Gazing Northward

Mother Superior Solace sits cross legged and musing on a large boulder outside of Runeheim, looking north towards the Kaltlina and the mountains, massive despite their distance, crouching on her far banks.
The high places are hidden today, enshrouded in a mist as silent and claggy as the crypts of the dead kings fabled to lie deep beneath Fenristadt. The fog clings to the hills like a shield; the Old North protects her children, blanketing the performance of her obscene and ancient rites in an all-forgiving shroud of tattered grey.
Those forested slopes bear a lesson for the southerners who have dared trespass into this place, a lesson that is written in the ancestral blood of the Rimelanders who come in the thousands to die at their swords.
Men have never ruled this place, cry the carrion-birds wheeling over the Hollowsong’s slaughtering grounds. Men will never rule this place, grind the glaciers calving into the Kaltlina, composed of ice that has been frozen since giants walked this place and made humanity their servants. Solace has learned well that this land laughs at the claims of Gothic Emperors and Jarls in equal measure. The Old Gods are the true rulers of Njordr, and their power increases with every step forged towards the True North.
Men have lived here, certainly; the presence of humanity is necessary for this place to be what it is and has always been. Once the Njords were cattle for the giant lords of old, and now their ancestors are chattel slaves to monstrous Gods who hold sway over them, feeding on their fear and pain.
Solace did not find joy in the war; indeed, she could feel it slowly breaking her heart and body, wearing down her strength and consuming her fire. Such, she supposed, was the fate of all who chose to devote themselves to an endless and thankless task that would not be completed within their generation. When she sought for renewed purpose and strength, she found it in the hope that the Old Gods who fed on the men of the North would be thrown down; that through the path of blood and violence that the Throne trod, Njordr would someday find freedom from the spirits who enslaved them.
The cold edges of the stone suddenly became unbearably unpleasant as her thoughts returned to her body, and she sprang up, suddenly shivering. The stamp of horses and cries of men indicated that the commanders were readying to march, and she turned her back on the implacable mountains and strode back to Runeheim, silently mouthing the blessing of war.

Memories of a Humble Life

A few years ago

“Vernon, please slow down. You know I’m not as athletic as you” Valter ran to catch up with his friend, fumbling with a bag his mother gave him.
“Yeah, that’s cause you’re always at home with your ma cooking. If you came with any of the gatherers, especially the hunters, I’m sure that’d change real quick”
“There you two are, I was wondering how long everyone was going to wait,” Pasi and Kjeld stood waiting for their friends outside the door to a modest looking cabin.
“I had to convince this one pretty hard to check this out. You know how he worries” Vernon gave a friendly side-hug to Valter, who still seemed nervous about something.
“Yeah, when you said it was some adult thing you heard about, I was with you. Who knows, maybe there’ll be sparing or something” Kjeld punched his fist in excitement.
“F-Fighting? Vernon, you didn’t say anything about that” Vernon sighed.
“I don’t know, they might, but listen. We’ll make sure you don’t get hurt, okay? Right Pasi?”
“Yeah. We’re kinda taking you at your word here, Vernon, but we’re all friends. If something doesn’t feel right, we got each others back” Pasi patted Valter on the back.

They all entered the cabin and were welcomed warmly to this odd group. Members of many clans were there doing things from crafting, eating, some found the ears of other members and were speaking passionately to them, others were sparing in a makeshift fighting ring. Kjeld did pick a couple sparing matches and won about half of them, coming out a bit more bruised than he’d like. Vernon and Pasi were preached to about some pretty obtuse ideas, but some of it made sense to them. Vernon looked for Valter who was seen speaking to another member about his age off in a quite part of the cabin. He smiled as a sense of pride for his friend washed over him.

about 3 months later.

The four were sitting eating a mid-day snack out in the forest together. Since joining this strange group, Valter had started coming more out of his shell and joining the others in the forest.

