkad nods. "If you wish. We can handle it, if you would rather grieve Katla with us here."

Dagny shrugs. "Katla wouldn't have wanted us to sit around crying. If there's a fight to be had, she'd want us to have it."

Starkad wipes his beard. "That is the truth," he says to Dagny. "Let me know when you want to leave. We'll search that she-wolf's den together."

Dagny nods, walking in a not too straight line back over to Ragnvaldr.

Ragnvaldr clasps Sjack's hand and gestures for him to take a seat, grunting something drunken and incomprehensible under his breath.

Sjack takes the seat.

"Who has fallen? Katla. Katlas is dead." Ragnvaldr takes a long draught of ale and passes it to Sjack.

Sjack looks striken. "No." His voice is barely a whisper. "What...what happened?" He takes the drink gratefully.

"There was a man she slew in a Holmgang - if he deserved to be called a man. A Blóðbard raid-leader, a cruel man who wore his victims' skin as a cloak. Ingjuld One-Eye. She carved off his head. It was a great fight. But black sorcery brought him back, and he craved revenge. He got it, though we struck him down and had him burnt that he may never rise again to trouble us."

Sjack closes his eyes for a moment and looks away, trying to get his grief under control. "I...I am sorry to hear it. She was...she was a warrior beyond most, and a good soul as well. Not enough of those these days."

Hróar notices Sjack, mostly because he happens to be drinking near Ragnvaldr. He does not speak, but acknowledges the beardless man with a disturbingly wide, tooth-baring smile.

Sjack notes the unknown man with a slight nod. He is still in shock from the news.

Kylfa drums his fingers on the table, looking at the ceiling.

Ragnvaldr nods "Aye, a warrior beyond compare." He takes another drink and turns to Sjack. "And what of you? Where have you been since we parted ways?"

Sjack shakes himself, clearing his head. "I have been far in wide. I, I came with...with grave tidings. An army approaches, and it grows with every passing day."


"Worse. Aptrgangar. The Again Walkers."

Hróar empties a drinking horn and eagerly grabs another one from the nearest serving-maid. He grunts as he hears the mention of aptrgangar. "Abominable dead-without-rest? You bear ill news indeed, boy."

"How many?" Ragnvaldr asks. "How soon will they be here?"

"No sooner than two weeks. When I escaped them, there were at least five hundred of them, though I could not take time to count them - and they are swelling their ranks as they travel."

Ragnvaldr gives a humourless smile "Ah, nothing to worry about then. A hundred each should do it, it will be easy enough."

Sjack lets out a pained bark of a laugh. "Should be easy enough, you are right."

Kylfa grunts.

Hróar, the nearest serving maid turns out to be Sigrid, the red-haired ex-thrall of the Thrivaldii, as Gerturud is helping to furnish the feast with mead. She gives you a friendly, even flirtatious smile - until she notices the colour of your eyes, your other Trollish features. She shudders after handing you another horn.

Sjack turns to the grunt. "Kylfa. Forgive me, I did not mean ignore you." He gives an apologetic semi-grin, the best he can manage as he processes the news.

"Mmm."  Kylfa scratches his beard, not seeming at all offended.  "Hello again."

"Hey, you wanna sit around here and cry, or you wanna do something?" Dagny asks.

Ragnvaldr turns to Dagny "What is to be done?"

Dagny leans in close and mumbles something in his ear.

Ragnvaldr nods and rises. "Lead the way."

Sjack looks at Dagny, his eyebrows furrowing. "And hello again to you. It has been...too long."

Hróar empties the new drink with increased fervour, wiping the foam off his beard on the hairy back of his hand.

"How long did you say, until this army is here?" Kylfa asks.

"Two weeks hence, at earliest. It depends on how much they are slowed down by opposition - though I did not seem much that would stall them overlong."

"Mm.  Strangely, then, not our nearest problem."

"Two weeks.... what?" Dagny exclaims. "Fuck."

"Such beings of rotted flesh have no place in this world," Hróar growls. "The dead should remain dead, that is the true way of things."

"Someone should have told Ingjuld that." Ragnvaldr spits at the mention of the One-Eye

"I understand this Ingjuld walk no more, though?"

"No more, you're right Hróar. Friend Kylfa saw to that."

"Mm." Kylfa rises.

"It only shows that what was killed once and returned, can be killed again. For good." Hróar smiles, showing sharp teeth.

Sjack looks at Dagny again, clearly baffled as to her presence. He starts slightly at Hróar speaks. "There are more pressing matters than an army of the dead?"

Dagny shrugs and tries to get Starkad's attention.

Starkad notices Dagny and cross the hall towards her. "Ah, I see one of your old companions has rejoined us," he greets Sjack.

"He brings bad news, Starkad," Ragnvaldr says. "The Jarl should be told."

Dagny looks at him closely. "Oh... you. I remember you now."

Starkad's expression darkens. "Yet more ill-tidings?"

"I fear so," Sjack says. "I did wish I had better news to give you this day. You must tell your army approaches, different from Ivar's forces."

"Another army? From whence? The Eyði?"

"I do not know from whence they came, save from beyond the realm of death that would not keep them; I know them for what they are – Aptrgangar. Coming from the West, about two weeks behind me."

"Again-Walkers... we had heard rumours of them, but did not know that such a force was so close at hand."

Sjack glances at Dagny. He's...not sure why the Barmaid is even here, only that she is and that she is quite drunk fromt he looks of it. "They are about five hundred strong, perhaps more, when I left them."

"Dagny, I will tell the Jarl of this at once. Then we can see to our... errand."

"Yeah, sure." Dagny flops down in an empty chair nearby.

Ragnvaldr sits next to Dagny and resumes drinking until it's time to go to work.

Sjack turns to Dagny. "Forgive me. I thought I knew you - you have the look of the barmaid I knew before I left - but I must be mistaken."

"No, that's me. Or was me. Lot of shit has happened."

Sjack nods, looking confused. "Of...course, it would have had to."

Starkad returns momentarily. "We must speak more of this foe. But first other matters call to our attention." The Thegn gestures to Hróar and Sjack. "Are these fellows trustworthy?" he asks Dagny quietly.

Dagny shrugs. "No idea."

"Hmm. Perhaps you and Ragnvaldr should come alone. And the Kvenlander. Unless you can vouch for these others I would not involve them."

"Sjack can be trusted, I think," Ragnvaldr claims. "He is a skinchanger, but we have stood together before in battle. I would trust him."

Sjack gives a smile of thanks to Ragnvaldr.

Hróar mutters barely audibly. "A skinchanger, hmm?"

"Very well. And the wild-man?"

"Dunno anything about him," Dagny says,

"The wild man we only met today," Ragnvaldr says. "He helped us against the wolves, but beyond that who can say?"

"I see. I leave it to you. I go to gather my men; we shall meet at Thordis' house shortly."

Sjack looks alert, and as the Thegn departs, turns to ...halfway between Dagny and Ragnvaldr, not sure whom he should ask. "What is the danger?"

"A traitor is to be arrested, Sjack," Ragnvaldr says. "It may be a simple thing, or it may prove perilous. We shall see how it unfolds."

Hróar shrugs. "If there's battling to do, I'll rend limbs with my axe. Won't even ask for pay – it's my calling, you see."

Ragnvaldr gives Hróar a grim smile "There are ever limbs to be rended, friend."

"It's probably something we can handle without a bunch of random fuckheads tagging along."

Ragnvaldr raises an eyebrow at Dagny "Is that so? I thought you wanted my help? I'll stay here in the warm, then."

Dagny rolls her eyes at Ragnvaldr. "You know what I meant."

Sjack looks between the two. "I see." he looks over at Dagny, and nods to himself, as if he suddenly reconciled two things he couldn't quite hold true as both being fact.

"I wonder why the Jarl hasn't done it himself," Kylfa grumbles.

"The Seidr-woman has a sharp tongue," Hróar  observes. "Sharp like a good blade." He says this in a manner that sounds like a compliment.

Dagny says, "It's something WE," she points at herself and then at Ragnvaldr, "can handle without a bunch of RANDOM FUCKS," she points to Hróar and then Sjack, "tagging along."

Ragnvaldr laughs aloud - it seems Dagny has managed to banish his grief for the moment.

Kylfa picks at his teeth.

Sjack looks at Kylfa, wondering which category he falls into.

Hróar chuckles, evidently amused by all this

"Come on then, let's go," Ragnvaldr says.

"Beard man, you can come or you can be a random fuck. That one's your call."

"I guess I'll follow you," Hróar says. "Just in case there's battle to be done."

Sjack cracks a smile - the first once since he arrived. "I'll follow along as well, in case a random fuck could be useful."

"What are you going to do?" Kylfa asks. "Kill the woman and her guards?"

"Why the fuck are you people acting like you were given a choice?" Dagny points. "Sit down. Stay here. Fuck off."

Ragnvaldr puts a hand on Dagny's shoulder "Let them come. If they cause trouble, you can always order me to kill them, eh? It'll be alright."

Dagny grabs at her forehead. "Whatever. I'm too drunk to deal with this shit."

Kylfa rises from his seat.  "Mm."

"Some random fucking every once in a while can be refreshing. Don't you think so, smoothcheeks?" Hróar laughs and wink as Sjack.

Sjack furrows his brow, and gives an appreciative not to Ragnvaldr. At the mention of Smoothcheeks, his face contorts, for a moment, into pure rage before he smooths it out. "Of course." His voice is cold.

"Hey now, don't get uptight. Haven't heard your name, so what else should I call you?"

"I am Sjack. Forgive me, for I will stop being such in a moment." Sticking to the shadows, he begins to ready a shift, preparing to vanish into the shadows once he does.

"Name's Hróar." He replies quickly, watching the stranger slink away.

Verjartrix nods. Not his fault... he didn't know

You step outside, into the cold and darkness. Not far from the keep, Starkad and three of the Jarl's men wait for you, near to Thordis' house. One carries a torch; all are well-armed with polearms and short blades. Starkad carries his heavy axe.

Ragnvaldr takes out Dagnöskur as they walk.

Unlike most homes in Wulfheim, Thordis' house has two storeys. Thralls in iron collars and a handful of mercenaries armed with spears and polearms serve as guards. Apart from the longhouse itself there's also a pantry, an outhouse, and a small workshop of some kind, all ringed by a wooden fence.

Kylfa sifts in his hide pouch for charms and leaves, whispering unintelligibly.

Dagny looks around. "So we can just go in this time, right?"

Starkad gestures for you to follow. "Let us speak to the guard. He would be foolish to resist us."

Kylfa casts Bull's Strength and Longstrider on himself while the others prepare.

Hróar blesses his axe.

Verjartrix sticks to the dense black shadows around the house.

Dagny stands next to one of the guards, with her own axe drawn.

"You, man," Starkad says to the guard. "By order of the Jarl we are to search this estate. Stand down now."

The guard sneers, but inclines his head. "Go ahead," he says. He opens the gate, and the guards inside unlock the door for you. You may enter the longhouse if you wish.

Kylfa crosses his arms and follows the others, letting them take care of the search.

Verjartrix, you think you can hear conversation coming from the workshop.

Verjartrix slithers over the wall and heads towards the workshop.

Verjartrix, you can hear several men inside the workshop, and the clatter of weapons. There are at least three of them.

"Now?" one asks. "No." A second whispers. "Wait for the signal."

Verjartrix hisses quietly to himself and moves over to the door, staying to one side.

Ragnvaldr stumps into the building, casting a cursory gaze around the place

Dagny follows Ragnvaldr.

Hróar follows at a distance, close enough to observe what the others are doing. He's content to let them handle the investigative stuff, being only interested in the possibility of crossing blades.

You enter the longhouse, now familiar to some of you. A fire crackles in the hearth; several servants slumber on sleeping mats by the walls. A wolf-skin rug covers the floor near the entrance. A stair leads up to the second floor, while a side-door offers an alternative exit.

Dagny pulls the rug up.

Dagny, you find the splintered remains of the trapdoor.

"Follow this and you'll end up outside of town."

Starkad grunts. "It is as you said," the Thegn says. "We should search the rest of the house, in case we turn up anything else."

Ragnvaldr nods and heads for the stairs.

Kylfa waits at the door, sniffing the wind.

Verjartrix, a guard approaches your position. You are easily concealed in the tree. The guard raps on the door thrice, and it opens. Several men are gathered inside, bearing handaxes and daggers.

Dagny searches around the ground floor.

Dagny, the servants are awake and alarmed, but say nothing, huddling against the walls.

Upstairs, Ragnvaldr enters Thordis' chambers. Richly furnished with finely carved wooden furniture, the room includes such luxuries as a window, a bearskin rug, and a brazier for warmth. Jewellery is strung on the walls, and there are three large chests - two of wood, one of bone, perhaps whale or Dragon - stands against one wall.

Ragnvaldr goes over and opens the chests one by one, leaving the bone one until last.

Dagny joins Ragnvaldr upstairs if she didn't find anything on the ground floor.

Kylfa goes inside to the trapdoor and gets down on his haunches, listening for any sounds.

Kylfa, you hear nothing from below.

Verjartrix, the men are exiting the workshop, following the guard round the back of the longhouse. They wear the iron collars of thralls.

Verjartrix listens closely, waiting for the first sign battle is about to begin, preparing to strike the trailing thrall.

Ragnvaldr, Dagny, a search of the chests reveals an enormous quantity of gold, silver, and electrum coins, as well as hack silver.

Ragnvaldr looks at Dagny with a shrug and pockets a big handful of gold.

"You think they counted it well?"

"I don't much care."

Hróar goes to stand in by the main door.

Kylfa tries to find some kind of small stone or other similarly unimportant object, casts Light on it, and drops it down the open trapdoor shaft.

Dagny smirks. "I just wanna know how much they'd miss."

Kylfa, Hróar, you hear the side-door open; Verjartrix, the guard has unlocked it.

Kylfa stands up from the trapdoor he was investigating.

Kylfa, you saw nothing in the darkness below that you didn't glimpse earlier. As you stand, one of Thordis' guards and a thrall enters the longhouse. Meanwhile, Hróar, the gate-guard steps inside the gate and bars it!

Verjartrix strikes!

The thrall shrieks in pain as you lash out, uncoiling from the shadows! Surprised, his fellows turn, blades in hand. Ragnvaldr, you hear the thrall outside scream.

Ragnvaldr turns, frowning. "Hrönn's arse, what was that?" He hustles back down the stairs to investigate.

You return to the ground floor to discover two of Thordis' men inside, brandishing weapons.

One of Thordis' men charges Ragnvaldr with a blade in hand. His short sword catches your shoulder.

Meanwhile, the two guards at the gate turn to face Hróar with polearms levelled! You dodge one blow, but another clips your side, drawing blood.

Kylfa growls and thumps his cudgel on the ground, and it grows thicker and more gnarled.  He takes a few long strides to Hróar's side, taking his shield from his back as he does so.

Starkad advances with axe ready towards the man attacking Ragnvaldr. He keeps an eye on the other thralls, making sure they remain where they are. They look docile enough, pressed against the wall.

Hróar bellows a roar and assails the man in front of him. His face betrays a smile as he welcomes this opportunity to do battle.

Your axe wounds the man badly, slicing through armour and flesh to catch bone. He screams in agony, blood spurting from the wound.

Dagny rushes forward. Seeing the way blocked, she takes a flying leap off the side of the stairs.

You leap down nimbly, landing near Starkad. Even still slightly intoxicated, you manage to keep your feet.

Dagny looks around quickly, snapping her fingers and summoning a pit just outside the door, where the thralls are coming in.

You hear a muffled grunt as one of the thralls falls into the pit... followed by a sickening crunch as a second thrall falls after him, the first clutching at his clothing. They go down together. Groans emanate from the pit from the thralls within.

The one near the door charges towards you, handaxe raised. His weapon bites into your thigh, drawing blood.

Dagny leaps back, trying to parry with her own axe, but isn't quite fast enough.

Outside, you hear a man screaming something about a Linnorm, followed by another scream as he runs straight into the pit, unaware of it in the darkness.

The Jarl's Hird are battering at the gates.

Ragnvaldr ignores his wound and swings Dagnöskur two-handed in a swift arc, aiming for the throat of the guard before him. He scarcely feels any resistance as the Orm-bone axe rips out the man's windpipe. The guard falls to his knees, blood bubbling from his ruined neck, before finally crumpling to the floor and lying still.

The guards at the door continue to assail you, hacking and thrusting with their glaives. Kylfa, you take a glancing blow, but Hróar sustains a brutal wound to the torso.

Kylfa snarls and strikes back at the man in front of him with his club.

The man barely blocks your blow with his weapon! Starkad steps forward beside Dagny, weapon flashing. His blow goes wide - he must've had too much mead at the feast.

Hróar growls, spitting blood. "I'll slice your belly and tear out your guts!" He hisses at the man in front of him, a mad gleam in his eyes. He swings his axe diagonally. Hróar stays true to his words. As the guard steps back in a futile attampt to avoid the descending axe-blade, Hróar steps forward and chagnes the weapon's arc, cutting across the man's belly. Usign the momentum of this attack his hand lets go of the handle and grabs at the guts through the open wound, violently yanking them out in a glorious spray of blood and viscera! "You're next, boy!" Hróar growls at the other guard, who is standing by the ravaged corpse.

Dagny snarls and shoves the thrall away with one hand, then swinging Ragnvaldrok fiercely with the other.

Your axe hacks off the thrall's ear, spattering Starkad with blood.

"I yield! I yield!" the thrall cries, throwing down his weapon and backing away.

The Jarl's men batter at the gate, now bursting through!

Ragnvaldr takes one hand off Dagnöskur's haft and, stepping briskly over, delivers a hammering fist to the wounded Thrall's head.

The thrall goes down, stunned by Ragnvaldr's blow.

Ragnvaldr barks "On your knees, cur!" as he delivers the clout

Outside, the remaining warrior fighting Kylfa twists round to see the Jarl's men break through. With a yelp, he drops his weapon and flees round the side of the house, away from Kylfa and Hróar.

Kylfa looks down from the entrance at the recently entered guards, points with his club at the direction the guard just fled, and says with a deadpan calmness, "He went that way."

The Jarl's Hirdmenn head towards the outhouse where the remaining man has sought refuge. Starkad begins confiscating the weapons of the armed thralls. "As you have taken no lives you will be spared execution," he tells the thralls.

Ragnvaldr spits. "Never stood a chance..."

Hróar spits and makes to wipe gore off himself before realizign the futility of the attempt. He shrugs and enters the house, dripping blood on the floor - both his own and that of the guard he slew. "I see you've handled these ones fine."

Ragnvaldr nods to Hróar and wipes Dagnöskur clean on the tunic of the guard he killed.

The remaining guard of Thorids' is hauled out of the outhouse and disarmed by the Hirdmenn. The lot are bound and escorted to the dungeons of the Jarl's keep. "My men should already have taken Thordis into custody," Starkad says.

Ragnvaldr gestures at Dagny's wound "Are you alright? You're bleeding..."

Dagny looks down. "Bastard nicked me. I'll be fine."

"Good thing I tagged along - got a good fight out of it." Hróar grins, half out of pain and half out of satisfaction.

Sjack enters the side-door, looking quite unruffled.

Ragnvaldr shrugs "Not much of a fight, in truth. At least you enjoyed yourself, I suppose."

"What about you, you ok?" Dagny asks.

Ragnvaldr smiles shyly at Dagny's concern. "He scratched, like a child. It's nothing."

"I am not sure what they were after..." Kylfa scratches his beard after slinging his shield back on his back.  "What would they have done if they had killed us?  Fight all the jarl's men?"

"I wondered the same thing, Kylfa. What kind of victory did they hope to win?

Starkad turns to Kylfa. "I suspect they planned to throw our bodies down yonder pit, and then likely cover it with boards." He shrugs. "They were desperate, and foolish, and have paid the price for their crimes. As will their mistress." The Thegn rubs his eyes. "Shall we return to the keep? The feast should be almost over, but the Jarl will likely wish to speak to you, and thank you for your aid." Behind him, Hirdmenn are taking the treasure-chests.

"It was a stupid plan," Dagny says. "But they were stupid."

Kylfa shrugs his furred shoulders.  "Hm.  If they had done that, they would block their only way out.  Not very clever."

Ragnvaldr whispers to Dagny "Should we mention the hoard upstairs?"

Dagny is about to say something, but just deflates a little when she sees them carry it by.

Starkad grins at Dagny. "Worry not, rune-caller. I am sure you will be rewarded generously."

"Aye, back to the keep then," Ragnvaldr says.

"So this hole in the floor is a tunnel out the town?" Hróar asks.

"It is," Kylfa says. "Though I tried to bury the other end earlier, to prevent them from fleeing."

"I can probably help if you want to seal the tunnel permanently," Dagny offers. She smirks and walks back to the keep, a slight limp.

Ragnvaldr follows along.

"I see now why the Jarl would arrest the mistress of the house, then," Hróar notes.

"Mm.  The smell of Ivar's men was also in the tunnel."  Kylfa follows the others out.

Back at the keep, a few men and women linger over the last scraps of the feast. The Jarl sips from his horn of mead, raising it as you enter.

Hróar staggers along, bleeding a trail of blood.

Kylfa grunts at the blood-trail and castsCure Light Wounds on him.

"Thank you, bear-brother. That wound was growing a right nasty ache, it was."

"Wulfheim is far safer now that the she-wolf in our midst has been discovered," the Jarl says. "Thordis had quite a fortune which now passes to me, and I believe a reward for your deeds is in order; I would gladly grant each of you four hundred aurar for your aid."

Ragnvaldr simply goes and reclaims his seat at the table, looking around for another ale. "Generous of you, Jarl Hrothik. Thank you."

Ragnvaldr, Hegla hands you a horn of ale demurely.

The Jarl nods. "In addition, Thordis' hall, Hamdirskialf, the Seat of Hamdir, which the men call Vargynjaholl, has no owner. Having betrayed Wulfheim she has forfeited the right to hold property within its walls. Should you prefer it, her home could be given to you in lieu of a monetary reward. While you resided in this property you would become members of the Hird, guardians charged with protecting Wulfheim with your lives. With this hall would come Thordis' thralls - fosterlings and bond-servants both."

Ragnvaldr looks at Dagny. "What say you? The house is a fine one... But then you already have a house of your own, I suppose."

"Not a house like that."

Kylfa yawns. "It is a nice cave," he muses to nobody.

Hróar scratches his thick mane, wondering whether he is included among those so incredibly rewarded. "It looked warm enough. Haven't enjoyed a decent shelter for many moons, now."

"Given to who, exactly?" Dagny asks.

"To you, Dagny, rune-caller, and your companions - any who helped bring Thordis to justice, and of course those you call friends."

"That's the problem. I don't call all of my current companions friends."

"This is a choice you must make. If you would prefer, you may simply take payment from the gold gleaned from Thordis' hall."

"I'm not interested in payment, at least just to pile up the gold. If I wanted to do that, I'd have had plenty of chances. I want a place to work and resources to work with, and to not have to share a house with a bunch of random fucks I don't trust. Because that makes it a little hard to, you know, do that thing you asked. Defend Wulfheim."

Hrothik turns to Dagny. "I see, Dagny. You are mistrustful - as I once was of you. But I must be even-handed in my ring-giving. This is the way of things. Of course, you would be able to keep the house you currently reside in, as well."

"Jarl Hrothik, it is a fine offer you make, and I would in truth be honoured to serve in your Hird," Ragnvaldr says. "But as you know, I have sworn to kill Ivar the Perverse. Though it seems likely that defending Wulfheim and slaying him would go hand in hand, should it turn out otherwise, would you grant me leave from my duties to fulfil my oath?

The Jarl nods. "You need not stay in Wulfheim at all times, but defend it outside of the walls as well, if you deemed it necessary."

Ragnvaldr sits back, satisfied with the Jarl's answer, and sups his ale. He's happy to follow Dagny's lead, now that he knows he'll be free to go marauding off to Skrikborg if needs be.

Kylfa takes a deep breath and interrupts the previous conversation.  "I am pleased to hunt these foul men.  But I cannot be of this Hird, as I am already sworn as a guardian.  I cannot make such an oath twice."

"To whom have you sworn your service, noble Kylfa?"

Kylfa rumbles, "To the leaves.  To the birds.  To the great bear.  To the new thaw.  To no man; but it is my oath, nevertheless.  Ivar is an enemy to what I guard, as well, and for that reason we are allies; but my bond as servant, that is already given, and cannot be given to another."

"Your words are fair, Kylfa. I do not require you to enter my service, but I know you have little use of gold, either. What reward would you find fitting? Or you, Dagny? Is there some other compensation you would find more to your liking?"

"Do you still mistrust me?" Dagny asks.

"No longer. I have come to trust and respect you, rune-caller."

Dagny nods. "Well... thanks for that, at least. I want.... well, can we talk about this later?" She looks around at everyone standing around.

The Jarl nods. "Of course. You have fought long, and lost a companion. Take your time - you need not claim your reward yet."

Kylfa scratches his beard, and looks up at the ceiling rafters for a while, thinking as the Jarl and Dagny talk. He, grunts and looks back down from the rafters.  "What I seek is not yours to give.  It is not in Wulfheim, nor will I be, once these tasks are done.  But I will think on what you have said."

Hrothik Wulfgar bows slightly. "Then have my thanks, as reward for now, Kylfa. You are always welcome in my hall."

Kylfa bows back to him.

Hróar sits on the floor, stretching his arms. "It is not the way of the Hrímlanders to serve Jarls or Kings. But if I must bend knee to sleep warm and eat belly-full, it seems a good bargain in these harsh times. There's no-one that ever broken a leg from kneeling, I hear."

"I do not ask that you kneel, friend, but stand beside me in times of need," the Jarl says to Hróar.

"My calling, though, is to the spirit of battle. Always. If I can heed that calling in the hird then there's no trouble. If I must stay my axe, then all's lost."

"I would not ask you to stay your axe Hrímlander," he says to Hróar. "Save against the people of Wulfheim. You may quench your battle-lust to your heart's content beyond the walls."

Hróar closes his eyes and ponders. "It does seem that there's no shortage of foes to swarm the gates of this town. I hear of Blóðbards, and Again-Walkers. And now these treacherous people within the walls."

Hróar approaches Kylfa once they are both outside the hall. "What was it that you wished to tell me earlier?" He asks in Shamanic.

"Ah."  Kylfa taps his chin and thinks. "We are going to this Troll-camp.  Tomorrow."

"You spoke of dark sorcery in that place."

"Mmm.  Do you know of a thing called a Helblót?"

Hróar grunts. "I do. It is not uncommon for true trolls to engage in such things. And those bearing their blood sometimes follow their customs as well."

"The shaman of the Troll-chief is planning such a thing.  In a week's time.  They have many slaves, which are to be sacrificed.  It is a deal the chief has struck with the dead – and perhaps, through them, with Ivar."

"What is their intention, I wonder?"

"It is hard to say.  I do not think Thrivaldi, the chief, trusts his shaman much; but if he has agreed to this, I expect he has been offered some reward."

"Whether or not they are in league with the Blóðbard king, a Helblot would be a dire thing. If that beardless fellow is to be believed, again-walkers already menace this land."

Kylfa straightens, growing taller than his usual stooped form, and fixing Hróar with an intense stare.  "Any pact made by Thrivaldi and the dead, to be sealed in this hel-blot, is dangerous.  For all here, and all I protect.  This is why I will stop it, and this is what we will do tomorrow."

"They upset the proper way of things. The dead must return to the world, feeding the living. When the living feed the dead, the world itself is sickened."

"I would aid you in preventing the blót taking place."

"But how do you intend to accomplish this?"

"Mmm."  Kylfa returns to his normal posture.  "That is to be seen.  I have a draught that will make lies easy to believe; but I fear this alone will not be enough, and in any case the lies must be chosen carefully.  We do not have the strength to fight Thrivaldi and his tribe.  I believe we must convince the chief that his shaman deceives him, and that this ritual will not help the tribe, but destroy it. To be truthful, that may not be a lie.  I suspect strongly that Thrivaldi and his Trollspawn are just being used."

"A risky plan. But maybe there is no other way? Are there others whose help you might call on?"

"Yes, of the conclave, my brothers and sisters.  They are the ones who have made this draught, and they have been watching Thrivaldi and his shaman; but they... have limits.  And we are far-flung."

"A conclave. It is a shame I did not arrive here until now; I should have attended."

"Mm.  It is not strictly necessary that this be accomplished tomorrow; but I have other business there that day, so it would make sense.  The blót is to take place in a week or so."

"How should we best convince the chieftain of a treachery of his shaman? I would not think that mere lies will suffice, no matter how well told."

Kylfa frowns and examines Hróar.  "I do not... know you.  And another of my conclave was under Ivar's magic, so I have reason to be worried, and cautious.  It may be that Ivar knows of our plan, such as it is, which makes this even more dangerous; it may be he knows my face as well.  But you see our difficulty; I cannot trust no-one. "

Hróar nods. "If you trust none, you'll be be alone against the multitude of foes. If you trust too many, you'll be betrayed. Priceless is the wisdom to choose one's allies correctly."

"It is as you say.  But as I am already betrayed, by the brother I spoke of, I have less to lose than before.  My consolation is that Thrivaldi may not believe Ivar; I wrestled Thrivaldi once, he seems... hmm.  Fond of me, I suppose, as far as troll-chiefs are of wild men."

"It might be that I would be useful then, for while I am as much an outsider to their tribe as you or any man of this town, I am born from the ancient blood of the Troll-kind."

"Yes, I thought... perhaps your, hmm, heritage could be helpful, in some respect.  Though I am not sure how, exactly. I still think the weak spot in the foe's hide is the shaman.  Only the shaman, I imagine, knows this ritual; only the shaman knows magic at all, I should think; and Thrivaldi seems not to care much for her.  So my thoughts center there."

"Regardless, I'll follow you to the camp if you wish it," Hróar says. "Whether tomorrow or later."

After the last of the feasters has dispersed, the Jarl approaches Dagny. "You are troubled," he says – a statement, not a question.

Dagny looks at the Jarl. "You said you trust me. I ask that you do. I need to show you something, and have you trust that however it may look, I mean you no harm."

The Jarl's brow creases. "Very well."

Dagny takes a step back, pulling out her wand. She gestures a bit, and a mighty wall of wind forms around her. Within the wall of wind, a great gout of flame rushes out, deflected by the wall of wind. And finally, three earth elementals rise from the ground. She shouts over the noise. "THIS IS THE POWER OF THE RUNES! THIS IS WHAT I OFFER, IF YOU WILL LET ME HELP YOU!"

The Jarl stumbles backwards, eyes wide. "Odin preserve me..." he says. "Your skill in the Seid has grown strong!"

Dagny lets the chaos die down, catching her breath. "I ask for gold and wealth not out of greed, but because crafting the runes requires many resources."

The Jarl strokes his beard. "I see. Where a few hours ago I was near as poor as the paupers that come through my gates, now I have the means to aid you. How much gold do you require?"

"You can be even-handed in issuing rewards. I understand that. But I'm not asking for a reward, I'm asking for your backing. Make me more than a rune-caller. Make me Wulfheim's rune-caller."

"A Court Völva? Rune-caller of the Wulfgar Clan... there have not been such since the days of Randr Wulfgar. But you have earned such a title, Dagny. You have proved your worth to Wulfheim, and to me."

Dagny gives him her usual playfully irreverent salute. But then pauses, and follows it with an actual bow.

The Jarl thinks for a moment. "When you go to the barrow," he says to Dagny. "You should seek out a certain ring, once worn by a Seeress in the service of our clan, as a token of your new office."

Dagny nods. "Thank you. I won't let you down."

"You will know it by the ruby set within it."

Dagny heads outside.

Ragnvaldr is kind of lingering about a little way off waiting for Dagny.

Helga approaches Ragnvaldr. "So. You may be joining the Jarl's Hird?" she asks.

"I suppose I may, Helga. It's up to Dagny really I suppose."

"I see. You have pledged your troth to her?"

"I have pledged to... do as she asks of me."

Helga looks at Ragnvaldr curiously. "So you are not to be wed, then?"

Ragnvaldr looks away awkwardly. "Well... I haven't thought about it. There have been.... other things...."

Helga smiles. "I just assumed – she bosses you about as if she were already your wife."

Ragnvaldr gives a little chuckle "Aye, she has a tongue on her..."

Helga shrugs. "The world grows dark. Fimblvinter will not soon relent. Marriage may seem folly in this age of wolf and wind, but why wait for the sun to go out and the moon to be devoured? Surely we should claim what happiness we can while we still live."

Ragnvaldr nods slowly "You may be right, Helga. You may be right." He starts as Dagny comes into view, then goes to greet her.

Helga bows and returns to the keep.

"Guess who is now the official Rune-Caller of the Wulfgar clan?" Dagny asks.


Dagny smirks and punches him playfully. "Not bad for a shit-slinger, huh?"

"Not bad at all. Dagny, I had hoped... that is, might I stay at your house again tonight? It's late…" Ragnvaldr scratches his beard awkwardly

Dagny starts to walk home, then freezes. "I, uh..."

"I mean, sure. Yeah. Sure. No problem. My bed is always open to you. I mean, my house. With a bed you can sleep in."

Ragnvaldr smiles shyly "Your bed?"

"I mean I mean I mean..."

"No, it's your house. I will sleep wherever you think it best."

Dagny grabs at the side of her head. "Fuck, I'm still half drunk, and it's been a Hel of a day."

"Listen, Dagny, I was just talking to Helga. She thought, er. Well, it's funny, she said you... well, she thought you act as if... you were my wife."

Dagny shakes her head quickly. "No, no, no. I didn't mean to... I mean I..." Dagny takes a deep breath. "Fuck, Ragnvaldr. Maybe she's got a point. The world's ending."

"Dagny, I think in truth I am much more a coward than I may seem. It has been in my mind for sometime now, though I have been afraid to admit it - and even still am. But... I think... I mean, if you would not think it beneath you... It would please me if you would, in fact, have me as your husband."

Dagny's eyes get very wide and she just freezes for a moment. She lunges forward and throws her arms around Ragnvaldr.

"Is... that yes?"

Dagny pulls away. "Yes. That's yes. That's definitely yes."

Ragnvaldr composes himself. "Good. That's settled then. Now, we should get to bed, it's late and we have had a trying day."


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Re: The Fimbulvinter Saga
« Reply #33 on: April 13, 2015, 10:42:42 PM »
IC: Fitt XXVII: Honeytongue
The dawn comes late, turning the world to a twilight of red and grey. To the north, over the knife-sharp peaks of the Orm-Fells, sickly-looking storm-clouds swell like black buboes waiting to burst. To the south and west, the hills give way to the endlessness of the White Waste; to the east, the sun rises over the distant darkness of Ironwood to incarnadine the bone-pale lands beyond. The wind brings with it distant shrieks that might be the screams of men or carrion birds.

Dagny has been up for a while, and probably woke Ragnvaldr up too, with the incessant banging of metal on metal.

Ragnvaldr was also up early, having errands to do at the marketplace.

In Wulfheim there is a palpable feeling of suspicion. The discovery of Thordis’ treachery has made the townsfolk uneasy, to say the least. Neighbours eye each other with suspicion; utlendar and newcomers are watched with redoubled distrust. Provisions are once more beginning to grow meagre. Men and women boil bones for soup and catch rats to roast on open flames. The mead-hall, however, is almost fully repaired, with only a few scorched timbers and smudges of ash to tell of the conflagration that would have consumed it had it not been for the efforts of Kylfa and Dagny.

Hróar loiters near the Well of Joy, tending to his few belongings. A large owl perches on his shoulder, eyeing its surroundings and occasionally hooting.

Kylfa sits cross-legged in the snow outside the Well of Joy, humming quietly to himself.

Dagny looks rather cheerful, tossing and catching her throwing axe, now sporting a Dvergar rune on its blade that softly glows yellow when it's in her hand. She makes her way to the Well of Joy. She yells. "Red! Kid! You around?"

Sigrid, Getrud, Kelda, and others of the Well's staff are putting out new rushes. The owner opens the door, letting in a few customers thirsty for a mug of something strong to banish their fears and keep out the bitter cold.

Sigrid appears, Dagny. "Yes, mistress?" she asks.

Dagny peers around. "Repairs look good. You seen the kid around?"

"The Kvenlander child? I believe he is playing with some of the other children, down by the market."

"I hope he doesn't blow anything up. That scroll making any sense to you?"

"I've had but a little time to look at it, but I believe I am... well, it makes more sense than I had thought it would, once I started studying it in earnest."

Dagny nods. "Take a little time today to study it. Shouldn't be a huge mob of customers. And I still need those building stones now that the repairs are done, whenever you get around to that."

"Aye. I think our repairs here are nearly done, so I'll see to those stones."

Dagny nods again, patting her lightly on the shoulder. "Keep up the good work, Red."

Meanwhile, Ragnvaldr stumps back from the market, his tasks completed and his coin-pouch swelled. He wanders up to the keep to see what the others are up to.

Sjack awoke even after the late dawn, weary from days of hard travel followed by sudden grief and then battle.

Helga lays out a small breakfast for those who stayed at the keep – skyr, dried fish, and a morsel of salted aurochs-meat.

Sjack nods his thanks at the meal before beginning to eat, waiting for the cobwebs to clear from his head.

Ragnvaldr pokes his head into the hall. "Good morning Sjack. Where are the others?"

Sjack looks up at Ragnvaldr, taking a moment to sort his brain out. "Morn, Ragnvaldr. When I awoke they were not here; it appears they have gone, and did not leave word of where." He finishes the last bite of his food.

"Will you come to find them? I'm sure there will be some work or other for us today – that seems ever the way of things."

"Of course. Did you rest well?" Sjack gets up, following Ragnvaldr

"I spent a pleasant night." Ragnvaldr leads Sjack down into town, heading for the Well of Joy.

Sjack lets out a low chuckle.

Ragnvaldr seems a little uncomfortable with Sjack's amusement. It's hard to tell due to his thick beard, but he may be blushing slightly. "And yourself? Do you feel recovered from your journey?"

Sjack grins at him, but decides to let it drop for now. "Yes, although it wasn't until I had fed myself I felt like a human again."

Ragnvaldr grunts "Aye, an empty belly clouds the mind." Ragnvaldr arrives at the Well of Joy and steps inside.

"Ah, my best customer!" Gertrud says, welcoming Ragnvaldr back to the mead-hall.

Dagny sees Ragnvaldr and brightens, walking over and clasping his hand lightly and smiling.

