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...

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Kampi's Saga: The Northern Hunt - Part II

I present part two of our current Kampi's Saga arc: The Northern Hunt.

I originally planned on writing all the events of Ajax and Kampi's visit to Shale Glacier in a single entry, but whilst I was developing it, it just grew so much; so much in fact I'm going to have to divide the remainder of events to the next entry. This is good because I love how rich this is getting in detail, but at the same time this will probably prolong me from finishing this story arc by the beginning of February. I have plenty of other tasks that also need to be done by then!

Anyway, I hope you enjoy part two!

The Second Day of the Sun
Month of Yule
Local Year 5315

Runes: Isa

Divine Association: Skadthi, the Goddess of the Mountains
Literal Meanings: Ice
Interpretations: Stasis
  • Right-side: Contemplation, Patience, Reflection
  • Inverted: Frustration, Isolation, Stagnation

Ajax and I have been here at his family estate, Greyward Keep, about a fortnight now. Our journey to Shale Glacier, following my previous entry, was relatively uneventful; I admit how shameful it was for me for my thoughts to become so dark, particularly the presumptions I began to make of the trader folk whose vessel we shared during the voyage. Fortunately, I kept such thoughts to myself and refrained from inadvertently causing any grievance. I wish those kindly merchants a prosperous new year; I shall send appeals to the god Freyng to see that they are rewarded for their good nature and generosity.

Several nights journey following our brief halt at that riverside trading hub, we entered into the southern mouth of Loch Moraine early in the day; this large lake is home to the township of Shale Glacier across it at the northern end.

When we at last disembarked at the pier near the town, gathered our belongings, rendered full payment to our skipper and said our farewells, my companion and I, instead of making for the path towards the village proper, followed the shoreline. When I inquired to this reason, Ajax told me that this was the way up to Greyward Keep that required the least effort.

This did puzzled me, for if the manor dwelt on the precipice of the tor, than surely it would cost us less exertion taking the gradual path through the town and up the side of the mount rather than attempting to scale the sheer rock face our current route was leading us adjacent to.

Upon rounding an outcrop, our sights befell upon a small assemblage of buildings radiating out from the side of the cliff. Aside from the makings of a large sealed entrance constructed into the base of the crag, I noticed a single, thick woven cord ascending parallel to the cliff face from the smokestack of one of the buildings.

Though I could not see what this line was attached to above, for it faded away into the snowy haze, I soon discovered it's purpose: We moved to the building it sprouted from and Ajax knocked upon the door. A moment later, a slat set midway into the entrance slid open and a pair of dark, scrutinizing eyes stared up at us whilst a gruff voice inquired to our business.

Ajax replied in his genial way, disregarding the question and asking his own: that if the pair of eyes belonged to a 'Reginn Farlode', at which the eyes narrowed further and staidly replied what did it matter if they were? Ajax flung open the dirty travelling cloak he had wrapped about himself to reveal the surcoat he wore underneath; I could see the eyes widen as they fell upon the family crest.

The slat quickly snapped shut and the door opened; a dwarf sporting a shorn pate and a wiry beard rapidly ushered inside whilst muttering apologies that he didn't initially recognize his 'lordship'. The inside of the building was a single room that mostly consisted of benches adjacent to the walls around the fire-pit in the centre; at least I first mistook it for a fire-pit, but it was empty of both fuel and flame, and instead a small hearth rested against the far wall, around which two other individuals, a man and another dwarf, had sat before they rose in silent greeting.

The pit in the middle of the room descended some distance below the floor into the ground; the cord spotted outside continued down from the shaft in the ceiling and disappeared into the pit, and on closer inspection I could see it was not braided of any natural fibre but bore the resemblance to ferric tendons. Adjacent to the pit, was some sort of machine of wood and metal that I could only liken to a wheel used for spinning yarn, although much greater in size and more complex in purpose; beside that nearly taking up the entirety of the southern wall was a large round shape similar to a water wheel.

The dwarf Reginn Farlode inquired if "My Lord Greyward and companion", referring to Ajax and myself, were planning on heading up to the Keep; when Ajax confirmed this conjecture, the two other dwellers wordlessly moved to the odd device and began setting it into motion by means the manipulation of levers by the man and by the dwarf climbing into the wheel and turning it with his steady gait; Reginn attempted his best at polite idle talk with the voluble Ajax.

