Frá dauða Börga
The Charge of the Pigless

Told by Grond/Hefnd, at the Burning Boar, with many rounds of drink

At the well’s end, the World-Tree’s root.
Three warriors stand, with weapons out.
Warg the One-armed, woe in his eye
By the Druid cursed, Grond draws blade high

Fair and fierce, pigless, dauntless
Bereaved Borga, without her Boar
The magic brew, clutched to her breast,
Paid at dear price, from perverse Ivar

Dark wights ‘round him, Dreki slumbers
Nidhogg’s taint spreads, spawned from Nilfheim
Soon he’ll succumb, and spell great doom
For this island, all it harbors

Face the heroes, a fearsome horde
Of shades twisted, sinister foe
With black magic, they blind and curse
And ragged claws, they reach at us

One-arm and Grond, march to greet them
With spell to hold, and sword to strike
Two pale figures, to push them back
While to the side, their true hope lies.

For Brave Borga, bold and agile
Dashes deftly, for Dreki’s maw
To deliver, while there’s still time
To purge the taint, the potent brew.

But with a snarl, and sudden leap
A dreadful wolf, Dreki’s summon
Charges at Grond, to maul her down
First blood is shed, its fangs cut deep

The warrior’s hurt, but not helpless
Draws on her sword, in her distress
To mend her wound, and wash away
The snake’s shadow, hold it at bay.

Mighty One-arm, with magic runes
Shrugs off the spells, of shades impure
And wills them back, by wind and fire
They surround him, but still he smiles.

By now Borga, ‘spite baleful foe
Draws near her goal, the great wyrm’s maw
But by the shades, her strength is leeched
Eyes unseeing, her will sundered.

As she staggers, her final step
With hand trembling, she holds up high
The druidic brew, Dreki’s last hope
Drink for Borga, for Death draws nigh!

So close, so far, now she falters,
For on her neck, the wolf’s maw shuts
As her last cry, is drowned in blood
Falls on her eyes, a deathly shroud

But in her breast, beats valiant heart
In her death still, ever stalwart
In stubborn rage, she reaches out
To drop the drink, in Dreki’s mouth

Drink for Borga, for by her hand
She has brought hope, to heal this land
And with her life, and sacrifice
Freed the Vaettir, to watch o’er us.

Now from her ash, I forge my sword
May it keep me, as brave and bold
This is my blade, we’re one and the same
Valiant our heart, vengeance our name.

The size of the enemy indeed does not its danger speak!
Jotunheim & Svartalfheim

Once we return, again, friends to the tales of the mighty companions, Borga, the pigless, Warg the one harmed, Jolnir the bold, and the whacking, mighty giant, Hrokkvir, “Tree” with his druid, Ragnar. As Grond, recently, daughter of Trond, and Uhtred, wolf brother, attended the carcass of fallen Kraken, the three brave companions, perhaps desiring to redeem their glory to those of their peer who had just almost single handed slaughtered the great beast, decided to open the 3rd door themselves.
As per the pattern, a circular room with a well at its center greeted them along with the ever creeping vines that stalled their progress. This time, the temperature dropped as they entered, and ice and snow blanketed the ground as they tread. Bold Jolnir climbed them and ascended to the ceiling, even mindful of the treasure, and the monster guarding it. Wise Ragnar slipped on his ring that made the cold now his friend, while Borga, her back against the wall, stood sentinel with her bow. The companions wearily approached the well that no doubt lead to to Jotunheim, land of the frost giants, when suddenly, before Ragnar could summon might whacker “Tree” a troll materialized before the companions roaring its battle cry!

The Pigless pummeled the creature with all her arrows, but seemingly could not get through its thick armor, while Jolnir jumped down from the vines and positioned himself to advantage. Warg, in an effort to stall the beast placed alka upon alka upon the ground, and summoned a mighty gust of wind to push the creature back into them and against the far wall. The brief respite was all Ragnar needed to call upon the earth to summon mighty “Tree”, who whacked the troll with a mighty thundering blow. Warg cast more alkas and again backed the troll into it, where, still dazed him Tree’s mighty blow succumbed to its wounds dying only mere minutes since the beginning of combat! The vines receded and the room shook, as a pair of gloves fell from the ceiling. With nimble fingers, Jolnir snatched it out of the air and the companions retreated out of the room.
According to Warg, the pair of gloves were the property of the wolf brothers, and any who were not of their sect would be treated as thieves. At once all agreed that this a treasure only worthy of Uhtred and proceeded to the fourth door where they were plunged into completely darkness! Lighting lanterns, they proceeded with vigilance into the room, with dauntless Jolnir once again ascending to the ceiling on vines. Such unnatural darkness could only mean that the well doubtlessly could only lead to Svartalfheim, home of the dark elves!

