The Chronicles of Etinerra

All She Wants to Do Is Dance
Balto's Journal

The two littlelings from Carbaugh’s Keep are Tasso and Luna. They are very close and comfortable with each other but not, as I had first understood, brother and sister. They both are newly Followers of Orlando, and aspire to be warriors in that order. Carbaugh asked me to train and season them for a season or two before sending them back – but I wonder if he sent them because he sensed the great journey that lies ahead.

My friends – Boraen and Talvi and Einar, Fergus and Josef and Willie, Grel, and Wikton – rode up from Enonia on their way to see the Sisters. Tasso, Luna , and I had just finished lunch as the party came to Jakar’s Rest. Twyla, a dark and lovely dark human woman who’d been training me in dance fighting, asked to join us on the trip to Old Fawn. Twyla is an illusionist, just starting out and a bit naïve. If Belaldur still lives, surely her beauty and grace will draw him back.

In the waning days of Summer, then, we made our way to Old Fawn. Boraen greeted Nina and Grenwe, and he, Einar, Wikton, and Twyla went inside to inform them of Belaldur’s death, our quest, and our need for knowledge. Fergus, Josef, and Willie grazed the horses out front. We three littlelings went around back to view their garden, filled with unusual sculptures, to give them (and us) some privacy. Even though we’d shared my tent and bedroll on the way up, Tasso, Luna, and I had only just begun to get comfortable with each other. But over a jug of cider that afternoon, we made real progress!

Boarean and Twyla came out of the house, but Einar had stayed behind to learn from the Sisters. We’d need to wait in town for a few days to give Ninan and Grenwe the time to research the Dark Ones, the Swords, the letter and the Devils. Boraen allowed, too, that he was King of the Wolf Tribe, but he didn’t put on any airs.

We didn’t stay at the best inn – I’m wary of drawing too much attention. But the one we stayed at had a fine buffet for breakfast, free sandwiches for lunch, and a hearty dinner. We could make our other meals by snaring some rolls and fruit at breakfast, and sandwiches at lunch, so at least we would not go hungry on this silly human “three squares a day!”

Four days on, late in the afternoon, as I sat quietly drinking my cider and wondering what was in store for dinner, I heard a commotion in the street. I hopped from my booster seat – another reason to like this inn, booster seats! – and ran along the bench to the doorway, thinking there might be some opportunity in the confusion. And then I heard Twyla cry out in pain and alarm! Well, a new companion she might be, but still I would protect her!

Two men fought over Twyla, one snatching at her while the other cruelly gripped her arm. As I tried to slip through the crowd, I could see the malice in the eyes of both men. I remembered the pretty ladies who would come to my uncle’s shop, finding slightly frayed gowns and chipped jewels they could make into finery good enough to pass in the dim light of the evening. And the hard-faced pimps that would stop in the store, too, demanding their cut of the night’s take, scoffing at the bits of lace and velvet their girls were buying. And my uncle, oily and smarmy to the pimps and condescending to the ladies. Well, this was not going to be Twyla’s fate!

I leapt for the bully who held Twyla, figuring to distract him with a knife at his throat. And Wikton and Boraen, too, came to her aid. Wikton let his hammer fly and it smashed into the pimp’s skull just as my dagger touched his neck. The dagger slid between his sixth and seventh vertebrae – a mercy, really, as he’d have had a massive headache from the hammer. With one punch, Boraen had dispatched the other pimp. I checked their pouches for any signs of who these two were, then noticed a large ring on the finger of Twyla’s captor. The town guard showed up before I could cut it loose, though. Grel took Twyla back inside the inn; Wikton, Boraen, and I went to the town jail.

I shared out the sandwiches I had in my pouch, and Wikton amused us with tales of his earlier imprisonment and declared us to be comrades of the cellblock. The next morning, the town council fined us for the two murders, but set aside the fine to thank us for stopping Twyla’s kidnapping. Our companions welcomed us back, and we headed back to see the Sisters.

Ninan and Granwe told us of the Swords of Legend – one broken that needs special magic to repair, one lost in the Southron Duchy, one held in the Duchy of Elphast. These three swords must come together to defeat the Dark Ones. They told us, too, that the Demons and the Dark Ones are not the same – in fact, there are tales of demons helping a tribe break free from the domination of the Dark Ones, though this meant exchanging one set of masters for another. After much deliberation, our company decided to seek the sword in the Southron Duchy first , and we spent a day equipping ourselves as best we could. I found ponies for Tasso and Luna.

We reached Trubaugh the last day of Summer. This was where we’d rescued and restored some of the Damned, though there was still a field full of them, fenced in and the field abandoned. Mazlor had had some success curing the Damned here, and I’d thought his temple might have sent someone to continue his work. But not only are the Damned still afield, a new horror has blocked the villagers from tending their crops.

These beasts were like great leather bags, with a poisonous bite and claws. There were five, one much larger than the others. Grel called his magic steed to him, and rode high above the fields, looking for them. All five floated above the same field; as Grel hovered over them, the four smaller ones rose to meet him. Grel fired arrows at them but the wind kept him from hitting his targets. And they were on him!

Grel would have been in a bad state had he not turned to flee. As it is, one of the beasts ripped his shield off his back, and another bit his horse. Borean brought down the bag that had harried Grel’s horse; Luna and I bracketed the one gnashing on Grel’s shield. Beth took out another, and Josef and Fergus targeted the last of the small bags. Beth followed up with another arrow at long range, killing that final small monster.

Willie dropped his bow and scrambled for another weapon as he saw the boss bag burst from the wheat, scattering chaff and straw ahead of it. Josef went down with some in his eye. Twyla stepped forward then, and began undulating as she called forth dancing lights, in the form of a great glowing figure shaking its hips at the monster. The distraction worked – instead of attacking Willie and Josef, the great bag lunged for the illusion. I quickly cast entangle, tied it up in fast-growing wheat, and Wikton blinded the beast with a blast of light. A flurry of arrows and stones killed it quickly. Grel landed, and Boraen healed his horse.

The villagers were repulsed by the other-worldly creatures we had dispatched, and sang our praises as the conquerors of chaos. All a bit much, if you ask me, but they gleefully flung the carcasses into the field of the Damned, then prepared us a simple but filling dinner.

The first day of Autumn found us on the road again. In the afternoon, we passed by the ruined tower of Lady Emily, near Chendale, but we pressed on to reach the Abbey by evening. We called up to the Abbey, and Dame Heather sent us water and invited us to camp outside the Abbey walls.

We lunched at Ulichton the next day, and bought up what supplies we could. I picked up a couple of daggers, thinking to instruct Tasso and Luna in their use. We rode for Ennonia, and caught the tail end of the day’s market. We dropped quite a lot of coin there, and I made sure to get a good meal and a room for we three littlelings at the Militiaman and Bawd.

Riding out in the morning, we reached Draycott right at lunchtime and settled in to rest the horses before the long trek ahead. We had a good couple of meals and welcome. Willie and Josef’s kin made much of Fergus, and the talk of the town was how he’d made men out of a couple of ne’er-do-wells. I’ll get our tent set up, share out these berries I found in the bushes by the clearing, and go to bed with Tasso on one side and Luna on the other.

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Songs of the Bards, 55th day of Summer, 59th Year After the Doom

The bards sign their songs and tell of news that they’ve heard from around the region and lands. This is what they’re singing of currently:

Littleling city of Cheddon experiences a Night of Terror

A horror has befallen the littleling city of Cheddon, which lies to the north of the Duchy of Irecia. Black Brotherhood troublemakers brought cages of Damned into the city in the dead of night to the city cemetery. They unleashed these horrors on an unsuspecting population and a Night of Terror broke out. Many littlelings succumbed to the affliction, and parts of the city were burned from the chaos. Indeed, far worse might have happened, had it not been for a brave band of adventurers who secured the docks from an attack of Crab-Men and fixed the water pumps so that fire crews could extinguish the flames. Many ships in the harbor were lost to the Crab-Men and town officials are worried that the Black Brotherhood may have stirred them up.

The Rebellion to the South Takes a Turn

The Duke of Irecia is facing rebellion and an outside threat! His commander, Marshal Roehm, marched a regiment of militia and mercenaries to the southern reaches of the Duchy, to confront the rebellious Dame Oriolt and Marshal Kevlin. Both fled to their respective demesnes and it looked as if a siege was to begin. The surprise came in the form of several regiments of partisan Southron soldiers!

It seems that the Duke-in-waiting Heber Felix (son of King Julian Felix, may the Light keep him safe) is angry at his father for having the Church of the Light annul his marriage to a common woman. Seeing the split between the Church and rebellious Lightbringers, Heber has sent men to support Oriolt and Kevlin! The Marshal has retreated to a line just north of Steltin and is said to be raising militias and calling for more mercenaries to launch a full scale war.

