Scars and Memories

Hugo woke and was immediately sore, his leg though mended felt warm and stiff and he wasn’t looking forward to putting weight on it, his back that took the majority of the blast from the rat wizard was also a bother, luckily it seems his spine had been spared and we was going to half to take it easy swinging his logging axe and saw for the next few weeks. He looked down and traced lines of scars that he had gained on his recovering thigh and calf, remembering the thorns from the thicket as they shredded his leg cutting so deep that he felt the wicked thorns scraping his bones causing a vibration that he could feel all the way up to the back of his neck, and then a hollow feeling in his mind, like the mists
A memory bubbled to the surface a proud and loud man in a red jacket and rifle in hand calling to Hugo, bidding him on to the next adventure, he remembered about to turn to obey the man outside his circle and then nothing, the memory was gone. It was probably nothing.
He remembered his rage at the thorns and the bush people the leg felt like it was on fire smelling the blood was was flowing. His terror at the nightmare thing and weeping in Lunettes hair.
Slipping on his pants around his leg another bubble, him walking to the woods to take part in a game or a fight, something about brackets and trolls, he might have won it, It was probably nothing
Walking to the door he left his little hut and started making his way through town, perhaps he’d stop by the tavern and see if they had of that wonderful pie left, limping along he overhead two people talking about shadows in the woods and if they should tell the town guard about it. Town guard? The only guards we have are up in the castle who come down to harass and beat up people. A final bubble, sitting around in a circle talking about….. something to do with the town, the man with the red jacket, Gerard and Alex and a few people he couldn’t remember. the bubble popped and it slipped from his mind, like losing a friend who went around a bend in the woods.
It was probably nothing.

Broken Pitcher

Winter never seemed to end this year, by the moon we are in the spring although it didn’t feel like it, the cold air and the rain had been going on 6 months now with no end in sight. Hugo moved through forest with practiced ease the soft earth making squishing sounds as his boots got more muddy and wet, his fur cap trapping the heat and the rain in equal measure. Finally he reached a tree he had been eyeing for hard wood for the last 3 years and decided to trim around it’s base to keep it clear. His axe making quick work of the brush and ferns around the tree, the plants making sounds like rain on a roof whenever the axe met them.

He liked that these didn’t scream when you had to cut them.

“Soon Monsieur Tree you will make something beautiful but not today I swear.”

After quick work clearing he placed his hand upon the tree and tried to feel what the tree was feeling, but all he felt was the rough bark and the cold dampness. He had heard stories that some trees could speak but this was not one of those trees he realized after a while and felt silly so he kept walking. So far Grandfather Oak was the only tree he had ever heard speaking.

He liked Grandfather Oak.

Making his way to the river that would lead him home, he saw a fallen log that had a perfect hiding hole, it reminded him of that horrible night long ago. the memory took over he remembered his lung that didn’t get right till he was older wheezing in the cold air, his small limbs feeling like they were filled with lead and fire after running for hours, and that thing chasing him though the night glowing with ghost lights.

He didn’t like ghosts.

He passed a path that he knew would take him to the grove if he wanted but he knew it wouldn’t hold any peace for him right now. Outsiders and cannibals had stomped through his grove and corrupted it with their presence. how would they like it if we planted a fir tree in the middle of their church? he laughed at the silliness of the question and the image of the great tree bursting through the roof of their place. All of those outsiders with their silly questions, rules that made no sense, and looking at people and places that they had no right to see. We had been fine for generations but now things are changing too fast.

He didn’t like change.

Secrets were now exposed that put the circle in danger. the trees were silent and unclear on their path forward. A crone could save or damn them, there was no good choice it was like getting hit with a light mist deep in the woods and loosing the path back home with night coming on fast. He loved his circle and loved his community but their are somethings that couldn’t be reconciled together. It was like a pitcher that had been in the family for generations that had been dropped and was now in a hundred pieces never to be recovered or put back together. For the longest time he had considered himself a protector of the Circle and of the town, not an attack dog. He had a hole in his stomach were anxiety and fearfulness of the future now lived.

He didn’t like this feeling at all.

