Journey to the East

Uksahkka's Story (17th November 4711)
17th November 4711

“My name is Uksahkka, and my partner Ulf has been held captive at that farm for several days” the woman explained. “Damn! They must have taken him away while I was resting.”

“You partner?” queried Rasha.

“My business partner, Ulf Gormundr. He’s a guide- one of the best. In fact the best, on this side of the Crown.”

“Uh, the Crown?” asked Dinald.

“The Crown of the World” explained the woman patiently. “We are caravan guides: Ulf is the best freelance guide; the best arctic guide period.”

“Wait, wait. I’m getting confused” interrupted Rasha. “He was captured you say?”

“That’s right. Asvig invited Ulf here nearly a week ago-Ulf said that Asvig wanted to discuss big plans for a new trade route across the Crown. It came at the right time too; Ulf has fallen out with the big caravan outfits over the last year and it’s been hard going.”

“I was to join him when the details were sorted out, but he never came back. I came up to look for him and got beaten up and thrown out for my trouble. I think they’ve been holding him inside.”

“Talk noo” said Ungo, glaring at the servants they had brought with them.

" Uh , yes, the master did have a prisoner" stammered one of the servants, “But he was moved out last night. Maybe he’s gone with the sword too…….” the man stopped. But it was too late. Ungo patted C***slicer.

“Uh the funeral SIr” interrupted one of the other servants. “The feast was for the funeral of Snorri Stone Eye, Lord Asvig’s liegeman. Perhaps the captive and the sword were sent to the funeral ship: it’s the old way Sir.”

“Who is this…..?” began Dinald.

“A pirate. A reaver” interrupted Uksahkka. “He died a few days ago. A local hero in Kalsgard.” She spat.

“Remember!” said Ailukka. “White Wolf was speaking of him. You heard him! White Wolf’s half brother!”"

“So when is this funeral?” asked Rasha.

“Tomorrow morning, at dawn.”

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Conversation with a Witch (17th November 4711)
17th November 4711

To say that Helva, the wife of Asvig, was angry, was perhaps an understatement. Her husbands retainers were dead or incapacitated, apart from a few servants who had managed to flee.

Her eyes stared daggers at Ailukka, who had incapacitated her husband and several warriors with one her spells, and then brained him with a blow from Trollsplitter.

“I won’t forget this Witch” she spat, glaring at Ailukka.

“You’re one to talk” said Ailukka calmly, nodding at Dinald with a pile of boils and pustules festooning his face. At least they seemed now to be slowly receding.

“Ah’ll only ask this once missus” said Ungo, fingering C***slicer meaningfully, “Whur’s the fekkin sword yer ex nicked fra Fynn?”

“Murdering all his servants I’ll add” said Rasha grimly.

“Speak truth Woman!” commanded Ragnar sternly, “And you may yet live.”

Interrogation of the woman and a few of the servants revealed that Asvig had indeed been responsible for both the theft of the blade and the night attack on the caravan at Skalsbridge. one of the servants added that the ship had been called the ’Aril’s Hammer’, hired from the Rimerunners Guild. They decided to take the servants with them to hand over to Fynn: he could use their statements to justify their attack on Asvig’s Farm to the authorities. Of the sword there was no sign, which didn’t prevent them from a bit of quick looting anyway.

As they made their way away a shadowy form hailed them from the darkness. As they moved closer they saw that the speaker was a fine featured woman of obvious Varki descent, dressed in a mixture of ulfen clothing and traditional Varki beadwork and embroidery. there was definately something of the outdoors about her.

“I have watched you” said the woman. “I have watched here for many nights. What happened to the prisoners?”

“What are you talking about?” said Rasha, “And who the heck are you anyway?”

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Asvigs Farm (17th November 4711)
17th November 4711

Some hours later Ungo, Dinald, Rasha, Ragnar and Ailukka hid in a small wood overlooking Asvig’s steading. This consisted of a main house near the head of a shallow valley, and a number of outbuildings. There seemed to be a degree of preparation going on, as servants collected food and drink from the storehouses,and even as they watched a group or warriors arrived and were greeted by a tall man and his wife, presumably Asvig.

