Part 26: 14-1: King of the AshesUPDATE 26: KING OF THE ASHES
Back to Alette's caravan.
You're testing your bowstring and only half-listening to the man when Hakon walks up. The baker, unaccustomed to varl, falls quiet and backs up.
: I know. I'd like to believe we'll make it without any more problems, but...
: That hasn't been our luck. No sense thinking things will change now.
You laugh a little but notice the distant look in Hakon's eyes as he looks toward the varl tents.
: They probably wouldn't talk to a human.
: Ha! You're right - we'd be at war.
The thought of fighting Hakon and his varl makes you shiver.
: It just seems like they were better prepared to lead our kind than I am.
: That's probably just skald songs making it seem that way. Just keep them alive. No matter what happens in Arberrang, protect your people.
Hakon looks at you, the confusion leaving his face.
: Let's get what we need and get going. Maybe it'll be as easy as you make it sound.
You give the varl an encouraging smile. It's the best you can do.
The caravan remains in sorry shape. Poor morale, low food supplies, and decimated by the Serpent's attack. The 161 varl in the caravan are probably the majority of all living varl.
: Are they getting plenty to eat?
: I think so. They still have enough energy to get into trouble.
: My father always told me to enjoy being young because there is plenty of time to be grown up.
: It's so true, but it's hard to listen to good advice.
Without allowing you to refuse, she puts a spoon and a bowl with cooked eggs in your hands.
: You have to try these. It's a family recipe.
You take a bite. They're good, but you don't taste anything special.
: They...they just taste like eggs.
Her eyes look down with embarrassment.
: I mean, there's nothing wrong with them.
The archer starts smiling.
: They really are just eggs. My mother used the "Family Recipe" story on each of us kids at one time or another when we wouldn't eat.
: She tried to guilt you into eating?
: She tried anything and everything to raise us, feed us, keep us from getting into too much trouble. Now, with my boys, I understand why. I bet your father had to do a bit of that with you, and now you have to with this caravan. I doubt there's anything you wouldn't try to keep eveyrone alive.
: You think back on all the choices you've made.
: Just know what we understand and appreciate it...eventually.
: Thanks, Nid.
Here's Brenna's Lock, which we got from the last godstone. There's a distinct lack of Iver and Eyvind in the caravan now. We're a lot more fragile than we used to be.
Just before we head out, this happens.
Husbands run out to their wives, and children scream in excitement for the parents they believed to be dead. You make your way out to greet the group as well, but Rugga holds up his hand as you near.
: I wasn't sure I'd ever see you again, Alette.
: My father taught me a good deal about survival.
: But didn't your father...never mind.
: I'm really happy you found the rest of our clansmen.
: Don't fool yourself thinking into everyone standing near that banner feels like family.
: Maybe not family, but we have become a clan.
: Hatred spans generations. Some of these people have feuds older than the great wars. Don't think a few weeks on the road together changes that.
: What happened to you after the Serpent attacked?
: I might ask you the same. Dagr and I were scattered like the rest, but we tried to help who we could. The Old Wood was like a maze, but we finally escaped, picking others up along the way.
Dagr's such a weirdo.
: I started pushing everyone hard, sending only a couple men to Tolir for supplies.
: We did the same thing! But our scouts haven't returned.
Rugga scratches the scar around his neck.
: That's odd. Neither did ours. But here we are, most of us still alive.
: I bet you're tired. We can wait if you want to sleep.
: I can't make that call, and neither can you. The clansmen will tell us what they want to do.
This sounds like something he has rehearsed, along with his smile.
: I think you should all get some food and a few hours of sleep.
: The others will make up their minds. A leader guides.
: I should check on the others.
: Before you do...
Dagr shifts slightly and you almost jump back, unaccustomed to him moving. Your heart beats quickly.
: Why are you so nervous, Alette? We've had fair exchanges so far.
: Now, with Arberrang just over the horizon, I want to be nearby when a young woman brings an army.
His smile is genuine, and you feel more at ease.
: Now we'll see about some food and rest.
The governor and his guard walk toward the village.
At various points in the journey, we made decisions that gained or lost us points in Rugga's favor. Specifically:
1.) Deciding what to do with the burned village on the Ormsa River. We didn't let the thieves into our party, but neither did we kill them after trying to rob us. Rugga didn't like that.