I admit I do not recall most of their exchange for I was fascinated watching the whirling of the machine and how it spooled in the lone cable similarly to how the cranes of the harbour of Helm's Deep function. After a few moderately quiet moments, I was suddenly startled by a great tumult from the roof of the building as a large object, barrel in shape, descended from the smokeshaft and came to a stop partially in the pit; the bottom of a what appeared to be door set into the side rested level with the floor and faced the two of us.

Reginn shuffled over to the door, swung it open, and made a exaggerated sweeping gesture for us to enter; Ajax indifferently did so, and after a moment of hesitation on my part, I did as well. When the door was shut fast, locking the two us in the small cell and it began to ascend, my mind could not help but briefly fall upon how lawbreakers must have felt when hung out in a gibbet.

As the cask was lifted out of the flue of the building and began to rise far above the land below, it must have been quite apparent to Ajax my unease as I gripped tightly to the internal frame whilst staring in a mixture of dread and wonder through the glass portholes at our surroundings: one looked upon the craggy rock face of the cliff as it scrolled by; another offered a breathtaking sight over Loch Moraine; and the canopy offered the view of three cables tenuously lifting our cell to wrought-iron arms extending from a magnificent manor build into/onto the summit. Ajax did his best to stifle a laugh with a lopsided grin at my obvious awe.

After what seemed an eternity we finally halted our ascent, the door of our lift leading onto a metal lattice extending from a keep wall build into the cliff-face. When my legs found their strength and I was able to quell the unease in my gut, I followed Ajax across the iron gangway and though the entryway set into the opposite wall. Once inside, we were accosted by a pair of armed men wearing colours similar to the fir-and-blond hues worn by Ajax, who upon pulling back his hood and shuffling off his cloak, silently commanded respect with his mere appearance, as it did before with Reginn back down at the base of the mountain.

Unlike the dour dwarf, their mood was considerably more cordial and after paying their respects, one offered to send word throughout the keep that Ajax had returned from his travels abroad whilst the other would port our belongings; in response my friend politely declined these offers, claiming that he 'wished to make no fuss and that we would see to ourselves'. And here I thought Ajax would never turn down the chance to be the centre of attention; returning home has perhaps humbled him a bit?

Ajax led both of us down a brief passage and then up a winding stair until it opened onto a great long hall, lit by the daylight streaming in from numerous paned windows along its length. Just as we reached the far end of the corridor, a pair of footsteps hailed us. A man, more stocky and squat than either of us, with a great flaxen beard and dressed in finery of the familiar shades of Greyward household yet with a look of soldiery about him, welcomed Ajax and grasped him firmly by the arm. Aside from their differences, certain features were quite similar between the two: they both had that look that only comes from a blending of man and dwarven blood; they certainly spoke the same accent:

"Tis great to see ye back 'ome and well, me brotheh!" Ajax heartily returned the sentiment. His brother's eyes briefly fell upon me and he continued in a slightly more upright tone: "And aye see ye finally took me advice on getting yerself a squire. Sensible! No Greyward should be venturing without eh good retainer to keep 'is effects and 'is affairs in order!"

I do admit the desire to speak out at that moment was rather strong, but I decided that would not be polite for a guest, so I remained still other than to glance over at Ajax, who only responded with a chuckle and that showy grin he commonly donned during awkward moments. His brother spoke again: "Twas on my way to see Dah in the smithy. Are we to see 'im together?"

"Nah, go'n'head, 'twas planning on seein' Mum first, and then the rest o' the clan once we've 'ad a meal, unloaded our gear, and may'aps 'ave 'ad a bit o' wash." replied Ajax.

"Understandable given the rigours o' travel. I'll inform Dah of yer return nonetheless. We shall talk further o'er suppeh tonight!" spoke his brother before clapping him on his shoulder and continuing on his way.

Once out of earshot of his sibling, Ajax turned to me: "Sorry I didn't introduce ya proper like there. That 'twas Adoras, my eldest brotheh. Don' take the 'ol squire comment personally, 'e dinne mean it as an insult. E's sometimes a bit o' bastard that one, and as commanda o' Shale Glacier's garrison, 'e wants things to be proper like. I'll set 'im straight about friendship at suppeh, aight?"

