> Chronicles > Book 3 – Part 2

Book 3 – Burnt Offerings
Part 2 – Goblins in the Streets

  • Contents (1)
    • Chapter 3: May Day Celebration
    • Chapter 4: Local Heroes

See also: Adventure Log > Session 10, 2014-11-28

Chapter 3 – May Day Celebration

Hoftorg Procession

Dodge and Kyran, both champions of May Day Contests, were requested by Ladwig Gothi to meet in Middel Market at least one hour prior to sunset, to participate in the ceremonial procession. At the gathering, while the two champions from Darford patiently awaited their instructions, they contented themselves by observing the crowds around them.

All five May Queen candidates were nearby, wearing their finest dresses. Katla Bæcestre and Kitta Bæcestre were busy trying to flirt with Belmaer Woldemar, who seemed patiently oblivious to their charms. Sabine Bennsdottir and Trina vanDetta were giggling with delight as Pace Dubhans flirted with them mercilessly. Raena Araganing was smiling politely but seemed somewhat aloof to all the flirting and giggling.

Finally, Ladwig Gothi gathered the five maidens, along with Dodge and Kyran, plus three other men.

“You men will serve as honor guard for the May Queen candidates in our procession into the Hoftorg,” Ladwig Gothi instructed. “Since one competitor won two contests, and since the traditional horse races were cancelled this year due to the fact that all the Éohriddas are out in the Hinterlands hunting goblins, we have a shortage of champions today. Therefore, I asked some of the Thane Houses to provide an escort, in order to round out the numbers: from House Aráganing we have Braco Huskarl; from House Kleinberg we have Adálfuns Huskarl; and from House Scarnati we have Quintus, son of Titus.

“At the end of the procession, you five will lead the maidens to the front of the podium where you will stand and wait alongside them. When the name of a champion is announced, he will ascend the podium, receive his drinking horn, and return to his place. Lastly, the May Queen will be announced. She will ascend the podium, receive the Kirell Corona, then return. Is that clear to all?” They all indicated their accession, and there were no questions, so Ladwig moved on to his next administrative duty.

Introductions were exchanged. Dodge remembered Braco from the Araganstone competition earlier that day – he had placed third, if he recalled correctly. Braco was a huge warrior and a highly respected Huskarl of House Araganing. Kyran had met Adálfuns earlier in the day also, during the Archery competition. Adálfuns was a Huskarl of House Kleinberg and was one of the competitors that had advanced to the second round. Quintus was the second son of Titus Andronicus, patriarch and leader of House Scarnati.

First among the May Queen candidates was Raena Araganing, daughter of Eorl Arágnar. She was the only thane of the five and, coincidentally, was also the prettiest and most elegantly dressed. Her light brown hair, adorned with intricate braid-work, was pulled up delicately to accentuate her jeweled earrings and matching collar. Though clearly in a class above the rest, Raena interacted with unassuming respect and kindness toward the others, which they all warmly returned.

The other maidens were: Sabine Bennsdottir, daughter of Benn “Weosule” the weaponsmith; twin sisters Katla Bæcestre {BAK-ster} and Kitta Bæcestre, daughters of Embla Bæcestre, who worked in their mother’s bakery, Embla’s Delites; and Trina vanDetta, the pretty red-head of the bunch, the daughter of Andor vanDetta, owner of Aellshoppe.

Before the group could even begin to discuss who would escort whom, Braco stepped in front of Raena. “My lady Raena. Allow me the honor of being your escort in the procession,” he offered, extending his hand.

“Thank you, Braco,” she replied, “but I would prefer to be escorted by one of the May Day champions.” She turned her back to Braco and his shocked face turned red with embarrassment and anger. “After all,” she continued, looking at the others in the group of ten, “I hear you lost the Aráganstone contest to a someone from Darford.” She spotted Dodge and approached him.

Braco was visibly furious and flustered. “B-But I am Braco, son of Loghan, begat by Hobus! I am Huskarl of House Araganing! It should be my -”

“Shush!” she interrupted with an uplifted finger, still facing away from him.

Addressing Dodge, she said, “I saw you put a farthing in my May Queen cookpot today. I suppose if I win the corona I might have to thank you for it,” she added jokingly. “By your stature, I deduce that you are today’s Aráganstone champion. Am I right?”

“Yes. It was I, Dodge,” he answered, all too familiar with the admiration and advances of young women.

“Hmm. But who was the champion of the archery contest?” she asked, looking about.

“Well, that would be me,” Kyran answered humbly, stepping up beside Dodge who now displayed a puzzled look on his brow.

“You know, archery is the skill I deem most valuable,” Raena declared with a smile. “Will you do me the honor of serving as my escort in the procession?"

“Yes, I will. It would be my honor,” answered Kyran, pleasantly surprised.

Raena took Kyran’s arm and they stepped a few feet away to talk more privately. Braco, still bristling, watched them closely. Dodge, aware of the tension, kept his eye on Braco should he need to help defend his friend Kyran.

“You know,” Raena added in a low voice, intending her words for Kyran’s ears only, “if I had not been expected to enter this silly May Queen contest, I might have won that archery contest myself.” She spoke in jest, yet with an underlying tone of sincerity.

“I believe you just might have, Raena,” Kyran agreed.

Meanwhile, Dodge offered to escort Sabine Bennsdottir, and she gladly took his arm. The other three pairs lined up behind them, then Raena and Kyran led the lot of them towards the Ullester banner.

The large, embroidered banner of Ullester boldly displayed the emblem of a charging stallion – the town’s most famed component. Below was shown crossed axes and a stronghold. Beneath all, written in Angarian, was their motto “Swift, Scearp, Trewe.” Translated into Westrian, the motto was “Swift, Sharp, True.”

Beneath the Ullester banner, in the shade of an awning, sat good friends Jasper Halfpenny and Forwost Baelor. Jasper was a retired paladin of Tyr and currently served as the very competent operator of the Ullester Merchants League. His blond locks, once long and thick, were now thin, and his forehead was bare. His beard showed more gray than blond these days. But he still carried himself with great strength and wisdom, and his skills as a former lawkeeper was highly regarded by Forwost Baelor and the Burgwardas, who sought his council frequently.

As the procession was about to begin, Jasper and Baelor rose from their bench. Jasper hoisted the pole containing the banner – he would have the honor this day of carrying it through the streets of Ullester. They were joined promptly by Hjugo Sihm Heáh-Gothi and Pace Dubhans the Scop, Thyle to the Eorl. Together the four would represent Ullester in the procession, followed by the May Queen candidates and May Day champions.

As they walked along Danforth Street, up towards Upptun, Raena began a conversation with Kyran and expressed her impatience with Braco.

“Ugh. Lately I’ve grown weary of Braco,” Raena complained. “As a warrior he has no equal among our Huskarls, but because of that his pride swells too much. He is the bastard son of a thane from Baeldurham whom my father fostered, and he thinks to court me. I am sure he believes that as the son of a thane, by right he could earn my hand in marriage. I like him, but even if I did love him, my father would never allow such a marriage.”

“Why is that, my I ask?” inquired Kyran.

“My father is surely planning to use me for his own purposes, to wed me off to an aetheling or a thane from a powerful house from Baeldurham, so he can increase his own prominence. He would never allow me to marry someone from Ullester.”

Though Kyran may have sympathized with her, he decided not to argue about court politics at this time and held his tongue. Sensing that this topic had reached its end, Raena changed the subject. “So, I hear you and Dodge are from Darford.”

“That is correct,” Kyran answered.

“I believe Darford – or “Dartron’s Ford” – was founded by Dartron not long after Ullester. A tutor once mentioned that this “Dartron” was a companion of Araganus, First Eorl of Ullester. Oh, how I love to hear the stories about Araganus and his companions. Had I more free time, I would seek more tales.”

“I have heard a few tales myself,” Kyran added. “In fact, an elven associate of mine, Magna Morko, has traveled here seeking these very tales. He is a relative to Geldron of Gryflet Forest, who was once also a companion of Araganus, and he was commissioned by Geldron himself to journey here and learn more.”

“That sounds like an interesting quest!” Raena said with excitement. “I would love to help your friend with this research. To seek more information, you should acquaint yourself with Derc, Lirkst and Prætt.”

“Who are they?” asked Kyran, giving full attention so he could repeat this information to Magna.

“Well, Derc Winribb is a cantankerous old man. He is an aging expert on Garandor history and engineering. He has been studying ancient Kimrian ruins for the past several years and has recently become obsessed with the Old Keep.

“Lirkst Sifaenówics is a retired adventurer – some say he was once a wizard. Now he is headmaster at the Scoleheall and lives in its basement. His rooms below the Scoleheall are like a museum of all the strange things and trophies he has collected over his years.

“Prætt of Elderwood is a man who has maintained his love affair with the written word for nearly 60 years and has shown no sign of giving it up any time soon. I myself love to visit his place – Elderwood Tomes. Derc and Lirkst can often be found there, either chatting with Prætt or sitting in one of several large chairs, reading. All three locations are very near the intersection of streets Danforth and Pape. You should be able to find them easily. Why, we just passed by them as we left Middel Market.”

As the procession cleared a small rise approaching Upptun, Kyran looked back and was admiring the banners of the four Houses of Ullester. Raena competently provided information about each of the Thane Houses and their participants.

House Aráganing had traditionally held the role of “leader” in Ullester and had a long history of success as hunters, farmers and brewers. Aráganus was the First Eorl of Ullester and his son Amánwel Aráganson was the Second Eorl of Ullester.