2.) When we had the chance to cross the bogs, we didn't go traipsing through a graveyard and instigate a needless war with the kragsmen. Rugga liked that. It's worth noting, however, that had we instigated a needless war, Eirik would have had the chance to capture a war bear named Spinegrinder and summon him into battle at will. We don't really need the bear (though it was enormously valuable in my Rook campaign) and it's pretty cool to have a bear.
3.) When we had the chance to split the party at Lundar, we didn't. Rugga approves of that. (Note that you can split the party once you're in the city. It's just the split between horseborn/dredge (which is a war battle) that he objects to.
4.) When we were in the Old Wood, we attacked the horseborn and stopped them from wrecking Ettinbekr. He approves of that.
If you do #4 AND at least 2 of (1, 2, 3), Rugga will decide Alette/Rook is a competent leader and align himself with you.
In all other cases, he will betray you in this event. Dagr tries to kill you, but Oddleif never trusted Rugga and she shoots Dagr before he can get in an attack. Then you fight a little battle with the handful of folks who want to go with Rugga. After the fact, Rugga flees with a bunch of fighters and clansmen to Arberrang, leaving Dagr. You can kill him, make Hakon kill him (which loses you morale; you don't look decisive), or let Dagr go. Letting Dagr go just has him kill a bunch of people on his way out.
It's also worth noting that had we let Dagr and Ludin go behind enemy lines in Lundar, Dagr survives but Ludin dies mysteriously. If Ludin's dead at that point (from Banner Saga 1), Dagr and Aleo go behind enemy lines and both survive. It's only Ludin who can die there. Pretty sure Dagr either murders him or just doesn't bother to lend aid when he gets in trouble.
In our version of this Saga, though, Rugga's on our side. So we gain a shitload of clansmen--he really did get together most of the survivors of the Serpent's attack.
And we're now over 1600 strong on the march to Arberrang.
Of course, that means a LOT of mouths to feed.
So we're going to let the caravan drink their fill. If it's clean, great. If not, well...that's one way of thinnig the herd.
Turns out just fine.
Scanning the woods, you hear and see nothing. As you approach the deer, you can tell the kill was recent. A black stone, half the size of your fist, lays beside the animal. You pick it up, knowing it to be a dredge weapon.
A rustle in the underbrush nearby reveals two hurlers who immediately create deep noises. They are communicating, then one lashes out and attacks you.
We've come full circle. Rook and Alette's first encounter with dredge was when a starving one tried to steal their kill.
Now Alette unknowingly tried to steal some dredge's food.
There's not really much of interest. Despite being solo, we don't fight in PILLAGE! mode. Because Alette will get a turn every other turn, Overwatch is useless here. But she's still strong enough to take care of two pretty weak slingers.
By the way, she now has Mend as an extra ability. Works the same way as Zefr or Eyvind's did. But with only 10 max willpower she's never gonna be amazing with it.
: That's enough! Leave them alone.
"They've killed enough of ours, haven't they?" the woman asks. "Do you think they feel bad about it?" A few clansmen cheer their agreement. "I don't know what they feel," you say, "but they weren't looking for a fight. They were hunting, same as me."
The clansmen seem unsure of what to make of your words. "Take the deer," you command. "Let's get moving." They all agree with that sentiment.
Almost to Arberrang. The outer gates are just atop that next hill.
Another random event. We really don't have the supplies to have a big party.
This gets us some renown and improves morale, at least.
Before we can reach Arberrang, however, we run into more horseborn.
And, like most horseborn, they attack.
With Iver and Eyvind out of the party, it's time to level Hakon and Gunnulf up to 6. The best defense is a good offense, and now that Hakon can tempest and Gunnulf can forge ahead, we will have a great deal of multiple-target flexibility.
Some of these horseborn have just insane ranges. Longer than Alette can overwatch. This is actually a kind of tough battle, made more difficult by the gaps in the bridge that Hakon and Gunnulf will need to walk around.
Oh, and these horseborn have a leader.
Who speaks...gaelic, I guess, given the names and such?
So if anyone knows what this stuff means, lemme know.
This battle gets a little weird when some of the tiles glitch out and things end up standing ON TOP OF Gunnulf and Hakon and we can't target them. Causes us a couple injuries unfortunately.
So I eventually get tired of dealing with it and just have Hakon smash their leader into little pieces.
Oh hey, yellow and blue.
And this horseborn seems to have a better command of our language.