Even though I replied to Ajax that the comment was nothing to be concerned about and we continued on are way through the passageways, a small part of me did wonder if that was the actual reason why he brought me along on his expedition, even just make a showing to his family. I decided that although at times boastful, even Ajax wouldn't be that underhanded with a friend. Would he?

Eventually, after passing by several other individuals whom appeared and acted as household retainers as we wound our way through the keep, we entered into a large cookery. The scent of various different foods roasting, baking, frying, and boiling made me realize the last time I had eaten a full cooked meal (about a week ago in Bone Cove) and the queasy feeling in my stomach from the soaring ascent up the mountain was quickly replaced with that of hunger.

Several people moved to and fro with tasks, but one aged human woman, dressed in an emerald gown trimmed with golden icovellavna, stood out amongst them: she was full-figured with a trellis of radiant hair cascading down her back in braidwork. When her soft face fell upon my companion, her smile lit up the room, and with grace she seemed to glide over to Ajax, hold him in a tight embrace, and plant a kiss upon each of his cheeks. It still amuses me now to have seen my companion, a man who until that moment seemed to be entirely without shame, blush.

Following a brief reception between mother and son, when prompted, Ajax formally introduced me to Lady Iolanthe Lambeatorix, whose kindly welcome to Greyward Keep honoured me deeply. It has been a long time since I experienced such hospitality, not since I made that fateful voyage from my homeland over a year ago; I had to mask my feelings as the thought reminded me of what I had lost.

When Ajax began to casually pick at the available fare as the two Greywards spoke of familial matters, she slapped his hand away and began to usher us from the cookery, claiming that food would be sent up to our rooms but only enough to sate our hunger until the feast that evening.

We quickly ascended to our respective quarters, and once having dressed out of our bedraggled travelling gear and washed in the basins provided, food and drink was provided and our worn clothes taken to be mended and laundered. Over our shared meal I came to the realization that I had no wear formal enough for the feast tonight and shared this concern with Ajax, who assuaged me by saying not to worry about it and something of his own shall be provided. Once my belly was full of warm food and ale, I could not but help to allow myself to drift off into slumber.

Several hours later following a rather peaceful sleep, I awoke to hear a faint rapping against the door of my quarters. I, clad only in my drawers, opened it expecting to see Ajax but instead I was met by a comely chambermaid with reddish-blonde hair who was presenting me with a wardrobe in the style of the Greyward house. She stuttered in embarrassment, and realizing my boorish indiscretion I quickly took the outfit from her and shut the door, all the while alternating between expressing thankfulness and apology.

Once I overcame my own humiliation, I dressed in the provided clothes, which were a little broad on me. And as I was combing the tangles out of my hair another knock came at my door: this time it was Ajax, who inquired if I slept well; I told him I did and thanked him again for the clothes without mentioning the incident that occurred whilst acquiring them, to which he only grinned in response.

I followed him down to the great hall where the tables were set in preparation for the evening repast. Whilst I was searching for a seat proper for a guest at one of the lower tables, Ajax bade me to sit beside him at the end at the high table; as I began to protest Lady Lambeatorix arrived with several other members of the household and said that that particular spot had been set aside for myself, so I absolutely had to sit there. Embarrassed with honour, I took my place beside Ajax.

Across from me sat the youngest Greyward son (Ajax's little brother), Aleks, a long-haired youth who from conversation I learned was a churchman in the service of Cheeba. When he heard from his elder brother that I was also a man of some conviction, he was eager to question me about my beliefs and the Æsir, but I tried politely to steer such talk to other things; I did not feel it was polite to discuss matters of faith over supper, particularly when one is a guest.

The rest of the family took their places at the high table: beside Ajax sat the Duke Agarin Greyward, Lord of Greyward Keep and leader of Shale Glacier; a well-born dwarf with deep auburn hair that was greying at his temples, an impressive beard braided into intricate knots and adorned with coppery-gold beads, and keen, sparkling eyes. Beside him sat his eldest son, Adoras, and the seat next to him was vacant (as I later came to learn it was for the absent son, Armenius, who was a foreign emissary).

On the opposite side of the table adjacent to Aleks, sat (much to our mutual embarrassment) the youngest Greyward sister, Nerys, the young woman I had mistaken to my further shame earlier for a chambermaid. Beside her was Lady Lambeatorix, and next to her was the elder daughter Bronwyn, who much resembled her mother in features apart from having her fathers eyes. She sat with her betrothed, a strapping young dwarf with a large reddish beard named Dunlevy.

