Friday, 17 October 2014

Kampi's Saga: First Days

Last entry of Kampi's Saga covered the backstory of my LARP character, Ref 'Kampi' Vandillsson. Today consists of a whole bunch of narrative covering his first week in the world of Medieval Chaos:

A few days following his arrival at Dagger Deep:
Kampi had been hired as a guard/porter for a small merchant caravan that was travelling south from Uberland via Dagger Deep to a place in the south called Helm's Deep. To his fortune, he had been hired on last minute to fill an opening, though he was fairly sure his payment was to be low due to his inexperience with the company; he still didn't fully understand the worth of trade in this land and accepted the only way to learn it was from the bottom up. Still, where he was from, low-work was handled by unpaid thralls, so at least he could afford to keep from starving to death. For the time being at least. 
He didn't talk much during the journey with his travelling companions, instead doing what he thought he did best: listening; both to the conversations within and the sounds outside. He partially hoped this vigilance would grant him a degree of professionalism and reliability with his peers, but it also allowed him time to ponder on the recent events in his life: 
During the past week alone Kampi had survived shipwreck, being stranded alone in a strange land, captured by slavers, slain fleeing from captors, and was returned to life and introduced to the local settlement of Dagger Deep, where he saw many different walks of life, some of whom he met. Before he had time to come to terms with what had transpired, creatures calling themselves valkyrja suddenly appeared in town with a retinue of supposedly dead warriors and demanded several named folk. Obviously not his concern, but the whole event fascinated him: it was said in the sagas of his people that the valkyrja mostly appeared to those whom were slain in battle, but here it was to mortals.

Kampi had been slain twice more that day when men who were once-dead-but-still-dead rose up against the living; perhaps the tales of the aptrganga were also true to some extent. Twice more Kampi had returned to the land of the living, a confusing and painful process that he sought to avoid in the future.
Kampi thought long and hard on what this all meant against his previous beliefs on death and the afterlife during the long, uneventful journey to Helm's Deep.

Upon cresting a hillock, Kampi's eyes widened with wonder as they fell upon the great city below him. He had heard tales of giant towns to the south, but had never seen them with his own eyes. He could scarcely believe the sheer size and splendour of Helm's Deep, and briefly forgot himself until the words of his employer drew him back in. As the company wove its way along the increasingly crowded road toward the huge gated entrance, Kampi's spirits lifted; A town this immense must have anything a man may need; he thought. He kept close to his company as it made its way through he gate and toward the market, lest he be swept away by the throngs of people.

The market was awash with crowds, and all sorts of sounds and smells, both familiar and strange, pervaded the air. Kampi forced himself to keep from distraction and his mind on the task at hand as he hauled the goods he'd been transporting for his elven employer into a tall building made of wood and stone. Once all the goods had been stored, he lined up last with his peers as their employer handed out payment along with his thanks.
When he reached Kampi he handed him half a dozen coins and spoke that his company would be leaving from this spot back to Uberland the morning following; he had proven his worth as a porter and was welcome to join them if he wished. Kampi thanked the elf-man as they all went their different ways. 
Resting his tired, sweaty muscles in a quiet corner of the market for a brief moment, Kampi carefully looked over his payment: one coin was made of gold, two of silver, and the rest copper. His stomach growled and he realized he had not eaten for over a day, when he consumed his last stale flatbread. He had some business he wished to take care of, but knew it was best to have a full stomach before undertaking any task, and what better way to find the value of this coin then by buying food? 
Kampi spent some time browsing various vendor stalls, and to his surprise discovered many of them served prepared food. Back home, one would acquire items to cook ones own meal, but it did make sense in this city since there was little room to set up a personal cooking fire anyway. But the mongers' asking prices did reflect the convenience of ready to eat food. 
At last Kampi could not abide his hunger any longer and settled on spiced boar meat served upon a slice of crusty bread for a silver coin. He filled his drinking horn with a thin ale costing one of his coppers and downed it in a single gulp; it tasted stale and bitter but it helped alleviate his thirst. 
Finding another quiet spot, he took a large bite of his fare and nearly spat it out! He was not used to such spice and briefly wished he hadn't downed his ale first. Once he managed to choke down his bite, he chuckled to himself: the whole thing reminded him of when Kail, one of the trio of warriors that had recovered him from his death a few days ago, had offered him an odd fruit covered with a thick, ochreous hide. He was not accustomed to such strong flavour at first, but found he liked it. 
That in turn reminded Kampi of one of the reasons he came to this town apart from employment. He quickly finished his food in smaller bites and found the spiced meat to be delicious; he could get used to such fare, if he could afford it this is. Kampi then struck off on his first task.

