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.

We’re here to garner a better understanding of the situation, so that sounds like a Gather Info even though we’re already topped out on Momentum. Gather Info w/ Wits (7, 10, 1+2), Miss. We’ll Burn Momentum and reset to +2. Weak Hit, +1 Momentum (+3). We’ll also count that as progress towards the Vow: Protect Grimwick 2 of 10.

Branwhyn had no business to bring at the þing, he was simply here to watch and observe. He remembered well the last time he’d been at a þing – in Greybrook – he’d been dealing with a restless spirit. The parallel was not lost upon him. In Greybrook, Thane Hella had kept the house cold, likely a policy to encourage brief testimony. Grimwick’s þing was different, more a humble feast. The board was set with freshly cooked food and horn’s of mead were ready for any who desired drink. It was a sign of the Thane’s concern for his people to lay such a feast and made his home warm and inviting. Judging by the longhouse, Grimwick wasn’t living up to its name.

The business at hand was a farmer, a stoic man by the name of Nakura, who was seeking advice regarding his crops. His early planting had not been plentiful and he’d come to the Thane for advice. Despite his deathly appearance, Thane Egil spoke with authority and confidence, though his voice sounded of dry stones scraping against one another. Branwhyn was not a farmer, he had no idea if the advice was good or not, but it certainly sounded good and the answer seemed to give Nakura hope.

The Thane’s son, Cadigan, was equally easy to spot, though for entirely different reasons. He was young, just coming into his manhood, a bit of soft fuzz starting to show on his cheeks and chin. Thin of frame with timid looking eyes, Cadigan was unlikely to be a strong, confident ruler and certainly didn’t have any experience upon the field of battle. If Blacktongue Brecken did come to Grimwick and the spirit that empowered the Thane was no more, would this inexperienced youth be able to keep the brigands at bay? Surely not, but then Egil as he was now, or the boy with the spirit indwelling was not a guarantee against Brecken either. Ought the boy’s life be forefite because Grimwick’s chance of survival was better if the family curse continued? Then there was always the possibility that Brecken might not come here at all. Making decisions based on what might happen was a game of chance. One Branwhyn would rather not play.

He’d sworn an oath though to look into the matter, for now he needed more information. Breathing in slowly and deeply, Branwhyn closed his grey eyes and opened his sight to the ebb of flow of magical currents of the Ironlands.

We’re doing another gather info, which doing the same move twice in a row is normally boring, but I feel using Sighted potentially gets different information and certainly has different perils. Gather Info w/ Wits + Sighted (7, 9, 3+3+1), Miss. Blarg. Dire Threat and/or Unwelcome truth plus Pay the Price – 36, the current situation worsens. Cool. Also Failure Track. 13/40

As Branwhyn opened his eyes again, the world had changed. It had become overlaid with light and energy. The bonds of life flowed through and around the gathered Ironlanders of Grimwick, their bonds of community and interdependence binding them together. At their head though was a cold spot, a place of shadow that absorbed and drew in the light, hungrilly devouring it. That absence of light was alive and aware, it overlaid the corpse of a Thane that sat in the ruling seat made of stone. Beneath the shadows, Branwhyn could see the dedicated ruler turn its empty socketed gaze upon him, Egil’s rictus grin unwavering as it watched Branwhyn watching it.

The blast of a warden’s horn shattered the inner sight and dragged Branwhyn back to a normal awareness of the world. The Ironlanders of Grimwick all hurried out of the Thane’s longhouse to learn the reason for the warning. Everyone save Thane Egil, who rose slowly while never taking his sallow and wan eyes off of Branwhyn. The shaman held the nearly deadman’s gaze, but said nothing. The Thane’s son, Cadigan looked between the two, clearly seeing that something was amiss. A second blast of warning from the warden’s horn broke the moment and they moved to leave as well.

Outside, Thane Egil gave Branwhyn one last stern look before heading to Grimwick’s northern wall. Branwhyn followed as well, but slowly. He already knew, or at least suspected, what doom had drawn near to the Circle.

Time was short and so Branwhyn abandoned subtlety, grabbing the arm of the Thane’s son as he hurried to catch up with his father. “Time is short Cadigan, tell me what you know of the spirit that holds sway over your father.”