As Jolnir reached the well while the others hung back to provide illumination suddenly a blast of darkness enveloped him and blinded him. To the companions dismay, they could still not spot their foe, though they knew well enough from experience that they were not alone in the room. Gradually, the wily enemy snuck up upon the brave Vikings and one by one their world was plunged into complete blindness as the invisible nightmare struck. Ragar, the first to suffer the mind assault lost control of his spell. “Tree” disappeared from the battle. Sight gone, and increasingly desperate, Ragnar, Borga, and Warg retreated him the room, attempting to shut the door to at least try to slow down the mighty demon pursuing them. Alas, they were too late! The thing escaped the room pursuing its blind prey.

In their most desperate of hour, Borga’s keen sight and tactics proved true, and in the light of the outer room from shadows reflected upon the far wall, she managed to spot the horrible creature hovering the air.

“There!” She pointed to a spot between the three outside the room, before moving to the far wall out of the radius of its blind blasts. The mighty beast that had almost bested them turned out to be a mere grinning dark pixie!

The brief signal was all Ragnar and and Warg needed, as both leapt into the air casting alkas, which luckily just reached the small winged sprite, impeding it, and, ironically, blinding it. From there it was quick work again to summon mighty Tree to crush the little devil into a small stain on the ground.

Inside the vines receded, and indeed, it was only again through Jolnir’s deft catch that the treasure did not descend back into the well. It was a mask, which Warg claimed.

All in all, as their tale of this day was recounted over mugs of mead, the great lesson wise skalds often tie in for young warriors: the size of the enemy indeed does not its danger speak!

The Corruption of the Roots of Yggradsil, the Cosmic Tree
Níðhöggr, the Serpent who Gnaws at the Roots, spreads its corruption to all portals of the 9 Realms.

Finally across the bridge, the Heroes who Broke the Curse of Hel’s Needle, pushed on deeper into the Earth. Diminished in power and morale at the loss of the Golden Boar, War Pig, mount of Borga, daughter of Ásta, now called The Pigless, the Heroes resolved themselves to the task at hand – to discover the cause of and cure the corruption of Yggdrasil.

Following the passageway at the end of the bridge, they eventually came into a large chamber almost completely covered with silvery strands of spiderwebs. The Heroes discussed how to proceed. Some insisted on burning the webs out but Ragnar, Druid of the Forest and Master of Trees, mentioned foreign words such as “asphyxiation” and “suffocation” which caused much confusion and perplexity amongst the rest of the Heroes. In the end, they decided to heed the advice of Ragnar and did not burn the webs. Instead, they advanced forward in a battle ready stance as ambush and attack by giant spiders was expected.

Eventually, after slow and careful progress, the Heroes reached the end of the chamber but found it to be completely webbed off and the question of fire came up again but it was discounted as an even worse idea as they were entirely in the chamber as this point. The Heroes took axe and sword to the webs and cut their way through. It was exhausted, tedious and lengthy work but the Heroes finally made it out of the chamber without any harassment by spider whatsoever. Perhaps Sif, Goddess of Watchers, kept an eye out and helped the Heroes through unmolested.

Pushing forward, the Heroes noticed the stone and rock of the walls gave way to wood and root – the Heroes had reached the Roots of Yggdrasil, the Cosmic Tree. They came upon a large room with a passageway into and out of it with 7 doors arranged around the room. The Heroes’ curiosity could not let them just leave without opening at least one door. They chose randomly and opened the 5th door and entered. Dominating the room was a large well and murals and carvings of the Lios Alfar, the Light Elves. The Heroes had found the portal into Alfgard. However, quite importantly, vines were covering the entire room, impeding movement and the entranceway to Alfgard.

