Saturday, 31 December 2016

Kampi’s Saga: Recounting and Rumination

I still live!

Another year come and gone; so little time to write about what's been done.

I managed to pull enough free time together to bust out a basic recap of all the recent events this past year concerning Kampi and his Saga.

For more frequent updates of my doings, follow me on Instagram; I've been making a point of posting smaller gaming/LARP related things there as I don't have the time to here. Hopefully I'll get to odd chance to do a few more blog posts about what I've been doing that keeps me so busy, but for the time being this blog is mostly going dormant.

Enjoy and have a great 2017!

Third Day of Woden
Month of Yule
Local Year 5316

Rune: Jera
Divine Association: Eir, Goddess of Mercy
Literal Meaning: Year
Interpretations: Harvest
Right-side: Promise, Renewal, Reward
Inverted: Interminable, Repetition, Reversal

It has been quite a long time since my last journal entry, over half a year ago. Many a time I raised charcoal to parchment, but was never able to finish what little I began. Aside from my life being occupied by a great many things, I feel that I cannot still my thoughts during my free moments long enough to find peace; I have an ongoing sense of foreboding in my mind. Despite all that is good in my life, I cannot dispel a dread I feel lurking in the dark recesses of my mind; the occasional headaches and nightmares do nothing to improve this feeling that the shadows in my soul lengthen.

As of late I have been spending my winter in a meager inn near within the harbour district of Helm’s Deep; sharing a small rented loft with my kinsman, Volm, for over a fortnight until he departed eastward on personal errands, leaving me alone in our small room. I have tried to venture forth and be sociable, sometime visiting the various taverns and barrooms throughout the city, but I feel out of place in crowds and reclusive. The longest night of Yule has just passed last evening; my thoughts cannot help but wander back to the celebration with the Greyward house at Shale Glacier the year past, and the grim affairs that later occurred at the hamlet of Amsel.

Much has happened since I last wrote in this journal during the Month of Flowers, nor have I even recorded all that has occurred before that entry, which has always been an intention of my own. Since that fateful 'hunt’ nearly a year ago, my life it seems to have become increasingly more complicated; I will try to summarize what has happened to over the course of the past year since my last entry in an attempt to order my thoughts:

Word reached me during my stay in Uberland during the month of the Sun that Gnimh was present on the 16th day of with her loyal pack and was attempting to exert her influence over the local mongrelfolk and gain the town's trust by offering aid against the hoard of black orcs that had invaded Dagger Deep. By the time I arrived both groups had been dealt with in their own way. I stayed in the Guard Barracks following that incident, wishing to be present to lend aid against another invasion or if Gnimh made another appearance.

Near the end of that month, several days following Midsummer, was the Festival of Osis. I recall still being a member of the Town Guard then; I will elaborate on the fact I am no longer one later. I enjoyed observing the tournament and the great gathering of folk celebrating; I ran I short athletic pastime that was well received. I strung and shot bow a few times in the archery contest, but didn't stay to compete. 

Although Relan was present we had little time to talk privately, in fact I spent more time with his 'brother’ Hector; I am still unsure how I feel about that man, though we are both as some would say of the ‘faith militant’, his outlooks upon the nature of morality, divinity, and free will tend to run contrary to my own and he seems far from willing to openly debate them. It's a wonder how Relan abides him; I've heard them loudly buttheads over some viewpoints. True be told I wasn't feeling sociable and eventually retired, the crowds getting to me.

About a month following a 'tribe’ of various types of goblinoids (many base, with some of cinder, some of rime) converged on the lands surrounding Dagger Deep. Talks with the goblin folk proved futile as they quickly lost patience with any discussion and many of the townsfolk, both single-minded boors and bloodthirsty mongrels, attempted to drive them away with force. If the entire town was committed to such action, we might have been successful, though a large group was either unsure, unwilling, or attempting to find a peaceful resolution; I found myself in the latter. A disposed pair of somewhat astute cinder goblins spoke to us of the the plans of the ‘bullies’ in charge were to perform rituals at each of the five nearby magical portals to seal them, on the idea that the portals have caused nothing but trouble and closing them would weaken their foe, 'the mother of magic’, Gnimh. There was even a rumour that her hated sister Shaar was the force behind goblins plan.

Having been first hand witness to their slaughter at the petty whims of Gnimh and her inhuman agents, I was supportive of their cause, even if for the reason if the portals are closed sooner, than less blood needs to be shed by both the goblins and the townsfolk, and depriving Gnimh of her power could only have beneficial consequences; how wrong I was.

Having personally volunteered as sacrifice for the closure of the Air portal (the second portal they closed following the Water portal; to my endless regret, it was my own blood that sealed it) and experiencing the magical backlash of it, along with that of the Earth and Fire portal, the last being a pyroclastic release of energy that incinerated all those present (mostly goblin). I just quested the top of the barren stone hillock and was brought to my knees at the sheer devastation I gazed upon; something that has become a too frequent dreamscape of my nightmares as of late.

It was quickly decided that allowing the goblins to seal the final portal, that of Life and Death in Woodhenge, could have disastrous repercussions; long story short, despite our weak forces having been split between defending and attacking, and a betrayal by the few cinder goblins we trusted resulting in the shattering of the magical globe of protection around the portal, we succeeded in the end of driving them off. They seemed content with the closure of four of five portals.

And now on to the part where I abandoned the Guard: Exhausted from the ordeals of that day, I came to a gathering of the Guard with their superiors, along with the warlord Alucard and a few concerned citizens; after witnessing the way our ‘superiors’ treated the concerned citizens present with contempt, and the airing of the failures to properly drive off the goblins and prevent them from interfering with the portals, combined with the earlier summons for Relan, Mathuin, and others to be brought in, interrogated, forced to take sleeping draught, and incarcerated for alleged connections to Northbrook; that was the moment that tipped my already unsure loyalty. I walked away from the group in disgust, and after a moment, I briefly returned only to toss in my sash.

I then proceeded to the C&A where I got drunk. A few allies tried to convince me to reamain in the Guard, Relan included, and even though I felt I was breaking my bond to the citizens I swore to protect, I felt that by being hampered by our corrupt laws, I would only be breaking my oath to protect the folk of this town. I left town the following morn into the hinterlands for a few weeks of solace.

It was soon after I noticed my connection to my gods was waning; believing my actions as an oathbreaker had angered them, I returned to town, to discover that I was not the only one whose mystical powers were hampered; it appeared to be effecting the faithful and non-faithful alike, and it was rumoured that the closure of the portals was the cause.