“I’m excited for our next meeting. I’m hoping I can beat Bjorn this time” Kjeld hopped down onto a log and rummaged through his pack.
“Whenever you two fight, it’s always a bloody mess. I worry one of you isn’t going to make it out alive” Pasi chomped on her trail ration that Vernon’s mom made.
“That’s what Oddi says is the bettering of the soul. Facing your conflicts head on and pushing yourself to the limit” Vernon recalled, shooting a glance at Valter.
“I think that’s supposed to be less literal than what Kjeld does,” Valter mumbled through bites of rations. The others laughed. A smile grew on Valter’s face which then made Vernon smile even more.
“I just hope Hilda doesn’t try and kiss me again. I like talking with her, but she seems to think I want something more. I just like that someone likes doing things at the camp as much as I do” Valter thought out loud, the others listening politely along.
“Yeah, someone just as odd as our Valter” Kjeld ruffled Valter’s hair.
“What, and you’re normal?” Vernon chided.
“For some clans, yes” Kjeld rebutted.
“We’re all a little odd, let’s be honest. That’s what makes us wonderful, though” Pasi intervened.
They all smiled and continued eating their rations.

Present time.

Vernon sat, alone, on a log near a river, reminiscing on these times as he stared into the rushing water. They started creeping back into his mind more and more now as he settled into his new life in Runehiem. He hoped if ever he saw his old friends again, things would be like this again. He had a pit of doubt in his chest that this would not be the case, however.

Cha robh am facal agam gu leòr

Dunland, Lion Age 577

A Knight of The Seward Sword furiously shouts orders to his men from the center of the village. “Find him! I’ll have his head! Search every hovel if you must!” Blood trickles down from a head wound where the Knight had only half an hour before been knocked unconscious. Ignatius, a Friar in his mid-twenties, approaches a young Dunnick urchin no more than twelve. “Someone must have done something dangerous to get that Renett Knight so worked up, hmm?” he asks, letting the boy see a faint smirk of amusement on his face. “He’s going to be in an awful lot of trouble though. But maybe I can help him. Can you tell me where to find him?” He continues in the Dunnick tongue, adding a wink. “It will be our secret.”

The boy was hesitant, but found the Friar’s sincerity enough to trust, and directed him to a storm cellar beneath a stable. The Friar spent the next quarter hour getting the hastily retold story from the Dunnick man, who explained he’d knocked out the Knight when he tried to drag away his sister with intents too vulgar to recant. “Atonement for something like that I wouldn’t normally make so severe, but in doing so I believe we can save your life at the same time. Join me on the path of the Sanctae Viae, and we can walk out of town together. He wouldn’t dare accost you while under those vows, and thusly my protection.”

The pair strode openly across the streets of the town, the Dunn clad in Ignatius’s own worn white robe & ashen seal of Melandiel marking his brow. Making for the road east towards Ryker’s Gate, the pair were halted by a pair of soldiers and eventually confronted by the Seward Knight. Impassioned words of admonishment and very-due threats of repercussions from the Church were of little use against the rage and self-importance of the Knight, and Ignatius found himself clamped in irons and watching the Dunn man he’d promised safety to swaying from a rope. When released a few hours later with an escort to ensure he left the village promptly, Ignatius was granted only the few seconds needed to collect the muddied robe that had been stripped from the Dunn and cast aside before he was hung from the gallows.

“And in the depths of my soul, I felt the crush of Despair. For my Faith in God, Lurian, and Benalus was unshakable, yet I knew that it was not enough. The forces of the wicked were too numerous to bear,”
-Excerpt, The Word Of St. Istra, Gospel Of The Hospitalier

Risk vs Reward

A small Dogheart camp sees a figure approaching through the early afternoon flurries, it’s silhouette betraying a walking stick, cloak, and wide brimmed hat with a point. As he crosses the tent line into the center of camp, he rests his crook against the only semi-permanent structure; a small cabin, before moving to join the four men sitting at a fire. “These are White Eyes lands, yes?” Ignatius asks in Njor.

One of the men smirks, rising from his seat and pacing a hand on the handle of his axe. “Sorry old man, Clan Dogheart hunts here. But we’d be happy to send you south, without your hea-” another elbows him in the gut, cutting him off. “Korro, idiot, look; one eye, white beard? It’s one of His Wise Ones, if not Aufvaldr himself.” The quartet argued briefly and quietly for a moment, until Ignatius interrupted; “I promise you I’m neither. A poor traveler from the south, terribly lost it seems, and just looking to share a fire for a hour to warm before I move on.” One of the Rimelanders snorts, punching another in the shoulder. “See? Exactly what He’d say! You’re not fooling us, old ma- er, Elder. Take a seat.” He gestured to a spare log, upon which Ignatius gratefully sat while two of the others scoffed and shook their heads.