Their procession was led by Raena’s parents, Arágnar Aráganing, Third Eorl of Ullester, and Theoda his wife. Among the large group of retainers were Cwink Broder, an Aráganing Huskarl and an accomplished archer whom Kyran had met during the archery competition, and Kirelia Aráganing, sister to Arágnar and wife to Gaerwulf Hwychwoods. Gaerwulf was too busy managing distribution of ales to the taverns during the festival and had to miss the procession, but their family was well represented by all their children: sons Gaerwelm and Gaerwód, plus daughters Gaerwynn, Waeda and Geathwic.

On their banner, below the emblem of a bow and arrow, was the Angarian phrase “An Scot, Clæne Cwellan.” In Westrian, the phrase was “One Shot, Clean Kill.”

House Kleinberg was the richest family in town. Stigand Kleinberg had carried on his father’s proud work as glassmaker, and the Kleinberg Glaswerks was perhaps the town’s most prosperous business, with its products regularly shipped as far as Seäxeny and Garondor.

But surprisingly, there were only two in the procession. In fact, no actual Kleinberg family member was present – patriarch Stigand Kleinberg was conspicuously absent – reportedly he was too ill to join the festivities. Chase Glaswryht, the lead glass-maker at Kleinberg Glaswerks carried the banner, and he was accompanied by Kasimir, a Kleinberg Huskarl.

The Kleinberg banner contained images of glassware and jewelry, plus the Angarian phrase “Beorht to Behealdan.” Translated into Westrian, the phrase meant “Beauty to Behold.”

House Woldemar controlled the town’s shipbuilding and fishing industries. The family itself remained under the patriarchal rule of old Aethelram Woldemar, the only one of the original members of the Ullester Merchants League still alive. But Aethelram’s years were numbered, for the old man had a lung infection that kept coming back, no matter how often the family paid to have it cured.

Their procession was led by Belmaer Woldemar, son of Aethelram. Belmaer was overseer of Ullester Shipyard. He was a handsome and available bachelor, but was too dedicated to his craft and his family to entertain the young women who flirted with him. Belmaer was accompanied by Adalbert, Hartmut {HAHRT-moot} and Marlis Woldemar. Elderly Adalbert was the younger brother of Aethelram, therefore Belmaer’s uncle. Hartmut, son of Adalbert, was an archer whom Kyran met during the day’s competition, and Marlis was his wife. The family was joined by Rupert, a retired fisherman who ran Woldemar Fishmarket. Rupert had a lazy eye and a wild white beard. He was described as lovably crotchety – constantly complaining about weather or the antics of local youth.

Their colorful banner contained the Angarian phrase “Fyrmest Ongemang Scipwyrhta,” which translated into Westrian was “Foremost Among Shipwrights.”

House Scarnati was Ullester’s most notorious noble family. Headed by Titus Andronicus, the Scarnati family controlled Ullester’s mills and the lumber industry. Many of Ullester’s elderly Brythonian locals still had not forgotten or forgiven Andronicus Scarnati’s assault on their people more than 40 years ago, even with Andronicus 20 years in the ground at the Ullester Cemetery.

Their procession was led by Titus Andronicus Scarnati, the patriarch of the family. Titus was accompanied by his son Lucius {LOO-shəs} and grandson Lucio (Young Lucius), who carried their banner. They were followed by Lavinia, daughter of Titus, Marcus, brother of Titus, Publius, son of Marcus, and Sempronius, a kinsman.

Embroidered on their banner was the Garandorian words “Æquales Falcem Securis et Videret”. This was a shortened version of their full motto, “Arbores Æequales Teneri Falcem Securis et Videret”, which when translated into Westrian roughly stated “The Trees are Kept Equal by Hatchet, Axe and Saw”.

Ullester Gossip & Rumors

In addition to the tidbits gained by Kyran while conversing with Raena, and the information gathered by Lee Alfsaw the previous evening, all members of the group overheard gossip and rumors throughout the day, during the various competitions and celebrations of the festival. They are accumulated below. (Gray text indicates previously known information.)

Karru Guwynn, owner of Hart O’Ten, was the son of parents who were from the Prettonic tribe called Atrébaid. His parents abandoned their ties to settle in Ullester and Karru Guwynn regretted their choice, but his love for his wife and family kept him rooted firmly in town. Karru Guwynn was also the brother of Forwost Baelor, but the two were in a long-running feud stemming from what Karru Guwynn saw as his brother’s complete abandonment of Prettonian tradition.

Tunga was a fat, heavily tattooed, lummox, half-ork who lived in a dilapidated shack. Despite the ramshackle look of his home, Tunga had made quite a pretty penny for himself serving as Ullester’s dungsweeper, enough that he employed about two dozen vagrants and curs who would otherwise be causing trouble along the boardwalk. Garbage gathered by Tunga’s boys was routinely dumped over the edge of Trasher Tip to gather on the river edge below. Several of the town’s Uller worshipers (in particular Aethela Nestethel) rankled at this practice, but until an equally cost-effective and convenient option was presented, the Ullester Thynge was reticent to change its ways.

It was rumored that Siden Mildthreth had regained her powers as a Seiðr {sae-dhr}. A Seiðr is a type of Nordheimr oracle associated with Odin or Freyja.

While playing at hopsquares, some children were chanting a somewhat cruel rhyme about Deglan O’Dochartaigh {oh-DOH-khar-tee}, owner of Réod Roðhund Smithy [Red Roth-Hund Smithy]. A nearby adult commented that they “would not want to be one of those kids if Deglan ever hears that rhyme”.

Here comes crazy-man Deglan O’Dochartaigh,
Mad as a cut snake in a hollow tree.
See how his chops go bouncity-bounce?
How many people has he trounced?
One! Two! Three! Four…

Forwost Baelor was actually a native Prettonian. He inherited the post when the previous holder, Forwost Bodenheim, was murdered by Chopper. Baelor saw the town through that last terrible night and was credited as the man who stopped Chopper’s rampage. In the emergency election that followed, the people of Ullester officialized his role, and Baelor became the first Prettonian Forwost of Ullester. Honored and eager to live up to Bodenheim’s legacy, Baelor changed his name to an Angarian flavor, from Collen Guwynn to Baelor, a choice that endeared him to Ullester’s mostly Angarian populace but did not sit well with his brother Karru Guwynn.

It was good to see the daughters of Embla Bæcestre (owner of Embla’s Delites) out of the bakery and entering the May Queen contest. Embla still had not quite recovered from the brutal death of her daughter Karinna five years ago under Chopper’s blade. Her twin daughters Katla and Kitta all but ran their bakery business these days.

Brun Eöhman (owner of Brun Stódhors [Stables]) was arguably the best horse breeder in the area.

Neighbors of the Timber Mill had been complaining that penny-pinching businessman “Slyder” Glydersleve and his partner “Major” Grandy had been running their insidiously noisy logsplitter into the wee hours of the night, but Glydersleve’s influence with the Scarnatis had kept any mandates against operating the logsplitter from coming to pass.

Andor VanDetta (owner of Aellshoppe) had lately become more and more distracted with suspicions that his daughter Trina had been shacking up with that no-good Glydersleve from the Timber Mill. Unfortunately, his obsession with Trina’s nightlife had made him completely blind to the actions of his other daughter Lissa, whose reputation as “easy” was growing by the month.

A number of Ullester’s young men were idly courting Baineth Gilothwen (owner of Verna’s Fine Clothing), whom many held to be the town’s most beautiful maiden, but to date, the lonely woman had politely eschewed all possible suitors for reasons she had not shared.

Gaerwulf Hwychwoods (owner of Hwychwood Brewery) was married to Kirelia Araganing, sister of Eorl Arágnar. Tragically, his brother Waedric Hwychwoods was one of the first of Chopper’s victims, a murder that had shaken his faith. Since the death of Waedric, the brew from here simply had not tasted as good, but nobody would ever say something to this effect to Gaerwulf’s face.

It would not be wise to go alone to Porky’s Potluck, unless you were looking to get robbed or beat up.

While Hjugo Sihm did his best to take care of Ullester’s truly sick and needy, he could not help everyone. For minor aches, pains, and illnesses, most people depended on elf maiden Aethela Nestethel.

Regarding House Aráganing, when Amánwel Aráganson perished, his son Arágnar Aráganing became heir to the family fortune and the most likely candidate for Eorl. Arágnar didn’t initially want the job, but after he was nominated for the role by his close friend Bodenheim, he won the election by a landslide, something his primary opponent in the election, Titus Scarnati, had never quite come to terms with. Raegnar Aráganing, son of Arágnar, was betrothed to marry Karinna Bæcestre, but her death at Chopper’s hands cut that short. Raegnar seemed to have since recovered from the shock, but had put aside all interest in romance for his leadership of the Eohriddas.

May Day Honors

Finally, as the procession ended and the sun began to set, Eorl Arágnar, Theoda his wife, Pace Dubhans, and Hjugo Sihm stood on the central podium. All five May Queen candidates gathered before the podium, flanked in escort by their honor guard – Dodge, Kyran and the three others. Yríadel waited nearby with Ladwig. She would offer an invocation to the goddess Freyja during the hallowing.

Lee and Magna were lounging near a tent on the north end of the Hoftorg. Glenlivet was standing near a building on the south end, keeping a watchful eye on Yríadel. Aiden had no interest in the Hallowing and chose to vacate the Hoftorg and watch from a distance – ironically, from within the Maegenhof.

Arágnar smiled at his populace, waited a sufficient amount of time for the crowd to gather, then began to announce the winners of the competitions. First he announced Dodge as the winner of the Araganstone Carry. He gripped Dodge’s hand firmly and gave him his finely crafted drinking horn. To the crowd he commented, “Dodge, a visitor from Darford, truly has exceptional strength. No man has carried the Araganstone so far since Araganus himself, generations ago.”