“Looks like a feast is being prepared. Lets wait a bit till they’ve all had a chance to get drunk a bit” suggested Dinald. As the darkness descended they withdrew further into the wood leaving a lookout, and wrapped themselves in their cloaks as the chill evening descended. The distant sounds of cheer could be heard from the house itself. Rasha made his way back to them.

“Well I think the party is well underway, and by my count there are maybe a dozen warriors in there, plus the servants.” he reported.

“The bad news is that there are about another twenty torches heading up the valley. I estimate they’ll be here in an hour.”

“Ve need to move now then” said Ragnar, standing up.

Under cover of darkness now, they moved closer to the house. Ailukka suddenly motioned for everybody to stop, and she pointed at a ring of carved posts, fashioned with lion’s heads, which surrounded the main house.

“Zey are magical” she said. “An alarm maybe?”

A whispered discussion was held. If she was right they were unlikely to get the element of pure surprise.

“Richt” said Ungo, standing up and hefting C***slicer. “I’ll mak me way roond the abck door, and when ye hear me yell jist rush in and kill the fuckers.” Before anyone could comment he was off. They shrugged.

A few moments later Ungo’s yells sounded at much the same time as what sounded like a series of lion’s roars: some enchanment effect of the posts no doubt. Ragnar and Dinald rushed up to the main door, while Ailukka started making her way to the far side of the house to yet a third entrance door.

Kicking the door open Ragnar was confronted by a half drunken Hirdman, and took a swing at him. From the rear of the house Ungo’s curses could be heard as he confronted two warriors having their way with one of the servant girls. He grinned as his axe spun down.

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Fynn Snaevald (17th November 4711)
17th November 4711

After hours of tramping the streets of the Amber Quarter they found themselves knocking on the foor of one Fynn Snaevald, a retired merchant. The door was answered by the old merchant himself, a slender and wiry man with blue veins crawling across his arms and neck beneath a shock of white beard and hair that floated around his head like a halo.

Although well into his eighties or nineties, Snaevald seemed still hale, hearty, and feisty. He seemed happy to talk to his callers about Tian Xia, with whom he had traded extensively in his youth. Dinald eventually broached the subject a long ago purchase of a blade.

To their surprise, and without reticence, Fynn reminisced freely about his long-ago purchase
of the Tian sword over mugs of warm ale and crusty bread brought from his kitchens by well-groomed servants.

Fynn seemed particularly animated discussing Suishen, and eventually revealed the reason why. Only a few weeks ago (just after they had discovered the Amatatsu Seal in Brinewall, calculated Dinald) a band of masked, black-suited thieves broke in and stole the sword. This was news indeed.

Fynn was not at home at the time, but several of his servants were killed in the robbery and the only thing taken was Suishen, which he kept on display above his hearth. One of his servants was still alive when he arrived home, and was able to tell him what had occurred before dying. The only description the servant could give was that one of the masked intruders was much taller than the others and seemed to be in charge.

“I reported it to the Watch of course, but nothing ever came of it.” Fynn concluded. He stred directly at Dinald with his hawkish eyes. “Now, why are you interested.”

“Ah… well…. uh…. let me see” he began, his Bardic word telling skills temprarily in abeyance.

“Ve represent a relative of the man who sold you zer balde” cut in Ailukka, “We sought to buy it back, as a family heirlomm.” Fynn nodded slowly: Ailukka’s lie was at least close to the truth.

“I see. Let me make you an offer then” he said thoughtfully. “I never cared for the blade overmuch -it made me uncomfortable when I carried or wore it. It ended up hung over the fireplace there. I am old, and at this point I don’t really care about getting the blade back.” He stood up.

“The death of my servants is a different matter however. " he continued. “I am entitled to weregild for their death under Ulfen Law, and as the thieves have not come forward, I am now entitled to pursue blood vengeance against those who have wronged me.” He smiled faintly.

