Friday, 27 May 2016

Kampi's Saga: Break The Spell

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

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

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

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

Without further ado, here's Break The Spell

Ajax & Kampi, with Shiny stalking in the background

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I have become distracted.

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

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

A visiting group of Sigmarites

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

The strange creature known as Scarab

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I kept these specific thoughts to myself.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Praise Be To The Æsir

-Ref ' Kampi' Vandillson

Sunday, 28 February 2016

5th Year Anniversary

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

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

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

I take that as a good thing. :)

Ubi Amicitia, Ibi Victoria

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Februa! Februalia! Februatio!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ubi Amicitia, Ibi Victoria

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Kampi's Saga: The Northern Hunt - Part III

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

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

Onward to the third part of The Northern Hunt.

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

Runes: Jera

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Praise Be To The Æsir

~Ref 'Kampi' Vandillson

To Be Continued...

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...