Ragnar used his Druidic magic to try to move the vines to create an opening to the well and the vines thus moved began to bleed red blood. Grond, daughter of Trond, wielder of Friðrgefa, started to hack at the vines with her mighty sword but the vines responded by moving and started to wrap themselves around the Heroes. A ball of light appeared in one corner of the room and Ragnar’s Hrokkvir companion immediately approached the light and smashed into it with its huge limbs. Uncharacteristically, the light survived the assault of the giant tree and suddenly a wall of ice appeared in the corner of the room blocking off almost all access to the light. The remaining space to it was then filled with boiling water and steam.

Combat ensued with the Heroes opting to not cross the boiling steam and instead attacked the ice wall until a breach appeared in it. With a hole in the wall created by the Hrokkvir’s attacks, Uhtred, Wolf-Changer, rushed in with Grond immediately behind him. Fangs and steel descended upon the light. The light responded with pulses of harmful magic but the onslaught against it was too intense and its magical prowess was compromised. Its magic was not strong enough to turn the tide of battle. As expected, the giant tree ended the combat with a crushing blow from its limbs.

The light winked out and the vines covering the room began to die and recede. When they had receded above the well an object fell down, having been trapped above the well entangled amongst the vines. Warg One-Arm, Inscriber of Runes, had the quickness of wit to realize that something valuable might be falling and he threw a gust of wind at the object to knock it into the room, instead of down the well. It was a large horn tinted grey and ivory. Warg One-Arm, with his knack for understanding all things magical, had a close look at the horn and determined its utility. The horn was a named item – “The Call of the Ancients” and it was an artifact of great healing power in addition to improving existing magical power. Ragnar claimed the horn as he could put it to the best use.

With the vines gone, the Heroes saw runes in blood in the well which with tied to Níðhöggr the Corruptor and the Heroes knew that the destruction of the vines to that portal to Alfgard had weakened Níðhöggr’s power at Yggdrasil. With that in mind and with greedy lust in their hearts at the chance to obtain more items of power, the Heroes decided to open another door. They chose the 2nd door this time.

The Heroes saw the same vines and felt the corruption of Níðhöggr in the room. This room had another well but the murals and carvings in it indicated that this was a passageway to Vanagard, the Home of Vanir Gods. Once again, the Heroes attacked the vines and got ready to slay whatever beast was guarding the well. The vines moved again, trying to grasp on to the legs of the Heroes and hinder their movement. The room itself rumbled as if an earthquake had struck. The Heroes spread themselves around the room and waited for something to show itself.

However, no beast appeared in the room for the Heroes to attack. Instead, it was in the well itself and was climbing up. Grond saw it first and with an act of heroic potential suicide, she leaped down into the well on top of the beast driving Friðrgefa deep into the flesh of the monster. The beast was a Kraken with multiple tentacles, which one had slapped Friðrgefa out of Grond’s hands after her attack had landed.

The Kraken’s tentacles flew out from the well and slammed into Ragnar, his Hrokkvir and Warg One-Arm. Ragnar and Warg One-Arm were grievously injured and fell into unconsciousness and near death. The binding magic that brought the Hrokkvir to Ragnar ended with his fall and the Hrokkvir disappeared. The Unnamed Stalo, newest companion of the Heroes, rushed to drag Warg One-Arm out of danger and used his healing aura to revitalize him. Grond called her sword back to her hands and continued her attack on the Kraken and scored a massive hit on the beast while Uhtred, not inside the well, could only attack tentacles as they appeared. Borga, daughter of Ásta, the Pigless, being the only archer amongst the Heroes chose to leave Ragnar where he was and shot a flurry of arrows in the Kraken.

The Kraken, greatly injured by now, threw all of its force into Grond but could not kill her. She retaliated with another strong hit from her mighty sword and Borga got the killing blow with a carefully aimed arrow into the beast. The Kraken fell down the well as Grond skillfully catch hold to the edge of the well and climbed herself out. Once again, the vines started to recede and another object fell from the ceiling above the well. This time, Grond catch it with her sword and it was a blue bag with silver runes. As always, Warg One-Arm’s gaze identified what the artifact was. It was called “The Bag of Sustenance”, created by the Dvergar and it replicates 1 cubic foot of food put into it every day. A never ending supply of food is a treasure beyond words in these dark times of Fimbulwinter.