As I was gathering my affects from the Barracks, I saw and spoke with Tibalt the Bard, whom had been incarcerated for attempting to beseech Gnimh for aid in reopening the portals; though she did make an appearance she was of no help, and Tibalt was arrested for consorting with the enemy. I began to realize the full consequences of going along with the portals being sealed, how I my choice to protect townsfolk only resulted in driving them to desperate acts to return things to how they once were, and I saw the law punish those for making the correct choice for the greater good. I did my best to aid those looking to restore the portals, and I witnessed more personal sacrifices as Mordag attempted to call in a favour from Lyra, the so called Queen of Undead and former general of Sakacuron, and Dodger, now preferring to be known as Jackrym, sacrificed his connection to a Fae court to unseal the Air portal. Dispite this, I still stand by my choices, and I support any who also do so for the greater benefit of all.

Eventually all the portals were restored, and it came as no surprise that once her power had been returned to full, Gnimh returned with her force, perusing a pack of mongrels which refused to submit to her will; The Maw I believe is what they referred to themselves as. Like countless times before the town was caught between two warring groups, but the town had few positive feelings for Gnimh and allied with her foe to attempt to drive her away. Our small numbers were crushed and I lay dead off the beaten track for sometime, so long the sky had grown dark by the time a rogue named Starn had revived me (Still owe him a favour); once I regrouped with my allies we found the shredded body of Odez (Lieutenant of the Guard), who'd be mauled to death by the lead mongrel of Gnimh, Silverfang. We collected what remained of his body upon a shield and carried it back to town, where by the grace of the Æsir I was able to restore life to his frail body.

In all honesty, if I knew he was going to become one of them, we would have buried him where he had fallen, for that is where the last decent member of the Guard remains.

Sometime after his recovery, Ajax and I witnessed his physical change into one of those mongrel beasts, and we confronted him upon hearing he hunted down a young lad to sake his unending hunger; harsh words were exchanged but it was kept civil and no blood was shed; I am certain the Odez I knew and respected is gone.

Despite all chaos and seemingly hopelessness, during this I found strength in companionship, the single bastion of hope I have. My kinsman, Volm, who I thought lost on his initial journey eastward over the Dragon Peaks, returned to these lands, and has chosen a path of faith in our old gods similar to my own; I have been doing my best to teach him the ways of the devout, though I frequently question myself, feeling a poor comparison to my mentor Relan, at least before he began enjoy drink too much for his and others well-being. Aligning with his interests and temperament, Volm has chosen Freyng, the god of the Harvest, Fertility, and the Sun, to be his patron deity.

Soon after our pairing, another approached us with interest of our faith, a strapping young lad by the name of Kygo; from his manner of speech, dress, and the lands he claimed to hail from, we believe he is perhaps a distant kinsman of Volm or myself.

I have as well become firm friends with a Caledonian warrior named Connor of clan MacPherson; though a bit bullheaded, he is an honest and true companion. Despite being a warrior first, his devoutness to his goddess(es), The Morrigan, shares many similarities with our own, particularly the association of the raven and collecting the souls of the slain in a manner reminiscent of the valkyrja. He has been more than kind enough to offer the holy grounds he has acquired at Dagger Deep as a site of worship for the Æsir; with our faith slowly growing, I am greatly considering his offer, along with another to join him in Caledonia come the new year, though the distance and method to be travel sounds unbelievable (I have traveled by airship once before, but I was mostly in recovery from Amsel) .

And when I’ve seen him, Ajax has always been supportive in his own way. The last time we met I handed him a lengthy letter to send to his family in Shale Glacier, specifically to his young sister Nerys. It dealt with her a misplaced infatuation with me; it was the hardest thing I had to write. Though Ajax spoke that he was not intending on visiting his folk this winter, I trust he will see the message safely delivered back home, though I would not put it past him to glimpse at the contents out of concern for his sister; between the two of them I hope that at least one of them accepts what I have written.

I have not seen him since we last spoke on Samhain, where we got into a heated argument regarding my consideration of joining with Red Keep’s army that was preparing to march upon Northbrook in a upcoming winter war following Yule. He brazenly stated if Connor and myself were to foolishly risk our lives in such a madcap endeavor, he would have to accompany us to ensure we came to no harm; having known he had intentions on travelling southward to locate the land of his lost love, Erinn. I tease Ajax for pining for her, but it's obvious he deeply cares for her, though perhaps it was not until that moment how much he also cared for his friends; like his sister, he desires no harm to come to them and will take steps to prevent it.

Sometime following Samhain, Connor, Volm, and myself participated in a wargame of sorts between Helm’s Deep and the kingdom of Uberland, with us on the side of the Red Keep. Our forces were mostly outmatched in combat and we had to rely upon our cunning against the trials of that long night. To my shame as a follower of a god of war, it was further laid bare to me that I feel unfit as a soldier; like Connor and Volm, we all have fought many a time and at times do not shirk from battle, but at least in my regard I that was when my spirit is bolstered by a noble cause or threat to those I swore to protect. Though the threat of Northbrook and their supposed god-slaying weapon looms over all, I feel it is outside my capabilities to combat; I will support those who seek to remove the threat they present, but I have concluded that this in not my battle. It seems Connor has made similar choice, deciding to return to Caledonia.

I am sure Sigrun would be disappointed in my choice as well.

I should explain who Sigrun is before I continue; sometime before Samhain when Connor, Ajax, and myself were present together in Dagger Deep we met a comely yet aloof shield maiden, whom went by the name of Sigrun. She claimed to be a valkyrie and an avatar of the goddess Valfreyja, and though at first I did not believe such a bold claim (perhaps because I had always considered the gods of my homeland distant deities with no direct interest in this realm), when she spoke of her task to recover a necklace from a trickster named Seeker Foxkin, a masked avatar of the god of mischief, Lokki. I did my best to aid her in this endeavor, and although we succeeded in recovering the necklace it was shattered and the trickster placed a curse upon the prominent gem that cause the bearing to speak lies every other time they spoke.

Sigrun spend most of the remainder of her short time in our company before she returned to Asgard with the pieces of the broken necklace, and she honoured me with the gift of a relic in the form of a worn cloth she wore bearing the symbol of thrice intertwined drinking horns of the gods. Despite this reward, I could not help but get the impression she was overall dissatisfied with my performance of the representative of the Æsir. I shall try to remain resolute and endeavor to be worthy in her and the All Father’s sight; to some, I must be considerable, for when I awoke by my lonesome the morning of Yule I was pleasantly surprised thrice:

First, upon the floor leaning against the hatch to my room, resting adjacent to my worn boots, lay a great leather-bound tome; at first I was alarmed, as I meant someone had managed to enter my loft during the long night as I slept without knocking my boots over or disturbing me, but upon further inspection of the article, with its wondrous, illuminated contents upon the sagas and myths of my homeland, I deeply suspect it is a gift from either a very clever accomplice, or a possibly a mythical benefactor. Something to both occupy my time during the winter months and possibly gain insight from.

