Echoes of the North

A dark night made darker

As told by Hanaf Firebeard

Heading out of the Stout oak

What a night I tell you. We, that is I was woken from my gentle dreams of bearded maidens and flowing ale most roughly. It would seem our new “friends” wanted a word with us. Well at least I was still alive. I had gone the distance with the Blackfeather and still drew breath (through cracked ribs and much pain, mind you) and that is an accomplishment I tell you.

I was then brought a cold mug and sat at the table, they were going to question me to be sure, and I knew it was going to open old wounds. I don’t know if I loathe myself or my companions more at this moment. Well here goes. I spilled it all, everything I could recall. How I met Agmund in the dark of Greydelve, where Saxulf came to the picture, and Jasper. As well as the harsh meeting with Annelzen in the tombs. My face flushed with shame.

They were far kinder than I could have imagined at my tale. I pleaded for young Saxulf, the boy was in truth mostly simple and blameless. He fell in love with both tales of glory told by a con artist and with a woman of no morals and less honour. It was a sad tale. I took my part of the blame, I may be a “bandit” but I am at least an honest one.

They awoke Agmund next, he was all full of fight and fire. but also he had a bit of…..something more sinister about him. He attempted to get into a verbal sparring match with our “captors” but they were uninterested in any semantic excuses. I tended to just lose interest in the bulk of what was said, but I knew it was not going well. Agmund was determined to deflect and distract. He blamed Annelzen for pretty much everything. I don’t know if it was just me, but he did a good deal of fidgeting.

They woke poor Saxulf next, he was hurting, bad. He had lost a tooth and was immediately reminded of it when he took a deep draw from a cold mug. Hvaldi was kind enough to get him some ice. He looked just bad. He was a tough kid though. He took the questioning with obvious distress. I think what we were doing was starting to become obvious to him now. All the lies and half truths came crashing down and he was being made clear just what Agmund had turned him into. Hearing Agmund talk about Annelzen had him even angrier. In the end though he was crushed in spirit and though Agmund insisted his innocence, all the dark was being brought to light.

They tried to wake Annelzen next, but she was completely unconscious. The elf lass had really “rung her bell”, and it would be hours before she was remotely conscious. So it was to rotten little Jasper that we next heard from. And did the lies flow. I was sickened by it and my shame grew with each new fib told. I walked away to clear my head. It would seem my promise of “good behavior” awarded me some liberties. I sat in the corner contemplating my pipe and a good draft of mead when a tall armored Barding walked in.

I was instantly dismayed to see that this young captain was more than just friend to my captors but also some relation. Here at last was true authority to do us harm, I had to hope and trust into the words of Arifal and Hvaldi. I was relieved that while he was stern, he took the words of the two dwarves as absolute truth. Agmund was very concerned. He was fidgeting more than usual, and the conversation went to strange as they had rooted through Annelzens somewhat meager possessions. The girl was poor and loved to grub around in old tombs but what they were saying just sounded…odd. I helped myself to more ale and went to try to comfort Saxulf a bit. He still trusted me somewhat, though he now I believe truly hated her and Agmund.

The night grows deeper.

I was bleary eyed and near asleep (not sure why) when the cold air came in and two more Barding warriors entered. It would seem there was much goblin activity going about and King Bard was quite concerned. This being outside his realm and all. Well that is when it got really weird to me, Annelzen there just babbling almost incoherently at the dwarves while Sigmund (the young captain) had taken Jasper and Agmund out of the room to hold them in the barn. Agmund had been acting stranger tonight. I had heard him in his mutterings before. At the goblin hole as we called it, and then when he took Annelzen from poor love struck Saxulf. I am sure I am just being a foolish old dwarf. I should get some sleep.

I was awoken to the sound of strife in the tavern. Hvaldi had seen something wrong with Annelzen ( I usually ignore her) and saw that he was getting geared for battle, Arifal of course had already donned his plate hauberk and gathered that grim axe of his. I knew something was truly amiss when Hvaldi told meself and Saxulf to arm up. I then heard what I assume Hvaldi had. The wind and snow had picked up, yet the sound of spiders outside, the big ones, could be heard. I knew then we were truly in the gravest of dangers.

The battle was mostly a blur to me, its onset so swift and fierce. Arifal went out to warn the others and to carry the fight ( there is a reason he is called “the berserk-er” by some) while Hvaldi (ever the valiant) guarded the unconscious Annelzen (she apparently had some sort of seizure or whatnot whilst she slept) and was assumed to be the target of the raid (mayhap due to her gibberish?) in any event Saxulf, Ferdinand (that would be the hobbit from before) Hvaldi and meself were guarding the tavern inside.

Hvaldi had set out a shout of alarm and a warhorn answered from the barn. Arifal was outside bellowin’ like an enraged bull (and makin a mess outta them spiders there) I was getting nervous about the whole thing, and it is a strange thing to see the Blackfeather shootin’ a bow out into a snowstorm. He must have been flustered. Well it did not take em long to realize the true target was in the barn. Hvaldi stood his ground but that crazy hobbit ran outside and promptly got hisself into some real trouble.

This was the chance we needed. I grabbed Saxulf by the shoulder and told him “lad, now is the time we start to redeem ourselfs” and we charged out to aid the little squirt. In hindsight I regret taking such a green warrior out there (yes I know, Saxulf was a veteran of many a fight, but spiders be different) we rushed out to see little Ferdinand all webbed up. Saxulf engaged the spiders and I started to cut the hobbit free. Well I heard Hvaldi talkin’ about the little ones and that set me on edge. The little ones always seem the more poisonous of the bunch.

That distraction cost me, but Saxulf more. A huge bull of a spider lept the wall of the yard and gave him a good bite, I saw my friend go down under the weight of a beast the size of a small horse. I was enraged and me and Ferdinand went at it in our fury. IT was fast apparent that the beast was more than a match for us. We were saved by the cry of “Baruk Khazad” and Hvaldi right flew through the doorway and smashed the spider against the low fence. IT was a beautiful mess. Sadly poor Ferdinand got rolled up under the spider. Well I helped the lad up and back into the fray we went.

The Aftermath.

The battle was short and sharp, we took grievous losses but had the victory. Jasper was slain as was Saxulf and two of the men that came with Sigmund. The spiders were all slain and Agmund taken. He was spitting and frothing mad. There was small semblance of the man that saved my life, though in hindsight, he may have engineered the whole situation. That chanting, that fidgeting, and the simplicity of the ambush.. I question it, I should have questioned him. Arifal and Sigmund took him outside and in the name of King Bard, beheaded him.

A great debate on what now to do commenced. I was determined to aid my “captors” in their quest. I have much to atone for. I buried Saxulf in silence. I swore to him I would make it right. I was not sad to see Sigmund take Annelzen outside and “boot her in the arse” naming her coward and telling her not to be seen again. It was now just me of my original group, but I am fine with that. I look forward to whatever it is that is coming.

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