Part 50: Coda 5: Ekkill and OnefCoda 5: Ekkill and Onef
I'm borrowing liberally from ProfessorProf's LP of The Banner Saga 1 here so that I don't have to replay it myself. If ever you wanted to see a somewhat different telling of the events of Banner Saga 1 (in part because the events themselves are different from our canonical journey), I'd recommend checking it out here.
It's great, and also what got me into the series in the first place.
Anyway, in our journey we barged into the city of Frostvellr, talked to Ekkill, and barged our way out. Kind of a dick move on Rook's part, and one made with player knowledge of what was to come. If we hadn't done that...
You can feel Ekkill sizing you up on the spot, his hand hovering near his axe. He snorts through his nose, changing his mind.
: Good luck, then. Hope we don't meet again fighting for the same scraps.
With the gates closed, Ekkill and his men disappear down dark alleys.
: Hope we know what we're doing.
: Making it up as we go along, Iver.
That ends the chapter. We then do all of Hakon's march before things head back to Rook's POV. In our saga, Rook was camped outside the walls fighting endless waves of dredge (largely so I could get the +1 will/+1 arm per turn item).
If we'd been inside the walls...
The man has a crazed look about him. He stands, axe pointed in your direction, on the other side of a dozen men.
: Ekkill, you son of a bitch!
: Remember what I said? Think carefully about what you want. This is what you get.
Ekkill walks away, leaving you to deal with his thugs.
There's really no explanation (at the time) given for why Ekkill suddenly attacks. Anyway, there's a fight where you beat the hell out of some raiders, and then...
: If we're not murdered in our sleep, it's only a matter of time before the dredge find their way in. There's nobody defending these walls.
You spot ALette looking at one of the thugs. She cocks her head to the side.
: Uh...dad? I think he's still alive.
Iver lifts him to his feet by his tunic. He groans from the pain.
: This guy again?
: Why did Ekkill try to kill us?
: Why would Frostvellr's chieftain put a madman in charge of his guards?
[Onef]: That what he told you? He never put Ekkill in charge. Soon as those gates were shut, Ekkill walked into the great hall and sliced open the chieftain like a narwhal. Saw it myself. Ekkill wasn't a captain. I mean...look at him.
: He was playing us.
: Can't say I'm too surprised. This whole place is a death trap.
: Where can we go?
: By now the dredge have already flooded the south, I'm sure. Wyrmtoe's the only thing that makes sense, across the wastes. I might know someone there who can help us. And the dredge probably won't follow us out over the wastes. They didn't in the great wars.
: Because it's a death sentence? Food's already running low.
[Onef]: I know where Ekkill keeps his supplies. I'll tell you. If you take me with you?
: What's the catch?
[Onef]: No catch. I want out of here as much as you do, just never had anywhere to go. I'm not the only one. Get the supplies and there are plenty of fighters who are desperate to get out of here.
: That might solve a few problems.
: If we're lucky I'll get a chance to put a dagger in Ekkill.
: If nothing else, Ekkill's going to feel it when his food suddenly vanishes. What's your name?
[Onef]: Onef. Why do you...
: Just wanted to know whose face I'm going to break if things go wrong.
I guess ProfessorProf wasn't greedy. If we're greedy and make multiple trips, you get an additional fight as Ekkill discovers you, but you get more supplies and also get a +2 aggro +2 str resist item, the Shepersky Stone. It's pretty good, but wouldn't really be useful until Banner Saga 2.
Before too long, Onef has led you out of the city with his trusted fighters. You prepare to leave the city of Frostvellr behind.
Regardless of how many/how few of the supplies you take, Ekkill will chase you. He can't hold on to power in Frostvellr without Onef. If Onef's dead by your hand (as he was in our game), he won't give chase. But if Onef's in your party, you get another event a couple days later.
[Onef]: Gods be damned. Worse than dredge. That's Ekkill.
"Get ready!" you shout, turning the wagons to form a wall. With weapons drawn, you wait. Eventually you hear a shout on the wind. "Rook, my good friend! We come to parley!" He throws his weapon on the ground and approaches alone.