Marshal Ynivax has an old problem come anew to his fledgling holds. He has summoned militias and mercenaries to guard against Notchland Keep. It had been relatively deserted in the Spring and early Summer but in the past ten-days, Orcs have come there in force once again to fortify the old keep. So far, they have not attacked further, but Ynivax fears raids and a renewed assault.

Strange Creatures Arise

All across the lands and Duchies, strange creatures of myth and legend have suddenly appeared! Wyrms, Wyverns, strange monstrous things, Stirges, Winged creatures of great size and more have been seen, or have attacked! What were once safe roads and peaceful fields have become places of fear and worry. The nobles, clergy and rulers have been gathering in discussion with little to say. Elders and sages are wagging their tongues that this can’t be a coincidence when it has occurred right after the Day of Darkness.

Pagan Feast in Ulichton

The leader of a cult worshiping the pagan goddess known as Meesha has declared a day of celebration and feast on the 58th day of Summer, right before the Harvest Feast of the first day of Autumn. It will be held in the town of Steltin. It is said that Kjeld, the priest of the cult of Vanir will also be attending. There will be food, song, dancing and prayers to the pagan gods for help and protection from the strange things that have been happening recently.

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The Master and his Creatures of Chaos
Balto's Journal

I met several of my fellow adventurers at the fort on the site of the ruined Wayfarer’s Inn. I was filled with foreboding – I never really had regained my strength since the day the chaos clouds welled up over Irecia and to the South. The woods to either side gave me solace, though I still grieved the scar in the Dark Woods made by the orcs.

Belaldur had been here before us, and he had ridden out to Irecia alone. Before he left, he instructed the captain of the guard to pass out his possessions to his friends. And here we were, most of us, and too late to save his bacon.

To me, he passed along his map to a trove we had discovered together and looted separately. Boraen, Fergus, Ragar, Pyrea all received bequests. Grel and Mazlor, too – as they were not with us, I offered to take theirs to them – but the captain said he had a solemn duty to place these items directly in the hands of Beladur’s heirs. Talvi looked sad; I thought we all feared we’d never see that seafarer again.

Those of us there – the above plus Boraen’s clansman Einar, Beth, Wikton, and Willie and Josef split up the spoils from our last outing over a fine dinner of stewed rat. I passed the gauntlets to Pyrea and told her I thought they would provide her some defense. The captain asked us to go south and investigate the noises that kept coming from that way: excavating or tunneling, occasionally explosions. We’d wanted to check out the chaos cloud from that direction, so readily assented. Beth and Wikton were outfitted with horses and gear.

We rode out of the woods along the Irecian Road, then cut S/SE on a direct approach to the pillar of purple smoke. Pyrea and I soon heard the sounds; to me, it was as though something was ripping out of the earth. In the distance, I saw bursts of rocks and dirt fountaining up.

We dismounted and Beth, Ragar, Boraen, Wikton and I scouted forward across the ground between pits. Ragar almost fell into a tunnel as the dirt gave way beneath her. Wikton was surprised by a weird creature, all tentacles and teeth – no doubt what had been tunneling here!

As Wikton scrambled back, bleeding, the rear guard moved in. Beth and Ragar shot at it, but the arrows glanced off the beast’s scaly hide. We charged, and tentacles around us. Borean and I did some damage; still Wikton and Ragar were the true heroes. Borean tried to pull the monster from the ground but only managed to rip its head off. The carcass was full of ichor, the whole body some odd fiber-and-flesh combination. Boraen used some of our oil to light the body on fire, and we saw wisps of smoke rise from the ground in a 30-yard circle. The smell was horrific.

We paused to bind wounds and heal up, then resumed our ride south – we had to get away from that stench, at least, before we could stomach second breakfast! By midday, we came across the bodies of all sorts of animals and birds, crushed and torn. And more of those pits. I could see purple and green lightning from the pillar of cloud to the south. And then Einar cried out – an animal appeared next to him and bleated. Ragar and Talvi shared an astonished look, and all our horses began bucking. We calmed them as the bleater moved away. Boraen tossed it a sausage and it blinked out and suddenly was right by Boraen, attacking. Waste of sausage, that!

I cast faerie fire, and Beth shot at the animal but nearly hit me. Her second shot was on the mark, though. Boraen and Einar hit the animal; before it could blink away again, Pyrea rocked it with magic missiles to finally put it down. Again, we did what we could to cure the wounds of our company. And again we rode on towards the pillar of chaos clouds.

As we came closer to the clouds, fog obscured our sight. Looming out of the mist were some ruined walls, surrounding a fog-shrouded hill. Lightning played across the hilltop. We left our horses with Willie; Boraen and Talvi and I took the lead as the rest of us moved towards the hill, where we could just make out the shape of a battered building.

As I passed the ruined walls, I felt observed and heard in my mind, “What have we here? A littling, a human, and friends behind?” Boraen must also have heard this, as he called out, “Who are you?”

The reply came: “Do you come to serve?” We both declared, “No!” The lightning crashed down as we heard an angry shrieking in our heads.

Talvi was sent back to guard the horses with Willie, and our party began to close up. The conversation continued, punctuated by lightning strikes: “Perhaps you are wise – but such a shame to be on the losing side. All of you (here I realized our discussion was heard by the whole party) can serve me now, or wait until later – but you will serve me.” I felt everyone recoil as unanimously we refused. “Such a waste,”it purred, “but I would expect this from the ‘Heroes of the Duchy.’”

A beast, many-eyed and with a huge mouth full of sharp teeth, charged out from the hillside. I tried to call lightning down on it – yet this was no natural storm, but one of chaos. I drop to my knees, head swimming, and pass out, feeling the Master’s amusement.

I woke in Josef’s arms – he had carried me from the battlefield. Someone had carried Einar off, too – but none of the party had perished, even though there had been at least three monsters and their Master directing them from the hillside. We rode hard for a couple hours, made camp and changed bandages.

On our way along the Irecian Road the next day, we heard an insistent cawing, and saw birds circling at a distance. They were nearer than I thought, though – their great size tricked me. We came upon a very large raven trapped in what looked like birdlime oozing from the carcass of a dead dog. Not birdlime, though – this was the same chaos ooze as at the monastery. Many ravens of the same size, and one larger, circled around overhead.
The largest bird, Shrea, asked us to help. “Walkers,” she said, “Something came out of this dog we hunted. It burns my wing. It has trapped my son.”

Boraen used his 10-foot pole to push the bird away from the goo, but it stretched and stayed with the bird. Boraen then tried to burn the ooze, but it will not ignite – and the ooze reached for him, pitted and spalls his armor. Finally, he used a troll hand, which spalled and healed a few times. The bird could not be saved and Shrea begged Boraen to put her son out of his misery. He did, and commended the raven’s soul to Meesha.

Boraen looked at the troll hand, very fragile it had become. Then he and Willie and Josef roped off the area around the ooze, set caution signs on it. Shrea told us her flock’s story, how the orcs and the clouds of chaos had driven them from their home in the mountains, and how scarce food was. They’d been reluctant to hunt the odd-acting dogs, but had had no food for days.

Einar’s horse was given to the flock to eat, but before she joined them, she conversed with Boraen and Fergus and Wikton. Vanir and Meesha and Almun and Tangadorin were all siblings, she said, and one other god, too. I am reluctant to indulge in religious frivolity = look how it has weakened the humans in this struggle – but Almun the wanderer was a great and wise man. If his family was as wise and powerful, well might humans have thought them divine. Humans are easy to fool.

Shrea also told Boraen to seek his people south of the river, where they have fled. Boraen told her of the settlement at Jakar’s Rest, and gave her a note and a bracelet to prove he has sent her. But Shrea could tell us little more – not on the dwarven mines, the elf with a sword that was broken, the Master, the Black Riders. A little more on Irecia – the clouds are darkest there.

We rode through to Ennonia, where I introduced Beth to Ward, and had a private chat with him about the treasure map. I went on to Jakar’s Rest, where the ravens had recently arrived. Turgon said Meesha’s name was on the wind, and three more of Boraen’s clan arrived to defend the village. Grim talk around the fire on our next steps, everyone is sure we have at most a year to push back the Master and his chaos.

I yearn for the orchard and inn and the simple days of my childhood, or even the rough and tumble time under my uncle’s roof. I would love to protect just my little patch of ground, my circle, my forest, against the encroaching war. But duty calls; I fear I have much more to defend.

On the plus side, I have two men-at-arms sent from Carbaugh’s Keep. Carbaugh asks me to train the two littlings, keep them from getting killed, send them back in a couple of seasons. I’ll meet them in the morning, see what they can do. But first some meditation, a bedtime snack, and some sleep.