Next, Eorl Arágnar called the name of Kyran, winner of the Archery Contest. To Kyran he gave a firm handshake and his prize drinking-horn. He whispered to Kyran with a teasing smile, “you defeated my Huskarl Cwink Broder by only one point, my friend. Please do not rub it in.”

Finally, Eorl Arágnar announced the winner of the Foot Race. “Dodge, again! My what an exceptional man. The bards sing that none but Araganus, First Eorl of Ullester, have ever won multiple events on May Day.”

Next, Pace Dubhans stood forth, used his typically flowery speech and announced the May Queen: Raena. No one was surprised, but the applause was quite sincere and in agreement with the selection. She looked even more beautiful when Pace Dubhans placed the Kirell Corona on her head and she turned for all to see.

Finally, the sun had almost completely set and it was time for the much anticipated Hallowing of Maegenhof. The crowd was all full of bustle and chatter. Arágnar signaled to Hjugo Sihm, who lifted a large bronze bell and rang it to ensure he had everyone’s attention.

Goblins in the Streets!

The loud tone of the ceremonial bell sliced through the excited crowd as the sun’s setting rays painted the western sky. A stray dog – that had crawled under a nearby wagon to sleep – started awake, and the buzz of dozens of conversations quickly hushed as all heads turned toward the central podium, where Hjugo Sihm stood center stage. He cleared his throat, took a breath as he prepared to begin the incantations, and suddenly a woman’s scream sliced through the air. A few seconds later, another scream rose, then another. Beyond them, a sudden surge of strange new voices rose—high-pitched, tittering shrieks that sounded not quite human. The crowd parted and something low to the ground raced by, giggling with disturbing glee as the stray dog gave a pained yelp and then collapsed with a gurgle, its throat cut open from ear to ear. As blood pooled around its head, the raucous sound of a strange song began, chanted from shrill, scratchy voices.

At the north end of the Hoftorg, Lee Alfsaw and Magna Morko witnessed the shape that raced by and killed the dog now hid at the edge of the wagon—a single goblin, licking the blood from its dogslicer as it looked excitedly at the crowd, seeking out a new target. Lee acted quickly. He stealthily ran around the back of the wagon and attacked the goblin with Gartân, his dagger. Down went the surprised goblin in a bloody mess. Ha! Revenge for that poor mutt, thought Lee. Magna spotted another goblin nearby and rushed it. He swung with his sword, but the little goblin eluded the strike. There were several goblins moving in from the north.

Glenlivet was also quick to react. He noticed a troop goblins moving into the Hoftorg from the south and he ran full speed towards them to defend the people of the town.

“Ladies, get up on the podium!” Kyran shouted to Raena and the other maidens. Kyran, Dodge, Braco, Cwink Broder and Quintus all readied their weapons and prepared to defend everyone around them. Goblins were pouring in from the south and the north. The attacking goblins shrieked and leaped and raced and cackled, taking great joy in the panic and fear they were spreading among the festival attendees. The men heard an occasional goblin shout insults in Westrian like “kill the longshanks”. Some waved torches trying to light tents on fire, while others chased children and pets with ill intent. Everywhere people looked, goblins tore through merchant stalls, menaced locals with their dogslicers, threw rocks at people, and otherwise made terrors of themselves. The entire time, goblin warchanters sang a horrifically catchy and nerve-wracking goblin song at the top of their lungs, further spurring their kin into murderous frenzy.

As the battle heated up, Lee and Magna continued to battle goblins from the north side, while Glenlivet, Dodge, Kyran and Aiden battled goblins from the south side. All were joined by an occasional warrior of the town, including thanes and huskarls. Though the goblins were more or less being hacked down left and right, their morale seemed unusually high, as if they were convinced their raid on Ullester could not fail and they were far too excited to consider the possibility of losing their lives in battle. As such, they were fighting to the death – though some more by accident than out of any real sense of bravery. One goblin tried to clamber up onto a table of food near Lee and Magna to gain a higher ground advantage, but slipped and fell off in his haste. Another got distracted by a plate of salmon and wasted his action stuffing his pockets with food for later. A third grabbed up a big carving knife to replace his broken dogslicer.

In less than a minute, many goblins lay dead or dying in the Hoftorg. Yet more continued to race about in all directions, running amok and singing and slashing indiscriminately, demonstrating various antics. One goblin leaped off a roof in an attempt to land on a victim, but it missed and broke its neck. Another threw a lit torch at a fleeing mother only to have it land on another goblin and light his armor on fire.

Goblin Pyros

Dodge deduced that the song of a warchanter was inspiring courage and frenzy in the goblins, so he and Kyran began to seek the source. Suddenly, a great bloom of fire grabbed their attention. A group of goblins had found the cart full of fuel for the bonfire just south of the festival grounds and had lit it on fire. The warriors from Darford rushed to investigate the burning wagons, and were soon confronted with several cackling and shrieking goblins armed with dogslicers and torches. As soon as the goblins saw them, they shrieked in delight and attacked. At first, the goblins gleefully tried to burn the warriors with their torches, but as soon as the first one was slain, the surviving goblins realized the fight was for real and switched to their dogslicers.

Though outnumbered two-to-one, the six from Darford smashed into the defensive lines of the goblins, cutting them down one-by-one. The goblins fought desperately to prevent the men from getting to the burning wagons, and they were backed by their warchanter, wielding her ominous whip.

At her first opportunity, the warchanter targeted a Daze spell at Kyran, but with his strong will he defied its power and remained unaffected. Next, she began cracking her whip over the heads of the goblins, aiming at Dodge, then Kyran, but they showed no fear and continued the fray. Eventually, Kyran pierced through the line of goblins and confronted the warchanter, hacking her with his sword. Her blood was spilled but she countered with a painful crack from her whip. Next Dodge charged through and attacked, but she evaded the blow from his axe. But by then, Aiden outflanked her, and with his Kama he split her head open with a great splash of blood.

Once the warchanter was dead, the men moved the carts away from any nearby buildings, to lessen the danger of the fire spreading. They were joined shortly by others who helped to extinguish the flames.

Days later, one of the scops would recall the warchanter’s nameless goblin rhyme:
Goblins chew and goblins bite.
Goblins cut and goblins fight.
Stab the dog and cut the horse,
Goblins eat and take by force!
Goblins race and goblins jump.
Goblins slash and goblins bump.
Burn the skin and mash the head,
Goblins here and you be dead!
Chase the baby, catch the pup.
Bonk the head to shut it up.
Bones be cracked, flesh be stewed,
We be goblins! You be food!

Die, Dog, Die!

The six warriors of Darford worked their way back towards the central podium in the Hoftorg, planning to check on Yríadel and the dignitaries. Things at the festival grounds seemed to have calmed somewhat. Here and there, the sounds of battle, clanging weapons, calls of support by the Burgwardas, and shrieking and singing goblins echoed through the streets, but at the festival itself, most of the citizens had fled. One or two goblins remained behind to scavenge food, and many more lay dead (along with a few unfortunate citizens). It was obvious that the fight had moved on, when they heard the sound of a man scream and frantic dog bark coming from the north.

They rushed toward the sound, weapons at the ready. In front of the Hart o’ Ten they witnessed a goblin commando mounted on a goblin dog which had attacked a man and his hunting dog. The man sought shelter behind a rain barrel where he called for help, while his dog fought against the commando. Just as they charged within range, the goblin commando killed the dog with his horsechopper. The dog crashed dying to the ground as the commando’s goblin kin (who were themselves cowering nearby as the dog was handled) threw up a cheer and emerged from hiding.

The goblins were distracted by their kill, and as they turned their attention to owner of the fallen dog, the warriors had the opportunity to attack with surprise. Aiden was the swiftest afoot. He reached their new opponents first and slashed at the goblin dog with his kama. But the goblin commando turned his mount and managed to avoid the strike. Dodge was right behind but could only deliver a glancing blow upon the goblin commando. Lee, Kyran, Magna and Glen all joined the fray.

The mounted goblin commando might have been a dangerous opponent had he the opportunity to range about freely, but the warriors quickly surrounded him. After receiving mortal wounds from Glen, then Dodge, the commando fell from his mount, defeated. The goblin dog fell soon thereafter to the blade of Dodge’s axe. In less than a minute, the group had killed the remaining eight goblins.
Now that the goblins were dealt with, the dog owner approached the group and thanked them profusely. He introduced himself as Alden Foxfur of Kantor. He focused his attention mostly on Dodge, who had done the most damage during the fight, and complimented him on his skill at arms and bravery.

As Alden glanced about nervously for more goblins, he informed the men that he would be in town for a few more days; that he was staying at the Drunken Dragon to the south, and when they got a chance, he would love to talk with them more and perhaps reward them properly for saving his life. With that, he gathered his remaining two dogs and headed south. His three servants reverently carried the body of the fallen dog.

By this time, the battle had been decided. Surviving goblins were fleeing north in droves, in some cases preferring to leap to their certain death off cliffs rather than be captured.

The six victorious warriors from Darford returned to the Hoftorg to see what other assistance they could provide. There, they found Yríadel busily working to care for the wounded, alongside Gothis Hjugo Sihm and Ladwig, and Volas Âldreda and Leofdæg.

Several of the little menaces were in fact caught alive, but they proved useless when interrogated; none of these goblins knew much more than that they were given orders to kill everyone in town and burn down the place. None of the captured goblins could even remember their leader’s name, apart from the fact that he was one of “you longshanks.” Their leader was on a secret mission to the town’s graveyard – that much most goblins could say, but none of them knew what that mission was. It was secret, after all!

Chapter 4: Local Heroes

As Ullester recovered from the attack and buried its (thankfully few) dead, the citizens did their best to get on with their lives. The temple was consecrated the next day during a much more subdued and indoor ceremony.