: Rook! We were good friends! What happened?
: You tried to kill us! Just go back to Frostvellr and leave us alone!
: Ah, Rook, it's your pretty girl. I'm glad nothing happened to her. With the dredge, I mean. My friends, how could I forget everything you've done for me? Broke into the city. Took my warriors. Took one of my best men! How are you, Onef? They treat you well?
[Onef]: Shove it up your ass, Ekkill. If you came out here to kill me, let's get it over with.
: Nothing like that. You must think you know me...or people like me. What'd Onef tell you? I'm crazy? I haven't survived because I'm crazy. I did what had to be done to make it in Frostvellr. The only mistake I made was you. What kind of man are you, Rook? You look like an average man to me. A man worried about his daughter, maybe? Just making his way. But then I look behind you. How many people is that? They follow you. They fight for you. Why?
: I protect my kin.
: It's more than that, isn't it? You think everyone was born to lead? Make hard decisions? Who do these people think you are? You saved them. You're a hero. Maybe that's more important than who you really are.
[Onef]: What's your point, Ekkill.
: I'm your prisoner, Rook. Bind my hands. Frostvellr is done. I can't survive there, thanks to you, my good friend. You may not have cut my throat, but you sentenced us to death. I don't believe that's who you are.
: Is this some kind of apology?
: You can't trust me. I know that. Take me and my men, as prisoners, if that's what it takes.
Ekkill looks at the ground, and the words come slowly to him.
Killing Ekkill just...kills Ekkill. Doesn't stop Onef from betraying you. Abandoning them will start a fight, but has the same effect.
If you take the men as prisoners, you get a bunch of clansmen--remember, this is Banner Saga 1 where clansmen are just additional mouths to feed with no useful purpose from a gameplay standpoint. If you let them join you, you get a ton of fighters, and Ekkill joins as a hero. (If you take them as prisoners, you can recruit Ekkill as a hero after the Onef betrayal event, but that's so much later in the game that you'll probably never use Ekkill.)
: We need fighters. You fight the dredge like the rest of us. You fight for everyone now, not just yourself. If you even look the wrong way at a single man, woman, or child in this caravan, there will be no hesitation about killing you on the spot.
: You do us a greater honor than I had hoped, Rook. These people are right to follow you. You'll have no trouble from us. I may be reckless, but I pay my debts.
The caravan eyes them suspiciously, but they try to fit in, following your orders. You expect to hear complaints about this later. Things are definitely becoming complicated.
We don't hear from Ekkill much after that until this event:
: I feel like things are changing so quickly. It's not just that. Everything is going so wrong. I've been talking to Ekkill a lot...
This gets your attention.
: What has he been telling you?
: He told me how he and Onef are kin. Ekkill had a sister who married Onef, but she died a long time ago. They've been bound since, but then Onef left without him. Just left him behind without a word. That's why he came after us.
Eventually, you find Onef back at camp and relate the story.
[Onef]: Is that what Ekkill told you? It's true about his sister. She died of a fever when we were just married. Surprised he opened up like that. He wasn't the same after she died, though. So I left him in Frostvellr. He'd be fine one day, ready to kill his own men the next. Sometimes he would. I'd make the same decision tomorrow.
You march directly over to where Ekkill has been forced to stay, far from the rest of the caravan.
: Who's giving wrong looks? Your girl came to me. Nice of her, I thought, seeing as how she's the only one who gives a damn about the people around here.
: What in the depths is that supposed to mean?
: Look at you. Running around, saving everyone's hide, making decisions. Good for you. What kind of life is that? Miserable. Are you making it worth living? I see Alette helping the women, cooking food, taking care of the old, playing with the children. Talking to outcasts. Did you know she sews up the wounded every time you get them bloodied in a fight? Remember when I said you were a leader? Yeah, they join you.
: I know my daughter.