Clearly a level of intimidation is being used here, so this is a Compel w/ Iron + Bind (9, 2, 3+1+1), Weak Hit. Seems right, random guy grabbing your arm isn’t likely to go super well. +1 Momentum (+4), Forward on Gather info, but the kid wants something. Seems obvious to me. We’ll drop the next roll here as well, Gather Info w/ Wits + Forward (3, 5, 2+3+1), Strong Hit. The Forward made the difference. +2 Momentum (+6). Also we progress the Vow: Defend Grimwick – 4 of 10.

“Who are you?” Cadigan tried to pull away, but Branwhyn still had a bear-spirit dwelling inside of him and the grip on the boy’s arm only tightened.

“My name is Bran.” He replied flatly, pulling the youth closer. “And you are in danger, but not from me. Speak quickly now, what do you know of the spirit?”

“It is the guardian of my line, an advisor passed from father to son.” The words tumbled out of Cadigan’s mouth, practiced words that he’d been told countless times or perhaps said himself. Words spoken so often that they’d moved past questions or even thought and were simply assumed to be true.

Thinking better of his forceful approach, Branwhyn loosened his grip on Cadigan’s arm, staying the youth with only a touch on the arm. “Time is short. I’ve seen that which dwells in your father’s body, it is nothing good or even benign. It is neither your protector nor guardian, it is your doom, as it is for your father and as it was for his father before him.”

I occasionally wish that Ironsworn had a disadvantage & advantage mechanic like 5th Ed. D&D. Roll three dice keep the worst two or the best two respectively. Random outside spouting the crazy, this roll would certainly have disadvantage. Anyway, we are clearly trying to persuade Cadigan, so Compel w/ Heart (6, 2, 3+2). Weak Hit. +1 Momentum (+7). He wants something though, I don’t have an immediate thought so, Action/Theme – Risk/Possession. A bit on the nose, but okay.

Setting his face, Cadigan mustered up courage and strength from within. “What reason have I to believe you stranger? You expect me to trust your word over my own fathers? Over my own eyes?” Shaking his head, he stepped back out of Branwhyn’s reach. “No mere words will convince me of what you say.”

Frowning, Branwhyn watched the Thane’s son walk away. Cadigan did not want his protection, he would blindly accept the doom of his forefathers. Though perhaps that fate was the best protection that Grimwick could have? With a heavy sigh and a shake of his head, Branwhyn headed for Grimwick’s northern wall. The boy might not trust in his protection, but Branwhyn had still sworn to give it.

* * *

The farmer Nakura, reached a hand down to help Brawnyn up onto the top of Grimwick’s protective wall, made from the same round stones as the houses. The mood was somber and a glance over the parapet made the reason obvious. Beneath the afternoon sun, an armed host was making camp outside the range of a bow shot. There were perhaps thirty men, a goodly sized warband, but the numbers were actually a relief. Lest the Elder Wolf killed far more than he’d though, this was too small a force to be Blacktounge Brecken’s bandits. The moment of relief didn’t linger, further down the wall, an exclamation of alarm, drew everyone’s attention further out into the wasted scrag land that surrounded Grimwick. A line of chained slaves, snaking their way between rocks and crags, flanked by armed skirmishers and carrying carved timbers and thick ropes. The beams of wood were clearly made to be fitted together, but Branwhyn couldn’t picture what it might become when fully assembled. Certainly nothing good for him nor the people of Grimwick.

“No symbol on their shields.” Warden Bohumil worried aloud. Branwhyn recognized the warden only dimly as the man who’d met him near the docks. He must have also taken him to the old wise woman after he’d passed out.

“They are bandits, led by a dwarf named Blacktongue Breckin.” Uncertainty, the unknown, was always more terrible than a named threat. Helping them understand who and what they faced, even if it was little more than a name, would be of help. “They attacked a caravan to the north, my daughter and I escaped only barely.”

Secure an Advantage w/ Wits (4, 10, 5+3), Weak Hit. +1 Momentum (+8). Progress: Protect Grimwick 6/10.

“If you escaped them, they can’t be that skilled.” Bohumil grinned as he said it. It sent a chuckle rippling through those who heard it.

Branwhyn smiled despite the fact that he’d been the subject of the deprecating joke. “They are well organized and the leader is cunning, but they are only men and they are bandits. They do not fight for a Circle, but for the promise of violence and plunder.”

“Then a stalwart defense will make them seek their plunder elsewhere?” What might have been a question, was voiced instead as a challenge. The sound of dry stones scraping against each other could only be Thane Egil’s voice, his corpse-like body worn by the spirit within.