Kampi made his way through the dense mass of folk in search of a merchant who dealt in weapons. The crowd did not bother Kampi much, he was used to spending many a week sailing on a cramped drakkar, pressed against fellow crew-members. A twinge of sorrow plucked at his heart when he thought of his recent shipmates, lost to the sea when their drakkar capsized in a fierce maelstrom.
He prayed to his gods that he was not the only one of his folk who made it ashore alive, and that those who did not had brought gold with them so the sea goddess Rán would be pleased with their gift, grant them a place to rest in her hall, and perhaps a seat feasting at table of Ægir. 
Kampi turned his attention back to his task: as far as weapons, he had but the single sword he had taken from one of his slaver captors. Though not familiar design, Kampi new firsthand it was of decent make. But it was not his own through spoils of victory but more so of theft, and he considered that one of the reasons why he felt no attachment to it; it was not his by true right. Still, a weapon is a must amongst his people, regardless of profession.

He stepped into a building that looked promising.

After his eyes adjusted to the dim light, Kampi gazed upon the racks and shelves stacked with various tools of war, along with many other goods. There where many different types, makes, and designs; and several he did not recognize at first as a weapons. He narrowed his focus to the main weapons used with a shield by his people: axe, spear, and sword: 

Obviously a shield is of real use in combat when paired with a weapon; it may protect one from harm, but alone it cannot remove threats. The store had shields of many strange shapes, but few of the simple round design Kampi was familiar with. 
The axe was the poor man's sword: usually easier and cheaper to make than a sword because it used much less iron; the shop carried mostly long, two-handed designs or bizarre double-bitted varieties. These had the disadvantage that one could not use a shield effectively when wielding such a broad weapon. Of course one would have to have a shield to begin with... 
Kampi was hoping for a spear; a weapon that benefited from being shield-less by keeping you out of your opponents' reach in the first place. It was also the favoured of the chief god of his folk, Wodinaz. If a foe does manage get in close, then one could be in trouble, thus the trick was to keep them at bay. Sadly to his dismay, none of suitable length were to be found here; rightly so thought Kampi, they're relatively inexpensive. 
Finally the sword. Kampi already had a sword and there was no chance he could trade his current blade for a better one. Maybe for a smaller weapon like a seax or dagger, but he wasn't enthusiastic about losing the reach granted by the sword.

He had come here to exchange the bandit's blade for a cheaper weapon and get some coin for the trade; and after browsing the wares Kampi figured he might have to settle for smaller blade. But doing so might only jeopardize his livelihood, but also his future position as a caravan guard; no merchant worth his weight would hire a guard armed only with a knife. On the other hand, Kampi desperately needed money, and unless he was going to take up idle banditry or challenging the honourable to duels for death or profit, a sword would help little in a non-martial career. 
Kampi was just about to enquire with the merchant about a trade when something caught his eye: hanging from the wall on a thong of leather was something hafted like a handaxe, but it's head was more similar to a woodworker's hammer on one side and a miner's pick on the other.

