46 – Greymoor’s þing

The cool morning air had fled quickly and the gathered Ironlanders along with the cooking fires made the thane’s hall very warm. Cloaks were hung on wall pegs or draped over the benches that ran the length of the long table that dominated the room. Hjalmar, the Thane of Greymoor sat on a chair covered in hides. He was not the hulking brute one might imagine when hearing their renown was based upon raiding other settlements. Quick-eyed with precise movements, Hjalmar was lithe in build and his hand was never far from a weapon. With his return, the þing was a forgone conclusion and was also the proper time for Branwhyn to address him once the local business had finished. Normally, the circle’s people would bring disputes before their thane, to ask for his judgment and wisdom. Here in Greymoor, the judgments seemed to have already been made. 

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45 – . . . who might be King

45 – . . . who might be King

Well into the fens, the waterway they traveled was nearly indiscernible from the surrounding bog, at least to Branwhyn, but Leon seemed to know the route well.  A clear sign of one who had spent their life in the flooded lands. When they came within view of Greymoor, the grey of dusk hadn’t quite turned to twilight and the buzzing biting insects that drifted in cloud-like swarms hadn’t yet fled the growing chill of night. The settlement was surrounded by a palisade of grey sharpened logs which jutted outward like spears set against a charge. The waterway upon which they traveled, led straight to an opening in the palisade, a net of soaked hemp fibers barred the way.  Through it, they could see the settlement was actually built upon a lake and the palisade built upon the shore. Behind the fortifications were wooden houses, raised on stilts above the water and would serve as excellent vantage points to fire an arrow against any would-be attacker. A curious defensive solution, forcing movement inside to be by boat or by swimming. 

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44 – The Boy . . .

There were few currents in the Flooded Lands, those that did exist were slow-moving and generally pulled southward towards the sea. Normally Branwhyn would have been glad to find a current, to let it carry their small dugout canoe with the dragon head on the prow. It would give him time to rest, merely manning an oar as a rudder. Alas, their journey took them more east than south, inching towards the Circle Greymoor. This made those normally looked for southern currents more hassle than blessing and it felt as though more of the day was spent wrenching free of their grip than actually traveling towards their goal.

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43 – Coming Full Circle

Undertake a Journey w/ Wits (3, 6, 2+3), Weak Hit. -1 Supply. (+4).  Progress on Journey to the Ragged Coast 10/20. Defended Swamp. Make Camp w/ Supply (7, 8, 2+4), Miss. Mark the miss track 15/40. Pay the Price, well the swamp is defended isn’t it? I guess we get to meet the defenders. Face Danger w/ Shadow (5, 4, 6+2), Strong HIt. +1 Momentum (+3). Gather Info w/ Wits (4, 3, 2+3), Strong Hit. +2 Momentum (+5).

Bohumil woke Branwhyn with a hand over his mouth and a finger pressed to his own lips. “Trouble.” He mouthed silently. 

Nodding slowly, Branwhyn kept eye contact with the Grimwick Warden to show he understood. When the hand was pulled away, he looked around slowly and spotted the approaching danger. It was a clear night and spears of moonlight made their way down through the canopy of sodden timbers. Passing through one such pool of moonlight was a long narrow punt boat being polled through the water. Three Ironlanders sat in the boat, each armed with bow and arrow, while a fourth steered the craft nearly silently through the waters. To the right and left of the punt were other boats, spaced to be within line of sight of each other, three boats at least and possibly more. Running without torch or lantern at night was perilous, they were either hunting or hunted and Branwhyn guessed the former by the look of them.

Darkly, the shaman noted that every one of the approaching hunters that he could see was missing their left ear. With added urgency, he helped finish the packing of their camp and then was the last to slip into their dugout canoe. As of yet, they had not drawn the hunter’s attention. Silently, Branwhyn and Bohumil mouthed a slow count to one another to sync up their paddle strokes. Confident that they had each other’s timing, they slipped their oars into the murky waters of the Flooded Lands.

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42 – Returning to Flooded Lands

Dusk was swiftly approaching as Branwhyn’s hooded form ducked through the door to the healer’s home. His instinct was that Nazmi would not be pleased with the fulfillment of the vow he’d made her. True, his efforts would ultimately protect Grimwick, but only from the troubles his presence had brought them and that was not likely to rid the line of their Thanes from the possessing spirit which controlled them. Branwhyn’s instincts on the matter were not wrong.