During Yríadel’s portion of the hallowing, she recited a charm to her goddess Freyja.
Frost shall freeze, fire consume wood,
earth produce growth, ice form a bridge,
water wear helm, wondrously confine
the young sprouts of earth. One shall unbind
the fetters of frost, Frëa almighty.
Winter shall pass, fair weather return,
summer hot with sun. Unquiet the sound,
the deep dead wave is longest hid.
Holly shall be kindled….

By the end of the week, the goblin attack was remembered mostly with chuckles. Now that the terror of the raid was over, memories of goblins accidentally lighting themselves on fire, getting stepped on by horses, or drowning in rain barrels that were only half full in the first place, rendered memories of the raid in an almost comical light. But one thing the locals had not forgotten was their new heroes. In fact, their names soon became household knowledge, and nearly everywhere they went in town, locals welcomed them.

Glenlivet and the Hwychwood Brewery

Glenlivet paid a visit to the Hwychwood Brewery to review their process and to see if he could exchange learning with them. First he met Waeda, one of the attractive young daughters of Gaerwulf and Kirelia. While waiting for Gaerwulf, he also talked briefly with Gaerwód, whom he had met earlier that week in the May Day Foot Race. Glen spent a couple of hours with Gaerwulf, who was very congenial and open about his process for brewing their ale and mead. There were a few batches of mash brewing, and Glen appreciated the enticing aroma. In addition to the fermenting malted barley, each batch included a different gruit – flavoring added to the mash – dandelion, marigold, and mugwort. Glen also detected a hint of cinnamon, black henbane and juniper berries. After the tour, Glen and Gaerwulf parted ways, with Gaerwulf inviting Glen to visit again any time.

Glen had heard gossip that the brew produced here had not tasted as good as before Gaerwulf’s brother Waedric had been killed. He had also heard the Gaerwulf was once a follower of Tyr, yet saw no signs to that fact anywhere. Glen had good intentions of advising the brewery and helping them improve, but with his minimal experience he was unable to see any areas where he could suggest improvement. Wisely, Glen kept all his thoughts on these subjects to himself.

The Boar Hunt

The group decided to pay a visit to the Drunken Dragon to take up Alden Foxfur’s invitation after they saved him from certain “goblining.” He was overjoyed to see them, and again thanked them all enthusiastically. He was noticeably charmed upon being introduced to Yríadel. He explained that in a few days he was going to return to his townhouse in Kantor, but before that he was hoping to go on a boar hunt in nearby Ticwood, and invited the group along. He clapped his hands in delight when they agreed to the hunt.

Alden gladly rented everyone their own mount from the Goblin Stomp Stables. Then he eagerly led the group and his three manservants – Beeler, Lundstrum and Morcant – east over Tanner’s Bridge and along the banks of the Kennut River. They were also accompanied by two of Alden’s prized wolfhounds – Clapp and Droppo.

It was a two mile ride to the Ticwood Ford, just north of the up-thrust limestone escarpment known as Fanden’s Crag. Despite its unusual name, Ticwood was actually a relatively safe woodland, one well known to be the home of wild boars, deer, and perhaps one or two firepelt cougars – no goblin tribes dwelled within its boundaries.

The ride to Ticwood took about a half hour, and during the pleasant journey they discovered that Alden was a charming conversationalist, was well-read and had a seemingly endless cache of stories about the high life in Kantor. He even knew the trivial fact that Ticwood was named by Aráganus, First Eorl of Ullester, for his favorite wolfhound, Tic.

But Alden was also very interested in the group – asking each about themselves and where they were from, especially those from Darford. He was keenly interested in how long they had been fighting goblins and asked specific details on how to combat them successfully. Not surprisingly, Alden was particularly interested in Dodge, and spent the most time grilling him about his heroic exploits in an almost desperate attempt to “learn how to be a hero.”

In the forest, it didn’t take long to track a boar, especially with the assistance of Magna’s ranger skills. In fact, Magna tracked a group of three, and with the expertise of the servants and dogs they separated the largest boar for the killing. Magna and Lee each hit it with an arrow, but for the kill, it was considered more sporting and heroic to finish it with a spear. Alden deferred, allowing anyone else with the desire to attack first, and both Dodge and Aiden jumped to the task. Alden seemed focused on watching Dodge, as he and Aiden went in for the kill. They were both handy with their spears, each delivering a damaging wound. Still not dead, the boar charged at Dodge in an attempt to gore him, but Dodge deftly evaded the attack, then countered with a final, killing wound. Alden demonstrated his pleasure with abundant cheering and applause.

During the ride back to Ullester, Alden talked excitedly about the hunt and invited everyone back to the Drunken Dragon that evening, to feast on their spoils. They all cheered and agreed, though Dodge was starting to feel a little bit annoyed at Alden’s obsession with him.

Anika-Shae cooked a big dinner for them and they all greatly enjoyed the boar feast, accompanied by bread, vegetables and ale. She enjoyed their company so much she invited the heroes to stay at her inn for free, an offer which they all thankfully accepted. Besides, they agreed, Duntun seemed to be much more fun than Upptun.

~ ~ ~

Before the evening was over, Dodge’s patience with Alden was starting to thin – Alden idolized him and seemed to be just a little too eager to be friends. Before they parted, true to his word, Alden rewarded the group with 50 gold shillings for saving his life. He also invited them to stop by his home in Kantor if they ever visited that city.

The Shopkeep’s Daughter

Dodge and his friends had just finished a hearty midday meal, and were relaxing in the tavern of the Drunken Dragon while finishing their mugs of ale. Lately, they had all been receiving quite a bit of attention from the young ladies of the town, so no one was surprised when a pretty young girl approached Dodge and asked for his assistance.

She was a petite young lass with delicate features and a very pleasing figure. She had sharp, gray eyes, framed by long dark eyelashes, and she had wavy brown hair. She wore a fine silk dress, dyed of purple with cream colored lace around the sleeves and hem, which was worn over a white petticoat with matching cream colored lace. It was an enchanting array which was clearly meant to garner attention – a goal which was definitely achieved as Dodge gave her his complete attention.

She introduced herself as Lissa and seemed humbly honored to meet such a “great hero” as Dodge. Then she explained that her family’s store had a major rat problem.

“Why, just yesterday, I’m sure I saw one the size of a goblin hiding behind a barrel at the far end of the basement. My father doesn’t believe me, but I know he’s just more distracted by what Trina might or might not be up to at the Timber Mill. And since there’s this handy new hero in town, well, I just thought to myself, maybe said hero could come back with me to kill a few rats in the store’s basement.”

Dodge decided it would be no inconvenience to assist, so he agreed to accompany her. Besides, she was a very attractive girl and only a couple years younger than himself. He certainly would not refuse if she decided to reward him with a kiss, he imagined cleverly to himself.

Lissa led him off toward her father’s store, the Aellshoppe [All-Shop]. It was not far to walk, and she moved quite swiftly, so there was no conversation between them. Just before they reached the store, Lissa grabbed Dodge by the hand and they scurried down a side alley to the back of the building. She stopped at a cellar door, breathing heavily, and motioned for Dodge to open it. He dutifully lifted the door, then cautiously descended a set of wooden stairs into a storage room. Once his boots were firmly on the dirt floor, he looked around and detected all manner of stored goods in the dark area.

Dodge heard a swish of cloth above him and looked up as Lissa gathered her skirt and petticoat into one hand and started backing down the steep stairs after him. Surprised, he redirected his attention from his dark surroundings to the pretty young thing above him. He caught a brief glimpse of her bare, white bottom and his manhood grew solid in response. Freyja’s Fruits!, he thought to himself, Do women not wear bloomers in this town? Her skirts swayed provocatively with each dainty step and he enjoyed a clear view of her smooth, shapely legs as she stepped gingerly downward.

Before reaching the last step, Lissa turned and jumped down – practically landing on Dodge’s feet – and fell against his sturdy frame. To keep from falling backward, she let loose her skirts and reflexively threw her arms around him. Dodge had a fairly sizable bulge after just witnessing her enticing display upon the stairs, and he was sure she could feel his hardness pressed against her.

“Sorry,” she said, smiling up at him with her gorgeous, mischievous eyes. She was not the least bit sorry. She stepped aside and removed her bodice with surprising swiftness, allowing Dodge to view the full shape of her young, round breasts through her thin blouse. He admired how her apple-dumplings stayed firmly in place without the support of her bodice. Her nipples practically pierced through the delicate material. His bulge grew ever larger thanks to the titillating view.

Lissa took Dodge by the hand and guided him over to a “convenient” cot that was set up in the back of the room. Obviously, there were no rats in this basement! But Dodge paid no mind to any misguided motives and eagerly followed her. He had to admit, this was not what he had expected on this mission, but he was not the kind of guy to look a gift horse in the mouth and this certainly looked like a tasty gift.

They stopped beside the cot and hungrily started kissing, then furiously began to remove each other’s clothes. Once Lissa was stripped down to just her stocking feet, she literally threw herself on the cot.

Dodge wasted no time and quickly climbed on top of her. Lissa let out an involuntary groan of ecstasy as he began making love to her. Their passion intensified and she began to cry out loud in bliss. She shifted wildly beneath him and thrashed her arms around on the cot like a woman berserk. Then she exploded with a thunderous peak of pleasure, failing to muffle her scream. Her body shuddered against his, her legs quaking. Dodge lifted himself over her and admired the enraptured look on her face, her hair was in a tumble. Finally, their energy spent, they collapsed into each other’s arms on the cot.

Breathless from the exertions of their coupling, their contentment was suddenly interrupted by the sound of footsteps coming down the stairs at the far end of the basement. They jumped off the cot and hastily searched for their scattered garments. But it was too late to mask their illicit activity – they had been discovered by Lissa’s father, Andor vanDetta!

