49 – Meanwhile

The sluggish waters of the Flooded Planes pulled against Branwhyn’s calves as he walked, encouraging him to turn off the path he walked, a constant and subtle suggestion that he shouldn’t follow in the footsteps of their guide. To give in to the suggestion would be to step off the hidden path they walked, to plunge into deeper water or unseen dangers. It was not unlike the path his life was currently taking. He’d sworn a vow to find and return the heir to the Ironhold of Twin Rivers, yet every step along that journey he seemed to step off the path and be plunged into danger. True his efforts had brought Greymoor into the alliance of Ironholds and Circles that he was building but at the cost of time. There was an enemy moving in the North, something that had corrupted spirits of the deep wood and taken hold of the Broken. It had wormed its way into some Circles and stollen the humanity and free will of the Ironlanders who dwelled within. Every day he was away, the threat grew. So he stepped where he saw Estird step, turned where he saw her turn, and slowly made their way back toward Greymoor and resolved to focus on his own path once he’d fulfilled these sidetracking steps.

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48 – Reunion

Branwhyn unshouldered his pack and handed it to Estrid to hold. Putting his back to the tree, he interlaced his fingers to make a step for Corinna. The changeling put her wet booted foot into the step and then scampered up to his shoulders trying to reach the lowest of the thick limbs of the sodden timber.

We’re trying to plan ahead here, so this is Secure an Advantage w/ Wits (5, 5, 6+3), Strong Hit, as a house rule there are no matches on odds. +2 Momentum (+5). Vow Progress: Black Iron Torc 6 of 10.

With an added boost from Branwhyn, Corinna grabbed hold of the limb and pulled herself up. Testing her weight on it, it proved sturdy. They hoisted the packs up next and secured them. Last, Branwhyn passed up half his arrows. What remained of his quiver along with his black yew bow, he entrusted to Estrid. “Go back to where we camped last night. If we aren’t back there by dawn, we aren’t coming.”

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47 – Through Bog and Fen

“I have hunters out gathering extra provisions, I told them to have an eye for fowl.” Looking out at the rising sun, Hjalmar leaned on the railing of the walkway around his longhall – raised above the waters of the lake like every other house in Greymoor. All around them were the sounds of the Ironhold already at work despite the early hour, people were shouting between houses, and square barges maneuvered between stilted houses distributing supplies to make ready for the journey. “The fletchers will want the feathers for extra arrows. I don’t normally leave the hold so soon after a raid, it encourages reprisals.” Turning to look over his shoulder, the Thane of Greymoor frowned at Branwhyn. “What troubles you, my friend?”

It was all too tempting to lean on the rail as well, to be companionable with this thane who not only seemed to actually like Branwhyn – a rare enough occurrence in its own right – but to want to be his friend. No longer afeared of not living into his role as Thane, the dream of a united Ironland had given Hjalmar an inspiring purpose. With that purpose, the grasping fears of maintaining position and hold had disappeared and his underlying charisma had manifested. 

The shaman didn’t want to like the man though, all of Hjalmar’s newfound confidence and charm didn’t change his abhorrent treatment of Estrid, a servant in his care. Branwhyn had sworn an oath to protect the woman and he didn’t trust that Hjalmar’s newfound confidence would be a sufficient shield for Estrid in the future. It was simply too much to hope for.

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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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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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