Völuspá

Hel's Needle

Go straight to Hel, do not pass Valhalla, do not collect 200 skats.

This is a translation from Old Norse from a notebook found in an unmarked cairn dating from the Viking era. As was typical for Viking warriors of that time, the author has a tendency to hyperbole and greatly embellishing his own deeds with references to the supernatural.

This is the story of Grond of Norweig, wielder of Friðrgefa, son of Trond who slew the puki of Helsingland, son of… [ REDACTED: Names and deeds of 78 ancestors, these seem to be repeated in every chapter of the journal ]

That blasted rogue Bobvir had seemed to make sense, when he suggested we venture North out of Evingard to look for my errant wife. Now caught in a blizzard and thoroughly lost, it didn’t seem like such a great idea. I was about to say so to him for maybe the hundredth time, when we caught sight of a mighty fire in the distance.

We made our way, and so we crossed the road of an adventuring party, who were saying the final words of the saga of two of their companions. I joined in with a quick prayer, and got a feeling that wherever these two brave souls were headed, they had found their destination.

Introductions were made, and of course Bobvir did most of the talking. These folk were looking to end the plague of undead bears that had troubled Evingard for many weeks. It seemed a worthy cause indeed, and for sure winning the favors of the town leaders might gain me some information about my wife’s whereabouts, so I promptly agreed to join. My companion was somewhat more reluctant but the promise of great loot and reward seemed to sway him.

And so we made our way down into a gaping pit in the earth. The darkness was impenetrable – even to our companion Ulther who had taken the shape of a mighty wolf. We advanced close together and although we could feel an aura of cold malevolence from this place, no foe came to challenge us.

Instead, it was an old crone who was waiting for us in the darkness. spinning an ethereal loom. She had many portents of doom and defeat for us – which we ignored – but advised us we were about to walk through the gates of Hel, and that the source of the plague was none other than an artefact known as Hel’s Needle. I just hoped there were no haystacks involved.

With a final bout of cackling laughter, the crone disappeared into the darkness, and we continue to venture forth. Soon enough we came to a pair of mighty gates made of a strange metal. Yet they swung open with barely an effort when I pushed – with Hel’s domain, getting in was obviously not the hard part.

We pushed on, the darkness even more impenetrable, and narrowly avoided falling off the twisting path into a gaping chasm. We could hear groans from undead bears all around us, getting closer. Finally we came to a wider area and the darkness grew less oppressive – but our troubles were only beginning, for a great bear, the size of a house came charging at us with a hateful light in its eyes. But he was not the only threat, for smaller shadows emerged, surrounding us stealthily. I would later learn these were called nurglegerts, no doubts twisted servants of Hel. I drew my blade and let out a battle cry.

[ REDACTED: 36 pages detailing the precise angle and technique of every sword stroke and parry used in the fight. The writer seems overly obsessed with such details. The local SCA has requested a copy of this passage ]

… Finally with a mighty cut (a backswing with as a steep upwards angle, connecting between the second and third cervical vertebra), Friðrgefa took the bear’s head off, and its smaller minions quickly scattered. We had not fared too badly in this encounter – our wolf and boar allies had taken most of the damage from the enemy, but within moments their wounds closed under the ministrations of our druid Ragnar.

The bear was guarding another set of doors, and hearing many other groans about us, we quickly went through. Inside was a large, circular room, and in its center Hel’s Needle was awaiting us. We needn’t have worried about finding it, for it was taller than the tallest tree I’d seen.

Around the room were four pedestals, and eight alcoves, ready to take in as many varied objects – the question being which one went on which. Riddles had never been my strong suit – not if I couldn’t cut through them with Friðrgefa. Near one of the pedestals, a bleached skeleton told us the price of getting this one wrong.

My companions seemed just as befuddled as I was, but eventually we figured out we needed to reverse the aura of death and bloodshed that had given rise to this curse. Seeds, a symbol of life and prosperity seemed like a good enough start. Followed by wedding bands, symbol of home, belonging and peace. We followed this with a spoon, for food and nurturing. Finally after some trial and error, we placed the rusty sword on the last pedestal. It visibly had not been swung in anger in a long time, and a such made as good a symbol for peace as any.

With this last addition, we saw the darkness start to dissipate outside the room, revealing many more of the bears we had fought. But as we prepared to make a heroic last stand, we saw their fur grow back in thick and healthy, the glint of death and hatred leave their eyes. We had undone the curse.

We made our way back out of the pit and were awaited there by one mighty warrior, with a giant sword resting on his shoulder. The helmed warrior declined to introduce himself, but proclaimed that our deeds had been noticed, and that a reward was deserved. He dropped a bag in front of us, then seemed to vanish in a flash. Withing the bag were one shield – one of them a mighty tower shield as tall as I was, a necklace, a broach, a graceful-looking suit of armor, and finally a glittering longsword.

These were not to be our only reward, for Ingvar the town chieftain, treated us to a mighty feast as well and a generous reward, too. We decided to see the smith on the next day, to learn more about our new gifts and about the trouble in the mines – but for tonight, celebration was in order!

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