Sjack follows Ragnvaldr, giving Dagny a smile and nod.

Ragnvaldr smiles back. "Good morning Shit-Slinger. What were you clattering about with earlier?"

Dagny twirls her axe. "This." She holds it so the faintly glowing Dvergar rune faces him.

Ragnvaldr's eyes widen "You worked this? Just this morning?" He reaches a finger out gingerly to touch the rune

Dagny nods. "I copied it out of the book."

"Huh. What does it do?"

Dagny tilts her head, indicating he should step outside.

Ragnvaldr does so

Sjack hovers, not sure if he should follow or not.

Kylfa still sits outside, humming.

Dagny peers around to make sure nobody's really paying attention, lest she alarm anyone.

As you leave you catch a brief glimpse of Nils, the mead-hall's resident Nisse, muttering to himself over a broken table. There's a creaking sound as the table repairs itself, splinters flying back together, nails flying back into place. Though a mottling of moss tells of the fey house-spirit's magic, the table is good as new. The Nisse then turns himself into a large grey cat and slinks off in search of breakfast.

Ragnvaldr braces himself to be alarmed.

Sjack watches Nils do exactly that, blinks once, then steps outside.

Dagny flings the axe, as she has done many times. However, as she raises her palm, the axe stops in midair, spinning and hovering. She directs it with a beckoning gesture to take a completely unrealistic arc straight up, and then back down into her hand.

"Very... impressive. Although I will admit, after seeing some of the magic you've worked, I'm not exactly... surprised."

Dagny smirks. "Anyway. I figure we'd better go back to shitty shit town. Beard man's got some armor coming, and there's stuff to do."

"Mm," Kylfa murmurs.

You hear what sounds like a child's shriek down at the marketplace.

"The Thrivaldii?" Ragnvaldr says. "Very well. Although one day soon I would see.... what was that?

Dagny sighs. "I wonder if the kid blew something up. It wouldn't surprise me."

"Should we go and see?"

Dagny nods and hurries to the marketplace.

Ragnvaldr was already moving as he asked the question.

Sjack turns his head that way, rushing to the market as well.

Kylfa trudges after them.

Near the market’s edge, Kauko stands with arms outstretched, three children staring at him in awe and alarm. The white-haired boy’s eyes glow a pale blue. Hovering before him, squeaking in protestation, is a large rat. It struggles, trying to free itself; Kauko twists his hands and it rotates in mid-air, twisted by an unseen force. Suddenly he wrenches his hands violently and the rat tears in two, blood spattering the snow. One of the children screams, and they all back away.

"See?" Kauko says. "Now watch! I can cook it too!"

Hróar moves over to see what's going on.

"Told you," Dagny says.

"Well, at least it's only a rat..." Ragnvaldr adds.

Kauko begins muttering to himself - another incantation. It looks like he's trying to conjure flames, Dagny.

Hróar mumbles, only mildly interested. "That kid's got talent, though I don't recognize his craft."

Ragnvaldr notices Hróar and waves a swift greeting, then turns back to what Kauko is doing.

As sparks begin to flutter from the boy's fingers Dagny speaks a Dvergar word, and the steam rising from his hands dissipates.

Kauko turns towards you, frowning, while the other children flee, clearly terrified.

"What'd you do that for? I was going to cook it."

Dagny steps in. "Kid, don't freak the fuck out of people. That's how you get your shit taken away and you end up working as a chamber pot emptier."

He seems confused. "Other people cook rats in the street. Why is a conjured flame so evil, when one struck with flint and steel is accepted?"

"Maybe it's not, but it scares people," Ragnvaldr says. "And people make foolish decisions when frightened."

"Very well. Is there anywhere I can practice without being hounded by superstitious fools?" As always, the eleven-year-old speaks as one far beyond his years.

Sjack lets out a snort of laughter. "I can sympathize with your plight, boy."

Kylfa grunts.

"Yeah, kid, welcome to my life," Dagny says.

Kauko looks the group up and down. "Off to slay more wolves? I might be of help."

"No, we're going to shitty shit town."

"What place is that?"

"Nowhere for a kid."

"This world is unfit for children no matter where one goes... but I suppose I must cede to your wisdom, teacher." It's hard to tell if the Kvenlander is being sarcastic.

Kylfa snorts at the child's words, loud enough for all to hear.

Sjack looks confusion. "I'm still not sure exactly where it is that we are going myself."

Dagny rolls her eyes. "Look, if you want to practice incantations, there's a giant cooking pot at the Well of Joy and the whole inside needs to be rune-marked."

"Hmm. It sounds like a worthy task. What sort of runes?"

Dagny grabs a stick and scrawls some Dvergar runes in the snow.

Kauko studies the runes intently.

Ragnvaldr wanders over to Kylfa. "So, we're going to see Thrivaldi again today, if I have heard right."

Kylfa scratches his nose.  "Seems so."

"Do you expect it to be a friendly visit?"

"I have not had a friendly visit there yet..."

Ragnvaldr chuckles "Friendly by Trollkin standards, shall we say then? Should I expect bloodshed?"

"That I do not know."

Hróar yawns. "Friendly or not, I will accompany the bear-brother to that place. Hopefully back here, as well."

Ragnvaldr waves Sjack over "We have a task out in the wilds today. Would you come with us? We may need your help if it goes badly We're going to a settlement of Trollkin. Friend Kylfa has to collect his orm-hide armour from them, but there is another reason for us going as well...

"Of course I'll help. And what would that other reason be?"

Dagny interrupts quickly. "The other reason is something you don't have to worry about."

Ragnvaldr lowers his voice and moves a little closer to Sjack "The witch-woman there, she is planning to do... something called Helblót. Dagny can probably tell you what that is, but it's bad. It would bring more Aptrgangar into this world. So, if we can foil her plans, we will."

Dagny opens her mouth a bit, and then just grips her forehead. "Seriously?" she mumbles.

Sjack blinks between Dagny and Ragnvaldr. "I'll be happy to help, of course."

Ragnvaldr raises his eyebrows at Dagny

Kylfa grunts. "If we are lucky we will have no need of you.  But do as you wish."

"Then I will come, and pray to the Æsir that I can be useless, since that would mean a peaceful resolution."

Dagny throws the stick into the snow. "Anyway. We'd better get going. You gonna be ok here, kid?"

Kauko nods. "I'll keep myself occupied."

"At least now, if something goes wrong, you'll know why," Hróar says,

"Time is wasting," Ragnvaldr says. "Let's be off."

Dagny glares at Hróar and then at Sjack. "Here's an idea, if you're some random fuck tagging along, you keep your mouth shut, and you stay out of the way or I drop you in a hole. You've seen me do it, you know I can."

Ragnvaldr frowns at Dagny. "Come now. Sjack at least is a friend."

Sjack takes a deep breath, and gives her a strained smile. "Of course, I am quite certain of your ability to moderately inconvenience me in this matter. I'm here to aid Ragnvaldr and Kylfa."

Kylfa grunts.  "I worry more about the child of yours than them."

"I'm not doing this for you," Hróar says. "Brother Kylfa told me of his plans, and I agreed to help him."

Sjack gives Hróar a smile. "You as well, although I've known them longer."

Hróar nods to Sjack

Dagny gives a sigh and starts on her way.

Ragnvaldr turns to Kauko before he goes "Stay out of trouble, lad. Scaring your enemies, but frightening your friends serves no purpose." He pulls his furs tight around him and follows along with the others, heading for the gate.

Once outside the gates, Sjack sheds his human skin for his reptilian form and follows.

Hróar raises a very hairy brow. "So that's what they meant by skin-changer." He notes.

Dagny casts Endure Elements after they step out.

Back into the wild to the west you ramble, over crags slippery with snow. The wind worries you like a wolf snapping at your heels, its icy bite inescapable. It makes its way through the series of ravines and defiles that fissure the foothills between Wulfheim and the village of the Trollspawn, hybrid get of the nine-headed Thrivaldi. Leafless trees claw at the sky like skeletal hands raised in faithless prayer to cruel, uncaring gods.

Hróar hums a jovial tune as he strides briskly forward. Varðmaðr soars silently over the barren treetops, watching them.

Dagny trudges along, not needing a winter coat or the like. Which is probably not the most bizarre sight in this group, even. So whatever.

You manage to shelter from the wind as best you can as you make your way through the hills. Presently, you come to a macabre marker: a pair of crucified skeletons leer down at you sightlessless from their wooden frames, their teeth gleaming in the reddish sunlight. The bones are gnawed and painted with the runes of the Jötnar. You have entered Thrivaldii territory.

Verjartix follows the others, attempting to move less noticeably when they pass the skeletons.

"Always a pleasant sight." Dagny contemplates the skeletons a bit too long apparently.

Sjack, the wind carries a snatch of crude Giantish speech to you, followed by the sound of a whip-crack and a whimper of pain. It came from somewhere to the northwest.

Sjack whips his head to the northwest. "I believe they can be found there. I hear a crack, pain, and the ssspeech of giantsss."

"Pain?" Kylfa asks.

Verjartix nods. "Yessss. Criesss of pain."

Ragnvaldr takes out Dagnöskur.

Verjartix begins heading that way.

"Well that's new," Dagny says.

Kylfa grunts.  "Take us there."

Dagny takes out Ragnvaldrok, too.

Hróar rests his axe over his shoulder

Verjartix looks at the others. "Not battle. Not that kind of pain. Whips. Sssuffering."

Ragnvaldr isn't trying to be stealthy, but is following at the rear so the others might approach unseen ahead of him.

Dagny makes a half-hearted attempt at stealth.

Verjartix moves forward, looking to scout ahead of the noise machine behind him.

You crest a low crag of snow-covered stone. Half a dozen men and women garbed in the matted furs of wolverines and wolves make their way across the hills, clutching axes and spears of bone and stone; their greyish pallor and war-paint marks them as Thrivaldii, and their leader has two monstrous heads. Several also have bows, and one carries a nine-tailed whip of corded leather she uses to periodically lash at three bound captives: bedraggled-looking men and women dressed in soiled rags. Their hands are tied, and they stumble frequently.

The Thrivaldii look up as you approach; the Trollspawn heft spears and draw bows.

"Easy, easy. We're just here to see your chief. We've got important stuff to talk about."

Verjartix observes this for a moment, then returns to his companions...and see they came regardless, letting out a hissing sigh to himself. He begins to circle around to be in place behind them.

"Ah yes," the leader snarls from one head. "The Great Bear and his companions," he says from the other. "You'd best travel with us. We're on our way back to the village and we'd hate for you to get lost in the hills." Both faces show their teeth in what might be a species of gruesome smile.

Ragnvaldr smiles back.

"Mm," Kylfa grunts.

A few of the warriors seem a bit shaken, but the leader is undaunted.

"Lead on, then," Ragnvaldr says.

Hróar looks the Trollbloods over curiously.

One of the Trollspawn begins sniffing in Hróar's direction.

Hróar likewise sniffs at him.

"You are of our kind," he says simply. "Yes?"

"I am. Though not from this land - I've traveled all the way from far Thule, at the edge of the world."

"What has brought you here?" the Trollspawn says, switching now to Giantish.

Dagny answers in the same. "We've got stuff to talk about with your chief."

The Trollblood leers at Dagny. "Yes, so you say," he says.

Hróar responds in Giantish. "Thule is no longer a place to call home. It's a dying land. I've come in search of lusher hills and woods, of more plentiful game."

Kylfa sniffs at the air.

Kylfa, you smell a whiff of smoke blowing down from the north. Looking in the direction of the smoke, where the Orm-Fells rise, you spot something large and winged gliding through the air, followed closely by a second shape. The two serpentine creatures quickly vanish behind a cloud. They were very distant – you had to strain your eyes to see them, but you are sure they were there. A moment later, a third shape, larger than the others, flits round a snow-capped peak in apparent pursuit. It too is swallowed by the clouds.

Kylfa grunts.  "A flight of creatures at the Orm-fells.  Dragons take to the skies today, I think."

"Drakkar? Close?" Ragnvaldr asks.

Kylfa stares back to the north.  "It seemed as if a larger beast was chasing the two.  Something else hunts drakkar today, perhaps."

"Curious. Can you tell if they are heading our way?" Ragnvaldr peers in the direction Kylfa is looking, eyes narrowed, as if he might be able to see something

Ragnvaldr, you see only cloud and the snowy peaks of the Orm-Fells.

Verjartix looks in the direction of the others.

"No, I don't think so," Kylfa replies to Ragnvaldr.  "But they are out of my sight now."

"Then we should turn to the task at hand. Maybe we will find out about the Orm-chaser another time."

Kylfa grunts and begins trudging back in the direction of the Troll-camp, regardless of whether these trolls are done talking or not.

Ragnvaldr starts to follow, then turns back as if remembering everyone else, to see if they're coming

Verjartix keeps his head turned half in the direction of the sounds as he follows.

Hróar walks on with Kylfa.

Dagny follows behind, too.

Ragnvaldr falls in next to Dagny.

The Thrivaldii press on into the hills, leading you deeper into their territory. A short while later, one of the captives stumbles, tripping over a rock, and slides tumbling down a hill. Thr Trollbloods cry out and turn to retrieve him. He comes to rest at the feet of those following behind: a wretched looking man, his hands frost-bitten.

Kylfa pauses.

"This group doesn't exactly have their shit together, do they?" Dagny comments.

Ragnvaldr stoops and hauls the man to his feet

He tries to meet your gaze, Ragnvaldr. "Please," he murmurs in Northspeech. "Please, help me... Cut my bonds, let me run. Please!"

Ragnvaldr tuts in disapproval at the man's condition and mutters under his breath: "Stupid Trollbloods, what use is a thrall with no hands?"

Dagny gives a rather frustrated sigh.

The hill-woman with the whip descends the hill slowly towards you. "Give the wretch to me," she says when she is halfway down.

Kylfa looks uninterested.

Ragnvaldr shoves the man towards the Thrivaldii

"Why do you even want this one? He's in terrible shape." Dagny asks.

Sjack moves closer, tensing.

"That is none of your concern," the whip-wielder says to Dagny.

"Look, asshole, I asked, so now it's my concern."

Ragnvaldr grins at that.

The woman halts. "You are here on our sufferance," she says, her yellow eyes narrowing. "We will do with this man as we please."

"I never said that you couldn't. Just asked what you were going to do. Fuck, I hate to see how you'd react if someone asked you where you got your shoes."

Kylfa resumes walking.

Ragnvaldr, laughing quietly, does likewise.

Hróar chuckles, but continues to trudge ahead.

The woman sneers, but says nothing more. She takes the thrall and pushes him forward, lashing him with her whip. Blood spatters the snow.

You approach the village at last, the massive Dragon-skull of its gate gaping wide, the wooden portcullis within that toothy maw lowered. The uneven wall of wooden stakes sheltering the village looks to have been scorched by flame of recent. The settlement of the Trollspawn is tucked into a cleft in the mountain, sheltering it on three sides from the otherwise unrelenting wind. You can see guards moving in the watchtower beside the gate; an arrowhead gleams for a moment in the dwindling light.

Verjartix watches Dagny and the slaver are going to move along.

Dagny continues, as well.

Verjartix follows.

Dagny shakes her head, speaking softly to Ragnvaldr. "I have a big problem with this shit, but it might blow the whole plan to start something now."

Ragnvaldr mutters back "The thralls? I thought we were planning to free them all anyway when the time's right."

Dagny nods. "Yeah, probably."

"Then wait till the time is right. She is an arsehole though, you're right about that."

A hunchbacked man with tiny pinkish eyes and greyish skin marred by old pox scars eyes you from the watchtower, a second head lolling over his chest, apparently lifeless. At a word from the two-headed leader he cranks a winch to open the portcullis.

Ragnvaldr, remembering it's origin, tries to keep Dagnöskur out of sight as they enter the village.

The village is just as squalid as most of you can recall. Thrivaldi’s hall dominates the ramshackle cluster of huts, grouped around the central cooking fire where many of the malformed hillfolk are gathered, eating hunks of charred meat. A blackened human corpse is spitted over the flames. Waves of a smoky, savoury scent waft towards you, competing with the awful stench of the cesspits and the tannery. To one side, the grotesque totems of the witch-hut grimace. You notice several scorch-marks on the ground, and one of the huts has been reduced to cinders. A deep pit lined with poison-smeared stakes can be seen not far from the fire, from which dull moans emanate.

Sjack realizes that sticking in the shadows will not continue working, joins the group like he's been there all along, assuming his human shape once more.

The Thrivaldii you travelled with herd their prisoners over to the stake-lined pit and lower them in, to join other captives.

Dagny slides up to Kylfa, speaking Álfari. "So, what's the plan? You go get the armour, I go snoop around the witch-hut, then we meet back here?"

Kylfa says softly to Dagny in Álfari when the time seems right, "Put the bottle in this when you are not watched," and hands her his empty clay jug.  "Yes, you have the right of it."

Ragnvaldr gestures to the evidence of burning. "What happened here?" he calls out to anyone who will listen.

One of the Thrivaldii looks up at Ragnvaldr. "Drake come," she says. "Burn hut, scorch ground. Hungry. Eat three men before we drive it off."

"Just one?"

"Another about. Brother and sister. Soon they mate, lay eggs."

Dagny mumbles, "Brother and sister? Fuck, you'd think they'd have some sympathy for their fellow inbreeders."

"I would have thought that old Nine-Head could best a young drake or two, no?" Ragnvaldr says.

"Chieftain was not here. Gone raiding."

Hróar allows his tail to fall into full view, wagging it left and right as he walks. The smell of the cooking flesh causes his stomach to growl a little. "Is he here now?"

She nods. "Yes, in hall." She points.

Kylfa walks off towards the leatherworker's hut, with the (somewhat foul-smelling) lion hide in the sack on his back.

Sjack chuckles again.

Dagny looks at Sjack. "You're good at sneaking, right? Sneak along. Ragnvaldr already told you the whole plan anyway, so it couldn't hurt."

Ragnvaldr sticks close to Dagny and follows her lead, realising he is actually entirely unaware of the details of the plan.

The hideous reek of urine and putrid flesh fills your nostrils as you approach the tannery, Kylfa.

Kylfa pokes his bearded head in.

Gnissa Hide-Smith labours, tanning what might be human skin or animal hide - you cannot be sure. She looks up as you approach. "You have returned, Bear. Have you slain the lion?"

Kylfa extracts the blood-crusted lion hide from his sack, and spreads it across the floor.  "It is done."

The Flayer of Beasts nods. "Your scales can be found yonder," she says, pointing with a clawed finger to a rack fashioned from aurochs-ribs. You see the midnight-black scale armour hanging upon it. "Did you, by chance, find Hidesplitter in that dread beast's den?" she asks.

Kylfa lifts the scale-suit with his hands and examines it. "I could not say," Kylfa says, examining the hide.  "Surely there were weapons in the cave.  But I trouble myself not with weapons."

She nods. "I will go myself and see if the axe can be recovered. At least my sons have been avenged. You have my thanks, Great Bear."

"You need not thank me; I have done what I promised.  As for the weapon, it may still be there, or perhaps my companions took it, or perhaps it was never seen."  He shrugs.  "As I said, I do not trouble myself.  I thought that the creature's death alone satisfied you." Kylfa, with little regard for privacy, sheds his bear-cloak and fixes the Dragon-hide to his body.

Gnissa seems unconcerned with Kylfa's nakedness.

Kylfa pounds his armored chest with a fist. "Mm," he grunts approvingly. "In time perhaps I will have that other Dragon-hide, to clothe a horse as we discussed - or, in fact, a bear of similar size.  But for now, this is all.  I thank you."

Gnissa looks Kylfa up and down approvingly, noting the good fit of the armour.

After saying farewell to the hideworker, Kylfa puts his furs back on over his armor, so not much of it - perhaps just some scales on his chest - actually show.  He then walks back outside.

Dagny goes to the witch-hut whether or not Sjack follows.

Sjack gives her a slightly incredulous look, then shakes his head and gets back into the shadows to follow Dagny, slipping back on his Linnorm-shape.

Sjack, you slip into the shadows behind a tent, doing your best to be stealthy.

Hróar, having no business with the tanner, stays with the rest of the group.

Ragnvaldr will follow along too unless given other instructions.

Verjartix will do the same, but sneakily.

Hróar tags along whether he's welcome or not.

Within the hut the three-eyed crone Skrikja Slit-Tongue hunches over a scroll of tanned flesh, muttering to herself. Amidst the incense-smoke you discern a young, rather muscular Trollblood lolling on a pile of furs, langourous and vacant-eyed. Grisly totems dangle from the ceiling and stuff the crude shelves. Something simmers in a cauldron to one side.

Dagny does a bit of a double take. "Getting some use out of that spell huh?"

Hróar poking his head in the doorway glances at the ensorcelled Trollblood and grins slyly.

Dagny quickly shuts the curtain in Hróar's face.

Hróar staggers back. "Hey!"

"Anyway, we were back in town, thought I'd pop in."

"Of course!" the witch cackles. "Do you wish to exchange further knowledge?"

"Sure. You know, catch up, swap some spells, find out how the ol' Helblót was going."

"Soon we shall have enough sacrifices. When the red moon rises we shall bring them to the Trollhörgr, and the gate to Hel shall be opened, praise be to Loki's Daughter!"

Ragnvaldr wanders over to the young Trollblood and peers at him suspiciously.

Dagny pats Ragnvaldr on the back. "This is Ragnvaldr." She adds, in Dvergar, as if to pretend she doesn't want Ragnvaldr to hear, "I've got my own incantations that work well for me, too, as you can see."

She looks Ragnvaldr up and down. "A strapping fellow."

Ragnvaldr looks up as he's patted, and turns to the witch as if unsure what to say. "Er... I... greetings."

Dagny sits down. "And that's what I wanted to talk to you about. You ever consider that something might be up with that whole plan?"

Ragnvaldr frowns.

Her eyes swivel one after another towards Dagny. "What do you mean?"

Dagny coughs a little. "Excuse me, the going here was a bit rough. I wouldn't impose on you, though, so let me just have a drink I brought with me." Dagny quickly gulps down a swig of the elixir. "Anyway. This whole Helblót thing that you've got going. It's an, uh, awful nice thing you're doing... but did you ever consider what might happen after it was done?"

"Of course," she says. "The legions of Hel will march forth, and we shall be richly rewarded for our aid in their conquest of Midgard."

Ragnvaldr just stands around looking ... practical.

Dagny nod nods. "Right right, legions of Hel, rich reward, sure. But who is the 'we'?"

She frowns. "The Thrivaldii, children of the Nine-Headed! He will be restored to a place of prominence in Jötunheim, and I shall be his advisor, his shamaness. From Utgard we shall rule over many of those who once cast him from the Giant-Realm!"

"I get the sense your chief doesn't like or trust you a whole lot. After you've done this for him, what's to say he won't claim the whole rich reward for himself, discard you? And I'd hate to see that happen to you."

"I am of his blood!" she insists. "Why would he betray me so?" She sounds a little doubtful, though.

Dagny shrugs. "You could be right. I'm just saying, after that's done, you've put all your money on the table, but he hasn't shown you his dice yet."

"You have reason to believe the Nine-Headed is deceiving me?"

"Well, I wouldn't call it a reason, more an intuition... I'll get to that. But, let me tell you, I know how it goes when you wield the kind of power we do. People use you. They want what you can do and they can't. But when you've done what they need of you... they're afraid to have you around. Because what you did for them today you can do to them tomorrow."

She looks uncertain, worried even. "I had not considered this..." she says. "What would you advise?" You can sense the elixir working its magic, your words bewitching her.

"Well, first. I'm not exactly familiar with this Helblót thing. Could you tell me exactly what it is you plan to do? I can help you more if I understand what's up."

She nods. "Of course. When the red moon rises, we will journey to the Trollhörgr with the sacrifices - a hundred men. Their hearts shall be cut out and burned, their blood used to daub the sacred stones, while I recite the words of the Helblót and offer their lives to the Half-Dead, Angrboda's Child. If Hel hears my prayer, the ground will open and the dead come forth from the halls of Eljudnir."

Dagny listens. "And the Tröllhorgr... that's around here? Anyway, then what? After the dead come out, who controls them? Who is in charge?"

The witch tilts her head. "Yes, the Tröllhorgr lies to the north of here, in the Orm-Fells. The dead will be under the dominion of Hel and her sons, Helreginn and Helblindi."

"But I mean, who here is in control? You or him? That's the key I think."

The witch thinks to herself. "Thrivaldi rules us, not I. But he often heeds my advice... or I think he does."

"That spell you taught me to control the dead. I'd suggest you made use of it yourself. Make sure that you know whose agenda they're following. It would be far too easy to discard you at that key moment... perhaps even make it seem like a tragic accident, like the hordes were overly hungry."

"You mean, wrest control of the dead myself? I could do such a thing... though I could only control a few of their number, it might be enough, if he did try to... to discard me so." She scratches at her scraggly chin-hairs.

"Exactly. It's just a matter of being prepared. Maybe nothing will go wrong. But if it does, better to be safe, you know?"

The witch nods to herself. "There is wisdom in what you say," she says. "Perhaps you, too, should be present at the Helblót. I can give you a potion, to make yourself unseen."

"I... are you sure that's a good idea?" Dagny tries to pretend that this isn't what she wanted all along.

"Should something go ill, you might aid me. What would you seek in return?"

"Spell knowledge never hurts. I've recently begun my study of spells of the third circle. Its power is quite remarkable... but I have precious few incantations yet."

The witch busies herself amongst her reagents and eventually extracts a dusty bottle which she presses into Dagny's hands.

Ragnvaldr gives Dagny a grin while the witch's back is turned, then quickly resumes his stony-faced demeanour.

Dagny grins back and then returns to looking concerned and serious.

"Thanks." She puts the bottle away. "I'll be there."

The witch nods. "You have my thanks as well. Do you think there is any way I could tell if Thrivaldi is false, as you say?"

"That invisibility spell. Are you able to cast it now?"

The witch nods. "I could, yes."

"Sneak along with me, then. Listen to how they talk about you."

The witch pauses a moment, then speaks puissant, guttural words in the Giant tongue. She fades from sight.

"Should I... wait here?" Ragnvaldr asks.

"I don't think you want to be sitting around here, do you?" Dagny smirks and heads for where everyone else is.

Meanwhile, Kylfa looks around outside, but doesn't approach anywhere near the shaman's tent. He makes sure he is seen as he loiters in the neighborhood of the hide-worker, humming loudly to himself as he works on his alibi.

Kylfa, a shape darkens the doorway of the chieftain's hut, and the massive, nine-headed bulk of Thrivaldi himself emerges. The chieftain grins at you from his many mouths.

"GREAT BEAR!" he shouts. "YOU HAVE RETURNED! Ah. Let us drink, and feast. And perhaps later you will let me face you once more in the Glíma-ring."

Kylfa throws his head back and laughs.  "HAHA!  I had heard you were raiding." He pounds his fists on his chest.  "I came to finish my business with your hide-tanner.  But that is done."

Hróar approaches Kylfa and the chieftain, but doesn't say anything.

Sjack continues listening in on the conversation in the hut.

Thrivaldi motions that you join him by the fire, Kylfa. A mug fashioned from a human skull is presented to you; you can smell a very strong alcoholic spirit swilling about within the hollowed-out brainpan.

Kylfa nods graciously.  He sniffs the mug and tries to stifle a flinch, smiling gamely instead. "Wrestling I have had little chance for.  Fighting, yes; alas of late I lost one of my warriors to a Blóðbard who walked again in mock-life."  He growls gutturally.  "Disgrace."

"Hm, they brew good drinks here?" Hróar asks.

Kylfa swishes around his drink in his skull-cup.  "But I slew him, as he had been slain before."  Kylfa spits.  "There is no honor in the dead; and you cannot even eat them."

Thrivaldi looks across the fire at Kylfa. "You quarrel with the men of this Ivar-King, then?" He bites off a chunk of meat with one of his mouths, while another speaks.

Hróar looks longingly at the meat and drinks

Hróar, Thrivaldi sees you down below and snarls at one of his wives. The woman fetches you a mug of the same pungent brew, and a haunch of sizzling meat carved form the blackened man spitted over the fire.

"HA!  Quarrel!  When he sends skulking men to cut the throats of chieftains in their sleep, when the honorless dead walk to do his bidding... No, I do not quarrel with Ivar's men.  They quarrel with me - and when they do, I smash their skulls!"

Kylfa hums loudly to himself and pounds his fist rhythmically on his hide-and-scale-covered chest. "I have never met this Ivar, but with the cowardice of his men I am not surprised he hides himself from me."

Hróar grabs the offered goods eagerly and lets out a very jovial grunt. "My thanks, chieftain of this tribe!" He chows on the meat like a hungry wolf and takes a long swig of the pungent drink. "Ah, but I should not make a bad guest of myself. I am Hróar, from distant Thule," he adds and smiles an unnaturally broad smile.

Thrivaldi growls from one of his heads while another drinks heartily. "This Ivar tried to kill a chieftain? He must be as cunning as they say." He sounds a little unnerved... He looks down at Hróar, carrying on another conversation simultaneously. "Greetings, Hrímlander. Any friend of the Great Bear is welcome here. You have Giant blood in your veins, do you not?"

"Yes!  He sent assassins into Wulfheim.  The assassin in his own hand wrote a message to Ivar that he would soon murder the chief, so Ivar could take all that was his.  He meant to do it with poison, like..."  Kylfa struggles for a moment. " a woman!  Yes.  And his men snuck about in tunnels, like the women they were."  He scratches his beard.  "One was actually a woman."

Hróar swings his tail in an exaggerated, wide arc. "Indeed. Inherited from my mother's side. Though I must must admit, this is the first time I've set foot an entire encampment of our kind. Such things are unheard of in Thule. There, the blood of the jotuns is spread thin and wide, and the bloodlines... do not get along."

Thrivaldi seems disconcerted. "Women can be treacherous," he says, one of his heads nodding. You are offered a haunch of meat from one of his wives. "So it is in Jotunheim!" Thrivaldi says to Hróar from another of his heads. "I myself once dwelt there in splendour, till my own brethren cast me down to this wretched world."

"You must know well of treachery, then. Such things seem to be afoot in the time of this endless winter. One should be wary indeed, of those he thinks of as allieas or kin." Hróar nods sagely and draws deep from his drink.

"Mm, but it is not the women that bother me, but the men without men's hearts," Kylfa continues. "Every man of Ivar I have met was such a man; so I think no differently of Ivar." Kylfa continues through a mouth full of meat-haunch.  "A man who sends skulkers to poison and throat-cut cannot be trusted, I say.  And no man of honor would call him a friend."

Thrivaldi seems taken aback for a moment by the words of both Kylfa and Hróar, anger clouding his features for a moment. "You believe this Ivar-King cannot be trusted. In truth, I have had some contact with these Bloodbeards. They promise me much. Land, thralls, food. They promise that these hills and mountains will be mine. You believe this Ivar-King will not honour his word?"

Kylfa laughs uproariously. "Ivar's word!  He tries to poison the chiefs whose land he wants, sends spies, makes deals with the dead in secret.  I shit Ivar's word.  I can buy Ivar's word in the market for a rabbit's tooth."

Hróar wipes his beard of foam. "What words can be trusted in these bitter cold days? Words are just air, gone as easy as leaves in the wind. Words cannot cut flesh as steel does. I would trust steel over words. And I know steel well, I might add." He fingers the handle of his axe lovingly.

Thrivaldi takes another swig, wipes his mouth of grease. "I will think on this. What is your counsel, then, Kylfa?"

"What have you offered him, that he would give you so much, or so he says?"

Thrivaldi grunts. "I have spoken with an emissary of the dead, a rider. My shamaness is to perform a ritual, called a Helblót, to call more of their number forth." He takes another bite, and another head takes up the conversation. "Once the dead stream forth, we will remain in the hills, and leave the armies of the Ivar-King and Hel to do what they will."

Verjartix's voices hisses from the doorway of where Kylfa and Hróar are. "You should heed their council, wise chief, strong chief. The Ivar will betray you as soon as he is done with what he has planned for you."

The nine-headed Troll turns as Verjartix hisses. "Who is this worm, who skulks in the dark?"

"Verjartix, of the Dark Hall."

Kylfa watches Verjartix, warily.

Thrivaldi's hands ball into fists. "Do you come from the mountains, Linnorm? Your kin have scorched my village, killed my children. Do you not see the skull at the gate? I slew that beast myself."

"I saw the skull, and was most impressed. I have no love for my kin of this world - I am no serpent of Midgard, to kill children and attack villages."

Thrivaldi unclenches his fists. "And why do you believe that the Ivar-King will betray me, Worm? Do you have some proof of his treachery?"

"Proof? No, one can never prove intent. But this pink thing I am bound to has seen the Ivar's treachery before, ssseen him turn on those he claimed ussse for once he had finished with that ussse. The Ivar honorsss nothing but the Ivar."

"You speak in riddles, Worm. Do not try to confuse me with your serpent's tongue. What dealings have you had with the bloody-bearded men?"

"I am not of Midgard. I am here by bind myself to my host. He has had dealings with the Blóðbards, who wanted to know why he was different from other men. When they realized they could not learn, when they were done with him, they turned wolves upon him for sport. Such is the way of Ivar. To kill what no longer holds use."

Dagny and Ragnvaldr appear from inside the witch's hut.

Kylfa laughs.

Dagny sits next to Kylfa, speaking softly to him in Álfari. "I just got back from the witch's hut. You don't want to hear it. Act like you don't want to hear it."

Kylfa raises a bushy eyebrow at Dagny.

Dagny looks at him a bit imploringly.

Kylfa shrugs, then snarls and raises a hand at her, shooing her away.

Thrivaldi crunches a bone contemplatively, then begins loudly slurping out the marrow. "So, then. You think I should turn against Ivar? Betray him before he can do the same?"

"Your wordsss, not mine. They are wordsss of wisssdom, though."

Kylfa strokes his beard.  "I am no great plotter!  But I know this - if you do this for Ivar, and he has a new army of dead, there is nothing he has promised you which he cannot take away even more easily."

Dagny makes an exaggerated pratfall onto the ground to make sure everyone sees.

Thrivaldi twists to look down at Dagny. "Ah, the sharp-tongued wench!" he says, grinning.

"Hey, just because you think she's no good doesn't mean anything, you don't have to be like that, beard man."

"Aye, her tongue is akin to a dagger, it is," Hróar notes. "I've suffered my share of her jabs. Some women are just born foul-mouthed like that, aren't they, Thrivaldi."

"Hey, chiefy," Dagny says. "Could you tell beard man here that your shaman is all right? That she's not up to anything? He seems to have a bad opinion of her."

Thrivaldi grunts. "Women are fickle, it is true. The old hag has her uses, of course." He gestures for one of his wives to approach to refill his cup.

Kylfa grunts as well.  "Women and magic are always trouble."  He narrows his eyes at Dagny.

Verjartix lets out a hiss. "And I wonder if Ivar has found a ussse for her himssself."

He looks to Kylfa, then to Verjatrix. "There is wisdom in your words. You said before that Ivar used a woman as his agent in the past? You believe he plans to do the same to me?"

"Are you saying she's made some kind of a side deal with Ivar? That's... how could you even say that?" Dagny acts all offended.

"Quiet, wench!" one of Thrivaldi's heads snaps.

"I know that he uses women in such a way quite often in his schemesss. It would fit his patternsss to use this one against you." Verjartix just flicks his tail contemptuously at Dagny.

Kylfa scratches his cheek and seems to think on this.  "He did use a very important woman, well-regarded by the man-chief, to try and kill him.  That is true, certainly."

Thrivaldi grunts. "Where is Skrikja Slit-Tongue? Bring her to me at once!"

Some of the Thrivaldii go to the witch's hut, but of course cannot find her. Thrivaldi fumes. "Where is the witch?" he demands, of no one in particular. Skrikja must be keeping herself invisible...

Dagny makes an exaggerated show of casting Detect Magic in various directions.

", that would be too much," Verjartix says.

Thrivaldi looks to Verjatrix, veins in several of his necks pusling. "SPEAK, WORM!"

"'s just that mystics often have ways of communing with individuals across vast distances. Perhaps she is recieving her instructions from Ivar. The Helblót is soon, no?"

"The moon will soon hang red in the sky. Skrikja says that only then will the Nine Worlds be aligned correctly for the ritual to work."

"If it is soon, tonight could be the last chance she has to commune with her true master."

Dagny slips away from the fire as the men are all busy talking about man-stuff.

"FIND HER!" Thrivaldi roars. "I shall rip her eyes from her head one by one if she is false, pull that snake-tongue from her wrinkled mouth!"

Ragnvaldr continues to tag along, playing the part of loyal lapdog. Which, really, isn't too much of a stretch...

Dagny keeps detecting magic until she finds illusion in some empty space. Then remarks to that empty space, "You heard what they think of you."

The Thrivaldii scatter, combing the village for the witch, Skrikja. Dagny, you feel a tap on your shoulder. A voice whispers. "Meet me outside!"

Kylfa takes another bite of the meat and chews it loudly.  "Would that all were as straightforward as strength and wrestling. I would not tell you what to do, chief.  But as you have asked me of Ivar, I have told you what I know.  And it seems to me he spins his webs even here."

"The webs in Wulfheim ended up being brushed clear, though. Steel prevailed over the womanly lies and trickery." Hróar is content to watch things proceed, for now, while emptying his drinking-skull.

Thrivaldi nods to Kylfa with several of his heads. "It seems I am betrayed! Why else would Skrikja disappear? That wretched crone!" He growls. "The Ivar-King will pay for his treachery."

"Mm," Kylfa muses. "He has many servants, I think; but his enemies grow all the time, as they see him for what he is."

"Well, there's been word of an army of Blóðbards on its way," Hróar says. "Who knows, perhaps Ivar leads it in person?"

"That army is bound for Wulfheim," Thrivaldi muses. "They would not expect an attack from the west."

"That is true..." Kylfa says. "No doubt Ivar assumes you are duped and know nothing of his treachery."

"A surprise strike," Hróar adds. "Like a skilled hunter, who takes down a mighty beast?"

He scratches one of his many scalps. "We are not far from Drekaborg," he says. "I might strike there instead, take him by surprise while his army is out of position, then vanish back into the hills."

"And then he turns his army from Wulfheim towards you," Verjartix says. "Bringing the fight to your door at a time of his choosing? After he has time to rendezvous with his whore, your former shaman, and complete the Helblót?"

The Troll growls. "Yes, we must cut off the head of the snake, before it can slither away."