“Frigg’s Tits!” Andor roared, shaking his large and meaty fists at Dodge. “What is going on here?”

Dodge knew there was no way to hide what had just transpired. He had only just pulled up his trousers and was still holding the tie-strings in his hand. Lissa had just slipped on her petticoat and was still clutching her gown.

“Lissa?” Andor queried, absorbing the scene. Then he exploded at Dodge. “What have you done to my daughter!” he bellowed. “If you have harmed her, you will regret it!”

“Uh, hold on now,” Dodge pleaded, holding up his arms in a peaceful gesture. “No harm has come to your daughter.” He continued collecting his gear, praying to Thor for an easy exit.

Dodge was the May Day Champion of the Araganus Rock and had proved to all that he was the strongest man in the entire town of Ullester. And all knew of his prowess in battle during the recent goblin invasion. But Andor was blind to all this. His mind could think only of the tarnished image of his “innocent” daughter. Dodge was confident that despite Andor’s rage he could best him in a fight. But today, young Dodge showed wisdom and resisted his instinct toward violence. Perhaps he recognized that Andor was a well-liked man in town and he did not want to make matters even more worse than they already were.

“Look, I am sorry,” Dodge offered. “Uh, she asked me here to kill some rats, and… one thing led to another…” Words were not Dodge’s strong point. He stuttered and stammered, failing miserably to cool Andor’s boiling temper.

“You liar!” Andor argued. “My little daughter would do no such thing. You had better just get your ass out of here, young man, before I skin it off you!” Clearly, he would not accept any explanation implying that his virginal daughter had lured Dodge into this scenario.

Dodge slipped past Andor, and made his way up the cellar stairs. “You will pay for this!” Andor shouted as Dodge reached the top of the stairs.

But once Dodge felt the warmth of the sun on his face, he could not help but smile. That was quite a bit of fun, actually, he thought.

Monster in the Closet

Late in the evening, Dodge and Kyran were in the Drunken Dragon tavern, enjoying the benefits of their status as May Day Champions, compounded by their growing legend as heroic goblin slayers. Their revelry was joined by Magna, and their drinking horns were filled repeatedly with free ale by friendly and thankful Ullester residents. Kyran and Magna teased Dodge about the “burdensome task” he had to “endure” that day for Lissa the shopkeep’s daughter, and sympathizing about the difficult position he was in with her father. Their frivolity was interrupted when a tearful woman hastily approached in a panic, clutching a baby to her chest with one hand and clinging to her little boy with the other.

“Please, can you help us?!” she cried. “I couldn’t find any Burgwardas. Could you please help me and my family? My husband is trying to exterminate a goblin from our house, and I fear he may need some aid. You are great goblin hunters, can you please help us?”

Of course they volunteered, and rushed out of the tavern to further add to their status as local heroes. Along the way to her house the woman excitedly explained the background of the situation.

“My name is Hilda Blæcstánas. This is my baby Hildelith and my son Ordfurth. A few days ago, at the May Day Festival, little Ordfurth saw a goblin light a cat on fire and then caper around the burning remains. The poor boy hasn’t been the same since. Every night, he has howled in terror, which in turn sent our dog Petal into a barking fit. Each time my husband Alergast would investigate, Ordfurth would claim that a goblin had come out of his closet. Alergast would check the closet but always found nothing, and Ordfurth’s complaints about the ‘closet goblin’ grew more and more tiresome to Alergast. Yesterday, he threatened to make Ordfurth sleep in the woodshed if he couldn’t learn to ‘be a man’ and sleep through an entire night without crying and telling stories.

“So last night, Alergast finally lost his patience and did not go to soothe Ordfurth when he had his night terrors. But then, a few moments later, we heard poor Petal cry out in pain and Ordfurth’s screams turn shrill. At that time it was obvious Ordfurth wasn’t just having nightmares.

“Here, look at his arms,” she says, as she presents young Ordfurth’s arms. They are definitely covered with fresh goblin bites.

“When Alergast burst into the room, he found a goblin crouched on our son’s chest. Petal was dead, a knife deep in his ear, and the goblin was frantically trying to chew off Ordfurth’s arm. Alergast attacked the goblin and chased it back into the closet. It appeared to clamber into a hole the clever little rodent had hidden under an old fur. Alergast flew into a rage, and as he started tearing apart the closet in an attempt to get at the goblin, I panicked and fled the house with my children to seek out aid.”

When they arrived at the Blæcstánas house, they found it disturbingly silent. They crept in cautiously, and upon reaching Ordfurth’s room they saw a dead dog on the floor. There was a deep gash from a knife wound through its ear. Then they spotted a large man on his belly, presumably Alergast Blæcstánas, positioned as if he had crawled into the closet. They inspected closer and could see that his upper torso was stuck in a hole in the floor – and he was not breathing.

Dodge grabbed Alergast by his feet, then pulled him back out of the hole. They turned him over and found him to be quite dead and – shockingly – the flesh of his face and upper torso had been eaten away. It appeared that Alergast had tried to go through the hole to kill the goblin, but perhaps had underestimated the creature and was killed. They could see right away that his throat had been cut.

An instant later, a goblin leaped up out of the hole and attacked them. He was in an insane rage and shrieked about the men stealing his “dinner”. He appeared to be starving – probably trapped in that hole for days – and was almost feral with hunger and fear. Dodge, Kyran and Magna hacked at the little bugger, who was elusive and dangerous. It delivered a vicious cut to Magna before the three finally cut it down.

Dodge dragged the goblin’s body out of the house, and Hilda was thankful, until she entered the house and discovered her husband’s fate, whereupon she had a complete breakdown. They were at a loss as to what to do with the situation, but fortunately Forwost Baelor soon arrived. He took in the scene with his customary grim expression. He thanked Dodge, Kyran and Magna for helping, then made arrangements to have the Blæcstánas family stay at the Maegenhof for a few days.

Back at the tavern, the three were in a sober mood. Up to now, the goblins had been as much comic relief as they had been menaces. The fate of Alergast Blæcstánas was grim and depressing. It reminded them that goblins were not only dangerous creatures, but were also remorselessly evil little bastards.

Siden Mildthreth

Yríadel and her companions were gathered for a morning meal at the inn, discussing their plans for the day, when they were approached by a young girl. The girl’s blonde hair was cut short, the traditional style for a lowly thrall. Her clothes were thread-bare and patched, as if worn by many older girls and handed down as they outgrew them. Yríadel noticed that her shoes were well-stitched, so her master must at least care for her comfort, if not for her appearance. She smiled lightly to Yríadel and innocently commented, “You are very beautiful.”

“Why thank you, my young friend,” Yríadel replied charmingly, “and you have such a pretty face yourself.” No one at the table was surprised by the exchange, least of all Yríadel, who commonly invoked such responses from many who saw her – and not just men. Also, since May Day, when she and her companions so valiantly defended and supported the town against the goblins, many townspeople had been showering praise upon all seven of them.

The girl opened her hand and presented a small Hawthorn Blossom. When Yríadel leaned forward to accept, the girl’s tone changed from innocent and frivolous to cunning and grave: “You must give audience to Siden Mildthreth tonight. Come to her manor at sundown. And bring all six of your friends. This is very important! In the name of She Who Kisses Awake the God of the Fields, you must not refuse.”

She turned and hurried out of the inn, leaving Yríadel holding the blossom and a stunned look upon her face. Yríadel explained to her friends that “She Who Kisses Awake the God of the Fields” was a reference to her goddess Freyja. She inquired of Anika-Shae who told her that the girl’s name was Aestrid, a thrall that worked for Siden Mildthreth. Mildthreth was once a Seiðr {sae-dhr}, a type of Nordheimr oracle associated with Odin or Freyja.

At sunset, the seven walked to Sidenhus, also known as the Seer-House, located in Upptun near the Old Keep. From the outside, the house appeared to be an ancient, decrepit manor house with several rooms. In front, two people – a large man and a young girl – were seated upon a crudely-crafted log bench. A clowder of cats lounged about leisurely in the torchlight.

As they approached, the man rose up and stood in front of the door – obviously a guard. He held a large battle-axe across his chest and wore the typical armor of a Nordheimr. He bore the appearance of a Viking fresh off a Nordheimr dragonship. Dodge recognized the guard as the one named Grúmi, one of the Araganstone competitors, and among the few that carried the Araganstone any distance at all, (though none as far as Dodge).

The girl, whom they recognized as Aestrid, the messenger from earlier that day, gently removed a cat from her lap before she stood. From a basket on the bench she retrieved several small branches of Hawthorn blossoms. She strode forward and greeted the seven with a bow, then handed each a single branch of Hawthorn.

“Thank you for coming,” she said with a welcoming smile. “This way, please.” She turned and happily headed toward the front entrance.

Grúmi turned to open the door, but a sickly looking black cat sat in front. He gave it a shove with his boot. “Get out o’ here, ya mangy louse! Ya know yer not allowed in there.” The cat hissed and jumped away angrily. They could hear it growling as it sulked away.

They followed the blonde girl through the door into a large room. The walls were covered with curtains – hiding all doors save the one through which they entered. Opposite the entrance was an old wooden chair, its arms smooth with years of wear. Upon its high seat a cushion lay thereon, stuffed with poultry-feathers. Flanked on each side of the seat were finely crafted, wooden cabinets, perhaps to contain mysterious ingredients for the Siden’s spells. The floor was covered in cushions, rugs and furs, forming a large semi-circle around an old stone basin set into the center of the floor. All the curtains were stitched with various ancient Theodish Runes. The wood furniture and stone basin also had runes carved into them.

“Please, sit among the rugs while we wait,” the girl offered. Then she closed the door, with Grúmi on the outside, and kneeled on the floor, her back to the door.