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Sailor's Will
Beláldur's Last Voyage?

Beláldur sits alone at a table, the room lit only by the lamp light resting on top of it. Near at hand is a sheet of parchment, a quill, and a small bottle of ink. The elf stares at the parchment for some time, then picks up the quill and begins to write:

To my companions,

He stops, quickly scratches out the words, and begins again:

_My friends,

I’ll be leaving at dawn, to head East towards Irecia.

I know the dangers are great, but the danger of what may be coming from there, and not knowing about it or being prepared for it are much, much greater. Even some small scrap of information that I may be able to bring back by scouting the enemy may wind up meaning the difference between victory or disaster. I must take the chance.

I will go alone, both because I cannot burden anyone else with this risk, and because my odds of moving about undetected are better by myself. A lone fish escapes the net where the whole school gets trapped in it.

Among my people, it is customary for a seaman to write a Sailor’s Will when he is about to head out on a voyage he may not return from. So now, my head being clear of clouds, I write this testament:

To Ragar, I leave my Legionnaires’ bow and Legionnaires’ dagger. A good hunter requires good tools, and in Ragar’s hands I believe they will be put to good use.

To Pyria, I leave the last of my gems. She may have them fashioned into jewelry of course, to compliment her amazing outfits, but I suspect she’ll trade them for components for plying her craft. If there’s one thing I know about wizards, it’s that the supplies needed to do magic are expensive. I hope these will help.

To Fergus, I leave my prized pipe and special leaf from Parabellum’s shop. I know Fergus is very serious when it comes to fighting, but the times I’ve enjoyed with him the most have been when he’s joking around, not taking the world, or himself, quite so seriously. I leave these to him as a reminder that sometimes you have to relax and enjoy the voyage.

To Mazlor, I leave my gold and brown cloak. I had a dream that is shared by some of the others, that there would one day be a group of riders willing to patrol these lands, keeping people safe and giving swift warning when new dangers arose. I know Mazlor has a dream too, that one day the followers of the Light will unite to defeat the darkness. I leave the Enonian Falcon cloak to him as a reminder that some dreams are worth fighting for to the end, no matter how much the odds are stacked against you. Gold is the color of the rising sun, Mazlor.

To Balto, I leave a map to a certain well that I’m certain he also remembers. He’s free to go back there and find more treasures, but I also leave him this suggestion, that he take the map to a certain friend of ours we’ve met a few times at the Militiaman and Bawd. In exchange for that map, I believe that his prestige will rise highly within a certain organization. There are more ways to grow than how the plants do it, my friend… just be sure to ask for a percentage of the profits, too.

To Borean, I leave instructions on how to find where I have buried a box containing a couple of items. I ask that he deliver one of them to one of the Sisters in Old Fawn. The other, he is free to keep until he finds someone that he deems worthy of it, someone fit to rule. I trust the warrior of the north’s judgment best of all in this, and he’ll know which item goes to whom. Be sure to send my love to Nannon as well, Borean.

To Grel, I leave my letter of credit, on the condition that he swears an oath to one day ride north and deliver half of it to the most needy of the elven ships that he finds there. I know that once his word is given, nothing in the world will make him break it. And also to Grel, I leave my leather headband, which I wore at times to honor our fallen friend Ja’Kar. Perhaps he will be good enough to take it to Jorann, as a reminder to both of them that sometimes sacrifices are necessary for the greater good.

That rest of my worldly possessions I leave to the captain of this fort, who was good enough to store and guard these items for me.

May the wind always fill your sails, and your ship always carry you home.

Beláldur
_
When the ink has dried, Beláldur rolls up the parchment and seals it in a scroll case. He stands, looks at it for a moment with a content expression, then leans over and blows out the lamp.

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Turning Over a New Leaf
Balto’s Journal

Travelers to and from the town of Pella’s Wish (near Yew) had been disappearing without a trace since the middle of Spring. No signs of struggle, the goods they were taking to market never showed up in another vendors’ cart, no one was running around flush with coin from robbing them. Ynnivax and Mazlor asked Fergus, Josef, Willie, Pyria and me to look into it, and we brought with us some new companions – a couple of rangers, Beth and Airk, and the cheerful Rani, a littling like myself, a thief/fighter.

We reached Pella’s Wish on the eve of the 43rd day of Summer. It had been abandoned during last year’s war on the orcs and their unnatural allies. Some villagers had returned to restore their farms and rebuild the houses. We talked with the headman, Thomas, and the local lord, Pisani, who thought goblins were responsible for the loss of the four dozen or so people who’d been snatched away since the 35th day of Spring.

Boraen and Talvi, accompanied by other tribesfolk – Toraq, Einar, Nana, and Duna – joined us in Pella’s Wish. And then Wikton wandered over with a sardonic grin to assure he bore Fergus and me no ill will. He’d been tinkering about after his release from durance vile in the south. That evening, we wandered to the wishing pool that had given Pella’s Wish its name. I wished for gems and good food; I expect Fergus asked for his hair back. I don’t know about the others.

The next morning, Talvi got the scent of one of the disappeared and we set off, she and the two rangers leading us on foot. We took the trail towards the littleling castle, just a track through the grasslands, scarcely wide enough for a wagon or a couple of riders. There were evident signs of a heavily weighted group ahead of us – they must have come up from the south and skirted Pella’s Wish while we had first breakfast. When we got underway after second breakfast, they were a good 2-3 hours in front.

At dusk, Talvi, Pyria, Rani, and I spied the smoke of their campfire. The rangers and I crept up to a copse near their camp, while Talvi and Beth edged close on the other side. We watched and listened as a good dozen or so men set up a camp and a picket for their four horses. No special alert or tension in these travelers.

Until, that is, when Rani popped up and introduced herself. Beth and I came up to support Rani, explained about the missing villagers, asked if we can join camps, as the main party rushed up and Airk dropped from the trees to join us. Taken aback by our numbers, they are nonetheless polite.
These travelers, though, were a bit evasive. Theirleader, Dunmore, would not tell us of his mission. They had come up from Dracott, so Willie and Josef were among neighbors, at least. They seemed to want to stay out of the maddening and often bloody religious squabble. Dunmore said the Lightbringers had gone too far, and lamented the incursions of the orcs. But he is noncommittal on law vs. chaos, and took offense when the ever-tactful Boraen as much as accused him of being a slaver. We withdrew to the grove for the night.

The next morning, they left as we were policed our camp. Theirs, too –they’d left the fire unbanked and ground littered in their haste. We rode a few miles behind them, came to a crossroads, with a heavily-traveled trail to the east. Dunmore’s party went on north past the crossing, but we hoped this was a clue to the whereabouts of the villagers. At the end of the path I saw a copse of trees, enclosed by a tall hedge, a single opening to the south. This seemed a druid’s circle, but I felt little peace.

Boraen called out a greeting to those within, and perhaps a dozen humans come out to make us welcome. We asked about the disappeared – and Thomas’ wife Crystal pushed to the front, apparently unharmed. Others from their party were also here, but one did not pass some test and thus died. That sounded like some of the rougher druidic mysteries – where you overcome an obstacle or are destroyed by it.

Most of our party headed off in pursuit of Dunmore. I had to stay to root this out, and Wikton agreed to accompany me on the test. Rani stayed to spy out the village. Fergus, Josef and Wllie decided to spend some time together.

So Wikton and I were escorted to the test area, climbed down a ladder into the ground. Leading away from the pit bottom was a tunnel, walls covered in vines. Wikton and I came to a place where the vines flowered red. I had just about decided the villagers were using poppies, thus their glassy-eyed calm. But poppies, though red, don’t have trumpet flowers.

We heard a tumbling behind us and found Fergus, Willie and Josef in a pile, coming to and untangling themselves. A little to the side was Rani, groggy and angry at being attacked. The ladder Wikton and I had used to gain access was gone! Looks like we all would take the test. Perhaps this circle would become mine and some of my company might join me in keeping the circle. I won’t write the tests we had to pass, but with my leadership, we went through a puzzle maze quite quickly. We’d all have been accepted as initiates into a druidic school. But there were more challenges ahead.

Where there should have been a gathering of higher-level druids to question and test us, there were in fact five, garbed and armed for ritual battle.
Wikton hurled his hammer and charged. I quickly cast faerie fire, limning all our foes. The chief druid and two of his acolytes were quickly killed. Rani tied up the last two, and I took the chief druid’s staff and bracers. I assumed leadership of the circle by default.

We went on into a great cavern, arching high over our heads with vines and roots, limbs and leaves all over the walls and dipping into the shallow pool to one side. While we checked along the walls for an exit, a large leaf plunged down and covered Fergus’ face! We tried peeling and slashing at it, ripped it free and into bits just as Fergus felt he was breathing his last! The shredded leaf fell to the floor, the gentle light in the chamber disappeared, and much lamenting came from the captured druids in the last room. The vines shriveled away, revealing the entrance to a chamber holding boxes and chests – and a few skeletons!