: Oh, I get it. You think I'm calling you a poor father? No. All I'm saying is don't ask her to change who she is. These people need one of her. Not two of you.
Which, given how Alette and Rook both behave with the other one dead, and how they have to grow in order to deal with the loss, is spot-on. Ekkill's pretty observant.
We don't hear from Ekkill again until the Onef betrayal event. This is about a week outside of reaching Boersgard, REALLY late in the game.
: What's on your mind?
[Onef]: How well do you know the people travelling with us? How many strangers are in the caravan now?
: Is this about Ekkill?
[Onef]: That's an obvious example. I've been watching folks since I joined you. Your companions from Skogr, they're loyal. I mean, it seems pretty clear they'd die to protect you.
: I suppose I'd do the same.
[Onef]: What about the varl? You don't even know half those warriors? You're telling me they have no problem following a man's orders now?
: They joined us voluntarily.
[Onef]: They might voluntarily put a sword in your gut, too. What happens the first time the varl don't want to do what you tell them? If Krumr gave the word, I guarantee at least half would follow. Let's be honest, they could take this caravan by force at any time, if they wanted to.
: What do you suggest?
[Onef]: I suggest growing some balls instead of hoping it all works out, Rook. They're not the biggest problem, though. There's a mender with us. A mender who pulls lighting out of the sky and tells us what to do and where to go. Myself, I think we lucked out when his mentor didn't show up in Sigrholm. Eyvind's just the apprentice? What in the depths is his master capable of? Think about it, Rook. What do you really know about Eyvind? I heard they were found practically dead in the middle of nowhere when the dredge started showing up. Then an enormous serpent shows up at Einartoft after tearing the world in half, takes one look at Eyvind, and bolts. Suddenly they need our help instead of the mender council? How does that make any damn sense?
: Eyvind could have taken control long before now.
[Onef]: A shrewd man with ambitions can be very patient. I'm grateful for what you've done to get us this far, Rook. But it's always been about trust. I think it's time to part ways, so to speak. Nothing personal.
Your vision blurs and blood fills your sight. You gasp again. There's a bird whistle, and camp becomes a blur of motion. Onef's fighters from Frostvellr leap into action, cutting people down, including those who joined later with Ekkill.
As Oddleif turns to fire on the men, Onef runs her through, and pulls the blade from her back without even breaking his stride. She drops like a sack of flour. In one clean motion his blade then takes Egil in the throat before the boy can grab his shield. Onef heads straight for Alette, who freezes in unbridled terror.
You rise to your feet through the pain. Egil and Oddleif are dead. Somehow you find hte strength to cleave the nearest traitor in two, but you can't find the breath to shout. You think your lung might be punctured.
Onef clutches Alette's wrist amidst the commotion, tosses her bow aside, and pulls her into the deep woods. Her eyes meet yours across the campsite. "No..." her lips say, though you can't hear the words. A dozen men appear between you as Iver steps into view, as fearsome as you've ever seen him.
If Egil's dead already, you lose one of the axe brothers. Hogun, I think. Oddleif isn't available in this fight since she's mortally wounded. So's Rook, though he'll fight on just to save his daughter. After killing all the traitors...
In a haze of pain, you start to think you've lost their tracks. Then you hear Alette screaming in the distance, followed by silence. You tear through the trees.
In a small clearing, Alette lies with her back against a tree. Her hands and her clothes are covered in blood. She stares vacantly ahead, unblinking.
Beside her is the body of Onef, an arrow buried in his right eye as if placed there by hand. She looks in your direction and then at Onef. "I killed him," she says.
Note: It was placed there by hand. Onef disarms her of her bow when he grabs her. That's why she's so bloody--she stabbed him in the eye with an arrow. This'll also lose you the "Innocent" achievement, as Alette has drawn blood. Doesn't matter that it's a story beat rather than a combat beat.
You cringe as much in pain as at the appearance of Alette after her bloody struggle with Onef.
: No, I'm...I'm not hurt. I had no choice. Dad, your chest! You're bleeding!
Suddenly she is at your side, putting pressure on the wound.