“So Elder, tell us a story of your life?” One asked curiously. Ignatius waved him off dismissively. “No no, that’s not what I’m traveling the north for. I’m here to learn, not teach.” he chuckled. “ You tell me your story, hmm? That way I can remember it and tell others of Dogheart’s who shared their fire with me.” The hunter gestured with open palms towards Ignatius, glaring at the others with an expression that shouted ‘see?!’.

As the hour passed and the hunters shared a number of stories, one offered Ignatius the dregs of their lunch stew pot, which he gratefully accepted. Warmth in his feet and fingers returned, he grunted as all old men do when they rise of their seats and offered them thanks for the hospitality. “But before I do move on, would you accept a blessing on your home?” The quartet again rushed through a hushed argument that ultimately ended with one nodding wordlessly to Ignatius.

He moved to the doorway of the small cabin, slipping a small vial of holy water from a pocket on the inside of his undershirt; about the only place he could keep it from freezing while traveling these lands. He spoke in Aldersabin, asking Melandiel to ward the home of those who had shown him hospitality with the Hospitality of the Lord in return. As he cast the water from the vial, the droplets turning to ice almost as soon as they landed on the threshold.

At hearing the language of the ‘Lion God’, even without knowing it’s meaning, the same doubtful hunter rushed to his feet and readied his axe. “See? He’s a Southerner! We should cut him down right now.” He shouted, another rising and shouting back. “So sure are you, Korro? Or are you desperate to tell the tale of how you cut down an old half-blind unarmed Southerner in combat? We gain nothing here from his bloodshed, and still there is risk this is Aufvaldr trickery. I won’t have you bringing that ire upon us.” He turned toward Ignatius and nodded. “Thank you for stopping at our fire and hearing our stories, Elder. And for that blessing. Leave in peace.” “Thank you for the meal, and the stories, Sons of Dogheart.” Ignatius replied, before taking up his crook and continuing his pilgrimage.

In the early morning when the hunters arose, they found the tents outside slashed by claws in the night. “Look, Draugr prints!” one exclaimed. “But why would they not have broken down the door to slaughter us in our sleep?” Korro questioned. “Perhaps… something prevented them.”

The Greed of Mankind

“By why is it you hate all merchants, Friar?” asked the young woman who offered to help carry the food Ignatius had been gathering that morning.

“Hate is a strong word, child. And all is unfair to say. And perhaps I do find myself more critical of them than some deserve, but it is only in the spirit of keeping them honest, and it is not a mistrust I have developed without cause.” Ignatius offered as a point of clarification.

He could see the curiosity on her face maintained, and with a deep breath he began his tale. “It was the final harvest before winter, in Lion 586 I think it was? Close enough to it for this retelling, anyway. Forgive my memory.” He chuckled. “I volunteered to help transport the crops from one of the five farms that fed the community I had been tending to for the past few seasons at that point in time, but when we arrived to load the farmer said he’d sold the crops off. He explained that a merchant caravan from the Hestrali Trade Guild had passed through, and one of them spoke to the farmer and explained that since the community only needed the crops from three of the five farms to be able to sustain it through the winter, that the merchant would buy his crop for twenty percent more than the market would normally offer since he was passing through and could sell it elsewhere where it was more needed.”

“Now I won’t condemn merchant for making profit when someone has more than they need, and someone else could use more. Within reason, that is. But when we moved on to the next farm to collect their crop, she had the same story to tell. And when the day came to an end, to our great horror, it seems this merchant assured all five farms that three of the others were taking care of the community’s needs. He’d bought the whole seasons crops from all five, and moved on.” The Friars tone carried an uncharacteristic anger that he took a few moments to let go of before continuing.

“A few weeks later when stores were nearly gone that caravan returned loaded with the food that he bought, now seeking no less than triple market value. No one could convince them to barter down the price, and it emptied the coffers of the village to buy back only three quarters of what it would take to feed the community that winter. The rest was beyond what the village could afford, and we watched it roll away on the Trade Guild wagons.”