After a long enough wait, they heard the sound of someone approaching the room from within the manor. It was an odd sound – a mixture of slow, soft shuffling and a rapping of metal upon wood. Soon, the curtain behind the chair parted. A young girl with short red hair emerged. She held the curtain apart with one hand, while with the other hand she guided in a decrepit old woman – Siden Mildthreth. She was the oldest woman they had ever seen. She appeared to be so ancient as to be on the very edge of death. Her feet shuffled along lamely and she leaned weakly on a staff which thumped the wooden floor with each step. The girl led the old woman to the chair where she sat herself calmly.

She was dressed in such wise that she had a blue mantle over her, with strings for the neck, and it was inlaid with gems quite down to the skirt. On her neck she had glass beads. On her head she had a black hood of lambskin, lined with ermine. A staff she had in her hand, with a knob thereon; it was ornamented with brass, and inlaid with gems round about the knob. Around her she wore a girdle of soft hair, and therein was a large skin-bag, in which she kept the talismans needful to her in her wisdom. She wore hairy calf-skin shoes on her feet, with long and strong-looking thongs to them, and great knobs of brass at the ends. On her hands she had gloves of ermine-skin, and they were white and hairy within. (2)

“Thank you, Caridwén,” Mildthreth said to the girl in a raspy voice as she handed her the staff. Her eyes had no pupils, as if she were blind. Yet Yríadel got the strong impression that she only required assistance because she was old and feeble, not because she could not see. And she also sensed that the staff served much more purpose than as just a simple cane.

Mildthreth placed her hands on the arms of the chair and silently studied the room. For a few minutes, there was no sound but her scratchy breathing. She appeared to be meditating, or perhaps praying. The seven visitors held their peace respectfully. Suddenly, from her calmness emerged an expression of anger.

“Aestrid!” she snapped towards the blonde girl. “You were ordered to bring all seven. I sense there are only six. I told you how important it is that the number be seven.” She spoke slowly with her tired old voice, yet she still commanded great authority with her tone.

“Siden Mildthreth,” urged Caridwén worriedly, “something must be wrong. There are indeed seven visitors.”

Mildthreth tilted her head with a puzzled face. “Is this true? You do not mock my weary senses?”

“No, Siden Mildthreth,” responded Aestrid submissively. “They did as you asked. All seven are seated about this very room right now.”

“Very well,” grumbled Siden Mildthreth. She straightened in her chair, her impatience now turned to worried concern. “Though my eyes no longer see, I am not completely blind. Yet I can only see what the gods choose to reveal to me in their capricious wisdom. Within this room I sense your auras, each of a different color.

“There is red and gold,” she stated, pointing with her frail, crooked finger, first at Dodge, then Yríadel. “There is brown and blue,” she said, now pointing at Magna and Aiden. “There is one whose color… seems to change…, but today we will call him gray,” she smirked while pointing at Lee. “Finally, there is white,” pointing at Glen. “Among the seven colors of the prophecy… black… is hidden from my view.

“If there are indeed seven visitors, bring to me the one who is concealed by the gods,” she ordered impatiently.

Aestrid deduced that Kyran was the missing piece. She rose, took him by the hand and led him to stand in front of Siden Mildthreth’s chair. Kyran followed obediently and silently. Mildthreth reached out warily and touched Kyran’s chest with her shaky hand. The contact released a tiny spark of static energy. “Ssst!” she inhaled in surprise. “It seems to be as you say. I can see your aura now, and indeed your color is black. However, it is most disturbing that your presence was obscured before. It is as though… some magic had veiled you… and kept you hidden from my senses. Come, I must be sure.”

Struggling slightly, she rose from her chair to stand before Kyran. She was so small and her back so bent, the deed barely raised her any higher than when she was seated. Taller than most men, Kyran towered over her diminutive frame. She reached up with her withered hands and gently felt his chest, his neck, then his face. Her face remained expressionless. Her hands gripped his broad shoulders, then lowered down his thick arms and his hands. As her right hand pressed against his firm stomach, her left hand clutched his crotch. Kyran tried to stay relaxed. He held no enjoyment for this groping, yet he was not offended. He identified that it was purely her unorthodox method of detecting the mystical, and nothing more. She reached around to clutch his buttocks – Kyran froze with tension – her brows lifted with surprise. She released her touch and stepped back, her face failing to hide her shocked expressions of discovery… and acknowledgment.

“So! There is a dweomer upon you,” she mused, quickly recovering. “I know not if even the gods are aware of you, but we may soon learn. And until instructed otherwise… I will do nothing to remove this spell… for in fact its power is beyond me.”

As Aestrid ushered Kyran back to his original spot, Caridwén aided Siden Mildthreth back into her chair. Once settled, she began a long discourse in her slow, ancient voice.

“I am the Siden Mildthreth. I was born in the far land of Nordheim. I had nine sisters, and they were all Seidr, and I am the only one still alive. Not long after Ullester was founded… I arrived here and served the Eorl with messages from the gods.

“Five years ago, in that horrible time that we call the Fryht Yeer, an ancient evil… long forgotten… returned to our world. Sadly, since that evil time… the gods no longer spoke to me. My powers as an oracle were gone… and I was no longer of any use to our Eorl.

“But a few months ago… without explanation… the dreams finally returned to me. Among the visions were portents of great evil. Though Eorl Arágnar remains doubtful that my powers have returned, I know that they are true. The gateway to the gods has indeed been reopened for me.

“First, I received visions of giants… off in the distance… preparing to destroy our town… though none ever came and Arágnar’s doubts increased. Next, I was shown warnings of the seven runes for the seven primal sins.

“Through these signs… the gods have warned me of dangers… and that a terrible age of evil will soon threaten this land.

“But my divinations also showed me… that there is hope for the future. I have seen visions that seven heroes will arrive in our town – a sacred number to counter the runes of the seven primal sins. Though young and unproven, these heroes may very well rise… to be the ones who are capable of stopping the evil and chaos.

“It is my sacred goal… to determine if you… might be the seven that I seek. The gods are fickle, but when they so choose, they can reveal to me secrets of past, present and future. Know you… any secrets that I may reveal this night, will remain within this room. I would not have lived this long by freely surrendering the secrets that are entrusted to me by the gods.”

She paused. Her head was lowered as if meditating. Then she sidled off the chair – with Caridwén holding her by the arm – reached into a cabinet to her left and extracted an ornate leather bag from a drawer. She stepped towards the stone basin in the center of the room and asked, “Who shall be first?”

The seven looked about for a second, then Dodge stood up. “I shall go first,” he answered.

“Step forward,” she requested, “and kneel beside me.” Dodge and Mildthreth kneeled side by side, facing the stone basin.

“Hold out your hands like so,” she instructed, placing her hands together, palms up, to form a saucer-like shape. “I will set the runes upon your flesh, whereupon you shall identify yourself in full, then toss the runes into the basin.”

Dodge mimicked her, and she emptied the contents of her leather bag into his hands. “Dodge Viper,” he pronounced, then dumped the runes into the basin. They landed with a satisfying series of clicks and clacks, then everyone could see what they were. They had seen rune stones before, usually smooth and rounded, with a rune painted on each of them. But these were bones, carved from man or animal, they knew not what, and the runes were inlaid, not painted, as if to be sensed by touch, not read by sight.

Mildthreth picked up the bones, one by one, felt their carved surface with her fingers to interpret its sign, then began to announce revelations which the gods revealed through the runes. She dropped each deciphered rune back into the leather bag. With her hollow eyes closed, she spoke in a dry, monotone voice, as if from a trance. She never spoke of anyone by name, and always referred to her subjects by the color of their aura.

  • Red is watched by the covetous eyes of gods who wish to claim him as a champion: Odin, Thor, Uller and others.
  • Red has blood kin in Ullester.
  • Red had a grandmother who was once an Aetheling from Seäxeny, but she fled in exile.
  • Within Red resides the spirit of the Berserkers of Odin, which grows stronger with each conquest. Red may use this power to accomplish great deeds.
  • Be warned: Red may someday inherit a powerful curse.

Her trance completed, she opened her eyes and spoke again. “So, it seems that Grúmi Halftroll spoke the truth… though I was unwilling to believe him. He is a clod and often given to fancy. He insisted that whilst you carried the Aráganus Rock you went ‘berserk’ and brandished the strength of a bear. You are not ‘hamrammr’ – shape-shifter – but you have surely been favored by the One-Eye of Odin Asagrim.”

While Dodge returned to his spot, Caridwén helped scoop out the remaining, unused bones, and dropped them into the bag.

Yríadel could tell Dodge was thinking about what they had just heard. Most of that seems obvious, she conjectured. It makes sense that Odin or Thor would grant him power as a berserker, or covet him if he comes by it naturally. But I wonder what “blood kin in Ullester” he might have. During all our years together, Dodge never spoke of his ancestry. Like my own, the subject just never came up. And what about an “Aetheling grandmother”? Maybe he has royal blood from back in Seäxeny, the homeland of our people. Except for that troubling bit about her fleeing in exile. I wonder who she was and what was her story?

Her reverie was interrupted as Glenlivet took his turn and kneeled beside Siden Mildthreth. “I am Glenlivet Lesgoth of Darford, son of Dargoth, son of Dartron,” he stated informatively, holding out his hands. She shook the bag to stir up the bones, then dumped them into his open hands. He tossed them into the basin then waited as the seidr repeated the same process she had done for Dodge.

