The Journey Begins
Another cold night in the north. I wander into the village mead hall. Everyone looks up, scowls and turns back to their stew or mead. I take my usual seat, farthest from the hearth, and motion for a meal and drink. Ignored the first time I use an orison to illustrate it would be better to just serve me and be done with it.
Munin is back from his hunt, we nod politely to one another. I healed one of his hunting hounds last season. Since then he’s been positively friendly, in comparison with most at least.
Gabi is entertaining her friends with the usual feats of strength. I wonder if that claw mark from her bear hunt provided an appropriately gruesome scar. I heard the bear ran from her ferocity in the end.
Good folk in general, I’m content to serve my role even if it is only grudgingly acknowledged.
The hall door opens and an extremely large figure steps in. “I need volunteers”, he snarls. It’s a trollborn. What in all the gods names would a trollborn be doing in Skumasbjurk? The room is quiet, the tension is obvious.
Munin steps up, “What kind of volunteers would you be looking for?”
The trollborn, two hands or more taller than Munin, scowls (or was that a grin?), “The kind needed to clear dirt and stone away from ruins to the west.”
“What’s it pay?” Munin doesn’t appear moved by the trollborn’s request.
“Nothing, we’ve been sent to take laborers and thought asking might make things simpler.” Yes, that was definitely a grin.
“Let’s step outside and discuss this proposal of yours” Munin’s hand rests on his ax. That’s never a good sign.
Feeling like I need to give him some kind of encouragement I slip over to him as they leave the hall and grant a quick blessing from Stehl. Now at least he’s not dwarfed by the would be slaver.
Outside the hall, there are four more warriors waiting. Uneven odds but Munin gives a mighty war cry and strikes one down. Doesn’t take long to knock him unconscious and they begin hauling people out of their homes and the mead hall. I’m no match for them so, I run. Cowardice? Maybe, but if I can follow them maybe I can work out a way to free them.
I trail the forced march back to the west. They’re headed to the great mountain in the hills. I can see torches and campfires at the foot of the mountain. A great camp full of warriors and laborers. There seems to be some exposed ruins and much effort is being focused on what appears to be a great gateway.
Suddenly, a huldre appears right next to me. I nearly jump out of my skin!
“What in Fingulf’s name are you doing?” he seems, unaware, of how quiet he moves and just shrugs. Before he can respond further a great sound, like thunder but deep below the roots of the mountain erupts from the camp. After the dust settles it seems like the ancient gate has been broken.
Ignoring the huldre for now I focus on the activity. He seems just as interested. Good, he’s not here to eat me.
A large group of warriors, surrounding an obviously important figure approach the broken gate. The large warrior enters and everything goes quiet as if everyone is holding their breath at the same time.
After a few moments, another great rumble erupts from deep within the ruins. Then a scream turns to a shriek and goes silent again. After a few more heart beats the warrior emerges but changed. His form seems larger and appears to be enshrouded in a liquid metal. The iron moves over his body solidifying into very heavy looking plate mail.
“By all the gods, that has to be the Iron King!” mouth agape I see Munin leaving the camp and some other captives making a break for freedom. The huldre and I move to intercept the group. Last thing I saw of the camp was all the warriors kneeling before the Iron King.
Riding for what seemed forever we stop to catch our breath and figure out our destination. Those of us from Skumasbjurk press to ride for the village. Familiarity, supplies and maybe a place to lay low. The lady, a child and their man servant seem determined to make their way south or to Vil’Chiev. The child keeps mumbling about a foretelling and how we’re all connected and must stay together.
Howls in the distance, pursuit. We have a lead but we’re losing it quickly. While we’re discussing strategy the Lady turns and rides toward the howls. Madness, surely Kar Ternan has stricken this woman. You don’t face a pack on their terms.
Munin, the huldre and I head for the frozen river and make it across. The pack appears, lead by a great Winter Wolf. I’ve heard of the beasts but never witnessed the terror myself.
I call on Magdish’s favor and ready my trusty sling. It’s not much but we have a river between us. A few shots from the Lady, the huldre and myself knock the Mordwynn from the Winter Wolf’s back. More of the foul creatures trail the pack. The lady, child and manservant manage to cross the river and we engage the beasts.
As the Winter Wolf falls Munin manages to shatter the river ice dropping the pack and himself into the freezing river. He retrieves the Winter Wolf carcass and swims ashore.
Now we’re on the south side of the river. Looks like Vil’Chiev it is. The Munin and the huldre start skinning the winter wolf. Meat for the trip and quite a pelt for a trophy.
The Lady insists we must speak with the Queen. She’s dressed in some well appointed traveling clothes and wields a very strange looking crossbow.
The child is in robes of some southern order and always talking about signs and portents of the end times; the King of Kings.
Their man servant, well, he’s an odd nut. Dressed in cold gear of southern origin but bearing no obvious weapon I wonder at his usefulness in the wilderness.
The huldre is apparently a warrior sent to investigate the strange alliance of wildmen and alfar.