Another exit led out into the village, where we found all the people stunned and weeping. The longer they’d been controlled, the worse off they were – our captive druids the worst of all. We waited overnight, and the most recently captured had largely recovered. The rest of our party rode back in, accompanied us all (save a small party heading for Yew to sing our praises!) back to Pella’s Wish. We used the horses and carts to take the goods and treasure with us, tried to be fair in the division of spoils and still leave some for the villagers. I think I’ll pass these bracers on to Pyria, so she has some protection, maybe can get some more spells off. And the good will of a magic user is surely worth something!

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The Gathering of The Four
The Chronicles of Børæn

“To me Wolves, too me!” Yells Børæn as he leaves the tent.

Reluctant eyes turn and upon seeing Móðir Mother) and the Merkitä Muistiin emerge behind the large warrior, the mood shifts. This is the Wolf Tribe’s King. Though young, it is by his actions that he showed all he is not his father.

“My brothers and sisters of the Wolf, the time for celebration must be put on hold…”

The crowd mutters, but when the Móðir raises her hand, all go silent.

“Evil is afoot. Some will call it Chaos. Some will call it the inevitable destiny of not just the Wolf, and the Northern Tribes, but of all of us, to be consumed by this darkness. I do not care, this blackness has infected everything we hold dear.” Børæn pauses as his words wash over his tribe. Tribesmen look to each other in worry, confusion, but more look angry. They sense a war is brewing, and the death of the Shadow is just the start of something that will be a time of challenge. “The Clan of No Name is but one example. The Shadow is just another as well. This evil, if left unchecked, will destroy not only what we hold dear, but this entire world.”

The crowd goes silent. Børæn has given word too what many have felt.

“I have fought this evil first hand. My sword and axe have cut a bloody swath through it. Talvi and I have hunted it, and have worked to protect who we can. Yet, despite this, the evil grows.”

Hearing her name Talvi appears at Børæn’s side. Seeing her, many realize that the tribe has changef. The Shadow King is dead, and a new light has appeared.

She looks at the man she sees as her cub, and Børæn feels her eyes upon him. The two look at each other, and Børæn feels through their shared bond her pride. As quick as the feeling came, it is quickly replaced with annoyance. “Get on with it cub,” she seems to scold Børæn. Stifling a laugh Børæn looks out at the crowd.

“I have been to the lands of the South. The evil infects everything. An ancient city is now a kingdom of Orcs…”

Hearing that, many yell curses, offer their swords to fight, and mutter vows to fulfill honor debts.

Børæn raises his hand and the gathering goes silent.

“There will come a day when we will ride as one and remove that rot, but today is not that day. We must be strong, stronger than we are now.”

Torpo, who has watched in silence nods his head toward Móðir (Mother). They share a glance. They know now, without any doubt, the true Wolf King is here.

“My friends, I know I have arrived, but I have much to do in the South…”

Hearing this, the crowd grows uneasy. Again Børæn raises his hand and all go silent.

“My path takes me from my people. I must fight battles that are my own. The Wolf is not ready for what is to come. We have been weakened by a poison that has just begun to be drained from this tribe.”

Looking at the crowd, Børæn feels something deep within him change. He feels humble. He feels pride. He feels as if the missing parts of him have been found. He also feels the familiar touch of his goddess and he smiles.

“I must go,” the crowd murmurs and again Børæn silences them. “I must go to fight. A fight I must do alone. If I do not do this, I will not be worthy of being your King.”

Hearing this a cheer begins, and oaths are sworn. There is a joy to this, and there is pride in this. What was once a dying wolf, has now found a new life.

“While I am gone, the Wolf will be cared for. Móðir and the Merkitä Muistiin will watch over you, and together they will help you heal.”

Hearing this, the crowd bows their heads to the two, and soon the crowd chants “Sinun sanasi on laki! (Your word is law.)”

The chant grows louder, it rings through the valley, it fills the tribe with hope. It pierces the blackness which smothered it for so long. Even Torpo and Mother chant this.

Raising his hand again, a hush goes over the crowd.

“I ride South, but I will not ride alone. What good is a wolf without his pack? Who will ride with your King?”

The crowd shifts and murmurs. All think about what this choice means. Suddenly a woman steps forward. Short of stature, hair long and brown, and a patch covering her right eye, she commands respect (and perhaps some fear). She stands proud and she stands as if she knows this moment has been her destiny. She knows that here, right now, her Lore has begun.

“I am Nanna One Eye, warrior of the Rabbit Clan. I will ride with you my King,’ she says in a strong voice.

“I am honored to ride with you Nanna of the Rabbit.”

Hearing this a cheer goes up among the gathered Rabbit Clan. For so long they have suffered under the yoke of the past. Now, however, they know that the tribe has truly changed.

As if a dam burst, others begin yelling out and pushing to step forward. Suddenly two emerge from the crowd. One, a woman, hair of gold, dressed in furs, and wearing the markings of a Druid. The other is but a boy, perhaps no more than 16.

“I am Tófa of the Horse Clan, and I have a calling my path follows yours. I have had visions of a wolf, whose Lore is destined to entwine with mine. I will gladly stand by your side my King and aid you in your fight. That is if you will have me?”

Børæn smiles, “Thunder is your name, yet you wear the trappings of a Druid?”

“I hear a calling,” Tófa responsefs solemnly. “It is a tug. No? A growing wind that pushes me. I must do this.”

“Mesha,” Børæn says. “In all things I honor you. Step forward Tófa I am blessed by Mesha to have you by my side.” As she stands at her King’s side, the Horse Clan cheers in pride. As a breaking storm it fills the valley, and all who hear it, know the Horse once again roam the land.

“Do not be a fool boy,” yells Torpo. “You do not know what you are doing!”

Børæn looks to his old friend. “Why are you, angry old friend?”

“He is Einarr my grandson. Useless with the Lore; unskilled in the skills of his people; nothing more than a dreamer too busy to learn,” snaps Torpo.

Looking at the boy, Børæn smiles. He was Einarr’s age when he set off on his path. He looks in the eyes of the youth and sees a strength there. A smoldering spark that will bloom into a raging fire. This strength will not be found here, with Wolf. He will find it with Børæn and when the boy returns all will see his strength.

“Your name fits you Einarr, you are a lone warrior. Do you have the strength to stand at my side?” Børæn says simply.

Einarr looks into Børæn’s eyes and stands as tall as he can.

He tries to look solemn.

He fails.

He tries to look serious.

He fails.

None of those expressions are right for the youth.

Instead, he smiles.

“My King I am ready. I will not waver. I will not flee. I will show courage when racing into battle. I will be your shield. I am a wolf, and I know my duty as one. I will not fail you.”

Torpo begins to yell, and Børæn glares at his old friend. It is a harsh look, filled with anger and rage. It is a look a King gives to a warrior who has failed to uphold his oaths. Taken aback by this, Torpo goes quite.

“Your clan boy?” Børæn asks.

“I am Einarr of the Eagle Clan!”

Hearing this the gathered Eagles cheer with pride.

“Einarr of the Eagle Clan I will be proud to have you at my side,” Børæn says loudly so all know that the weak are able to be strong when they hear the call.

Horses are brought, and each member of the company huddle with their clans. Oaths are sworn, blessings are given, and together they bask in the joy of what is to come. All know that because of this, their clans have changed, and have changed for the better.

“What in the Hells are you thinking boy!” Torpo snaps at Børæn. “My grandson is not strong, he is weak. He will fail you during the first battle he has. Do not bring him…”

Børæn spins, and his anger flares. Talvi growls, and in that growl there is anger. Torpo swallows what he was about to say. He looks at the boy, now a man, and for the first time knows fear.

“If anyone else said what you said, I would draw my axe and end their life where they stand,” growls Børæn. “It is only because I see you as a father that I do not do that now. Einarr is as old as I was when I fled the Wolf. There is a strength there and you dishonor him by your words and deeds.”

The two stare at each other and the old man looks away, bowing his head in shame.

“This old friend is the only time I will forgive you. Though you watch the Wolf while I go south, I am your King. My word is my honor. I will not have you question my honor. Do. You. Understand?”

Bowing deeply Torpo responds “I am sorry my King. I bring myself dishonor in this, and I dishonored you. I am sorry Børæn, truly.”

As quick as the anger came, it leaves, and Børæn smiles, placing his hand on Torpo’s shoulder.

“All is forgiven, old friend. I know you speak from love, and not malice. I know you worry about the boy. He will be fine, I swear it. Mesha guides me, and Mesha’s Will protects. Einarr will return, and he will make you proud.”