Before the feast began, Lord Greyward rose in his seat and made a short speech to all present, primarily speaking of the return of Ajax to their familial home and welcoming me to Shale Glacier; cups were raised in our honour and the meal began: First was a leek stew ladled into the provided hollow rounds of rye bread, and then the main course consisted of a delicious braised stag with roasted potatoes and turnips; all served with generous amounts of heather ale.

Since then, as I mentioned at the beginning of this entry, we have spent a fortnight at Ajax's familial estate, partaking in many meals of rivalling in quality to the one I experienced on my first day as a guest of the Greywards' hospitality. Aside from occasional breaks outside the Keep, things have been otherwise uneventful; I do not mean to imply disrespect, far from it, for I do enjoy the Greyward's company and generosity, but to be honest, I am unused to such a genial atmosphere. 

I find myself spending time my alone when possible: thinking, praying, reading, or rune casting; Aleks gifted me a book of futhark runes apparently written in these lands long ago; intriguing, but I believe the interpretations within have been somewhat heavily coloured by local beliefs. Still provides interesting insight into other faiths, as well as something to ruminate over as I ponder the connection between the futhark and the divine.

I have even working on my own embroidery project that Nerys began teaching me once she overcame her bashfulness; she leaves me alone the least out of everyone here. I suspect she is quite fond of me, and it is oft mentioned that she is unwed, but to my dismay I cannot return her affections; she is a fine, young woman and I'm sure she would make a wonderful and loyal wife, though not for me. I am conflicted and unsure about my own feelings, but I know they are not for her.

On a similar topic, I have been gently pressed from Lady Lambeatorix, as the 'best' friend of Ajax, why he has yet to settle down and find a good wife of his own; they have heard him talk in passing several times about a woman named Erin. I myself recall meeting her once when she briefly apprenticed to Ajax during her time spent on Arrakis and at Dagger Deep, along with her tiny dragon 'pet' Dennis. As I have gathered from when Ajax pines (sometimes vulgarly, but always fondly ) for her above all the women he has been with, that he greatly desires to see her again; but apparently she has returned to her distant nation of Averland, far far away to the south and west.

For good reasons I choose to appear unfit when pressed to find him a suitable match; I wish not to interfere with the affections of my friend nor cause any heartbreak in the pursuit of this request.

All this aside, I believe I can speak for Ajax as well as myself that we are feeling restless to continue on with our other purpose for journeying thus far; we have spoken about in private, and our current plans are laid out thus: we aim to remain in Shale Glacier until after winter solstice and the Yuletide festival, then we shall take our leave for the northlands. Initially our plan when we arrived in Shale Glacier was to sail up the Lilloo River to Cayoush Lake but in weeks since then, it has become much colder and the surface of the waterway has frozen over; now we search for other means.

Proceeding by foot would take far too long and have a greater risk of exposure to the elements (or worse dangers). When we get the chance, Ajax and I plan on heading down into the town in an attempt to discover another way we can make the perilous journey without waiting until a thaw; I have a couple potential solutions in mind, but they depend if the Fates deem them viable.

Praise Be To The Æsir

~Ref 'Kampi' Vandillson

To Be Continued...

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Kampi's Saga: The Northern Hunt - Part I

Salutations all! I hope that you enjoyed your excellent holiday season and new year as much as I did my own; a great time was spent with family and friends.

During this off season from Medieval Chaos, I've been co-compiling a tale for Kampi's Saga detailing what he's been up to over the winter months; I say co-compiling as this story is shared with the character Ajax Lambeatorix Greyward; the creation/portrayal by my good friend Ash. We've both been discussing this collaborative effort on and off throughout the season, though it has been difficult to find the time to actually form the ideas into text. I aim to have this Saga arc finished in it's entirety and posted before the next off-season MC mission Kampi and Ajax are to attend: the Imbolc Ball next month.

The astute of you may have noticed I've changed the entry's name from Edda to Saga; the former originally made sense to me as I somewhat believed these entries would mirror how the historical Prose Edda was a collection of stories, but now that I've had over a year developing them they seemed more personal tales narrated from Kampi's perspective; he doesn't tend to relate MC events he's not apart of in some tangible way. Plus I believed there would be more out-of-character/non-character centric entries. So I changed it to Saga, which I feel is more fitting.