It was near a minute of slow breaths before he continued. “That winter I helped dig sixty three graves for those who died of starvation. Twelve… were children’s.” His voice carried a cold more bitter than the Njordic wind.

“But surely there are no such men here? The Hestrali from that ship seem so friendly!” She remarked, trying to brighten the mood.

The Friar lowered his head and sighed as they arrived in town to hand off the food. “This past forum Tomasso was trying to buy up every scrap of food he could get his hands on.” He nodded. “Such men are everywhere.”

A Brother Comes Home

“I’m home!” Vernon projected his voice through the cozy house that had quickly become a home to him.
“Big brother!” Randolph, Ylva, and Embla, his younger siblings came running to warmly welcome him home after an arduous forum with a group hug.
“Well, welcome home, my hard-working nephew. Glad to see everyone made it home safely,” Manning, a middle-aged, but greying man, gave Vernon a warm smile but shot a couple glares at Randolph and Ylva.
“I am, too. You two took quite a risk coming to see me. Between Skógerblóði, the Hollow Song, and the mages, I was worried you wouldn’t make it home,” Vernon nudged his twin siblings roughly.
“Yeah, well, you taught us well. We made it there fine,didn’t we?” Randolph rebutted. Vernon and Manning rolled their eyes.
“Making it past my watchful eye was quite a feat. I was quite a hunter when I was still with the clan,” Maning boasted.
“It wasn’t exactly hard when you were asleep,” the children giggled.
“Also, wasn’t that quite a few years ago? I remember you leaving a lot up to my parents even before you decided to settle down,” Vernon ribbed.
“Oh hush now, I did plenty. And as for you youngsters, isn’t it past your bedtime? I know you wanted to stay up to welcome your brother home, but come now, let’s get you all in bed.”

After Manning got everyone to sleep, or, at least, in bed, he came and sat with Vernon.

“So I hear you’re set to become a priest? I take it those lessons helped?”
“Yeah, thanks,” Vernon sat staring at the fire that was keeping the home warm.
“Ya know it won’t be easy? When’s that ever stopped ya, though” Manning chuckled.
Vernon just sat, deep in thought, still staring at the fire. Manning sighed.
“I miss them, too.” Vernon snapped a look of both shock and a touch of anger at Manning, “I know, I know. What they did was horrible, but they’re still family.”
“I just can’t forgive them. I can’t reasonably expect them to take care of me or anyone for that matter. They’re monsters,” Vernon uttered this cold vitriol, tears forming in his eyes.
“…But you still miss them, don’t you? I see the rations you make and take to forum, hear the stories you still tell your siblings and I’m sure others you meet in town. I can feel it in your heart, Vernon”
Vernon shuddered, despite being comfortably warm, clenched his eyes shut, tears streaking his cheeks, and, finally, turned to his uncle’s shoulder, sobbing.
It was Manning’s turn now to stare into the fire, gently stroking his nephew’s back as the dark of the night grew.
As Vernon’s cries waned, Manning began humming a soft melody to soothe both Vernon’s and his own soul.

My First Journal

‘I hate crowds. Everything about them. The noise. The eyes. The people. The hands. The footsteps. The Risk. Too much all at once. Easier to just avoid it. Only sometimes I can’t avoid it. Like the tavern. Or like Convocation.

Convocation. I didn’t know that I’d need to attend to get baptized. I’d thought I could just have Cadence dunk me in the stream and call it good. I wish. Instead I had to stay near so many people. All looking at things. All breathing. All sitting. And other people were looking at ME because I’m a freak who’s Standing near all the people Sitting. Bundled up trying to Hide without a place to Hide. And THEN Clemence Points at me and THEN they ALL look at me and THEN my hands cant Stay Still and all I want to do is Hide and Run or Run and Hide or just Not Be Here and Cadence Looks at me too and then I have to walk over away from a wall and be In Front of people and she takes my Hand and says words that make it easier but they’re all still Looking and I j us t W ant- ‘

Milo curses and checks the pen in their hand. Undamaged, thankfully. They were sure that Alphonse would notice if the pen didn’t work anymore. The paper was ruined, though. They’d pressed too hard and tore the sheet. Their heart was beating too fast in their chest. So much for practicing their writing.