There is a real possibility that Egil might turn Branwhyn over to Brecken when he learns the full story. I think that is the crux of this moment. I think Branwhyn is going to drop his guise and reveal his identity in an attempt to persuade Grimwick to stand against Brecken. That is certainly a courageous endeavor, so we start with Secure an Advantage w/ Heart (9, 2, 6+2), Weak Hit. +1 Momentum (+9), then a Compel w/ Heart (9, 6, 4+2), Miss. No good, Burn Momentum reset to +2. Weak Hit, +1 Momentum (+3), Ask Something in Return. What does he want? Action/Theme – Oracle says: Hold Secret. I take that to mean he wants the reason a secret from Branwhyn, I.E. What else are you hiding?

Turning, Branwhyn found that Thane Egil had drawn near, almost directly behind him, without being noticed. Turning, his grey eyes he met the Thane’s sallow and wan orbs surrounded by greying skin. “I am Branwhyn, son of Hugh, Brother to Ravens, and Child of the Old Ones. Heed my words Thane Egil of Greywick. Blacktounge Brecken will honor his word only when he sees fit, he is cunning and treacherous. Not only does he seek the blood of your people and the wealth of your circle, but he seeks me out of vengeance. For I have made him look both foolish and weak before his men, defying him and escaping his grasp.”

“Not fully escaping his grasp.” Egil looked through Branwhyn to the encampment outside of Grimwick’s walls. “Are his words are to be trusted less than a stranger who hides his name and purpose?” The Thane carefully studied the shaman standing before him. “Why did you keep this secret until now?”

Taking in a long breath, Branwhyn weighed how to answer that question. The truth seemed the best option and if Egil knew of him already, speaking what the Thane knew to be a lie would only give him reason to side with Brecken when the time came. If his reputation from Mournful Cairn had reached the Thanes ears though, then his cause might already be lost. Nazmi had said the Thane was harsh but fair though. “For two reasons, the first camps outside your walls. I knew Brecken sought me and did not know if his scouts had reached this Circle before me. The second is Mournful Cairn, a Circle to the South-East of here.” Openly, Branwnyn told the Thane of Grimwick and the men on the walls of the Hag who had snatched children and placed curses upon parents. Of how she’d co-opted Thane Wulnar to her aid and how the Cairn turned on him. Finally he spoke of returning the few children from the Hag’s cave – neglecting to mention that Corinna was one of those children – and how the people of Mournful Cairn had begrudged him for the condition of their children.

I think this fulfills the request, so we are going to mark Progress for Protecting Grimwick 8/10. However, there is an element of danger here as well. Branwhyn is a do-gooder and a meddler, Egil will see that plainly. Ergo, we Face Danger w/ Heart (10. 4, 2+2), Miss. And Failure Track 14/40

“I believe you, Branwhyn son of Hugh.” Egil’s voice was poor at soothing, the grinding dry stones of his speech giving each word a hard edge. “Blacktounge Brecken cannot be trusted. Nor can you. Warden Bohumil, the girl in Nazmi’s care. She is a hostage to compel Branwhyn’s good behavior here in Grimwick. If he acts against our best interests, kill her.”


Journey to Ragged Coast [Extreme] – 6/20

Branwhyn ap Hugh Bonds: 11
Health +3 Spirit +2 Supply +2 Momentum +3
Edge: 1 Heart: 2 Iron: 1+1 Shadow: 2 Wits: 3 XP: 19/23

[Paths]: Sighted+, Ritualist+;
[Rituals]: Augur, Bind, Sway, Visage, Ward
[Companions] Kindred (Corinna) – Shield-Kin;

Active Vows:
Kingmaker [Epic] 3/40
Break the Power of the Broken’s Apostle [Extreme] – 5/20
Mentor Corinna [Extreme] – 7/20
-Rival [Monster Within] – 5/20
Find the Heir of Twin Rivers [Formidable] – 2/10
Renew Twin River Southern Trade Route [Dangerous] – 8/10
Winter Meeting at the Seven Strong Men [Dangerous] – 0/10
Revive Corinna [Formidable] – 7/10
Protect Grimwick [Dangerous] – 8/10
Threat: Corruption in the North – 3/10

Failure Track – 14/40

Bonds: ???, ???, ???, Esyllt the Herbalist, Ironhold of Crow’s Perch, Björn Blacksmith of Greybrook, Valknut, Ironhold of Twin Rivers, Ironhold of Greybrook, Priestess Indirra of Wolves Haven, Old Gray [wolf]

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