When I descended to join my host and the other tenants in a shared feast to break our fast, after exchanging pleasantries and well-wishes, the owner of the townhouse presented me with a small pine eski, and explained he was to give it to me after it had been delivered to him that morn by a porter. He politely refused the few coins I had for his service, citing it was no trouble. I sat upon a bench near the fire-pit in inspected the small coffer: the front latch was kept closed by a piece of twine looped through it and the ends contained within a wax seal of green; peering at it with the firelight was the imprint of a griffin rampant. At once I knew whom the chest was from: Ajax.

Upon breaking the seal and lifting the lid, my eyes fell upon a worn piece of parchment with the contents listed in a recognizable script; the first of which read:
‘Salt - A most potent and striking anathema against the evil immaterial. Decant from phial in a ring around the hexxer, ensuring there are no gaps lest spectres exploit it.’
I searched the box and drew out a small phial matching the description filled with crystals of salt; after gazing it I placed it beside me upon the bench and read the next item:
‘Oil of Blencathra’ - A blade anointed with pure oil from the Blencathra region will pierce hides of creatures impervious to normal steel.’
I fished out a bottle of verdant smoked glass sealed with red wax, the outside etched with unrecognizable glyphs; I set it down and proceeded to the next item.
‘Talisman - Bruxa are tricky and capricious, and can curse the most are ardent hunter. Arm your with this charm and be not afeared of their sorcery.’
I fished out a metallic disk that hung upon a cord adorned with various mineral beads; after glancing around, I looped it over my neck and trucked in beneath my tunic.
‘Candles - Thrice blessed, candles in ritual preserve oneself from injury of the unknowable and esoteric.’
A pair of pearlescent tallow candles rested in the coffer next to the following items: A small coil of twine and a bulb of garlic.
‘Cord of Hemp - A coil of hemp plantwire, soaked in knotweed to imbue it with strength in binding the impure.’
‘Bulb of Garlic - Each Wampyr, Nosferat, and Lamia cannot stand garlic, and will flee from he who presents it. Instrumental in staking a final-rest to the unnatural living cadavers.’
For a moment I consider that claim: I had heard that the cursed beings of Dagger Deep and Arrakus have no love of the bulbous plant, but I have not heard it being used to effectively drive them off; perhaps it only applies to certain realted creatures. I read and inspected the final item; a long colourless glass phial containing a clean liquid:
‘Holy Water - A phial of crystal water, sanctified by the blessings of monastic orders who defend against evil and malevolent daemons.’
I have both heard and witnessed my mentor Relan bless water in the name of his god Ithus and use it to occasional effect against those demonically possessed. I’m sure I could do the same for a short time, but having a phial of blessed waters that remain indefinite could be useful in its own right.

Replacing the contents back into the chest I could not help but consider the possible intents of this gift: given that many of these objects have protective values, it’s apparent Ajax is obviously concern for my well being, yet at the same time one needs to be in appropriate perilous situation to make use of them; evidently he wishes me to continue aiding him on his ill-boding ‘hunts’ against threats to the innocent. Perhaps in this regard he knows me better than I know myself.

I may as well resign myself to such fate the Norns have woven for me; as much I claim that I desire peace, my soul yearns for conflict.

I am sure this new year shall provide what it desires.

Praise Be To The Æsir

-Ref ' Kampi' Vandillson

Friday, 27 May 2016

Kampi's Saga: Break The Spell

It's been rather quiet on the blog front these past couple months, but that is not because there has been nothing to blog about; quite the opposite, I've been too busy to have time to write about all that's occurred!

I have so many half-completed entries sitting in my drafts; it was my intention to complete them in chronological order but as more time goes by and current events drift into the past I'm finding that prospect difficult to do. I try to record notes and details on the latest event before I forget them, but now I'm beginning to think it'd be better to complete a full current entry before I attempt any past ones, else I may forget important specifics.

This last Saturday's entry at least isn't fully reliable on knowledge of prior recent events to follow, and where such do arise, they can be seen as tantalizing details to future entries on the past. And this latest mission was memorable in Kampi's development so I wish to record it in full before it fades from memory.

When I do begin posting entries on past events, hopefully the break in chronological order doesn't cause too much confusion: mind the dates for the entries. I may create a side page that lists all of the entries in chronological order for ease of reference rather than relying upon the Kampi's Saga link.

Without further ado, here's Break The Spell

Ajax & Kampi, with Shiny stalking in the background

The Fourth Day of the Sun
Month of Flowers
Local Year 5316

Rune: Ingwaz
Literal Meaning: the god Yngvi (an older name for Freyng)
Interpretations: Fertility, Potential, Virtue
  • Right-side up: Friendship, Inner Growth, Loyalty
  • Inverted: Futility, Inner Confusion, Spiritual Crisis

It has been a fortnight since I was in Dagger Deep; my time hence was spent south in Helm's Deep, making true on my offer to use my prentice skills as an armourer repairing the worn brigandine of the bishop of Ithus. As I hammered new rivets and adding patches of leather where needed, I ruminated deeply:

Until half a fortnight prior, I had not had a chance to see me mentor since his sudden abduction from the Imbloc Ball by the orkish of hoards of Azuk'turoth and subsequent rescue. Though I had participated in the task mission to recover the bishop, to my shame I ended up being apart of the main 'distraction' force and not the small group that eventually rescued Relan.

And after the events during the Cheeba's Day Tournament on the last day of the Month of Grass, I find it even more difficult to relate to my master; either from the haunting experience from Amsel that has changed myself both mentally and physically, Relan's own ordeals at the hands of the orks, the recent abyssal crisis, or perhaps some combination of each.

As we celebrated with mead that day, perhaps in an attempt to recapture more pleasant times, had lost respect for both my mentor and myself; things were done and said that were unbecoming of us both. Though older than myself by decades, Relan was acting like a spoiled child; and my own frustration and anger at several things had begun to unnerve me.

Once I had finished my task of repairing his vestment, I had wondered if the owner of that piece had anything to left to teach me; I then briefly pondered whether to return this favour to the Ithusian in person or to pay a courier to deliver it to the locale Relan was staying at.

I eventually decided on the latter choice after an unexpected visitor called; Ajax, whom I had not seen as well since Imbolc, swaggered into my chambers and after a brief exchange of awkward pleasantries announced he had some business to do north in Uberland and half jokingly claimed he could use the company and I could use the practice maintaining his somwhat shabby armour.

After some thought and further badgering from Ajax, I accepted his offer, as I was due to check in with the Town Watch of Dagger Deep anyway. Following a night in which I spent maintaining his gear whilst Ajax talked about his most recent, mostly uninteresting, exploits, we departed for the mid-isle realms by chariot the following morn.

Our time spent in the city of Uberland was sort and we eventually made our way on foot to Dagger Deep; just within sight of town Ajax recalled something and produced a rolled up parchment and handed it to me, claiming it was addressed to me but had been delivered mistakenly to him. It's place of origin was his hometown of Shale Glacier; possibly reinforcing the belief by his family that I am Ajax's squire.