“Of course I am now an old man and incapable of pursuing blood vengeance on my own,
but it is within my rights to appoint proxies to do so on my behalf.” He stared at each of them full in the face.

“If you can discover who perpetrated this crime against me, and exact blood vengeance against them to defend my honor and property rights, and recover the sword, I will reward you with the blade. Do you agree to this?”

They looked at Ailukka who nodded, “Ja, it is as he says. We would become his legal agents.”

“Is there anything else you can tell us Sir?” asked Rasha.

“My servant was able to say nothing else of use” said Fynn sadly. " As he died he mumbled something about ‘paying the lion’s due’, but it didn’t make any sense."

His memory jolted, Ungo held up one of the arm rings they had retrieved from their viking attackers a few nights earlier.

”D’ ye recognise this man?" he asked. Fynn took the arm ring and turned it over in his hands.

“Why it’s the emblem of Asvig Longthews, a local chieftain and ring giver off in the hills a few miles from Kalsgard.” he said. “The Lion is his symbol…..I wonder.”

“And Asvig: he is notoriously tall. It had not occured to me before.”

“Well ah thing we’ll be payin’ this feller a visit” said Ungo. “Dinna worry pal, we’ll gait yon sword back.”

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To and Fro (15th November 4711)
15th November 4711

After they had settled into the ‘Raging Swan Inn’, and loafed about for a day or so, Sandru had visited them and discussed their next move.

His initial enquiries had indicated that with winter approaching, this was the worst possible time to traverse the Roof of the World: there was also the problem of needing an experienced Guide.

“The problem is the majority of the Guides are tied into the big merchant companies who specialise in the Arctic trade route. What we need is a freelancer, but they are few and far between: and in great demand as you can imagine.”

“There’s a Varki guide called Uksahkka somewhere in town apparently, if I can locate her.” continued Sandru.

“Anyway, that brings us to the other half of our business- which is where you come in”

“Ameiko seems to think that we must locate this hereditary blade Suishen” said Sandru. “If that vision is to be believed then it would seem that after her family escaped here across the Roof of the World, her Grandfather sold the blade too an Ulfen- maybe to replenish his funds to continue their escape.”

“The blade was of a type called a Katana- I’m sure they exist in kalsgaard, in the Jade Quarter, but most people won’t really know what they are. The question is, what sort of person would have bought one, and why?”

“Well presumably this heirloom blade was well enchanted, and pretty high quality?” suggested Dinald.

“Possibly we should be looking for someone of wealth who has an interest in such things” suggested Rasha. "If all this took place…what….50 years ago…..4661 maybe? It is just possible that the buyer may be still alive?

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Kalsgard At Last (12th November 4711)
12th November 4711

“But its….so big!” said Dinald in astonishment.

“Ja!” said Kelda. “Is one of biggest cities in vorld. Kalsgard make your Varisian cities look like third rate piss pots they are.”

“Big it may be” said Sandru, “But we know that it is likely that Ameiko’s enemies have some foothold here: it’s the logical place as the terminus of the trade routes with Tian Xa.”

“From the behaviour of those riders it would also seem that they are on the lookout for a caravan with a female Tien on board. Ameiko is staying hidden for now, but once we enter she should sneak off and encamp in an inn-Shaleelu and Reynald can go with her as bodyguards.”

“I’ll take care of the caravan” he continued, turning to Ungo, Rasha, Ragnar, Ailukka and Dinald.
“You five should make separate camp in an inn too. The less we conform to our travelling description the better.”

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Night Visitors (9th November 4711)
9th November 4711

The sounds of night were muted amid the freezing fog that clung to blankets, cloaks, and hoods alike. Rasha was on guard and he was far from happy.

He was already somewhat on edge as he was of the opinion they were being shadowed. He had not forgotten the attack of the horsemen on Ameiko, and he was somewhat suspicious of the flocks of ravens which seemed to be following their progress. Even more so as one of the birds seemed to be over large for a raven: a fey creature perhaps? Some agent of their hidden enemies, the Five Storms?

