Roughly ten warriors, clad in mail, cloaks of wolf fur, and bearing huge axes or broadswords stand beyond the gate, lined up besides a hulking giant of a man (though in truth, all are giants, the smallest standing at least 9' tall). This man stands close to 10' high, and wears beautifully crafted mail, a fine buckler of rune stamped steel, and bears a huge broad sword who's steel blade is stamped with faintly shining runes of magic.
“Foe Dread”, whispers Schnecke, translating them
This man has the same long blonde hair and beard as his brothers, all of them woven with intricate plaits, and bound by beautifully decorated beads of amber and silver. Unlike the others he wears no helm, and he fixes the party with steely blue eyes, his strong, handsome face set in a challenging scowl that would set most men to panic. He grabs a spear from an ally next to him, and with purposeful strides almost runs up to the party, his spear raised.
Schnecke, recognising this for what it is, steps forwards, whispering to the others to hold their nerves. Chest out, head back, he meets the warriors' gaze without flinching, his own eyes locking with those of the warrior – undoubtedly the chieftain of this tribe. The two warriors charge, and the party begin to despair as the giant gives a deafening howling roar. Schnecke adds his own roar and suddenly they are face to face.
Neither man strikes. Instead they stop, mere inches from each other, and continue to glare .
“What manner of aelf be ye?” Asks the chieftain, the Ulnyrr understanding all of what he says, though it takes him a moment to work it out.
“Not aelf's but warriors. Warrior's who seek a truce with you and to seek thy council.”
The chieftain flings down the spear, his face now a mask of mounting fury.
“And who in the frozen dark do ye think ye are to be daring to come here, to the site of my halls demanding my truce?”
He punctuates each word with a rigid strike of his fingers to Schnecke's clavicle, his incredible strength almost knocking the Ulnyrr back, each one more painful than the last. However, Schnecke does not move an inch, for he knows that to be pushed back, or to show pain would invite a swift death. Instead he gives a savage, insane grin and replies, “I am Schnecke of the Ulnyrr, and these are my companions. We are far from home, and seek a way back. I am their leader.”
Nodding imperceptibly, the chieftain looks with apparent disgust at the barbarian and his group.
“Ye're no good aelf's, sent to sour our milk, rot our wood and steal away our kinder. Why should I trust ye? Why should I trust any of your gang?”
Schnecke growls, and with slightly more anger than he meant replies, “Because I am a son of the Ulnyrr, and my blood is that of the ancient line of my warrior ancestors! Will you dishonour your clan and your own ancestors by denying my strength and courage?”
The chieftain roars and his massive fist flails in a swift haymaker towards Schnecke's face.
The Ulnyrr makes no move to stop it, knowing this for the bluff it is, and sure enough, the punch is stopped a whisper from his face, the wind of its travel almost making him blink.
The chieftain grins, his eyes sparkling with life.
Then he turns swiftly about, and begins to stalk back towards his warriors, waving a dismissive hand at the Ulnyrr. For a moment it seems that the meeting has failed somehow, that there will be no further test or parley. However, as he goes, the chieftain sweeps up the spear he discarded, and with fluid speed and deadly precision hurls it straight at Schnecke's throat. However, Schnecke is more than ready, for to his amazement this entire ritual is almost identical in every aspect to the parley ritual of the Ulnyrr. His axe flashes out and cuts the spear in two, the halves clattering either side of the group behind him. Hearing this, the chieftain looks back over his shoulder, and with a low growl states, “Come then brother. The night is long and cold, and I would offer you the hospitality of my hall, my hearth and my mead. Come and drink with me and mine, and know the protection of Ulvar of the Nordvyrr.”
A roar of approval goes up from the warriors beyond the gates and in the towers, and the group release the breath they were holding. Schnecke, flushed with pride at the honour he has just been paid grins at them, and with a happy bark orders the party to follow him into the village of the Ulvar Nordvyrr, and the great mead hall of their warriors; heart of the community, place of celebration, place of planning and place of honourable combat amongst brothers.
Arrival +1 day, 1 hour, 30 minutes - A cold dawn begins to light the skies, the long (24 hour) night finally giving in to an equally long day. Thick fogs shroud the village of the Ulvar Nordvyrr, turning its great hall into a looming shadow, and hiding the round houses that form loose lines through its heart. The group are armed and armoured, ready to head further into the mountains heights, a dangerous and supposedly impossibly journey that will take them into the territories of the “children of the Gods”, the Gorgom (gigorim) – as well as through haunted burial sites and the lands claimed by the Vanogg; debased Nordvyrr who worship the old traitor Gods and practice foul arts that all good Nordvyrr find repellant.
Their guide – a Nordvyrr named Ulframm – is currently getting his mount ready; a huge wolf the size of a cart horse that he calls Mord Bit. He is a red haired giant with a bow made from the Uldrassil wood (the wood of the gargantuan pines) and a sword who's runes declare it “Neck Cutter”.
All the group are sporting hangovers, for when they first entered the mead hall of Ulvar, they drank and boasted and caroused with the massive barbarians; swapping outrageous tales, making insane boasts and dancing like idiots. Then, after many hours, once they had drunk enough, Ulvar had turned serious and told them that they needed to “purge their sins”, for only then could they speak with the tribes spiritual leader – their shaman – the only one who would know how they could return home.
This purging involved them going out to a “blessed brook” at the western edge of the town and swallowing a soft mould coloured stone there; bitter stuff that made them vomit explosively, their bloated stomachs unleashing the mead with horrifying power.
“The mead hath soaked up all yer sins” explained Ulvar as they puked, “And now you have cast them out into the brook, they will be carried away and destroyed by the Narryr. Only now can ye see the shaman.”
And see the shaman they did.
And it is based on the words of that terrifying Nordvyrr, who's hut lay within a pocket dimension haunted by the ghosts of warriors that had died cowards – that they are now heading into deadly lands much further up the mountain; for clad only in blood, runic tattoos, the skull of a great wolf, and a shroud of madness, the shaman had cast the runes, and having read them, had stared at the group with mad eyes and in a ghostly voice intoned;
“Walk the Path of Shadows,
Drink the blood of the Old Gods,
And the stones shall sing.
Within their song, lies the path home.”
“And know this. One of you must walk a path darker than the rest, and their soul shall be the price of your salvation.”
And so, leaving the nightmare of the shaman's presence and his haunted shrine, the group returned to the village where they slept fitfully for a few hours before rising and coming out into the fogs, shivering, to meet with Ulframm, ready to head into a place that even these giant warriors fear to tread.
All in all, not the best way to start a day, thinks Grigori.
Somewhere within him, Jantherak's essence hears this, and gives a filthy, mocking chuckle.