As the goodbyes are finished and the supplies are packed each member gathers around Børæn. Talvi seeing these new people looks at each as if she is appraising them. This does not go unnoticed by the three, and in truth, unnerves them.

“Pay her no mind, Talvi is the mother wolf, she sees me as her cub,” Børæn chuckles. In response, Talvi looks at Børæn and glares as if scolding him. For a second, the two look into each other’s eyes. Suddenly Børæn laughs, and Talvi barks and wags her tail, happily. The three look at each other. They know this is the Wolf King.

Drawing Lohikäärme Hammas, Børæn slices it across his right palm. Handing the ancient dagger to each of his new companions, they too draw the dagger across their right palm.

Holding his hand out, and each one clasps their hands with each other.

“Are you ready? You face a long path, are you sure in your choice?”

“Yes, my King,” Tofa speaks. Her voice is hard but sure. Her face is grim.

“Kunnia Kunnialla. Elämä elämästä. Pysyn teidän kanssanne ja taistelen teidän kanssanne. Olemme sidoksissa.”

(“Blood for blood. Lore with lore. Honor with honor. Life for life. I stand with you and I fight with you. We are bonded.”)

Each state, solemnly. They know now, without any doubt, this is their path.

With that Børæn smiles.

“We ride as one. Mesha guides us. Though Mesha is a fickle one, she has faith in me. I have faith in her. What we do is for her and for this tribe. We will be tested. We will shed blood. We will see things that make weak warriors run in fear.”

The three look at their king in wonder. They hang on each word. Tofa’s eyes go wide when she hears Mesha’s name.

“No matter what happens remember this: we are the Wolf. We strike with no fear. We hunt as one. We kill as one. We watch out for each other. It is a good omen that Horse, Rabbit, Eagle, Axe, and Sword are joined. Now let’s ride.”

As they leave the valley, Einarr rides close to Børæn.

“My King.”

“It is Børæn Einarr. I am not your King right now. I am Børæn.”

“Yes my… Børæn.” Einarr responds. “What should I call us?”

Chuckling, the response is simple “Just like your grandfather, heh? You are keeping the Lore Einarr, you decide.”

Riding back, his two companions look at him and smile.

“The Four Warriors.” Nanna simply responds.

“No, ‘The Wild’s Warriors’, sounds right,” Tófa answers.

“No those do not feel right. They are good, mind you, but not right,” answers Einarr.

Suddenly Einarr sits upright as inspiration strikes. “The Wolf’s Guardians!”

The others look at the Einarr and smile.

“‘The Four’,” Børæn states simply.

The three look at each other, and Einarr looks sad.

“You are not a Merkitä Muistiin yet, Einarr. Do not pout. You will have many opportunities to become one,” laughs Nanna and smiles at her new companion.

“Yes, Nanna is right. Just make sure you get our names right,” chuckles Tófa and winks at the boy.

Joining his two friends in the joking the three laugh.

As they ride, Børæn smiles. He is happy. He is proud. He is grateful. He whispers a prayer of thanks to Mesha and lets the rhythm of the ride take over. He listens to the three talk, boast, and laugh. It is a sound that pleases him.

“You do not know what you ride toward,” he thinks to himself. “You do not know what you will face. Yet, you are strong, stronger then you think you are. At the end of this, we will be more than Companions. More than a Pack. We will be of Blood.”

The four ride on.

View
Darkness comes
Grel’s report

Dark times have come to the land of men!
It all started out fairly ordinary. We decided to go take a look around Irecia to see what the Dark Ones might be up to. We decided to head out on foot so we could be less conspicuous. Immediately after we left the woods, we saw the remains of the orc camp. We decided to look around. almost immediately we were set upon by a hail of arrows. The Goblins hiding in the grass were impossible to find, let alone fight. Eventually, they ran off and we resumed our search. We found some truly gruesome remains in the shaman’s tent. We decided to burn it all and resume our journey.
Almost immediately we were beset by the same goblins! They were too fast and mobile to fight. We decided we needed to return and get our horses.
Mounted, we were able to ride through the ambush with only minor injuries. We continued on and saw smoke and signs of habitation in the hamlets off the road. We decided to take a look. The hamlets were all occupied by the Orcs! They were settling!
We continued on and made it to the wayfarers’ inn. We spied a wagon of orcs with chained humans and decided to engage.
The beasts dared to fire upon Arion!!! I was forced to leap in front of the arrows to ensure his safety. I will not be bringing him into battle again until his barding is ready! We took care of them and tried to free the humans, but they were townsfolk from Kolwith. It has been overrun. Their families are held hostage and they would not leave them. We were forced to let them go.
The next morning, There was an awful darkness and an explosion and suddenly, I was cut off from Tangadorin completely!! I am certain a Dark one has entered into our realm! We saw the light and darkness centered over Irecia, and a smaller one off to the south of the woods.
who have lived my life without fear, quaked in my boots. With the dDark Ones free, and Tangadorin cut off from his worshippers, there was no hope. I felt completely lost.
We decided to return to Enonia, we were not yet ready for this new darkness…..

View
Børæn's vision

TAP.

TAP.

TAP.

All eyes turn to the door of the hall as the winter’s wind ushers in the old man.

Orpo.

There is another name he is known for. Though he is the Merkitä Muistiin, it is a title he wears uncomfortably.

He is Orpo.

The man, despite his age, is still as resilient as he was as a youth. Scars cross his body, and each one is a reminder that at one time this man was a warrior. Though his days of roaming and fighting are long past, no one doubts that if need be Orpo would be the first in battle with the axe in hand.

The old man walks, the hall is not crowded. It is still day, despite the fact it is Long Night. Making his way to the front, those in the hall bow in respect to Orpo. Though he does not think himself as a Merkitä Muistiin, the tribe does, and respect is given.

Sitting at the far end of the hall are two thrones. One is large, imposing, and covered in the pelts of creatures killed. One would think that the throne is not beautiful, but that would be wrong. The throne is carved and resembles a flowering tree. The branches weave and entwine forming the throne from which Børæn has ruled.

Next to this throne is a delicate one, smaller in size, but whose beauty is only out shown by the woman who sits upon.

Fríđr.

Peacebringer.

Queen of the Wolf.

Chuckling to himself, Orpo reflects that it took one whose name means peace, to sooth the moody Børæn.

“I am happy that oaf of a boy put pride aside,” Orpo chuckles to himself.

“Something funny old friend?” Fríđr asks simply.

Her voice is of the spring, soft, gentle, and musical. It is a voice of a woman who seeks to understand and offers comfort. It is the counter to Børæn’s voice of rage. Together these two voices have weaved a song that has brought much to the People of the Wolf.

“Only your husband my dear. I still am not sure how you did not laugh when he fumbledthe words of his love to you,” Orpo laughs.

‘’If I wanted to marry a poet, I would have. Instead I married a man honest with who he is,” the queen looks at the old man and smiles..

“You asked to see me, my Queen. I am here,” Orpo simply states.

“Yes, dear friend. Come sit with me.”

Standing the queen walks to a table and sits, as she does a servant brings two mugs of spiced wine. Orpo, sitting across from his queen, and with an audible sigh, rests.

Without any pretense, Fríđr speaks.

“I know today is an important day in this tribe’s lore. It is the day that Børæn returned and avenged the wrongs. It is the day that he became king, and it is the day that set forth the path that would bring my headstrong, fierce, but loving wolf into my life.”

“You speak truly my Queen. This is the day,” Orpo says simply.

“Børæn has told me that this day marks something else, something that truly changed him, and set him on his path of being a warrior-priest. He told me for that on this day he saw his true path, and accepted his rôle in this life.”

“Yes my Queen, this is that day,” Orpo answers knowing what is to be asked next.

“But what was this event? Børæn tries to tell me, but in his typical way. ‘I met Móðir, I drank from a cup, and I saw a vision.’ What is that? That is not a story, it is a list of chores!”

Composing herself, and laughing Fríđr sighs. “Not even in the room and that man makes me raise my voice.”

Silence fills the room as Orpo looks at his Queen. His thoughts race with memories of that time. He knows that was a time of great darkness. It was a time that no one was left unchanged. It was a time of evil and darkness.

Yet, it was a time when heroes, answering the call of the Old Gods, joined together to save the world.

“My Queen,” whispers Orpo. “The event that truly set the course Børæn now walks was a vision. It was a vision given to him by the Móðir…”

“Móðir?”

“In your language my Queen she is Mother.”

“Your husband received a vision. It was a terrible vision…”

Slowly, my vision begins to collapse in a haze and narrows to a tunnel. I see Mother walk back to her chair and sit. I feel Orpo guide me next to her, and I am placed in a chair as well. She places her hand on my arm.

