Part 13: Day 13: Bersi & Yrsa
Will do. Give the word and we'll set off.
As an interesting aside, here's Banner Saga dev Chewbot's commentary about what this decision does:
Well, in light of the recent discussions about story I'm afraid this will be terribly anti-climactic, but the effect of your decision on your approach to Schlid (kill every slag, be careful, etc) is: absolutely nothing. It's the only time I made what looks like a major choice do nothing. The reason was that in playtesting, players didn't understand who Hakon was, and sometimes had no idea what he was supposed to be doing. Character confusion was originally a very big problem. Some players (like John Walker from Rock Paper Shotgun) didn't even know they had jumped to a different caravan. We found that the confusion cleared up when the player was forced to "choose" what they were doing, even if all it does it make them identify how they intend to play the game.
So, this is Vedrfell. For starters, let's look at the map as a refresher.
We haven't come far yet. Our next destination is north, to Schlid.
Hraun is the great northern territory where the dredge gathered during the second great war - while the southern lands are mostly human territory, this place is almost entirely varl. Our road will take us past the Hanged Man, a solitary peak between two passes. On our right will be the Brattabreck Peaks, formerly thought to be the northern edge of the world until people explored this far west.
Only four heroes on this side right now - Ludin's not in fighting shape, and there's nobody new.
Promotion for Hakon from back in chapter 1. His Break and Exertion are both fine, and his Strength is quite impressive, so 2 points of Armor it is.
Promotion for Eirik, too. A point each in Strength and Break.
Now, some people wanted to talk to me.
Steady old Mogr, which is good. I know most of these varl, but they're not under my command. They came to follow Vognir.
Tell you the truth? I wouldn't want to be in your position, either.
Throw together this many varl, half of them want to hit each other, the rest want to be left alone.
Anyone I should keep a eye on?
There's a couple of clan leaders trying to show off for each other. Not a big deal, I've got it under control. The fighters we just got from Strand aren't bad, but they're unruly. Give it a few days. And there are a few moaning about fighting for you, instead of Vognir. Those are the ones to worry about.
What about Ludin's men?
They don't want to hear anything from me, I know that.
Could be. Ludin's pet varl is named Bersi. I'm not sure where he came from or what his deal is. Bastard knows how to fight but there's something I don't like about him. His girl in red is scary, too. Yrsa. She's probably the best fighter Ludin's got, to be honest. I've overheard some of the varl call her "the witch".
The flaming arrows, I think. It's a good trick, but the fire upsets our varl more than the dredge.
Still doesn't make much sense. Witch?
They're not scholars, Hakon. I think they're mostly just afraid of her.
That makes sense. Don't let her find out.
More than I am? Any more rope and I'd hang myself.
I doubt that.
I forget, you weren't around back then. At one point I had more rope. I hung myself. So no, I'm not interested in command, it's all yours.
This many varl? No, we should be all right. Things could get rough, though.
I don't like being the one to send varl to their deaths. I like worrying about myself, and that's the extent of it.
Who would've expected Vognir to drop like that to a couple of slag?
I'm still wondering what happened. He had hundreds of dead slag to his name. I don't get it.
Just happens sometimes. No big moment. I'm sure it surprised him even more than us. Although, I have to wonder... nah, never mind. Anyway, I'll worry about the warriors. You worry about not doing anything stupid.
That's asking a lot.
I'd rather not say, Hakon.
It's the kind of thing that'd get stuck in your head, and you need a clear one. It's better if you let me worry about it.
How did Vognir die?
He ran into dredge. Wasn't expecting it.
When we found him he was lying face down, like he was struck from behind. Did he really get taken down by some random slag? Who else was there?
You think Ludin...?
He probably didn't, but...
Dammit. We should keep an eye on that bastard. If you see anything else, tell me.
Let me know if you need anything else.
You knew him well, didn't you?
Always rushing around with some important business, but I never knew him. Never got a chance to talk much.
Longer than I did, in any case.
I suppose so. When he spoke, varl listened. I knew that.
I could use help there.
The scrivener leans back, considering the sentiment.
I've seen worse. They respect you for your ability to swing an axe. They need to respect you for your actions. But you're not talking to the right varl. Mogr's got some skill there. Most I can do is hold a quill.
How do you mean? What do I write? I write what happens.
They've got a banner in Arberrang for that, you know.
You mean the Long Banner? Yes, the Menders wove something up that writes its own history. You want my opinion? I don't trust it.
It tells a broad story. I think there's some value in the narrow. Whose story does it write? Mine? Theirs? Ludin's? ...Gods forbid.
Hah, you relic. The gods have been dead a long time.
Oh, have they? Old habits, I suppose.
Do you know how old I am?
Dare I ask?