: I can...I can fix this. Where is my needle? Oddleif! ANYONE!
: Iver! I found them!
Just as your sight goes black, you see Eyvind, Iver and Alette standing over you.
: So he's going to make it?
Your eyes open to the sound of Alette's voice.
: Normally, a wound like that...I only hope I did enough.
: I'll survive.
Alette stops herself from hugging your bandaged chest, pulling your head to her instead. The words come out easier than you expected.
: It's good thing Eyvind was here. She's going to pull through, though it was a nasty wound. We managed to kill most of those traitorous sons of bitches, and the rest fled into the woods.
: There were a lot of people I couldn't save...
: You did everything you could, Eyvind. Nobody expects you to raise the dead.
Eyvind frowns deeply, putting a hand to his forehead.
HAH! Didn't even notice this at the time.
: He thought my leadership would get us killed.
: Utter bastard. All this time we had no idea. Ekkill killed a good half dozen of Onef's men, by himself. He told me Onef was running Frostvellr the whole time. He left Frostvellr behind when he saw a better opportunity. Guess that relationship is over. Ekkill was always the barking dog you put in the yard to find out who your enemies are. It was no accident Onef went after those of us from Skogr.
: He must have thought with us gone, he'd take the banner and the rest would fall in line.
: Or at worst, they'd take all the supplies for themselves and leave the rest as dredge bait. We have to be more careful. We can't just let anyone join the caravan anymore...
: Where do you draw the line, Iver?
: I don't know, Rook. I really don't. None of this changes the fact that Bellower is out there somewhere, following us. That swamp around Sigrholm might buy us some time, but we've got to keep moving.
Your body aches all over, but Iver's right. The road calls. The caravan is already starting to pack up camp.
Let's talk to these two before I put a pin in it.
: How is the wound?
You notice Oddleif wince as she rises to greet you.
: It's doing a lot better.
: When I saw it happen, I thought for sure...ah, well. I'm really glad you're...
: You would have missed me, Rook?
: Without Eyvind, that's all you could have done. Instead, you'll have to put up with my crap a little longer. It still aches like you wouldn't believe, though. Oh, maybe you would. Heard you took a stabbing yourself. I guess things could have gone worse.
: How is your husband doing?
Oddleif's smile falls like a dead weight.
: I'm sorry, Rook. I'm sorry I didn't tell you sooner. He died in Einartoft. It just didn't seem like the right time to let you know. Put that burden on you. I should have said something. It's been lonely without him. I'm glad to have Alette around. And you, Rook.
: What do you think about the caravan?
: You mean, should we start kicking people out? That's a tough one. Usually I'd be the first one to give you a dirty look for suggesting it. On the other hand, I got a sword in my back.
Oddleif thinks for a long moment before sighing.
: Don't send anyone away. Just make sure nothing happens to Alette.
: I'll let you get some rest.
: Okay. Thanks. I'll take you up on that. You know...you're welcome to keep me company. When I'm a little more awake, I mean. I'll talk to you later.
So that's the first inkling that there could be a Rook/Oddleif romance subplot. And as for Ekkill...
: I can never guess with you, Ekkill. I heard you helped drive off the traitors when Onef attacked us. And it leaves me wondering...what's your deal?
: I'm not so hard to understand. Why don't you try asking instead of telling?
: Why didn't you warn us about Onef?
: Didn't I? How many times did I have to call him a traitor before you got the message? What'd you want me to say? "Watch out, Onef's going to murder your whole family!" He didn't fill me in on the details. He was always like that. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if he tried to convince you to off me. But listen, I don't need to know, so keep it to yourself.
: Why did you stick with him?
: I don't know, Rook. Family makes you do weird things. You know what the worst part is? We became kin when he married my sister. She died of a fever one night. But she didn't. She wasn't sick. He killed her. I don't know why he did it. Maybe he just felt like it. I was so furious. I got so angry that I... I wanted him to beg. I could kill him without a second thought, but that, that wasn't enough. I wanted him to feel sick about it. Puke his guts out. And somehow, somehow that turned into... over time. He never cared. And I gave up, and did what he wanted. Don't know how it happened. But when I attacked you in Frostvellr? Guess I'll just say it wasn't my idea.