Before I opened the message I checked in with the Captain of the Guard, Milo, and he assigned me my usual Watch duties. With nothing more interesting to do, Ajax accompanied me on my rounds; we mused at the latest notices upon the town's message board, notably "Common Taunts" by the author known as 'Three Sheets'; the majority of which neither of us found particularly humorous, but the last insult about comparing a Dwarf's beard to that of a billy goat made me laugh out loud when I saw the frown upon the thinly-bearded face of my companion. Unfortunately in regards to facial hair, Ajax does take after his human mother more than his dwarvish father.

Eventually, a break was taken from my patrol and I unrolled the missive from Shale Glacier and silently read it to myself:

When my companion inquired to the nature of the message, I initially delayed answering, reading it over again before I mentioned, as casually as I could muster, that his sister sent her love. Ajax's countenance took on a suspicious look when he asked if the letter was from Nerys; I said that is was and before I could finish rolling it up and store it away he snatched it from my grasp and began to read over it, his look becoming even disapproving.

I do not wish to write the full details of the discord that followed between us, but I will touch on a few points: Ajax essentially accused me of leading on Nerys, who has an infatuation with me, at least an unrealistic romantic ideal; perhaps by association with Ajax and his venturesome nature, I am apparently some sort of a daring adventurer to be admired.

Although some may be willing to title me as such, the strife and deeds witnessed and performed at Amsel do not make me such in my own eyes. I seek not glory nor acclaim, profit or confidence. I am still unsure what motivated me to sojourn twice into the northlands; once by my lonesome, allegedly drawn by desire to connect with my homeland, and a second with Greyward on his 'hunt' for the creature that terrorized that accursed thrope...

I have become distracted.

Despite her supposed affections for me, and Ajax's ardent belief that I would be an unfitting husband for her (inwardly I agree with his assessment, but the fact that he was so verbose about it affronts me from being outwardly congruent), I find the prospect of dashing the hopes of young Nerys very difficult to bare, and one can see why Ajax is also unwilling to be the bearer of such news. Though I can also see Nerys rejecting her brother's advice on the grounds of being overprotective (which is true) and thus deepening her infatuation. Perhaps I do long to be cared for; I need to dwell long and hard on how to deal with this.

Once my companion and I had voiced our opinions and cooled our subsequent tempers, the both of us journeyed to Darkwood to look into several rumours about a strange, possibly threatening, creature dwelling therein. On our way, we passed a visiting patrol of holy warriors known as Sigmarites, whose apparent encounter with the being was peaceful (surprising though, given they tend to be ardent-bordering-fanatical in their crusade to cleanse the land of all 'unpure' beings).

A visiting group of Sigmarites

Further into the forest, we at last glimpsed the creature; hunched low as a predator, cloaked and hooded in a robe of umber and pitch, glittering eyes regarded us from a side-cocked ligneous face; aside from the two bidactyl feet it crouched upon, the only other feature that could be seen beneath its covering were several digits arrayed with large, wicked-looking claws.

The strange creature known as Scarab

Our attempts at communication with it were mostly vexing; the odd canter of its speech combined with its enigmatic questions and aloof replies, made our assessment of its nature and intention difficult. In the end, Ajax and myself decided it was best to leave well enough alone, for it only seemed a threat to those who would threaten it; for the time being we collectively decided it must be some form of nature spirit, for it did mention it had been dwelling in Darkwood for sometime. Why now it chose to make its presence known, we cannot say; perhaps it is related to its desire to locate an individual known as 'the killing knife', as heard from a second-hand encounter.

Soon after we had returned, a small trio of goblinfolk, nervously entered town through the south gate; two (female?) goblins, green as spring grass, accompanied an elder (male?) the shade of cinder (a fire goblin undoubtedly). As my duty as town guard, I cautiously approached these creatures known for their cunning, as a small crowd of concerned citizens gathered to watch the proceedings, greeted them, and requested their intentions.

This group appeared to be non-threatening and only inquired to those who would listen if and how the recent changes they attributed to this lands' recent stay in the abyss had altered the folk of this town (if at all) and how they felt about it. The goblins related some of their kin had changed into larger, brown-skinned varieties, and that some were unhappy with this change. They also mentioned many of their kin were nearby; perhaps an (un)intentional threat.

Eventually, this trio was brought before King Kasper Willumarius, who was present and holding court that day, and after being questioned by him, the goblins were permitted half of an hour to seek and obtain their desired knowledge concerning changes to their kin before they must depart these lands.

Sometime later, when many goblins had dispersed throughout town, another group of outlanders arrived and took up position around the royal court; I informed Willumarius of such and we proceeded to meet the host. There, a great pack of theriantropes of varying 'breeds', tense and agitated, surrounded the pair leading them: Silverfang, the intimidating legendary alpha of all therians, and the small-folk avatar of Gnimh, the supposed goddess of wild magic, and also the creator of goblinfolk and therians alike.

King Willumarius, in his 'polite' way, inquired to the visit, and it became known that Gnimh was seeking a lost piece of her magic staff and apparently believed it to be in the vicinity of Dagger Deep. Their discussion was soon interrupted when an eager goblin, seeking approval from the 'mother of magic' (a lesser goddess perhaps, for the All-Father Wodin is the God of Magic), lightly brushed Gnimh with a fawning hand, to which she responded by flying into a berserk-like fury, and tore its still-beating heart out from its chest with her bare hand and proceeded to devour it.

She then loudly called for the slaughter of all goblins, and her pack of therianthropes were loosed to see her will done. King Willumarius offered aid to drive the goblins out of town, for their time had passed anyway, but when Gnimh demanded the ears of all goblins, whether they be male, female, or young, the king refused, as did many others including myself. The rumour that the goblins also had the missing piece was also spread along with a reward for finding and returning it.

Not entirely trusting the motivations Gnimh, Silverfang, or the host of therianthropes, I did not aid in driving the goblins out of town and the surrounding land, nor in the barbaric practice of collection their ears; I had been commanded to guard Willumarius and that I did. The goblins were quickly routed and it became a slaughter; though Willumarius claimed his goddess Cheeba had charged him many a time with the purge of goblinfolk, never he did deal so against their non-warriors, nor with such a degree of sheer malice.

Even though Gnimh was a supposed goddess and the king's decision to turn on the goblins might have been motivated out of the best interests of the town, I could not help but silently question his convictions to his goddess; by allowing Gnimh's word and tolerating her fanaticism, he in my own mind was placing her above his own goddess.

I kept these specific thoughts to myself.

A group of us then followed 
Watch lieutenant Odez into Ork's Field, as he began to enforce the kings' order. After witnessing a skirmish between a group of goblins and therians, Ajax, in a somewhat surprising turn, agreed with my troubled assessment that this persecution of goblins was rapidly turning into a needless genocide. Perhaps after the events at Amsel, we are both loath to trust the whims of beings motivated by unquenchable hunger or desire.