It feels as solid as rock and as heavy as a mountain.

“Walk with me…” she says in a commanding voice. The sound echoes in my ears as if I am hearing her speak at the mouth of a cave and you are deep within it. Now, even the small tunnel of vision, the fire, the surrounding vista, it all narrows into blurred vision.

“Walk with me…” I hear and I feel as heavy as stone, yet as light as a feather. A blink feels like a thousand heartbeats and when I open my eyes, I can see clearly… into Hell.

The ground beneath me is mud, blasted earth, a pile of stench and garbage. Pitiful creatures, bound in chains, walk towards a huge, dark pit. It is the size of a village. The sides of this pit resemble an inside-out corkscrew. These thin, hunched over creatures walk to the edge and down the corkscrew trail. Others are climbing out, hold stones or pulling carts with them. Short, stocky figures, dressed in leather and metal, crack whips, swing clubs and truncheons, or use boots to push the creatures onwards.

“Behold… our past.” says Mother and indeed, those pitiful creatures are human! I see in the distance, small huts that resemble the huts and tents of my people, but these huts are not suitable for even the lowest of any of the tribes. Small figures, children, are tied to those huts, much like we would tie a cur. I see women, their ribs sticking out of their skin, tending to the children and small fires before the huts. It looks as if they are preparing the lowest of meals.

I move then, suddenly, over the pit and it spirals down into the darkness. Just barely within sight, I see an edifice built into the side of the pit, seeming to vanish into the ground. As I get closer, I realize that it is built into the ground, that I am an exposed portion of an underground structure. There are obscene creatures and figures standing there, some of which send a chill through my body, almost as if I recognize them… I move past them, into the tunnels of the structure… tunnels whose walls seem to undulate. The humans, and elves that I see, and even many littlelings, all show fear!

I exit the tunnels into a huge chamber, whose center is dominated by a hulking structure that screams of its alien nature. It is an affront to my eyes and yet I cannot look away. There are smaller structures surrounding the center, and within, humans and others are screaming in pain. Their bodies are lashed to what look like altars and their life-blood is spilled out into troughs that lead to a crystal that shines a purple-green light. This crystal reflects a beam into the center structure. I see more beams from many more surrounding altars.

“The blood sacrifices. This is where they draw their power and how they used us.” Mother intones and I fly on… closer to the center.

There are areas of darkness moving around the center and the wrongness of them shakes me, threatening to break the vision. I feel the heavy grip of Mother tighten and you slowly rise away from them and to a vantage where I see into the center of the structure, where an enormous crystal collects the various beams and shapes it into one central shaft of light that casts downwards. Below, beneath the beam. I see THEM! The Dark Ones – a similar sight to what I saw in the strange places beneath the ruined monastery where I found myself as a youth.

“Always in three, they come and they work their power. One alone is strong, two together are immense, but three… it is in three that they find their expression of powerfully realized.” Mother says.

“They are not from here, Børæn. They are invaders, come to plunder our lands. The power you see is how they come and go from the place they are birthed from. They take from this place to their own place. They suck us dry so that they might be powerful in their own place. Their anchors, their links of chain through the power they steal from our lives, that is the manner of their domination. That is how they bring the abominations and strange kind to our lands, and they take our treasure to their land, for their war that they fight there.”

I begin to rise now. I see the leather and metal clad ones scurrying about, working to expand the top of the central structure.

“The Dwarfs, they were the servants of the Dark Ones, created by those creatures to serve. The Dwarfs, they paid a terrible price for their own freedom and ours.” Mother’s voice intones.

I rise faster and faster now.

“The sacrifices we made, with the Elves from places far away, with the small ones, with the Dwarfs, they freed us from the shackles, but they did not defeat the Dark Ones. Always plotting, always planning, always looking to regain their grip on this place, and now the time has come again that we must fight them!”

I rise up out of the ground now, rising faster and faster through the sky and clouds.

I look at Mother and simply say: “Show me more so I can understand.”

“The Dark Ones … where there is one, there will be a second. Where there are two, there will be a third.” Mother replies. “Their names, we do not know.”

I cannot see her, but I feel her hand on my arm. As I pray to Meesha, I get the feeling Mother is looking at me again, appraising.

“The one you pray to, She is not of us or our ways, but I feel Her presence in you. Perhaps you are the one to be the bridge. Perhaps you will be able to make them understand.”

“For their cities and walls, their armies and knowledge, all of that will be as leaves in the wind before the Dark Ones unless we regain the ways of old.”

I am higher now, and the land spreads before you. I see the glint of water to the north and south, to the east and west. It is as if the entirety of the lands lie before you.

“When we overthrew the Dark Ones ages ago, with the elves, the littlelings, the Dwarfs, and others that legends speak of, humankind strode forth and took to the lands. They built, they grew, they… forgot. We, we did not. We knew that time would move on, that the door would reopen, that they would return.”

I am beginning to fly back towards the ground now, slowly, slowly, but speeding up.

“Age moved us much as it moves river and hill, rock and tree. I do not know all of the stories. I do not have all of the answers. I am but one Mother. The clans. The tribes. They have others. They must be called. They must share the knowledge. Their pieces will add to the whole.”

Faster and faster I fall, flying through clouds. The wind does not whip my face, but I know that I have great speed, faster than a diving hunting bird.

“You must seek our brothers and sisters. Go south. Go to the east of the Shining City that is soon to be wreathed in Darkness. Go to the mountains there and find our kin.”

Features on the ground start to resolve themselves. There is snow on the ground, on the hills and trees. A white blanket.

“Go south to the lands of swamp and forest, to the hills there and find our kin.”

I realize that a part of the ground looks like a village, a winter home… your tribe’s winter home!

“You will find more pieces there. We know that the Dark Ones are coming. We know that we once held the power, forged by Elf and Littleling, guided by Dwarf, to destroy the Dark Ones. Many warriors, women, men, shamen, mages – they all died, but the doors were closed. We made mistakes in forging that power, so the legends say, but we found the way and were able to throw off the shackles.”

I see that I am heading towards what looks like a bonfire, with figures standing or sitting around it… I see myself from above… I am falling very quickly towards them!

“This is what you will need to become, as our King… the wanderer who finds the ways of Old. Will you succeed? Only your heart and muscle, sinew and will, can decide that.”

Silence fills the hall. Those who are there stare unblinkingly at the Queen and Orpo. No one dared to move while Orpo shared the lore.

Reaching for her mug with a shaking hand, she quickly takes a deep drink. Calmer now, she places the mug down and grabs Orpo’s hand.

“How did my husband react to this? How did he handle the visions he received?” She questions quickly.

Orpo sighs, and looks at his Queen and smiles.

“My child you know the answers. Børæn picked himself off the ground and looked at me and the Mother not with fright, not with arrogance, but with strength. His first thought was the care of his tribe. His second thought was to gather hunters — which he did — so that he could ride into battle to slay what he saw.”

“Børæn, even though he did not know it then, became our king. Yes, he had a long path to follow, but at that moment, when a lesser man would have fleed from that tent, after seeing what he saw, Børæn stood, grabbed his weapons and smiled! ‘Well, then, if I am too be King, I must war. If I must war, then I need a pack. My faith in Meesha will guide me, the wolf will aid me, and my weapons… My weapons will kill my enemies.’”

“It was that moment my Queen, that I knew the boy had become a man. He left us so that he could be forged into something new, and when he returned he pulled us from the darkness,” Orpo says with pride.

“Børæn is not as complicated as many think he is. He is guided by three things. One, his devotion to Meesha. Two, the well being of his tribe. Three, his love for you.”

Standing up slowly, Orpo bows to Fríđr.

“Now my child, you know the lore. The lore is yours, and the lore lives within you.”

“Thank you,” Fríđr whispers.

“Bah! It is just lore. Important, yes, but just lore. Do not let it weigh on you. If you do, you will be walking hunched over like I do,” laughs Orpo as he turns to leave.

Fríđr drinks from her mug again reflecting on what she has learned.

Seeing the door open once more, she smiles as Børæn walks in.

View
Børæn‘ returns home and avenges his honor

Deep winter.

In the north, it is the time of the forever night.

It is the time that the fruit of the labor of spring, summer, and fall is enjoyed.

It is the time of reflection, boasts, and rest.

Warriors who during the warmer months roam the mountain valleys protecting the Valley of the Wolf, spend their time carving, crafting, and even weaving.

“I’ve asked this question many times, but no one answers me,” states a small boy sitting next to his father by the fire. The boy is learning how to carve, but is more interested in listening to the stories his father tells.

“Child, if you spend more time listening your carving of a tree would look like a tree and not a snake,” the father says with a chuckle.

Before he can ask again, a large man approaches the fire. Padding next to him is the large black wolf that never leaves his side.

