Part 40: Day 93: Ingrid
"I hope others would do the same for me. Dredge are nothing we haven't faced before." Iver grunts, but otherwise says nothing. "Besides, it might throw Bellower off the scent a bit." You head a day's march out toward Haukstorp.
Well, I think we all knew this was going to happen. To arms!
I am starting to get really tired of those damn slingers.
So: Two Slag Slingers, two Slinger Marksmen, one Slinger Veteran, one Spark Slinger, one Blind Slinger, one Enranged Grunt, one Stoneguard. Highest enemy Strength on the map is 11, which is nice.
Morale dropped to rock bottom on that last day, so we're at -2 Willpower. Fortunately, we're close enough that we can already start getting kills.
At least it's a Stoneguard, and not a proper Colossus!
Krumr is positioned to be able to hit it while also starting to move around it, still blocking it from reaching the back line, and not spending any will.
Positioning means less than normal in this fight because the enemy has so many damn ranged units. A Sunstrike drops Iver's Exertion to 0.
Next turn, we'll be able to hit all these people. For now, the only convenient target is the Stoneguard.
Oddleif is a tile short of doing anything useful, so Armor harass it is.
This was quite lucky - an enemy slinger just burned 2 will on a Strength attack from below the Armor threshold. If this hadn't deflected, it would've done 3 damage.
And that's the Stoneguard turned into a non-issue!
It's fights like these where Eyvind is at his strongest - lots of targets to bounce lightning off of. 15 Strength damage total here.
Interrupting the Stoneguard before it can do some actual damage to Ekkill, who has taken a few Armor pokes by now.
This seems like a bad move at first, but now Ekkill is down to 4 Armor. He's probably not going to last the fight.
My original plan was for Krumr to order Eyvind to the top of the initiative so that he can cast Mend, but he's not close enough. So instead, more slinger softening.
Uh oh. 2 Armor left.
Quick, Ekkill! Be useful!
That's a kill!
Well, it was nice knowing you.
There is a 50% chance I have a plan. It all depends on how a certain Slinger moves on its next turn.
Crossing my fingers here...
YES! He stayed still!
Now, an advance apology to Iver.
Iver's down to 7 Strength, but he still has 13 Armor, so I think that's OK. This would have been even better if I was allowed to cast Arc Lightning on allies.
Eyvind just took down three enemies at once.
2 Armor, 1 Strength.
The highest enemy Strength on the map is now 8!
I'm just going to start killing dredge now.
Ekkill drops. If I get a chance to promote him again, I should give him more Armor.
Oddleif isn't quite putting out enough damage here. She's a monster against melee teams or teams with lots of large targets, but this is a bad matchup for her.
No meaningful threats remain on the map.
The rest fall in short order.
Remarkably, as you're about to leave, you find an old man sitting quietly in a tattered market stall, with a couple items in front of him. He hums to himself as if nothing were wrong, and seems to be in shock. Your clansmen gather him into the caravan before you leave.
So! Welcome to Haukstorp.
It's a shithole.
The market contains no supplies, and two items that I don't want to spend 15 Renown on.
Instead, I spend that Renown to promote Iver, giving him +1 Exertion and +1 Strength. He also takes that puzzle box from Eyvind.
The road to Sigrholm is still long. On our left will be the Lang Loom forest, famous for having rows of trees here and there in perfect lines, thought to be planted by the Loom-mother herself.
This road, Sten's March, is named after a man who hoped to find rich new lands to the northeast. Instead, he found the miserable hellhole that is Setterlund.
There is nothing for us here. No time to waste.
Day 93. Morale is terrible.
"I think you just ruined her dream of marrying a varl boy," you say, timing your smile just right. The giant grins, then throws back his head with booming laughter. Other varl join in the mirth, and the caravan feels a bit uplifted for it.
The giant explains, "We live in the North for its space. Endless miles of snow, ice, mountains, fields. Space to be alone. But here, there is no time for such things." Understanding slowly trickles through the caravan, relieving some of the tension.
Not enough to get us out of morale hell, apparently. Day 94.
BGM: On the Hides of Wild Beasts
Lot of godstones around these parts, it seems.
Ingrid's godstone is carved with ancient runes which don't make much sense to you, though Eyvind tells you some of the menders have deciphered them. It's how the menders learned the language of the gods. Past the largest stone, a long series of slabs contains more writing, all the way down the hill. The odd thing, he tells you, is that the writing occasionally changes depending on who is reading it. Usually it describes the history of the gods, but it can be about nearly any topic. Sadly, Eyvind doesn't know how to read it, himself. Juno could, he says.
As you're readying to depart, you hear screams from near the main godstone. THe same boys so curious about the dead dredge before are shrieking and pointing. For a moment, you think it must not have been dead, but then you see that they have opened a wrapping that was in the dredge's hands.
"Wait," says Iver, his arm across your chest. "This shouldn't be seen. Get everyone away..." A chill sweeps over you. Alette pushes past and gasps. "Stop!" shouts Iver, but the curious onlookers have already seen it.
On the ground before the dead slinger is a small stony figure, its hands searching for something it can't find.
That's a... baby.
That dredge is a woman?
We've been killing women... we've been slaughtering women and children this whole time? Leaving them to die?
In a war, it's only the males who fight.
We've been fighting these dredge the whole way. Why are women with children on their backs attacking us?
Everyone stops dead in their tracks. The entire caravan is gathered around, aghast.
When I spoke to Juno, she told me something was coming. She didn't know what. A darkness. Something black is covering the world, and the dredge are running from it just as we're running from them. The serpent, the quake... it's all the beginning of the end.
Iver, you knew! Why? Why didn't you say something?
When I was young, I killed one of the Sundr. During the second great war. We called it Raze. Every time we would build our defenses, it would flatten them, and push us back again. I became separated from the rest of the varl, and stumbled upon Raze deep in a snowstorm. Alone. She was nursing.
I threw my axe, it twisted in the wind... her son died in her arms. She was so pathetic, kneeling in the snow. She didn't even try to stop me when I took her head. That's how I killed a Sundr. When I found my way to Grofheim, the varl wanted to make me kendr. Next to be king. I left. Walked until I ended up in Skogr. Where no one knew what I had done.
The only sound is the wind blowing through the trees.
The dredge infant is still alive. We have a choice to make.
Do we vote for the child's fate, take it with us, leave it behind, or not get involved with the decision at all?
Voting will last 24 hours.