The dull silence is suddenly broken by the scrape of wood upon the gravel bank of the river—a boat had beached just beneath the Skalsbridge near which they were encamped, at the confluence of the Thundering River with the Rimeflow. This was immediately followed
by the splash of feet in the shallows and the oaths Ulfen voices.

“Attack!” he yelled at the top of his lungs. “Ware! Raiders!” This was clearly no time for subtlety.

Voices and rushing noises sounded from all around the camp, and he heard Shallelu shout from the far side of the camp where she too was on guard. An ulfen scream told him that the elf’s deadly arrows had found their mark. Chaos ensued.

Scant minutes later a dozen mailed warriors lay dead around the north side of the camp, with half a dozen more scattered elsewhere. A spirited defence by Rasha, Ungo, Ailukka, Ragnar and Dinald on the north side, and Kelda, Malvenos and Shaleelu on the south side had forced the raiders to flee.

Ragnar bent down and retrieved a strange gold lion’s head arm-ring from one of the raiders: in fact they all seemed to be wearing them.

“Some badge of our enemy?” asked AIlukka in skald.

“Yes indeed” replied Ragnar. "Though I do not know which Lord uses such a badge. I am not that familiar with Kalsgard. He turned as Kelda came rushing back through the mist.

“That ship was the ’Aril’s Hammer’, said Kelda. I recognised it’s line, and the serpent on the front.”

“And who might own it?” asked Ragnar.

“It is owned by the Rimerunners Guild” replied Kelda, “Though they might have hired it to anyone.”

“And who might they be?” asked Ailukka.

“They are a Trading House specializing in trade with Tian Xia over the Crown of the World, as well as along the rivers of the Lands of the Linnorm Kings” repleid Kelda. “The Rimerunners Guild is extremely influential in and around Kalsgard, with many local merchants and their retainers and much of the local economy beholden to it. But as I say, they often hire some of their ships out to raiders and other parties.”

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Ogre Battle Now (7th November 4711)
7th November 4711

They knew something was wrong when they saw the smoke ahead of them. Sandru halted the caravan and Rasha and Ungo scouted ahead, where they saw a burning wagon ahead and the remnants of a caravan.

A covered wagon sat almost burned to the ground, askew on the road ahead, it’s wreckage still smouldering. One of its horses lay dead in front of it, while the other appeared to be missing. The scent of smoke and burning flesh hung in the air.

Nearby a smaller supply wagon sat on its side, its horse absent as well, and a large hole crudely smashed through the floor boards. The tracks of a third wagon led off the side of the road and out of sight.

There was a conspicuous lack of bodies, except for the armored blackened corpse of a man in the burning wagon. To the northeast, about a hundred yards away sat a small copse of trees. The entire scene lay quiet except, for the crackling hiss and sputter of the fire.

As they looked around they realised that most of the caravaneers could not be accounted for. Many of the food stuffs and supplies were also missing, except for a few crates and barrels that lay broken and left behind with their contents spilled out on the ground.

The second horse hitched to the burning wagon had been cut loose, while the horse hitched to the overturned wagon was likely able to wrench itself loose and was still dragging its reins if it had not been captured already.

A few discarded blades and bows lay about the scene: it was obvious that some sort of attack had occurred.

As Rasha circled the scene he realised that a set of wagon tracks led off towards a line of low hills away from the river, including a second set of human footprints that diverted towards the copse of trees.

Forming a skirmish line they moved through the small wood, and eventually looked up: perched up in the branches was a young woman, who Ailukka and Dinald managed to coax down.

Shaken and firghtened, she explained that her name was Aeyesha Vilani, and the caravan had belonged to her parents. Earlier in the day the caravan was attacked by ‘huge monsters’ -like very ugly men but bigger, and in the ensuing chaos she had fled.