The boy looks up in awe. Here is the king.

Børæn at the age of 50, still is imposing. His thick muscles show no sign of age, and other than the streaks of grey in his hair and beard, Børæn still looks the same as he did so many year ago.

Sitting near the fire, Børæn looks to the child.

“Ask your question little one, and I will answer them,” Børæn.

The lodge grows quiet and wait to hear their king.

“I am not a Merkitä Muistiin, but I can tell you the lore…”

After Meesha’s words, I saw the goddess was true to her word, the rest of the journey passes quickly.

Within days I reached the winter home of the Wolf Tribe. Instead of the normal look of the tents, the animals gathered around the perimeter, the puffs of smoke rising from the warming fires — that wass all here, but so to were banners hanging from the tents, from poles and cord strung between them. All of them covered in symbols used by the medicine folk, shamans and witches. A great fire burned in the center of the camp, and I saw a ring of people surrounding the fire, meditating. Also in this circle was my mother and father.

I stopped my horse short, and dismounted. I led her back down the hill and told her to wait.

I looked at Talvi, and the bond we shared had her know what would come next: destiny.

We snuck to the top of the hill, and laid flat. Together we laid there, using the tall grass to hide us.

My axe wAs in my hand, and I remember feeling my manger simmer.

Feeling it, Talvi licked my hand as if to tell me, keep things in check. Whatever comes next, she and I will face it.

The chant was unlike anything I ever heard from the various shamen, witches and wise folk that I once interacted with.

The flame dimmed, and suddenly burst with a strange white and green color. The eldest shaman stood, turns and begins intoning to the circle.

One by one, the elders stood, steeping forward and thrust both arms into the fire! As they withdraw their arms, the strange fire remained on their skin, dancing and flickering until they sit back down.

Each shaman and witch did this , and then came my father and step-mother. With defiance they thrust their arms in, and backing away, the flames remained on their arms growing intensit!

The shamen, witches and elders watched impassively at the two writhing on the ground. The flames spread across their bodies, burning their clothes. The two rolled around on the ground, trying to beat the unnatural fire off. This lasted for a few moments and then the flames suddenly disappeared.

The oldest elder, the wise woman stands and pointed at your parents. She said a word and it echoed among the tents… “SATEESE” At that, others echo her word.

SATEESE

“Your old ways don’t interest me!” My father spits at them. “Your trickery won’t change anything, nor take away what is MINE! This tribe is MINE and I say NO. We will NOT join the Increpaytone!”

Seeing the scene below, I am a mix of emotions.

I am angry because I want to be the one to kill my father and step-mother.

I wanted to punish them for their evil.

I am confused because this was something I had not prepared myself for.

I look at Talvi, and we lock eyes. I feel her reassurance and her determination pass into me with that look. 

“Come, Talvi, we have a task to face. Blade and claw. Tooth and fist. Together we face what is to come with Meesha’s name upon our lips, and her words within our hearts.”

I stand.

Instead of my ax or my sword, I draw Lohikäärme Hammas. With this action, my life will be changed forever more.

I walk slowly into the village. I walk with confidence. I walk with purpose. I walk with my faith in Meesha.

As I enter the village I see those who I grew up with. Those who I hunted with. Those who I once had grudges with, but then became fast friends. I look at the ones who I considered my brothers and sisters, only to have them betray me in my moments of need.

As I walk closer to the fire I stand taller. The realization comes to me in a flash: whatever is to come will not be my end. It will be the end of the current path my people are on.

I smile. 

Now is the time I will show my goddess my faith in her, and my love for her.

With dagger in hand, I grip it tightly.

The crowd whispers my name, and my father’s eyes grow wide. Instead of anger in there is only fear.

I look to the viper whose actions poisoned my people. She glares in malevolence as if she wants nothing more than kill me.

I turn looking at the tribe. I speak:

“I am Børæn of the Wolf Tribe.”

“I am Børæn of the Axe.” 

“I am Børæn of the Sword.”

“I am Meesha’s Rage.” 

“I am Meesha’s Warrior.”

I am Meesha’s priest.

With each statement my voice grows louder; stronger. It reverberates around the tribe, and no one speaks."

I raise Lohikäärme Hammas above my head.

“This is Lohikäärme Hammas. This is the dagger of Aapo, the dagger of Elias, the dagger of Aku, the dagger of Jere, the  dagger of Sakarias, the dagger of Valthjof, and now the dagger of Børæn.”

“This is the dagger that has been passed down from one chieftain’s eldest to the next. This is the dagger Aapo used to unite the Wolf Tribe, and it is this dagger which sealed the bonds of leadership and family, and cemented that his line would lead the Wolf till the sun is snuffed out, and the stars are no more.”

Not a sound is heard as I speak. Even the fire seems to have gone silent.

“This marks my claim. This marks my heritage. This marks my lore. Though my clan ties mark my birth, Lohikäärme Hammas marks my right.”

“You are weak and a coward. You are no son of mine. You stole Lohikäärme Hammas because you are nothing more than a thief!” Yells my father.

I spin, with dagger in hand, and plunge Lohikäärme Hammas into my father’s chest. In one swift motion, I remove his heart and hold it in my hand showing it to my father.

“You are not worthy of this tribe. You failed this tribe when you allowed the viper to corrupt you and our tribe. When you killed my mother…” 

Hearing that, the death of his mother and his father’s responsibility for it, the tribe gasps.

“As a coward, you killed her and blamed me for your sins.”

My step-mother goes to speak, but Talvi silences her with a low growl.

“You are no longer of the Wolf. The name Arnbnjog, will be struck from our lore. No longer will Arnbnjorg be part of the roll of kings. Your name will never be spoken again. There is no place for you at Tapio’s fire. In death, you will walk the Lands of Shadow until the stars no longer shine, and worlds no longer exist. You are no longer of the Sword, you are dead to your clan. You are no longer of the Raven.”

Life leaves my father’s eyes as the last words are spoken. Throwing the heart into the fire, I turn to Ingvildr.

For the first time in my life, I see real fear in her eyes.

“Viper. Though my father killed my mother, it was you who gave him the knife. It was your poison that worked its’ way into the Wolf. It is your evil which marked me as a traitor. Your death will be but one step in cleansing my tribe. Your death will have no honor.”

With that, I cut Ingvildr throat and say no more.

“By rights of  Lohikäärme Hammas. I am now king.”

Some try to speak out, but it is apparent that my statement is open not for debate. It is a statement of fact.

“By tradition, I say the following: those of the Raven Clan have safe passage until sunset to leave this tribe. If by the last ray of sun you are still here, you will be killed. No mercy will be given.” 

With that, a few in the crowd begin to leave, and looks are thrown at them by the tribe. Looks of anger. Looks of vengeance.

“Merkitä Muistiin.” I said simply.

As if by magic Orpo appears. Seeing him I smiled.

“I see even you are too stubborn to succumb to age,” I laughed.

Orpo hits me with his staff, and the tribe laughs. With that laugh, all tension seems to lift.

“Be serious, now is not the time for the child,” Orpo stated.

Regaining myself I spoke: “As Merkitä Muistiin, Orpo, you are the keeper of our lore. On this day, you will strike the Raven Clan from our lore. From this day they will be known as the Clan That Will Not Be Named.”

“It will be done my King,” Orpo simply stated.

“From this day forward Arnbnjorg will be removed from the roll of kings. No longer will his name be uttered. Arnbnjorg is now of the Shadow. He walks alone and he has no lodge.”

“It will be done my King,” Orpo stated with a hint of happiness.

I looked around, as if I look at each member of my tribe separately.

“I am your king, and together we will cleanse this tribe of the poison which has festered. Together The Wolf will regain its’ honor. Together we will add to our Lore. Gone is our divisions. Axe, Sword, Boar, Horse, Eagle, and the Rabbit clans will be at peace. We will be united, and we will show all that together The Wolf will not be cowered.”

The crowd’s mood brightens with the naming of the clans.

“Unlike my father, I do not see you as tools to be used. I see you as my brothers and sisters. We are united, and together we will show the world who we are.”

“In Meesha’s name I pledge to you a new day has dawned.”

The room is quiet as Børæn tells his lore. When finished no one knows what to say.

“What happened next?” Asks the child.

Børæn chuckles, patting the child on his shoulder. “You will learn that when you are older. Little one. For now think on what you have heard.”

With that Børæn stands and leaves the fire.

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In which Børæn finds purpose
The Chronicle of Børæn

Winter has come to the North.

The darkness has engulfed the land, and the tribes have taken to their valleys to survive the long night.

It is here, in the Valley of the Wolf, the Wolf Tribe that an old man walks through the biting wind, and falling snow. Hunched over he walks as if the weight of the world is carried.Those who know otherwise know that this man is stronger than he appears.