Privately, we made the choice to parley with the goblinfolk, to stave hostilities, but to mostly learn if they did in fact have the missing staff-piece Gnimh was searching for. Speaking with the brown hobgoblin Commander Small-Ear, who seemed to respect my supposed position of authority as a member of the Watch, related that they did in fact have such a item and were keeping it from Gnimh on the belief that if she was able to gain such a thing, it would giver her complete control over all therianthropes, which would spell further doom to his kind. We were further told their 'red' leader was safekeeping it.

We initially mistook a different firegoblin, matching our description of the other I had met earlier, who was touting something about a great 'Chair-Man' and would gave me a bizarre small book bound in red. I still have this odd piece of literature; I feel he might have been a member of the Liberateurs movement...

Soon a tense standoff between the therian host, lead by its two figures, and a group of loyal citizens of Dagger Deep, led by King Willumarius. developed; the king believing Silverfang to be under Gnimh's control boldly attempted to slice open his throat to 'release him'. That bold action caused therians to turn on us and the majority of us were slain. Yet, despite such a daring act, Silverfang still sued for a peaceful resolution between the Deep and his goddess and pack, and those who had fallen from the skirmish were returned to life.

Following that altercation, one of the therians addressed me directly; appealing to my reason and attempting to liken their worship of Gnimh like my own faith in the Æsir, to which I responded with a question: Were they so devoted to their 'goddess' to have no concerns at all about the rumour that Gnimh would have complete control over all of them should the missing piece be found? He said that that would allow for the highest form of worship, to which I said their blind loyalty is nothing like my belief in my gods; the truest form of faith is being granted the choice not to follow them, but making the choice to do so.

Ajax and I finally met with the leader of the firegoblins and let them know our peaceful intentions; he eventually disclosed to us that he no longer had possession of the lost staff-piece, though the way he said it also told that Gnimh had it neither. Eventually the two of us decided to seek out the therian host, which for sometime had been largely visible but had since disappeared, and exchanged rumours with several allies in Darkwood:

First, a therianthrope commonly known by the nickname of 'X', related how Gnimh had exerted her control upon nearby were-creatures that were not loyal to her, bidding them to act against their own will (Ajax and I witnessed such when the local beast-man Shadow attacked and searched the body of the goblin leader for the missing piece, soon after we spoke with him; supposedly he was under Gnimh's influence when doing so); several of the resident therians aided the opposition to the goddess by staying out of the reach of her influence.

Second, the well-meaning but occasionally very naïve elven priestess, Lady Light, spoke a rumour that the staff-piece had found its way back to Gnimh. When I was able to draw Ajax's attention away from her bosom, we decided to find and confront the goddess and see if this was true. A young newcomer by the name of Ulfric joined us on our search; the less heavily laden youth made a good scout compared to the noisier pair (particularly Ajax and all his maille and plate). Alas, our search was fruitless, though we did spy Balthier travelling through Ork's field by his lonesome; avoiding Gnimh's influence or perhaps on some devious personal errand. 

By the time we had returned from our trip, I spied a familiar object lying ahead of us upon the path: Milo's spear. Just after I ran ahead and retrieved it, a group of therians appeared farther down the path carrying the wererat himself. The three of us prepared for conflict, but their leader Silverfang claimed their intention was amicable; apparently Milo had been poisoned with a deadly toxin that prevented him from being brought back to life and Gnimh's power would restore him.

Though the intentions seemed outwardly cordial, the details the lay beneath were less than benevolent (a fitting parable for therians in general I think); it seems that Milo had poisoned himself to prevent Gnimh's influence forcing him to reveal the location of the lost piece, which the now revived and compelled captain related that Balthier was safeguarding it from Gnimh. Having revealed the desired information, Milo and the rest of us were allowed to leave (further) unharmed, though it did take some convincing for Milo not to attempt any arrests.

After returning my captain to town and having a brief respite, I came upon the therians yet again in South Ork's Field whilst searching for Ajax and my other allies that had last been there; they lay dead at the feet of Silverfang's pack and before I could issue challenge, my body went rigid and darkness fell upon my eyes and deafness upon my ears.

An eternity of void seemed to pass but it must have not lasted longer than a moment, for my senses were suddenly returned with a sharp inhalation of breath, and the once still corpses were now lumbering about abnormally, imbued with unlife. I began to retreat slowly, hand on the hilt of Sváfnir, coolly voicing my concern at the situation. Silverfang claimed they had grown tired of acting diplomatically and working within the laws of Dagger Deep. He then commanded several of his pack to slay me; as I sprinted towards the rear entrance to the tavern I was overrun and slain.

When at last I was returned to life by friendly faces, we moved rapidly to defend the town from attack by the deceiving therians; Gnimh's host held the bailey and courtyard and the majority of the attack was focused on the western gate, led by King Willumarius. I opted for a strike upon the neglected north gate, I bypassed their lousy defense and distracted those inside the bailey by dashing along the battlement, before I briefly sparring with the werewolf whom I debated with on the nature of worship, before attacking the enemies' rear flank. Soon though, our initial attack force of citizen and goblin allies were routed.

Though the therians had ample opportunity to slay all inhabitants and feast upon our corpses, they instead chose to pursue the fleeing goblin forces and leave us to our recovery. Hopefully Gnimh and Silverfang chose not to return, though we best prepare for such an eventuality.

As dusk began to settle, the majority of the town did what they always did following a endured crisis: drink and feast. Though I kept from partaking in too much of drink (wary of the anger in me it brings forth as of late), I did share some mild elven wine with Ajax along with some of my vittles, as we rested our thews over a game of pip'n'tiles (to which we argued about the rules) before we departed for some air (and more food for me from Kippo's shoppe; I cannot recall the last time I was so ravenous with hunger).

Though Ajax had been lustily tolling the fairness of Odez's newest apprentice all throughout the day, an elven maiden with a name recalling pleasantly exhaling, both of us became melancholic as he pined about his lost love, Erin Westwood of Averland, and I about the meaning behind awful dreams that have been haunting me as of late. Eventually, we both took solitude seperately.

I spent my own time patrolling town, ruminating deeply, and spending time in prayer to the Æsir, asking for their guidance. Ajax and I later crossed paths and by this point he was rather drunk; wandering darkened paths alone, lit only by the full moon, singing half-remembered songs to himself. I followed him for sometime, watching over him until we made our way back to the lit streets of town.

As I resumed my patrol, I encountered the elf priestess Lady Light, and as we exchanged pleasantries my gaze briefly fell to her chest and I saw what had drawn my companion's attention earlier that day: On her cloak was two polished brass brooches, each in the shape of the noonday sun casting its rays. The general likeness to the heraldry of Averland was uncanny, and I at once knew I had a gift for Ajax that would hopefully cheer him up.