* White is under the watchful eye of Heimdall as a potential champion.
* White is descended from a great hero, one who was a companion of the First Eorl of Ullester. That hero’s mate was an elven sorceress.
* White is also descended from other companions of the First Eorl of Ullester, but their identities are obscured.
* White suffered a family tragedy in his youth. The instigator of that terrible event was none other than Loki, the god of mischief and fire. Be warned: in order to spite Heimdall, Loki seeks to continue to interfere with White.
* White traveled far away for a time, and through great hardship honed himself into a valiant warrior.
* Be warned: White may someday face his elven grandmother, the wife of his most famous ancestor, and the reunion may be filled with danger.”

Well that was good in some ways for Glen, Yríadel thought. I know that lately he has begun to devote himself to Heimdall, and as such a skilled warrior I am not surprised that Heimdall has taken notice of him. We all knew that Glen was “descended from a great hero” – Dartron – and that Dartron was a companion of the “First Eorl of Ullester” – Aráganus. But I wonder if he knew that Dartron’s elven wife Lesseth was a sorceress? And what about the prophecy that he might someday face her, and their reunion may be filled with danger? But he is probably thinking about the news that Loki was involved in the death of his parents and may continue to interfere with his fate in the future.

Aiden stood forth next. “I am Aiden Fire,” he announced. The now-familiar process was repeated: the hands, the bones, her readings.

* Blue, by his recent association with Gold, has been noticed by the gods as a potential champion. But Blue is already committed to a god, one whom the runes do not name – a god worshipped in these lands long before the influence of the Angarian gods arrived.
* Blue is descended from a former companion to the First Eorl of Ullester. By outward appearance he was a pious man, but his issue was prodigious.
* For years, Blue has known only the quest for vengeance. That quest was recently accomplished, but not without the aid of his new companions.
* Be warned: Blue may someday be drawn into a deadly struggle alongside those who trained him in his youth.

That is an odd coincidence, reflected Yríadel. Like Glen, Aiden is descended from a former companion of Aráganus. Aiden told us he was orphaned, and Mildthreth confirmed his story by speaking of his quest for vengeance, so I assume this ancestry is news to him too. But if this ancestor had “prodigious issue,” then he might have descendants all over Brythonia. I cannot wait any longer, I must go next.

Yríadel popped up and took her place beside Siden Mildthreth. “I am Yríadel Yngvarsdottir of Darford, Priestess of Freyja,” she stated proudly, holding out her hands. They followed the same procedure as the others, then Mildthreth started reciting her readings.

* Gold has been chosen by Freyja as her champion and has been bestowed with great power for her cause.
* Gold has blood kin in Ullester.
* Within the veins of Gold flows the blood of an Aesir. The name of this ancestor is not revealed, but it is known he was a master blacksmith. As a service to Uller he became a Huskarl to the First Eorl of Ullester.
* Gold, despite her potential, has been shunned in her home village. ‘Verily I say unto you, No prophet is accepted in his own country.’ (3)

Yríadel already knew she had been chosen by Freyja, though it was a welcome affirmation to hear it from a seidr, but she was profoundly surprised by some of the other revelations. She caressed her falcon amulet out of habit as she contemplated the words. Blood kin in Ullester? The blood of an Aesir? I suspected there might be fey blood in my ancestry, but Aesir is something entirely different! Someday I must find my grandmother Gyldenfeax and learn about my true heritage.

Though distracted by her ruminations, Yríadel still had wits enough to pay attention during the next reading. They were all important to her. Lee stood up, though he seemed very tentative. Why does Lee seem so uneasy? He looks like he is ready to bolt out of here at full speed. I tend to forget he is not actually from Willowdale. Perhaps he fears to be under the gaze of our gods, while far away from his own.

Hesitantly, Lee stepped forward and took his place. “I am Lee Alfsaw,” he announced bravely, after he kneeled before the basin. Siden Mildthreth paused, as if waiting for Lee to continue his name and title further, but he did not, so she commenced the reading.

* Since Gray crossed paths with White, Gray has been observed by Balder, Heimdall, and other gods, who look upon Gray with interest.
* Gray is descended from a companion of the First Eorl of Ullester.” She paused, began to speak further, then paused again. She looked toward Lee as if reading his face, but he revealed no expression. Then she dropped the rune from her hand to her bag without explanation, and continued unfazed with the next rune.
* Gray is not who he seems. Though Gray appears to be native to Willowdale, the runes reveal that Gray is actually from a far, distant land.
* Be warned: Gray is under the pursuit of a seeker from a faraway place. The trail is cold, but the pursuit is relentless and discovery may be imminent.

I wonder what that was about?, thought Yríadel. I could not tell if she was unable to read that particular rune, or if perhaps she just chose not to voice what she had discovered. And I would like to talk to Lee about the “pursuit of a seeker”. He should know he can count on us to help him.

Next, Magna took his place at the basin. “Magna Morko of Blackwood, son of Telhedron,” he divulged with reverence. The familiar routine ensued and Siden Mildthreth recited her readings.

* Brown is looked upon with favor by the goddess Sif, patron of young warriors.
* Brown is descended from an elf who was known as both “three” and “alone”. His mate was an Aetheling of Seäxeny. These ancestors were known to the First Eorl of Ullester, and the Aetheling has blood kin in Ullester in the present.
* Brown is on a quest to seek clues to mysteries on behalf of his liege. That leader was a companion of the First Eorl of Ullester, an elven warrior of great renown, and is distant kin to Brown. Brown may find many of those answers here in Ullester.
* Beware: ‘Hamrammr’. Hidden deep within Brown simmers a great beast, caused by a family curse that has remained suppressed for generations. If controlled, the beast may bestow great power. But if released without control, it will bring great danger.”

Well that was a wide mix of confirmations and revelations, Yríadel considered thoughtfully. Magna once told us about Elendil, his paternal great grandfather. He was a member of the fabled Neldër – “three alone”. But he spoke little of his great grandmother Medliwen, the spouse of Elendil. Surely he would have mentioned she was an Aetheling of Seäxeny and had kin in Ullester had he known those important facts. We also knew that Magna is on a quest for Geldron, his great, great uncle, who was once a companion of Aráganus. But it is frightening to learn that Magna may be Hamrammr – a shape-shifter. That can be very dangerous to all of us if not controlled.

Lastly, Kyran stepped forward for his reading. “I am Kyran Grimsson of Darford,” he said. Once again, the routine was followed and Siden Mildthreth attempted her readings. But her revelations for Kyran were not routine.

Her brows were furrowed with concentration and frustration. “All signs surrounding Black are cloudy and confusing,” she explained. “But I will try my best to interpret what little I can understand.

* Black is marked by one certain god as a potential stalwart… but all clues to the identity of that god is hidden from me. Perhaps it is a god of dark magic… who is able to see through Black’s dweomer.
* Black is descended from a prominent companion of the First Eorl of Ullester, but the identity is obscured.
* Be warned: Black may someday face his true parents, who for a time had left our world, and Black may be forced to make an ominous choice between them.”

“… that is all I could see,” she apologized.

Kyran started to rise, but she placed her hand on his arm. “Wait! Though Black seems a warrior like his fellows, I sense there is something much more hidden beneath his grim guise. I perceive that Black is a scion of a sorcerous bloodline. Black must search deep within,” she advised, “refine his mysterious abilities… learn how to harness his arcane birthright… or risk having his magic-touched soul consumed by his own innate powers.”

She removed her hand from Kyran and he returned to his seat. He was visibly disturbed by her warnings and instructions.

Poor Kyran, Yríadel sympathized. We knew he was adopted – we assumed his birth parents were dead. But tonight he is told he may someday face his true parents and make an ominous choice between them, whatever that means. And like some of the others, he is descended from a companion of Aráganus. This is definitely not a mere coincidence, if it be true. It seems as if the Norns have somehow woven all our fates into one blended tapestry.

“Now, I shall cast for the seven as a whole,” croaked Siden Mildthreth in her dry voice. She tossed the bones into the basin. With the first three runes she deciphered, she hummed quietly, without explanation, then dropped the bones into her bag. With the next two she provided a reading:

* Red and Gold are kindred to each other.
* White and Black are kindred to each other.

Her readings now finished, she sat back on her feet and continued speaking. “It seems that many gods have conspired to bring you all together for their mysterious purpose. That purpose could be of great benefit to all in Ullester… and Willowdale. It is evident that the common factors among you seven are the First Eorl of Ullester – Aráganus – and his former companions – the legendary By-Tor Brigade.”

She looked about the room as if studying their auras – such an aberrant rainbow of colors. Then she stiffened with tension.

“Be warned: while many gods seek to claim you as their champions, others seek to end your relationship – or your lives.

“Remember,” she advised, ‘Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through the experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved’”. (4)

And with those final words, she arose and dismissed everyone. Aestrid opened the door, then joined Caridwén as they assisted Mildthreth through the back curtain.

The Meadhall of Eorl Arágnar

While gathered at the inn, Anika-Shae escorted Forwost Baelor to the group’s table. He greeted them and announced that Eorl Arágnar had requested their attendance at the Meadhall.

Respectfully, they quickly finished their horns of ale, and ventured forth. The meadhall, which doubled as the Ullester Burghall, was a short walk up Danforth Street. It was right across from the Ullester Stronghold. As they approached, they noticed Grúmi Halftroll sitting casually in the grass nearby, his large axe in his lap, blissfully unaware of his surroundings.

As they got closer to the entrance to the two-story burghall, they realized that they were under the eyes of three watchmen. They recognized Braco and Cwink Broder, Huskarls of House Araganing. The third was a man they had not seen before. He was nearly as large as Braco, with a leaner build. His gaze upon them was stern and serious. His lip was covered with a black mustache that extended down below his chin, and a strange fur hat covered his long black hair.

With a clear loud voice he spoke a courteous greeting in Angarian. “Hǽlettan, giestmægen fram Dartron’s Ford!” he said, and they all three turned the hilts of their weapons toward the group in token of peace. Then he stepped forward and spoke in Westrian, the common speech.