“Sound like Ogres to me” said Rasha. “I don’t rate the chances of the captives much if we delay too long”.

“Please” begged Ayesha, “It’s my Mum and Dad. You’ve got to help them”. Rasha looked at Dinald. Dinald sighed, big softie that he ultimately was. Ungo wasn’t listening and sat picking his nose.

Heading back to the main trail they soon found the wagon: the covered wagon was not damaged, but the horses were very skittish and Rasha calmed them down. It still contained supplies, bedding, and the personal possessions one might expect to find on a travelling
caravan.

“The going gets a bit rougher here” said Rasha. “My guess is that they decided to leave them here for now: no doubt they’ll be back later.”

“Ve cannot afford to wait” said Kelda. "Der victims might be eaten. "

Rasha nodded and picked up the trail, the others following some distance behind. Ten minutes later they espied nestled in the side of a hill, and concealed by several clumps
of trees, a large cave. Just outside of it was a large fire. Most of the wood on the fire had burned down to a glowing bed of red-hot coals, and a corona of flames threw flickering shadows. The wood smoke failed to mask a sickly sweet smell of sweat and blood. Just inside cave is what appeared to be a section of wooden enclosure. Two brutish forms pottered around a great cooking pot: clearly they were ogres. The group crept closer.

“Now!” yelled Rasha popping up and pumping two arrows into one of the creatures, which bellowed with pain. Screaming, Kelda rushed forward and hacked at one of the brutes, slicing a deep gouge across its stomach. Ragnar and Dinald also moved forward, as the air froze between Ailukka and one of the monstrous forms, leaving a thin coat of ice across its shoulders, and an icicle dripping comically from its nose.

“B…B….B……Blimey!” it uttered, and clubbed Ragnar as he moved forward, sending him spinning into a bush. But for him it was too late- more arrows and Kelda’s frenzied blade brought blood red death.

“Faegrim!” screamed the other ogre. “Picklecheeks! They killed your dad! Come and ’elp Mummy boy!” Heavy thrashings through the woodland could be heard nearby.

Picklecheeks did arrive: but by that time Mummy too had ruthlessly slaughtered. And so was he. Ayesha ran forward into the cave.

There were three prisoners inside the cave: Ayesha’s parents were called Estella and Davrioz, and there was also Mikael, their surviving guard. Estella freely bestowed strong hugs (whether wanted or no) lifting Ungo off his feet and into her ample bosom, her fat cheeks dripping with tears of sheer relief.

The caravan were heading to Lostholme where Davrioz had a cousin, where he intended to settle down. Clearly this plan did not have the wholehearted support of Ayesha.

“I don’t want to settle down on some farm Mum!” she complained. “I undersstand you’re sick of wandering but I’m not. I don’t want to be a farmer!” Sandru coughed politely.

“Can you drive a wagon?” he asked.

“Yes” replied Ayesha. “I’m a good cook too. And I know a bit of carpentry.”

Sandru looked at her parents.

“Look. When we get to Kalsgard I’ll be building up my caravan: I will need more people who can handle wagons” he explained. “If you two and your daughter are happy with this, I can give her employment for quite some time. Several years probably.”

“Oh please Mum, Dad!” begged Ayesha. “I’m still young. You’ve travelled to lots of places but I still want to see the world. I don’t want to settle down. And if you make me- I’ll run away.”

Davrioz looked less than happy. Sandru diplomatically withdrew to let them talk about it.

Half an hour later it was settled. Ayesha would be travelling with them, and they bid her parents farewell as they set them and Mikael on their way towards their new life in Lostholme.

When they were out of sight Sandru turned to the rest of the caravan.

“Right Rasha, get tracking down those bolted horses. With a bit of work we can get this overturned wagon functional again. A nice bit of a bonus for us all round.”

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Funeral Preparations (5th November 4711)
5th November 4711

Some days later, and without further incident, the caravan arrived at the town of Losthome. Kelda particularly seemed a little nervous, as she was aware that Losthome served double-duty as a logging town and a watchpost along the border with Irrisen to the east.