Verjartix pretends to ignore the word choice.

"It seems to me best to destroy the army that he may use to threaten you," Kylfa says. "Ivar has strange magic, and I cannot say what waits at his fortress."

"He is right, chief," Verjartix continues. "Do not give him time to prepare for you - strike him when he is not ready, when he cannot cheat. Then it is only his strength against yours, and you will triumph."

"Ivar will learn of the failure of his plans here sooner or later," Hróar observes. "Then he will surely consider you a potential foe. The advantage of surprise will be lost, like a fumbling hunter that startles his prey before the strike."

Thrivaldi seems resolved. "It shall be so. I will gather my warriors, strike at night once his army enters the hills, and kill the Ivar-King myself."

Verjartix gives a nod of approval. "As you have decided. Such is how treachery must be answered."

Kylfa nods to Thrivaldi.  "I would be honored to join you, with more warriors.  If you can give me some sign when the time comes, then we will strike as one."

Thrivaldi smacks his fist into his hand. "It will be so! The Great Bear and the Nine-Headed shall descend on the traitor Ivar and fight side by side!"

Hróar raises his axe in an approving gesture. "And Hróar will stand by Kylfa's side there, and his axe will heave many a blood-bearded head!"

Verjartix lets out a pleased hiss. "I shall join as well, and feassst upon Blóðbard flesh. Should you wish me by your ssside."

Kylfa laughs and pounds his fists on his lap.  "That will be a good day!"

Dagny takes the long way around, like she's joining the search. She talks to Ragnvaldr as they go, "I hope this doesn't all blow up in our faces."

Ragnvaldr smiles "You're making it all seem so easy."

"Gotta admit, those two random fucks you dragged along were helping to sell it pretty good."

"Good enough for you to stop calling them random fucks?"

Dagny smirks. "Fine. Tails and snakey, then."

Ragnvaldr chuckles "I'm sure they will love that"

Once outside, in the shadow of a dead tree, Skrikja reappears. "You were right!" she hisses to Dagny. "He sees me as nothing more than a means to an end! May Loki blind him and Hel wither his manhood!"

Dagny nods. "Hate to say I told you so."

Skrikja fumes. "Without the sacrifices I have no means of conducting the Helblót!" she curses. "And I cannot return to the village while Thrivaldi lives."

Ragnvaldr looks around to see if there is anyone besides the witch here.

Verjartix gives him a defferential nod. "It is good that the Ivar will rue the day he crossed you."

Ragnvaldr, you do notice a Trollblood slowing approaching your location, though he has not seen you yet.

Ragnvaldr taps Dagny on the shoulder and points out the approaching Thrivaldii.

"Do you even want to return to the village? Maybe it'd be best to just... forget the whole Helblót thing?"

Dagny looks up, then back at the witch, eyes wide. She'll need an answer quickly.

"I do not know. Without the sacrifices, it is impossible. Unless Thrivaldi were slain... I would need to find more sacrifices, and soon."

Ragnvaldr nods towards the approaching Trollblood "I could..." He makes a throat-slitting gesture.

"Nah, just get down."

The Trollblood is getting quite close, Ragnvaldr.

Dagny ducks down and nudges the other two down too. Then she casts minor image to create a pile of snow or dirt, whichever would look more realistic here.

Ragnvaldr ducks into the illusion at the last second, utterly confused.

The illusion seems to fool the savage, and he wanders away in another direction.

Dagny adds a few random background noises to the illusion to cover their talking.

"Anyway, you can't go skulking around with illusions forever."

Skrikja paces. "I could go to Ivar," she says. "This Blóðbard King. He will have the thralls I need!"

"You're still going to do the Helblót? Are you sure that's wise?"

Ragnvaldr rolls his eyes.

"I mistrust Thrivaldi, not great Hel herself!"

"I mean, going to Ivar is exactly what they think you're going to do... seems a bad play. How about you let me get you the sacrifices?"

"If they already believe me a traitor, what have I to lose?" She continues to pace. "You think you can come up with the sacrifices? How?"

"Eh, how hard is it to scrape up a few downtrodden souls?" Dagny asks. "You know, it's really hard to keep this illusion believable with you pacing around like that."

She stops pacing. "Sorry. A hundred sacrifices, though... how would you come up with so many?"

"Hmm... tricky. Are you still going to perform it at the same place, same time? How do you know Thrivaldi won't be waiting for you?"

"It must be at the Trollhörgr, when the moon is red!" the witch insists.

"And, you're the only one around here that can do it?"

She thinks to herself. "Well, you might be able to, if I instructed you in the proper rites..." she says.

"Ok, but nobody else knows the rites, beyond that? Just want to make sure we've got all our bases covered, we can't have him finding someone else to do it at the last minute."

"There is no one else in the village capable of it, no..."

"Got it." Dagny gives Ragnvaldr a nod.

Ragnvaldr takes out Dagnöskur.

Ragnvaldr smiles at Skrikja and then swings two-handed for her head.

The witch turns and sees Ragnvaldr with his axe drawn and stifles a shriek!

Dagny quickly tries to salvage the situation and grab her.

You've grabbed her, Dagny. She struggles in surprise.

"Kólga's cunt! Cursed root!" Ragnvaldr snarls as he trips over a root.

Dagny shoves her down. "I'm a little sorry about this. But you're fucking crazy and this plan is bullshit. You've got to go."

Skrikja hisses something sibilant from the ground while staring up at Ragnvaldr.

Ragnvaldr, drowsiness overcomes you and you slump to the ground, snoring.

Dagny curses and throws Skrikja down as hard as she can and then goes to shake Ragnvaldr.

Skrikja yelps in pain. Ragnvaldr blinks blearily as Dagny shakes him awake.

"Eh...? What? Rán's rump.... Alright, alright get off." Ragnvaldr stumbles to his feet and swings his axe at Skirkja again "Just.... die."

Your axe plunges into Skrikja's withered body. She shrieks in pain, blood spurting everywhere.

"No! Die quieter!"

Desperately, she holds her hands to the terrible wound and mutters to herself.

Varðmaðr flies over the camp, catching Hróar's attention. The warrior-shaman knows from its unusual flight that something is wrong. He makes to leave the camp. "That was some good drink, but now I got to go relieve some." He simply states, and heads outside toward the owl.

Dagny leaps at her, swinging Ragnvaldrok, the rune ablaze.

Dagny's axe digs deep into her neck, slender and graceful, but not lacking any cutting power. Perhaps it's better it wasn't Ragnvaldr, as her smaller weapon doesn't provoke quite as big of a shower of gore.

The witch's screams stop.

"That.... was much more difficult than it should have been," Ragnvaldr says.

Dagny flicks the axe to clean it off. "You're telling me."

"I'm sorry I tripped. That was clumsy of me."

The Trollblood who was previously searching seems to be headed back in your direction.

"Anyway, they all think she's a traitor. So she attacked us. We did what we had to do. Right?"

Ragnvaldr sees the Trollblood coming "I don't know if we have time to hide her now. That seems the best plan. Also, we are both covered in her blood..." He waves to the Trollblood "Hey! Over here!"

The Trollblood looks over and hastens towards you, then notices the corpse. "Skrikja!" he exclaims rather stupidly.

Hróar also heads toward the place, guided by Varðmaðr and Ragnvaldr's shouts.

"We found her," Dagny says. "She knew she was caught and she cast a hex. We had to defend ourselves."

"She was getting away, cloaked from sight by her Seidr. If it hadn't been for Dagny's magic, she would have struck us down without us ever seeing her coming!"

The Trollblood nods. "Come. Let us bring her back to Thrivaldi."

Ragnvaldr hefts Srikja's corpse and follows the Trollblood.

"The treacherous witch is dead!" Hróar exclaims. "Good news for the chieftain."

"I'll just be a minute, okay?" Dagny says.


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Re: The Fimbulvinter Saga
« Reply #34 on: May 31, 2015, 04:20:07 PM »
IC: Fitt XXVIII: Vanslind
Hróar walks closer to Ragnvaldr and Dagny and whispers: "Thrivaldi has determined to launch a surprise attack against Ivar's army soon. We... managed to make him see that it would be a good plan." He grins.

Ragnvaldr grins at Hróar "That is fine news! Fine news! Well done!"

"You know, I'm almost a little disappointed we didn't get to do the whole fake Helblót," Dagny says.

Ragnvaldr carries the body before the chieftain and dumps it at his feet "There, Thrivaldi of the Nine Heads. We caught your traitor-bitch."

Kylfa grunts.

Thrivaldi is pleased when you present Skrikja's corpse. "Well done, warrior," he says, assuming Ragnvaldr was the one to slay the witch. "You must be rewarded! Bring out the thralls - you will have your choice of concubine!"

"Oh... Er... Wait, you mean to keep? Permanently?"

"Of course! We have many thralls."

"Many indeed, from the looks around here," Hróar interjects. "Do you truly have need for quite so many?"

"We required many for the Helblót," he says to Hróar. "Now we shall find other uses for them."

Hróar strokes his beard. "Regrettably, I have very little gold. Otherwise I'd offer to purchase some."

"That is most kind of you, great Thrivaldi," Ragnvaldr says. "I would be honoured to choose from your thralls."

Dagny grabs the missing pages from her spellbook and whatever else looks handy. She casts Disguise Self on herself so she looks like herself not loaded down with loot.

A procession of women are hauled out from the pit, ill-fed, bruised, and terrified.

Ragnvaldr examines the women, looking for the biggest and most muscular.

You find a tall, broad-shouldered woman of Væringjar stock, Ragnvaldr.

"This one will do."

"A fine choice!" Thrivaldi says, indicating that she be given over to you. He looks to Hróar in the meantime. "If you have anything to barter, we may be able to trade."

Hróar shakes his head. "Nothing I could part with. I've traveled a long road on my own until recently, and could not bear much in the way of goods."

The tall, dark-haired woman looks Ragnvaldr up and down as if judging whether she could slit his throat in his sleep. Like Sigrid, she bears a brand on her cheek.

Ragnvaldr grins at her.

Dagny comes back, looking perfectly normal.

Ragnvaldr smiles at Dagny and points at the Vaeringjar woman "I got you a present."

Dagny raises an eyebrow.

"What? I thought you needed people to work for you. Isn't that why you got the redhead? She looks strong."

"Oh, oh, yes. Yes." Dagny nods. "Thanks."

Kylfa coughs and addresses the chief.  "It is well that I should return to prepare warriors for the battle that comes.  I am only glad that this... treachery could be discovered, and stomped down."

Ragnvaldr chuckles and shakes his head.

"What's your name?" Dagny asks.

"I am Borghildr," she says simply.

Verjartix nods to the chief as well. "I too, shall need to prepare for the battle that is to come, when you will crush the King Blóðbard."

Thrivaldi crosses his arms. "Will you stay here and feast further?" he asks Kylfa. "We now have meat to spare!"

Ragnvaldr's ears prick up at Vertartix's words "Crush the Bloodbeard king?"

"I, uh, I have to do stuff too," Dagny says.

"We will feast when we are victorious, Thrivaldi," Kylfa says. "And that will be at hand soon enough."

"Mighty Thrivaldi, I am told you plan to strike at Ivar the Perverse's army," Ragnvaldr says. "I have a further boon to ask of you, if that is the case."

Thrivaldi turns to Ragnvaldr. "What do you ask, slayer of Skrikja?"

"I have sworn an oath to slay that Nithing who calls himself King. I would not ask that you stay your hand, but if you would allow me to try mine first.... should I succeed, you will not have to dirty yourself with dealing with such filth, and should I fail he may at least be weakened and all the easier for you to destroy yourself."

Thrivaldi considers your words. "Hmm. Seeing as you slew the Ivar-King's spy, I shall honour your wish."

Ragnvaldr bows his head "I am grateful that you respect the honour of my vow. I look forward to standing at your side in the shield-wall."

After recovering your strength, you head back to Wulfheim through the wilds of the inbred hillfolk, guided over the rocky crags by fur-clad men and women with beady eyes and grey skins. They leave you at the border of the Trollblood-lands, by the gruesome markers that circumscribe their territory.

The snow that falls from the darkening sky has the look of ash, grey flakes swirling down from a sky veined with ribbons of green light, the nordljos, rarely glimpsed in this land, and said by some to be the glimmering trails of the Valkyries as they fly across the heavens, their armour shining.

The wind picks up, blowing in from the north and east. You have become accustomed to the endless imbecilic wolf-howl of the wind that worries at all who walk these hills, but this wind is different - stronger, colder, fiercer, its sound a low and ominous growl...

Dagny looks over her shoulder. "Well, glad to leave shitty shit-town behind."

Kylfa sniffs the air. "I will meet you back in Wulfheim," the bear-shaman says enigmatically.

Ragnvaldr looks at Kylfa oddly, but shrugs. "Very well friend Kylfa. We shall see you again shortly, I hope."

Sjack seems to have slithered off somewhere in his linnorm-shape, perhaps in search of prey.

Dagny idly gives Kylfa a wave. "I figure later on while they're busy fighting the Aptrgangr we can come back later and free the rest of the thralls," Dagny says to Ragnvaldr, quietly.

Ragnvaldr nods to Dagny. "As you say."

Hróar trudges along happily, apparently unbothered by the wind and cheered up by their successful negotiations.

Dagny, you hear a dull rumbling in the mountains, like the groans of some great beast being woken.

Dagny perks up. "Anyone else hear that?"

Ragnvaldr casts about "Hear what?"

"Hear what? The wind is kind of noisy today."

"Rumbling... or something. Maybe it's just my stomach."

Dagny peers over to the mountains, but keeps walking.

Hróar stops for a moment to listen.

Ragnvaldr is reminded of the existence of food by Dagny's remark and is momentarily distracted with thoughts of dinner.

"I hear it too," Borghildr says, peering about into the darkness to the north.

Peering into the darkness and snow, you see something moving rapidly down the slopes – a curtain of white, approaching your position with incredible speed. In moments the avalanche will be upon you!

Dagny quickly turns towards the sound. "Get down!" she yells. With a quick wave of her hand, she casts Wind Wall, then dives for cover herself.

Ragnvaldr drops prone.

Hróar ducks, having lived long enough in the time of Fimbulvinter to know that death can come suddenly with the least of warning.

Looking in the direction Dagny was turning, you see it - a wall of ice and snow, barreling down the mountain-slopes towards you! The avalanche is almost upon you, a roiling mass of advancing white. Caught in its inexorable descent are boulders, chunks of ice, and even whole trees, uprooted by its terrible force. Dagny's wall of conjured wind blunts some of the avalanche's overwhelming force, but even so you are partially caught in the mass of snow!

Hróar, manages to get out of the way of the avalanche entirely.

Dagny, grabs a stubby tree and manages to swing herself out of the way.

Borghildr and Ragnvaldr, however, are caught in the avalanche's path!

A roaring fills your ears as snow slams into your body, buffeting you this way and that. Something hits your body - a branch or a rock, it’s impossible to tell in the chaos - and you’re swept forwards, carried by the avalanche downhill.

Ragnvaldr spits blood after being smashed in the face by a rock.

You come to a halt some distance away, Borhildr bruised and battered nearby. Blood stains the snow where she struck a tree. Her arm looks twisted unnaturally, and you think you glimpse bone...

Hróar yelps loudly, though his voice is lost within the cacophony of rushing snow and ice. Somehow his trollish movements carry him off the path of destruction.

Ragnvaldr hauls himself to his feet and looks around desperately to see if the others are alright.

The avalanche carries on downhill, eventually coming to a rest.

Dagny swings down from the tree. She was always pretty athletic for a rune-caller.

You have been carried a fair distance, Ragnvaldr, but you can see Dagny and Hróar on a higher crag, looking down.

Ragnvaldr heaves a sigh of relief to see Dagny unharmed and goes to check on Borghildr.

Dagny whips out her wand. "Everyone here? Everyone ok?"

Hróar recovers his senses and looks about for his companions. "Hel's arse! That was a close brush with death indeed. Where's Ragnvaldr and the thrall woman?"

Borghildr groans, her eyelids fluttering. She is on the edge of consciousness, and will need aid if she is to survive.

Hróar, spotting Ragnvaldr, quickly moves to him. "You alright?" he asks, then noticing Borghildr. "Oh. She's in bad shape."

Ragnvaldr starts to tend to the thrall, his fingers clumsy with cold but still making things as right as he is able. "Lie still now, lie still."

Dagny makes her way over. "What's with her?"

"I can attempt to call upon my spells of healing, if you wish it," Hróar says.

She gasps in pain as her arm moves.

"She hit a tree."

Ragnvaldr pauses in his work to wipe at his bloody mouth, then looks up at the others. "She's not looking good."

Dagny reaches into her pouch, pulling out a small bottle. "Give her this."

Hróar, seeing Ragnvaldr's concern for the woman, decides to aid in treating her injuries.

Ragnvaldr takes the potion and administers it to Borghildr, moving a little roughly as if it were a calf he was treating rather than a human being.

Borghildr grunts in pain beneath Hróar and Ragnvaldr's ministrations, but with Dagny's potion she recovers somewhat, bone knitting and flesh scabbing rapidly.

"Should be able to walk now," Dagny says.

Ragnvaldr sees the effects of the potion and turns to Dagny with a gory smile "More wonders from the rune-caller!"

She seems to recover her wits, as well. "My thanks," she says, a bit breathless. "There are few in this wolf-age who would spare a thrall such efforts."

"You're not a thrall. Or at least you won't be. I intend to free you."

She looks to Dagny in gratitude, but with some bewilderment, then looks over to Ragnvaldr. "I am confused. Was I not given to this one?"

"That's why I just intend to free you. If you belonged to me I would've already freed you."

Dagny smirks at Ragnvaldr.

"You were, and I gave you to that one, and now she will free you," Ragnvaldr explains. "She's like that."

She puts a hand to her head. "I fear I will slow you somewhat," she says. "Have we far to travel?"

"We should not tarry long here," Hróar warns. "The wind is malicious. There may come another snowslide."

"Well okay. Then that's that. But, uh, probably best you stay with us rather than go wandering off." Dagny nods and continues on her way.

Borghildr manages a meagre smile despite her obvious pain. "You are strange folk indeed. Your like are rare in these dark days of wind and woe."

"Hear that? We're strange folk. Hel, these days that's a compliment."

Hróar chuckles. "I've been called much worse."

Ragnvaldr hauls Borghildr to her feet muttering "come on, then" and starts to trudge after Dagny.

"I don't know about you but I want to sleep for about three days," Dagny says.

"Mm, that doesn't sound half bad," Ragnvaldr says. "Food first though, maybe."

"Big, if you want a job in town, you can work for me."

Borghildr looks over to Dagny. "Doing what?" she asks.

"Menial shit. Basically the same shit you'd have been doing anyway. Only I'll pay you."

"Your generosity seems boundless, rune-caller," she says with only the slightest hint of sardonicism.

You press on into the deepening dark. The lights of Wulfheim appear in the distance – the town is a welcome sight indeed after the harrowing cold and near-disaster in the hills. Night has fallen, and all is quiet.

The guards at the gates of Wulfheim are swaddled in additional furs. They sip from flasks of liquor to warm their frozen bones.

Ragnvaldr waves a weary greeting to the guards.

Seeing you, they open the gates, teeth chattering.

Dagny waves as well. "This one's with us," she says, pointing with her thumb at Borghildr.

"We bring good news for the Jarl," Hróar adds.

They nod wordlessly, obviously fatigued, their mouths swathed in cloth. One manages a kind of salute with his spear.

Within the palisade the hill-town is deadened and silent, everyone withdrawn into whatever shelters they can. With the mead-hall open once more, many have crowded themselves into the Well of Joy, whose doors and windows are shut tight against the hungry cold that prowls the snow-clotted streets.

"Fuck, we might have to go see that fucking Dvergar soon..." Dagny mutters. "This shit is getting out of hand."

"Is there anything to eat at your house, Dagny?" Ragnvaldr asks. "If not we could try the hall at the keep. An ale wouldn't go amiss either."

"Well, mead hall's open again."

"Might not have to pay at the keep though..."

"I'm heading to the Well of Joy. And for once I've got gold enough to pay for all I be needin'," Hróar says with a smile. He leaves the two to their chatter, eager to enter the warmth of the mead-hall.

Dagny shrugs. "Don't have to pay at the mead-hall either. I'm part owner now, remember? Anyway, I'm gonna swing by home for a bit. I'll catch up with you."

Ragnvaldr feigns shock. "You mean you wouldn't make me pay?"

"There's other ways you can pay me." Dagny smiles wryly.

Ragnvaldr grins "Maybe I should come with you, then..."

"Gotta stay warm somehow... " Dagny smirks and heads for her house.

Ragnvaldr follows, hunger momentarily forgotten...

The mead-hall is crammed full of people, almost every seat in the house taken up. Many stand and gnaw at the dwindling supply of aurochs-meat or quaff from tankards of mead. The fire is hot, and the presence of so many bodies in one place makes the room even hotter. Under normal circumstances it would be uncomfortable, but after the piercing cold of the hills it’s almost pleasant.

Sigrid is helping to serve the patrons. She spots you, Hróar, and her expression becomes troubled, but she pushes her way through the press of flesh to bring you food and drink should you desire it.

Hróar find a corner to sit in, and with a whistling and a gesture summons the serving-maid. He igs into his pouch for soem coins - more than the price of the food and drink - and hands them to her. "Make it the choicer cut of meat and the better keg of beer, will you." He whispers to her.

Sigrid nods, taking your coin. She returns with a generous haunch of aurochs. Nils comes behind her, rolling a barrel of beer.

Hróar raises a brow at Nils' appearance. "Oy! You're a house-goblin, aren't you?"

Nils looks to Hróar. "Aye, that's correct! And you're one of those hideous bastard troll-whelps, are you not?"

Hróar bellows a laughter. "You've got a foul tongue, though nowhere near as foul as that witch-woman's. Worry not, I've no intent to try and cut it - I'm here for eating my belly full and drinking my spirits up to the roof." He scratches his head and fills a cup with the beer. "I bet you've got useful knowledge, though. Of the matters of spirit and secrets in this town."

Nils leans against the barrel as you drain it, Hróar. "Oh, aye. I saved everyone in the town from poisoning just a bit back, you know."

"Truly? That sounds interesting. I would hear this tale most heroic, to lighten the evening. In exchange I'll share some of my food and drink with you."

Nils nods and hops up on the barrel to begin his tale.

Hróar takes a deep swig of his beer mug and digs into a fat-dripping cut of aurochs leg while the Nisse is speaking.

Nils tells the story of Fritjof's capture and defeat, inserting himself into the story far more prominently than would be strictly truthful.

Dagny goes home, dropping off the loot she gathered from the shaman. "Man, that stuff was heavy. It's gonna be useful though." Dagny flips through one of the scrolls.

Labouring by candlelight in the darkness of your home, you pour over the Dvergar runes once again, filling your thoughts with torturously complex arcane formulae unfit for most mortals minds.

Ragnvaldr looks at the scroll Dagny's examining, thinks about asking a question, then shakes his head and begins to search the house for anything edible.

Ragnvaldr takes a very long time finding anything and does a lot of quite noisy rummaging

"If nothing else, there's a small bowl of some green soup that smells like cut grass."

"Oh I found that straight away. It was good."

Dagny nods idly, still reading.

Ragnvaldr keeps rummaging for a while then gives up and sighs. "I'm going to the Well of Joy."

Dagny waves, still distracted.

Ragnvaldr calls Aslaug and stumps down to the mead-hall

Dagny jumps up. "The tchhth. There's plans for a tchhth. I can build it. I can build it." Dagny runs out into the street, screaming. "I CAN BUILD IT. I CAN BUILD IT."

Ragnvaldr stops down the street and turns to look at the distant, bawling form of Dagny. "What? Are you alright?"

Dagny runs up to him, wild-eyed. "Better than alright. Come on." Dagny runs to the mead-hall.

Ragnvaldr jogs along in her wake "What? Wait! What?"

You burst into the Well of Joy. Patrons look up, and someone tells you to shut the door.

"Red, Big, Kid, get out here."

Sigrid, Borghildr, and Kauko approach Dagny, looking confused and a bit tired.
"Time to do our stuff. You been carving those runes, kid?"

Kauko nods. "Certainly..."

Borghildr looks leans against a wall, looking perplexed.

"Good. Big, start a fire. A big one."

"Where? she asks.

"Outside. Just... uh, over there." She points.

Ragnvaldr just stands watching. He's acquired a hot slab of aurochs which he's gnawing enthusiastically.

"Red, start with that building stone. This is now your number one priority."

Dagny then yells. "One eyrir to any man who can bring me his weight in building stone and stack it up neatly in the back! This offer is valid RIGHT NOW ONLY!"

"Now?" Sigrid asks.

"Yes, now. You want to eat tomorrow? We do this now."

Several men look up at your offer and approach, eager to earn a few coins.

Dagny goes to the back room of the Well of Joy. "Stack 'em up here. Like you were building a forge or furnace or something. But leave room on top for that giant pot."

Hróar nods enthusiastically and chuckles between mouthfuls, enjoying Nils’ tale. He also casts glaces at the commotion Dagny is setting up, wondering what the sorceress might be up to.

Dagny meanwhile starts casting all sorts of incantations on the ground.

Ragnvaldr sidles over to Hróar and sits next to him, still munching.

"Hey, Ragnvaldr. What is she doing?"

Several people, hearing your incantations, begin blustering. "What fell magic is she working?" someone asks.

"She'll destroy the town!" another person says. "Did you see that child she brought back with her? He's Hel-touched!"

One of the Jarl's Hirdmenn stands up. "That is Jarl Hrothik Wulfgar's court rune-caller!" he says. "Her activities have been sanctioned by the Jarl himself!"

Ragnvaldr pauses to swallow and then shakes his head "No idea. HEY! You'll let her work her Seidr or I'll split you from eyeball to kneecap, understood?!"

Your shouting quiets the angry tavern-patrons, Ragnvaldr.

Hróar grunts heartily. "Fools. I wager she'd turn them into newts, or perhaps worse things, if they tried to mess with her."

"Hah. That or just let Kauko practice his lightning-calling on them."

"Who is that utlendr kid anyway? He commands some kind of shamanic power, though it is not known to me. And I do know a thing or two."

"The boy was sired by some godling, as I understand it. He's a sorcerer for certain, but unskilled as yet. He has power but cannot focus it. That's as much as I can gather anyhow."

"He is perhaps a danger to himself, and those around him, if what you say is true."

Ragnvaldr nods happily in agreement with Hróar. "Oh, certainly. He's a good lad."

"He may be. But a good heart does not protect a lad from foolhardy mistakes. You'd better be alert near him."

Ragnvaldr shrugs "He's Dagny's ward." He seems to realise something "Oh."

"Does she keep him under control then?"

"What? Oh, no, not really."

Hróar sighs, and refills his cup.

"She's meant to be teaching him though." Ragnvaldr strokes his beard and frowns "Yes, she's his Seidr-teacher..."

"Let us hope that he learns some caution. Somehow."

"Hmmm, yes some swordplay. I agree. Caution, yes. Caution."

Dagny leaves her crew to their business and goes and wakes the smith, half pleading and half demanding to be sold a bunch of scrap iron, right now.

The Jarnmann has a quantity he can sell you, though he is somewhat cantankerous. You will clean out much of his stock.

Dagny secretly casts a Charm Person when he's not looking, then does business quite amicably.

You acquire the necessary metal, Dagny.

Dagny comes back with all sorts of iron bits and tools and... who knows what.

Ragnvaldr helps himself to some ale while everyone's busy and muscles his way to a place slightly nearer the fire.

The labourers you hired have hauled the necessary stone, and Borghildr has kindled the fire. Hirdmenn keep order.

"Oh, this is going to be good."

Dagny steps up to the fire, producing a bundle of something or other. She throws it into the fire, and there is a huge flash... the flames now burn a neon green.

Dagny sticks an iron tool into the fire until it is green-hot (?!). She then returns to the Well of Joy. She manipulates the hot tool like a quill, etching runes like a calligrapher.

"Red! Heat another one up while I'm working. And bring it to me."

"Big, get those men to start stacking up an arch outside. Just outside the door."

Sigrid brings you another heated tool, carrying it carefully, while Borghildr speaks to the men. They get to work constructing the arch outside the door.

Dagny keeps feverishly scrawling runes, looking like she's half-mad. But also a certain weird glee. "Oh, this is gonna be GOOD. RED! ANOTHER TOOL! NOW!"

Sigrid nearly drops it in her haste but gets it to you. Now everyone in the mead hall has stopped what they're doing to watch the commotion.

"Kid, go out back and zap all these pipes once."

Kauko looks at you questioningly, as if he's not sure he heard you correctly.

"You heard me! Bring 'em back while they're still crackling!"

He smiles, and his eyes flash and flicker. There's a rumble of thunder overhead, and the winds pick up as lightning flashes from his fingertips into the device.

"What in Blóðughadda's name is she up to anyway?" Ragnvaldr ponders.

Dagny laughs and jumps up and down, dancing around like an idiot. "Snow! Now! A bucket of snow!"

"Probably that magic to feed everyone or something." Ragnvaldr shrugs and glugs some ale

"From the sounds of it, something big. Probably dangerous." Hróar grins

Dagny holds the lid of the cauldron open.

The crowd are alarmed by Kauko's lightning-blast. Even the guards look worried. Someone screams in terror.

"She's gone mad!" one of the patrons exclaims.

Ragnvaldr stands up and runs a baleful gaze over those assembled. "Calm. Down."

The patrons shudder beneath the scarred warrior's glare.

Dagny shoves the still-electrified components deep into the workings of the machine, and the whole thing lights up yellow-green, like the fire outside. "Where's that snow! Come on!"

Ragnvaldr takes out Dagnöskur and pointedly lays it on the table before sitting back down.

"Well. As long as she doesn't collapse the mead-hall upon us, it's not my business to interfere with the mad plans of the Jarl's rune-caller," Hróar reasons.

Sigrid waves her arms. "You heard her!" she yells at the men you hired. Some of them are looking a little unsure, but they obey, rolling large snowballs towards you.

Dagny starts shoving the snow into the cauldron until it's full, then slams the lid down. "Stand back. I've never, uh, quite done this before."

Everyone steps back, and several people outright flee.

Dagny gets as far away from the thing as she can and pulls a big lever...

There's a certain breathlessness. Many have seen what Dagny can do.

Ragnvaldr doesn't move a muscle

Dagny looks slightly encouraged as she realizes she's still here.

The cauldron shakes and quivers, the runes glowing, its machinery working…

"Ha! Aha! Ha!" Dagny throws the cauldron open, revealing a thick green soup that smells hearty, if not too flavorful. "Eat! Everyone, eat!"

The crowd sniffs the air tentatively.

"And when it's all gone, we fill it back up with snow and run the thing again. Until every belly is full!"

Hróar laughs Trollishly, quite exhilarated by the weird magical workings and all the beer he's guzzled down by now.

A few look hesitant, but there are many hungry here. A thin man with gaunt cheeks stumbles up, an empty bowl in hand snatched from a nearby table. He holds it out, and Sigrid dollops some of the stuff into the bowl. He eats it rapidly, and everyone else watches, as if waiting for him to keel over from some terrible poison. The man stops, smiles, and holds out his bowl for more...

Dagny grins from ear to ear... which is probably the happiest anyone's seen the rather surly Dagny in quite some time.

After that, the challenge is keeping the patrons from becoming a mob. The Jarl's Hirdmenn try to keep order, more coming down from the keep - along with the Jarl himself, alerted to these activities.

"Aiee! Calm down! Calm! There's enough for everyone, there's obviously enough for everyone!"

The Jarl laughs at the sight. "If this is devilry, I must say I have misjudged the dark arts!"

Dagny turns to Sigrid. "Red, we need to be ready to run this thing as many times as it takes. Start piling up snow, dirt, dung if you have to."

Sigrid nods, and together she and the men - as well as a growing number of volunteers - begin gathering materials for the cauldron to convert.

Dagny runs the cauldron again once the food is depleted, and keeps doing so as long as there are hungry patrons.

Word spreads throughout the town and soon people are emerging from their homes to eat.

"Ah, the Jarl," Hróar says. "We should tell him about Thrivaldi's plans."

"Aye, let's tell him." Ragnvaldr shoulders his way towards the Jarl through the throngs.

Hróar does likewise.

Dagny is busy in the kitchen for the time being. "Good stuff, huh? Maybe we can put a bit of bacon grease in it to give it a little more.... you know, oomph."

The Jarl himself eats a bowl of Dagny's eldritch stew.

"My lord."

"Greetings, Ragnvaldr."

Ragnvaldr gestures at the Jarl's bowl. "It's good, isn't it?"

"The soup may not be the most savoury, but after days of rationing, it is heartening."

"With the wisdom and strength of brother Kylfa, we were able to convince Thrivaldi to abandon his plans of alliance with the Blóðbards."

"What? This is good news indeed. Fewer allies for Ivar can only help us."

"Thrivaldi now plans to ambush Ivar's forces.

"How did you manage this silver-tongued feat? I hope you have not promised the Troll anything... unwholesome in recompense."

"I..... honestly don't know. But we did, and no cannibalistic promises were made."

"Praise be to Odin. The All-Father must truly have smiled on you."

Ragnvaldr touches his magic ring "I don't remember him smiling..."

"He was convinced that his tribe's shaman was conspiring with Ivar to betray him," Hróar explains. "She was killed. After that, I don't think he'll change his mind."

Dagny manages to make her way out of the kitchen, with a bowl of the weird green stew. "So, whatcha think?"

"You have proved yourselves worthy once more. I had given hope little room in my heart, but now I wonder whether we might stand a chance against Ivar and his dogs. Even were he to besiege Wulfheim he could not starve us, so long as we have snow!" He laughs.

"Of course we stand a chance," Ragnvaldr insists. "I'm going to kill him. But... I mean, this helps of course."

"It'll be his own army that starves then," Hróar says. "Hauling foodstuffs all the way here across the snow-covered lands will be difficult."

The Jarl nods. "I have heard that he hauls with him cages of prisoners, for his men to feast upon like wild beasts. And for other ill uses..."

"They have that in common with Thrivaldi's tribe, then."

"It doesn't necessarily have to run on just snow," Dagny notes, referring to the cauldron. "You can put anything into it. So, as long as people are eating, and uh..." Dagny doesn't elaborate. "Gert's gonna flip when she sees this."

"My lord, with an endless supply of food, and in these lean times... It seems to me Wulfheim could buy whatever allies she wanted," Ragnvaldr points out. "Those Kvenlanders to start with perhaps, but others too, maybe."


"Just a thought. There must be those out there who have suffered at Ivar's hands, and would be willing to raise a blade against him by our sides."

"Most are dead or fled these lands... but you may be right. If you come across any honourable folk on your travels, you should direct them here."

"Where would you look for such people, Ragnvaldr?" Hróar asks. "I'm not familiar with this land."

"In truth, neither am I. Perhaps it was a foolish thought, but perhaps we will find some friends when we least expect it."

The Jarl finishes his soup. "The blessings warding Katla against decay begin to dwindle, Brúnn tells me," he says. "Do you still plan to inter her yourself?"

Ragnvaldr becomes somber at the Jarl's words. "Aye. The barrow must still be delved beforehand though?"

"Dagny wishes to reclaim some of its treasures," the Jarl says. "Including the sword of my forefathers."

Gertrud has been awakened, and is working with her daughters to distribute the soup. She seems so caught up in the logistics that she has scarcely comprehended the enormity of what has occurred.

Dagny is asleep face down in her soup bowl.

Ragnvaldr idly turns Dagny's head to one side to make sure she doesn't drown.

"You are speaking of a barrow of your own family, Jarl?"

He looks to Hróar. "Yes, the Wulfgar line," he says. "I am loathe to disturb their rest, but there are riches within their tombs that would better serve the living than the dead. The blade is that of Kolbjorn Wulfgar, founder of my clan. Dagny has promised to retrieve it."

"Maybe we could do both at once, then. We could carry Katla down into the barrow, and carry the sword back out. There would be something fitting about that."

"The dead may take offense to intrusions to their place of rest. You should see that they are somehow appeased, lest doom befall those who bear treasure from the barrow."

"You're a shaman, Hróar. Do you know the ways of the dead?"

"I honor the way of war above all, but I know something of the spirits in the afterworld."

The Jarl nods. "I am sending the Gothi, to ensure the dead lie quiet," he says. "But you would be welcome also, I am sure."

"What is war but a womb for the dead?"

"If I can be of assistance, I would lend it."

"Very well, we will set off in the morning. For now, we should rest."

Hróar lets out a lengthy yawn. "Aye."

Dagny sleeps right where she passed out in the mead-hall.

Ragnvaldr slings the sleeping Dagny over his shoulder and walks out, calling over his shoulder "Goodnight, friends."

You pass the night with greater contenment than many you have previously endured. Even the demon-shriek of the wind and the distant howling of Ironwood's wolves cannot plague your sleep with nightmares.


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Re: The Fimbulvinter Saga
« Reply #35 on: August 24, 2015, 01:37:32 PM »
IC: Fitt XXIX: Myling
When you awaken, a crowd has re-gathered about the Well of Joy seeking nourishment from Dagny's cauldron.

Dagny is up early too. She teaches Gertrud, Sigrid, and Borghildr how to operate the machine. "You pull this lever here, then this one. Don't pull that one first unless you like scalding hot steam in your face."

Hróar slumbers heavily, his snoring rumbling across the mead-hall. He is late to wake up and quite grumpy, suffering somewhat from previous night's heavy drinking.

Ragnvaldr is awake early, going to attend to Katla's corpse and prepare it for transport.

Brúnn awaits you at the Jarl's keep, speaking prayers over Katla's form. A sled has been prepared, with the reindeer of the Kvenlanders to pull it.

"Well met, Brúnn. I am told you will be coming with us. Do you know how far off the barrow lies?"

The Gothi strokes his beard. "It can be found in the Orm-Fells," he says. "Less than a day's travel from here, to the north."

Ragnvaldr nods "And Hróar warns me we should expect the dead there to be restive. Unwelcoming, perhaps. What think you?"

"We must take care, lest we disturb their rest. There are many tales of mound-dwellers rising from their graves as Haugbui – revenants, like to Aptrgangar but with a touch that steals the breath from your lungs."

"And is there any special trick to not awakening them?"

"They should not molest us if we leave their treasures in peace... but they become jealous if their possessions are disturbed. I am told that Dagny plans to plunder their grave-goods. I cannot say I approve, but I shall heed the Jarl's orders."