“Hail, guests from Darford. I am the Doorward of the Meadhall of Arágnar,” he said. “Haakon is my name. Here I must bid you lay aside your weapons before you enter.”

Then Glenlivet gave into his hand his scimitar. Haakon marveled at the dragon carvings on the hilt. “Keep this well,” he said, “for this is Dragonbane from the Sunken Citadel of Ashârdalon.”

Wonder came into the man’s eyes, and he laid the weapon hastily by the wall, as if he feared to handle it. “No man will touch it, I promise you “ he said.

Kyran stood a while hesitating. “It is not my will,” he said, “to put aside my sword or to deliver Brightflame to the hand of any other man.”

“It is the will of Arágnar,” said Haakon.

“It is not clear to me that the will of Arágnar son of Amánwel, even though he be Eorl of Ullester, should prevail over the will of Kyran Grimsson.”

“This is the Meadhall of Arágnar, not of Kyran, even were he King of Baeldur in the seat of Ceolwulf,” said Haakon, stepping swiftly before the doors and barring the way. His sword was now in his hand and the point towards the group. His Braco and Cwink Broder did the same.

“This is idle talk,” said Yríadel. “Needless is Arágnar’s demand, but it is useless to refuse. An Eorl will have his way in his own hall, be it folly or wisdom.”

“Truly,” said Kyran. “And I would do as the master of the house bade me, were this only a woodman’s cot, if I bore now any weapon but Brightflame.”

“Whatever its name may be,” said Haakon, “here you shall lay it, if you would not fight alone against all the men in Ullester.”

“Not alone!” said Dodge, fingering the blade of his axe, and looking darkly at the guard, as if he were a young tree that Dodge had a mind to fell. “Not alone!”

“Come, come!” said Yríadel. “We are all friends here. Or should be; for the laughter of Loki will be our only reward, if we quarrel. Here at least is my spear, goodman Haakon. Keep it well. Now let me pass. Come, friends!”

Slowly Dodge set his weapon upright against the wall. “Here I set my axe,” he said, “but I command you not to touch it, nor to permit any other to lay hand on it. On this blade dwells the rune of Dagaz, expertly wrought by Finley Shields, master smith of Darford.”

The guard stepped back politely. “It shall be, friend, as you command.”

“Well,” said Kyran, “if it has Finley’s Craft to keep it company, Brightflame may stay here, too, without shame”; and he laid it on the floor, along with his sword. “Now then, if all is as you wish, let us go and speak with your master.”

The guards now lifted the heavy bars of the doors and swung them slowly inwards grumbling on their hinges. The seven entered.

Inside it seemed dark and warm after the clear air outside. The hall was long and wide and filled with shadows and half lights; mighty pillars upheld its lofty roof. But here and there bright sunbeams fell in glimmering shafts from the eastern windows, high under the deep eaves. Through the louver in the roof, above the thin wisps of issuing smoke, the sky showed pale and blue.

As their eyes changed, they perceived that many woven cloths were hung upon the walls, and over their wide spaces marched figures of ancient legend, some dim with years, some darkling in the shade. But upon one form the sunlight fell: a man, bearded, with long brown hair, wielding a sword that sparked like lightning, battling a great red dragon with black feet.

“Behold Aráganus, First Eorl of Ullester!” issued a voice, referring to the bearded figure in the tapesty. “Twas he who slew the evil Blackroot and rescued the princess Kirell, mother of the Araganingas.” (5)

They turned to see Arágnar, Third Eorl of Ullester, sitting in his chair at the head of the Meadhall. Beside him stood Pace Dubhans the scop – Thyle to the Eorl. On a bench nearby sat Forwost Baelor.

They exchanged greetings and introductions. Nearly all were known to each other by now.

“Thyle,” Arágnar directed toward Pace Dubhans, “you have words to share with us?” Thus began their official business.

Pace Dubhans stepped forward. He related to Arágnar a tale of the day before May Day, in which he had been disguised as an old beggar outside the gatehouse to Ullester Bridge. His goal was to watch the visitors as they strolled into town. Then he revealed that when encountered by the seven, they spoke kindly and gave him coins. Pace Dubhans vouched that he believed the strangers from Darford were good and could be trusted.

When the scop was finished, he motioned to the forwost with a flourishing bow. Forwost Baelor stood at attention. With military precision he described to Arágnar how the seven had selflessly and heroically fought against the goblins on May Day and tirelessly defended the innocent people in the Hoftorg. He explained how they defeated a warchanter and prevented their antics from starting an uncontrollable fire in Upptun.

Arágnar appeared to like what he had heard so far. A warm smile beamed across his face. The seven had already come to the realization that they were here as the subject of an inquiry. Though it was not a trial, they still felt uncomfortable, but the pleasant mood of Arágnar served to ease their tension.

Then they heard an unusual sound. Slightly familiar. It was a slow, soft shuffling, interspersed by a rapping of metal upon the wood floor. A moment later, Siden Mildthreth emerged from behind a hanging divider, assisted by her thralls. Her ancient staff thumped the floor with each sliding step. The hall was silent as all waited respectfully for her to take a position before the high seat of Arágnar.

Now it occurred to the seven why they had seen Grúmi Halftroll sitting outside. He was known to never put down his axe, and therefore would have not been allowed by Haakon to enter the meadhall.

When Siden Mildthreth was finally in place, she spoke in her dry, raspy voice. She declared to Arágnar that the gods looked with favor on these heroes from Darford. She believed strongly that this group was the seven of the prophecy, sent to Ullester to aid in the coming age of chaos and evil. Their number was the sacred seven, to counter the runes of the seven primal sins.

Now having heard all – and greatly pleased – Arágnar thanked the group sincerely for their assistance in the recent battle. He announced that he hoped they would stay longer in Ullester, for he planned to place his trust in them, as advised by the gods through Mildthreth. Quickly the air of formality was relaxed and they spoke about the good things of Ullester while sharing some mead.

After Mildthreth and her thralls departed, they began to discuss the recent goblin attacks on Ullester. Forwost Baelor confirmed that the remains of Torbeinn, the former Heáh-Gothi who had been killed in the Ullester Fire during Fryht Yeer, had been stolen from the Baengeard during the May Day attack. But he urged everyone to keep this information quiet, hoping to avoid further distress to the people of Ullester.

The Three Travelers

Later, as the group was leaving the meadhall, a few more tapestries drew the attention of Magna. There were four hung in sequence as they told a story. The artistry in the first displayed three travelers emerging from the shadow of a forest, fording a river, as grey traces of dawn tinged the eastern sky. Their destination was off in the distance – a dark and forbidding land.

The second pictured shreds of black cloud looming in overcast skies. Brooding in a tower, a necromancer watched with magic prism eyes, as forlorn people were led into dungeons, their heads bowed in defeat.

In the third tapestry, a champion – dressed in dark, ominous armor – stood victoriously above his slain foe. The victim was the necromancer from the previous tapestry – its wraith soared away in the night.

The fourth illustrated that the dark lands were now bright. The champion was flying away, mounted upon a winged, black dragon, as the three travelers were leading the people to their freedom from the labyrinths below.

Magna was confident he could identify the cast, as remembered from tales heard from Geldron, his liege. Among the three travelers, the central figure was a very tall, stoutly muscled warrior, with long brown hair and a full beard, who wielded a brightly glowing sword. Obviously this was Aráganus, First Eorl of Ullester. Next to him was another tall man, nearly as large as the first. Beneath his helm was seen one dark eye, the other covered by a patch, and in his hand he wielded a bastard sword with jagged edges. This would likely be Meda Kwae the One-Eyed – notorious companion to Aráganus. Third was an elven warrior, smaller than the other two, but no less formidable. On his head – a Mithril helm with a gem of Topaz. In his hands – a fabulous two-handed sword. This would be none other than the great Geldron, Wielder of Gorauk.

In the tale, the three traveled into Willowdale to rescue the people from the labyrinths of the Necromancer – Theleb F’Lar. Locked in a climactic battle, the Necromancer was about to destroy them when the Champion appeared, mounted on a Black Dragon. It was Prince By-Tor. Once an ally, then an enemy, he had been presumed dead. Yet there he stood, returned from Hel. He defeated the Necromancer then flew away on his dragon, thus allowing the three travelers to free the people from their chains of long years.


Walking down Danforth towards the Drunken Dragon, they passed the Aellshoppe. Dodge decided to speak to Andor vanDetta and try to heal the rift between them. Yríadel offered to accompany him – she was positive she could win him over – but Dodge declined her assistance.

Inside the shop, Andor’s wife Sóla was busy arranging some freshly baked pies. Their daughter Trina was waiting nearby. She saw Dodge and smirked knowingly. Dodge asked to see Andor and Trina sped off to find him.

Soon Andor appeared, Trina and Lissa lurking in the hallway. Dodge could see that Andor was still in an ugly mood, but he plowed forward courageously with his plan. He tried every phrase he knew to apologize, and even offered an onyx gem as a gift, which Andor refused. Finally, before Andor could grow even more angry than when he started, Dodge left in defeat.

To be continued…

1. Adapted from: James Jacobs, Rise of the Runelords: Burnt Offerings, (Bellevue: Paizo Publishing LLC, 2007).
2. Adapted from: J. Sephton (trans.), Eirik the Red’s Saga: A Translation Read before the Literary and Philosophical Society of Liverpool_, January 12, 1880 (Liverpool: Marples, 1880), Chapter 4. http://sagadb.org/eiriks_sagarauda.en#4
3. Luke 4:24
4. Hellen Keller (1880 – 1968)
5. Adapted from: J. R. R. Tolkien, The Two Towers, (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1954, 1965, 1982), Chapter 6, The King of the Golden Hall.


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