: You're welcome to stay with us.
: Had no plans to go anywhere. So you're going to let me walk around with my own axe and everything?
: That doesn't mean I'm not watching you.
: I can accept that. You're a good man.
: I need to get going.
: And I need to take a piss. You're not the only busy man around here, you know.
...and that's it for Ekkill. He joins the Raven caravan in Banner Saga 2, though there's an event with him right after the waterfall crossing.
When you go to explore the ruins, Ekkill asks you to let him check it out instead of you. He points out that the ruins look really unstable, and that the group would go to hell if Alette/Rook died. On the other hand, if Ekkill died, nobody would shed a tear and the group would be able to continue. He recognizes how expendable he is and he still wants to help.
If you let him go, he will die here. Otherwise, he's safe until the Death March event in the Raven caravan. (He gets the event instead of Oli, and has no lucky flask to save him. If you don't win the battle, Ekkill ends up dead.)
And at the end of the world, he has a conversation with Iver.
Ekkill's been giving you looks for a while now, and he seems to have finally decided to approach.
: You're Rook's friend.
: Yes. You do know we've traveled together before? After Frostvellr.
: Yeah, I know. I know. Just seeing you around is digging up some ancient history. I don't like how we left things, me and Rook.
Ekkill stares off into the distance, unsure what to say next.
: How did you leave things with Rook?
: I don't know, and it still sticks in my craw. I don't care if people think I'm a bit, you know, myself. But I'm no liar! I begged Rook for my life like a worm, and he never apologized for how he treated me.
: Oh. Do you want me to apologize for him?
: No. But did he ever say anything to you? You know, forget it. I don't know what I'm saying, alright?
It strikes you as odd that Ekkill seems to care so much about Rook's opinion of him.
: Just been thinking about it for a long time, that's all. Wanted to make sure I said it, while I still can.
: You seem to do well with the Ravens.
: Sure, well enough. I guess there's a couple reasons I had a bit of a reputation with the old caravan, huh?
Ekkill smiles from the memory. You can't tell whether he finds it funny or if he's trying to lighten the mood.
: It's a special feeling when a woman clutches her husband's arm just because you walked too close!
: Your name does mean "widower."
: Not even my real name. It's what Onef started calling me to scare the locals.
: Really? What's your name?
Ekkill changes the topic quickly.
: Anyway, the Ravens? None of these folks care about the past. And they don't judge, either. Suits me just fine.
: What really happened at Frostvellr, anyway?
: Feels like so long ago now, even though it wasn't really that long. You remember Onef?
: He tried to kill half the caravan. So...yes.
: Well, the big names in Frostvellr, when the dredge start showing up, they go for each other's throats. They were all trying to come out on top. Nothing surprising about that. Onef, though...he almost did it. Made it look like I was in charge, and everybody believed it because, well...I'm pretty convincing. Onef's got them fighting each other, and he's got me acting like an absolute madman doing all kinds of foul stuff. I'm not the kind to have regrets, but...I don't know why I ever listened to him. He'd been telling me what to do since I was a boy. It gave me some power, I guess. Gave a young, crazy boy the freedom to do what I do. Fun at first. But when things started looking bad, Onef tried to leave me in Frostvellr to save his own skin. Let me take the fall. After all that time, and all those things I did for him. I'm no genius, I'll admit it. But I'm no damned liar! Not like Onef.
Ekkill spits, as if trying to get the name out of his mouth.
: Who's still alive now, ya backstabbing son of a bitch? Me, that's who!
: Let's leave things here.
: Yeah, it's too damned cold to flap our jaws for no reason like this. I said my piece, varl. I'll see you around.
...and that's that for Ekkill. From that point on, whether he lives or dies is up ot the larger story of Iver, Juno, and Eyvind.