"I see. In that case, let us inter Katla first before we touch the sword, or anything else. That way we shall not have to fight our way into the barrow, only out of it."

Brúnn scratches at his beard. "You speak wisdom, Ragnvaldr. Are you ready to depart?"

"Aye, as soon as everyone else is."

Dagny joins the group a bit late, Ragnvaldrok in hand. "Oh, one more thing. If you're heading out, walk through that half-built arch there. It's not quite done yet, but it works."

Hróar approaches Ragnvaldr and Brúnn, Varðmaðr perched on his shoulder. He somehow looks even more scruffily hairy than usual. "I'm coming along." He grunts.

"My thanks, Hróar," Ragnvaldr says.

"I've got all my belongings. Nothing else I need." Hróar looks curiously at Dagny's arch, shrugs and walks through it.

Hróar, you shiver slightly as a chill goes through you, but then your body is filled with warmth. You feel the cold not at all.

Hróar grins. "Huh. Not a bad trick."

Dagny walks through the arch too, nodding with some satisfaction.

Ragnvaldr marches along beside the sled bearing Katla.

You make your way out of Wulfheim and northwards, following Brúnn. Heavy fog settles over the hills, bringing with it a deathly quiet.

Dagny follows behind the group. "I hope there isn't some kind of a riot while we're gone. I feel a little strange just leaving... but this is important. Still, nice to head out on a full stomach feeling warm, isn't it?"

Hróar marches a little behind Brúnn, quietly talking to his owl. After a while the large bird takes flight, soaring the sky far ahead of the party.

With the fog growing thick, the owl can see little on the ground.

Kylfa trudges through the snow, his bear-hide wrapped tightly around him, so far oblivious to the group nearby.

Ragnvaldr is silent and subdued as he walks, glancing at Katla's remains from time to time.

A shape appears out of the fog, huge and menacing. You tense up for a moment, then realize it is none other than Kylfa, trudging through the snow.

Dagny draws her axe, but then relaxes. "Hey, beard-man."

Hróar raises a hand in greetings. "It is good to see you again, bear-brother."

"Kylfa the Great Bear," Ragnvaldr says. "We go to bury Katla the Shieldmaiden. Will you come with us?

Kylfa stops short when he sees them.  He brushes his beard, caked with snow, and nods.  "Hmm. You are going somewhere?"  He surveys the party, and then his eyes fix on the sled.  "I see."

"I built it, beard-man," Dagny says. "I know you don't care, but if you're hungry, there's more than enough food for everyone now."

Kylfa gives a small nod to Dagny, a neutral expression on his face.  "Ah.  Good."

The way is dangerous and the dead may prove to be so, as well," Hróar says.

Kylfa scratches his cheek.  "I am no priest.  I do not know the... rites of men, in these things.  But I will come."

"It is good that you will." Ragnvaldr clasps Kylfa's hand

Kylfa seems uncertain what to do with Ragnvaldr's hand, then squeezes it.  "Mmm."

Ragnvaldr nods to Kylfa, fighting down the urge to wince as the Kvenlander squeezes his hand, and then turns to continue the march.

Dagny puts her axe away and continues to walk.

"So. Do they eat it?" Kylfa asks Dagny.

Hróar, you feel a sense of intense disquiet from Varðmaðr. It has heard something in the fog... something that unnerves the creature. Something unnatural.

Hróar suddenly tenses and his face becomes grimaced.

Dagny starts to answer. "Of course they eat it, they..." She suddenly stops.

"Something's ahead in the fog," Hróar says quietly. "An unnatural thing."

Ragnvaldr takes out Dagnöskur.

Kylfa stops when he speaks, and squints ahead.

The reindeer make strange noises and halt, unwilling to continue.

Hróar draws his axe, a cautious look in his eyes as they peer into the thick mist

In the quiet, you strain eyes and ears. Aslaug whines and ducks behind Ragnvaldr.

Hróar is too affected by last night's drinks. He can't properly focus on his surroundings.

A thin, echoing wail, like the cry of a hungry child for its mother is audible. It's somewhere off to the northwest, a bit off the path.

"A child's wail," Kylfa whispers.

Brúnn stops, frowning.

"I... doubt it is really a child. But so it sounds."

"The last time we ran into something like that, it got into my head something nasty."

Brúnn looks over to you. "Last time?"

"If it's the same thing."

"Do tell us," Hróar urges. "It could be something similar."

Dagny quickly tells about the last encounter.

Kylfa grunts.  "It was a malevolent spirit."

Ragnvaldr stoops to comfort Aslaug.

Alsuag whimpers and licks your hand. She does not want to go further.

"It sounds like a Myling," Brúnn says. "The ghost of an unburied babe.  Since Fimbulvinter began, many have despaired; some mothers cannot bear to bring children into a world so doomed.  Out of love for their own children they abandon them here in the hills - a quick death is more merciful than a lifetime of misery.  Mylings are the restless spectres of those children, grown in death if not in life."

"Yeah," Dagny affirms. "Those."

Hróar frowns. "Wraiths that strike at your soul are more dangerous than those that merely claw at your flesh. We must harden our minds."

"We could wait, see if it passes by?" Ragnvaldr suggests.

A heart-wrenching wail cuts through the fog, quite suddenly and clearly audible. It fills you with a sense of despondency and cold horror. The sound came from the northwest - just a little west of your path.

Ragnvaldr exhales slowly "Or... we could go to meet it"

Kylfa scowls.

"They long for their mothers, so they are drawn to women," Dagny says, remembering some snippet of lore from the Hrafnlands. "I could... bait it, I guess."

"If a blade can cut them, we can do battle," Hróar  says. "Otherwise it'd be better to avoid it."

Ragnvaldr seems lost in thought at the idea of baby dying before it had known life.

"As I recall, a blade only told when it was enchanted," Kylfa says. " with a claw."

Ragnvaldr snaps out of it "Well..." holds up Dagnöskur

"Dagnöskur can cut them," Dagny says. "As can Ragnvaldrok. Mundane weapons, no."

"I can bless my axe, or any other weapon," Hróar says.

Kylfa shrugs.  "Decide what we will.  If we are to fight then I will prepare."

Dagny draws her own weapon.

The sound seems to have stopped. No more cries echo through the fog...

Ragnvaldr stands still, listening, and watching the beasts to see how they react.

Ragnvaldr, you hear nothing; the beasts seem to be calming somewhat. Perhaps it went away...

"Well if it doesn't want to fight I'm certainly not going to object." Dagny keeps her axe drawn but starts to advance. "Maybe we should keep moving."

Brúnn coughs. "There may be another way to give the spirit peace. If we can find its remains and give them the proper rites, it should pass on from Midgard."

"No point staying here if we can't hear it anymore," Hróar growls.

Ragnvaldr starts cautiously forward.

"One burial at a time," Dagny says. "It seems gone for now."

Kylfa grunts approvingly, and trudges on.

Brúnn nods. "We should be on our guard nonetheless. The barrow is not far."

"Finding a long-dead corpse of a child here would be impossible," Hróar notes. "Unless the dog is able to sniff it."

You approach a great mound of snow and earth, crowned by a stone monolith graven with many runes, as well as an image of a helmed warrior thrusting his hand into the maw of a great wolf. Set in the side of the hill is a stone door, likewise carved with runes, along with the wolf's head of Clan Wulfgar.

"These guys know how to die in style. Gotta give 'em that."

Brúnn approaches the door and traces the runes, speaking softly. They glow briefly.

Kylfa looks unimpressed.  "For all this, they have rotted all the same."

Brúnn shoots you a dark glance. "Hush! You must choose your words wisely, Kylfa, or the dead will take offense all the sooner." He steps back. "The door is heavy. It will need strong arms to open."

Kylfa lifts his hands.  "As you say."

Dagny flicks her wrist, extending her wand. She casts Light on the end of it.

Hróar assists.

Kylfa steps forward and tests the door, grunting.

The door holds fast, refusing to budge.

Ragnvaldr steps forward to add his muscle to the others'

Dagny rolls her eyes and joins in.

Kylfa takes a deep breath, then tries again.

Ragnvaldr's sinews strain, and at last the door moves, opening into a chamber beyond.

Kylfa grunts, rubbing his arm.

You look into a chamber of earth and hewn stone, its posts carved with the names of the dead, its ceiling yawning above. The fur of a great wolf carpets the floor, black as a moonless night. On the walls, old hangings bearing images of battles with other clans, and with the minions of Ironwood, each commemorating the death of some hero of Clan Wulfgar. Three rectangular doors lead to other chambers of the barrow; the one to the left stands ajar, the right is shut, and the door straight ahead is open. There are some dark stains on the floor, and a putrescent reek curdles the air.

Dagny cautiously enters the room, casting Detect Magic.

You don't detect any magic, Dagny. Brúnn follows you in.

"These tombs hold the remains of the first Jarl of Wulfheim - Kolbjorn Wulfgar - and his Hird," the Gothi explains, indicating the chambers to either side. "Yonder hall was excavated more recently."

Ragnvaldr takes the head end of the stretcher and lifts Katla with Hróar, following gently after the others.

Dagny gets out of the way.

Hróar quietly aids in the carrying act, feeling a bit out of place in this funerary errand.

Kylfa grimaces.

Ragnvaldr grows pale as he crosses into the domain of the fallen. He nods questioningly towards the open door ahead.

Hróar coughs at the putrid air.

Dagny coughs. "This place smells worse than... ugh... everything. It smells worse than everything.  Let's do this and get it over with. I feel like I'm going to lose my breakfast."

Kylfa grunts grumpily.  "Which way."

Brúnn indicates the open door. "The empty tombs lie yonder."


This cold, dusty hall of ancient, rough-hewn stone is carved with thousands of runes; the eight stone doors along the walls to either side are marked with even more. Interspersed along the walls of the hall are niches within which the skulls of prodigious wolves glare, their yellow fangs gleaming in the gloom. The hall is dominated by a great wooden longship within which many grave goods - urns, gold, silver, swords, axes, spears, shields, helms, belts, and sacred talismans - are heaped. Even a quick glance at the trove reveals its extraordinary richness.

Dagny peers through, following up with a quick Detect Magic.

Dagny, magic glimmers amongst the trove. Thick cobwebs shroud everything here in a silvery haze. One of the doors stands open; another seems to have crumbled, fragments of stone littering the threshold. More stains mottle the floor.

"The Ulfr-Lange," Brúnn says, indicating the vessel. "Sailed by the Wulfgar's ancestors to Thule, and back again. That door leads to the chamber reserved for current members of Clan Wulfgar." He indicates the open door near the end of the hall. "We should bring Katla yonder."

"A fine ship." Ragnvaldr nods and moves towards the indicated door, still gingerly bearing Katla

Kylfa follows behind.

"You guys go on ahead, I'll be right there," Dagny says. "I'm going to see if I can't find that sword."

"Dagny, wait," Ragnvaldr cautions.


"Don't touch a thing until we have Katla safely interred. We don't want to disturb the dead here any sooner than we have to."

Hróar carries the stretcher with Ragnvaldr, struck silent by the somber atmosphere in the tomb

Dagny shrugs. "Fine, fine."

You enter a square chamber with carven shelves and several open stone caskets, devoid of occupants. There are no grave-goods here, though the vile stench you smelled near the entrance is strong.

Ragnvaldr, as you walk into the room you see that one of the caskets is not empty, as you'd first imagined. A putrid corpse lying in a pool of coagulated blood has been deposited in one of the coffins. The man has skin tinged blue-black in several places and has been torn open, revealing that many of his organs are missing. His splintered ribcage looks gnawed as if from some beast. In one long-nailed hand the man still clutches a blood-stained seax.

Ragnvaldr nods for the others to look into the casket.

"Urgh... much more of this and I'm afraid I'm going to end up disturbing the dead by throwing up all over them..." Dagny says.

Dagny's worry is not without merit. The stench here is truly appalling.

Hróar peers into the casket.

Kylfa crosses his arms and stands by the door, scowling.

"That does not seem like a proper burial to me," Hróar observes.

"Brúnn? What do you make of this?" Ragnvaldr asks.

Brúnn looks into the casket and stumbles back, horrified. "This is not one of the Wulfgars," he says. "Something must have dragged him here. Gods! The reek is abominable!"

"Was he a grave-looter, perhaps?" Hróar wonders.

Brúnn nods. "Perhaps. The door to this hall was open. There are desperate men who crawl the hills these days, scrounging what they can."

Dagny coughs, more like gagging. "Can we figure this out outside?"

"But who killed him?" Hróar asks.

"The smell," Dagny says. "The smell killed him."

"Not from the looks of him"

"Let's take Katla back outside, then we can search the barrow properly and see what we find," Ragnvaldr suggests.

"It is not surprising to me that such a place would attract scavengers," Hróar notes.

"Once all is settled within, we can bring her back and lay her to rest," Kylfa says.

"As you wish," Hróar says.

Ragnvaldr heads back out towards the barrow's entrance chamber.

Dagny follows behind, happy to be going towards fresh air.

Brúnn follows you. "At the very least that body should be disposed of as well," he says.

Hróar breathes deep and thoroughly once outside.

Kylfa follows them out.

Dagny coughs loudly and then takes a few deep breaths.

You step outside, taking a deep breath and then hear it - another thin, mournful wail. Somewhere to the south.

"That... thing is back. Hear it?"

"That child-ghost thing again?" Hróar  growls. "Has it followed us?"

"It must have," Brúnn says, drawing back against the side of the mound.

"Do these... children... disturb the dead?" Kylfa asks.

"Not that I have heard. More likely it saw Dagny, or even Katla, and dogged our footsteps."

Dagny shakes her head, trying to clear it.

Ragnvaldr sighs "I came here for a burial, but if I must fight first, so be it. You say Dagnöskur will cut this thing?"

Dagny nods. "It should. From what I saw the last time, anyway."

Ragnvaldr sets Katla down gently next to the barrow's entrance and draws the orm-bone axe. "Then let it be cut."

Another wail comes from out of the fog – insistent, almost angry, the cry of a child that desperately needs feeding.

"My axe will, as well." Dagny draws her own.

Mumuring, Kylfa casts Barkskin on himself, and then Shillelagh on his cudgel.

"I will stand beside you." Hróar blesses his axe.

Kylfa lifts his shield and thumps his cudgel against it.  "Mm."

Dagny calls out. "You hungry?! Come and get some of this!!"

Kylfa peers about.  "Perhaps you must be more... motherly?"

Responding to Dagny's voice, something appears out of the fog – a thin, white-skinned child, so pallid it blends in with the snow and mist, its eyes a piercing, lifeless blue. It opens it black mouth hungrily, toddling towards Dagny with a stiff gait.

"I don't suppose you like weird green soup..." Dagny says.

Ragnvaldr steps grimly to meet the undead thing, hefting Dagnöskur.

The Myling ignores Ragnvaldr, stumbling forward towards Dagny, crying mournfully. Your axe hews the creature, parting its spectral flesh like mist, but it wails in pain and turns towards you, its eyes growing wide, its mouth opening hugely, jaw unhinging, impossibly large!

Kylfa grits his teeth and charges, snarling, cudgel raised in the air.

The child-spirit whimpers as you club at it, flailing its arms.

Dagny runs in alongside, her own axe at the ready. She pauses for a moment to focus her arcane power into it, then jumps forth and strikes.

The Myling weeps bloody tears, but its face becomes contorted into an expression of abject fury at Dagny's assault. It growls, its voice shifting. Suddenly it sounds absolutely nothing like a child.

Hróar also rushes at the creature, swinging his mighty axe at it. His axe falls down through the Myling, splitting its ghostly form in twain. The creature makes no sound, only staring silently with its lifeless eyes. Its form dissolves, swept away by a gust of winds.

Dagny tosses and catches her axe. "Little fucker."

Brúnn covers his eyes with his hand and whispers a prayer to Freyja under his breath for the Myling's spirit.

Ragnvaldr gruffly mutters "That wasn't so hard. Back to the task at hand." His eyes, though, seem wet for some reason.

"Entering that burrow again takes more courage than facing this Draugr did," Hróar says.


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Re: The Fimbulvinter Saga
« Reply #36 on: August 24, 2015, 01:39:29 PM »
IC: Fitt XXX: Haugbrott
The Myling has dissipated, its mewling still lingering pitifully in the malodorous air. As you turn back to your haugbrott the miasmatic reek somehow grows even stronger.

Dagny shakes her head. "Well this is... yeah, this is great. So, here's the plan. Beard-man waits out here in case that stupid little shit comes back, rest of us go in there, open all the doors, then I'll blow out the stench."

Hróar smiles. "I can't say I fancy going in there with those fumes, so I'm more than happy to stay by the door until it's been dealt with."

Dagny points at Kylfa. "He's Beard-man. You've got a beard, but you're not Beard-man. You're opening doors."

Hróar frowns. "I got beard and manliness more than enough to be called 'beard-man'. Not that I would suggest brother Kylfa to be lacking in either way, mind!"

Kylfa grunts. "I mislike the smell in this den... I shall remain here."

"I do admit that his sense of scent is superior. Aya, it must be awful indeed for one of his kind."

"Look, the more of us go in there and open doors the less time we have to be in there and the more stench we blow out," Dagny says.

Ragnvaldr nods grimly and gestures to Katla's body "Watch over her, friend Kylfa."

The bear-shaman nods, his ice-frosted beard wagging.

Dagny looks impatient.

Hróar places a hairy palm on Ragnvaldr's wound. "Stand still."

Ragnvaldr’s wounds begin to close up, scab, and scar in moments.

Ragnvaldr, invigorated, makes for the barrow's entrance. "Come then."

Dagny tosses and catches her throwing axe and does a few little tricks.

Hróar follows, pinching his nose.

You return to the front chamber of the barrow.

Dagny steps aside to let Ragnvaldr in first.

Ragnvaldr goes to the shut door to the right and puts his shoulder to it.

The door remains firmly sealed, Ragnvaldr.

Ragnvaldr gives a savage curse under his breath.

Hróar also tries to open one of the doors.

Hróar, your efforts are no better – this door is firmly shut.

"Perhaps we should try together" Hróar goes to assist Ragnvaldr.

Dagny tries the door directly across from Ragnvaldr.

Dagny, this door is ajar just enough that you could slip through. You try to move it, but it is stuck fast.

"Yeah, ok, this isn't getting us anywhere." Dagny mumbles something and goes to help also.

Between the three of you, you manage to wedge the door far enough open that one person could slip in.

Ragnvaldr regains his composure after the effort and heads into the ship-hall.

Dagny puts her sleeve over her face. "Urgh.. anyway..." She makes her way back outside, taking a few deep breaths of non-foul air.

Ragnvaldr goes to the first door on the left and heaves against it with a grunt.

You set to work and soon have cracked all of the doors in the barrow, allowing fresh air to seep into the stale chambers. If enough was blown through the place, perhaps the pestilential reek would be banished, at least for a time.

"So... it seems now we need a wind to complete our purge." Ragnvaldr says. "Any thoughts, rune-caller?"

"On it. Everyone out and stand clear unless you want this up your ass." Dagny starts twirling her wand as a small wind begins to form surrounding her circular motion.

Hróar retreats to the outside, relieved at the fresh air out there.

Ragnvaldr hurriedly stumps out of the barrow to let Dagny work her Seidr.

Dagny starts twirling it faster and faster, the wind becoming stronger and stronger, until she sends a great spiral of air, like a sideways tornado, deep into the barrow.

Your cleansing wind shrieks through the tomb like a righteous spirit, and the mephitic stench abruptly dissipates.

All of you breathe clean air with relief, your nausea receding as the reek diminishes.

Hróar re-enters the barrow happily.

"Now let us find whatever left that grisly trophy in the burial chamber..." Ragnvaldr hefts Dagnöskur purposefully.

Brúnn leans on his staff and looks throughout the tomb, frowning towards the ship, where the wind has tattered some of the webs. Spiders are seething about the chamber, scrambling about their now-ruinous handiwork.

"Yeah… that was... like a combination of ass and armpit and ugh I don't even know." Dagny re-enters as well and makes her way to the barrow with the mangled corpse.

You return to the chamber and look upon the mutilated cadaver. You note that its nails are very long, and that its eyes are open; it’s also sitting up slightly. It is curious that its organs have been removed, but you are unsure what this signifies. You mislike the way the corpse seems to be staring at you, however. There are tales, of course, of creatures who dwell in tombs such as this – the dread Haugbui, barrow-warders who guard crypts against looters like yourselves. It is said that such revenants can produce more of themselves, by slaying would-be tomb raiders.

"Anyone got any idea what happened to this guy, or maybe I should just, ya know, find out."

"Perhaps whatever it is lurks beyond the door that we came upon ajar? Unless we think it shut the door behind it as it passed..." Ragnvaldr leaves it to his wiser companions to investigate the body.

Hróar goes to examine the corpse more carefully, now that his senses are no longer addled by the reek.

"Yeah, hack it to bits," Dagny suggests. "But be careful. It might be waiting in ambush."

Hróar stares at the body, readying his axe.

Hróar takes careful aim and brings the heavy blade down on the cadaver's neck, with intent of cutting off the head

Dagny switches her torch-wand to her left hand and has her own axe at the ready.

Ragnvaldr attempts to positions himself out of range of any flying ichor that might result.

Your axe connects, half-decapitating the cadaver. The eviscerated corpse makes a hoarse rattling sound in its punctured throat as it wrenches itself upwards, grasping at the shaft of your axe.  So badly decomposed is the body that as the Haugbui lurches forth its spine rips with a sickening snap, leaving hips and legs behind. The reanimated upper half of the corpse crooks its nails into claws, carious teeth bared in a rictus of insatiable hunger!

Hróar curses, rather annoyed that his cut failed to sever the neck.

Ragnvaldr steps in with a disgusted sneer and swings Dagnöskur.

Dagny leaps forth, channeling a bit of her arcane power into her axe, and then trying to bring it down on the foul thing. She pauses for a split, second, letting Ragnvaldr slice the thing open lengthwise, and she follows up, slicing it in half the other way, and freeing his axe. The corpse is now not-so-neatly quartered before them.

Ragnvaldr turns to the others, wiping a streak of pungent viscera from his cheek, managing somehow to at once smirk at Dagny and raise an eyebrow scathingly at Hróar.

"Better to bury the parts separately. Just in case." Hróar finishes severing the head and picks it up.

"Seems wise," Ragnvaldr agrees.

Hróar strokes his beard thoughtfully. "We should remove the nails. Tie the legs together and put twigs over all the remains. Sacred water would be even better, but there's none to be had here."

Brúnn enters the chamber, looking upon the corpse. "I have some blessed water with me, and can spare some for this poor wretch."

"That is good news"

"Let's get the wretched thing outside though, eh?" Ragnvaldr urges.

"Just keep an eye out in case there are any more," Dagny suggests.

"Yes. This one was attacked by another Haugbui. So there must be at least one more somewhere here." Hróar starts cutting off the creature's nails with his dagger.

Once he is done, Ragnvaldr stoops to grab a quarter of the dead thing in each hand.

Brúnn nods and takes hold of part of it with compassion rather than distaste.

Dagny is all too happy to let everyone else handle this.

Ragnvaldr stumps out of the barrow with his grotesque burden.

Together after the thing's nails are trimmed you carry the dismembered corpse out into the cold. The day is now darkened, the red sun low in the sky behind a grey haze.

Ragnvaldr dumping the lumps of cadaver in the snow, he gives the waiting Kylfa a workmanlike nod before turning to re-enter.

Dagny goes back in with Ragnvaldr, not particularly interested in the ritual.

Kylfa regards the corpse with disinterest, wrinkling his snout-like nose briefly and returning to his vigil.

Ragnvaldr points to the door that was already ajar as they go back in "Through there, do you think?"

"Worth a try," Dagny says.

"It might be in one of the chambers we've not fully opened yet," Hróar reasons.

"Would it have closed the door behind itself, though?" Ragnvaldr wonders. "That is my thought."

Brúnn gathers a few twigs and sprinkles holy water on the body parts, speaking a few sacred words in hopes of relieving the anguish of the dead man's spirit. He then returns to the front chamber.

Dagny figures it's best to be prepared, and mumbles a few words, a yellow glow surrounding her for an instant.

Ragnvaldr approaches the door.

You peer into a long burial chamber absolutely filled with grave goods – coins, rings, torcs, amulets, arm-bands, weapons, pots of bronze, urns containing the ashes of thralls, war-horns, shields, helms, and even a curious iron wand. The collected treasures here constitute a fortune to rival a Drakkar's hoard. The skull of a huge wolf looms from the far wall, its jagged teeth glinting murderously out of the darkness, its empty sockets two black pits, swathed now in spider-webs. At the centre of the chamber lies a stone casket graven with images of men and beasts. Two carved bone chests are evident at the far wall.

Ragnvaldr steps gingerly through the doorway.  "I see no corpse-thing... but perhaps there might be something else we seek, in one of those chests..."

Dagny follows behind, holding her wand high for light.

Some residue of the carrion stench that permeated the barrow still lingers here, though the fresh air Dagny blew in has doubtless lessened its rancidity.

"A Jarl's hoard." Hróar moves into the chamber, his eyes gleaming at the sight of the rich grave-goods.

Dagny casts Detect Magic.

One of the chests glimmers dully, Dagny, as does the iron wand.

Ragnvaldr helps himself to a few torcs and arm-rings.

Dagny examines the iron wand.

Dagny, the runes on this wand suggest it has some connection with storms and lightning.Most of the runes have grown dim, but eight shimmer still.

Dagny sticks it in a loop of her belt and will figure out what exactly it's for later. She goes over to the chest.

Dagny, the chest bears an intricate lock, possibly of Dvergar construction.

Dagny shrugs and tries the chest.

You’ll need a key, or a lockpick.

Ragnvaldr goes to guard the door to the chamber as the others investigate, lest they be ambushed.

Hróar grabs a helmet and a couple of rings to examine.

The helm is old, but still in good condition. The rings are mostly of silver and gold, the former badly tarnished. Many of the weapons here are expertly crafted – particularly the long swords. None stands out as especially significant, however.

Hróar, as you look about the barrow-chamber you notice that the stone casket has a thin fissure dividing it in two.

Hróar looks closely at the fissure, his curiosity piqued.

It looks as if the casket was sundered at some point, then pieced carefully back together... curious.

"Why would be casket be split asunder? Who would do such a thing, only to put it back together?"

"Someone hiding in it?" Dagny says half-seriously.

Hróar tries to move the parts of the casket apart, to see if they are firmly joined.

Hróar, the casket fragments can be moved easily.

Hróar tries to make a narrow opening to peer through.

You widen the opening slightly, and are immediately assailed by another blast of noisome carrion stench, as if you were standing on the Corpse Shores themselves!

"Ugh, who farted?" Dagny doubles over, barely avoiding throwing up all over.

Hróar hurries to quickly close the gap!

You move to slam the pieces of the lid back together, but before you can a horribly thin, cadaverous arm snakes from the sundered stone lid, blackened and putrid! The arm reaches for your throat, too-long fingernails clawing towards you!

"Urgh... I told you... someone hiding in it..." Dagny says, nearly retching. "Or some... thing,"

Hróar steps back in alarm, reaching for his axe.

You pull back from its undying grasp just in time! The arm seizes the cracked pieces of the lid and fling them aside, and a gaunt, armoured figure pulls itself from within, dragging with it an ancient sword. The Haugbui's eyes glimmer red in the gloom of the barrow-chamber as its strides towards you on spindly limbs, blade swinging!

The Haugbui lurches towards Hróar, hacking with its sword. Its blow goes wide, the sword scraping against the wall of the barrow.

Hróar deftly sidesteps the wild attack.

Ragnvaldr smiles grimly "To the rending, then..."

"This just gets better and better," Dagny says.

Dagny, to your rune-caller's eyes the sword of the revenant glows dully in the gloom, runes set upon the ancient blade.

Hróar grunts, blowing putrescent air. "Back to the death's halls you go!" He shouts, swinging his axe at the armoured corpse.

The revenant parries your attack, turning it aside!

Ragnvaldr lumbers back into the chamber and heaves Dagnöskur at the Haugbui two-handed.

Distracted by Hróar, the revenant fails to stop Ragnvaldr's blow. The axe tears through its body, splitting it from shoulder to navel, but it remains upright, hissing contemptuously.

Brúnn invokes the blessing of Tyr to lend you strength and courage.

Dagny channels a bit of her arcane power into her axe, the blessings mitigating the sickened feeling somewhat. She strikes!

Your axe nearly shears off the thing's jaw, its rotten tongue lolling from its mouth. Its eyes blaze in fury as it twists round to assail its new attackers.

Ragnvaldr, you feel an awful chill steal through your bones as the sword of the revenant catches your chest, drawing blood. The wound stings, as if you've been bitten by some creeping vermin.

Hróar continues to assail the Haugbui furiously. "Don't just forget about me, cur!" Hróar 's attack catches the revenant unaware, as the creature had foolishly turned its back to the Trollblood. The large axe-blade finds a weak spot in its armour and cleaves through, severing the spine and causing the corpse to fall down in twain.

The thing hisses, its blade falling from its grasp as unlife leaves it...

Dagny examines the blade, muttering an incantation.

The sword gleams with power; its runes radiate conjuration magic.

Hróar takes the sword and glares at the corpse. "We should dispose of it the same way. Might this be that sword-relic we were after, though?"

Dagny stops mid-casting. "Yeah, let's just pick up the strange creepy thing's sword before Dagny's had a chance to make sure it's safe. Good sound tactics."

Ragnvaldr smirks at Dagny's acerbic comment

"Whatever, I guess if nothing horrible happens then it's safe."

The sword bears a distinctive pommel, shaped into the semblance of a wolf's head.

"I am not familiar with the Wulfgar clan's relics," Hróar says. "Brúnn, do you know of this blade?"

Brúnn examines the blade. "Ah yes – this is the blade of Kolbjorn Wulfgar, founder of the clan." His eyes turn to the dismembered body on the floor of the crypt. "These days are dark indeed, when the first Jarl of the Wulfgar line can be corrupted so. The sword is said to bear a powerful enchantment: it thirsts for the blood of all wolf-kind, and will pierce the hide of even the vilest Vargr.”

"So we have found the sword we came here for. Here." Hróar hands the sword over to Brúnn.

Brúnn accepts the blade.

Dagny turns to Ragnvaldr. "You ok? That thing got you..."

Ragnvaldr smiles somewhat pallidly at Dagny "Aye, he got me... I've had worse though..." He then continues under his breath "Not much worse, but still..."

"I wish I could do something about that wound," Hróar says with a frown. "But my knowledge fails me here." Hróar decides to help himself to the wealth of goods laying around.

"Can you go on?" Dagny asks. "Rather finish this up but..."

Ragnvaldr nods. "I can go on."

"Feeling strong enough to help me bust a chest open?"

"Point the way, shit-slinger."

Dagny goes over to the chest she couldn't open.

Ragnvaldr grunts and chops into the top of the chest.

Dagny holds the chest steady for Ragnvaldr.

You smash through the chest easily, bone splintering beneath your blade. The chest contains an intricately wrought horn bearing curious runic marks.

Dagny helps Ragnvaldr smash the other chest too.

The second the box disgorges a stream of strange greenish coins, stamped with the images of Southron kings. This green-gold has considerable value, though not as much as true gold.

Dagny examines the horn.

This horn is enchanted such that it can breathe forth a heavy fog, obscuring the one who blew it.

Dagny looks at the horn and sighs slightly. "Hm. No ring..."

"There's still other chambers."

Dagny nods, putting the horn away.

"Before we try forcing another door open, let us take care of this guardian here." Hróar points that the revenant.

"Aye, we should." Ragnvaldr starts to heft the Haugbui out of the barrow.

"Ragnvaldr, pray stay your hand – I would keep the Jarl's body here, corrupted though it may be. Let us tend to the corpse and leave the founder of Clan Wulfgar in his rightful resting place."

Ragnvaldr nods. "As you wish, Brúnn."

"He wasn't doing much resting," Dagny mutters.

"Hróar, will you assist me, as you did the other outside?" Brúnn once more sprinkles some more holy water on the corpse while laying twigs upon it.

"I will aid you in this task, Brúnn. We can ensure he'll rest from now on."

Dagny gives her little sarcastic salute. "Rest in pieces, your Jarlness."

Brúnn darts you a disapproving look, Dagny, but holds his tongue.

Ragnvaldr casts his eye around the chamber as the others work, making sure he hasn't missed anything important before they move on. He heads back into the entrance chamber, grimacing and holding his head against the sickly, hollowed-out feeling the Haugbui's blow has left him with.

"Across the way?" Dagny motions to the other door.

Brúnn strokes his beard. "We have claimed the sword, and gleaned some riches from the Jarl's tomb. But sunset approaches. Should we lay Katla to rest, or continue the haugbrott?"

"Now that the barrow is cleansed, there's no need to keep the shield maiden from her rightful rest," Hróar says.

"I came here for a ring," Dagny puts in. "I want to find it first."

"I would know the whole barrow is cleared before I commit her to it," Ragnvaldr agrees. "There are chambers we have yet to check."

"So we'll open every door first?"

Ragnvaldr nods and starts with the nearest – the door opposite, coming off the entrance chamber.

Hróar goes to assist. "Might be another Jarly tomb here, so near the entrance"

Brúnn shakes his head. "This tomb holds the bodies of Jarl Kolbjorn's Hird – his closest companions and bodyguards, heroes of old."

Ragnvaldr peers through the gap before committing himself.

Dagny hands Ragnvaldr her wand to use like a torch.

You look inside the next barrow-chamber. Four stout stone caskets stand in this chamber, which is bedecked with weapons, armour, furs, shields, and the skulls of beasts, men, Jötunn, and even small Drakkar.  Of particular note is an impressive pair of two-handed swords mounted in a place of honour beneath the skull of a monstrous Troll.  Shelves contain more grave goods, including a selection of decorative tankards carved with runes.

Ragnvaldr, seeing nothing threatening, shoulders his way into the room.

Hróar goes to take a closer look at the large swords.

Dagny slides her way in and casts Detect Magic.

The swords are masterfully made. However there seems naught of magic in this chamber – at least nothing on display. As for the caskets, you cannot be sure.

Hróar takes one of the swords and gives it a testing swing.

The sword is perfectly balanced. With sharpening it would be a fearsome weapon indeed.

"A fine blade, this one."

Ragnvaldr nods to Hróar "Aye, very well made. Should serve steadily. If these dead are not disturbed already, perhaps we have no need to disturb them further..."

"Two swords were placed here. One should be good to take."

Dagny looks to see who the caskets belong to.

The caskets bear the names of the Hirdmenn who served the Jarl – Brúnn confirms that none of these was a rune-caller. "We are seeking the tomb of the Seeress Caecilia, who served Jarl Randr Wulfgar."

"If none of these are a rune-caller, odds are the ring isn't here."

Ragnvaldr makes to leave the chamber if the others are finished in here.

"On to the next chamber, Ragnvaldr?" Hróar takes the sword with him.


Dagny makes a "gimme" gesture with her fingers as she passes by Ragnvaldr.

Ragnvaldr hands over the wand and heads back to the ship room, peering through the first doorway on the right.

Dagny mumbles. "Well if you're going to go looking into the dark maybe you still need it.... unless you've got the eyes of a Dvergar and forgot to tell me."

Ragnvaldr opens his mouth to say something about her asking for it back so insistently, then another wave of weakness overcomes him and he doesn't bother.

Hróar also looks into the room.

This long, narrow tomb has two caskets of carven bone, both sealed. The walls are adorned with numerous furs and hides, primarily those of wolves and bears; several finely-wrought bows hang here as well. In small niches, arrows are bundled.

Dagny casts Detect Magic.

Dagny, amidst the arrows you discern a glint of magic.

Brúnn speaks. "Here lie the hunters Gvondr and Hængr, who defended Wulfheim against the Warg-host of Hyrrokkin. It is said that the arrow that slew one of the Trollwife’s greatest wolf-generals was interred with them."

Hróar goes to peek inside another chamber.

This tomb contains a large barrel marked with what look like Dvergar runes, as well as several unmarked barrels. The walls are hung with several drinking horns adorned with precious metals and gemstones. Two stone caskets stand in the chamber’s middle.

"There are many runes in this room here." Hróar calls out.

"One sec!"Dagny slips into the chamber and looks for the source of the magic.

After searching through the arrows you find the one which glows, still crusted with a thick black stain where it pierced the Vargr's hide.

Dagny takes that one with her and continues onward. "These guys really like killing wolves."

Ragnvaldr examines the bows.

The bows are expertly made, crafted of wood and sinew laminated together.

Ragnvaldr takes a bow and a bundle of the arrows.
Dagny goes to where Hróar spotted the runes. She reads them, still searching for magic.

Dagny, you recognize the runes for the Mead of Poetry, a beverage brewed by dwarf-kind and mixed with the blood of Kvasir, a man born from the spittle used to seal the truce twixt the Æsir and the Vanir. The Poetic Mead endows the drinker with inspiration, making any who drinks of it a poet and scholar beyond equal while they remain under its influence.

"Hm... magic mead. Makes you a poet and a scholar or something. We should bring some back for Lord Cock, it might make him actually halfway tolerable to be around."

Hróar carries on over to another door.

This tomb has two caskets of stone and has walls bristling with spears and swords, many of them notched or broken, as well as several cloven shields. A large wall hanging depicts a great battle between a small force of fair-bearded men and a great host of dark-haired warriors, most of them bowmen, accompanied by swarms of black crows and surrounding the smaller army on all sides.

Dagny shrugs and continues on. She muses as she looks at the armies fighting, "Heh... these look like Hrafnii..."

Your enchanted gaze lingers on a shield, marked with runes naming it the Ravenshield. Examining it, you see that it is cloven, but bears a powerful enchantment that will attract arrows to it.

Dagny brings it with her. Not that it's much use, but it's something to do with her people.

Hróar moves on to the furthest door down the barrow.

Ragnvaldr goes to follow Hróar.

This tomb has four stone caskets and is adorned with various exotic silks and strange weapons, including queerly curved swords. There are also ornately wrought pipes. The air actually smells spicy and pleasant here.

Hróar enters and searches the chamber, casting Detect Magic.

Ragnvaldr goes and looks at the silks.

Hróar, one of the blades - a huge, two-handed sword that curves strangely – glimmers with magic. It is adorned with marks, though they are not runes of the sort you are familiar with: strangely sinuous letters, unlike any you have seen before. You cannot decipher the marks; the magic is too unfamiliar.