I politely inquired to purchase one from her, and offered her a hundred daen for such, far more than what she believed it worth; but I was inconveniencing the Lady by taking one of her cloak clasps and I wished to present this gift in person to my friend this evening whilst there was still the opportunity to do so.

I headed to the tavern with the brooch in my possession and found Ajax discussing with an odd fellow, named Brusjef, about sending a letter to Averland; he had previously mentioned to me how he had no knowledge if any of his letters to Erin had ever arrived in her far off realm, and I, in perhaps poor jest, suggested he have the trader Brusjef ensure delivery of such in the future. Apparently he took my suggestion seriously.

When he concluded his talk flustered, yet hopeful that he will be able to establish contact, I asked him if he was somewhat soberer, and he said he was; I placed the sun brooch on the table before him. I shan't forget the look of surprise and joy upon his face when his eyes befell that gift.

Dispite all we've been through together; the arguments, the disagreements, the hardships, and perhaps above all, Amsel:

I want to believe Ajax and I have forged an unbreakable bond. Gods know I need one.

Praise Be To The Æsir

-Ref ' Kampi' Vandillson

Sunday, 28 February 2016

5th Year Anniversary

This short post is to commemorate today as the 5th year anniversary of the very first post on this blog! Huzzah! This is also my final post as an unmarried man, for tomorrow my Missus and I are to be wed! :D

Looking back, it's amazing to see that I kept this blog going for so long. Mind you, I admit that it's far from a constant font of new entries or material, but it has been a nice sounding board throughout half a decade. I am only 16 more entries away from hitting 200 posts; it'd be neat if I can reach that amount before the remainder of the year finishes.

It's also interesting being able to look back upon the changes in my general gaming interests, chiefly my huge shift from tabletop Role Playing Games to Live Action Role Playing. Not to say I am no longer interested in RPGs, it's just that much of my free (gaming) time has been occupied by weekly LARP events at Medieval Chaos. I have still been running/playing RPGs during MC's off season, I just have not had the time to post any relevant entries on such, as I am somewhat busier than I used to be.

I take that as a good thing. :)

Ubi Amicitia, Ibi Victoria

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Februa! Februalia! Februatio!

Today, for many is Valentine's Day, and in the past it shared the same general date of the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia (which developed from older festivals whose various names share the title of this post). Such was a festival of ritual cleansing, where I see some modern day similarities with 'spring cleaning'; we also had the gaelic festival of Imbolc, marking the beginning of spring, at the start of this month and nearly a week prior we also had the lunar new year. These all seem to point towards ushering new beginnings, and aside from it also being my month of birth, I feel they are apt for two other major inceptions:

The first: Late evening of the day before marked the official release of Medieval Chaos' third edition handbook; a joint culmination of the collaborative effort a small committee of devoted players to realize the vision of our games' founder and president, Jared Williams.

One of the reasons I am posting this beyond boosting the fresh signal of 3.0, I'm doing a rare thing and allowing let my pride to show, in that I, along with a half-dozen other excellent designers, were personally thanked for our efforts on developing and polishing this 145-page document from its initial stages over half a year past, to the final edits just before the book was officially released barely a day ago. Cheers to my colleagues; I think we should all be proud of what we together accomplished: as said, it is "our best book yet".

Medieval Chaos, Players Handbook, Third Edition
It looks like my years of 'studying' RPGs, rule systems and mechanics finally paid dividends; or rather I feel they made it easier to work on abstract gaming concepts and the like. As with any writer/designer, one would hope that their hard work will be met positively by the majority of their audience, but at least for me, I'd like to think I won't take criticism personally; the entire book is not my creation alone, I know you can't appease 100% of everyone, and I'm sure there will be a (hopefully) relatively minor percentage of the playerbase that will be mostly unhappy with the changes made, but I feel that we collectively did what was best for the game/players and I won't even entertain the notion that we did otherwise.

So one of my great time-sinks during the past many months has drawn partially to a close, and I am given a brief respite to focus on what is actually best in life (and my second reason why this is a special month): my rapidly approaching marriage to my amazing and wonderful Missus who has stuck with me for going on nine years now, throughout all my health concerns and silly things like working on rules for the imaginary games I play, and everything other little thing. <3

Avana & Kampi as 'dates' at Imbolc Ball
My better half did me the supreme glee of coming out to last weekend's Imbolc Ball as her MC character, Avana, and has begun to take her first steps on acting on her desire to take a more active role in this local hobby and community; and for that, I cannot express the feelings I have (be assured, they are most positive). Despite being together for so long, gaming, in any form, has never been a hobby we shared together, so I feel when she begins to read through 3.0, her understanding (or lack thereof) will speak volumes how successful our simplification of the system was, particularly for new players.

Truth be told, it is an odd feeling to say the least, knowing that 3.0 was a system that had been developed entirely in the realm of thought and text; we haven't had the opportunity to seen how any/all of it works in actual play. I suspect the months following the season opener come April may be filled with some confusion, rules discussion, and hot-fixes to broken mechanics, but we'll deal with that when we come to it. I believe our rules committee (which I am also apart of, as I wish to take active part in both the continual development of 3.0 as well as facilitate our playerbase with the adoption of this new ruleset), is well-equipped for the task ahead of us. Hopefully, our community will be patient as we work kinks out of the system.

Anyway, our real-life union is rapidly approaching and I am very much looking forward to the date, though I can't help but be a bit nervous; we still have a few details to iron out but I feel most of the major bits have been sorted.

And for those of you who find my fictions more interesting than my facts: yes, I am still working upon the Saga of the Northern Hunt, and I also have an entry specially related to the Imbolc Ball that I am compiling, I think I am going to release it after I have completed the Saga arc just to keep it chronologically consistent; if I don't find the time for any more releases this month, I should have the opportunity to do so by the Ides of March?

Ubi Amicitia, Ibi Victoria

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Kampi's Saga: The Northern Hunt - Part III

As the days pass by, my goal of finishing this story arc of Kampi's Saga before the Imbolc Ball becomes less likely. I'm not letting myself become too concerned about meeting this deadline, it just means fellow guests at the gala may have the opportunity to be privy to a conclusive rendition of this tale, though most likely abridged.

Unfortunately, dear readers, unless you fall into the former group, I'm afraid you'll have to wait until I finish this story in text form to get the whole summary, but at least it will be complete in detail!

Onward to the third part of The Northern Hunt.

The Third Day of the Moon
Month of Yule
Local Year 5315

Runes: Jera

Divine Association: Eir, Goddess of Mercy
Literal Meaning: Year
Interpretations: Harvest
  • Right-side: Promise, Renewal, Reward
  • Inverted: Interminable, Repetition, Reversal

This evening it is reckoned to be the winter solstice and for many including myself, the midwinter festival of Yule. Back in my homeland we would count the beginning of a new year during the
Vetrnætr (Winter Nights) festival or as it is known locally, Samhain; folk in these lands tend to place the beginning of a new year on the solstice, so I will follow the local custom out of ease.