Aside from trying to write out these entries, I've also been devoting spare time in updating Kampi's kit appropriately in preparation for his return abroad at the forthcoming ball. And although I made my decision to retitle the entries before I began listening to them, during my crafting time or when I have an ear free, I've going through the episodes of Saga Thing, a podcast about
the Sagas of Icelanders. I've always wanted to read them in full, but to be honest I already have so many hobbies, let alone books I want to read. The excellent hosts on Saga Thing at least allow me to get the basic gist of each saga when I'm otherwise occupied. The Sagas themselves reaffirm my choice that the renaming was fitting.

I've also been playing a lot of Fiasco lately (perhaps a future post about that) and listening and learning more about the Icelandic Sagas makes me really want to try the Blood Saga playset; but I feel that might require all participating to have passing familiarity with the concepts of family feuds, blood duels, law and honour, Icelandic society, and all the rest of it. But that just might based off of my own expectations.

Also I kinda wanted to live RP some of the more interesting scenes in this tale Ash and I are creating, but it doesn't seem will have the means or opportunity to do so. This time...

Anyway, onto the Saga itself: For a bit of context, the entries that follow began about a week following Darkest Day, the last mission of the 5315 (2015 RL) season at MC, which occurred on the 7th of November RL. The narrative will mostly consist of somewhat sporadic journal entries with no specific dates aside from the starting one; thus everything that follows occurs in sequence until just before the 5316 Imbolc Ball.

Credit again to my buddy Ash for his creative input.

Without further ado, we present to you:

The Northern Hunt

This map has been provided for those to track the journey. Click for larger size.

The Second Day of Frigga
Month of Slaughter
Local Year 5315

Runes: Nauthiz

Divine Association: Nidthogg, the malice-striker.
Literal Meanings: Need
Interpretations: Necessary Hardship
  • Right-side: Endurance, Determination, Perseverance
  • Inverted: Constraint, Deprivation, Failure

The following dawn, we set sail from Helm's Deep, across the Malkavian Sea to the eastern port of Bone Cove.

At least that was the initial idea I suggested when the knight-errant Ajax Grayward and myself discussed the prospect at our secluded camp almost a week prior, during what is referred to a Darkest Day (named so because the date tends to mark a notable decrease from the daylight hours); a series of mock battles are also traditionally held on that day between residents of Dagger Deep, divided between two sides.

King Willumarius had decree some time before the event, that the final victorious commander of the series of battles said to occur through the dark hours of the night, would then be named the Steward of Dagger Deep, and be charged with the safekeeping of the town during wartime and would have considerable authority when the King is absent (though to what degree still remains to be seen). The two generals selected for the task of leading either force was the Rex Lucius of Hrogn, and Kendrid, Field Commander of the Butcher's Bill.

Participating factions and their members were assigned to a side, with some opting to split their forces between the two. The closest group I consider myself a member of was the Watch, and those present were mostly assigned to the side of Lucius' command, so I initially joined with them. After a brief discussion of strategy and tactics, we scattered to our own business before the first battle at the eighth hour.

Until then, Ajax, my mentor Relan, the mage Serenity, and myself, spent our time at our joint camp; the warm fire Ajax produced pushed back the chill air and as we cooked and shared our evening fare, we talked about many things. Being mostly free from the various concerns each of us had, we were able to learn things about each other that the drives of life kept us from learning; many were humorous, some personal, most insightful in a form.

After I participated in the first field skirmish, whom Kendrid's force won, the remainder of the night I escorted Relan about when he came to neutrally arbitrate the remainder of the event. Kendrid's team thoroughly won a decisive victory twice more; successfully laying siege to Fort Rowanoak defended by Luscius' team, and once more during a pitch battle in Ork's Field; thus being awarded the title of Steward of Dagger Deep.

It will be interesting what changes this may further bring about to the already existing muster of authority in the township, though I shan't witness such until I return from this journey north-east with Ajax. If I am to return at all.

I suppose I should write a little background on this prospect: A month or so ago, when Ajax and myself were becoming acquainted with one another and he was doing his usual boasting about the magical beasts he had felled for glory and profit, he mentioned his intent to travel the mainland during the cold season to a supposed ruin in the northern region of the Dragon Peaks, wherein supposedly dwells a monstrous being that has been preying upon local settlements. They call this creature the 'wendigo'.