I'm competing, you know. Nobody knows how old we varl can get. Naturally. There's one by the name of Snorri. He's got a few years on me, just hunkers in Grofheim collecting rime. Bastard might actually beat me. Another one named Krumr is close, I think, but the addled son of a bitch still welcomes a fight. He'll probably be offed before I am. Although...
The scrivener gestures around him as to remind you of the current situation. You chuckle.
Anyway, point is, what difference does it make? I'm just a delivery bairn for Jorundr now. Can't remember half what I've done.
Hence the journal?
Hence? Don't get fancy on my behalf, Hakon.
Okay, I won't.
Gods, how should I know? Never seen something like this before.
Are you worried? Some varl in the caravan think the world's coming to an end. Others think it's the best thing that could happen. No more black months.
I'll take it. If it's the end, I'm ready.
What about the rest of us?
To the depths with you.
I've hoofed more hills than a horseborn with a grudge. Don't worry about me.
Speaking of marching, it's time to do just that!
Rook's caravan is a band of refugees. Hakon's caravan is an army.
Morale is good, supplies will last us two months easy.
You voted discretion, so let's just hope Strand doesn't cave in on itself before those dredge reach it.
"If we go chasing down every pack of dredge on the horizon, we'll be out here for a year," you add. He says no more.
No explicit losses, but the other options would have earned us more Renown. As the end of the day nears, Ludin flags me down.
You can hear Ludin's hard-booted trot as you set up camp the first day, and brace yourself.
We can try.
Then listen carefully. Don't assume only the varl can fight. Do you understand me? That is my banner we fly to Grofheim, the banner of Arberrang. I insist on joining in battle.
Almost gutted in your first encounter and ready for more? Whatever you like, prince.
And... uh. I expected more resistance.
From Vognir, maybe.
They tell me you were his kendr. That's why you're in charge now. Some sort of next of kin... varl thing?
You better start. We'll both be kings some day.
That's the last thing I need to think about right now.
Ludin looks at you as though you just punched yourself in the face. He heads back to his tent before saying whatever was on his mind.
Camp, and some new faces around.
As you approach Bersi, he lowers the book he was reading. He doesn't strike you as the book-reading type.
I had some questions.
Say what you want to say.
What's a varl doing working for another varl? What difference does it make? It looks like you're in charge right now, so do me a favor and don't get Ludin killed.
He's important to you?
No. But that's one way to put it.
Same way as you. By fighting.
You know what I mean.
I robbed well-protected merchants for at least one man's lifetime. Is that what you mean?
Yeah. Not anymore?
I've had a lot of jobs.
What a loaded question. Depends on what you mean.
Whose back will you have if things go wrong?
Assume I'm looking out for myself and you'll figure it out.
Does Ludin understand that?
Ludin doesn't even understand that half his army is here just to protect him from the people he talks to.
See you on the battlefield, oh leader of varl.
You could join us.
I'm where I want to be. Don't forget what I said... about keeping Ludin alive. Got it?
As you step away, you can't help but wonder if there was a bit of threat behind that gravelly request.
What a cheerful fellow. Next up, Ludin's witch.
She watches you approach with her head tilted back, and points a thumb toward Ludin's tent.
No, here for you.
Can we talk?
Yrsa shakes her head 'no', a smile on her lips, eyelids low.
You do, though.
She raises an eyebrow.
Varl and fire don't get along.
All you get is a shrug.
If you're going to use them...
She pulls an arrow, there's a flick of the wrist you don't quite catch. Suddenly, a bird combusts in the tree behind you and falls to the ground, smouldering. Half the camp has turned to watch.
Don't tell me not to.
No, he's mine.
Before you have the chance to be confused, she cackles, abrupt and loud, then looks slightly embarrassed.
You are his personal guard, though?
Her expression changes to "of course".
How did you end up with someone like Ludin?
She crosses her arms, a hand on her chin, and cocks her head to one side.
Until next time, Yrsa.
You stop, and look over your shoulder.
I am a witch. So be careful.
She puts her forefinger to her lips with a soft "shhh". You depart, not quite sure what to make of that.
Ludin's first foray into battle was not impressive, but that does't mean he's useless. Very similar to Tryggvi, he comes in with decent Exertion and Strength (for a human).
Bersi is built like Gunnulf, with the same Tempest ability, but his low Exertion and Break will make him a little hard to use at first. Gunnulf is stronger, but has less Armor.
Yrsa is a very dangerous person. Her stats are nothing amazing (although her Willpower is good), but she can damage multiple enemies at once while laying down burning coals with her arrows.
Armed with a new band of merry lunatics, we hit the road once more. Since we're up to 7 heroes now, let's have a vote: Which hero should I leave behind if I have to fight?
Voting ends in 24 hours.