It was said amongst my folk that during the small hours of this night, the Wild Hunt, led by Wodin astride his eight-legged horse Sleipnir, would be at its peak and it would pass all-throughout the lands of Midgard. Many Nordthic-folk, mostly children, would fill their socks or shoes with hay and place it outside their doors to feed Sleipnir for the chance to be bestowed a gift or boon by Wodin. I am unashamed to admit I plan on following this tradition before I retire for the evening.

Tomorrow, Ajax and I take our leave of Greyward Keep and Shale Glacier, and begin the remainder of our sojourn to the thorp of Amsel, where we are to look into such dire rumors of this 'wendigo' creature.

To make the journey through the lands now locked in snow, frost, and rime, the two of us ventured a fortnight ago into the burg in an attempt to locate a suitable means of transportation; as I mentioned before, I had a few ideas of possible ways we could make our passage.

It came to my realization during my stay in here that I had missed reproducing my piece taken from the Pilgrim's Guide to Arrakis on Shale Glacier into my journal entry:
-An excerpt from “A Pilgrim's Guide to Arrakis” 
“It is in the East, just before the craggy Dragon Peaks, that evidence of Ankh's feudal tradition is still seen. One of the larger baronies sits just to the North of freshwater-Loch Moraine. Shale Glacier is a town still steeped in that feudal culture, one that still boasts the largest functional iron and orichalcum mine in the West. Although out of the way, The Pilgrim's Guide to Arrakis suggests that if you are making your way East through the mountains, do so by way of Shale Glacier. The Loch ensures a fair temperature most of the year, and the locally-brewed Maolanach Mead provides more than enough of a reason to stay in the Winter!"
"It is suggested however, that pilgrims avoid straying too far off the path and into the mountains, as the locals readily tell tales of the hostile mountain fauna. Beyond the typical monstrous fare, there are also savage-Human tribes that tend toward brigandry or prisoner-taking. The Pilgrim's Guide suggests the following as locations of note in Shale Glacier - Twin Vixen Taphouse is one of the oldest establishments in the town and was said to be named after a pair of local amiable Succubi! The enormous open-air forges are also worth seeing, and any visit to the town would not be complete without an orichalcum souvenir from one of its artisans. Finally, the forest that surrounds the lake is replete with boar and stag for the pilgrim looking for a challenging hunt!” 
“Pilgrims may note the difficult and rugged road that leads North from Shale Glacier; The Guide suggests employing a skilled boatman, as a small but present merchant line uses the river to travel upstream to the smaller towns to the North. However for the dedicated Pilgrim, the road is not impassible and certainly no more dangerous than what is to be expected. Carrying on North, the Pilgrim...”
For a relatively remote settlement, Shale Glacier is a surprisingly robust town, even in during winter; the Pilgrim's Guide failed to note the population mixture, which appears to be mostly humans and dwarfs, though I did glimpse what appeared to be jötunn of a familiar cast of those of my homeland.

Before I could personally investigate further Ajax directed me towards the market section of the town; the streets and eaves of the half-timbered buildings were decorated with what my companion referred to as 'bunts' (small wedge-shaped flags coloured and adorned with the crests of prominent families), in cheer for the yuletide season.

Thinking it unwise to strike out on my own, I accompanied Ajax as we began our inquiries; our first several visits were to shoppes that commonly traded in commodities brought in from other settlements whilst exporting local goods, hoping to gain passage as we did before on a procession heading to Shale Glacier. Unfortunately, it was not to be; all the trade companies we spoke with were not planning any excursions northward until the first spring thaw.

During our endeavor, I did behold two distinct ideas of my own for traversing the rime-scape: The first was pair of devices, fashioned of wooden frames and woven with rawhide lacing, that when worn underneath ones' shod feet, would aid when walking through deep snow (or more correctly, over-top); though I was sure we were not considering making the vast distance on foot, I thought such footwear would be practical in the snowladen wilds.

Ajax only became amenable to the acquisition of this gear after I showed him another set of objects and elaborated upon the primary idea I had for traveling under our own power; whilst the 'snowshoe' was sometimes used back in my lands, it was not as common for wintertime travel as mush as the ski. The word 'skidth' can be roughly translated to the Old Nordthic meaning for a 'stick'; a ski was basically that, a long, flat plank of wood that one attached underneath ones foot midway along the skis length. The wearer would then glide upon the ski over snow or frozen surfaces by expending little effort in comparison to trekking through it, using their free leg to propel themselves; a single pole aided in balance.

When I explained all of this to Ajax, he balked at the very prospect of us doing so, for he claimed it would be impossible, and even if it was not, only elves would be 'delicate' enough to be able to 'dance' across snow in such manner; Ajax then attempted to mask his unease by making a tired joke about my lean stature. I admit that I might have allowed myself to get unduly excited for the chance to go 'skiing', but I had to agree that doing so would not be feasible with our large collection of gear.

Our traveling prospects having turned up empty, we decided to take a brief respite; even before I could mention it, Ajax said with a grin that we were going to 'see the girls' at the (in)famous Twin Vixen Taphouse.

My companion led us through several alleyways and in though a rear door of the establishment; evidently Ajax wanted to limit the chance that knowledge of one of the Duke's sons seen visiting this place could find its way into the wrong ears.

Even in the rear of the building it was warm and humid inside; almost beyond comfort even after we doffed most of our apparel. It was easy to discern one of the reasons for this heat, for it permitted patrons of this tavern, perhaps more so the barmaids, to wear less wear despite the chilly season. We found seat at the bar, right by Ajax's 'favourite spot', and I decided to partake in the Guide's endorsement and ordered a Maolanach Mead for the both of us.

By the gods, I enjoy a good mead, and we did enjoy several of these delicious drinks. Whilst Ajax was busy wandering the tavern, making vulgar talk with whatever female would indulge his presence, I struck up an exchange with an elven traveler named Fenni. I mentioned how uncommon I found it to see any of his kind in this town and that his dress spoke of one who was not local, much like myself, to which he elaborated that he recently arrived in Shale Glacier and haled from outside of the community of Icebreeze; which even in my slightly drunken state, I recalled was a settlement marked upon Ajax's map inside of a great track of old-growth forest, just on the northern side of Cayoush Lake.

The look of my realization on the fateful implications of that statement, as it slowly dawned upon my face, Fenni must have found quite amusing; I immediately inquired further on his method of travel though the cold hinterlands, which he explained thusly: He and several other companions made their journey southwards through the icebound lands over the course of a few days using sleighs drawn by 'trandaros', stag-like animals that tend to inhabit the northern regions.

I made polite discussion on other topics and bought us a round of drinks before I shared the particulars of our sojourn, and after I came to the part detailing our current situation, emboldened by drink, I plainly appealed to him for aid in reaching our destination and that he would be generously compensated for his time and effort; this was a falsehood on my part, as I personally had little of value to grant for such a request.