They slipped the pen back into Alphonse’s bag and crumpled the paper into their pocket. They’d try again another time. When their thoughts weren’t so Loud.

Journal 3: Betrayal in the Flames

Solfyre lets out a deep sigh and looks up at the snow that had begun to fall overhead. Cool flakes drop and melt on contact with her face or cling to her lashes as she peers up. Shivering, she sinks down a bit further into the warmth of the hidden hot spring shown to her by her beloved. A streak of blue and white slithers overhead through the air as if attempting to eat every white cluster it can before they can reach Solfyre below. She can’t help but smile at this briefly before returning back to her thoughts and looking off into the dark gray clouds looming overhead.

The forum was disappointing to say the very least. While missing the ceremony Saturday night due to poisoned food was bad, at least that could be a plan easily changed to a later date. Disappointing, but not the end of the world. The death of her battlefield comrades being pushed aside for the sake of political niceties with no intention of resolve by those who were supposed to be her supportive collective and that being pushed so hard by a member of the fire guild and said collective, no less, well, that was unforgivable betrayal.

Solfyre growls and clenches her jaw, reflecting upon her observations and frustrations. That despicable hypocrite who claims to hate magic and who claims to hate the frivolous, unnecessary uses of magic seems frequently to be the first to use it for trivial and unnecessary things such as animating a suit of armor for a tournament or using a cloak to send a message. This idiot who claims he thinks things through better than I in his great, male-brained superiority consistently makes moronic decisions like opening an ancient vault and releasing a spirit impulsively and now at the cost to all the books in Runeheim. This same asshole who runs face first into battle despite being a ranged fighter then dares have the audacity to blame ME for his missing fingers and believing me a coward for not rescuing him when the odds were very against me as if I owe him when he does nothing but shit on every decision I ever make. The selfish dick that blocks the potential of others to resolve large problems he caused not out of ego but out of selfish desire to keep a gift from the spirit he released at the expense of all those around him. THAT hypocrite who claims moral superiority, integrity, and honesty over me yet he keeps secrets and flagrantly abuses his magic when he is the one who tells all who will listen that that is the ultimate sin of mages. HA. That same guy is the reason Han’s men will not receive the justice they deserve and the culprits will not be even reprimanded. He was the last straw, the reason she could no longer be a part of the Grym.

Solfyre let’s out an angry cry and sinks beneath the sulfur-scented hot water, letting out her breath till she finds the hot bottom. With the last of the air in her lungs, before coming up to the surface she screams and releases a violent wave of pent up magic she gathered from the hidden sun above then comes to the surface and gasps for air. The water practically erupts around her before settling back to a calm pool.

Instantly the blue streak floats down till blue crystalline eyes meet her own inches from her face.

“I’m sorry, Sylphanax, did I scare you?” She looks to the creature sympathetically and gently runs a hand along the length of its strange form. “I’m sorry. I’m ok. I’m just upset. Not at you. Sylph, can you get the coal from my bag?” She snaps her fingers and points to her pile of clothes by the water.

The creature trills and bolts for the bag Solfyre trained it to seek out and brings the chunk of coal. When Solfyre praises it, it excitedly chirps then slithers through the air, whipping around and playing on its own. Solfyre can’t help but smile at the marvelous gift from her love before turning her gaze down to the black mass in her hand.

She had thought all initiates blacked out when they were initiated. She had believed perhaps it was part of the cost of opening oneself up to the circles of power within the guild and becoming capable of channeling mama into the forms of fire, water, air, or earth respectively.

She was wrong. Sighing she puts the chunk in her mouth and begins to chew on the bitter crumbly thing until it is small enough to choke down. Then, she takes a sip of wine from her chalice on the rock shelf beside her before leaning back and relaxing once more.

At forum Hans had informed her that not only was blacking out not normal, but her initiation had had unforeseen consequences due to her relationship to the sun’s energy and apparently had resulted in a magical catastrophe. Her inherent magic clashed with the initiation ritual as it was a variable not adequately equated for. Now, well, now she would be eating coal for the rest of her life, she guessed. She wanted to feel bad about it, but Hans clearly felt bad enough and with the deaths of his men and the lack of justice for them, she figured he was hurting enough.