Hróar examines the strange sword, but can't tell what this utlendr sorcery within it does. He takes the blade anyway, figuring it might be worth something.

Ragnvaldr peers at the silks in the dimness and runs his fingers over them.

Dagny could probably help but she's still searching the previous room…

Ragnvaldr, these silks alone would be quite valuable, if you can find folk rich enough to value them. There are bolts of silk, as well as various garments for both men and women. Ragnvaldr, having raided and plundered far and wide, you recognize that these garments are likely from Miklagard, which the Southrons call Lygos, Queen of Cities.

Ragnvaldr takes whatever he can best tell makes up one male and one female outfit of the silken clothes

Hróar leaves the chamber and moves to the other side of the main crypt, ready to search another room.

Hróar, two caskets of carved stone stand here, amidst a great trove of hack silver heaped upon the floor or piled in great stone chests.

Hróar loots some of the silver.

Ragnvaldr comes back out into the ship chamber at the same time as Dagny and looks up a bit sheepishly from stuffing silks into his pack. "Er.... You find anything?"

Dagny holds up the shield.

"...I'm assuming that is more than just a broken shield."

"It's a broken magical shield. Should be useful if we can fix it."

"Huh. Good. I found some nice clothes." With that, he bustles off to follow Hróar.

Dagny smirks. "Huh. Didn't take you for the type to care much about that."

Hróar moves on to the next door, his pockets bulging from hack silver.

The door to this tomb has been wrenched from its hinges, Hróar. Numerous wolf-pelts, skulls, and bones adorn the walls of this barrow, which has only a single stone casket.  There are also a number of tanned animal skins bear runic inscriptions.  Images of beasts, monsters, spirits, and gods figures decorate the ceiling, while carved alcoves contain small totemic statuettes and urns. The casket, strangely, lies open and empty...

Hróar moves in, detecting magic again.

Hróar, there's quite a bit of magic in this chamber: several of the animal skins bear spells, written upon the tanned hides.

Dagny takes the long way around, peeking into the far room, and then joins the others.

Ragnvaldr mutters to Dagny as they head into the chamber "Well, I thought if nothing else... they might be good for... you know. The wedding. Washed first, of course."

"You know, with all the shit that's been going on, sometimes I half-forget that's even a thing." She squeezes his hand, though, to reassure him that has nothing to do with him.

Hróar takes one of the pelts and examines it closely, trying to make sense of the Seidr woven into it.

This pelt bears a spell which will call forth beasts from the wild.

"Ah, a useful pelt." Hróar throws the pelt over his shoulder.

Dagny peers around and presumably spots the same objects of interest. She looks at another pelt.

The pelt you investigate has a spell that will cause the caster to assume the aspect of a beast.

Dagny checks another!

This pelt bears a spell to charm an animal, making it your firm friend.

Dagny looks at this one and wrinkles her nose. "I can't make much sense of this one. Some sort of animal charming... can't use it, though."

"Might be that this chamber was meant for shamen," Hróar says. "But the casket is empty. Either none was ever buried here, or they have left."

"Beard-man might." Dagny adds with a smirk, "Either of you beard-men. Since you felt the need to point that out." She shoves the hide in Hróar's general direction and goes to check the last one.

Hróar picks up the pelt and stuffs it in his pack.

Ragnvaldr goes back into the ship-chamber and re-examines the hoard there.

Dagny, you remove the last pelt to inspect the runes upon it, when a blast of noisome air assails you. There is a space behind the pelt, clawed into the earth itself!

The revenant that lurches from the hidden chamber behind the pelt was clearly a woman in life, shrivelled breasts hanging pendulously from her emaciated body, wild masses of matted, unkempt hair straggling forth in brittle profusion from her skull. A fell light burns in the deep pits of her decayed visage as she shrieks horribly, bounding towards you with arms stretched wide in a gruesome embrace, the necrotic reek of her breath making your stomach roil!

"Uh... FUCK! Found the shaman I think!"

The revenant clamps her clammy hands about your throat, seeming to draw the life-force from your body! You feel your breath slipping away, sucked into her toothless mouth. She sighs with obscene pleasure.

Dagny recoils away as quickly as she can – not quickly enough.

Hróar rushes at the Haugbui woman, bellowing a battle-cry. His axe-blade begins to emit hissing acid mid-swing as it descend upon the monster.

Your axe hews off one of the revenant's limbs, eating through her decomposing flesh. She screams in agony, twisting her head impossibly round towards you with a sickening crack of bone.

Brúnn enters the room, invoking the power of Freya to smite the unholy creature. The undead Seeress shrieks, releasing Dagny and clamping her remaining hand to her rotten head to block out the sacred words.

Ragnvaldr , hearing the commotion, charges back into the chamber, Dagnöskur in hand.

"I told you there was another of those fucking things..." Dagny hisses and picks herself up off the ground, her hands igniting. She sends a cone of flame into the thing's hiding-hole. Dagny momentarily fills the chamber with a brilliant yellow-orange light, and then the smell of burnt flesh fills the room. Cracked, gray bones fall to the ground, devoid of unlife.

Hróar jumps back, out of the way of Dagny's flames.

"Fire works well..."

Ragnvaldr 's look of concern turns to an idiot grin at the sight of the destruction.

As the last glimmers of unholy life depart, the Seeress speaks from her blackened lips, rasping in the vile tongue of Helmál:

"In the name of Hel Half-Dead, Loki's Child,
Howes-Warder, Wolf-Sister, Kin-to-Snakes,
Eljudnir's Keeper, Baldr's Tormentor,
Queen of oathbreakers, murderers, and thieves,
Ruler of the adult'rous and dishonour'd:
May your womb wither, your children die;
May you never sleep in peace or know rest;
May your bed be like unto burning straw;
May a Mara ride you in your slumber."

A shudder goes through you, and somewhere distantly - almost beyond hearing, or beneath the earth - you discern what sounds like an awful, hungry wailing...

Ragnvaldr lays a hand on Dagny's shoulder "Are you alright?"

"Well this just gets better and better. I'm not dead, at least." Dagny casts Detect Magic again.

You notice amidst the ashes the glint of a something red... a jewel?

Dagny scoops up what is presumably the ring.

You pick up the ruby ring that the Seeress once wore.

Hróar grunts. "By Ymir, this barrow is very haunted indeed." He glances one last time at the scorched bones and leaves the chamber, taking his wolf pelt with him. "One more room to go." He cracks open the door to the final unchecked chamber.

Dagny puts on the ring and then continues onward. "I feel like shit. Like I just got face-fucked and ass-fucked at the same time."

Ragnvaldr stomps along after Dagny, brows still knitted in concern.

You look into the final chamber. Here are two more caskets of bone; the walls are hung with bear-skins and several masterfully wrought axes, including a number of throwing axes.

Hróar 's eyes light up and a wide smile forms on his face as he watches the many axes

"The men buried here were shapestrong," Brúnn says, noting the pelts. "Holy warriors of Odin skilled in the hamrammr."

Hróar moves in, searching for magical axes.

Ragnvaldr meanders over to the axes in Hróar's wake

The axes are exquisitely balanced. While none of the axes are enchanted one of the bear skins is – that of a great white bear, such that wander the frozen tundra of the north.

Dagny picks up one of the throwing axes and tosses and catches it.

Hróar examines the bearskin curiously.

Ragnvaldr after a few minutes testing balances and giving practice swings he simply leaves the axes where they are. With a smile to Dagny he grunts "They're all well-made. But none to match Dagnöskur."

"Same goes for these throwing axes. I'll stick with my trusty Ragnvaldrok."

Hróar, you're not sure what exactly this enchantment is – perhaps Kylfa or Dagny might have some insight?

"Perhaps brother Kylfa would find this interesting, though I know not what it does?" Hróar leaves the bearskin and grabs one of the throwing axes.

"The Great Bear prefers Drakkar-skin, it would seem..." Ragnvaldr observes. "But it would do no harm to offer it, I'm sure."

Dagny looks.

This pelt is a Hamask Pelt, capable of transforming the wearer into bear-shape.

"Maybe something's going to jump out from behind it and try to kill us. But this... oh, beard-man is gonna love this."

"We'll take it and give it to him, then," Hróar says.

"I've heard stories about stuff like this," Dagny says thinking back to Hrafnii tales of the Kvenlanders and to stories of Odin's berserkers. You can use it to turn into a bear. Like, a real bear."

"I know of such spells myself. Powerful shamen can walk in the skins of beasts."

Ragnvaldr goes back into the central chamber to finish looking over the hoard in the ship.

This ship's hoard is massive: thousands of gold, silver, and copper pieces, as well as many weapons of fine make.

Hróar join Ragnvaldr.

"Well, we seem to have searched every chamber of the barrow now," Ragnvaldr says. "Perhaps it is time to... inter... Katla."


Dagny nods.

Brúnn agrees. "Let us bear her body to yonder tomb," he says. "The hour grows late..."

Ragnvaldr returns to the barrow entrance where they left the shield-maiden's body.

Kylfa gives the body over to you sombrely. "I shall continue my watch, so that you are not disturbed," he says.

"My thanks friend Kylfa."

Hróar goes to help Ragnvaldr carry her.

Dagny hands Kylfa the bear-cloak.

"Hmm. What is this?"

Dagny explains.

Kylfa examines the cloak. "My thanks, Dagny. I had not expected so rich a gift for standing about in the snow."

Ragnvaldr gently lifts Katla with Hróar and begins to take her into the barrow.

Dagny smirks and follows them into the barrow.

Brúnn awaits you in the barrow. "Before we lay Katla to rest, do any of you wish to speak of her or her deeds?"

"I knew her not," Hróar says. "So I could hardly say anything worthy."

Ragnvaldr sighs heavily "I have not the words. I would only say that she.... she was... the best. Of any I ever stood beside."

Dagny nods.

Ragnvaldr as they set Katla down, he stoops and solemnly makes sure her hand lies about the hilt of Styrkr.

Hróar whispers "May the spirit of war guide this warrioress to her rightful place."

Dagny looks at Brúnn. "Don't freak out."

Brúnn raises an eyebrow but gestures for you to proceed, Dagny.

She goes over and gently cradles Katla's head in her hands, softly chanting a spell.

Hróar quietly watches Dagny's spell-working.

"Katla. Wherever you are.... I hope you're happy. You can go back there soon. We just want to bid our farewells."

A voice echoes in the barrow, at first a murmur, but growing louder... it sounds like something not of this world, yet recognizable.

Ragnvaldr 's mouth gapes and his eyes widen.

"I can hear your call," Katla's voice says. "I hear you. Dagny. You who once fought beside me."

Brúnn's bows his head in awe.

Ragnvaldr wipes a tear with the back of his hand

"I'm here. Ragnvaldr is here too. And Kylfa is not far. We've come to lay you to rest, Katla, in Wulfgar's own tomb. It fits you."

"At last. Proper rites. I have waited... You have done well. I am grateful!"
Dagny smiles a bit.

Ragnvaldr's mouth works, trying to speak, but no sound comes.

Katla utters her last words, they hang heavy in the stale air of the crypt. "Friends. I await our reunion on this side. Remember this: don't flee before fate. No one escapes fate. Face it head on, and you will find the road to Valhalla clear before you."

With this, the voice fades, and silence returns.

"Goodbye, Katla. With any luck, we shall meet again." Then she lets the spell fade.

"Shall I now administer the rites?" Brúnn asks sombrely.

Ragnvaldr merely nods.

Brúnn begins his funereal chant, clipping Katla's nails and sprinkling her body with holy water while beseeching Odin to accept the warrior's soul into Valhalla.

Ragnvaldr nods grimly and swallows back his tears. Katla is right.

Dagny presses into Ragnvaldr.

As he speaks the sacred words, a great moaning resounds throughout the barrow - a chorus of rasping, rattling cries, partially muffled by stone. They sound as if they are angered by the holy chant! Moments later you hear nails scrape against the half-open doors within the main hall of the tomb, as the remaining occupants within, roused by the sacred words of the chant, begin to crawl forth from their resting places!

Ragnvaldr spits on the floor of the tomb "Can these half-dead bastards allow us no dignity?"

"Well it looks like fate decided to come calling a little early," Dagny says.

Hróar grasps the handle of his axe. "If I fall tonight, it'll be upon a heap of revenants slain by my blade."


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Re: The Fimbulvinter Saga
« Reply #37 on: October 28, 2015, 01:25:17 AM »
IC: Fitt XXXI: Ancestors
Penned into a barrow-chamber in the tomb of the Wulfgars, the party is surrounded by the wakening dead, stirred from their necrotic repose by the hallowed chants of Brúnn. Claws scrape at stone and moans echo through the musty concavities of the crypt.

Dagny sums up the situation with her usual articulacy. "Fucking.... FUCK."

Kylfa, you can hear a great commotion in the barrow... something seems to have disturbed the dead in their graves.

Kylfa stands up, sniffs the air, and growls.

"Don't go near those things if you can help it." Dagny cautions, "Shoot them with arrows, throw axes, whatever... their touch will fuck you up something fierce if they can get their claws into you. So I'd recommend, uh, not doing that."

Ragnvaldr grunts, unslings his looted bow, nocks an arrow, and stumps out of the chamber into the main ship-hall.

Ragnvaldr, the sound of groaning intensifies. None of the Haugbui have yet made it into the hall, but you can hear them pulling themselves forth from their resting-places.

"Should we fight here, or head to the entrance?" Hroar asks.

"I'm all for fucking off but ... I don't think he's gonna." Dagny points to Brúnn with her thumb.

Brúnn seems to have entered a ritual trance as he continues the chant, undeterred by the undead Haugbui clamouring in their chambers.

"I'm not letting these bastards anywhere near Katla," Ragnvaldr growls.

"Well, whatever we do, it better be that we stick together," Hróar says.

Kylfa begins casting some precautionary spells on himself.

Ragnvaldr swiftly draws and looses into the haunting shadows of the opposite doorway.

Your arrow clatters against stone.

"Time to rally the troops..." Dagny steps out and takes a position behind Ragnvaldr. She flings her axe into the same darkness Ragnvaldr fired into.

Your axe clangs against stone.

Dagny snarls and sends it flying back to her hand.

"I'm going to call upon the roots of the plants in the earth and command them to snare the oncoming foes. Don't tread too near them." Hróar speaks a hasty spell and gestures at the ground within the barrows. Roots soon sprout up from the cold soil, reaching out like hands to grasp and entangle.

The dead continue to groan, and you can hear the lids of their caskets splitting and sundering. Dead feet slap against the cold stone floor. Roots are now pushing their way up through the floor, some breaking through the hull of the great treasure-ship. Gold and silver coins gush out from the split boards.

"That should slow them down at least somewhat."

Dagny puts her hand on Ragnvaldr's shoulder. "Not even dipshit over there deserves what'd happen in a place like this. So I say we all go home or none of us do. Deal?"

"Who is dipshit?" Ragnvaldr's voice grates out like a blade scraping a shield-boss. "Come then corpses! Receive the second death! I await!" He looses another arrow into the dark.

Your arrow breaks against the door-frame.

Dagny shakes her head. "I'm calling for backup." She closes her eyes and begins chanting in Chthonic.

Hróar moves to the back end of the main room and flings the throwing axe he picked up earlier at one of the walking corpses.

The axe is deflected by a rotting wooden shield bearing the Wulfgar sigil. The undead Jarls and their retainers shamble forth, rusted weapons in their hands, a great reek preceding them. Their beards are long and ropy, matted with ancient filth.

Haugbui are strangled by roots reaching out and enwrapping their bodies, putrescent limbs wrenched and tripped by grasping and dangling tendrils. Some tear free but many are snared by the cunning spell.

Ragnvaldr looks at the approaching undead, looks at the bow, shakes his head angrily and draws Dagnöskur... He steps forward, lips peeling back into grin as skeletal as his enemies.'

You shear through the shambling corpse, splitting it from neck to navel and spattering yourself with its putrid guts. Rotten entrails spill from its belly. It gasps, pressing a dead hand to its wound to try to keep its insides inside.

Dagny finishes her incantation and waves her hand with a flourish! Three earth elementals rise from the ground!

The earth-men burst from the walls of the tomb, their features formed from the rune-graven stones and hewn rock of the barrow. One of them bursts out of the ground right next to one of the undead, grabbing it by the leg and flipping it over as it rises up, smashing the Haugbui's head on the cold earth.

The elementals bash and batter the other Haugbui, bludgeoning its dead flesh and breaking its bones with their fists of stone and soil.

Hróar places a hand on Ragnvaldr's back and grunts somethin in the ancient jotun language. Nothing seems to happen, but Ragnvaldr suddenly feels flushed by the blood-heating sensation of a battle fury.

Dagny meanwhile sidesteps behind Ragnvaldr, peering into the blackness... and into the black soul of the unentangled Haugbui. "Don't tell Brúnn about this, ok?"

"Hey! Asshole! We're not your real enemies! These other guys are! Help us get rid of 'em and you can have all this gold for yourself!"

The Haugbui groans, its eyes flickering with a strange light. A rasping cries bursts from its lips as it turns on its fellows! It stabs the Haugbui in front of it in the back.

There seems to be some kind of commotion near the entrance – Haugbui are impeded by the roots and by their own bodies. The corpses slam into one another, unable to free themselves. Though a few have torn loose of the roots, most are still ensnared.

Hróar, the stabbed Haugbui ignores its wound and swings its blade at your head, but you duck nimbly.

The Haugbui, enraged by the desecration of their tomb, launch themselves at the elementals with frightening rage. One of the elementals is torn apart from a flurry of sword-thrusts and slashes, reduced to dust and clods of inanimate earth. Another manages to stay intact but is bleeding dirt, rapidly diminishing.

Kylfa , cudgel and shield in hand, steps forward and opens the door. He steps forward and sizes up the situation.

Within the barrow, you glimpse figures moving towards a doorway - thin, blue-black things emitting a hideous carrion reek. These abominations clot the doorway, struggling to burst through into some larger chamber beyond. You can also hear a deep chanting from somewhere in the tomb. The walking corpses seem to loathe its sound. They are armed with swords or battleaxes, and wear the rusted remnants of mail, as well as tattered funereal shrouds.

Kylfa growls, its volume slowly rising until it's a bear-like howl resounding through the cave.  A chill wind and a brief haze of frost coalesce into an irate-looking black bear menacing one of the nearby creatures.

The bear rips off one of the Haugbui's arms with its teeth and then hugs the rotten corpse close, tearing with its claws!

Ragnvaldr steps between the Dagny's men of stone and chops into another Haugbui with a groan of effort. He moves inside the walking corpse's reach and chokes up on the haft of his axe, using the bearded head like a razor-sharp knuckleduster to punch the blade into - and through - the thing's face

It slumps to the cold floor, inert.

Dagny's first elemental disappears into the ground, and then reappears in flanking position with Ragnvaldr, trying to uppercut the walking dead on the way back up.

The Haugbui's neck snaps as the punch sends it flying, cracking its skull. Brains ooze from the fractured bone.

Hróar favours the Haugbui before him with a bloodthirsty grin on his face. "Have a taste of iron!" he thunders. His Trollish muscles bulge and stretch from the effort as he swings his heavy axe at the foe.

Your axe rips through the Haugbui's dead flesh, ripping and tearing, splintering bone.

Dagny's other elemental glides under the boat to go lend Hróar a hand – or a stony fist.

The elemental bursts from the earth but smashes into the boat, missing the wight.

Meanwhile, Dagny sees four of the creatures heading unimpeded towards Ragnvaldr. She points her wand at them and the ground opens up underneath.

Two of the Haugbui tumble down into the pit, and the others barely escape, teetering on the precipice. You hear bones snapping as the Haugbui tumble.

The barrow groans. The roots pushing through the walls, the elementals bursting forth, and now a pit opening up may have rendered it unstable. Dagny, this barrow is old, the stonework crumbling. If any more structural damage is done, it's in danger of collapsing.

Dagny shouts, "Uh... just be careful you don't cave the place in... unless that's the idea..."

Hróar, you block a sword-thurst from the Haugbui facing you. A few of the Haugbui cut the roots from their bodies or wrench free of the snares. However, with the pit impeding progress on one half of the room, a bottleneck has still been created.

The wights in the front chamber turn to face their new attackers. One strikes at the bear, while the other charges Kylfa. The wight being grappled by the bear tries to strike the beast, but the shaggy creature swats the weapon aside easily.

Kylfa swings at the creature before him with his enchanted cudgel.

Your cudgel breaks the thing's ribs, splintering bone.

The black bear releases the Haugbui from its bear-hug, and the shambling creature tumbles to the ground.  For a brief moment, its dead glare and the bear's big, brown eyes regard at each other in silence - then, with a roar, the black bear lunges, sinking its teeth into the dead man's neck and ripping its jaw and face off in one great rend.

Ragnavaldr, coins are gushing from the ship around your feet. Also several old weapons and helms - seaxes, swords, axes - tumble forth. Dust trickles from the walls, rather ominously.

Ragnvaldr barrels forward into the Haugbui he's fighting, Dagnöskur leading the way with a huge swing. His swing accelerates towards the Haugbui and the undead thing starts to raise its sword to parry... then what happens next is unclear, the flickering shadows of the barrow are momentarily reddened, and when... whatever it is… is over... Ragnvaldr stands covered head-to-toe in what used to be a Haugbui... now mostly just liquid.

Dagny's northernmost elemental glides underneath the stone wall and appears in the southern room, looking for more targets. It quickly finds one!

You hear sounds of breaking bones as the elemental emerges, Dagny.

Dagny's other elemental emerges from the other side of the ship and takes a swing.

Again the ship seems to impede the elemental. The Haugbui are showered with coins as the elemtanl breaks through the wooden hull.

Dagny steps up next to Hróar. "Don't hit that one, it's uh... on our side... sorta." She flings her axe into the darkness at the one beyond.

Your axe flies true, embedding itself in the Haugbui's skull before you snatch it magically back. The thing shudders are tries to move forward, still impeded by grasping roots.

Hróar continues to attack the Haugbui. He feints an overhead swing, but deftly pulls the attack midway, only to turn it around and cut diagonally. Hróar's axe cuts deep into the walker's decomposed torso, stopped by the bone. But the Trollblood twists the blade and then yanks his weapon free with a powerful pull, the wound erupting with a shower of gore and bone fragments. It is evidently too much for the creature, which crumbles limply to the ground.

Several of the Haugbui clamber into the boat, stepping through the mounds of grave goods and treasure, still struggling with the entangling roots. The Haugbui Dagny enchanted wades into the fray, but becomes entangled and nearly loses its weapon.

Meanwhile, Kylfa, you easily block a Haugbui's blow with your cudgel.

Kylfa returns the strike, an overhand swing aimed at its rotten head. He compacts the Haugbui's skull into its jaw, then gestures to the bear, grunting at the melee beyond and movong up closer himself, dripping club in hand.

The bear bursts through into the main chamber of the barrow and claws at one of the ensnared Haugbui, again gripping it tight.

Kylfa you can see the huge, treasure-laden longship within the tomb up ahead, several walking corpses within it. Brúnn's chants are reaching a fever-pitch - you think they might be coming to a close.

Dagny remarks, "Is that... I fucking hope that's beard-man and not... whatever the fuck else that could be."

Ragnvaldr looks up from the steaming puddle of ichor he has created to assess the flow of battle... and finds himself in the rear. He jumps up into the ship easily, swaying only slightly as he lands on both feet, axe still in hand. He finds his feet and rushes to meet the next foe, sending Dagnöskur singing through the midsection of the Haugbui and neatly bisecting it with a clean cut just below the ribs. Its upper half falls left while its lower half falls right.

Hróar figures it an opportune time to resume ranged combat. He grabs one of his javelins, takes aim at one of the Haugbui on the treasure-ship.

Hróar, you impale one of the Haugbui on the ship. It clasps the javelin and pulls it free contemptuously.

Dagny senses the time of her current batch of elementals is short, and the job is far from done. She clasps her pendant in her hand and begins chanting. Meanwhile, the elementals that are left attack the fiends adjacent to them! Her elemental keeps pummeling away at the undead horror. Nobody can really see what it does... just a bit of gore flying out from the open doorway into the pit.

Ragnvaldr, the Haugbui close in around you, blades flashing in the gloom. Others pull themselves up over the sides, wading through coins to reach you.

Ragnvaldr gives a booming laugh that is empty of humour but full of threat. "Well met you of the once-living, you half-dead. Let me re-introduce you to un-life!" On the ship, Ragnvaldr dodges, parries, and otherwise evades the flurry of blows, sometimes only narrowly avoiding them.

Kylfa starts flapping his arms and puffing, slow at first, then faster and faster. In a blur of bear-fur and feathers, Kylfa is suddenly an eagle. Kylfa the eagle darts above the grasping plants, flying down the length of the boat. He shifts back from eagle form and hits the deck of the ship.

The ship rocks as it takes your weight.

Hróar laughs cheerfully, despite the carnage looming before him. "Brother Kylfa! Your arrival is a welcome sight! Do join the fray with us!" He moves over by the end of the boat and slings another javelin at one of the boarding wraiths.

Your javelin strikes true, taking an undead Jarl through the neck. Wulfgar’s forebear stumbles, making choking sounds and seeping black blood.

Ragnvaldr shifts his weight onto his back foot and whips his whole torso around, pivoting to bring his blade to bear. He roars "CLEEEAAAAAVE!" as Dagnöskur tears through the first Haugbui and continues into the one beside it.

Dagny 's elementals disappear into the cold ground whence they came. To be promptly replaced by two more!

Meanwhile, Dagny puts her axe in her teeth and carefully climbs up onto the ship. She then grabs it and flings it at the undead straight ahead!

Your axe strikes the Haugbui in the side, sending putrid viscera spilling across the deck to mingle with the silver and gold.

Dagny grabs it as it returns. "We might NOT die today... how 'bout that?"

The Haugbui renew their attack of the ferocious Ragnvaldr, now flanking the warrior!

Ragnvaldr ducks and twists, and their blades cut only air.

Another Haugbui pulls itself over the side, taking a chop at Ragnvaldr with its axe.

The blow catches your shoulder, drawing blood. You feel the chill in your bones deepen, your strength being sapped.

Ragnvaldr's eyes narrow in his now chalk-white face as he feels the chilling pain deepen. He manages a wordless shout of defiance, but it sounds thin and forced.

At the end of the hall, Kylfa’s bear continues to eviscerate the Haugbui it grapples.

Kylfa runs in an arc around the creature, coming up shoulder to shoulder with Ragnvaldr.  The bear man gives him the briefest of nods and a grunt, and then lashes out with his cudgel at the Haugbui next to the elemental.

You shatter the Haugbui's elbow and follow it up with a crushing blow to its chest. Its sword-arm dangles uselessly at its side.

Ragnvaldr bares his teeth like an animal at bay and swings again. "Back to the cold!" he hisses, slicing diagonally at the dead men surrounding him, Dagnöskur's blade entering at the first's shoulder and re-emerging at the second's hip. The two corpse-monsters collapse into a mess of once-human parts amidst the treasures underfoot.

Hróar climbs onto the boat and throws his final javelin at the nearest hostile Haugbui.

Your javelin strikes another Haugbui – each throw has been true.

Hróar sneers at the corpse dying its second death, impotently clawing at the shaft of the javelin jutting from its chest.

Dagny's elementals keep pounding away at their targets, the southern one aided by Kylfa.

The pit Dagny conjures is now filling itself in, the Haugbui inside pulling themselves up from its lip.

Dagny herself runs next to Ragnvaldr, giving him a friendly slap on the shoulder so he doesn't cleave her head off, and then flings her axe at one of the creatures emerging from the pit.

Your axe strikes one of the Haugbui as it begins pulling itself up onto the ship.

As the pit fills itself in, the barrow quakes and debris falls from the ceiling! Fortunately the collapse is localized. One of the Haugbui is struck by falling stones.

Dagny's elemental also rips into one of them, tearing its limbs off and then beating it with its own torn limbs until it moves no more. It grabs the legs of one as it tries to climb up. It climbs up... leaving the lower half of its body behind. Entrails spill out, and it collapses.

Kylfa delivers a savage blow to the undead's shoulder; the Haugbui, spun by the force, does a little pirouette to the sound of snapping bone, and collapses back over the side of the ship in a twisted pile.

Dagny breathes a bit of a sigh as the Haugbui that were encroaching on her are all dealt with. "Well that was... fucked up. Is what that was."

Brúnn's chants cease, at last.

Ragnvaldr bounds down the ship and steps up onto the gunwale to hack down at the remaining undead thing on the chamber floor below. He neatly lops off the top of the Haugbui's head from the eyebrows up. The thing stands teetering for a second, then drops to the ground motionless.

Meanwhile, the bear lets out an unearthly lowing sound as it seems to disintegrate into frost and drifts away into nothingness on a cold wind.

Hróar heads to attack the en-spelled undead. Friendly or not, it too must be sent back to the afterlife.

Dagny whirls around. "What the... fuck! It's not going to do anything!" She tries to stay his hand, but stumbles.

Hróar, your blow lands true. The Haugbui shrieks and backs away, preparing to flee into the tomb.

"Ho! You're not going anywhere!"

The Haugbui hisses and withdraws into the tomb, scuttling on all fours.

"This tomb will not know peace when even one of these things still walks," Hróar insists.

"It wasn't going to harm us. But it would keep looters away."

"It would haunt this barrow."

Brúnn appears at the door of the tomb. He looks pale, tired.

Kylfa grunts, casting a disapproving look at the carnage and destruction around him.  "I did warn this place smelled bad."

"Did you finish the rites, Brúnn?" Hróar asks.

"Katla is at peace, now," he says. "Her soul has crossed Bifrost and entered Asgard." He looks around at the mass of corpses littering the ship and the ground about it. "We must behead all of them," he notes. "Or they will rise again."

"This was bloody work we had to do. One got away, whimpering back to its coffin." Hróar sighs and goes about the grim task of beheading the corpses littering the tomb's floors.

"Great. And ours almost were on their way too. Fucking fuck." Dagny points. "Might as well finish the job now that he's pissed off again."

Kylfa hefts his club on his shoulder and begins walking back to the entrance, frowning and muttering under his breath.

Ragnvaldr sits down on the edge of the ship, letting the others finish the job while he hangs his head and winces at the deep, chilling pain of his wounds - unlike any wounds he has borne before.

Kylfa isn't getting involved in their dispute and isn't really sure what's going on with that one anyway (since he wasn't there to witness it being controlled) and walks out of the tomb. He really doesn't want to be in here longer than necessary.

Dagny's elementals pummel the thing into a disgusting red stain and then disappear back into the earth.

Dagny stuffs her pockets and pouch full of coins, but she pauses when she notices Ragnvaldr's condition. "Are you...?"

"Alive? Yes."

"Can you help him, Brúnn?" Hróar asks. "His wounds are vile and beyond my abilities as a healer."

Brúnn looks to Ragnvaldr. "I can tend to him once I recover my strength, but for now I am spent.

Ragnvaldr hauls himself to his feet. "We should seal this place somehow, now that we're done here."

Outside, night has fallen. The cold is intense, harrowing, and the chill mist thickens, forming an impenetrable shroud.

Dagny hunts in the treasure for any bits of onyx.

Then, we must hurry back to Wulfheim," Hróar urges. "Before the cold and the shades of the night get the better of us."

You find a single onyx ring.

Dagny takes it, too.

Kylfa pulls his bear-skin more tightly around himself, and mutters a spell to further ward himself against the cold.

"I wouldn't call this place safe, but we did clean it out... we could always camp. I guess." Dagny looks a bit disgusted at the whole idea, but also really worn out..

"It would be safer to travel by day," Hróar says.

Kylfa calls back into the cave: "Wings on the air... distant, but drawing nearer."

Ragnvaldr looks ready to lie down right now.

"Could that be a Drakkar?" Hróar asks.

Kylfa nods, growling loudly. "From the Orm-Fells it comes... that it could be."

"I'm not going to lie. I feel like shit. I haven't slung this much shit in one day since I was a shit-slinger." Dagny looks at Ragnvaldr, hoping her attempt at humor cheered him a bit.

Ragnvaldr's mouth twists up at one corner into something that could be a smile.

"We should not head out into the night in that case," Hróar cautions. "Drakkar are drawn to gold, which we have taken much from this barrow."

Kylfa strides back in the cave.  "I would lay this beast low, but few among us are ready.  Though..." He wrinkles his nose. "I do not greet warmly the prospect of staying within here."

"What if the dragon should come to us while we rest?" Ragnvaldr asks.

"Can it fit through the passageway?"

"Better to fight it here than be hunted by it out in the woods," Hróar says. "We can set a guard, so it will not surprise us."

"If you let me sleep a couple hours I can take watch for the rest of the night," Dagny says.

Brúnn sighs, leaning against the wall. "I am spent. I will take a watch, but I will be of little use if it comes to a fight, I fear.

"So shall I," Kylfa rumbles. "I am uninjured, and can still fight, if need be."

"I too am yet uninjured, so I should stand watch first," Hróar notes. He collects the javelins he had thrown, swiping them as clean of the putrid blood as he can.

Dagny looks at Brúnn. "Can you do anything for him here, or do we have to get back to Wulfheim?" She motions to Ragnvaldr.

Ragnvaldr grumbles "I'm wounded, not a cripple. If it comes I'll make it bleed... I'd just rather not have it wake me."

"I will need to return to the grove, I fear," Brúnn says. "I can heal the physical wounds, but something of the mound-wights' sickness has stolen into him, I think."

"Yeah. Me too, to be honest. And something... else." She looks down. "Part of me wants to go back tonight just so I don't have to sleep yet."

"The curse..." Brúnn says darkly. He shakes his head. "I leave the choice to you."

"Curse?"Kylfa scratches his beard and frowns darkly.  "What is it you have gotten yourself into, while I was waiting outside?  A curse?"

Dagny slumps against the wall. "I didn't 'get myself' into anything. It was one of those fucking things."

"Mm.  I know little of such things," Kylfa murmurs. "But I can see why you are wary of rest."

Ragnvaldr sits back down heavily, as no one seems to have made a decision just yet.

"I despise this place, but I fear we have little choice but to stay," Kylfa says.

Hróar wraps his furs tightly about him.

"A shame.  I should like that Drakkar's scales." Kylfa thumps his cudgel his hand.


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Re: The Fimbulvinter Saga
« Reply #38 on: January 29, 2016, 02:33:21 AM »
IC: Fitt XXXII: Mara
You are camped in the tomb of the Wulfgars, the musty air still thick with the scent of blood. Outside, a fell wind has picked up, scouring the foothills of the Orm-Fells and blowing snow into the tomb.

Ragnvaldr sleeps where he slumped, furs pulled over his head leaving just a tiny gap where puffs of steaming breath can escape.

Kylfa sits cross-legged on the barrow floor not far from Hróar, scowling.

Hróar sits by the closed front door of the barrow, listening for any sounds of danger. His owl spirit Varðmaðr watches outside, perched on a tree nearby.

Dagny, despite your exhaustion, you find sleep evasive. After tossing and turning you eventually close your eyes...

...only to open them again in another subterranean room, a room all too familiar. Dvergar runes adorn the walls of this dank chamber, a huge metal bed looming like some immense, spidery machine of torture at its centre. Torches flicker on the walls with a blue, otherworldly flame, the eerie fires of Svartalfheim. You are in Nidavellir, the Dwarf-Realm, and it is the night of your wedding. The only other furnishings here are a book sitting upon a lectern and an amulet in the semblance of an ammonite, hanging from a chain on the wall. The chamber has a single iron door.

Dagny peers around, looking for Ragnvaldr. Or for anyone.

You don't see anyone, Dagny, but you do hear something. Footsteps coming towards the door, a heavy tread. They sound not like a Dwarf but a giant, loud and inexorable...

Dagny mumbles to herself. "This... this isn't right." She reaches for her throwing axe, but it's not there.

Hróar, you hear Dagny moan in her sleep, stirring fitfully. Varðmaðr hoots as if disconcerted. Its tawny eyes seem to follow a shape that is not there...

Hróar grimaces at the noises Dagny is making.

Dagny, the footsteps are getting louder. Nearer.

Dagny quickly looks around for some sort of weapon.

You cast around, but find little of use save the torches on the walls and the book, which seems to be a book of Dvergar spells. You recognize some of them, but the words seem to scurry across the page, evading your sight. It is difficult to concentrate on them. Something snorts noisily outside the iron door. You hear it fumbling with the handle.

"The dagger... there's supposed to be a dagger... where is it..." she mumbles to no one in particular. She grabs a torch.

As you mutter about the dagger you feel a sudden weight at your side. Looking down, you see that a dagger has appeared at your waist.

As the dagger materializes you realize that this is definitely a dream, or something very much like a dream. But this isn't an ordinary nightmare. There's something more malevolent to it – as if an outside force is preying on you.

Dagny takes a step back. "My house... my rules."

The door begins to creak open.

Dagny flips her dagger into her hand, while she tries to will a 'Ragnvaldr' at her side.

Summoning up the familiar memory of your beloved, a shadowy semblance of Ragnvaldr materializes beside you. As he appears, the door opens and a shadowy figure steps through, bathed in the bluish torchlight – a beautiful woman with masses of black hair trailing down past her waist, her eyes huge and bulging, mouth agape in a silent scream – or an old woman, horribly emaciated, with hungry yellow cat's eyes peering out from a sunken, skeletal face, a hag with a thin, puckered mouth hissing obscenely, lips moistened by a small, dark tongue – or a thing with the hooves and head of a dead horse, its mane a blood-sodden tangle, its long-fingered hands grasping, its hairy tail slithering along the ground behind it, its teeth long and sharp...

The thing in the doorway hisses and snorts, then charges towards the dream-Ragnvaldr with arms extended, as if to clasp in a horrid embrace. The horse-hag-thing flails, scratching at Ragnvaldr, but the warrior fends her off.

Ragnvaldr moves with dreamlike ponderousness... yet also dreamlike fluidity, curving his axe out in an impossible arc, limbs twitching in ways they never could on reality to hack at the Mara.

The nightmare-spirit screams as your axe bites into her flesh, black blood spilling from her belly. She neighs madly, like a frightened horse, kicking and stomping and clawing.

Hróar, Kylfa, Dagny is twisting and moaning as if wrestling with some unseen foe. She seems to be having a terrible dream…

Kylfa knits his brow a he watches her, looking concerned, but says nothing.

"Perhaps sleeping in this barrow wasn't such a good idea..." Hróar observes.

