Part 32: Day 77: Juno
I can stop and spend Renown, but I don't have enough to do anything meaningful with it.
Let's see what Eyvind has to say.
Yes. Probably. Give me silence.
Nearly three hours pass silently as Eyvind plies his trade. Flesh slowly forms and closes across Iver's torn frame.
That... is as much as I can do. He should make it...
The mender looks exhausted, leaning heavily against the bed.
When was the last time you slept?
A couple... days ago... I'm okay. Just need to sit.
Before you can catch him, the mender crumbles to the floor.
You also realize that a monumental serpent is speaking to you, now. Your last certainty was that you died some time ago... and that it is about to happen again.
You are slow to understand the serpent. It speaks in a language that recalls very ancient memories of words you learned long ago.
If you are not going to die, I suppose we must speak instead. Who are you?
You are a Juno? It means nothing to me. Maybe I have asked the wrong question.
Do you ask the hammer what the blacksmith is making? This conversation becomes more meaningless by the word. What do your prophecies say? The gods gave you prophecy. Fate. Destiny. Is there no child coming to slay me with a magic sword? Are there no stars in the sky foretelling this disaster?
Dead? How is that... are you a god? No. The gods are silent, and before me stands one who knows not what they have done. Listen carefully now, for I will give you a prophecy. I am the end. Do you understand? This world, and this tapestry, I would devour. It is my purpose. But I cannot. Instead, now comes a wall of night to consume your pitiful world.
Wall of night? The dredge?
Dredge? Stone men marching across a long bridge? No. It is darkness. The egg white that has turned black. I am meant to devour the tapestry itself, not idly witness the dusk smother this rock. I am incomplete! A worm crawling through a dung field! Because of you! Who are you to take my destiny? What are you?! Return what is mine!
Ju, Juno? You're alive... You're alive! How?! Where are you? Wait, where am I?
Asleep, I presume. Or unconscious. I am in Ridgehorn, I think. A serpent was trying to kill me, now I'm talking to you. Time is moving strangely. I've lost swathes of memories. But I found you. For a short time, at least. The serpent said something about a long bridge. So I took a guess.
It came after you? We saw it at Einartoft. Are you okay?
It tried to urn me to ash after we spoke. I'd be surprised if that's the last we've seen of it.
It could tear the land apart or crush cities if it wanted. What do we do?
It gets worse. A prophecy of the gods that I've never heard of.
There are still prophecies out there?
It was vague, sounded like that serpent was supposed to swallow the world. Instead, some kind of darkness or nothingness is seeping from the north. It devours whatever it touches.
That would explain why the dredge are swarming on us like someone kicked an ant hill.
Eyvind, are you in danger?
You could say so. Bellower is here. The varl are holding him off, but not for much longer, I think of all the Sundr, why the immortal one?
Bellower. That is the worst of luck. I would have you come to me, but... we will have to do this the hard way. Listen closely. I will return to Strand and find passage down the Red River. You must leave Einartoft and meet me in Sigrholm.
Juno, we'll never make it to Sigrholm. Bellower is about to overtake us. The varl won't listen to a thing I...
Find a way. Do whatever it takes. I will not be able to contact you again before Sigrholm. Go. And Eyvind...
Just keeping an eye on him. It's not like that, dad. He saved Iver. He might save the rest of us.
Can he hear us? He just moved...
How long was I...?
You were out for a couple days. How do you feel?
Juno. She's alive! I need to meet her in Sigrholm.
Hold on, slow down. Who's Juno?
She's my mentor... on the mender council. She contacted me.
Contacted you how?
She's not like most menders. What happened here since I passed out?
The varl are holding the dredge back, just barely. Bellower has disappeared. Iver is still out of it. Jorundr send Hakon, Ludin and a couple hundred varl away to Arberrang. I don't know how long we'll be able to hold out here.
Rook, I need your help. Take me to Sigrholm. Juno is going to meet us there.
Sigrholm? That's got to be a week away, at least. And just abandon Einartoft?
Maybe, or... no, I could destroy that god-forsaken bridge myself. That would delay the immediate threat, but... Jorundr will never agree to it.
I need to understand a few things, Eyvind.