Bjorn: The Fall

He didn’t know why he had left, one morning he woke up and felt a powerful pull on his bones calling him home. quickly he had taking all of his worldly goods and threw them in a bag on his back after a few short goodbyes was away. He had walked to Portofino and bartered a passage till the end of the river, from there he had hugged the coast north till the mountains had rose before him. Then he climbed the rugged mountains using at first deer trails and streams to guide him up the dangerous ridges, higher and higher and more north he climb till at times he was clinging on the sides mountains with his fingertips all the while the feeling in his bones pulling him harder and harder north.

After 3 weeks of grueling place he crossed the border of Njordr, but the pull was just as strong. Bjorn had hit a plateau and was thankful for the short break of flatness. Bjorn was collecting food and other supplies for his continued journey, when he realized that he wasn’t alone anymore. A large pack of dire wolves had found their next meal when they first caught the Ironbreakers scent, and was quickly closing the distance, so he did what any sane man of the north would do, He ran.

Crashing through the undergrowth and the fallen pine needles he could see the flanking members of the pack on his left and right as the main body of the beast closed in on his flank. he could hear their many feet gliding along the forest floor and their hot breath on the high mountain air pressing into his back and for a split second he almost could swear that he heard laughter coming from the pack. He could tell that a clearing was up ahead and was hoping that in an open space he could at least have a small chance of scaring off the pack after killing a few of it members, but to his shock an horror he realized that the pack had been guiding him to their killing ground this entire time, a cliff were a ravine dropped into a valley after hundreds of feet of steep cliff.

Getting to the edge and looking over he turned around and with a grimace, drew his axe. “time to make myself a fine wolf blanket for the winter” he said to himself, seeing the dozens of hungry eyes in the woods drawing need and knowing their was no where else to go he prepared for this fight and the last fight at the gates. He raised his shield and yelled as the wolves charged the very first one leaped at his throat but Bjorn raised his shield just in time to see the large wolf lowering its held to crash its full weight into the blow shoving him past the edge and in the frantic move he grasped the edge of the cliff and with all this might and tried to pull himself up. He had managed to get his head back over the edge when he thought he saw something moving in the woods a large as the great ship that had taken him down the river, then the earth he so desperately clinging to gave way and gravity took over.

With shock and horror knowing it was all over he felt the first blow from the fall then an endless procession of twisting and falling landing on rocks and being caught for a moment by trees but carried by his weight and speed, spinning and spinning, the glint of a stream at the bottom the ravine catching his eye for a moment before being replaced by a pine in his line of site that he cracked his head on. the world when white and still he fell. The color and sound returned to him as the spinning started to slow down then he hit with full force the bottom of the valley with a crash of metal and meat.

Bjorn didn’t move and wondered how many things he had just broken and how and more importantly why he was still alive. then for the first time in weeks he felt like he had done the thing that was required of him his bones no longer felt the pulling, that brought a smile to his face. Then he smelled the smell of fire and cooking food, his hunger rose up in him and reminded him that falling down and almost dying was very hungry work, he looked over and saw a women not ten feet away from him walking over to him and another man tied up with chains and rope by a fire and a cooking meal. The women dressed in rotting furs and covered in tattoos walked up to him with a smile and said the last friendly words he would hear in a very very long time. “Ironbreaker, right on time, they said you would be coming” she then drew a wicked looking knife. For the next few hours nothing but screams came from the valley.

Bjorn Chapter 7: Struggle

Something sired in the Ironbreaker, news of the north about another great battle now filled him with a mixture of emotions. The news was brought to him by a group of Njords that was trying to rough him up admittedly, but the news did seem genuine. it had been too long since he had been home, years of fighting in the south for the petty lords and ladies of Rogalia, then a long stop here in this Stragosa had softened him. He had only been reminded of his weakness by The Undying who had come with true northern fire in her heart. He had forgotten what it means to be Rimelander, had it been right after his branding he would have slaughter those poor fools who had tried to do him harm and wore their heads on his belt for the rest of market, but he had grown merciful and soft, he had eaten their sweet food, drunk their grape wines, and made friends with them. He was even willingly going to their Convocations.