Dagny concentrates on fire. It's not so much a spell, it's her realizing the nature of this 'place,' and that, aside from this intruder, she is in control.

Ragnvaldr smiles and frowns and snarls and remains icily impassive all at the same time.

Fire crackles, engulfing the nightmarish crone, her mane and hare flickering with red flame. The thing's skin blackens and crackles as the flames lick at its limbs.

Dagny hits 'Ragnvaldr' on the back. "Come on, we're getting out of here." She grabs the book and pendant, almost reflexively, and runs for the door.

The nightmarish hag-horse thing is too distracted by the flames to lash out as the dream-version of Ragnvaldr is pulled aside.

Ragnvaldr lopes silently along in Dagny's wake like a loyal hound.

Behind you, you hear the thing pursuing, its hooves and bare, bloody feet stamping on the floor. It whinnies, a hideous sound of equine bloodlust, as it charges after you down the winding iron hall.

Dagny thinks about a cave-in just behind them!

You try to concentrate on the cave-in, and the ceiling grinds and buckles. Ragnvaldr beside you is starting to fade as you divert your attention to the collapse.

Dagny is focused on the collapse!

Ragnvaldr is suddenly just one shadow among many in the dim hall.

The cave-in catches the nightmare-thing, stone and metal burying it. You catch a glimpse of its monstrous horse-skull fracturing, womanly limbs crushed and bleeding beneath the weight of ponderous stone. The Mara is crushed, bones shattering. You hear a mad, tittering cackle as the dream fades, and oblivion takes you.

Dagny wakes up a bit later, pondering events.

Hróar settles for the night, crawling under a stack of pelts

Dagny presses her throwing axe's blade into her palm, not enough to draw blood, but enough to feel a sting. "Is this real? This is real."

Dagny, you're on watch with Brúnn. He looks at you with concern. "Why would you doubt such a thing, rune-caller?"

"You would too after the dream I had."

His expression darkens. "I think we will all have evil dreams this night. To rest amongst the bones of the dead... there are restless spirits here."

Kylfa is curled in a shaggy ball in the corner, snoring loudly.

Dagny tosses and catches her axe idly. "It's more than that. I mean, you're right. But it's that fucking curse. I know it."

Hróar's owl hoots and flaps its wings. It seems agitated. Dagny, you think you hear something moving around outside...

Dagny is about to say something else, but then the owl gets her attention. "Wake up Ragnvaldr," she hisses to Brúnn.

The Gothi nods.

Ragnvaldr, you are stirred from your rest by Brúnn. The bearded priest looks concerned.

Dagny stands to the side of the door, axe at the ready.

Ragnvaldr emerges from his bundle of furs like a grumpy badger from its sett. "What?"

Dagny, you hear something large and heavy moving outside. Something scrapes against the door of the tomb.

Dagny points at the door and then makes a 'walking' gesture with two fingers.

Ragnvaldr is suddenly alert, Dagnöskur in hand, edging over to stand by Dagny.

Kylfa, you are stirred from your rest, aware suddenly of a strange smell in the air. A familiar scent - the musky odour of Dragonkind.

Kylfa grunts in his sleep, and in a flash goes from a curled-up ball of fur to standing straight on his feet. "Drakkar," he snarls through his teeth.

Hróar, your troubled sleep is disturbed and you blearily become aware of others moving around in the barrow.

Hróar groans as he awakens, annoyed by the disruption of his slumber. He grabs his axe. "A drake, is it? If it comes in, we'll give it a bloody welcome." He grumbles quietly in reply to Kylfa.

"I was hoping that we would be hunters, but it sounds as if we are the ones hunted."

"You should know, brother Kylfa. A bear is most ferocious when cornered in its cave."

Kylfa grunts. "This is not my cave."

"Should we close this door as well?" Brúnn asks, eyeing the entrance to the barrow's main chamber.

Kylfa nods and moves to close the door before them.

You strain to close the door to the main chamber. At the front door you can hear crackling flame, and catch a glimpse of red light flickering in the meagre crack beneath the door. The air becomes noticeably warmer.

Brúnn shakes his head. "The dead and now dragons..." he mutters.

Ragnvaldr shoves his weight into assisting Kylfa.

Ragnvaldr, you aid Kylfa and close the door.

"I'm assuming we want this door to stay shut a while," Dagny states.

"We will have to come out eventually," Kylfa advises.

Dagny whips out her wand and casts hold portal from the wand on the door. "Eventually."

Outside, you can hear something very large slamming itself repeatedly against the front door of the barrow. There is a sound of cracking stone as the first door bursts open, following by a dull hissing sound as whatever is on the other side enters the tomb.

"I have a plan," Kylfa says.

Smoke trickles under the door, now held fast with Dagny's spell.

"I'm all for that plan," Dagny says, eyeing the smoke.

"Does it involve hitting the dragon with axes until it dies?" Ragnvaldr asks.

"It is going to come in here.  We should go in these tomb halls to the side - when it comes through we will surround it. At the very least we will not all be burned together."

Ragnvaldr nods and makes for the nearest side-chamber

Hróar traces a runic-like pattern in the air with his thumb, mumbling quietly to raise a minor charm. He then enters one of the side chambers

Kylfa runs to a nearby chamber and begins enchanting himself.

Dagny goes to a chamber more distant, having more range to her attacks. She also softly chants a spell of protection.

The door to the hall of the ship shudders as the thing outside batters at it, but Dagny's spell keeps it held fast. The door shudders again, and you hear a snarl of frustration. Flames lick at the edges, more smoke seeping in.

Kylfa and Dagny continue their incantations.

With a titanic cracking sound the stone door is burst inwards, a great gout of smoke billowing into the room as the wyrm slithers inside. The Drake has grown, but is clearly one of the clutch of fire-breathing monsters that have haunted this region, whose hoard you plundered and whose siblings you slew. The great black serpentine beast is a nightmare of midnight coils, smoke, and lurid flame.

Drops of sizzling spittle like molten rock slaver from its maw. Its massive wings are folded at its sides, and its long, sinuous tail lashes back and forth restlessly. It sniffs the air, scenting gold, puffing smoke into the barrow, and then speaks in a tongue like a conflagration, each fiery syllable scorching the air.

"I claim this corpse-nest as my own," the creature snarls in Dreki. "Abandon these halls if you value your lives."

Dagny retreats back around the corner, pressing her back to the wall. She begins chanting in Chthonic.

Kylfa says nothing behind the door, but clutches the magic bear pelt, and unseen by the others his features begin to warp and change.

Brúnn stays carefully in place, muttering a prayer to Tyr to lend him strength.

Ragnvaldr strides from his chamber towards the drake, Dagnöskur raised, and greets it with a grim nods before closing to hewing-distance.

Surprised by the sudden appearance of the warrior, the Drake is unprepared to defend itself. Your Orm-bone blades cleaves through its thick scales, striking a vital spot. The beast screams in rage and agony. It turns on Ragnvaldr, claws flashing, jaws snapping!

Ragnvaldr cries out in desperate animal pain as the monster mauls him.

The monstrosity rakes you with its claws and seizes one arm in its teeth, penetrating your armour and searing your flesh with its fiery breath. You can feel your skin sizzling as blood wells from wounds on your chest and shoulders. The Drake tosses you to one side and you are slammed against the wall, hard. You feel a rib crack, and the skin of your arm smokes and blisters, excruciatingly painful.

Hróar storms out and rushes at the Drakkar, swinging his axe in a brutal arc

Your axe descends, but glance off the creature's scales, showering you with sparks!

Dagny's elemental bursts from the ground next to Hróar and begins pounding away with stony fists.

Dagny steps out into the room, not directly joining the fray, but flinging her axe!

Your elemental's stone fists bludgeon the creature, distracting it from Ragnvaldr, while your axe strikes it in the throat, drawing blood!

Dagny snaps her fingers, sending her axe back into her hand, coated with blood.

A massive, ursine roar echoes through the tomb, and a great, furious looking grizzly surges through the doorway Kylfa was hiding down, barely fitting through the door.  It rushes headlong at the Drake, its dagger-like claws outstretched. Kylfa wraps his claws around the drake, roaring, tearing at its flesh, and the two are entwined in a twisting pile of bloody fur and scales.

Dagny yells encouragement, "Fuck that fucker up!"

In desperation, the wyrm spews forth a great goat of flame, engulfing Kylfa. Flames lick at your fur as the dragon vomits flame.

Ragnvaldr slips a bottle of eldritch fluid from its place beneath his furs and knocks the concoction back with a grimace at its otherworldly flavour...

Brúnn, readying his sling, hurls a stone at the Drake. The rock bounces off the creature's scales but temporarily distracts it.

Ragnvaldr as a measure of vigour returns to him he withdraws from the Drake, hefting Dagnöskur and sizing the thing up

Hróar snarls, feeling a rush of blood and the fury of his Trollish nature building up. He bellows a war-cry, and the blade of his axe responds by emitting a sweat of acid, just before he brings it down on the great reptile. Hróar 's ferocious cut almost severs the dragon's neck - but as he retracts the blade, the acid left in the wound finishes the job, eating through the remaining strips of flesh that the beast's head was left hanging on!

The Drake flails, its headless body thrashing madly, wings fluttering, and then it falls still.

Ragnvaldr gives Hróar a bloody grin "A downright blow!"

Hróar looks upon his bloody handwork, raises his axe high and roars in celebration.

The bear snarls and shakes the drake's body with its claws, then stands up and bellows triumphantly.

Dagny's elemental sinks back into the ground, while she gives a pleased nod. "Not bad, tails. Not bad at all."

"Coming from you, I take that as a well-earned praise." He smiles.

Brúnn leans against the ship warily. "Thank the All-Father it didn't light the Ulfr-Lange aflame... When we unsealed the barrow it must have scented the gold."

"So, speaking of which," Dagny says. "We'd better figure out how we're going to get all this loot out of here, or ever two-bit looter, scaly or otherwise, is going to be on this place."

"Well. First thing we'll need to haul this carcass out of the doorway."

The bear licks its lips and sniffs the drake's body, pawing at it occasionally.

Dagny nods. "Yeah. Beard-man's gonna want to skin that I'm guessing."

Kylfa bobs his head up and down and makes a whining growl.

"Are you... stuck like that now?"

Kylfa makes a series of throaty growls and bares its sharp, bloody teeth in a broad rictus.  This... might be laughing?

"We can worry about hauling the loot come morning," Hróar says. "I'm tired enough after all this fighting, I'd rather catch some sleep while I can."

Ragnvaldr bleeds quietly.

Dagny nods. "Yeah. You go get some rest. I'll stay up and figure out a plan. And..."

Kylfa shakes his head about and circles his arms around the carcass, attempting to at least drag it near the front door, though not outside.

Dagny catches sight of Ragnvaldr. "Shit. Fuck."

The dragon trails blood, its arteries still slowly pumping the hot, steaming liquid into the air.

Ragnvaldr shrugs "The potion helped. A bit."

"Ragnvaldr, you took quite a raking there," Hróar says.

Kylfa drops the Dragon, seeing Dagny worrying over Ragnvaldr, and trundles over to them.

Brúnn also nears the wounded warrior. He speaks a prayer to Freya.

"My thanks, Brúnn."

Dagny fumbles around in her pouch. "I've got another. Hold on." She offers Ragnvaldr a potion.

Kylfa sniffs Ragnvalder's face, then makes a long, low growling sound in the back of his throat.  He licks Ragnvaldr's cheek as he does so, slathering his face in bear drool.

The place where the wyrm seized your arm will be badly scarred, but the tooth-marks are now scabbed and the wounds on your torso are closing.

Ragnvaldr smiles at Dagny but shakes his head "You save it, you might..." is cut off by Kylfa's lick and gasps in shock.

"Keep it anyway," Dagny says. "Chances are... hey! I'm the only one allowed to do that now!"

Hróar chuckles at the sight of Ragnvaldr being bear-licked.

Kylfa bears his teeth again and growl-chuckles, then turns around and returns to Drake-dragging duty.

Ragnvaldr laughs, his strength returning, the pain abating, and wipes the saliva from his face.

Dagny keeps the potion outstretched. "Seriously. You hold onto it."

"Fine. But I'll always be nearby with it, should you need it."

Hróar crawls back under his pile of furs, hoping that there won't be any more disturbances.

Kylfa leaves the drake in a pile by the door, and when finished, leaves his bear form and returns to the main hall. He scratches his beard.  "We have lost our doors, I'm afraid."

Outside, snow is falling heavily. The dawn is still distant, though were it not Fimbulvinter sunrise might be approaching soon. The days grow short.

"I'll keep watch until dawn," Ragnvaldr volunteers.

"Mm."  Kylfa curls up in a ball again, and is soon snoring.

Dagny shrugs, wandering around, finishing her spell preparations and formulating plans for how they're going to carry all this stuff back.

Ragnvaldr gives Dagny a squeeze and goes to install himself in the doorway

The rest of the night is passed in merciful peace. Those who sleep have strange dreams - of ancient battles on plains now buried in snow, where kings of old slew one another beneath a sun unsullied by the brumous clouds of the Mighty Winter.

Ragnvaldr shakes the others awake as the sun finally crawls into the sky

The cruel and meagre daylight that steals over you at daybreak is a pale and faded vestige of that sun of old, with barely enough light to banish the dread shadows of night.

Kylfa yawns heavily as he arises.

Outside, it has snowed heavily. Snow continues to fall in vast white drifts, though the wind has quieted somewhat.

"So. What are we to do now?" Ragnvaldr stands ready.

"I was sleeping before all this commotion. I have half a mind to sleep once more.  The days grow short." Kylfa grunts.  "But for now..."  He walks over to the Drake, produces his knife, and begins skinning the creature.

Hróar rubs his eyes before sitting up and grabbing a bite of hard-dried bread from his pack.

Ragnvaldr sees Hróar eating and is reminded that doing so might be a good idea. As soon as the thought strikes he finds himself ravenous, and digs out some dried fish from his pack for breakfast.

Dagny doesn't eat, doesn't have to!

Hróar speaks between munchings. "It's a great burden to bear back to town, but we'll carry as much as we can. A shame we don't have sled, nor any way to make one."

"Mm," says Kylfa, still skinning.

Dagny starts getting a bit chilly and renews her spell to ward against the cold. "No sled. But we can make horses. And I think I can do something about the biggest burden..."

Brúnn stoops over the broken door at the front of the tomb and mutters a word of power. The stone fragments knit back together and the door returns to an intact state, albeit somewhat fractured.

Ragnvaldr nods "Good, Brúnn. It is right that we should leave this place closed."

Brúnn nods. "The door is weakened but it should keep out wild beasts, at least."

"First off, one of you has got the sword we came here to get, right?"

Brúnn takes the ancestral blade from his robes. "Here is the weapon."

"Good. So we just need to load up all the other shit."

Hróar finishes his austere breakfast and takes off his bone-pendant, beginning an odd ritual. He chants a few guttural rhymes in the language of the jötnar, hazing intensely at the talisman.

"I have an enchantment," says Kylfa from the front room, "to make a man carry much more.  If it is needed."

"Aye.... Make horses, eh, rune-caller?" Ragnvaldr says. "Let's be at it and be off then. There's no more work for us here."

Dagny sees Ragnvaldr shivering. She motions at herself. "Look, I can help you, if you wanted a ward against the cold... you don't have to go it all alone any more, ok?"

Ragnvaldr gives Dagny a smirk "Well how am I to know what you can and can't do? You seem all-powerful, at times."

Brúnn rubs his limbs. "Let us make all haste back to Wulfheim. Our task here is done, and we have spent too long amongst the dead."

Hróar sneezes at the end of his strange Trollish ritual. You are not sure whether that was actually a part of the ritual.

Dagny starts hauling chests and whatnot into the front room, to use as a staging area for setting out.

Ragnvaldr lends a hand.

Kylfa rolls up the skin of the skinned Drake like a great scaly, bloody carpet.

Hróar somewhat grumpily assists in the loot-hauling.

Kylfa scratches his cheek.  "Why do men bury such things with them?"

"They think to take it with them," Ragnvaldr says.

Brúnn chuckles. "To honour the dead, friend Kylfa! Why, what do Kvenlanders do with their dead? Or bears, for that matter?"

"I... do not know much about Kvenlander dead.  But when I die I expect the wolves will chew my bones."

"Well that's a pleasant thought," Dagny interjects. She goes over to the biggest chest of coins, makes sure it has as much in it as it could possibly hold, and casts shrink item. She then calmly puts it in her pocket.

Kylfa smiles.  "I thought you of all of us would appreciate the last act of a man being to feed others."

Hróar smirks at the conversation about dead bodies feeding others. He thinks it better to not point out what he had to do to keep himself from starving to death since leaving Thule...

Kylfa walks up to Ragnvaldr.  "You are stronger than I, I think.  If you will be taking a full load, you will benefit more from my charm than I."

"Stronger.... but... you are Kylfa the Great Bear! There's none stronger than you!"

"Mm.  With my charms, perhaps.  But the one called Kylfa alone is just a man.  Now hold still." Kylfa lays his shoulders on Ragnvaldr and stares into his eyes.  He begins pressing down on Ragnvaldr's shoulders, steadily putting more and more of his weight on him.

Ragnvaldr grunts and braces himself, unsure what Kylfa is trying to achieve.

Kylfa begins putting his muscle into it, pulling down on Ragnvaldr's shoulders as if trying to push him like a stake into the earth. He bares his teeth with the exertion, grunting as he continues to push down.

Ragnvaldr grimaces and bows his legs as he endures Kylfa's strange ministrations.

Kylfa abruptly shouts, and suddenly Ragnvaldr hardly feels the downward pressure at all.  Kylfa releases his shoulders and throws a little string into the air. He grunts.  "Mmm.  Good.  Pick up as much as you can."

Ragnvaldr's jaw drops and his eyes widen "What? What happened?" He reaches for a laden chest and almost falls over as it flies up into his grasp, far easier to lift than he had expected.

Brúnn laughs at the sight. "Ah! Your foreign Seidr is strange, bear-shaman!" He wipes tears already freezing from his eyes.

"Is it?  It is all I know, I'm afraid."

Ragnvaldr laughs as well as he tosses the chest into the air and catches it.

Dagny steps outside. The wind starts blowing around in a circle, snow congealing into an equine shape. She begins loading loot into the horse's saddlebags and onto its back, as well.

Hróar scratches his rear, looking at all the stuff left to be carried. "Well. Let's get on with the job." He stuffs his sack full and slings it over his shoulder.

Kylfa takes the bloody hide, leaving the rest to Ragnvaldr and the others unless he's actually needed.

Ragnvaldr stacks a few chests up on one another and hefts the ungainly pile with a grunt of mild exertion.

Burdened more lightly than you might have thought, you head out into the snow, back towards Wulfheim. After several hours of wandering the rugged, hilly country around Wulfheim, you catch sight of a thin wisp of wood-smoke rising in the distance. As you get closer you see that the smoke is dwindling - likely whoever made the fire has now left.

Kylfa strides across the snow, humming to himself and looking quite content.

Brúnn shivers, looking at the dwindling smoke. "Hmm. What do you make of that?"

Hróar whistles and points an arm at the direction of the smoke. Soon after, his owl familiar takes flight toward it.

"Friend Kylfa, how long until my burden becomes... burdensome...?" Ragnvaldr asks. "Have we time to dawdle on our way, and go peering at fire-pits?"

"You have... mm, as long as the daylight at least, I should think."  (It's a 10-hour duration, I assume with these short days we probably have no more daylight than that!)

The owl returns after a few minutes and describes the remnants of a camp – and human remains, charred and gnawed, amidst the ashes of a bonfire...

Hróar frows a little as the bird perches on his shoulder, hooting. "Seem to be some dead people by a camp. Victims of the drake we just slew, possibly."

"Sounds like Blóðbards…" Ragnvaldr says.

"Hmm. Or Trollbloods, the Thrivaldii," Brúnn says.

"We're kind of a walking invitation for bandits right now, yeah." Dagny's horse snorts.

"Wise to keep your bird in the air, perhaps," Kylfa suggests. "That it might see if anyone is coming from far away."

"If they are dead they won't bother us," Hróar reasons. "At least for awhile..."

"Whoever it is, we should press on," Ragnvaldr urges. "I'd be safe inside Wulfheim's walls sooner rather than later."

"Yeah, that," Dagny agrees.

"Aye," says Brúnn. "I'm eager for some that stew that Dagny's cauldron conjures."

Ragnvaldr hefts his load and marches on.

You press on. As you near the fort-town of Wulfheim you see a smudge of smoke not far from the palisade, glimpse a cluster of rude tents - the hide lavvu of the Kvenlanders. Their reindeer herds mill about the rough camp they have established, clinging to the walls of Wulfheim as if for warmth.

Dagny walks her horse, her own load quite bearable, nestled away in her pouch.

Ragnvaldr approaches the gates.

Hróar shoots some hungry glances at the reindeer, but presses on.

Dagny walks up to the gates as well, peering around at the general state of the Kvenlanders.

Kylfa , the bloody hide roll still on his shoulders, approaches the Kvenlander camp.

The Kvenlanders seem tired and somewhat weary from their journey. Some bear wounds suffered at the hands of the marauders who attacked them, still healing, and many have faces downcast with grief and exhaustion. For all this, they seem adequately fed and have merry fires to keep off the chill.

The gates of Wulfheim are closed – though they will be opened for you, of course.

Dagny waves to the guards.

Ragnvaldr shouts up at the ramparts "We return! Open up!"

The guards at the gate eye you suspiciously at first, but seeing it is Ragnvaldr they open the gates.

"Where to, Dagny?" Ragnvaldr asks. "Should we visit the Jarl first?"

Dagny heads inside. "Yeah, I'll feel safer when all this stuff is stashed away."

Ragnvaldr starts hauling the loot up to the Jarl's hall.

Dagny motions for Brúnn to come along too. "C'mon, he's gonna want to see that sword, too."

Outside, Maddji, shaman of the tribe, can be found tending to some of the injured, speaking low chants in the tongue of the easterners, administering herbal concoctions and changing poultices with the aid of two young girls, her apprentices.

Kylfa approaches Maddji, humming to himself.

"Well met, well met."

The shaman greets you warmly. "Welcome, Kylfa!"

"Maddji," he grunts, not overtly warm but with a cheery twinkle in his eye.

"Tell me, Kylfa, have you seen young Kauko?"

Kylfa scratches his beard.  "The child?  He should still be here, in Wulfheim.  But he has taken more of a liking to Dagny than me.  You must ask her. She goes to the Jarl's hall, I expect.  I can take you there now if you wish."

"Your kin are hurt," Kylfa says, I am not a healer of great skill, but I can assist you, if you wish."

"Thank you, yes. We have been welcomed to Wulfheim, but with some trepidation... the folk of the town do not trust us fully yet, I think."

"We should not keep her waiting," Hróar says. "She has a temper, you know."

"Hm.  I can do something about that, perhaps."  Kylfa motions to her and proceeds to the gate.

Hróar heads to the hall with Kylfa and the Kvenlander wise-woman.

Meanwhile, Dagny, Ragnvaldr, and Brúnn enter the hall of the Jarl. Jarl Wulfgar looks tired and coughs raggedly as you enter, but greets you warmly nonetheless.  A great fire crackles in the hearth of his keep.

Ragnvaldr barges his way into the high hall and unceremoniously dumps the treasure on the floor.

"Ah! The wealth of the Wulfgars... though it pains me to divest the dead of their treasures, it is a marvelous hoard!"

Ragnvaldr looks around for something fun to pick up before Kylfa's charm wears off.

Dagny unloads the horse. And lastly, she pulls a small box from her pouch and puts it next to the pile. She smirks and snaps her fingers. The box of coins quickly enlarges to its full size and weight!

Several of those nearby gasp at Dagny's Seidr, astonished.

Ragnvaldr picks Dagny up with one hand and Brúnn with the other.

Dagny is about to say something, but instead just gives a playful scream, flailing around.

Ragnvaldr seats them on a shoulder each and then just stands there, as if expecting the meeting to continue as normal.

One of the Hirdmenn gapes in astonishment. Brúnn scarcely knows what to do, his long beard flopping as Ragnar hefts him easily up.

Helga laughs with delight at the jape as Hróar, Maddji, and Kylfa enter the hall

"And the sword," the Jarl says. "Where is the blade of my forefathers? The sword of Kolbjorn?"

Brúnn, meanwhile, hops down from Ragnar's shoulder, his face red. He presents the Jarl with the sword, still embarrassed from the display. "Ah... the sword of your ancestors, my Jarl."

"We have more yet. Feast your eyes!" Hróar adds his portion of the loot burden in the pile.

The Jarl accepts the blade, grinning at Ragnvaldr's display. His distrust of magic seems to be waning now that Vanslind is feeding his people.

Kylfa stands in the back of the group with Maddji, still with the hide slung over his shoulder, dripping wyrm-blood on the hall's floor.

"Gods be good," he whispers as he draws the blade from its sheath. It gleams in the firelight. "With this blade in my hands... it feels as if perhaps this war with Skrikborg is not so foregone as I might have feared."

Ragnvaldr casts about for something to drink

Helga swiftly fetches a tray of mead and ale.

Dagny observes, "This haul is enough to really do some good for the defenses around town, too."

Hróar grabs a mug full of mead for himself, downing it in one mighty draw

Ragnvaldr quaffs some mead and passes a mug up to Dagny. "The war with Skrikborg is forgone, Jarl. But not as you think. I am going to kill Ivar, after all."

"I would not have thought him vulnerable to mortal blade. But you, Ragnvaldr, give me hope."

"If he's not, we'll find something he's vulnerable to somewhere."

Dagny takes a big drink as well.

Kylfa motions for Maddji to follow him, and approaches the jarl.

The Jarl nods at Kylfa.

"Mm.  Jarl Wulfgar.  You have met the Kvenlanders and their wise-woman, I think?"

The Jarl nods, his expression difficult to read. "I have, and welcomed them to camp about our walls. Should they be imperilled, they may enter and shelter here against Ivar's forces."

Kylfa scratches his beard.  "But you keep them outside for now?"

The Jarl strokes his beard. "Yes. There is not room within the walls for so many and besides... my people are not always the most trustful of foreigners. I mean no offense, Kylfa, but these Kvenlanders would only breed ill-will, were I to invite them inside the walls for good."

Kylfa runs his fingers through his tangled beard, thoughtfully.

"Your words are not unwise, Kylfa, and yet I fear many would not heed them. Were all as accepting as you I would gladly open wide the gates. Still, I shall think on the matter."

Kylfa takes a deep breath, and then speaks further to the jarl.  "You offered me a place on your..."  He squints, trying to recall the term.  "Kin... circle... compan... mm.  Hirg... hird.  Hird, yes.  Do you remember?"

The Jarl nods. "Yes, my Hird. But you spoke plainly, and refused my offer, did you not?"

"That's so.  And so you asked what reward I found fitting.  And I did not know, but said I would think on it."

The Jarl nods. "Yes, I recall."

"I did not know of anything you had which I desired; I still do not.  But you have what Maddji and her kin desire.  So here is my reward: Speak with the Kvenlander wise-woman, hear her, and find a way to give them the hospitality you have given us."

The Jarl grumbles and looks as if he will object, then catches sight of the blade of Kolbjorn in his lap. "Very well, Kylfa. It shall be as you ask. I shall speak to the Noaidi."

"Know too that were it not for her, you might still have the trolls as Ivar's ally, and your enemy." Kylfa trundles back to the tavern, if he and the Jarl are done. "I am thankful."

Maddji approaches Dagny. "Rune-caller," she says.

Dagny nods. "Hey."

"Kylfa tells me that you might know of Kauko's whereabouts. I have not seen him since we arrived."

"He's around town. Been helping me with stuff. Red and Big are looking after him, sorta."

"I see. When you next see him, can you ask him to meet with me?"

Ragnvaldr regretfully puts Dagny down, sensing now might be the time for more serious conversation.

Dagny smirks and pats Ragnvaldr on the back, then turns back to Maddji. "We can go look for him if you want. If we're done here for now...? I sort of want to get back to the Well of Joy and see how Vanslind is doing, to be honest."

"I like that boy, Maddji. Although I'm not sure why."

"He is wise beyond his years, though sometimes wayward," Maddji says. "I will accompany you to this well."

Ragnvaldr chuckles "It is a well in name only..."

"Anyone goin' with me?"

Ragnvaldr finishes his mead and makes to follow, giving a swift bow to Jarl before he exits

"In these days there are no foreigners," Kylfa says. "The men and beasts huddle together, for they are either for life or against it."

The Jarl decrees that the gold be placed in secure chambers and vaults. If you wish to obtain it later you can certainly have it moved to your own quarters.

Dagny gives her usual irreverent salute to the Jarl, these days much more playful than mocking.

"Might as well join in," Hróar says. "I'm hungry for some better food after this trek." He departs with Dagny.

The Well of Joy is packed with townsfolk, drinking and eating of Vanslind's strange provender.

Hróar goes to find a spot on a bench, despite all the crowding. Having sat down, he claps his hands and calls out loudly. "Nils! Where are you, little house-goblin?"

The mischievous spirit creeps out from the shadows of a table and swaggers over to Hróar. "Well met, Troll-whelp!"

Hróar laughs heartily and gives the Nisse a friendly slap on the back. Well, maybe not as friendly as he intended, given their size difference. "I have a tall tale to tell you, so perk up your ears!" He begins to recite their encounter with the Drakkar, embellishing the story for good measure. He speaks loud enough that the folk nearby won't miss a word.

Dagny yells out. "Red! Big! Kid!"

Sigrid and Borghildr tend to the cauldron. Kauko is nowhere in evidence.

Dagny digs around in her pocket and pulls out the small handful of coins she grabbed in the tomb. She divides them up: ten gold pieces for Sigrid and ten for Borghildr.

The two of them gratefully accept this rich reward for their services.

"Either of you seen the kid around?"

Sigrid looks to Dagny. Her eyes suddenly look slightly glazed. "Yes, of course he... he went off… off to the woods." She shakes her head, blinks. "He said he was going to hunt, to hunt down the wolves..."

"Uh, that sounds like a spectacularly bad idea. You just let him go?" She puts a hand to her temple. "My head feels strange."

Hróar finishes his boastful tale and calls out one of the serving maids to deliver food - something choicer than the green soup, mind you!

Ragnvaldr puts down the bowl of food he had acquired abruptly at Sigrid's words. "Where? Which woods? Which way?"

Dagny, Sigrid has been charmed in some manner – a spell not unlike the one you have used yourself, to make certain situations smoother than they would otherwise.

Sigrid looks to Ragnvaldr. "To, to Ironwood... gods! How could I let him go?"

"How long ago did he leave?" Ragnvaldr asks.

She looks horrified, all the blood draining from her face. "This morning, with the dawn... Æsir preserve me! What have I done?"

Ragnvaldr strides out of the Well of Joy and goes to find his horse

"It's not your fault, Red," Dagny says. "He must've used some kinda.... shit, he's a lot better than I thought, if he's throwing charms around."

Hróar glances over at Sigrid, noticing the blood on her face. His mood quickly drops.

Maddji shakes her head. "He has indeed grown powerful, but even he is not strong enough to face the horrors of Ironwood alone. I will ride with you!" She follows Ragnvaldr.

"Well this is a fuck on top of another fuck," Dagny curses.

Maddji mounts her reindeer, which had been waiting outside the alehouse.

Dagny quickly stops home to dump off some of the other stuff she carried out of the tomb, but she's in a hurry, too.

"Hoy, if you're going to track him down, Varðmaðr could be quite useful. As would be brother Kylfa."

Ragnvaldr starts hastily saddling up Sinir. "Hurry then if you're coming, Hróar. Time is pressing."

Kylfa arrives to find everyone suddenly getting ready to leave for some reason.

Ragnvaldr rides to the gates.

Hróar forgets about his food and follows after Dagny and Ragnvaldr.

"Now where did I park that fucking horse..." Dagny mutters.

Ragnvaldr sets out as soon as he reaches the gates, but not at the most breakneck pace possible, expecting the others to catch him up.

"Hm?"  Kylfa watches people scramble to leave. "Has another wyrm been sighted?"

Dagny finally manages to find her horse (presumably!) and is off behind Ragnvaldr.

Hróar strides after them, visibly annoyed by this turn of events. "You better give that boy a good scolding when you find him." He heads through the enchanted arch before leaving the town

"We go to find the child, Kauko," Maddji confides in Kylfa. "He has wandered into the Ironwood, believing himself strong enough to slay the wolves that dwell there."

"Mm.  Well.  I will find a horse."


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Re: The Fimbulvinter Saga
« Reply #39 on: February 11, 2016, 11:36:56 PM »
IC: Fitt XXXIII: Járnviðr
Ragnvaldr, Dagny, and Maddji have ridden into the snow in search of the boy Kauko. Meanwhile, back in Wulfheim, Kylfa and Hróar prepare to follow them, attempting to locate suitable mounts to bear their doughty forms across the frozen plains. If Sigrid is to be believed then the Stormchild has made for Ironwood, to hunt down the wolves that have been plaguing the region. He could not have picked worse weather: what was merely heavy snow has worsened, and soon, you fear, may become a blizzard.

The wind blows hard from the northeast, down from the Hrafnlands, and seems to carry on its chill gusts the bellow of distant voices, their words indecipherable yet ominous nonetheless.

Dagny shouts "Hey! You fucks! We're looking for a missing kid! Any of you wanna come with, get going!"

Sjack, you are drinking at the Well of Joy when you hear the Trollblood and the Bear Shaman calling for horses and Dagny distantly shouting something.

Sjack looks up from his drink towards the commotion. Seeing who it is, he heads over and says to the two. "You seem to be in quite the hurry there."

Hróar waves at the beardless man, remembering him

Sjack nods in response to the wave. "Hróar. What is wrong? I hear Dagny shouting, as well." He thinks for a moment. "Not that hearing that is really a sign things are wrong, but your haste does indicate it."

"It seems that this Runecaller-boy had run off to Ironwood."

Kylfa grunts.  "She has lost that child, it seems."

"I figure if he's not found soon he'll be food for the wolves," Hróar adds.

"If that is not already true," Kylfa says.

"A child, lost in the Ironwood?" Sjack considers. "Then I see the need for haste - I'll meet you outside the gates. Would not want to cause a panic."

Kylfa scratches his beard.  "Am I to be the only one with a horse?"

"It seems," Hróar grumbles. "I'm not much for horses myself."

Sjack nods at Kylfa. "And horses are not much for me."

Sjack, Hróar, and Kylfa meet at the gate, Kylfa mounted. One of the Kvenlanders in the camp outside spots you.

"Do you require mounts?" He asks. "Perhaps a sled?" He gestures to a reindeer-drawn sled nearby - similar to the one that carried Katla.

Hróar's ears perk up. "A sled you say? We've used those often in Thule. Easier than riding, at least."

Some of the Wulfheim Hirdmenn note your predicament as well. "We have skis as well, if you prefer," one offers. "Normally we would not lend them out, but to the Great Bear and his companions..."

Sjack looks at the Kvenlander. "A sled, yes! That would be fitting. And the thickest hide covering you have as well." If I hide beneath it, that should shield my scent from the horses when I shift, he thinks.

"We'll return them," Hróar says. "If we return, that is. Can never be sure about that these days."

"Mm, that would be well," Kylfa muses.

The Kvenlander nods, loading up a sled with hides and furs, while the Hirdman adds some skis, in case you need them.

Hróar approaches the sled and hops onto it, trying the reins.

The sled is well-made and sturdy, the reindeer marvellously trained. They respond easily to you.

"I think we'll do well with this."

Sjack will board the sled as well, burrowing beneath the hides and furs. "I'll need a minute undisturbed. Would not want to panic our steeds, though they seem quite placid." His muffled chanting can be heard beneath the furs.

Hróar grunts. "Alright. Don't do anything too weird..." He urges the reindeer forward, taking course for the Ironwood.

Sjack lets out a hissing laugh at the concern. "That dependsss on your definition." Sjack sticks his serpentine head slightly out of the fur.

Once all is in readiness, you set out into the waste. The snow and wind only intensify; at first, Ragnvaldr and Dagny were distantly visible, but soon they are obscured by roiling white chaos. It pours from the sky in huge drifts.

Meanwhile, to the east...

Vidar, Vintersdottir, you have heard rumours that the settlement of Wulfheim has become something of a haven during Fimbulvinter; there are even tales of a marvelous cauldron, Vanslind, which somehow produces endless quantities of food.

Though you may find little to love in towns, Vintersdottir, your companion Vidar seems taken with the idea of a bastion of civility within a land otherwise gone to Hel. The two of you have been ranging across the White Waste but have been overtaken by a raging blizzard. The wind screeches like Verdfolnir himself, the storm-pale hawk who broods over Yggdrasil, and snow falls in a swirling frenzy.

You caught sight, briefly, of another traveler in the storm, but lost him in the white confusion. Instead you found an abandoned farmstead at the edge of Ironwood: a series of wooden buildings with roofs of sod and bark, now covered in snow.

The buildings are arrayed around a central yard. Apart from the long bulk of the farmhouse, you see a large structure with the remnants of several animal pens nearby, likely the barn.

Other buildings include a small privy, a cowshed, a horse-pen, and a storehouse. The farmstead looks dilapidated, and some of the entrances have been snowed-in, suggesting the farm has not been occupied for some time.

Vintersdottir walks atop the snow, as though it could support her weight, leaving no tracks. "If it weren't for you, I could go on."

"You could, but you love my company too much." Vidar winks sardonically. His brow is crusted with snow and ice... and he shivers despite this. "Let's rest inside. It's colder than Odin's bones out here... not that you'd know that. Though I presume you know much about bones. Tell me, does your hunger drive you to suck the marrow from those you've killed? Or is that depravity even beyond the likes of you?" Vidar asks playfully.

"Depra.. deprav..." Vintersdottir scoffs, shaking her head. "Make sense or I'll just figure you're not worth listening to." She waves a hand, pushing the snow blocking the entrance aside with a dull thud.

You shift snow from around the front door of the farmstead.

Vidar walks to the door, careful not to show his great relief in being under shelter from the blizzard.

The door is stiff with frost, Vidar. You shove at the door and it creaks but stays shut.

Vidar checks the door, unaware of how the long travel has sapped his strength. He pats at it affectionately afterwards, then takes out his seax.

Vintersdottir sighs. She whips out her blades, gives them a twirl.

Vidar notices Vinter has the same idea, pauses, and then smiles his crooked smile at her and spreads his arms as if to say "after you."