We're treated to a cutscene. I get the feeling the horseborn were a bigger part of The Banner Saga 2 originally because honestly, she ends up something of a minor character and not one worthy of a cutscene.
But she makes a big show of surrendering.
She speaks your language with confidence.
: What do you mean? And who are you?
: I lead herd. I am...
The next word is long, shrill, and confusing, but certain sounds stand out.
Canary smiles and stomps the ground rhythmically with a hoof.
: That easy. "Canary," yes. And you?
: My name is Alette.
: Good greetings. Our stories tell of stranger who come help us. You "two legs that walk along four." My kind with you already.
She points to the horseborn in your ranks.
: That doesn't make me the stranger in your stories.
: You not need believe. We believe. We follow you and join your herd.
She issues a slew of sounds in her native language before translating.
: When sun stops and plains break and a god appears, follow two legs that walk along four. This our story. We hold true. You see these things.
: The sun has stopped and I've seen the ground breaking, but what god are you talking about?
: Large snake, not from this plain.
The Serpent. It certainly could be a god.
: You have seen the god too. You know these signs. You lead us. We follow.
: Most of the horseborn we've met have caused us harm, including you. Many of my people won't want to be near your people.
: Not today, but different day. Herds fight but forget.
: Humans remember things a long time. Varl even longer.
: Herd believes leader. We follow you. Herd grow strong.
She bows again, motions to her people, and all the horseborn join your ranks at a respectful distance.
Well, that's that. Canary and her horseborn join the retinue as we grow even larger. And now we approach our final Godstone on the way to Arberrang.
: They say the moon and stars are always visible at Lauga's godstone. But how?
That's how. It's carved into the underside of a rocky tunnel.
The skald is not the only one smiling. A quick look around reveals grins throughout the caravan. "I see why Arberrang has grown so quickly over the years," you say, and the skald laughs.
: A truth spoken in front of Lauga's stone is supposed to ripple through the night, either strengthening a lover's resolve or carrying away undesired affection.
Aleo skips away to find his wife. You hear the unmistakable clank of Egil's shield behind you.
: Yes. Beautiful.
He isn't looking at the godstone.
: We've come all this way. We've fought dredge, killed a Sundr. Aleo says we're destined to bring all clans together.
: Aleo's a skald, Gil. Storytelling is his job.
His wonder is refreshing. You smile at him. He looks up at the godstone and takes a deep breath.
: Dont' say that. We'll keep each other alive.
: Thank you, but neither one of us could have saved each other like Eyvind saved Juno.
: Okay, giant Serpents aren't part of our deal.
The two of you laugh a bit and Gil relaxes.
His tone is sincere. His eyes hold no expectations.
: And you don't have to love me back, but I had to say it.
: I was hoping you'd say that.
: You...you were?
: Don't act so surprised! You're a brave fighter who always treats me with respect. I hope you know I feel strongly for you too, but until everyone is safe in Arberrang...
: I just needed you to hear it from me and I'm glad you wanted to hear it. If and when you know you love me too, you come find me, okay?
Your eyes feel wet as you smile and nod. Egil grabs your hand and kisses it before leaving.
And that's that for now. We'll have to stay alive if we want the romance to have any more entries.
In Rook's scenario, there's an event here too. Oddleif comes to find Rook and they have a discussion about both being widowed and how that doesn't mean they both have to be miserable. As with Egil, you can decline, but if not, Rook and Oddleif hook up and also find some comfort with one another at the end of the world.
The time at Lauga's stone over, we head off. Next stop: Arberrang.
Oh, I also forgot to do the final training scenario and I might as well go get that renown. It's a little weird since the scenario includes Iver and Eyvind, but whatever.
It's not terribly difficult. Probably the toughest thing to do is to remember to use Aleo's Tale Worth Telling on a wounded unit, then go attack a full strength varl with it.
: ...but why are so many camped outside the walls? They must have seen the Darkness approaching.
Awesome. This again.
The biggest threat has always been other humans, never the dredge. People just can't get along.
And at the first sign of opportunity, Rugga walks off. Not defecting--at least not obviously--but he's not so much following Alette as seeing her as an equal partner. He'll do what he wants.
In short, everything Juno said about Arberrang is true. Even at the end of the world, nobody gets along.
At least Ludin's still alive. That should help.
: Bring them here. Bring Adakan and the others to us.