Tightening his armor as he left the Blackjack hall he had a mask of displeasure on his face, with the words of a Gothic Noble still ringing in his head “Anyone can legally kill you Bjorn”, He smiled let them try. After all he had done for this place he was and always would be an outsider after his death for the town, and his constant fights to keep everyone safe last market he had lead the charge into battle and was the first into battle, but they still only saw the painted outsider, of course that is his path. To struggle was his people’s way, struggle was their purpose, we have laid it all on the line so we could keep our freedom from the rulership of soft southlanders. The Throne had everything to their advantage but for the last 30 years his people had kept their lands and their ways whole, with axe and shield they had turned back southern armies, they had been laid low first by the ice and snow then finished like an exhausted deer that had been ran down by the wolf pack.

Now his heart was pumping fast and sounds and voices pressed against his ears until it hurt his head. He tasted and smelled blood and realized he had chewed his lip again. His eyes were moving fast and searching for a enemy to slay, the crowed streets with their noise and smell only heightened his fury and bloodlust, he heard a scream in the distance and his mind took him back to the night of slaughter were he unleashed upon defeated foes and got to know the darkness within him. A man dressed all in black like the rest of the people around him asked him if he needed a priest Bjorn laughed in his face, the man scurried away saying something about sins.

What do sins matter for a Branded Man of the North? Sins are how you mark the world with your power and will. the only sins that matter are sins that could tarnished your name, that is what his father had taught him as a boy. That is what they could never understand, or refused to understand. still shaking with rage he walked into the Metalli building ignoring all of his friends and walked to only consent good thing in this entire world, his forge. tossing extra fuel on the fire enjoying the blast of heat and sparks he channeled his endless rage into his work, and the world was drowned out in a blast of metal on metal and the roar of flames.

Bjorn chapter 5.5

The snow was up to his knees and the wind was blowing the snowflakes sideways, he lost feeling in his feet and hands an hour ago, he hadn’t been this cold in a long time, and Bjorn the Ironbreaker was loving every second of it. He had been tracking a deer before the storm hit and could tell that he was gaining on the beast, he was far away from Stragosa but he needed to be away from that place and needed time to think, also pride wouldn’t let him call off the hunt because of a little snow. He was gaining on the creature when he heard something familiar in the woods, the sounds of iron on iron and the cries of men dying. Pausing to get his bearings he heard a familiar shout of a friend carry over the wind.
“In the name of the Lord, Die!”
Bjorn ran to his friend with all the speed of a Barsark unleashed.

He came to a spot in the woods where a small road cut through the deepest parts of the forest an overturned wagon and a dead horse marked the beginning of the ambush. He saw his friend surround by a half a dozen deformed creatures that might at one point have been human holding crude weapons and some having cruel claws, on the ground was a half dozen more smashed apart by his friend. His friend was wounded though and freely bleeding from cuts all over his body his weapon making his body sag with the weight, Above them all on a fallen tree was the largest of the creatures chanting a foul name. Coming onto the road Bjorn roared “I am Bjorn the Ironbreaker and I am your doom!” and fell into the crowd of foul creatures.

“Bjorn!” his friend shouted “what are you doing here?”
“Well Whitefire I was hunting but then heard you were having a good time without me!” laughed Bjorn as he hacked off an arm of a heretic. “Are you going to be ok you look a little rough?”
Whitefire smiled as a small trickle of blood escaped the side of his mouth. A cold chill ran up Bjorn’s spine, he had to get his friend healed and fast. The seconds stretched to minutes as adrenaline took over and he felt rage rising, then in a moment he was separated from his friend by a wall of flesh and watched with horror as the large heretic leaped over all of them and slammed his sword through the back of Whitefire. The mob of heretics screamed with joy as whitefire slumped to the ground supporting himself by his weapon the monster’s sword impaled through him. With one final burst of energy Whitefire drew his knife and twisted around and plunged the dagger into the Heretic’s heart up to the hilt. Both of them tumbling over, the mobs cries of joy turned to horror as they watched their leader die.