The very pavements themselveswere indeed paved with the skulls of those who fought in the Winter War, and even now patrols from Losthome kept an eye out for incursions by Irrisen and also for the occasional refugee fortunate enough to make it across the border.

As a logging town, Losthome provided an increasing amount of the Linnorm Kingdoms’ share of timber as Jol grew increasingly ill-managed. There was clearly a thriving woodworking industry, producing fanciful cabinetry and furniture that competed with the more elaborate but uncanny Irrisen wares.

Even as they watched they could see that lumber was either milled or collected into booms that were being sent downriver to Kalsgard. These booms doubled as barges used for shipping finished goods. Sandru nodded his head in approval at this mercantile canniness.

There were some ships too bringing needed goods into the town, typically the ulfen knarr. The last few days had clearly taken some sort of toll on Ailukka, who was clearly not getting very much sleep. More than once the person on guard had woken her up from what seemed to be a very troubled sleep, speaking in languages they could not understand, or even holding unnerving conversations with some imaginary listener. Dinald shuddered at the recollection- especially so because when he had actually moved across to wake her he could have swore he heard the footfalls of unseen feet rustling the fallen leaves as they moved away from the camp.

Knowing that they would be trading for a full day Ailukka booked directly into an inn, and went straight to bed- clearly exhausted.

Kelda, Rasha and Dinald decided to remain in the bar for a while before looking around town, and as they downed their drinks they could not help but hear the name of the White Wolf mentioned.

“Excuse me friend” asked Rasha, “We’ve heard that name several times as we’ve travelled north. Who exactly is this White Wolf?”

The speaker eyes Rasha up, and took the drink the half elf pushed along the bar.

“Ranulfr- the White Wolf. A great raider and trader.”said the speaker.

“A Raider? A viking you mean?” asked Rasha. “Does he pose some sort of threat to the town?” The man laughed.

“Not here friend. Ranulfr doesn’t shit in his own back yard. He offloads some of his goods here and picks up thralls for his business. You can’t miss him if you see him- looks like a corpse.”

“I see” said Rasha.

“In fact his ship is moored up right now” continued the speaker. “He’s supposed to be the half brother of another viking, old Snorri One Eye. Snorri is dying of some wasting disease, and this may well be his last trip. I imagine he’s met him here to see him for the last time.”

The three looked at one another significantly. After having another drink they decided to check the wharfside themselves.

Down the length of a long, east and west running wooden pier was moored a large Viking longship with a single mast and benches for rowers between rounded shields mounted on the sides. Across from the ship was a large wooden loading platform built right into the pier for the purposes of loading unloading cargo from merchant ships.

A solitary rowboat was tied off next to the loading platform. The pier terminated on the east end where it joins to rest of the docks.

On the walkway aside the longship two groups of ulfen were apparently doing business. One of these drew their attention immediately: with his helmet off they saw milk white hair and skin the colour of a corpse. A handful of heavily armed vikings stood near him, one of these with four young female thralls in tow: this presumably was Ranulfr.

He was engaged in conversation with several other ulfen, they deduced were the crew of the longship.

“Snorri should be taken back to Kalsgard for his last days” said Ranulfr. “It is there he was a boy, and it is fitting that he should meet his end in the place of his childhood.”

“Seems a lot of fuss to me” replied the crewman. Snorri isn’t in much state to care where he dies."

“You WILL take him to Kalsgard” relied Ranulfr, with a hint of irritation in his voice. "There are many in Kalsgard that owe Snorri fealty, and there we can be sure he will receive the appropriate rites for one of his station. "

“Alright, alright Ranulfr. No need to lose your temper.” resonded the crewman. “Will you be meting us there?”

“If time allows I will try to attend the funeral. Snorri has entrusted me with the sale of many of his business interests to the Rimerunners Guild, and there is some local business I must follow up here connected with his affairs. I bring you these girls as well, for the funeral, if you can take them with you.”