I personally question the hearsay that has come to the braggart's ears and his motivations for desiring to take upon such a perilous journey for little personal gain it may give (he has claimed that he knows of some individuals that would pay good coin for reagents and components of a 'wendigo'; whether this is true or just wishful thinking on his part is another doubt); once more is his offer to have me join him on this 'hunt'.

He knows of my life pursuits and how they are both related to practice of my martial skill and my devout nature to the Æsir; he asked me if I had any experience hunting and I replied that I hunted game in my youth, to which he scoffed. He replied he meant against great magical beasts, where prowess in one's fighting is of greater import than skilfully managing the wilds and hunting prey (though I am sure his time as a woodsman has given honed those skills, even if his current gear doesn't support that as much any more).

Ajax, unabashedly, did admit that his lore of the nature of the 'wendigo' was limited; he claims that it somewhere between a man and giant in size and form, it is more a predator than a scavenger, and that it prefers intelligent prey. He was also willing to admit his concern that this 'wendigo' might have be a form of undead creature or malicious spirit and that his expertise with such beings is limited.

For reasons I do not entirely understand, I have taken the bold warrior up on his offer. Again, I feel an inexplicable call to journey northward, perhaps in search of any connection to my homeland, perhaps in search solely of myself.

After several proposed routes, many of which were dismissed as they would bring us through the tumultuous political states of Ankh, Ter'Solma, or Sylvania, the preparations we decided upon whilst around our campfire are laid out thus:

First, we are to voyage north-east from Helm's Deep to the mainland, to a place known as Bone Cove. From there, we aim to acquire a small river-worthy craft and proceed up Lilloo River; if securing a vessel fails, we'll follow the foot path to Goldtown. Using either method way plan on arriving at Ajax's family home, an estate that overlooks Shale Glacier, a predominately dwarven and human mining community based upon the shores of Loch Moraine.

After time spent with with Ajax's family we are to resume our quest and follow the river north where it flows from another lake: Cayoush Lake. From there we strike east to our destination: the abandoned ruins outside of a tiny settlement called Amsel, where supposedly this creature dwells.

Though rapidly approaching winter, I surmise
Lilloo River would be at its lowest and stillest, which may make passage somewhat less difficult, and when/where it begins to freeze it may make it easier to portage the vessel or proceed on foot, though the winter season presents many other dangerous risks and challenges.

Ajax has booked us passage upon a ship making a merchant voyage to Bone Cove; hopefully his silver tongue worked to our benefit, though a small part of me is concerned that shrewd barter may have took advantage of his somewhat simple nature.

Now, to sleep. A long journey begins on the morrow.

After a clear and uneventful crossing over the Malkavian Sea, Ajax and I arrived in Bone Cove, a modest trading port. Sailing is something that always makes my spirit soar, despite the cold weather. Here we begin our preparations for the journey ahead: a river transport that is able to make the attempted trip and supplies to be carried therein.

During the brief time spent in Helm's Deep before our voyage, I best tried to acquaint myself with the locales of the hinterlands we are to travel through, and after making several inquiries I was directed to a lore repository and within a series of scripted volumes called "A Pilgrim's Guide to Arrakis", detailing numerous regions and their associated points of interest. I took the time to copy several of the entries on the chance that they may prove useful.
-An excerpt from “A Pilgrim's Guide to Arrakis"
“...and just one day's walk to the West is a settlement that connects the South flowing river to the Malkavian sea. According to the town's dockyard rumours, Bone Cove got its name from the enormous ribs that once marked the boundary of the village. Once a carcass of some thrice-cursed sea leviathan that perished on land – or was washed ashore by waves of such mammoth quality. The sailors say that the bones, which have long since been overcome by the progress of civilizing the landscape and the bone boundaries have vanished into the foundations of many a tavern and tenement or carved away to re-purpose as building timbers. Bone Cove is now a bustling town full of taverns and general stores, all fed by the merchants who see the sea-ship cargo unloaded for shuttling upriver into the mountainous North.
Homes are nary more than a story, but the inns dot the town in greater number than any house. The Pilgrim's Guide to Arrakis suggests pilgrims avoid the taverns and inns by the hillock and instead stick to the waterfront where the bustle is constant and the merchants are animated with story and willing with tithe. Be warned also to keep your wits about you when dealing with the barge sellers, as the wrong passage can land a careless pilgrim in the frontier without their purse or a sword on their belt! Carrying on, as the pilgrim follows the coast South, the land becomes ...”
Bone Cove as it probably looked in the distant past.
The great towering ribs that give Bone Cove its namesake are indeed presently gone, as civilization reforged the land in and around it. Tis' a shame, for they do sound wondrous to have beheld. Hopefully the mention about shuttling cargo, it would increase our chance to obtain passage via the river. I also aim to be scrupulous in our negations with any we deal with; Ajax can do the talking and I'll watch and listen closely.