Vintersdottir gives the door a brutal double smacking.

You batter at the door, Vintersdottir, and it quickly yields.

Vintersdottir kicks away the spliters and hmphs.

As you force the door a sour stench clots your nostrils. Something is dead in here - and it's been dead for some time. Cold ashes sit in the central hearth of the farmhouse, which is in a state of disarray - furniture splintered, tools scattered about the floor, benches overturned, wall-hangings and rugs rucked and torn. Dark stains crust the floor.

Presiding over the central chamber from the high chair, where the head of the household should sit, slumps an all-but-fleshless corpse, its worm-ridden sockets staring blackly across the hall towards you. Its throat is a ruin of dried blood, and its legs look like they’ve been partially eaten.

Vidar laughs heartily. "Savage." He clacks his teeth together and walks in behind her.

Vintersdottir sniffs the air. "Dead."

"Eloquently put, Vinter." he looks around, unamused, and walks over towards the corpse to investigate it further.

Vintersdottir sniffs the air again, this time looking for a different sort of 'scent.'

Vidar speaks a galdr, his eyes sharpening, his hearing magnified. It unfortunately makes the stench all the worse .

You don't detect any obvious magic, Vintersdottir. Vidar, the corpse looks to have been dead for quite some time, being almost skeletal. You do notice the bed closet and dairy nearby - adjoining rooms in the farmhouse.

Vintersdottir keeps her blades drawn, just to be safe.

Vidar glances at Vinter, trusting her deeper instincts. "Sense something?" He keeps his seax close.

"No. Only the stench."

Vidar checks the bed closet.

The bed-closet - where the master and mistress of the house would sleep - is a small, enclosed space crammed with sheepskins. The space looks surprisingly clean and free from bloodstains.

Vidar nods at Vinter. "Check the other door? I know the cold is no enemy of yours, but I imagine comfort is at the very least a stranger to you - I may have found a suitable place to rest"

Vintersdottir shrugs and tries the other door.

This room would have been the dairy; here butter, cheese, sour milk, whey, and skyr would be made and stored. Most of the food here is gone, but a bit of skyr remains.

"There's some food here. At least I think it's food."

Vidar moves towards the nearby door and tries it, presumably leading outside.

Vidar, this door is stuck - there's too much snow outside to open it.

"I don't get my food from a teat," Vintersdottir says.

"Your and my definition of food are admittedly different," he says after trying the door to no avail. "But teat or no, food is food."

Hróar, Kylfa, Sjack, you continue your trek across the White Waste, having lost sight of Ragnvaldr, Dagny, and Maddji some time ago. Soon the brooding darkness of Ironwood looms ahead, and shapes appear out of the swirling blizzard: an abandoned farmstead, by the look of things.

Ironwood has acquired an ill reputation during Fimbulvinter. Wolves have been breeding in great numbers within its twisted eaves, while Trollwives offer sacrifices to the dark powers - Loki, Hel, and Angrboða, the Mother of Monsters. Some Blodbards have been said to offer infant children to the Trollwives, in exchange for evil blessings or misshapen beasts of war, for the Troll-women give birth to many horrors, conceived during foul rites within the forest.

It is said that the Giantess Angrboða, called the Grief-Bringer, now rules Ironwood, as she did in ages past. Loki's mistress, she spawned many of the worst monsters to plague Midgard, including Fenrir and Jormungand. Some even claim she is the mother of Hel herself. Angrboða was reputedly killed many years past, but was prophesied to return from the dead when Loki's unfettering was nigh.

Kylfa hums to himself.

"We should quickly check if the boy is here, just in case," Hróar suggests. "Even if he isn't, someone here may have seen him?"

Sjack pokes his serpentine head further above the furs, peering at the farmstead. "The hour grows late. Perhaps the child took refuge within those buildings," he hisses in agreement.

"As you wish." Kylfa looks for a place to tie his horse, and then dismounts.

Kylfa, there's a horse-pen nearby where you might tie up your mount and shelter the reindeer.

Hróar brings the sled to a halt near the huts.

Kylfa nods to Hróar.  "I will tie up the animals.  Be watchful."

Kylfa, the horse-pen is quite empty, half-filled with snow and matted straw; the doors are have been splintered open, and snow has caved in part of the roof.

Kylfa attends to the animals.

You tend to the beasts quickly and return to your companions.

Sjack slithers off the sled. "I shall stick to the shadows. Best not to alarm the boy needlessly if he is here."

Hróar approaches the farmhouse.

Sjack does the same, careful to avoid being noticed.

Kylfa takes out his shield and rests his club on his shoulder, then follows Hróar to the farmhouse.

Hróar, you think you hear movement inside the farmstead.

"Hm, anyone home?"

"Anyone living," Kylfa grunts.

Vidar, even over the roaring wind you hear footsteps crunching up outside.

Sjack, you can smell them - two humans, alive, and one dead.

Vidar grunts, alerting Vinter, and draws his spear. "We might have company."

Vintersdottir nods, quickly taking up position beside the door.

Vidar sheaths his seax with his other hand, and puts on his shield from off his back.

Hróar carefully nears the door and tries to open it while staying to the side of the doorway.

Vidar takes the opposite beside Vinter.

Sjack quickly casts a message to both Horar and Kylfa: "Two living within, one dead. Careful."

Hróar grows tense, gripping his axe handle firm.

Hróar, the door has been forced open. You see a large number of footprints - quite recent - in the snow.

Vidar crouches, his spear raised, his shield up. He feels the cold sense of distance coming over him, the sense of killing.

Kylfa grunts.

Hróar peeks in, prepared to duck and avoid any arrow or thrown axe should one be aimed at his head.

Sjack slithers near to Hróar, staying to the side of the door to avoid sight.

Vidar, Vintersdottir, someone is right at the door. Someone large and somewhat strange-smelling. A shaggy head peers inside - you get a glimpse of features that seem somewhat less than fully human, with the eyes of an animal.

"Anyone there?" Hróar asks. "We aren't bandits, if that's what you think."

Kylfa laughs loudly.  "A foolish place for a bandit to go."

Hróar, you perceive two forms in the darkness: a masked woman, garbed in what look like patchwork leathers, and a Hrafnii man with cruelly handsome features and a shock of wild black hair. Both are armed. There's also a rotten corpse, seated at the high chair near the cold ashes of the hearth.

Vidar forgoes his "hiding" and stands, weapons still at the ready.

"I see you there," Hróar says. "Who are you – and who is the dead one?"

"There's nothing in here," Vintersdottir says flatly. "Keep going."

"It doesn't look like the kid," Hróar says. "Too old of a cadaver"

Kylfa grunts.  "If the boy is not there, we should keep going."

"Good idea," Vintersdottir repeats. "Keep going."

"Alright," Hróar growls. "I don't care who you people are. We're looking for a boy. Have you seen one?"

"No," Vintersdottir says.

Sjack gives Kylfa a look, and keeps his voice low. "She seems quite eager for us to leave."

Kylfa shrugs.  "I do not blame her."

Vidar narrows his eyes, his curiosity getting the better of him "What would a kid be doing out in a blizzard."

"It's a fool of a rune-caller, lost in the woods."

"That doesn't help," Vintersdottir retorts. "Rune-callers are mostly fools."

"Vinter, now, these are our guests,"Vidar says, still at arms and in battle stance. "Let's not be so rude. How many of there are you out there?" He says to Hróar. "Speak truthfully now, I can taste a liar's breath from here."

"We are more than enough to handle ourselves."

Kylfa grunts.  "Enough of this."  He pushes past Hróar and strides into the room, still armed but with his club on his shoulder, in no battle stance.

Kylfa, you take in the dilapidated farmhouse. There's obviously been fighting here, but some time ago.

Sjack lets his scaled eyes narrow. "That voice...I know that voice." He slithers towards the door, revealing himself. "Vintersdottir?"

Vintersdottir tenses as Kylfa enters, but then perks up. "You. You travel with Beardless Sjack?"

Kylfa sniffs the air loudly.  "Hm, or he travels with us.  Ho there." Kylfa hums deeply before speaking.

"Who is this woman you know?" Hróar demands of Sjack.

Vidar eases up a bit. "Beardless Sjack..." he says, ignoring Hróar, speaking mostly to himself. "I know that name."

"Ah, he is more famous than I thought?"

"I did not know I was so well known either. Well met."

Hróar also enters the house fully. "I am Hróar." He simple states. And flails his troll tail.

Sjack, you know that Vintersdottir used to be a völva, or was trained by one, but has turned to darker forms of Seidr. She is something of a minor legend in the Blodlands, taking the skins of her enemies as trophies, seemingly immune to winter cold. However, she is certainly no crony of Ivar's.

"There's a price on his head" Vidar shrugs, almost amiably.

"Don't I know it. Was never quite able to claim it. Eventually I got to like the guy. At least enough not to kill him." Vintersdottir winks at Sjack.

Kylfa turns and looks at Hróar.  "I do not think the boy is here."

Hróar listens to their chatter with mild interest. "It doesn't seem so. We should be on our way."

Sjack grins at her. "This is Vintersdottir. She's someone who you not wish to make a foe of, I can assure you of that." He turns to Kylfa. "No, he is not. And darkness draws upon us."

Vidar stops to assess the situation himself. Strong folk, traveling in the cold, with power behind them. They could be of use... "We may have seen the boy."

"May?" Kylfa asks.

"Speak then," Hróar urges.

Vidar motions to the blizzard. "Certainty isn't a luxury I have in this weather."

Sjack focuses on Vidar.

"All I'm saying is Vinter and I, we may have seen a boy walking through the blizzard. East, mayhap, towards Ironwood. Not long ago. Seemed a fool to be traveling in this storm."

Kylfa grunts.  "All boys are fools."

Sjack gives his companions a look. "I cannot believe there are too many boys wandering about in a blizzard, however, fools though they may be."

Kylfa nods in agreement.

"This one may be more so than most," Hróar notes. "And he has some sort of utlendir sorcery."

Vidar puts away his weapons "I have the growing suspicion we aren't enemies, and the door, albeit broken, is letting the cold in. Come inside, I have more to tell."

Kylfa squints at Vidar.  "Do not take too long in the telling."

Vintersdottir doesn't put away her weapons, but she just carries them casually now.

"Well then," Hróar says. "Let's shut the door and hear what you say."

You shut the door as best you can, blocking it with some bits of furniture nearby to keep it closed.

Kylfa puts his club and shield away, and picks idly at a stick in his beard.

"You travel in pursuit of the boy," Vidar says. "But he heads for the Ironwood. A great evil is stirring within those gnarled branches. Wolves breeding in greater numbers, Trollwives offering sacrifices for promises of power, birthing unspeakable horrors. It is a maze of winding paths, full of nameless spirits, and monstrosities."

Kylfa twists the stick in his beard.  "This is known to me."

"And you think this boy will live?" Vidar scoffs.

"It was not so long ago that he passed," Hróar points out. "There may be time yet, though it runs short."

"Better get going, then," Vintersdottir interjects.

Sjack grins. "I know the boys caretakers well. If any child could survive there long enough to be found, one who is being raised by those two would." He looks at his companions again "We could use her help in finding the boy. She is one of the finest trackers I have ever had the...pleasure of meeting." He winks at Vinter as he continues. "She hunted me down when I was in my other form. In a blizzard much like this one, that should have covered my tracks."

Vintersdottir shrugs. "I can go with you. Cold doesn't bother me. Not sure about him."

"Why would you do this favour though?" Hróar questions.

"There might be food. There might be something else. Maybe I just hate sitting in this shack with him. If I help you, why do you care?"

Kylfa grunts.  "It is the way of things that strange people follow us," he says to Hróar.  "Like you, mmm, as I recall."

Sjack looks at her, grinning. "I'd wager good coin that it's for the battles we're likely to face within."

As you speak, a huge thunderclap rumbles to the east, somewhere in the depths of the woods. It sounded quite close.

Vidar blinks. "Well, if it's stay here and freeze to death, or..." He looks to the sound.

"I have fought beside you and taken a liking to your company," Hróar says, responding to Kylfa. "She might – wait, that sounded familiar! I remember the boy calling a thunderclap just like that."

Kylfa thumps his greats fists on the table.  "Let us go.  All may go where they will."

Sjack whips his head towards the thunderclap. "The boy?"

Vintersdottir idly sniffs the air.

"Aye, this is the best lead we have found!" Hróar agrees. "Let us not waste it!"

"The beasts are in the shed," Kylfa says. "Come, come."

Sjack nods. "Give me a minute while the animals are readied. It sounds as though I will need to be appropriately attired." He quickly draws a circle in the dirt, beginning...some sort of ritual. A stone dagger, already stained, is used to draw blood from his well scarred left hand.

Vidar throws up his hands "What terrible stories I must have told to inspire you into such foolishness. But aye, I suppose I'd rather freeze to death marching to my own grave than waiting for it in this corpse-laden shack."

Hróar throws the door open and heads out and hurries to make the sled ready.

Vintersdottir shrugs. "I don't remember what being cold feels like."

"If you'd have someone such as I join your ranks," Vidar asks, "I'd only ask your names so that I when I yell 'fool' you don't all turn your heads at once".

Kylfa hums as he unties the horses.  "The men here know me as Kylfa.  Or the Great Bear."

Sjack completes his ritual and slithers over to the group. "And you already know me as Sjack," he hisses.

"Vidar it is then," Hróar says. "Hop on if you want a ride. I will not wait."

Vidar hops on.

Hróar steers the sled toward the direction of the thunderclap.

Sjack latchs his claws into the back of the sled to ride, the cold also seeming to not touch his serpentine form.

"The wolf-brother has warned me of the forest..." Kylfa says. "His pack has turned against him."

"It's a bad place," Vintersdottir concedes. "But I've seen worse."

Sjack twists his head over to Vinter. "Yes. Yes we have."

"A bad place for horses," Kylfa notes.

Hróar, the path leads directly into the darkness of Ironwood. The gloomy forest was once friendly to hunters and woodsmen, supplying lumber and game for the surrounding towns and villages. Now, some ancient evil has awoken within its depths, and the wood has become a dire, malignant thing, festering with Vargar and evil spirits. The chants of Trollwives can sometimes be heard in the night by those who stray near Ironwood's edge. The forest is named after a certain form of wood found in its innermost depths that possesses the hardness of iron.

Hróar snaps his fingers, sending Varðmaðr to scout ahead, though the blizzard surely dampers even the owl's senses

"Impressive trick," Vidar says.

"Mm," Kylfa murmurs.

Varðmaðr finds a place where the horses might safely shelter, just inside the wood. They will be spared the worst of the storm.

"Here," Hróar says. "I'll lead us to a place you can tether the horses."

"If any of the horses die, I call the choice meat," Vintersdottir says.

Kylfa nods and follows, leading his horse.

You enter the forest. Ironwood presses close, filling your nostrils with the smell of pine mixed with the cloying sweetness of blight. The trees are so thick here that even the snows of the Mighty Winter have barely penetrated their branches, and the forest-floor is mostly bare, carpeted with pine-needles and certain queer, pale toadstools that grow in a sickening profusion across decaying trunks and fallen logs, or sprout up in eerie rings underfoot.

You tie up the horses in a small, sheltered glade. Though not wholly free from danger, this close to the wood's edge will be safer.

"The reindeer will survive longer than the horses here, if it comes to that," Hróar says.

Kylfa scuffs his feet in the pine-needles and dirt and whispers, casting Longstrider upon himself.

Vintersdottir sniffs the air again.

Vintersdottir, you catch a whiff of magic deeper into the wood... several auras comingle, including one that might have produced the thunderclap.

"You said your boy was a Rune-caller. There's magic in the air here."

Vidar readies his spear and shield.

Hróar stops the sled and ties the reindeer near the horses.

Vintersdottir draws her blades and moves towards the aura.

Vidar moves behind Vinter.

Sjack winds his way through the snow in the direction the Vintersdotter heads, once again sticking to the shadows.

Hróar walks with them, once again sending Varðmaðr to fly ahead.

You lead the party deeper into the forest. After a brief time the wood thins slightly, and you come to the edge of a small clearing where the snow has fallen more thickly.

The trees of Ironwood loom solemnly over the clearing like celebrants in some ancient rite; at the clearing's centre, clear of snow, stands a stone altar, stained black with dried blood and graven with crude runes. Splayed across the altar, limbs broken, is a human corpse, his limbs worried by many wolf-bites, his left leg eaten altogether.

The man's chest has been cut open and his heart removed. His face is frozen in a horrified rictus, suggesting he was alive when his heart was excised. Near the altar, the ground is blackened and strewn with ashes.

"Hmm," Kylfa muses.

A small path runs from the altar-clearing deeper into the wood. The aura of the thunderclap is visible down the path, Vintersdottir – residues of a spell, still lingering in the air, like echoes.

Vintersdottir circles around the spooky clearing and heads for the path, still attempting stealth.

"Whatever this is, we've no time to take a closer look," Hróar says. "Press onward."

You creep up the path. A charred stench wafts through the air as you press on into the woods. Something was recently burnt up ahead - hair, flesh, bone.

Sjack sticks with Vinter, keeping his movements as hidden as he can.

Kylfa strides along, holding his shield and cudgel.

Hróar follows a fair distance behind the stealthier people.

Two huge, black wolves lie dead up ahead here, their fur still smouldering, flesh crisped and blackened, their bones slowly disintegrating into ash. A tree was likewise burnt, consumed by flame and left a husk. It looks as if it were struck by lightning.

Three paths lead off in all directions: north, east, and south.

"I wonder why the boy went here at all," Kylfa ponders.

Kylfa, you catch a whiff of the burnt-smell wafting to the north.

Kylfa snuffles about, then looks northwards. "It is faint, but there is certainly burning that way."

Hróar follows along.

Up ahead, your path is blocked by a wall of brambles, their thorns glistening with dark liquid. The nettles occasionally rustle and twitch, as if possessed of a strange animacy.

Vidar glances around the woods.

A small side-path branches off to the east.

"Bad luck," Hróar says. "I'll ask my owl what lies behind this woodsy wall."

Kylfa scratches his beard.  "Are these brambles magic?"

Vintersdottir comes up behind, sniffing the air again.

Vintersdottir, you're convinced these brambles are not entirely natural. There's definitely magic here: the thorns look to have been summoned forth, their growth rapidly accelerated by some dark power. This magic is quite different in stench from that radiated by the thunderclap.

"Did your boy make this, too?"

"I could not say."

Sjack moves closer to the brambles, careful not to approach too close, his forked tongue flicking out. "Foul magic aided in growing these - not the boys magic. Far darker than his."

You send your familiar over the wall of thorns, Hróar. It flutters through the branches and returns after a few moments with a report of something strange on the other side: a hill on which a woman lies sleeping. The owl also notes that there were footprints there, as if someone recently stood beside her, perhaps Kauko. These tracks veer east after they stop by the woman.

Hróar calls Varðmaðr back with a whistle after it has flown over the brambles. The great bird lands on his outstretched arm and hoots. "There's a sleeping woman in there. Also some fresh footprints on the snow. Someone walked eastward there just recently."

"Perhaps we take the offshoot path?" Vidar suggests. "It and the tracks could meet up"

"It doesn't look like we can get through this thicket."

Sjack nods. "Then we should attempt to press on. Does anyone have rope? I can carry it above these walls, allow the rest of you to scale - the brambles do not continue above the cliff walls, yes?"

"I do," Vidar says.

Kylfa shrugs.  "I could perhaps deal with the brambles, but I would need a quarter-hour or so.  We may not wish to spend the time."

Vintersdottir doodles a map on her hand with arcane black marks.

Sjack looks at Vidar. "Then tie the rope around me, above my legs, and I will carry it above the cliff walls." He gestures with his useless, tiny arms and gives Vidar a patient look.

Vidar can't help but smile a crooked smile. He begins tying the rope

You tie the rope round the linnorm-shape.

"You could just eat him, you know. I almost did, once or twice."

Sjack gives Vintersdottir a reptilian grin. "I'll keep that in mind. But if I did, who would tie the rope?"

"I taste terrible, Vinter, please. Much too bitter for anyone's palate. Besides," Vidar smiles wickedly, "I don't go down easily." He makes a stabbing motion with his spear.

Sjack heads out once the rope is secure, climbing up the cliff wherever it seems shortest.

Vintersdottir follows behind.

As you prepare to climb, the brambles begin to rustle and twitch.

Sjack, once on top, begins to wind his way around a tree to secure the rope.

Kylfa growls.

"What's that noise?" Hróar asks.

Two thin-limbed figures emerge from its prickly depths, crawling on spindly, stick-like limbs. Formed out of splintered branches and briars, these creaking vegetal horrors lurch slowly towards you!

"Ah! I was beginning to get bored." Vidar grins.

"Walking... TREES??" Hróar snarls. He looks at his axe. "Well. A good axe can fell a tree."

Kylfa, you recognize two Skogsrå: spirits of the forest, protectors of sorts. They are highly vulnerable to fire and to cutting metal weapons, such as axes. They can spit poisonous needles, however, so beware!

Kylfa growls.  "Twisted spirits; axe and sword, brand and torch – and watch their sting!" He positions himself behind Hróar and casts Bull's Strength on him, snarling and gesticulating towards the plant spirits. "Cut them with iron!" He growls and shouts at Hróar, "Climb!"  He casts Barkskin on himself and moves to try and cover Hróar's escape.

"Alright. I'm going for that rope."

"Come on!" Vidar urges.

The Skogsrå move towards you, spewing needles from their mouths. They shake their bodies, spraying poisonous thorns! Kylfa, the needles harmlessly thud into your bark-like flesh. Hróar catches a few, but his thick Troll-hide protects him from serious harm.

Sjack plants his feet and snakes his neck down to be ready to grab Hróar during his climb.

Hróar makes a run for the rope, huffing as he tries to climb as quickly as possible.

Hróar, you manage to grab hold of the rope. The others pull, and Sjack assists you, but you are still only halfway up the slope!

Vintersdottir continues trying to help him up.

With a final surge of strength you pull yourself up.

Hróar grunts as he gets over the cliff's edge, momentarily out of breath.

Kylfa laughs loudly in the face of the plant monstrosity.  He grabs his cloak and gives it a powerful flap, and in a swirl of fur or feathers a great black vulture is left where Kylfa once stood.  It takes off into the air, flying towards the others on the cliff.

The Skogsrå near you claws at the air, but you are already winging away. The creatures hiss and merge back into the brambles, apparently thwarted... for now.

"Better we avoid treading too near that wall from now," Hróar suggests.

"Yes. Untie the rope from me, and let us bypass these brutes," Sjack asks.
Kylfa perches on the cliff edge and makes vulture sounds.

"Where is the large one?" Vintersdottir asks.

Kylfa squawks.

Vintersdottir attempts to shoo away the annoying scavenger-bird.

Sjack looks at the vulture and lets out a hissing laugh. "That is him."

"He likes to dress up in feathers and furs." Hróar says.

Vidar slaps Hróar on the back "I can see why this was so difficult for you - Skogsrå down below, or into the teeth of a snake and a cannibal above. I would've hesitated, too." He unties the rope and rolls it up onto his person. "Remember, very bitter," he says to Sjack as he unties him

Kylfa jumps back, squawking, shaking his featherless head at her.

Vintersdottir wrinkles her nose and sniffs the air.

There does seem to be a powerful enchantment of some kind to the north.

Vintersdottir also detects that! "This way."

Kylfa takes flight above the group, using his vulture-scent to continue sniffing about.

You avoid the wall and move northwards, coming to the hill Hróar's familiar spotted earlier. At its top you find a long stone upon which lies a statuesque woman armoured in mail, a shield and spear lying nearby. Her locks are blonde and her skin fair as snow. Were she not misting the air with her breath in her slumber, you would think her dead, so still and pale is she. The ground about the maiden is barren and bare, though shaded from snow by the overhanging branches of a great tree. Another path winds eastward.

Sjack flicks his tongue out hungrily at Vidar, then winks. He moves northwards with the rest.

Vidar approaches the woman cautiously, spear and shield at the ready.

Kylfa flies in slow circles around the group, looking and sniffing out for anything interesting.

Kylfa, you catch a familiar scent on the breeze... a bear is nearby. But there is something strange about the scent, as well. Something uncanny...

Sjack regards the woman. "Strange happenings. Should we investigate, or follow the tracks before the blizzard consumes them?"

"We're here for the boy," Hróar reminds them. "Follow the tracks."

"This wood is full of strange happenings," Vintersdottir comments.

Vidar pauses, looks to his companions.

"We don't have time to meddle with every strange happening, if we are to find the boy alive," Hróar insists.

You go to the woman, Vidar. She does not stir at your approach but remains in deep slumber. Her weapons look masterfully made.

Vidar ignores Hróar. He narrows his eyes as he scans the woman

Kylfa descends to half-fly, half-dance around Hróar's head and squawks in an easterly direction.

"Well, if he want to stay behind then by all means," Hróar says. "I'm going to follow these tracks."

Vidar reaches for the shield.

"The last time you approached a strange woman sleeping in the woods you found me," Vintersdottir says. "Are you sure this one is a good idea?"

Vidar hesitates, then grabs the shield.

You pick up the shield. Nothing alarming happens. The shield is extremely well made, crafted from some light metal.

"Hmm, curious." Vidar delicately replaces her spear and shield with his own.

Hróar heads in the direction of the footprints. He looks up at the squawking Kylfa. "What is it? Something eastward?"

Kylfa bobs his head.

Hróar continues onward, eyeing the woods around him warily.

Sjack casts Detect Magic towards the woman, preparing to follow after Kylfa and Hróar if nothing interesting is revealed.

Sjack, there is a powerful enchantment on the woman. This is obviously what's keeping her asleep.

Sjack ignores the enchantment and follows his companions. Nothing he can do for her. He does make a mental note to swing this direction on their way out of the woods.

Vidar leaves his weapons with her, feigns a bow, and heads onward towards his companions.

Kylfa lifts off again, going somewhat further in front of Hróar to try and see things before Hróar stumbles upon them.

Kylfa, you catch a glimpse of something pale and very large moving about below in the undergrowth.

Kylfa circles about and returns to Hróar, then reverts to his normal form. "A great pale creature," he says as soon as he comes back to his own shape. "Smells like a bear, but... odd."

Something big and lumbering crashes through the undergrowth up ahead - it sounds like a large animal.

Vintersdottir abruptly turns at the sound.

Hróar snarls, prepared to fight.

A huge, white bear emerges from the woods. It looks hungry, but eyes you with obvious suspicion.

Kylfa holds out his shield and club to his sides, and shouts, "Don't attack!"

The bear halts, watching you intently. There is a strange intelligence in its eyes.

Vintersdottir stands ready, but does not attack.

Kylfa makes a guttural sound deep in his throat; he changes little, but his features seem a bit cruder, more bestial somehow.

"Bear! I'll give you biting iron," Hróar warns. "Go find yourself easier prey."

The bear snarls at Hróar, as if in warning him in return. It paws the ground restlessly and watches Kylfa.

Vintersdottir grunts softly.

Kylfa speaks to the bear.  "Broadfoot, step-widener, winter-sleeper!  Hail!  We are not your enemies." As far as the rest of you are concerned, he is just growling and grunting loudly at the bear.

Vidar stands back, letting the more bestial and savage of his companions deal with it for now, but at any sign of it turning, he has his spear and shield at the ready.

Sjack crouches down, ready to strike.

The bear responds in kind. "Hail, kinsman," it says. "What has brought you into this evil place?"

"There is a child, of a clan of men, who has wandered here; we have only come to bring him back.  Perhaps you have seen him, Woolly-one?"

"Hmm, hmm. No child I saw, though a thing in in child-shape passed by here not long past, with rage in its eyes and hands that still smoked and smouldered."

"Fell news!  The child has strange powers, but I did not think him violent... where has the thing in child-shape gone, Master of the Wood?"

"I know not where it is bound, but it travels close to the Troll-witch Hyrrokkin, she who cursed me to wear this shape you see before you. She lairs but a little ways into this wood, with her brood of wolves, and spins her foul enchantments. Should you meet her, be warned – she has many an evil spell, and can snare you with her Seidr."

Kylfa turns back to his companions, who are probably wondering what is going on.  "He says that he saw the boy, or something like him; that he travels near a Troll-witch, who dwells not far from here with a brood of wolves."

Sjack cocks his head. "The bear told you this?"

"That is a strangely knowing bear," Hróar says. "But we are in a strange wood indeed."

Vintersdottir just nods, finding a knowing bear not all that surprising, really.

Sjack shrugs his tiny, useless arms. "Then we should head to this Troll-witch and her wolves. Hopefully we can reach them before they have feasted upon the boy."

"Unless he's helping them," Vintersdottir points out. "Then we'll have to fight him."

Vidar nods to himself. "I need a good fight, wolves or no."

"He claims to be not a bear," says Kylfa to the group over his shoulder. "But was cursed to wear a bear-skin by the Troll-witch I mentioned."

Kylfa returns to speaking with the bear.  "I am called Kylfa, O Four-legged man; what shall I call you?"

The bear growls. "I am King Valemon, once the lord of all this land," he says to Kylfa.

"Then, White-Bear-King-Valemon, I thank you; we must see if this boy still lives.  And if I survive, I shall speak with my kin; for we know something of the wearing of skins, and perhaps they will know something of your curse."

"If he is cursed, then he should join us," Sjack suggests. "Maybe in slaying the witch we can break his enchantment, as well as the curse that is upon that woman we passed not long ago."

"Man or bear, as long as he won't bother us, we should not bother him," Hróar disagrees. "Or loiter here. Let us be on our way already."

"Agreed, my sweet Hróar. I grow anxious to act," Vidar says. "These blades are too dry"

Vintersdottir just scoffs quietly.

Sjack nods. "Yes. Let us hunt this witch."

King Valemon nods his shaggy white head. "Go well, kinsman," he says.

Kylfa bows deeply to him.  "And you, Honey-paw, Step-widener."

Kylfa speaks once he's back with the group.  "What he said worries me.  About the boy.  'A thing in child-shape,' he called it.  'With rage in its eyes and hands that smoked and smouldered.'"

"You sure your boy is a boy?" Vintersdottir asks.

"Not as sure as I once was."

Sjack hisses thoughtfully. "Perhaps some fell spirit has taken hold of the child?"

"He didn't say they fought," Kylfa points out. "'It travels close to the Troll-witch Hyrrokkin.'  How close, I wonder."

Pressing further on, you come to a fork in the path: you may head east or south. Vintersdottir, you find a few footprints leading down the eastward path.

Vintersdottir points eastward. "Tracks go that way."

Hróar, these tracks were definitely made by a child, or young adult; you'd guess they were made by Kauko, certainly.

"I don't know what's going on here," Vintersdottir says. "If your boy attacks me, I'm defending myself. If you have a problem, say so now."

Hróar strides along the tracks.

You follow the tracks through the woods, east.

As they travel, Vidar mentions idly: "I've heard of this Hyrrokkin, daughter of Angrboða. Wolf-Mother, the Fire-Smoked, she is called, and it's said she can make a man's blood boil with but a glance. And also that she rides a great wolf into battle with viper reins, if you believe all that" he adds wryly.

The path leads to a huge tree, gnarled and twisted. Despite the frigid weather, the tree has borne fruit - huge, juicy, succulent-looking plums with dark crimson flesh. The fruit are enticingly swollen, and exude a delicious scent. There are two paths here: to the north and to the south. The tracks seem to lead southward.

Vintersdottir sniffs the air around the plums.

Vintersdottir, the tree is definitely magic, and the fruit seem to bear an enchantment, something related to desire.

"I could believe that, yes," Kylfa says.

"A tree like this would be useful in the town," Hróar observes.

Kylfa spits.  "I would not trust anything to eat here."

Sjack skirts the tree warily. "I mislike it as well."

Hróar shrugs. "We can't uproot it from the frozen soil anyway."

Vintersdottir ignores the tree and continues to follow the tracks southward.

"At least this tree isn't throwing needles at us." Hróar also resumes the tracking.

Sjack follows the group as they move on.

You continue down the forest-paths, deeper and deeper into Ironwood, and come to a small glade, at the centre of which a dark pool glistens. The water is very clear-looking, and somehow is not frozen even in this coldest of winters.

At the bottom, you can see a human skeleton garbed all in rusted mail, a broken sword clutched in one bony, weed-snarled hand. Curiously, the helm on the skeleton's skull seems to have resisted rusting, and still gleams bright and untarnished. The helm is fashioned into the semblance of a roaring Dragon with fangs bared. You can also see a handful of gold coins strewn about the rocky bottom of the pool.

There are paths leading east, south, and west here. The tracks seem to lead south again.

Sjack gazes longingly at the skeleton. "That helm is enchanted, and I am quite resistant to the cold. I am sorely tempted to obtain it."

"The dead in these times are wont to take offense if their rest is disturbed," Hróar warns. "I witnessed that but a day ago."

"Do what you're going to do and be done with it," Vintersdottir says. "Your boy went south."

"If you stir up those bones it's your problem to deal with," Hróar growls.

You sense a feeling of sorrow or melancholy from the pool, Sjack.

Vidar interjects, "If there's trouble, but also gold, I'll perhaps take a share of one for a share of the other..." He scratches his chin.

Hróar ignores them and carries on with tracking.

Vintersdottir follows Hróar.

Hróar, Vintersdottir, as you walk down the path, you hear the sound of a lyre being played - a haunting, beautiful melody, somewhat eerie but enchanting.

Sjack nods. "I'll be quick," and dives into the pool, snaking down to grab the helm in his jaw. Without hands, he doesn't think it likely he can gather the coins.

You dive into the waters, and are assailed at first with a strange sensation. What hope could there be in this endless winter? Even if you survive today, the next will only hold more horrors. If you aren't eaten alive by cannibal marauders, Trolls, wolves, ravaging mountain-men, or Aptrgangar, you'll only meet your end in some other inglorious manner, whether through famine or disease or just the pitiless cold. Why not end your life now - why not let yourself sink to the bottom of the pool, to let the clean, welcoming water fill your lungs, and pass from this world in peace, in a manner of your own choosing?

Then you realize that the voice in your head, speaking these words, is not your own: it is the pool, whispering to you, enticing you. You shake off the enchantment and snare the helm in your jaws!

Hróar ponders. "I don't think the boy had a lyre with him."

Sjack shakes his head, clearing the voice from it, growing angry at the attemp to usurp his will. He quickly heads to exit the pool.

You feel a clammy hand brush against your coils for a moment, but then you are free of the pool. Looking back, the pool is clear and undisturbed.

Hróar decides that whoever the lyre player is, probably isn't Kauko. He continues to follow the tracks.

Kylfa follows Hróar as well, occasionally grunting to himself.

The lyre plays again, then twangs suddenly and stops.

Vidar looks longingly at the coins, but realizes there wasn't any trouble so there won't be any treasure. "A fine find... should you find another, do remember who stood by to help when the others passed on, would you?"

Sjack shakes the water off of himself, and moves to follow the tracks of his companions, feeling quite smug. Once the water has frozen, he intends to scrape it off and then resume human form and place the helm upon his head. He gives Vidar a nod, unable to speak with the helm between his jaws.

You arrive at a crossroads where several paths meet. At its centre is a rotten tree-stump, upon which stands a beautifully carved lyre. At first you think it is fashioned from white wood, but as you draw closer you see that it is carved of bone. The strings look to be of golden human hair. One of the strings is broken. All around the lyre the forest seems especially badly decayed, trees rotting and covered in fungus, leaves blighted.

There are three other paths here - south, west, and east. Vintersdottir, the tracks unambiguously turn eastwards again.

"A fine-looking instrument, though I don't know how to play," Hróar observes.

"Tracks go east," Vindersdottir says.

"Let's go then," Hróar urges.

Vintersdottir nods and proceeds east.


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Re: The Fimbulvinter Saga
« Reply #40 on: June 12, 2016, 02:33:33 PM »
IC: Fitt XXXIV: Gálgviðr
Ragnvaldr, you, Dagny, and Maddji followed Kauko's tracks to Ironwood. Hearing a thunderclap within the depths of that fell forest, you plunged ahead, searching for the boy. So far you've found nothing but a series of twisting, blighted paths, bones, and the odd runic inscription carved on the trunks of trees.
Now thoroughly lost in the woods, the three of you hear some kind of commotion up ahead... you hear Hróar's voice, growling at someone.

Crashing through the foliage, you find yourself before a bridge spanning a small stream. A huge, hulking Troll covered in moss stands guard, leering hungrily down at Hróar, Kylfa, Sjack, and two others you do not recognize.

Kylfa cracks his large knuckles.  "Hmm.  Riddles?  I trust in strength."

Sjack hisses hungrily. "Agreed. Let us be done with the beast and its demands."

Vintersdottir calmly steps forward. "Ok. Riddle. Go."

"My blades are thirsty, my tongue silver, I will enjoy this either way," Vidar says.

The Troll grins down at Vintersdottir and Vidar. "I will ask a riddle. If you cannot answer - one of your lives is forfeit. If you answer, you must pose a riddle for me. If I cannot answer, you may cross." The Troll awaits a response to his terms.

Vintersdottir raises an eyebrow. "Let me go first. I'll give you an easy one, I promise."

The Troll grumbles. "My bridge, my rules."

Vintersdottir shrugs. "Fine. Go."

The Troll's grin returns. "The dark earth, exceeding cold, first delivered me from her womb. I wasn't made from the skins of beasts, nor from wool, skillfully fashioned with skeins. Neither warp nor weft wind about me, no thread thrums for me in the thrashing loom, nor does a shuttle rattle for me, nor does the weaver's rod bang and beat me. Silkworms didn't weave me with wiles, those strange creatures that spin a fine yellow web. Yet men will affirm all over Midgard that I am an excellent garment. O wise man, weigh your words well, and say what this object is."

Vintersdottir pretends to listen attentively, waiting for the perfect moment; she then twirls her blades, drops into outer sphere stance, and lunges forward, savagely slashing.

As the Troll asks his riddle your lunge takes him utterly by surprise, and you carve a vicious wound into his chest. Bilious blood like fetid sap oozes from the wound. The Forest Troll shrieks in pain and surprise!

Hróar smirks. "I'm beginning to take a liking to this strange woman, cold though she is."

Dagny sees the battle break out and runs forward. "Uh... what the fuck?"

Sjack hisses at Dagny with a reptilian wink. "Us fucks decided to help save a child."

Kylfa growls with surprise, but soon runs forward and around the Troll.  His features grow a bit cruder and bestial, and claws erupt from his hands as he scrambles through the forest.

