Part 43: Day 98: Onef
The first vote was to stay, but when we do...
You agree that it is time to go. Eyvind casts his eyes upon the ground, but doesn't protest. The caravan packs up and prepares to leave.
I was going to stop here for a third vote, but let's not kid ourselves about the outcome.
You pack everything up and take as much weight off the wagons as you can. Soon you're walking through ankle-deep water and thick mud, hoping that the rest of the caravan can hold out.
The footing is sticky and slow, but the water isn't too deep outside the town. It takes a while, but you manage to cross the enormous mud-pit outside of Sigrholm with an intact, if cranky, caravan of people.
It took a couple days to cross, but now we're good.
So, someone correct me if I'm wrong, but my understanding of Sigrholm is this: If you continue to stay after that heavy-handed warning that you shouldn't, then nothing happens. You can stay there until your food supplies run out and everyone starves to death, and Juno will never find you there.
So, where are we going next?
Still ever southward, to Boersguard! A mess of a city where people go to buy things nobody else is willing to sell, where the rich are extremely rich and the poor are extremely poor.
Sounds marginally preferable to the dredge, but there's a slight problem: I don't think our food is going to last us that long.
Day 103. 5 days of supplies remain.
Morale has bottomed out again.
Several volunteers search the building with weapons drawn. Just as they are announcing an 'all-clear', a varl leans against a support, which gives way and a third of the structure crumbles. Luckily, no one is injured, but you leave the crumbling building behind.
Day 104. 4 days of supplies remain.
How well do you know the people travelling with us?
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.
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 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.
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 lightning 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?
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.
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 the 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 mean appear between you as Iver steps into view, as fearsome as you've ever seen him.
To the full extent of my knowledge, it isn't possible to talk Onef down. He made up his mind about this a long time ago.
And now he'll pay the price.
The enemy force is one Archer, one Bowmaster, three Raiders, two Thrasher Veterans, and a Raider Shieldsman. Eight against six.
We're surrounded, so this is gonna be ugly. My plan is to just hit the south front as hard and fast as I can.
Iver spends four will on the first turn. He could have gone for the other Thrasher more easily, but I have a plan.
I just decided that the Archers have to go.
And so one does!
Ekkil softens up the second Thrasher for Gunnulf to kill...
...but the first Thrasher moves into position to block him. Uncharacteristically clever, this one.
If Gunnulf moves to attack, the second Thrasher will be able to take of as much as six Strength. Instead, he moves to back up Krumr.
Denied the juicier target, the Thrasher Thrashes Rook for 2 Armor and 2 Strength damage. This isn't really a problem for the likes of Rook.
Rook doesn't need Strength to operate.
Gunnulf and the other Warhawks thrive when they have time to sit back in the early parts of the battle. A surrounding engagement like this one is murder to the poor varl.
Eyvind just clocks him in the goddamn head for an instant kill. Six on six.
This loser is going next, so let's make sure he doesn't do anything useful.
The enemy force is already well in hand, really.
This guy here is the only one left with more than 7 Strength.
This guy should be nice and easy to manage now.
Useless, but all Gunnulf can do. Both of these guys are down to 1 Strength.
A second Thrash drops Rook to 4 Armor and 6 Strength. That's actually fairly dire.
So, he falls back to where it's safer and empties another Armor bar.
Gunnulf is down to 7 Strength. This might become a problem soon.
A quick casting of Mend puts Rook back in safe territory.
I could kill this guy, but he's at 1 Strength and going next, whereas the one after him is the strongest enemy on the field. Iver is content to loom for now.
And then Krumr can do this!
Time to start the killing spree.
Looks like it wasn't useless after all! Gunnulf scores two kills with one strike.
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.
You cringe as much in pain as at the appearance of Alette after her bloody struggle with Onef.
No, I'm... 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.