Eidr stood at the edge of the somber gathering, the weight of the cask of beer resting heavily on his shoulder. The funeral was a solemn affair, with mourners clad in dark furs and heavy cloaks, their breath forming frosty clouds in the frigid air. The bleak, rain-touched fall landscape served as a stark backdrop to the assembly, a reflection of the void left by Hallbjorn’s passing.
As he listened to the eulogies and laments of those around him, Eidr felt a profound sense of conflict within himself. It had been a long time since he had last taken on the mantle of a Skald, before his time in the unforgiving Rhimelands, before he had been forced to scavenge and fight for mere survival. In those days, he had roamed the harsh wilderness, far from the halls of poetry and song.
Now, as the Master of Coin of Runeheim, entrusted with the practical matters of the community, he felt that he had lost the right to call himself a Skald. The weight of responsibility had shifted from crafting verses, reading runes, and weaving tales to balancing ledgers and ensuring the clan’s economic stability. It had been a trade of skills, out of necessity, but it had left him feeling detached from the art of storytelling and the bardic tradition he had once held dear.
Eidr’s hands tightened around the cask of beer as he contemplated whether he had any right to stand before the assembly and recite the eddaic verses he had learned for the occassion. The verses, though etched in his memory, felt distant, like fragments of a past life. Doubts gnawed at his heart, whispering that he was no longer worthy to be called a Skald.
But as the ceremony continued, a deep sense of duty stirred within him. He could not deny the bonds of friendship that had connected him to Hallbjorn, and the promise he had made in the moonlit night, to honor his friend’s memory, weighed heavily on his soul. Eidr knew that, despite his changed role in the clan, he had a duty to pay homage to the fallen warrior in the most heartfelt way he could.
With this determination, Eidr steeled himself for the moment when he would step forward and share the poem he had prepared, knowing that even if his path had diverged from the art of the Skald, his heart remained tethered to the traditions and to the memory of his dear friend, Hallbjorn.
Eidr’s mind wandered back to the grim and fateful night previous, when he had first seen Hallbjorn’s lifeless body, surrounded by a circle of people, illuminated by the flickering firelight. The image was etched into his memory like a haunting painting. Hallbjorn’s chest bore the gruesome evidence of his demise—12 stab wounds, a grotesque testament to the brutality of his end. Worst of all, his heart had been ripped from his chest, a horrifying desecration of the fallen warrior.
As Eidr gazed upon the lifeless form of his friend, a seething rage had surged within him. His hands had clenched into fists as he watched Knut, another clansman, engaged in a one-on-one duel with the heretical enemy responsible for this vile act. The scene played out before him, and Eidr couldn’t comprehend why they allowed the wolf of slaughter the dignity of a duel, rather than descending as a united crowd to exact swift and brutal revenge.
He had expected the so-called heretic by the White Lion to pay dearly for the sacrilege of defiling Hallbjorn’s body. But as the duel unfolded, despair settled upon Eidr’s heart. The warrior, perhaps a coward in Eidr’s eyes, managed to evade the felling blows and slipped away like a wraith into the shrouds of the night, disappearing like smoke into the darkness. The grudge went unpunished, leaving Eidr and others with a gnawing sense of injustice, an unquenchable thirst for vengeance that was never sated.
In that moment, as he stood beside the fresh grave, with the echoes of the Eddaic poem still ringing in the cold air, Eidr couldn’t help but feel that the memory of Hallbjorn deserved more. His friend had been a warrior of unmatched valor, and the heretic’s vile act had gone unanswered.
After watching the enemy slip away into the night, with rage and despair gnawing at his soul, Eidr had retreated to the moonlit clearing he remembered so well. It was there that he had performed a ritual that was both an act of remembrance and a plea for justice in the afterlife.
In the quiet stillness of the clearing, he had sacrificed a fox, mirroring the gruesome manner in which Hallbjorn had met his end. The ritual had been a somber reflection of the depths of his emotions, with rage and despair mingling within him. Eidr had called out to Auvfaldr, the god of their traditional ways, beseeching the deity to grant Hallbjorn honor in the afterlife, despite the fact that his dear friend had followed the path of the White Lion God, Benalus. Eidr’s heart ached with the knowledge that their paths of faith had diverged, but he still sought to ensure Hallbjorn’s story and honor was preserved and that he received his rightful place among the Branded Men.
As he offered the fox’s life to Auvfaldr, the moonlight filtering through the trees seemed to cast an ethereal glow upon the clearing. Eidr’s voice had risen, fervent in its plea, and the very same Eddaic poem that he now considered reciting during the funeral had echoed through the woods. The words had flowed from him like a tribute to Hallbjorn’s legacy, a recollection of the Branding that had earned him the title of the Avalanche, a name that still rang through the hearts of Runeheim.
Eidr’s memories were a tapestry of emotions, intertwining with the traditions of his people and the unbreakable bond he shared with Hallbjorn. Now, as he prepared to share the Eddaic poem once more, he hoped that his story, his friend’s memory, and their shared history would be recorded among the annals of the Branded Men, so that future generations might know the tale of the Avalanche and the enduring friendship that transcended even the divisions of faith.
“Neath the mountain Einjallar, on the Wolfchaser river,
Winter’s ice thawing, the river-banks swelling,
As village-gates opened to spring’s first endeavors,
A wild man descended the rime-covered mountain.
He came to the meadhall, calling for guest-right.
His trunk as a barrel, limbs stout as tree-trunks.
The hair on his chest mixed with blood long forgotten.
Hallbjorn his birth-name, scion of Greywolf.
On the mountain he trained, through windstorm and blizzard,
The fire of his rage overcoming the winter.
His mentor surpassed, now he came to the lowlands
For bloodshed and glory, the hunt never-ending.
The men of the village met these words with a challenge,
The warrior’s way, a test of the stranger.
Should he prove himself strong against the warrior chosen,
Then he would be welcome, with shelter and feasting.
Seven men stood before him, the pride of the village.
As guest he could choose the one he must challenge.
Hallbjorn emptied his ale-horn and met them with laughter.
“Every one will I fight, and be done by the sunset!”
The circle was drawn, the warriors made ready,
Cast lots for the honor to be first to the blood-pit.
They took up their axes and sharpened their daggers,
Each eager to fell the arrogant stranger.
As the first fighter entered, the crowd roared to greet him.
Just as quickly the crowd fell back in stunned silence.
The mirthful great man, the wild man of the mountain,
Before them transformed to a terror of bloodshed.
The blood of the first still steaming, he pointed
To the second in line, and called him to come forward.
As a starving man given the key to the feast-hall
Was Hallbjorn when faced with the chance to do battle.
Seven entered the pit to bring down the stranger.
Seven men carted out, bloodied and broken.
Hallbjorn squinted against the sun not yet setting,
Looked to the crowd and called for more ale.
This was witnessed by Erik, the Skald branded Treehide.
In the feast after battle he stood and declared:
‘This unstoppable power that comes down the mountain,
I name thee the Avalanche, and call for the Branding!'”