Some of the folks around the fires look half-starved and gladly join, making their way toward the supply carts. Others pack their meager possessions and fall in line.
Uh...we don't really have food, guys.
Still, the caravan numbers nearly 2000 now.
"What is this?" you ask, confused by all you are taking in. "That's the Peaceful Bit," an older fighters says near you. He looks the type who has seen enough things to lack enthusiasm for much of anything. "The king's men can't kill us from the walls and we can't kill them from here."
Arberrang is already falling apart.
This is Frostvellr and Boersgard all over again.
: We've got an issue. I don't know why, but the other clans don't like the horseborn. Or the varl, for that matter. They're starting trouble and I'm going to stop it.
It really is Boersgard again. We can only choose one even though all 3 are important. We'll go with Oddleif.
: Walk back to your fires or we'll make you wish you had.
The fighters do not respond well to your threat and immediately charge.
We're surrounded and also don't have Hakon, Ludin, or Canary available to us. They've all gone on to do various things inside and outside the city.
But we do have Alette, and that's really all we need.
No great strategy needed here.
As son as you find a stump on which to sit, you spot Rugga coming toward you, backed by Dagr and nearly fifty fighters. Everyone watches out of curiosity more than concern.
: I've discovered what these battle lines are all about. The king's shut his people out. These clans are here to see that he feeds and protects his people as he is supposed to. And they've chosen me to lead that cause.
He laughs at your incredulous look.
: I'm just as surprised, but I need to talk to you in private.
You nod and the two of you enter a large, empty tent. The tent flaps close, leaving you and Rugga alone, both armed.
: I'm not clear on what is happening here.
: I wasn't making stuff up outside about the king. He really has shut all of us out. It started a few months ago when he started stockpiling food and slowing trade. Once the wealthy families were all pulled inside the walls, he shut the gates. The only thing he's said is that he can't feed everyone. Oh, and his archers fire on anyone who gets close.
: To what end?
: That's what the upcoming battle aims to find out.
: You want to go to war to ask the king a question?
: No, I want to go to war to make the king answer a few questions. Like why he'd leave his people outside the walls to starve.
: So you plan to break down his walls?
: That's the last thing I want to do. We need those walls to stop the dredge and whatever else is coming behind them. But if we have to destroy them, we will. Maybe the menders inside can repair any damage. There might be ways past those first few walls, but the Black Wall?
The governor just shakes his head.
: Wait, how did you come to lead the clans?
: Boersgard is...well, was the largest human town next to the capital. You don't become governor of a place like that without certain skills and powerful friends.
: And what are those certain skills?
The governor just smiles.
: So, this war is unavoidable?
: Probably. I officially meet with the king in a few hours to either come to an agreement or pull our banners from his. I won't be surprised if you're invited too, the mighty Sundr-Slayer and army. If so, make your decision carefully.
His tone is not exactly threatening. Not exactly. You move to the tent flaps and both of you open them simultaneously so that no fight breaks out.
Well...great. End of the world on one side, humans vying for scraps on the other.
A bit of good news, though! Stravh's Bond appears in the market and we can upgrade Alette.
And heck, while we're at it the Mask of Andevettr is a upgrade for Egil, too.
Before we head to the Rugga/King Meinolf dialogue, maybe our party members have some useful advice.
: It looks like you're keeping busy.
: I'm playing Fox and Hare with a vole. Do you think foxes ever play Tryggvi and Vole?
He looks disappointed.
: Do you have any ideas on how to keep two groups from killing each other? Any powders or relics or...crazy schemes?
He reaches into his tunic and grabs something, pauses, releases whatever it is, and shakes his head.
: People kill each other every day. Just enjoy the show.
: But if it comes to war, I don't think either side will leave us out of it.
Tryggvi thinks about what you are saying, tapping a fingernail against his teeth. He looks at his finger, sneers, and spits.
: Killing kings requires a lot of lives. It's just as easy to kill clansmen instead. Either way, some will praise you and others will throw dung in your face.
As you watch him crouch back down to the hole, you wonder what possessed you to speak to him.
Maybe our horseborn friends have better advice?
Ro'Ech patrols around the two a short distance away, nodding to you briefly.
: Is everything okay?
: Many mans. More than we know live.
You stop to look around at the thousands of tents in the fields and hundreds of homes beyond the capital's walls.
: I'm from a small village. I'm not used to seeing so many people either.
Scathach stomps the ground and says a few shrill notes to Derdriu before turning to you.
