Monday, October 27, 2008

Chapter I: The Homecoming

Dovi Anderson...Brand, a viking fighter
Emma Coats...Vilo ('Grub'), a human rogue
Everett Downing...('Shadow'), a human druid
Mach Kobayashi...Talen ('Lad'), a human wizard
Erick Trylezaar...Ketill ('Carver'), a human fighter
Mike Wallace...('Brew'), a human fighter

Snow drifts gently down as the Obyrith, the Morning Blade, and the Yeti, the last remaining longboats of the wandering viking armada, cut through the moonlit fog of the White Sea, on their way home from seven years of glorious conquest. Talen, a young magically-adept boy, perches on the mast of the flagship, Obyrith, keeping an eye out for signs of land and journey's end. Below him, the crew struggles to row with hands numb from the bitter cold. Brand, the crew's cartographer, stands checking his sea charts next to the captain, Thrain; it seems they should have reached familiar shores by now.
Talen (called 'Lad' by his viking superiors) calls down to the crew, at first sighting a white bird. Could it be the Ice Eagle, the very image of the Skullgrim clan crest on the ship's sail? Moments later, Talen calls again, "A caravel, up ahead on the port side!" Suspicious at first to hear two welcome sightings after such a long silence from the boy, the vikings send another look-out to verify. Sure enough, the second ship is sighted, weaving in and out of the fog, inexplicably maneuverable despite the heavy winds and churning seas.
The vikings holler and the crews double their pace on the ores, though some, like the crew's culinary expert, Vilo, are already exhausted by hunger and cold. As the crew begins to catch the caravel, the ship cuts between two rock pillars, jutting from the swirling black depths.
"Hard to starboard!" calls Talen and the crew leap to action, desperately steering the ship between the treacherous obstacles.
The fog clears in an instant, and the crew finds themselves following the caravel toward a narrow chasm in a sheer rock face, they have reached land, and are diving straight at it! The caravel, angled oddly at first, rights itself just in time to cut through the gap. The Obyrith is not so lucky--Talen and his fellow look-out leap desperately from the mast just before it crashes into the black rock of the mountainside. The lookouts crash to the deck as the longboat is sent careening wildly through the chasm, knocking from side to side. A viking is sent careening overboard and Shadow, a red man from the distant west and sworn-enemy of his norse captors, takes the opportunity to kick one of the vikings overboard where the man is lost to the ocean's black bosom.
The Obyrith is spit into a calm cove, where the wintery winds swirl over snowy beaches and jagged pillars of black rock. Just as the crew notices the curious absence of the caravel that they followed into the enclosed cove, a second longboat erupts from the chasm behind them. The crew maneuver the longboat just out of harm's way as the second drakkar crashes down into the water behind them. The impact rocks the Obyrith violently, sending the crew's ale-master, Brew, overboard and his companion, Carver after him.
Moments later, after all three longboats are safely landed on the snowy banks, the uneasy crew piles out onto the shore. Thrain sends Carver, a skilled wood-worker, into the nearby forest to craft a new mast. Curious clatterings atop the cliff walls surrounding them cast a sense of dread over the crew.
Brand and Lad, along with Thrain's first mate, Kale, hike to higher ground to scout the nearby area. Once on the other side of the rock face, they see a vast valley of black wintery wood, and the distant glow of a town.
Below them, Carver, Brew, Shadow, and Vilo (called Grub by the crew, after his primary skill of cooking) venture into the woods to craft a new mast. The group come across a desecrated alter to the norse sea-god, Njord, formed instead into the shoddy shape of a crab.
Two vikings come to check on the group's progress and, upon seeing the alter, cry out in anguish.
Lad brings more help up to the cliff-side to continue investigating the mysterious disturbances around the top of the bluffs. The group finds a small hand-carved fisher in the rock. They light torches and begin to explore within, until they reach a dead-end, where Lad smells the rotting of flesh and Brand discovers astrological markings around the cliff-walls. They turn to report to Thrain, when they find themselves face to face with the Jarl himself. He brings them urgently back down to the beach, ready to depart, despite urgings from his finest warrior, Aestrid, to explore the star markings further.
Thrain is met at the snowy banks by two anguished vikings, reporting the ruins of Njord's alter. Furious, and wise enough not to return to the sea without the blessings of Njord, Thrain amasses some men and trots off toward the village, stopping to annihilate the pagan crab statue along the way.
Vilo, Shadow, and Brew start hacking away at a sizable tree, anxious to leave the snowy cove while Carver is ordered to rebuild the shrine to Njord.
Brand jogs alongside Thrain, while Lad strains to keep pace with the warriors. Brand spots an unnatural clearing on a snowy hill to his right. The warriors creep up the hill, Brand and Aestrid at the head of the group. They discover a pagan cemetary, not at all keeping with the Nordic tradition of funeral pyres, and after a quick interrogation of the gravedigger (who happily incriminates the local villagers to save his own skin), the small army jogs briskly on toward vengeance.
Back at the alter site, Carver begins fashioning a new image of Njord, under the supervision of a viking warrior--who suddenly goes quiet. Carver looks around, but cannot spot the norseman anywhere, and hears only the nearby handiwork of his lumberjacking compatriots. Carver glances up just in time to avoid an ambush by a horned monkey-demon astride a rock-colored crab steed. The two lock in combat, and Carver cries for help.