Look, I know things are... it's, it's a long story. How well do you know history?
We're from a very small town in the woods.
I'll keep it short. You know how men and varl were made... the Loom-mother, the other gods. In the first great war, the armies of men and varl hated each other. They fought bitterly for land and dominance. Then one of the gods create the dredge, and they were such a threat that unless men and varl set aside their differences, they threatened to wipe out both races. So they did. They ended the war, pushed the dredge into the north, and formed an alliance that has held ever since.
The second great war began generations later. The dredge rallied their forces, defeated the varl who wathed the borders, and laid waste to unsuspecting settlements throughout the world. They were led by Sundr, powerful dredge warlords and weavers, like Bellower. He was there in the second great war. Humanity was on the brink of extinction when the inner circle of menders went forth, and finally sent the Sundr and the dredge deep underground. For the most part the dredge haven't tried to return since. Well, until now. Those menders were called Valka. Juno wasn't there herself, but she's from their bloodline.
So another great war has begun?
If I didn't think the world was ending, it would be incredible. Ancient history is playing out before us.
What about the serpent?
That's another story. I... There's nothing in the menders' libraries about that thing.
It must have something to do with the dredge returning.
That seems likely.
I can't completely understand it myself. The last time I mentioned it, he made his mind very clear. He'll let the city, and the rest of the world, fall before that damned bridge.
Not by myself. I could blast it apart, but this bridge wasn't made to fall. It'll take time, and concentration. That's why I need your help. And the varl will try to stop me. It could mean holding off both the dredge and the varl.
I can't stop him, but I believe Juno can. That's why we need to go. We could just leave...
And let the varl die to give us a head start?
It's not my first choice. I've done everything I can on my own.
I understand. Be quick, Rook.
There has to be some way to... I can't believe the varl would be so stubborn!
Speak to Jorundr yourself. He's in the great hall. Maybe you'll have more luck. Or maybe he'll pout your head on a spike. Rook, I hate to put all this on your shoulders, but I've got few friends here. Come to a decision quickly. Either way, we can't stay. We have to make it to Sigrholm. Juno will know what to do.
Well, this is a fine mess we've gotten ourselves into.
Sigrholm is a long way from here. We have to cross the Wyrmscale mountains, then head south down the Summer Path for quite a ways.
This is easy to miss - Eyvind is rank 5, but he starts with all of his points unassigned. I give him +3 Armor for durability, +1 Exertion for movement, and +4 Willpower for mending.
Now, let's go talk to the king of the varl.
I'm not here to argue. I'm telling you that we're dying by dozens every day now. You send our best away with Hakon. How long do you expect us to last?
You asked for this command, Fasolt. Don't let them get across that bridge.
Fasolt takes his leave just as you approach. Not great timing, you think to yourself.
Thank you for the audience.
I forget your name.
Rook, how is Yngvar? Will he survive?
I think so.
Yngvar confronted a Sundr in his youth, during the great wars. He won that fight. None other but the menders have done that. He proved us stronger. Maybe he thought to do it again.
Iver killed a Sundr? How did he end up in Skogr?
You'd have to pry that from him yourself. I don't know. He disappeared when the last king tried to name him kendr.
It occurs to you that Jorundr would not be on the throne now had that happened.
Oh, you have the answers! Wonderful! Come, sit upon the throne! Every man I've ever met thinks he'd rival the gods himself, if only he were in charge. I am over four hundred years old, and I know that I know little. You are a child, an infant, yet you know everything! Listen, human. This story is not about you. If you jumped from that bridge today, the world would not change. Now either help Fasolt retake it or leave my city. I don't care which!
Guards are quick to usher you from the great hall. You don't resist.
And so we face our dilemma. We can take three courses of action.
We could leave now, meeting with Juno as quickly as possible and putting some distance between us and the dredge. Einartoft will certainly fall, and it will all but end the race of varl, but at least the two hundred that Hakon took would remain.
We could destroy the bridge, saving Einartoft from the dredge, but in doing so we would defy Jorundr's will, possibly making a great and powerful enemy.
We could stand and fight, and hope to find a way to convince Jorundr tomorrow.
Voting will last 24 hours.