Bjorn wepted for his friend and envied his glorious death, he would survived this to tell everyone he met how he fell surrounded by his foes. He cut down the rest with white hot fury screaming “Whitefire!” with every blow. After the last was cut down he ran over to the body of his friend and rolled him onto his back hoping that his Lion God was watching over him this day. Whitefire was coughing up blood and smiling.

“Bjorn” he smiled blood flowing from wounds and his mouth, a sword sticking out of his chest hilt buried in his back. The only thing keeping him awake now was shock and battle fury. “Did we win?” the storm was breaking now as the snow slowed and finally stopped

“Oh yes we did” Bjorn said his eyes searching and trying to figure out how he was going to patch up his friend and make it back to town during the storm. “We are getting you a shield when we get back to town after we get you patched up my friend.”

“I don’t think im making it that far Bjorn” he said ending his sentence with a cough that brought a bubble of blood up to his mouth.

“What are you talking about Whitefire? You’re tougher than old boots you’re going to to walk this off.” Bjorn was panicking trying to stem all of his wounds while keeping a smile up, he didn’t even want to think about how he was going to remove the sword in his chest without killing him.

“Enough Ironbreaker, just stop, we both know I’m dead, let me go, and don’t bring me back this time, tell no one of this i do not wish to grief my friends” Whitefire sighed his face growing pale.

“No, I’m not going to lose you here, and besides you can’t die we have so much more to talk about, I still have so much more to learn from you.” Bjorns hands moving frantically now.

The light was beginning to fade from Whitefire’s eyes. “im sorry my friend but someone else has to teach you now i have one more request from you. take this.” His fingers numbly grasping his holy symbol, the Lion on it covered in martyrs blood now. “The key inside will unlock my chest” his words were fading fast now “take everything you find inside of it and” he never finished his words as his head sagged as his spirit left his body.

Bjorn let out a mighty howl as the clouds broke and a ray of sunlight bathed the broken body in warm light. The rest of the day was spent clean the body of its wounds and wrapping it in a sheet provided by the wagon. Hosting his friend over his shoulders he marched to a small church outside of Stragosa. It was a long walk slowed by the snows and the weight he had to camp for two days.
“You know for being a shorter man Whitefire you are very heavy, of course i have been carrying you for two days And you’re not getting any lighter. Let me sit you down for a moment and catch my breath.” Gently he set the body down leaning against a tree, bjorn took a long drink from his water skin. “I miss you already my friend, I miss your boldness and drive, and that quiet confidence that was around you wherever you went. I don’t think we shall see that again in the valley for a long time, especially from the other priests. I miss your understanding and kindness.”

They arrived at the small church just before dusk, Bjorn gently knocked on the door and an old Gothic priest came out. “father i have a body for you to bury, he was killed by heretics on the road, he needs a good burial.” The priest took them out behind the church and handed bjorn a shovel and with a small smile said “young man could you please dig the grave my back isn’t what it use to be, and tell me about your friend so i can send him off to the Lord properly.”
Bjorn smiled and took the shovel and started to dig. He told the old man how Whitefire’s blade was never sheathed in the face of evil, about their first meeting, about fighting hordes of the undead in the church district failing at first, facing down witches and heretics, burning down forests, fighting kauralites, and finally freeing the church district and slaying the creature far below. Then Bjorn told the priest of his arrest, and Whitefire’s visit to him in jail and how his words comforted and uplifted him and tilted his world view and made him no longer as afraid of the Gods. Finally he told him of his trial and how he was set free.
The priest was quite throughout all of it listening intently, and the end he asked on question “What was Whitefire’s given name? I want to make sure i get it right.” Climbing out of the finished grave Bjorn said with a smile, tears marking his face “Caelius”

