Part 53: Day 120: Stravhs
You don't remember leaving the city, but here you are, walking through unfamiliar ground behind Juno. You're alone, aside from hundreds of dredge who are all facing toward an enormous stone head. The hairs on the back of your neck stand up.
You glance nervously around, but the dredge didn't seem to hear her.
It's okay. You can speak. Softly.
Is this where you're going to sacrifice me?
Juno smiles. What could have come across as profoundly creepy looks sincere, instead.
No. The dredge cannot see us. To be more precise, they can see us, but I've convinced them to be unconcerned. I can understand your apprehension, though.
I wish we'd had time for a proper introduction. My name is Juno. I am on the Mender council. You've met Eyvind, my apprentice.
How are you doing these things? Controlling minds? I thought menders built things and healed wounds.
You are right. Menders do these things. Some of us still practice the teachings given to the Loom-mother's first creations. We are called Valka. I believe I am the only one who can influence another's mind.
Then why not take control of Bellower?
I have learned the talent to heal minds, not control them, though even some Valka have trouble believing this. Taking control of Bellower... it is the difference between convincing a child to sit still and telling a starving bear to stop being hungry. The truth is, we're rarely a match for the Sundr any more. Our advantage is that we can train more Valka. It is also our weakness. The Valka pass on and lose their knowledge, while the Sundr simply grow older and more powerful. Bellower is both immortal and beyond my influence. To a point.
Then how do we stop him?
The god of secrets will play a part, as will you.
Do you know of the god Stravhs? Few know this stone exists, even amongst those who have lived their whole lives in Boersgard. While Denglr deals in fortune, Stravhs taught men the value of trade in a different way. He showed them it has consequence. Two sides of the same coin. See the silver in the stone? The gales up here wear away the stone, but the metal remains. We need a piece of this silver. The god Stravhs is wreathed by imagery of silver weapons. The myths say he traded these weapons to the gods, and they used them to kill each other. Those who seek out the stone call him the god of trade. The menders call him the god of secrets. He was both.
They seem to be drawn to the godstone. There are many things we don't know about Stravhs. Maybe they see him as a patron, or it is an attraction they cannot explain.
Does Stravhs have something to do with that serpent in Einartoft? What was that thing?
I cannot say.
I have my suspicious. But until I've had time at the mender libraries, it would be unwise to speculate. For all our knowledge, it always seems as though we know little.
Imagine how the rest of us feel.
On the contrary, the less people know, the more certain they tend to be.
Why didn't you take Eyvind? Or Hakon? You don't even know me.
I apologize for putting you in danger. Eyvind must keep Boersgard from falling while we are away. And if something goes wrong here, I need to be certain one of us makes it back alive. I saw the thoughts of each person when I arrived at Boersgard. You were the only one I knew would return.
What do you mean?
You would find your way back to Alette no matter what.
Indeed. You'll need to dislodge at least a fist-full of the metal. We will forge it into an arrow to slay Bellower.
Wait, after everything you've told me... Make a magic arrow to shoot Bellower? That's all it takes? Why didn't you do that a long time ago?
Juno gets a faraway look in her eyes.
No, that is not all it takes. What I tell you now must not be repeated. The arrow will not kill Bellower, even if it were to strike his heart. He has no physical weaknesses. But it will sow doubt in his mind. When it pierces him, I will help him to believe that he is dying. The rest of you will convince him of it with sword and axe. Everyone who fights at your side must believe it to be true.
You're going to trick him into thinking he's dead. That is the most insane... he really can't be killed?
No. Someday he will awaken and realize he's not dead. I imagine he will be quite upset. First, we must make the arrow. Focus on the task at hand.
She looks knowingly at the godstone, waiting for you to start climbing.
Rook, I am not certain how the dredge will react when you do this. And behind us is a sudden drop. So, be careful.
While you're here you glance quickly around to see if there's any more low-hanging fruit. You're able to pry away another, smaller piece of silver ore before your nerves give out.
You nimbly descend to where Juno is waiting. "Well done," she says. As you walk back through the dredge, their heads turn in unison to follow. The dread that lingers, and the shaking in your hands, does not subside for hours.
Juno smiles at the reunion and tells you, "Take this time with your daughter. Find a smith who can fashion an arrow from that silver. I have other things to which I must attend, but meet me on the walls when you are done."
The Whetstone is tempting, but I don't think I'm going to go for it.
I have a shitload of Renown, so I might as well spend it. Rook promotes to rank 5, gaining a point of will and a point of Strength.
Iver joins him, with 15 Strength and 15 Armor.
It takes a while, but you finally find someone willing to craft an arrow for you. He eyes you suspiciously when you show him the silver, but shakes his head and gets started. Alette watches, the smith's fire reflecting in her distant stare.
He told me a lot about Juno.
That might be the most luck we've had so far. Dad. I think I know what's going to happen now. An arrow? She's going to make you shoot Bellower, isn't she?
I don't know for sure.
Come on. Who else is going to do it? Iver?
Alette, I know where this is going. You're afraid of me dying. This isn't like before. We can't run this time.
That's not what I...
Why not? Because you think I'll get hurt?
What do you do when Bellower comes straight for the person holding the only thing that can destroy him?
Let me speak. Everything's changed. Skogr feels so long ago... I'm not asking because I'm afraid of losing you. I'm not... I'm not afraid of... anything, anymore. Let me do it because you know I'm a better shot. I have a better chance of puncturing his armor. We only have one shot. I'm not a child anymore. I'm not just some girl. I'm your daughter. I can do this.
One last decision. Tomorrow, we march out to face an immortal Sundr. We may be marching to our deaths.
Voting will last for 48 hours.
For the final battle, Rook is a required unit. Alette may or may not be. The rest, I leave to you.
Each person may make five votes for characters (other than Rook) to bring to the final battle. You may use multiple votes on the same character if you want. I will tally these votes to determine who comes with me.