Ragnvaldr dashes after Dagny, overhauling her as they near the Troll.

Hróar steps forward, axe blade aimed at the Troll's legs

Hróar, you notice that the Skogtroll's wound seems to be closing, vines and moss already growing back to "scab" over the cut. However, your own blow strikes true! You hack at the Troll's legs, chopping its knee clearly in half.

Sjack hisses a mystic syllable, then lunges forward, attempting to twist to the other side of the Troll.

The Troll claws at you as you writhe forward, but you block with your shield, spraying splinters! A strange feeling is growing in your chest, Sjack – a roiling warmth. You feel a little unwell.

Sjack shakes his head suddenly, looking perplexed.

Dagny yells out. "Kill it with fire!"

"We need fire to kill this beast!" Vidar whips around, somewhat annoyed, and spots Dagny

The Troll grunts and turns to Vintersdottir, striking out with its talons. The creature's nails dig deep into your flesh, rending you horribly.

Vintersdottir blocks one swipe, but the other strikes her. She hisses and snarls. "Nng..."

It snaps with its jaws at Hróar. The Skogtroll seizes his arm in its teeth, biting down hard. Hróar, the pain is excruciating. Worms and beetles seethe from its mouth, skittering over your body.

Hróar growls, half from pain, half from rage.

Vidar tumbles forward, spear at the ready, and lodges it between the Troll's legs, twisting with all his might to catch him off guard.

The Skogtroll's knee, badly weakened, gives way to Vidar's tumbling assault. The spear catches the creature up and it tumbles, its injured knee snapping horribly like a breaking branch.

"The bigger they are and all that...!"

Vintersdottir can't help a slight smirk at Vidar. It's especially satisfying to watch the Troll fall after getting sliced in the arm. She yells out. "Fire! Anyone got any?"

Vidar shakes his head.

Maddji speaks: "I shall summon some!"

Vintersdottir nods and continues with her assault, taking advantage of Sjack's positioning and the Troll being downed.

Despite being prone, the Troll's thick, bark-like hide protects it from the brunt of your attacks.

Dagny taps Ragnvaldr on the back. "Looks like they need a professional, huh? Go get 'em." He feels his strength surge.

Maddji speaks a word of power and a flame swirls before her. She strides up to the Troll and attempts to set it alight. The Troll shrieks in pain as the flames lick across his body.

Kylfa snarls and leaps at the downed Troll, attempting to take advantage of its present state to grapple it.

The Troll's limbs are pinned. Kylfa, you should take care lest the flames spread to your furs...

Vidar readies to impale the Troll as it rises, but suddenly kylfa leaps over him and wrestles the beast. "Odin's beard, I had that!"

Ragnvaldr steps forward, twirling Dagnöskur, "Hold him still for me, Great Bear."

You hack at the Troll as if you were splitting wood, sending chips of bark-like flesh and a spatter of the thing's ichor in all directions.

Hróar bares his sharp teeth as he raises his axe high, glaring hatefully at the Skogtroll. With a mighty downward swing the heavy blade falls, all of Hróar's strength behind the blow. His axe sinks into the Skogtroll's chest, penetrating deep. He wrenches the weapon free, tearing a massive wound that sends splinters flying.

"Well struck, Hróar!" Ragnvaldr exclaims.

The Troll groans and lies still, flames licking at its flesh.

Sjack snarls in rage, then sees the brute is dead. Letting out a hissing sigh, he claws its back in annoyance.

Vintersdottir gives Hróar a nod. "So it's not only Beardless Sjack among you that can fight."

Sjack does give Vintersdottir a grin at the comment.

Vidar eases from his stance and looks over the battle with admiration. "Well fought, everyone. Well fought"

Maddji breathes a sigh of relief. "Well met," she says. "A few of you I recognize, but others here are new to me."

Ragnvaldr gives Vintersdottir a look, one eyebrow raised, then turns to Hróar "Who's she?"

Kylfa releases the great beast's bloodied body and picks at his fang-like teeth with a claw.

"Fighting prowess isn't about beards," Hróar says. "Though I wouldn't mind if it were!"

"Yeah, who's half-beard and Ivar's little sister over there?" Dagny kneels down and makes sure the fire is sufficient to ensure the Troll doesn't get back up.

Sjack lets out a hissing laugh. "Ragnvaldr. This is Vintersdottir and Vidar. They offered to...assist us in our search."

Vidar smiles his crooked smile at Dagny. "I am Vidar. Perhaps you've heard of me?"

"You're Hrafnii, aren't you?" Dagny asks.

"As are you," Vidar responds.

"She a Blóðbard?" Ragnvaldr asks.

"Aye, she is," Sjack admits.

Vintersdottir is definitely a Blóðbard. Dressed like one, too. Flayed-skin armor and all.

"Huh. Why are you helping us? "

"Would you rather I didn't help you?"

Ragnvaldr gives a humourless smile "I don't usually find Blóðbards to be the helpful sort, is all."

Dagny starts, "Actually... eh. Fuck it. We need to find Kauko. We can sort this shit out later. You fucks wanna help, come help. Get in the way and I'll throw you down a hole."

"I like her!" Vidar smiles and laughs at Dagny.

Vidar moves towards Maddji "What is a charm such as you doing out here?"

Maddji looks at Vidar with a certain suspicion. "The same as your companions. The boy, Kauko, is of my tribe."

"Ah, you have given me more reason to find him, so that I might gain your favor." Vidar winks to Maddji.

"Half-beard, Ivar's sister, you comin'?" Dagny asks.

Ragnvaldr wipes Dagnöskur clean in the snow and makes to head off.

"Oh I wouldn't miss it," Vidar says.

Kylfa clears his throat.  "If we are to approach the... witch... I would not mind some time.  To prepare."

"Witch?" Ragnvaldr asks.

Kylfa nods and addresses the new arrivals.  "There was a bear here, who was not a bear.  His name was Valemon.  He saw the boy in the territory of the witch who had cursed him." Kylfa looks sidelong at Maddji as he speaks.  "He said the boy was... full of rage, with lightning in his hands.  And going that way, near to this witch."

Maddji looks to Kylfa. "He is full of the rage of the storm," she says cryptically.

Kylfa grunts in reply, looking not altogether pleased.

"I'm gonna show him some rage when I find him... "Dagny grumbles. "Damn kid running off..."

Vintersdottir spits and follows the group. As she walks, she chants a soft incantation.

Sjack crawls ahead, bounding through the snow gracefully.

You cross the bridge and press on. Something crunches beneath your feet, snapping beneath the layer of snow, pines, and sodden foliage.

Sjack buries in snout into the snow, trying to uncover what lies beneath.

Brushing aside the snow you glimpse something pale and hard and broken – bones, perhaps human, gnawed and cracked by sharp fangs.

Sjack nods. "Bones carpet the forest. We draw near to danger."

Vidar examines one of the bones, picking it up and turning it in his hand.

Vidar, they're probably been broken by the jaws of some large beast.


Hróar bears little attention to the others. He clutches the bleeding bite-wound left by the Skogtroll's teeth and mutters a rhyme in Jötnar language. The blood ceases to drip, as the wound partially closes.

Ragnvaldr, a quick survey of the area reveals wolf spoor and tracks, mixed with those you think may be Kauko's.

Ragnvaldr waves "This way, come on"

Vintersdottir spots the tracks as well, following Ragnvaldr.

Vidar follows.

Sjack follows as well.

A runestone rises from the forest floor here. The stone depicts the binding of Fenrir using the Dwarf-forged fetter Gleipnir, made with the sound of a cat's footfall, the beard of a woman, the roots of a mountain, the sinews of a bear, the breath of a fish, and the spittle of a bird.

The thin silken ribbon that results, stronger than any iron, is used to bind the dread wolf - but not till after the monstrous creature has bitten off the god Tyr's hand. One half of the stone shows Tyr’s mutilation, the other Fenris’ imprisonment. This runestone is of a pale rock, and the marks carved into it are angry and red.

Dagny steps up next to Vidar. "Hey, uh, half-beard. You, uh, don't know the Lyrkenjas, do you?"

"I do not know them, Dagny. Why do you ask?"

Dagny shrugs. "Just wondering."

Sjack turns his head to better eye the runestone.

The runes have considerable power.

Sjack lets out a hiss of warning. "Powerful magic on these. Have a care."

Hróar inspects the stone.

Hróar, these runes are very old. You're unsure of the specifics... but you think there are instructions for some kind of sacrifice.

"They're showing to offer a sacrifice? Maybe. Can't tell for sure."

Vidar keeps scrawling away at his map.

Sjack moves slowly around the runes, giving them a respectful berth. He looks at the others. "Can we make use of them?"

Dagny examines the runestone as well, to see if she can make any sense of it.

Firstly, you note that the runestone is carved with several spells dealing with blood. Secondly, there are indeed sacrificial instructions here. It appears that one needs to smear the runestone with the blood of a wolf, and you will be lent the strength of Týr.

Vidar shrugs towards Dagny and offers some parchment and charcoal.

Kylfa scratches his beard.  "What does it say?"

"There are spells... nothing I can make much sense of now... and something about the blood of a wolf..."

Sjack keeps a lookout.

"We're stopping?" Ragnvaldr asks.

"No... we're not stopping. We're... pausing." Dagny sighs and scrawls them down as hastily as she can.

"Rune-callers are also rune-scrawlers," Hróar says.

"I distrust rune-callers," Vintersdottir remarks.

Ragnvaldr gives Vintersdottir another odd look "You are a strange Blóðbard, that's for sure."

"Yeah, you don't exactly inspire a lot of trust yourself dressed like that... anyway..." Dagny retorts.

Kylfa, you hear something curious off to the south... it sounds like something snoring. Hróar, your keen ears hear it too.

Kylfa turns south and sniffs the air.

Kylfa, there's a beast of some kind to the south... big. Very big. It smells somewhat rancid, as well. As if it is unwell, or corrupted in some way.

"Hm," Hróar says. "Sounds like someone's asleep nearby. And a heavy sleeper at that."

Kylfa growls.  "Something great and... strange.  Unwell."

Sjack cocks his head, focusing on the noises.

"Then why worry? I say let them sleep," Vidar suggests.

Sjack shakes his head. "It's...wrong. Some corruption seizes it, some rot."

"It's not the boy then," Hróar says.
"Not unless he has grown... considerably," Kylfa says.

Sjack shakes his head. "But it is a danger to have on our flanks."

"So, are we going or... what?" Dagny says.

"You speak true, Sjack," Hróar says. "Maybe you could sneak over there and take a look?"

You're finished your rune-scrawlings, Dagny.

"We go," Vidar says.

Ragnvaldr sets off immediately to the north.

Sjack nods and vanishes towards the sound, moving with all stealth he can manage.

"I vote we don't pick fights with anything we don't have to," Dagny says.

Kylfa shrugs.

"Better that we know what it is, in any case," Hróar argues.

You creep south, Sjack. A behemothic hog slumbers in the midst of the woods here. Truly massive in size, its huge, shaggy bulk quivers and shakes as it snores. Bristling from the great beast’s scarred hide are half a dozen arrows and several broken spears, as well as one un-broken one with a haft of curious pale wood. This last spear-wound looks to have festered, weeping a slow trickle of dark blood and yellow pus; near the wound the boar’s fur is mangy, its skin scabrous and flushed, blistered here and there with sores. The swine’s breathing is laboured. The thought of fighting this beast is almost laughable - it could crush you with a stamp of its hooves. Its tusks are long as halberds, its muscles powerful.

Sjack eyes the brute and slowly backs away and returns to the others, careful to make no more noise.

Ragnvaldr, meanwhile, you explore the northward path. Up ahead, three wolves gorge themselves on a steaming human corpse impaled on a low-hanging tree-branch at a fork in the path. The dark-furred creatures greedily savage the cadaver’s feat and calves, flecking their muzzles with blood. Two other corpses are similarly impaled higher up the tree, slowly rotting. One of those on a high branch is armoured in chainmail and wears a short, broad blade at his belt. They are intent on their meal and do not notice you yet.

Dagny follows Ragnvaldr. "Well there's our wolf blood..." she says softly.

Vidar twirls his new spear, admiring the balance of it as he waits.

Kylfa frowns, and speaks softly.  "You keep mentioning this wolf blood..."

Dagny answers softly. "Yeah. Something on that runestone about getting strength from wolf blood."

Hróar joins up with Dagny and Ragnvaldr.

Vintersdottir waits with Vidar.

Sjack looks at the group and just shakes his head slowly. "Best not bother with that brute" he whispers.

"Sjack, what did you find?" Vidar asks. "The others went north; we'll meet with them"

"A monster of a boar. Already weakened, but too massive to safely fight. Let us join the others."

"Come Vinter, there might be fresh flesh involved," Vidar says. "You could change into something even more disgusting."

Vintersdottir licks her lips. "Could slash its throat before it woke. But..."

Sjack shakes his head at Vinter. "I do not believe most blades would puncture deep enough."

Vidar joins up with Ragnvaldr and the others.

Vintersdottir just shrugs and follows.

Sjack joins the sneaky ones.

The tracks become difficult to follow here, Ragnvaldr. Kylfa, Hróar, looking at the boy's tracks, you see that they actually stop here - leading into the underbrush just off the path, near to a large, dead tree.

"Looks like he went up a tree there," Hróar points.

Kylfa wrinkles his nose and looks off into the brush, nodding at Hróar's statement.

Ragnvaldr, shrugging, starts to stump over to the tree Hróar pointed out.

"Hold on Ragnvaldr." Hróar sends his owl familiar to scout the tree and return immediately

One of the wolves twitches, its ears pricking at the sound of your approach, Ragnvaldr. Another sniffs the air.

Ragnvaldr checks at Hróar's words.

Sjack but also pauses when he hears Hróar.

Your owl returns a moment later, Hróar. The boy Kauko is hiding by the tree, sitting on a low branch.

Hróar tells this to his companions.

Vidar readies his shield and spear, but stays cautiously back until he hears sounds of battle.

"For certain, Hróar?" Ragnvaldr asks. "He's right there? Unharmed?"

"Varðmaðr has sharp eyes."

Kylfa raises his eyebrows.  "Easier than I expected."

Sjack nods at Hróar, then speaks quietly. "I mislike it. It seems like a trap."

"Yeah, this is too easy. Better look around first." Dagny peers around. Also quietly casts detect magic.

You note the blade on the corpse of the man high in the tree is magical.

Vidar slides over to Maddji. To be companionable and all that.

"I am not the sneakiest of hunters," Hróar says. "I'd likely alert those wolves were I to approach."

Sjack looks at the others and drops to his belly, preparing to sneak forward. "Then allow us to get a better vantage." Sjack nods in appreciation to Vintersdottir

Vintersdottir sneaks on ahead to get a better look.

Sjack does as well.

Ragnvaldr sighs and waits.

Kylfa tugs at his beard thoughtfully.  "I could talk to them.  The wolves. Though I have heard the wolves in this forest are not kindly. Still," Kylfa says to nobody in particular, "a wolf may listen to sense."

Vidar sings a quiet song as he waits, sharpening his spear, his eyes staring ahead towards his companions. He recites an old galdr that sharpens his vision and hearing. He can hear his companions whispers and relays that information to Maddji

Sjack, you can make out the shape of Kauko in the branches.

Sjack sneaks back into message range and sends a whisper to Ragnvaldr. "I can espy no trap. I believe it safe to approach, aside from the wolves."

Ragnvaldr grunts "come on then," and stumps towards the tree

Kylfa hums quietly.  "I still think I should speak with them."

"Be my guest," Ragnvaldr says. "I'm getting the boy." He walks right up to the tree Kauko is hiding in.

Vintersdottir calmly steps forward, arms at her sides, extended slightly.

Sjack sticks with Vintersdottir, but stays out of sight to not alarm the wolves.

The wolves tense as you approach, Vintersdottir, but note your demeanor and Blóðbard garb. They relax, becoming less openly hostile. One growls at you crudely in the Giantish tongue.

Kylfa looks about to step forward, but sees Vintersdottir approach them and hangs back, waiting to see how she manages.

Hróar gestures and raises a small charm on himself, anticipating trouble. He also prepares to charge forth should the wolves attack.

Kylfa grabs his bear-cloak and holds it close to himself.  Growling, he suddenly transmutes into a massive grizzly bear.

Vintersdottir shakes her head in non-comprehension, but makes no threatening motion.

Kylfa lumbers forwards towards the wolves, sniffing the air, being as non-aggressive as a grizzly bear can be. Kylfa the grizzly is a large and shaggy bear, his deep chestnut fur rather long and tangled like Kylfa's beard.

Ragnvaldr hisses Kauko's name is a hoarse whisper.

Dagny stays next to Ragnvaldr. "Be careful. This is usually right about when shit explodes in our faces."

Ragnvaldr hisses again, a little louder and more urgently "Kauko!"

Kauko's head spins round and his eyes widen as he spots Ragnvaldr.

Ragnvaldr waves at the boy to come down.

Sjack steps out from behind the snowbank, since stealth has been abandoned, his serpentine form hissing a message to the boy. "Have a care, child. Move with silence."

Kauko nods and hops down, his whitish-blonde hair full of leaves and dirt.

Dagny grabs Kauko and swats him a couple of times. "Don't you ever run off again!"

Kauko endures the mild beating with stoicism. He looks unimpressed. "I'm glad you could join me," he says simply.

"Yeah, sure. Now we're getting out of here."

"I'm far from glad that we had to," Ragnvaldr says.

Kauko glares at Ragnvaldr but seems somewhat cowed. He may be a powerful child, but a child nonetheless.

Maddji embraces Kauko, then raps him sternly on the skull with her knuckles.

Vidar walks over to examine the boy. "So you're what caused us so much trouble"

Kauko looks up at Vidar. "I think you missed a spot shaving," he says.

Ragnvaldr grins despite himself

Vidar grins. "Good, so we have him. Can I kill him now?"

"Now, what is friend Kylfa up to out there?" Ragnvaldr muses.

Dagny shrugs. "As long as it's keeping those wolves from ripping our faces off, I'll take it. But we got what we came for..."

"Should we withdraw, then? I'd sooner not abandon Kylfa, as much as I'd like to get the boy to safety."

"Yeah, well, I'm not going to get his attention, he seems busy. As long as shit isn't exploding we can wait a little while, yeah?"

Ragnvaldr nods. "As you say, rune-caller."

"I agree, Ragnvaldr," Hróar says as he wipes snow off his shoulders. "Even if we avoid trouble now, in this weather we'll end up buried under snow if we stick here for long."

Vidar impatiently rolls his spear in his hand.

Dagny shrugs. "At least we're not cold. Gotta love Dvergar engineering. Dvergar themselves, not so much, uggh..."

Ragnvaldr keeps his eyes on the developments with the wolves and the Great Bear.

Kylfa, you lumber forth and the wolves back away from their kill, unsure of what is transpiring.

"Lo," says Kylfa, speaking with animals.  "Who hunts here?"

"You are not native to this wood," the lead Vargr says back to Kylfa. "Know that we are of the brood of Hyrrokkin, and these woods are ours, and this food also."

Hróar gets his javelins at hand.

Kylfa makes a grunting bear-chuff.  "I know of Hyrrokkin.  And I know of you.  Your food is yours; I do not desire it." He stares at the tiny, tiny little wolves with his squinting bear-eyes.  "What have you seen here, brood of Hyrrokkin, of a man-child, and lightning?"

"A man-child you say? We have seen no such child, though we heard the lightning strike." The Vargr growls at Kylfa and nods its head towards Vintersdottir. "Who is this woman you travel with? She is garbed in the manner of the man-king's warriors."

"Is she?"  Bear-Kylfa sniffs dismissively.  "As you say.  I do not know her name.  Is this man-king a friend of your brood?"

"Mmm. He brings us live meat, yes. In exchange we do not hunt his followers. He has met with the Grief-Bringer, struck a deal."

"Grief-bringer?  Another man-thing?  They are so hard to keep track of..."

The Vargr barks. "No man-thing! The Grief-Bringer is the ruler of Ironwood. She-Who-Brings-Sorrow, Fenris-Mother, Loki's Lover."

Kylfa makes a guttural, grunting approximation of a bear-laugh.  "What does your mother want with man-kings?  Does the brood of Fenris need men to feed them now?"

The wolves seem angered, bristling at your insult, but your size and strength cow them. "The man-king is no enemy of ours. When the Fame-Wolf rides over the land and devours all, he will be spared. His is the blood of the Half-Dead."

"So you say.  But how is it that the wolves make deals with men now, and let a man-king tell them what to hunt?"  Bear-Kylfa grunts.  "Wolves are strange creatures."

"We take no orders from the man-king," the wolf snarls. "Hyrrokkin is our mistress, our brood-mother."

Kylfa sniffs.  "How did she come to rule here?  Has it always been so that the wolves of this wood struck deals with men?"

"Not always no," another of the wolves says. You can tell this one is female. "Once we hunted with another. But when the Mighty Winter began, Hyrrokkin rode forth from Jotunheim. She slew those loyal to the old pack-master."

The lead Vargr snaps at this new speaker. "Silence!" He growls.

"Hmm."  Bear-Kylfa rumbles deeply.  "I have seen a skin-changer who says he was once one of your pack.  Is that whom you speak of?"

The female wolf says nothing, lowering her head. The lead wolf addresses you again. "Leave now, bear, and take your woman with you. You are not welcome here."

Kylfa chuffs.  "So be it.  But know that I have heard of your man-king.  I have heard he had a 'deal' with the Troll-king, and betrayed him.  Perhaps the pack should think on that."

Sjack watches the wolves, unable to speak the language, so keeping an eye on their body language.

Ragnvaldr groans "How long until these pups cease their yapping?"

"I never thought wolves could be so wordy," Hróar says. "They prattle on and on like gossiping women!"

"You know, I don't think he ever talks to us this much," Dagny observes.

Ragnvaldr chuckles under his breath.

Hróar roars a laugh. "Maybe he feels more comfortable in the company of beasts."

The wolves prick up at the sound of Hróar's guffaw.

Sjack hears the laugh and lets out a barely audible hiss of annoyance.

"He should be just fine around you, then," Dagny says.

Kauko scratches his head. "We should destroy them all," he says. "They will only keep breeding if we do not cleanse the woof of their filth."

"Oh please, look at them," Vidar says. "One's about to leave and the others beckon him back in. I'd sooner use my spear to pry them apart."

Ragnvaldr cuffs Kauko round the ear and shoots Hróar a look as if he wants to give him a cuff around the ear as well.

"If you don't want me to chortle, then don't make me."

"Well since you blew our cover anyway why not go over there and tell him to get a move on then?" Dagny says.

Vintersdottir, meanwhile, is just standing there patiently. Or at least as patient as she can be.

Dagny looks at Kauko. "And you. None of this smartass speaking in riddles shit. If you know something, out with it."

"Bears and wolves." Vidar shakes his head.

"Are there more of you?" The lead Vargr demands.

"I have seen other men here," says Bear-Kylfa, as he turns to leave.  "I will make them leave."

The female wolf looks interested, however, in Kylfa's story. The third wolf, also a male, you think, also seems inquisitive. "Betrayed you say?" he asks. "Why betrayed?" The pack-leader bristles at this dissent in the ranks.

"Hrrrm."  Kylfa pauses and looks over his great shoulder.  "So I have heard.  A deal with the Trolls; but the Trolls were to be only his tools.  Now friends are enemies.  I would be wary.  Men want what is best for men… even men of Loki," he adds.

"You must speak with the Flame-Smoked, our mistress," the female wolf says. "Come, bear. We will lead you to her."

The pack-leader looks like he will object, but the third wolf glares at him. He has clearly lost control.

Kylfa chuffs.  "Must I?  You had just told me to leave. But very well.  I say only what I have heard."

Sjack sees Kylfa prepare to move, and begins to follow.

"Your companions may accompany you," the female wolf says. "All of them," she adds.

Kylfa makes a low growl.  "Do I have the word of the pack that you only wish to speak?  I do not often wander into a den of wolves."

"Should you swear likewise to harm none of our number, you may come in safety," the female wolf assures you. She seems to have taken control; the pack-leader growls and gnashes his teeth but remains silent.

"So I swear," Kylfa grunts.

"Good," the wolf says. "Your companions must swear also. Tell them to come out from their hiding. Their stink is strong enough to waken the Sæhrimnir."

Kylfa chuffs dismissively.  "I cannot speak mannish.  But I will do my best to make them understand."

Vidar takes out his bow, aiming it in jest at one of the wolves. "I could make this much more interesting for us" he says, with one eye closed

Dagny sees this and pushes Vidar's hand down. "Are you an idiot?"

"I think myself more a man of action." He smiles at Dagny. "But no, I won't spoil our good friend's chat." Vidar puts his bow away.

"A man can be both of those," Hróar points out.

"I'm starting to think that the reason everyone seems to hate the Hrafnii is they just all met you," Dagny says.

"If only more folks had such an opportunity" Vidar sighs, evidently pleased with himself.

Kylfa turns and whine-grunts at the rest of the party, gesturing them forward with a mighty paw and thumping it upon the earth in front of him.

"Ah, seems we're needed amongst the beasts."

"Lemme guess, they knew we were there the whole time, right?" Dagny steps out and motions for the rest to follow.

"I blame old tall dark and ugly" Vidar motions to Ragnvaldr.

"You better watch it, half-beard, or you're going to be missing the other half of your face too," Dagny warns.

Ragnvaldr gives Dagny a smile at her ire.

"Oh, now what?" Hróar asks.

Sjack stays with the wolves, relaxing some as the danger seems to have passed.

Ragnvaldr keeps his hand on Kauko's shoulder as they make their way out.

Kylfa makes a broad, sweeping gesture to them with his paw once they approach.

Hróar shrugs and follows, not knowing what's going on but not wanting to abandon his companions.

"I've risked worse things," Vidar says. "So we walk amongst wolves now, do we? I suppose Vinter is right at home, then."

When Ragnvaldr draws close, Kylfa places a great paw upon his weapon, and shakes his head side to side.  He cocks his head at Ragnvaldr, hoping for some sign of comprehension.

Ragnvaldr cocks his head at the Great Bear. "No killing?"

Kylfa nods and pats him on the head with a furry paw, possibly a bit rougher than he meant to.

Ragnvaldr gently swats at Kylfa with his left palm in response.

"If I am attacked, I will defend myself," Vintersdottir insists. "Otherwise, I agree to these terms."

Vidar in some semblance of respect, grudgingly lowers his spear, but keeps it by his side with his shield.

Kylfa nods to Vintersdottir, and turns back around to the wolves.

The female wolf speaks in Giantish. "Strangers," she says. "Thus far you have killed none of our number. Do you swear to be peaceable?"

Dagny translates for the group.

Sjack nods to the oath.

"I will swear, as long as we are not threatened," Ragnvaldr says.

"Yes," Vintersdottir assents.

"I do swear to keep the peace," Hróar agrees.

Vidar opens his mouth to say something, then thinks better of it and nods agreement.

Kauko tenses. You can see something stirring in the boy, the hairs on the back of his neck rising, and feel a kind of static electricity building...

Sjack glances at the boy sharply and lets out a low warning hiss.

Ragnvaldr grips Kauko's shoulder tighter.

"You too, kid," Hróar  growsl. "Swear it." He glares at Kauko.

Dagny tries to let the whole thing pass without anyone noticing she didn't swear to anything.

Vidar gives Dagny a sly look, only briefly. "I'm a man of commitment; let's be on with it" Vidar smirks.

The wolves aren't that bright – they didn't notice Dagny's lack of oath.

"So you've all sworn your oaths, shall we?" Dagny says,

Kylfa gestures at the boy and Maddji and gestures back towards the border of the Ironwood, then gives a great bear shrug.

Ragnvaldr looks at Dagny, "I think friend Kylfa is suggesting we send the boy away."

"Send him alone with the Kvenlander woman?" Hróar asks. "Do you trust them to be safe?"

"Uh, you want to send him back through that?" Dagny asks, incredulous. "Seriously?"

"I'd be most worried about what he'd do out of our sight," Ragnvaldr says.

Maddji smiles. "I can pass quietly through these woods. We will stay out of sight."

Kylfa nods.

"I might have to invest in a leash for him after today," Ragnvaldr says.

"Just don't let the boy run away again," Hróar says.

Maddji nods. "Come, Kauko, and do not try to give me the slip. You know I am sharp-eyed."

Vidar moves over to Dagny. "I suppose I'll have to find someone else to look at while the attractive one is gone."

"Keep your eyes to yourself or lose them, Scar-Face," Ragnvaldr warns in an off-hand way, as if maiming Vidar were a small thing that could be accomplished without interfering with the important business of the day.

Dagny badly suppresses a laugh.

Vidar bristles, but yields. "Ah you see, friend, the ax missed my eyes." Vidar taps his cheek "Forgive me if I use them"

"I'd make a crack about comparing dicks, but half-beard would probably actually whip his out and nobody needs to see that."

Kylfa grunts at them, and then nods to the wolves.  "Lead, then."

The wolves nod, and pad away into the wood.

Sjack follows the wolves, slinking low to the ground, and lets out a trill of amusement.  "No would we."

Dagny follows as well.

Vidar follows, with a big shit-eating crooked grin on his face.

Ragnvaldr grunts and stumps along with the others.

Kylfa makes a soft bear whine that almost sounds like a sigh.

Hróar starts whistling in the tune of a popular, vulgar folk song. He's ahppy that at least there's no more need to try and be stealthy.

You head deeper into the woods. You can hear sounds in the forest to all sides. A twig snaps; a bough creaks. Paws pad against earth. There is a faint smell of smoke and rotting flesh. Scrawled on the bark of a tree up ahead are a series of ugly runes, oozing sap. They look freshly rent into the bark, by blade or claw.

Those who can read Giantish note that the runes are a warning of sorts. "Your Blood Will Boil. Your Bones Will Blacken. Your Flesh Will Crisp. Your Heart Will Burst."

Ragnvaldr comments to Hróar. "Is that smoke? When did wolves start lighting fires?"

Hróar translates the runes.

Sjack twists his head to the side at the runes, squinting one eye as if to make sense of it. "I was wondering about that as well, Ragnvaldr."

Dagny reads the runes and is glad she didn't swear any oath.

As you continue onwards the trees become larger and larger, till they have grown to truly titanic heights. Suspended from their branches are corpses – most of them skeletal, others badly rotten and partially eaten. They are hung about the neck with vines or their own entrails, dangling like macabre pinecones.

Vidar, you have a strange feeling that you've passed some kind of threshold. And a word occurs to you... Gallowswood... you remember coming across it on an old scroll.

The signs of Vidar's crooked grin fade. "We've... crossed a threshold of some sort... Gallowswood. Does that word mean anything to anyone? I recall the name faintly..."

"Never heard of it," Hróar says. "But I'm not from this land."

Ragnvaldr looks up at the corpses. "It's good we didn't bring the boy."

Sjack nods towards Ragnvaldr in agreement.

Kylfa grunts.

Dagny muses. "Something to do with giants... Dunno. Anyone know their way around Jötunheim?"

"I know only the tales that were sung by bonfires at Thule," Hróar says.

The wolves continue onwards and eventually come to a halt before a particularly large tree, a black crack visible at its base. Numerous corpses hang from its boughs, partially eaten. A trickle of smoke emerges from within.

Sjack thinks about how he first met Verjartix, and clamps his fangs shut.

"Charming locale," Vidar comments.

Vintersdottir looks at the corpses almost hungrily. "I haven't eaten in some time."

Sjack looks confused as his own stomach rumbles slightly.

A huge wolf pads forth from the hole, its carious teeth bared, eyes flaring with evil light. Astride this monstrous beast sits a woman eight feet tall or more, using writhing vipers for reins. She is statuesque and pale of skin, with hair the colour of a moonless night and eyes like two green flames. Her arms bunch with muscles; you would reckon her stronger than any man. Smoke trickles from her nostrils. She is clad in smoke-stained tatters and charms made from human bones. Her teeth are sharp as the wolf she rides.

"Hyrrokkin," Vidar says quietly. "So the tales are true."

"She is impressive," Hróar observes. "As expected."

Vintersdottir remarks, "Indeed. I've seen worse. But only just."

"Why are we meeting her, though?" Hróar whispers.

"I have no idea," Ragnvaldr says.

"Because beard-man thought it was a good idea," Dagny says. "Or something."

"We left our leadership to a bear," Vidar observes. "I expected no less"

"Should... should one of us say something to her?" Ragnvaldr asks

Hyrrokkin speaks with a voice deep and cruel, a voice like the sound of skin tearing and bones snapping. "Who dares to defile Angrboða's wood?" she demands.

The wolves bow down before her. "Mistress," one says. "They claim to have news of a great betrayal. The man-king has turned against the Trolls to the east. They claim he cannot be trusted."

Hyrrokkin waits expectantly, glaring down at you.

Kylfa bows to the wolf-riding witch, then turns his head and looks straight at Dagny, nodding slightly to her.

Sjack tenses slightly, realizing suddenly the plan he had been assuming was there wasn't.

Ragnvaldr clears his throat and opens his mouth to speak...

Dagny nods. "It's all true. I was there."

Ragnvaldr closes his mouth again when Dagny speaks, visibly relieved

Sjack untenses, his scales shuffling slightly.

Hróar is feeling rather confused by all this, but he puts on a gallant posture as if knowing exactly what is going on.

"Their witch had a deal with Ivar to stab them in the back," Dagny says. "She's dead now, they found out the whole thing."

"So. You claim that Ivar has betrayed Thrivaldi," Hyrrokkin says. "Do you have any proof of this? Why should I believe you?" She seems suspicious, but not openly hostile.

Ragnvaldr can't help but crack a smile as he remembers the witch's demise.

"Well, her dead body on a pike at their village," Dagny says. "But I couldn't quite bring that with me."

"So you have no proof," she repeats.

"I... uh..."

Ragnvaldr mutters under his breath. "Should we have brought Thrivaldi to talk to her?"

Dagny holds up her talisman. "I've got the witch's talisman. She wouldn't give that up unless she was dead."

Hyrrokkin steps forward to inspect it, muttering a few words of power as she does so. "I see. So now Thrivaldi acts against Ivar? Is that the way of it?"

"That's the way of it."

She looks to Vintersdottir with some curiosity. "You there. You are garbed in the manner of the Bloodbeards. What do you know of these changing alliances?"

"I know or care nothing for changing alliances."

Sjack can't help but let out an amused hiss. "She really does not."

Dagny's left hand idly strangles some air.

Ragnvaldr sighs.

"She speaks truth though," Sjack says. "Thrivaldi against Ivar. Betrayal."

Hyrrokkin seems to take Sjack's serpentine words seriously. "I must consider this carefully, and speak with cousin Thrivaldi." She barks an order in Giantish to a wolf nearby. "Moon-snatcher. Seek out the Nine-Headed and speak with him, to confirm the truth of these claims."

"Right. Good. So we're just gonna... be on our way now?" Dagny takes a big step back.

Vidar, you have heard a rumour that the Trollbloods known as the Thrivaldii recently attacked a Blóðbard warband.

Kylfa licks his paw, looking unconcerned.

And who are you, who wears the Linnorm shape?" she asks Sjack. She ignores Dagny's plea to leave.

"I am Verjartix, and I am Sjack. We share this space."

"If I may speak further for Vintersdottir," Vidar clears his throat, "I have heard rumor that the Thrivaldii recently attacked a Blóðbard warband."

Dagny visibly winces when Vidar opens his mouth.

Ragnvaldr frowns and whispers to Dagny. "Does she not know who we are? Do you think that means Ivar doesn't know who we are?"

"Apparently not... at this point I care more about just getting out of here..."

"Me too. I'd rather not fight her and all these wolves." Hróar swings his tail anxiously.

Ragnvaldr nods grim assent to Hróar. "Ivar must know. You remember the druid whose eyes he saw through? He must know." Ragnvaldr seems satisfied.

Kylfa sniffs a leaf and nudges it with his nose.

"I am a man of rumours, and as such I only deal in the choicest ones," Vidar says honestly. "If I am wrong, then give me a scar to match."

She fixes you with a dark look, considering you carefully. "Your words hold little weight, Odin's-child, but my wolves will learn the truth of these claims also." Despite her harshness she offers you a small smile, Vidar. "I shall hold you to your promise."

Kylfa huffs and licks his nose.

Vidar hopes he's not wrong and smiles crookedly.

"We would expect nothing else." Sjack quickly shoots Vidar a glance, breath baited.

"Right, so, now, we'll be on our way," Dagny says.

Kylfa chuffs and bobs his head, nodding.

Hyrrokkin crosses her huge arms. "Very well. Leave these woods. I will know the truth soon enough – but be warned. If I find you have lied to me, I will set my pack to hunt you through all the Nine Worlds, till each of you dangles from the trees of Gallowswood."

"That's real nice, yeah," Dagny says hastily. "Aaaaanyway."

Sjack gives Hyrrokkin a bow. "The truth will bear out our words."

"Let's be off then, eh?" Ragnvaldr bows a little stiffly and moves to go.

"Let's go," Hróar agrees.

Sjack moves to leave with the others.

"Farewell, Ironwood-pack," Kylfa says to the wolves.

Vintersdottir just spits and turns to leave.

The wolves growl, but allow you to leave unmolested.

"Hey, that went alright," Dagny says. "You didn't even have to wrestle this one."

Kylfa nods his head forcefully in agreement.

After some time, you find your way back to the tree at which you met the wolves.

"Now, back to Wulfheim?" Ragnvaldr asks. "Or is there more you'd do at the rune-stone?"

"Eh… I'm a bit concerned about the kid," Dagny says. "We should probably hurry back."

There are no wolves nearby now. However, something strange has happened... the paths seem to have shifted.

Kylfa curls up into a big, woolly ball.

"Oh..." Vidar frowns as he turns his map upside down and right-side up to no avail

"The paths shift," Vintersdottir says.

"Your astuteness astounds me, Vinter," Vidar says.

Vintersdottir just stares at him.

Vidar glances at her and rolls his eyes. "Don't look at me like you're hungry."

"I am hungry."

"I'm well aware. I also taste terrible we've been through this," Vidar says exasperatedly

There's enough food for everyone back at Wulfheim..." Dagny says. "Whichever way that is...."

Kylfa abruptly begins to shudder and shrink.  In a few seconds, the "fur" opens up, revealing it to be simply man-Kylfa with his bear cloak wrapped around him.

"Looks like Ironwood doesn't want to let us go," Hróar growls.