He reaches the Lodge of the Wolf.

It is here that his King has ruled, and it is from here his king has brought change — needed change — to the Wolf Tribe.

He enters, and in his wake follows the cold and snow.

All goes quiet, as the old man walks toward the throne.

TAP.

With each step, his step sets the rhythm of his walk.

TAP.

The festivities grow silent.

TAP.

The children race to the front, as close to the throne as they can. They know what is to come.

TAP.

As he advances, each warrior bows their head to the Merkitä Muistiin.

TAP.

The large black wolf lifts his head and seems to smile seeing Orpo.

TAP.

As he nears, the golden-haired queen smiles and winks at the oldest man of the Wolf.

TAP.

Orpo reaches the throne and bows deeply. The king, still imposing after all these years, smiles.

“You never need to bow old friend,” Børæn’s deep voice rolls through the room.

“Do not tell me place pup! I will bow if I choose too,” grumbles Oropo. The hall laughs, but with a loud tap of his staff, all grow silence.

“I speak of times long past. Through this, you learn. Through this, the history is kept. Through this, the tribe will never forget.”

The black wolf, whines, as if telling the old man to go on. Unphased Orpo continues:

This is how the would-be king found his purpose. This is is how the would-be king found his way home. Without this, the Wold Tribe would be no more.

Of all the Lore, this is the most important.

See Børæn walk through the countryside with reins in hand and Talvi, as always, trotting next to her human.

Børæn is in thought. He looks around him marveling at the beauty of the world around him. He offers his thanks to Meesha for the blessings she provides and the beauty she creates. It is Meesha who has brought much, but more importantly, it is her words and actions which has brought Børæn much.

When Børæn left the Wolf one step ahead of the Clan that will not be named, Børæn became lost. Lost in thoughts. Lost in his anger. Lost in a quest for vengeance.

Børæn is broken.

Børæn’s anger simmered due to the actions of his father, but that tale is for another time.

Børæn is vexed by another problem.

There is something wrong with the world. Call it evil, chaos, cancer, rot, or decay, it did not matter. What matters is something is eating away at the world and something is harming his goddess. What, Børæn does not know, but something IS wrong.

Before he found his way to Meesha, Børæn had no cares. He lived for the hunt; the next fight; the next threat. He reacted to his desires, and things were good.

Things are different now, Børæn thinks about his goddess, her needs, and her works. Børæn still loves war, but now he is more, he is Meesha’s rage.

Why does the call north pulls Børæn? At this time he did not know. He knew he must go north, and it is north he hoped to find answers, guidance, or even a clue as to what he had become.

There is no shame in saying Børæn is lost. Every hunter becomes lost. Yet it is the great hunter who knows how to find his way back.

Børæn is lost, alone, and more confused than ever.

He does not know his purpose.

“Am I winter?” he asks?

“Am I summer, or spring, or even fall?” the would-be king says aloud.

What Børæn does not know yet is that the call he hears is the one of his destiny. Before all of this, he was a simple tribesman, and his life was straightforward. Fight, drink, fight, drinks; wash-rinse-repeat.

Now he wants to find what his new purpose was so that he could serve the goddess who Børæn brought us.

The snows begin early and the winter matches Børæn’s mood: brutal. Still, Børæn travels, with Talvi at his side. He knows that his people are north and what is to come, soon will be there.

As he walks, his mind is silence. All he thinks about is survival. This winter is a forge, and this forge will make him into what he is to become.

A blizzard hits, and Børæn stops. Quickly he digs in, creating a snow mound, and camps. Man, wolf, and horse shelter.

Tired, he still cares for his two companions. Once done, he sits looking at the feeble fire. The blizzard mirrors his inner turmoil.

Looking into the fire, he thinks to himself: “Meesha, I do not know what you want from me, but I am willing to learn. I need to serve you not just in anger, but in peace. How? I do not know. I am ready to find out.”

As he speaks, the winds howls and the snow swirls around him heavily. As fast as it started it ends and in the wake stands a woman, wearing a dress of frost. Laughing, he touches Børæn’s cheek.

“Boraen… my favorite knight who is so serious and so sure that there is a reason for everything. I do love watching you. You remind me of another who was so serious about life. Now his weapon stands amid my shrine. I do hope you’re not planning on ending up like him.”

As she speaks small winter flowers suddenly emerge from the snow, opening their delicate petals towards her.

“I feel your heart, lovely man. You have touched things that are bigger than yourself, bigger than your conflicts, bigger than the betrayal you felt from your parents. This leaves you unsettled, looking for purpose, looking for structure. And yet here we are, in the middle of something that has no structure, that is part of life, that is simple IS because it is here.” she waves her hands at the snows.

“Lovely, is it not? It just seemed like a good time for some snow. What do you think it is time for, Børæn?”

Looking at the goddess and hearing her words, Børæn is filled with a sense of peace.

The rage that burns, dims and simmers as a pot of water at the edge of a fire.

Though Meesha’s touch is cold, it warms him, and parts the clouds that have covered his mind for so long.

“I am a simple warrior that is all I ever knew,” he says. “I thought of myself as your warrior, but now be your shaman. I might not be the most perfect of choices or even the wisest, but my devotion is true.”

“I have a debt to pay and tasks ahead, but in all of this, you will be within my heart. My faith will be my shield.”

“The world is growing dark, and it needs warriors as well as priests. I will be both.”

Taking his knife and cutting his palm, Børæn squeezes his fist to let the blood flow.

“By my oath, I will honor you and spread your word as best I can. By my oath, I will fight your enemies to my last breath. By my will I will bring you to my people when I save my clan from the evil that festers there.”

“I have no doubts. Granted, I might not understand you, but I have no doubts,” Boraen simply states.

“Oh, my sweet warrior-now-priest, you are never EVER boring. Don’t change, my love, don’t change… I cannot be angry at you when you are just SO SERIOUS!” she laughs and reaches out and touches the drops of blood dripping from your hand. As they hit the ground, they transform into small vines that blossom blood-red flowers. She reaches down and plucks several of them and places them in her hair.

“I will wear these today, they please me so. You are not like the others – you will struggle, my sweet man. You will not find service to me as easily as Turgon does. You will, however, please me with that struggle and you will, in the end, find the reason for your life.”

“Know this, sweet man… gods live through those who worship them, who pledge to them, who sustain their belief through good times and bad. If I am to live again, to breathe again, to be there for you when the pendulum swings deeper into the darkness that comes… you will need to make sure that my name and who I am are near the tongues of all who meet you. Make them remember, Børæn! Make them remember that it is not just good deeds and good words that bring them miracles. That I, and my brothers and sisters, will protect our followers and will be there for them when they are in need. Much as you are, my sweet man.”

She waves an arm and suddenly, the snow ceases to a few flakes that fall from Meesha’s hair and dress.

“You will find the rest of your trip easier, sweet man.”

She bends over and kisses the top of your forehead.

“Now sleep. Go when the sun rises. You will reach your lands without a struggle. I do this to show you that we do take care of our own.”

The clouds that shrouded Børæn’s understanding finally part. Meesha’s words, he realizes, told him he had the answers all along.

“I should have never doubted, or questioned the ways or the whats of this,” Børæn says aloud to no one

Børæn pauses and then smiles. “I do not know if it was by your hand, fate, or some twist of luck that brought me to that monastery, yet something did. Whatever it was that set me upon this path has to lead to you.”

Looking at the axe and dagger of his people, Børæn seems sad and for the first time, his solitude strikes him.

“I have been gone from my people for close to seven years. I fled with barely my life. The taint of evil that has taken root in my father’s heart and tribe sadden me but anger me. I will return there to slay the viper who has poisoned my people. I will travel to the Wold and there, I will cut the black heart from my father and free my people from that evil.”

Børæn’s voice grows angrier as if it is a storm raging during the spring. Suddenly the storm breaks, and the anger that grips Børæn is less.

“If I am too follow you, and tell those of you, I must put these away for a time. I must walk a different path for awhile. Though I am a warrior, I can be one for you, even if it means the axe, the sword, and dagger must be put aside for awhile.”

Laughing Boraen says simply: “I guess I am a priest. I better find myself a weapon then. After all, I cannot be seen spreading your word with just my fists.”

The hush of the hall deepens, as Orpo finishes. Bowing to the king who thinks as his son, the old man smiles. Børæn returns the smile and bows as well. The bond this two share runs deep, and it is because of this bond the Wolf is strong.

Orpo bows to his queen, and she looks at her husband’s oldest friend. Her look is one of love and appreciation.

The wolf looks at the old man, and yawns. Orpo chuckles to himself, “So much like his mother.”

Turning, Orpo’s staff once again taps in rhythm as the old man leaves. Everyone bows with respect to the man, and soon he enters into the night.

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