He wrote letters to their families of their deaths, told Solfyre about each one’s hopes and dreams, and deeply mourned the losses of those he considered family. It broke her heart to watch. Some of those same men had fought beside her and… well, her best friend, before her friend also was lost to her. They had sung to them on late nights by the fire, beacons treating incinerators to a song and a drink before battle. Then, together, they’d crushed the rimelanders who threatened to taint the souls of njordr and harm god with their heathenistic and sometimes heretical ways.

God she missed her friend. Now, she had Wulfric, she guessed, and of course Hans. Clearly, most turned their backs on truth and justice whenever it convenienced them most.


Slowly Solfyre emerged from the water, dressed, and threw on her cloak.

“Come on, Sylph, time to go. I told Caito we would be back for dinner and I want to see grandma and Hans before we do that,” she calls to the dragon-esque shape weaving its way between branches and terrorizing some finches over food it didn’t even want. At her command, it quickly flitted down and settled itself on her shoulder and then, they were off.

The first pages of a fresh journal

I figure its time to start writing my thoughts down. People love to record the histories of noble men and heroes, so maybe I can shed some light on what the day to day really is.

Im a Knight now. Sworn in service to one of my best friends, or at least sometimes it feels that way. I worry about her, shes very alone, she has no true confidants, and even to me she can’t tell everything.

I am scared of her. I respect her. The ancient hestrali spoke of love many ways. I dont feel the romantic and sexual love i feel for my wife, i feel brotherhood, and i know through my time in the field that that is love too, not sexual, but something deeper. A trust.

I know I should feel differently now that I have a title, but I just feel the same. Deperate to do my job well. Scared when i get into real fights, and hopeless when faced with the thousand mineutia of the day.

I feel a weight creeping in. Like a pressure on my very soul, as if my company is now more than it used to be. I’m scared for my friends and daunted by the responsibility I bear for them.

Originally I had wished to write of privelage and responsibility, of how station is its own burden, no matter how high or low one is.

I am finding it difficult to care. The prices and weight of this ring is heavier than it should be. I need time. I will clear my head and train.

Perhaps someday I’ll be worthy of being Ser Knut of the Order of the White Star. But as of right now? Im jealous of Ser Alastor. At least he is able to rest fully.

Cold Hands, Grateful Heart

“Hmm” Libby said, “these herbs might be able to provide aid to the ones who requested it, but this other effect might be problematic.”
This had been a regular occurrence this forum. Spending the evening bells consulting her many notes she had taken to create special brews at the request of the townsfolk of Runeheim. In this instance, her work had extended into that next morning. Measuring, pouring, recording, and comparing until her focus was broken at the realization she was late for Court. With an exasperated sigh she hurriedly put away her materials and proceeded to rush to the meeting room. It wasn’t until she sat down in the back of the room that she noticed her hands were so chilled she could feel her blood pulsing through her veins with each beat of her heart. It wasn’t uncommon for her to lose track of the time when engaged in her work. She moved her fingers to help warm them and distract from their painful stiffness.

Dag – a friend of Knut’s well known for his fighting prowess and seeming inability to speak, but still perfectly able to communicate – was sitting in the chair next to her watching her move and wring her frozen hands with a look of concern on his face.

Libby motioned to Dag to lean his ear close to his face. “There’s nothing to worry about son, my hands are just cold from the frost that has come so suddenly to Runeheim,” she said while massaging her left palm with her fingers. He pulled her hands in-between hers to warm them and audibly gasped at their temperature.
“This happens a lot. I get so deep into my work that I don’t notice my hands are frigid until I can no longer move my fingers,” she whispers guiltily to Dag, “I really should probably take better care of myself these days if I want to keep going into the winter.”

Dag looked at her with mixed emotions of worry, and a little frustration. Libby could sense his care as he tenderly held her weathered hands in his soft warm ones. He looked into her eyes and smiled, pulled her hands closer to him, and tucked them into the folds of his neck, the last few remnants of the chills working their way out of her fingers.

Runeheim can be a strange place to be – Malefic oddities come almost every single night, and the Menjir’s shining runes make many who call this place home nervous of the future. Libby found a community, with friends that she would protect in the same way she protects her grandchildren she brought with her.

She looked back up and met Dag’s eyes, her smile returning his.

Today she was grateful. Grateful for friends.