Vilo, Shadow, and Brew hear the cry just as they, too, are assaulted by a crab-riding monkey-demon. The three make quick work of the assailant, and Brew runs off to help his widdling ally while Vilo tastes the crab and discovers a possible delicacy.
Meanwhile, Thrain, Brand, Lad and co. creep up on the village. The smell of spiced meats, buttered creams, and dark ale fills the air, along with the sound of music and laughter. The vikings creep into the village proper toward the main square where the festivities seem to be in full-swing. Brand ruthlessly exterminates a village boy and motions to his friends to keep quiet. The warriors are about to spring their attack when a firey dragon blazes to life on the river just beyond the village perimeter. Viking drum beats (of another clan!) fill the air. The villagers panic and flee, and Thrain and his men lie in wait. Nobody ambushes THEIR victims. Lad creeps around a heavily perfumed building and burns the weapons in the hands of enemy vikings as they rush by, before he dodges into the perfumed building, tripping over silken pillows and finding himself in--a brothel? Windows around him are shattered from misfired slings and arrows, and Lad creeps into the structure, calling for anyone within. All he finds is a chest of three glowing grey vials.
Outside, Brand creeps toward the Serpent's Song, the enemy drakkar. He begins to inspect the ship when he hears a rustling in the snow on the near-edge of town. It is the two village children who saw him end the life of their friend. He holds his finger to his mouth in a severe warning, when an enemy norseman rounds the corner near them, dodging heavy arrow-fire. The viking notices the children and raises his axe to silent them from giving away his position. Brand hurls his throwing axe in an impressive show of skill, cleaving the enemy's head from hairline to nosebridge. Just before the viking falls dead to his knees, Brand catches the familiar eyes of Rikard.
The viking collapses and Brand stands, stunned, for a moment when he hears a faint fluttering just audible above the din of battle. It is coming from the clouds over the river. Brand looks up to see a shimmering silver figure plummeting through the drifting snow and down, down, down splashing into the frigid river water, no more than a boat's length from Brand. The viking crosses to Rikard, and seeing that the norseman is beyond help, runs urgently back to the river, wading in after the fallen figure, which is now a fading silver silhouette below the shimmering black surface. Brand tethers himself to the Serpent Song's figure head and dives for the figure. The current curiously strengthens and the tether goes taught before Brand can reach the luminescent shape. Incensed with wonder, Brand frees himself from the drakkar and swims desperately at the silver shadow, reaching out with numb fingers and struggling against the stabbing in his lungs. Taking grasp of the glimmering hand of the figure within the flowing silver garments, Brand kicks furiously back upward toward the water surface.
The icy current begins to overcome the viking. His legs go numb with just under a meter left to swim. The current of the water, and the ponderous weight of the silver body begin to reclaim him when a hand plunges into the river, grasps Brand's arm and pulls him into the open, freezing air. Brand finds himself face-to-face with Thrain, still clasping the mysterious figure, and...


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