Fenni spoke that it was perhaps foolish for the two of us to undertake such a perilous journey in the heart of wintertide, and more so that we were making Amsel our destination, for he heard the rumours of creature that has benighted that thorpe for several months. But he did promise that he would speak with his companions and meet me back at the taphouse in a weeks' time, and with that oath he took his leave; my mind buzzed for ideas which I may keep my own promise of payment.

Soon afterwards, Ajax finally reappeared, his drunkenness exaggerating his gait, speech, and grin. I told him the news I had learnt and our possible prospects, to which he halfheartedly listened to, for his glazed eyes were busy cavorting over the form of a female dressed in an relatively moderate frock, compared to the attire of most women in that establishment. To both our surprise, she approached us, smiling, but to me something of her countenance told me she was not to be trifled with.

"Inanna!" Blurted Ajax in slurred greeting. "Greetings, Ajax. You appear to have me confused with my sister. I'm Mara." she replied in a sultry yet razor-sharp tone.

"'Ave ye come teh keep meh companeh, luv? 'Tis been a while since we've seen nor been wit' eacho'ther." replied Ajax in a manner in which suggested he had forgotten I was present; or that he would have preferred if I was not.

To which Mara replied: "Indeed, it has been sometime. If I recall correctly it was a rather... short... time." I choked upon my drink and poorly stifled a laugh as Ajax responded with a tepid chuckle before saying: "Thun aye'll joost 'ave to make up for los'time, eh lass?"

"Unfortunately Ajax, after speaking with some of the other girls about your past... shall we say, deeds, and now your present return, your presence here has grown somewhat, wanting as of late. Have you come to make good on your myriad of promises?" Something glinted in her hand while she said that; a shining blade made my mind quickly become sober.

Ajax, who seemed completely obvious to the veiled threat, began to speak but I interrupted him, pulling dragging my crocked associate towards where we made our entrance, all the while apologizing to Mara for my drunken friend, who partially aided my efforts by following us and keeping Ajax distracted until the pair of us were unceremoniously shunted out the door.

We stumbled our way back to Grayward Keep, and after a few hours of recovering I was able to fully disclose our happenstance to a surly Ajax, who reluctantly agreed to the possibility if all other avenues failed. My own pride kept me from mentioning my promise of payment. Over the next several days, the two of us explored any other prospects, but none proved acceptable.

Before I forget to, I should mention a different occurrence of note: 
One day, when I was sitting alone in one of the common rooms working upon my needlework, the dwarf Dunlevy, fiancee to Ajax's elder sister Bronwyn, passed by the doorway, halted and sighed, staring in at me the whole time. 

"Nah, nah, nah, laddie. 'At's not the only craft fit to be practicin' in this town. Sure ye can do it when you dun 'ave the means to practice forgin' in tha smithy." spoke Dunlevy as he began to hurry me from the room.

I told him that I had only a passing familiarity with the upkeep of my own worn armour and what I had learned from my smith friend, Seppo; to which he replied "Och, and here aye been told that yer Ajax's squire an' yet can't even look after his guard! Well, we'll soon make that right, aye!" Again, I chose not to dispute the presumption, which now seemed fact throughout the Keep. "An' aye could use another hand on somotha the pieces aye been workin' on"

Once we were at the Keep's smithy, Dunlevy showed me the patterns of his current project: as a yuletide gift, Ajax was to be given a set of steel greaves. And after I did my best aiding him whilst he hammered and drew out the plate, to familiarize myself, 'as squire', on their upkeep and maintenance, the dwarf showed me to beat out any dents and polish them. Dunlevy also set me to work on the repair of several timeworn shirts of maille, as well as other pieces of armour. It did please me that my needlework skill was somewhat practical when fixing the tears and rents in the odd quilted gambeson.

Needless to say my time up until a few days before yule was busy learning and practicing the craft of armoursmithing; I feel it helped me from dwelling upon the trials to come.

A week following our parting, I returned to the Twin Vixen Taphouse, full of worry and anticipation; Ajax perhaps wisely decided not to accompany me, though he did assure that funding would be provided if this elf agreed to assist us. Fenni did not fail to turn up soon after my arrival, and his greeting matched the congenial look upon his face; he was kind enough to cease prolonging my anticipation: he and his company agreed to take Ajax and I to the eastern shore of Cayoush Lake where Amsel River fed into it, if we would meet his price; trusting that Ajax could meet it, I agreed and we shook arms upon our pact.

After purchasing him a celebratory drink, I mentioned our intent to leave the day following yuletide (less than a week away) and he told where outside Shale Glacier to meet his company. Fenni left soon afterward having finishing his draft, and I likewise returned to the Grayward house and told Ajax of our progress; he still seemed reticent on the nature of our arraignment, but I could tell he was also relieved we had at last found means to travel.

The days before our departure were filled with preparations, both for the yule festival and for our own plans; even though we kept mostly hush about the details, word quickly spread around the house of our intent to leave following the solstice. It was during this time I actually spoke to the Duke privately, when he pulled me aside before the yuletide feast. Though comparatively short in stature even after he bade me to have a seat, Lord Agarin Greyward towers over one with his mere presence.

The dwarven duke made it clear that in knowing his son Ajax, that he would undoubtedly be drawn to the adventurous rumors of the 'wendigo' in Amsel. Without asking, he presumed where the two of us intended on heading and that his son had not made it apparent as he did not want his mother to worry. Before I could answer he silenced me with an upraised hand and continued that Ajax had already been given an allowance that he was sure was being put toward our preparations; he was not speaking to me to convince us of the futility of this endeavor.

Lord Greyward looked me in the eye as he said: "Despite where yer travels do take the two of ye, the only thing aye ask of ye as 'is friend, is to look after me son as best ye can." Before him and the all the Æsir, I swore to do so; his lordship clapped me on the shoulder and we joined the others for the midwinter banquet.

A truly memorable feast followed: a roasted boar's head, decorated with sprigs of evergreen, holly, and of exotic fruits was the centerpiece. There were pies of venison, smoked salmon, manchet bread, roasted beetroot and shallot, and various puddings for the concluding course. Ale, mead, wine, and other drinks were abundant throughout.

After our meal, there was an exchange of customary gifts between all members of the household; Ajax received the plate greaves Dunlevy had fashioned, and to my own surprise, I was presented with one of maille haubergeons I helped renew to working form. And sweet, sweet Nerys gifted me a pewter cat pendant that reminded me of the goddess Valfreyja. I am deeply honoured by the extent of the Greyward's hospitality, a good part of me regrets we are to take our leave on the morrow.

And now, before I set myself down to sleep a final time in a warm, dry bed, I shall put out my boots that I have filled with hay as an offering to Wodin for approval of this perilous journey ahead.

Praise Be To The Æsir

~Ref 'Kampi' Vandillson

To Be Continued...