Aye see dat yer interested in dis war hammer?” Said the portly shopkeep as he took the weapon down off its hook and extended it to Kampi. “Yes... I've heard of them, but never seen one.” Replied Kampi as he took the weapon and made a few light swings, testing its weight. It felt good, very good, similar to a handaxe he once had. 
“De 'ead 'n' spike punch drough armour.” Said the shopkeep. “Anyding from basic lead'er to maille to full plate. A piece may turn a blade edge, but it canneh stop de weight behind a decent blow from one of deese beauties. Break de bones undernead, or a least knock dey teed out!” The shopkeep grinned, showing a large gap in his mouth where his front teeth used to be. Kampi smiled and nodded. 
Something inside told Kampi to get this weapon. He wasn't sure if it was because of the similarity and weight to an axe, the somewhat merciful prospect of disabling rather than killing a foe outright, or the darker idea of causing undue suffering through shattered bone and ruptured gut rather than a relatively quick death by blade. 
It certainly would be just as effective wielded against lightly the armoured, as well as beings whom clad themselves in thick metal plate; Kampi had seen a both in this city and in Dagger Deep. The war hammer's reach was shorter than the sword he had acquired, but not by much; it measured about his arm minus his hand in length. The fates had led him here, so it must be ordained. Plus did not the mighty god Thonar wield a hammer in battle? 
Kampi spoke: “Yes. I like this... war hammer. I have this to trade for it.” He drew his sword and extended the hilt to the shopkeep, who took it, swung in experimentally, and then closely examined it. “Good weigh'. Nice make. Decen' condition.” Said the shopkeep who then scratched at his balding head with an pondering look upon his face before speaking again. “Yeah, I'll straight up 'rade you fur dis. We 'ave a deal?” 
“Hold a moment.” said Kampi. “That doesn't seem a fair trade for the amount of steel between the two. Granted I am turning in something previously owned, but I was hoping I'd get a little coin to return for this trade.” He motioned to several smaller blades on display. “Which of those do you consider of equal worth to trade this sword for?” 
The merchant strode over to the blades, considered a moment, selected one and handed it to Kampi. “Dis one.” he said. Kampi felt its weight; honestly not too light, nor too heavy. “How about this then: we place this blade upon one side of the balance over there. Upon the other, we'll place that loose war hammer head I see sitting upon that bench. The difference between the two is how much coin will be paid. Fair?” The shopkeep scratched his pate for a moment and then nodded in agreement.

Both parts were placed upon the balance; much to Kampi's relief the blade outweighed the head, but not by much. The merchant then began to add coins to the blade side until the balance was equal. “I dink de difference is nine and twenty coppers worth. Fair enough?” 
“Thank you good man, we have a deal. Make it twenty-seven for indulging me.” The portly gent counted out the coins, handed them over with the hammer, and thanked Kampi for the business. Kampi holstered his new weapon on his belt and smiling, strode back out into the market.

Content with his trade, Kampi pondered on his next course of action. The interaction netted him more coin to barter with but still left him with a decent weapon. He now moved on to his next task: working to fulfil one third of the trice-bound oaths to each of his redeemers. 
The vows he personally swore before his gods consisted of three parts: an oath of tribute, an oath of service, and an oath beholden to their longevity. Unfortunately his duty to his own base needs meant he was unable to fulfil the last two on account of not being present with his any of his redeemers. In fact, several times during his journey to Helm's Deep he had prayed to the Norns that they may see fit that none of his trio would fall to an ill fate during his absence; it would be a further great dishonour to himself if he wasn't present to aid those he already deeply owed in their time of need. 
But he would seize this opportunity to at least attain worthy tribute! Kampi pledged as he started to slowly walk the market, considering options. The gift of coin, though useful, lacked a personal connection, and expensive gifts may have value but no intimacy; not that Kampi could afford such luxuries at this time anyway. Practical presents were in order, but Kampi came upon a problem: at this time, he knew very little about those he was oath-bound to beyond their base profession and skill; their interests, trades, beliefs, loves, fears... 
Kampi felt shame at this but it deepened his resolve to learn more about his companions when he returned to Dagger Deep. For now, he would attain something worthy to fulfil his oath of tribute to each of them. But what? His eyes traced around the market square. He seemed to find himself back where the majority of costermongers had their carts set up, hawking their fruits and vegetables. 
As Kampi's gaze fell upon a barrow filled with caskets of golden-hued apples, a notion came upon him: In the sagas of his people, apples were commonly associated with youth, for the goddess Idthuna carried an magical eski made of ash wood. Within it contained apples blessed with granting youth (for the gods age like mortals, be it slowly by mortal standards), and relied on the apples of Idthuna to remain forever hale and youthful.  
Kampi couldn't keep from grinning like a fool; what nobler gift for his redeemers than a symbol for eternal youthfulness? He strode over to the cart, plucked three of the nicest apples he could find, and was about to hand over the requested coin to the monger when something caught his eye: sitting in a smaller basket were several small orbs he wouldn't have recognised before until very recently, when Kail had shown him the ochre-hide fruit he called an 'Or-An-Jeh'. 
Kail had said that it held mystical properties that kept mariners and the like from illness when on long journeys. Kampi surmised it might have something to do with the strong flavour or perhaps the bright colouring of its skin; in fact, Kampi kept the dried hide from the 'Oranjeh' they shared for good measure ever since.
Kampi scooped up the fruit and thought: For his gladiator friend, this is a more fitting gift than an apple. He returned one of the pomes back to where whence it came, paid the merchant, and tucked away the gifts in his bag, deeply satisfied with his acquisition.