: Derdriu forgets we are not of same thinking with mans. If you think big herd is right, we will think big herd is right.
: But what do you think is right, Scathach?
The male horseborn looks up at Arberrang for a few moments while swishing his tail in thought.
He points up to Arberrang.
: Small fields behind walls.
You thank them for talking and offer them a few calming words before departing.
That was no use. Maybe Aleo?
: We've come all this way for war?
: WIth luck, I might change their minds.
: And be the reed that would stop the wind.
: You've got a lyric for every moment, don't you?
: Of course. Plenty before us have been in similar situations and written about it.
: And if peace is not an option? Is there a skald song for that?
: Plenty. But I'll tell you what I'd do: save the families who cannot save themselves. I can't imagine if my wife and children were left out here, like they don't deserve the same protection as others.
Aleo's words flood your thoughts as you walk away.
Maybe it needn't come to that. Maybe we can talk our way out of war. We'll head to the meeting tent.
This is screaming "THIS IS THE FINAL SAVEPOINT" basically.
: I'm prepared for whatever the king and clans decide.
: I'm glad to hear the confidence in your voice. Just...be careful. I'll be back here with the rest of the clan if you need me.
You smile, and make your way past the line of clansmen marking the boundary of the Peaceful Bit.
BGM: Walls Like Mountains
: ...best we could.
: Well, we've all had easier journeys.
The king's cheerful mood lessens. He is about to say something when he sees you approaching.
: Who's this?
: Greetings, King Meinolf. My name is Alette and I'm from Skogr.
Ludin steps forward.
King Meinolf glances at you and sighs.
You and Ludin both turn red, but you temper your anger as the king addresses Hakon.
: It pains me to hear you've lost so many of your hardy warriors, Hakon, but tell me: where's Jorundr's kendr, Vognir?
: Vognir died protecting your son. I was Vognir's kendr. With Jorundr's death at Einartoft, I'm king of the few remaining varl.
The king says nothing, contemplating the news.
: Your walls are the last hope for my people. No sense in denying it.
: I understand, and of course you'll have refuge here. The least I can do for bringing my son back alive! It'll be tight, but I'm sure I can find a place for you.
: King Meinolf, Alette here is just as much responsible for the prince's safe return. She has quite a few clansmen...
Hakon looks at you and shrugs.
: My name is Alette, King Meinolf.
: And what difference does that make?
: The difference between me showing you respect or not. Don't try to make me feel small by calling me girl or child.
: But you are a--
: What I am is the clan leader of Skogr and I've fought to save every one of my clansmen. That is why they follow me.
The king stares at you and finally nods.
: I can see the resolve in your eyes. You've seen things beyond your years. Unfortunately, it doesn't change how many Arberrang can support.
Only now do you see Rugga, Dagr, and two dozen fighters approaching. The king's guards look concerned.
: I should have killed you when I had the chance.
: You tried, remember?
: You will never enter my gates again. I'd hoped you died in Boersgard. How is it you've come to speak for all of these clans?
: The people you've turned your back on? Seems they needed a leader they could trust.
: Again, how have you come to speak for them? Did you fool them like the people of that rotten town you governed?
: I doubt either of you will be in charge of anything when that Darkness washes over us!
: I've got the Valka and menders seeing to that inside. They'll come up with something. And even if they fail, I'll still be able to watch this bastard fall to that Darkness from my walls.
: There's the true heart of the Meinolf I know. Alette, look at your people out there - our people. They need food and clean water - not that poison in the river. They need protection. You cannot allow this king to keep us from safety after all this way!
: A place insdie the walls alongside the varl. A place this faen man will never be allowed again.
: That's enough! Both of you are bickering like children instead of leaders!
: And you, giant. Joining this king after all we did to keep your people alive. Traitor!
Hakon growls and flexes his grip on his axe. All parties look angry and tense...and then they look at you.
War seems inevitable. Which side will we be on?
A.) "My banner, my people are my only concern." We can't save everyone. The king has offered to take in our whole caravan--including Hakon's varl. That'll still leave thousands if not tens of thousands to die.
B.) "Rugga's right: too many will die here for so few inside." Just because we can't save everyone doesn't mean we shouldn't try! Though Ludin, Yrsa, and possibly Hakon (who can accept/reject Meinolf's offer of safety independent of Alette) will be really pissed off.
What's it going to be?