Nazmi looked like she might spit into the bowl of stew that she was in process of handing him. She looked at it for a long time before handing it to her grandson, Marn, to give to Branwhyn. It was spit free when it reached his hands. “I share your concerns for the Thane’s line, but there are too many unanswered questions. For now, Grimwick is most secure being guided by Thane Egil.”

“And so, you leave us more imperiled than when you came?” The old crone accused, pulling the wooden spoon out of the cauldron to point at him. A bit of stew broth flew at him as she did so.

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41 – Death Mask

The thick layer of dust on a seamless stone floor blossomed up into the air as Branwhyn landed feet first into the catacombs. Slow to settle, the age-old layers of dust drifted through the lone spear of sunlight that illuminated a small sliver of the otherwise pitch-black tunnel network. It was clear that no one had been down here in many years. That was good, it meant his investigation was unlikely to be disturbed. It might also be a bad sign, signaling that there was nothing of value or interest in the catacombs below Grimwick. Caught between the siege being laid by Blacktongue Brecken and the doom that Thane Egil had placed upon he and Corinna, Branwhn was left grasping at straws for a way to resolve the escalating violence, or at least have a means of leveraging an escape for he and his ward when everything went south.

Branwhyn, Check’s his gear w/ Supply (2, 7, 5+2), Weak Hit. +1 Momentum (+4), -1 Supply (+1). Gather Information w/ Wits + Auger (9, 4, 6+3+1), Strong Hit. +2 Momentum (+6). I have no idea what we find down here, so we ask the Oracle. Action/Theme – Remove Bond. I take this to mean Branwhyn finds a way to remove the bond between Spirit and Ruler.

Pulling the torch from his pack, along with flint and steel, Branwhyn took note of how sparse his supplies had become. Ever since rescuing Corinna from Breckin’s clutches, he’d been on the run, attempting to stay ahead of the vengeful bandit. He would need to find a way to resupply in Grimwick if possible, if not he wouldn’t be able to run much further. With a shake of his head, he focused on the problem at hand, finding a way to protect Grimwick from enemies without and protect them from the corrupting influence within.

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40 – Issues of Trust

The Thane of Grimwick was dying. It was evident the moment Branwhyn saw him, the sunken cheeks, the greying skin, and the hollow eyes. He looked more like a corpse than a man. Yet, he still sat straight backed and tall upon his throne carved of stone. Conducting the þing, with an immediacy of attention that Branwhyn had rarely seen. The þing was a gathering of all the free people of the Circle who wished to bring business to the attention of their Thane and seek his judgement. Everything from land disputes, settlements of debt, to justice for crimes. Held in the Thane’s longhouse, which was simply the largest of the structures in Grimwick and built of the same round stones and mortar like everything else.

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39 – Grimwick

It was only after they were well out of bow range that Branwhyn noticed Kotoma’s arm wasn’t pulling at the water. Instead, the herder’s arm dangled lifelessly, pulled by the river and bumping against the side of the canoe. An arrow had struck him in the side, slipping through the rib cage and found the vulnerable organs underneath. Nearly on instinct, Branwhyn started to rise to tend to the dead man; but seemingly all at once the pain and weariness from fatigue along with spell born sickness flooded back into his body. Sitting back on the canoe’s aft bench with a heavy sigh or weariness, he left the dead man where he lay. Pulling the oar in, he leaned forward to touch Corinna’s ankle. She was still warm to the touch, still breathing, and she had no wounds that he could see. Slumping down further in his seat, Branwhyn didn’t have the energy to do anything except let the river carry them.

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38 – A Little Chaos

Elder beasts were – as a general rule – twice the size of their common kin. Thus, an elder wolf might be expected to be roughly the size of a horse. Looming out of the darkness and into the light of the bandit camps cooking fire, this elder wolf – an avatar of Vanagandr according to the dead man Zhan – would make a plow horse look small. Dimly, Branwhyn remembered being concerned that the camp of organized bandits might be a threat to the elder beast he was summoning. That concern was discarded and replaced with the hope that it wouldn’t eat the bandits all too quickly and then come looking for him.

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37 – The Summoning

Branwhyn gripped the leather pouch around his neck, remember the ring he’d taken from Zhan. It had been dangerous to leave it in the hands of a man like Zhan. Bitterly, Branwhyn realized it also was too dangerous to leave in his hands. He needed to start at the end though, work their escape backward. Blacktongue Brecken would not be forgiving once Branwhyn openly moved against him and Corinna would pay the price if this didn’t work.

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