The remaining part of the day saw Kampi inquire about future employment in Helm's Deep, but to little success. The trade he knew best, woodwork and carpentry, was, as nearly all artisans were, controlled by guilds. If you weren't a member of the appropriate guild in this town, there was little chance of finding legitimate work in your given trade; and illegitimate work runs several risks if one was to be discovered operating outside guild regulation.
Joining a guild was an option, but the process was long, time consuming, and certainly not conducive to those who desperately needed employment, like Kampi.
The fact that most of the streets Kampi had so far traversed in this city were lined with a liberal amount of beggars seeking alms might further lend credence to the power of guild rule. In partial jest, Kampi considered that he may be forced to do the same with his own bowl after a few weeks of unemployment would make him gaunt and filthy enough to benefit from charity, and thus run the risk of violating the unseen rules of a 'thieve's guild'. 
After little success in the artisan quarter, Kampi made his way to the harbour district also known as Water Gate, seeking a job in the second and third best trades he knew: seamanship (particularly as a ship's carpenter) and general labourer. 
The harbour's scents filled Kampi's nose before he reached the dockside, and the crying to gulls and the clamour of mariners and dockworkers filled the air. All shapes and sizes of craft of unrecognisable design filled the port, few similar to the shape of the knarr, byrding, karvesnekke, or drakkar of his homeland, but none of obvious Nordthfolk make. Kampi was dismayed by this; he had hoped to find a vessel with obvious ties to his people, but it was not to be. 

Still, resolved Kampi, a ship's a ship; the basic principles are the same and I'm more than willing to learn any innovations of craft and marinership
Unfortunately for Kampi, the remainder of the day was a fruitless as his time spent amongst the artisans: no work was to be found; not particularly because of guild rule, but all the captains he spoke with already had a full complement for their vessels and the port merchants had many a stevedore to shift goods. 
Exhausted, Kampi found a relatively quiet side-street when dusk fell, leaned himself beside a several wooden crates, took a moment to place his valuables underneath the stack (lest he be robbed during his slumber), and allowed a fitful sleep to take him.

The light of early dawn found Kampi as he awoke shivering. With numb hands he checked his person and hidden stash; nothing untoward seemed to happen to him that night. The sun made it difficult to tell the hour in this land, but to his best reckoning, Kampi felt he had an hour or so before the elf had said his caravan was to leave north for Uberland. 

Beating his limbs for warmth, Kampi stiffly stood. His impromptu bed did little to relieve his soreness and his stomach growled with hunger. The streets of the city where desolate at this hour, a stark contrast to the hustle and bustle the day before.

A few pedlars were hawking their wares and Kampi purchased some dried foodstuffs to break his fast and prepare for the journey ahead, along with a woollen cloak of good quality for his single gold coin; though this land was considerably warmer than he was used to, the nights were still chill and the season was turning towards winter.
Kampi lingered around muster point the elven merchant had mentioned, and was beginning to worry that he had missed the caravan when several folk he recognized approached with an empty wain. 
After exchanging brief pleasantries, their employer emerged from the building they had ported goods into. Following the directions he gave Kampi and the rest of his colleagues hauled goods from the structure into the wagon, and once it was full, shouldered their own load. 
From then on the company made their way out of the city of Helm's Deep and began the trek north. Kampi was pleased to hear they were to make a brief stopover in Dagger Deep for a few hours as their caravan was to pass though it to Uberland; there he hoped to see his redeemers, deliver their gifts, and aid them to the best of his ability. 
Despite all the hardships that happened recently, Kampi felt optimistic about his fate in this new world...


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