“A funeral in the old style eh?” barked the crewman harshly. “Very well.” He gestured and the girls were ushered abroad.

Dinald noticed Kelda shaking her head and making a slitting gesture across her throat. It was some moments before he put two and two together with regards to what she meant.

“We can’t allow that!” he hissed. “We must stop them!”

“Unless you wish to be declared Outlaw and have all men’s hands turned against you, you will leave well alone. You are not in Varisia now, and a funeral in the Old Way is allowed for great men, and any who can afford it.” replied Kelda flatly.

“There are also many seasoned men on board. We would die quickly.” she added.

His business concluded, Ranulfr and his men made their way towards another ship moored nearby.

They moved away from the dock. Dinald bit his tongue as he looked back and saw the last of the doomed girls being ushered below decks.

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Bandits and Pirates and Gnomes.....Oh My! (2nd November 4711)
2nd November 4711

As Ailukka had warned them, Delmon’s Glen was a very strange place. They were skirting through the southern and eastern edges of the great Grungir Forest now- the mysterious and primordial heart of the Linnorm Kingdoms’ wilderness.

Ailukka, Ragnar and Kelda told tales of fey, monsters, and linnorms residing everywhere humans do not, deeper in Grungir Forest,. The forest was home to Fafnheir, the oldest and most powerful of the linnorms, as well as to numerous enclaves of strange and powerful fey creatures.

“It iss said ’zat Portals to zer First World flicker within ’zer forest depths”, said Ailukka solemnly, “Undt in places ’zer very trees themselves move undt speak.” Rasha shuddered.

None of this had stopped the hardy Ulfen from establishing a handful of settlements along the perimeter of the great forest, and here the Thundering River provided a break in its easternmost reaches, along which were a few settlements engaged in logging and trapping.

In many ways Delmon’s Glen seemed unusually mundane—perhaps because of its
location along the major overland trade route that connected Jol and Varisia to the south with the northern Linnorm Kingdoms.

A closer inspection revealed its particular peculiarities however. Most of its buildings resembled typical Ulfen architecture from a distance, yet as they approached closer they realised that they were curiously small. An exclamation from Ungo revealed the reasons why.

“Fekkin’ Nomes!” spat Ungo, “I hate the fekkin’ little bastards, they’re everywhere!”

A few larger buildings, including a trading post and an inn called the Raven’s Best, sat on the edge of town, and it was here that the caravan halted.

The taproom conversation indicated that Delmon’s Glen was no stranger to the partie’s troubles with bandits, or it seemed, much worse.

“Aye” said one of the locals. “I put your troubles down to the White Wolf. There’s been report of a number of these mounted bands sighted hereabouts, but yours is the first time I’ve heard of an actual attack.”

“Who is this White Wolf?” asked Rasha.

“Ee’s a pirate- a viking. Clings to the old ways and a finger in every pie. Further downstream you’ll find a lot of the merchants and ship owners pay him tribute for a quiet life. The occasional visitors who don’t know how the land lies are often not so fortunate.”

“His real name is said to be Ranulfr,” chipped in a tough looking hunter, “makes a good bit trafficing in thralls, but keeps his activities quiet, and prefers to avoid direct confrontation with the authorities when a sly payment will do just as well.”

“Pale skin and hair he ’as, and eyes like blood” rejoined the first speaker, “Some say ‘ees a devil. Others say ’ees an exile from ’is ’omeland. A business partner of Snorri One-Eye- a name to make the blood run cold- and some even says they’re bothers. I don’t know.”

“If he’s a river pirate why the riders and banditry?” asked Ragnar.

“Oh been around quite a while ’as the White Wolf” said the Hunter. "He started in a small way some twenty years ago as a bandit, and worked his way up. It’s said he still keeps an interest in these parts. You can be sure he knows what any bandits are about, " he paused. “Though why this recent trouble I don’t know”.

“I bet I can guess” muttered Dinald under his breath, glancing over at Ameiko.

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