Bjorn Chapter 6: Long Winter Sudden Spring

The Ironbreaker was scared and out of breath, the wind whipped at his face and ice chunks tore at his skin and armor, he was caught in a snow drift sinking every step so he couldn’t get away, and He was coming. He heard the crunch of ice feet behind him he turned around only to be picked up like a child by the largest man he had ever seen, dressed only in a raggedy loincloth. He brought the Ironbreaker face to face and looked at him like his father looked at him after he caught him trying to lift the grown man’s axe as a child, with slight amusement in his eyes. The Giant opened his mouth and with a voice of deep bass, rumbled. “My dear little Bjorn, you are mine, you have always been mine.”
The Ironbreaker screamed back with rage and futility “I AM MY OWN ULFRANDR, I DENY YOU”
The smile on the giants face quickly turned to a snarl and he slammed Bjorn down into the snow and brought his foot crashing down on his chest.
The Ironbreaker awoke with a start grabbing his ax and almost letting out a howl, it took him a moment to realize that he was in his own bed in the corner of a his room. let out out a sigh he let the ax fall to the ground and sighed, the dreams were getting worse, The Wolf Runner had touched him in his dreams, for the last few weeks he had been slowly gaining in his dreams but this was the first night that He had caught him. He had heard tales of men dying in their sleep from bad and evil dreams but for the time it looks like he was alive. He got up and prepared for the day. he worked the paints over his face in their practiced forms, Red for clan, the Ironbloods best fighters in the North, Blue for his chosen color, stability, wisdom, and strength, the runes to remind everyone who he is and where he’s from. Next his necklaces each a story to themselves, the wolf, the lion hanging next to each other his past and present. After that his shirt he looked at the pile of armor that was by his bed and considered leaving her but then remembered what happened last time he didn’t wear armor and quickly put it on. Lastly his sash, Blue for his color, marked proudly with the Stamp of the Metalli, he would rather be naked than go without that sash, it marked him out as a Merchant belonging to one of the best guilds in the world as far as he was concerned.
He slipped through the open room of the place he staying and smile and nodded to everyone he met, Undying was eating a chunk of meat he hoped was game, Balthazar was, as usual, in a constant state of movement through the room bouncing from here to there, Walt he hadn’t seen in a few days and Florence was most likely out in the city already, she was always the first up. Ironbreaker looked at the Shield by the door and lightly grazed his hand over its symbols then feeling ready, he walked out into the world. The streets as usual smelled like garbage and human waste the first step he took out of his door resulted in sinking ankle deep in the mud that always seemed to be present in these southlanders cities. shaking his head he started to move to the workshop were the lists of orders demanded his constant attention. Moving through the silent hooded crowds never got easier, they all looked the same to him, and a quote from his father echoed through his mind, “the age of heroes is dead, The Lion God has killed it, leaving humankind with nothing but weeping martyrs, fear and shame.” Hearing their whispers as he moved through the streets and saw their sideways glances, someone had started the damn rumor that he was baptized and it had spread like wildfire he wanted to smack that person for causing him a world of trouble. It had been months since he had lowered himself to the Gods and the fear that once gripped him was over. He was tired of the Gods both old and new throwing him around as their plaything, he remembered the inquisitors words and his promises but for some reason that seemed like a long long time ago. All he was left with was stubbornness and spite, and with his beloved leaving the valley there wasn’t even any soft comfort waiting for him.
The Ironbreaker reached the Guildhall, opening the door he waved to Borso and Bakara who where pouring over some papers, and maps, he should really learn how to read he thought to himself. he went int to back of the guild hall where his workstation was adorned by bones of bears, wolfs, and eagle feathers, the stones around the forge where the fire danced were marked with runes of power said to make the iron stronger and the coal last longer, in the back of his mind he knew it didn’t do anything but it was traditional that all proper forges have them so he placed them around it. it felt almost like home, picking up a bag of coal he poured it into the forge and started a small flame. The Ironbreaker then picked up a piece of Hard Iron and looked it over feeling the raw ingot in his hand. “Now what shall I do with you I wonder?” he said aloud and he placed it on the coals and started to work the billows. It was a bad winter with nothing getting done so he had to work hard to catch up on everything he slacked behind during the winter, but the day was new and the sun was just about the peak above the horizon he took the red piece iron out and placed it on his anvil smiling he picked up his hammer and like his namesake broke the raw iron so he could make it into something beautiful.