During the crossing Ajax and I were rather amicable for the first half of the voyage, but we soon encountered our first obstacle: differing opinions. Personally, I fell it would be perhaps prudent to take on some aides in our journey to benefiting from their experience and familiarity with the surrounding lands and to share the rigours of this undertaking. Unfortunately Ajax doesn't seem to agree with me; he's quick to brush off the suggestion boasting that as a 'master' woodsman we do not need any assistance and can provide all the help needed.

I do not want to seem I'm questioning Ajax's skill in woodcraft (which is somewhat considerable from what I've seen) nor imply any lack of familiarity with the lay of the land (he was born and raised in the region), I believe that the risks of this undertaking could be lessened with the addition of travelling companions to share the duties and burdens of the journey, at least when we set out from Shale Glacier.

Even after suggesting he should think upon it but wait to make a decision until after we've made it to his home town and seen his family, I get the feeling that he has already made to choice and will stick to it. I perhaps rightly wonder if he would've asked me on this journey if he didn't believe he needed me given his penchant for self-reliance.

We arrived in port as the hour grew late and we partook in a decent hot meal of roasted fish and strong drink in one of the dockside taverns called the 'Pike & Marrow', before we turned in for the evening at the adjacent inn, the 'Half-Moon'.

Tomorrow, we figure out how best we are able to travel upriver towards Loch Moraine.

It is has been a several nights since we departed Bone Cove by means of the Lilloo River ; Ajax and I have been travelling by barge with a small seemingly friendly group of river traders. They were the only group that was intending to sail upriver this season, so we bartered passage with them as additional labourers. Our duties were simple: we assisted plying the craft as it sails upstream; a few times we've had to tow the barge with ropes from the riverbank when the wind was unfavourable or a caution was needed negotiating a difficult stretch of watercourse. We are expected to defend the barge if assailed as well, which hasn't occurred yet.

We have reached a riverside trading post that acts as a connection route to Gold Town, where we took on and offloaded a couple goods, and I have taken the opportunity to make this journal entry. It seems the goods these merchants ferry and deal in are mostly foodstuffs and a few luxury items from the coast, and raw, mineral goods and furs from the hinterland settlements. Their intended terminus for this journey is to be Shale Glacier, which is fortunate for us; its also been expressed that this is to most likely to be their final trip until the thaw. The river itself has been clear of ice so far, but the further we travel inland the colder it becomes; snow and rime begin to blanket the land.

During our voyage, Ajax had ample opportunity vaunt, having a 'captive' audience; when the topic came to his kin, as some of the traders recognised the heraldry he bore on his apple and bisque vestments. He regaled, with much pride in his voice, the lineage of the Greyward house:

The clan itself is apparently one of, if not, the chief noble families established in Shale Glacier; maintaining office and management over the town's welfare and interests, mostly that of mining and smithing. Ajax's father, the dwarf Agarin Greyward is titled Duke of the region and reigns over Shale Glacier from their family keep, build into the side of a craggy mountain. There he lives with his wife, Iolanthe (pronounced: 'Yo-lan-thee') Lambeatorix, a human woman once belonging to a lower class family, and the rest of the household: three brothers apart from Ajax, and two sisters, plus their servants.

I must admit I became anxious after Ajax relayed his great familial connections and the mood of our fellow travellers shifted ever so slightly. Though they seem decent folk, I could not help but feel that if cunning and shrewd, they'd take advantage of this knowledge and our journey would become more costly before we reached our destination. Or worse.

Hopefully, those are just ungrounded fears preying upon me; provided nothing untoward occurs, we should reach Shale Glacier in a few days.

Praise Be To The Æsir

~Ref 'Kampi' Vandillson

To Be Continued...