Part 8: Day 5: Hridvaldyr
We depart for Frostvellr at a steady pace. We'll rest if things get too dire, but won't be taking things too easy, either.
You make your way to the rear and hoist a small child onto your shoulders. "Fight for every step! Remember those who didn't make it and push onwards!" The clansmen see your effort and follow suit, pushing themselves harder.
Stopping early would have made it take longer to reach Frostvellr. Slowing would have done less so, but also would have reduced morale. Keeping a steady pace without a speech would have resulted in some stragglers getting lost.
On day 6, we come across something interesting.
After a day of misery, men and women drop their meager possessions beneath the godstone of Hridvaldyr.
What are we doing? We just left our homes because suddenly there were dredge.
Chieftain did what I suggested and look what he got for it.
Look at these people. Somebody has to hold them together.
Lie? Tell them everything's going to be all right? Gods, Rook, I don't know. Pretend you know what you're doing. That's what the rest of us do.
Thanks for the advice.
Then do whatever you want. Let them fend for themselves if you can live with it. You humans are absurd, Rook. Furious when you're not in control, terrified when you are.
Think of how I feel. I'm stuck nursing a bunch of weaklings.
You do care, I can tell.
Feh, men are a plague on the world worse than any dredge, as far as I can tell.
Chats like this are why we get along so well, Iver.
You sleep poorly, the sun forever stuck to an eternally bright sky. Before the others rise, you find yourself staring over long, low hills covered in pine.
The weathered stone doesn't see many visitors. Not much reason to travel so far east. When hunters come through, they sometimes stop to give offerings, out of habit more than anything else now that the gods are dead. Hridvaldyr was the god of hunters and of wild beasts, occasionally seen roaming the land as both a man and a wolf. He was always depicted in effigy with his terrible spear. You wonder what he'd think about his woods being full of dredge now.
A young girl from the caravan approaches you. "I made this for you," she says, handing you a crude necklace carved from a branch she must have found nearby. "Thank you for saving my mama," she says, before running back to her tent.
Back at your tent you rouse Alette, who clings to your arm until she's completely awake. Bad dreams. Eventually the camp is broken down and it's time to move on to Frostvellr. It feels like an end more than a start.
Day 7 begins with a new piece of equipment, as we pass the godstone.
Still no sign of Frostvellr, as we return to the main road.
On one hand, more mouths to feed. On the other hand, people who now how to hold a spear might be useful soon, and so will that watering hole, if it's real.
"If you'll be no trouble, come along," you say. The me cautiously join your ranks and prove trustworthy. The hidden watering hole nearby is teeming with animals and soon your supplies are nicely restocked.
That stretches our supplies for another four days!
Day 8, however, starts with some trouble.
Oh, please, we're vikings.
You look around at all the bruised and bloodied faces, then lift your own horn of mead. "Skal!" you shout with a smile. "Skal!" the younger warriors shout back. The merriment spreads and soon everyone is laughing and drinking again.
The caravan is visibly relieved to find a small village on the way to Frostvellr, with beds and fresh supplies. The local here are shocked by the news you bring and discus it amongst themselves while you set up nearby.
Welcome to the middle of nowhere! First of all, let's check on our progress.
Looks like a little under halfway to Frostvellr, 3 days after our departure. We're making decent progress.
I made some good Renown during the evacuation and on the road, so I'll buy out their supplies. Equipment:
Singing Stone: A rare crystal that, when struck, creates a pleasing sound, often strung on weapons with melodic effect. +2 Will per kill.
Horseskor: Shoes made from the hooves of horseborn have long been rumored to make one fsater, if not cold-hearted. +1 Movement, 10% chance to dodge Strength attacks.
I'm skipping both.
The rune I got back at the godstone is a fine item. I'll give it to Rook for now.
For 5 Renown, I promote Iver, adding a point of Exertion and a point of Strength.
Next, checking up on the local youngster.
You find Egil just outside the camp, practicing his sword swings.
I saw you taking some hard hits out there.
Oh. Yeah, I'm great. Er, not great, considering everything that's... I'm fine. My arm's fine. It's a strong shield. It's Rook, right? I know we haven't... talked much. Before now. But if you want, just call me Gil.
I wanted to let you know that I meant what I said before. About making sure nothing happens to Alette.
Well, she's... I don't want her to get hurt.
You can see his cheeks turn bright red.
Don't worry, she can take care of herself, too.
I know, I didn't mean...
Easy, Gil. I know what you meant.
Yeah, I doubt there's many. My father made this. It's solid metal, really heavy. But I've been practicing with it since I was a kid. I used to spend a lot of time just getting used to lifting it.
He raises it up to show you.
I'm pretty good with it now. It's the only thing of my father's I have left. Then, when my mother died... she gave it to me, before she died.
Did he say that? That's good. Never had to fight anything like dredge before, but... I don't have much else to do, and how many people get to train with a varl? Just seems like... I could be a help to someone. That's what I want to be.
I will. Oh, and if you need something, let me know. I can do anything you need. Between you and Iver, we're going to be okay, I can tell.
Tryg just can't hold still, can he?
Triggvi turns his head, eyes wide as though something was stalking him.
Oh, okay. Why are you here?
They eat, eat, eat, don't know how to kill a thing, Rook.
He rolls the "R" in "Rook" gratuitously while holding out his spear for you to inspect.
Look at this thing. They grow on trees. You can make this from a tree. My advice? Show them how to stick some pigs, or... stick a rabbit. A bird. You can stick almost anything, Rook.
Have I always been Tryggvi? Dumb question, Rook. Look, I hear what they say behind my back. "Tryggvi's handsome, Tryggvi's brave." But you're the right man for this job. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
Glad you finally asked. Don't trust a man, just because they have faces and use their mouths. A man will look at you right through his helmet and lie.
Should I trust you, Tryggvi?
Come on, Rook. Am I wearing a helmet?
I get it. We all got things to do. Me, I was about to go swimming.
At least you're keeping clean.
Nobody comes looking for you in a pool of water, you know. Don't let me waste too much time there, okay?
We'll come get you before we leave. I'll see you around.
Only if you keep your eyes open, Rook.
You can't help but hope there was nothing sinister about that last comment.
And with that, we hit the road once more. As soon as we do, though, we run into more trouble.
What's going on?
I'll have you both gutted before I let half the village desert!
Behind the angry villager, a mob of armed thugs have appeared, all furrowed brows and nervous stares.
You both know what will happen to the rest of us if the fields are abandoned! Nobody leaves!
We thought that's how it went, ourselves.
A good number told me to my face they didn't want to be beaten to death by dredge.
Dredge, my ass! I don't know what the scam is this time, Hogun, but you've got two choices. Get back to work, or I'm finally putting you in the ground.
Mogun, what do you say? Thought it was unfair that he only asked me.
Mogun draws his axe slowly, followed by Hogun. Despite their confidence, the brothers are significantly outnumbered.
Decision time! Do we side with the village, side with the brothers, or not get involved? This has the potential to get ugly.
Voting will be open for 24 hours.