Desiring more artifacts of power, the Heroes advance to the next door…….

A Bridge too Far
Grond's journal

Continued translation of exhibit A-141B: A Small journal bound in walrus skin, found inside a cairn in Eastern Iceland – the writer is still greatly embellishing his exploits and making up mythical creatures his group supposedly defeats. This researcher still hopes to find some content of historical significance, but if anything the story seems to be getting more… fanciful with it’s latest developments. This could well turn out to be some comical children’s tale and no legitimate journal at all.

I stumbled on the uneven floor of the mine, and cursed that druid‘s name for the thousandth time, as these… appendages he’d gifted me with robbed me of my balance. He must have decided to spice up his curse somehow too, and done something to my hips – they were just not moving right: The articulations, the balance, everything was different, and as I was trying to walk a straight line I couldn’t fully suppress the weird undulating motions.

Then the tunnel opened up, and in the dim light of our lanterns we could see we had emerged at the edge of some gigantic chasm under the earth, with no roof, bottom or other side in sight. Ahead of us, a narrow archway led across, disappearing in the darkness at the edge of our lamplight. I dropped a rock down and started counting… I go to a hundred or so before I gave up.

Well, this party had ventured through Nilfheim’s gate and emerged victorious, so we weren’t about to let a measly bridge stop us, but still it did give us pause. Dying gloriously in a fight was one thing we could make our peace with, but falling of the ledge into the darkness, alone and unsung – that was an altogether different beast. The bridge had no railing of any kind, and was just wide enough for two us abreast (Damn it again! Curse you Ivar!)

So we opted to proceed with utmost care, roping ourselves together and letting the two behemoths take the rear, in case the bridge might not stand their weight. That probably wouldn’t be very good for us either, but at least we’d have a chance to run clear, although with no way back.

I took the lead and we ventured on – thirty paces and still no end in sight, the archway still rising up slightly, then came to a first stumbling point. A section of rock had collapsed and reduced our footpath to an even narrower section. I started across gingerly and hoped this treacherous body would not betray me right now – but fortunately nothing untoward happened, and we all made it across that section successfully. But the darkness had acquired a certain oppressive quality – we could all feel malevolent eyes upon us from the shadows, and screeches just beyond the edge of our hearing. Ulther let out a snarl and I though he would shift right then.

But it was too late to turn back, so we pushed on, and promptly came to another obstacle – a patch of ice this time. Shiny, treacherous, and possibly unnatural. Again, I ventured ahead, focusing on my footing… and forgot about the extra weight I was carrying on the front. I overbalanced, tried to correct it in vain, and fell resoundingly on my backside. At least those… softer parts cushioned the landing somewhat. Still, it smarted and especially for my pride, or what was left of it.

For a long second I started sliding on my back towards the edge… then I drew my sword and planted it in the ground, and used it as a crutch to help me back up. Slowly, I resumed my way across as the rest of the party followed, with various degrees of luck. Only our Druid companion seemed unbothered by the ice. Damn druids.

Just when I was finally clear of the ice, our unseen enemy struck. Four giant bats, as tall as a man and with large, leathery wings swooped down at us from the darkness. I had my blade in hand and was looking forward to take out my frustration on the ugly creatures, but they stuck at the druid and at our already injured companion, Warg, instead, tearing at them with their claws. Taking care not to get tangled in our ropes, I turned back towards the druid… slid under the bat he was tangling with and hit it with a solid cut (Upwards slash, awkward angle but I managed to cut the creature below the ribs and through it’s right wing. It shrieked and flew away, spilling blood and gore.

I rolled back to my feet and noticed some blood on my trousers. Had I been hit? But the cloth was whole, the blood coming from my inner thigh and… Oh. Thrice-cursed be your name Ivar! May your nuts shrivel like raisins and the seed rot in your lecherous groin!

I roared and threw myself at another bat, without regard for the chasm or anything else. That one I sliced clean in half, letting the pieces slide along their path and over the bridge. I narrowly caught myself at the edge, then turned back to assess the situation.

It looked grim indeed: three of us were heavily wounded, and more bats had flown in to replace those we’d cut down. The giant tree-thing had flattened one bat like a pancake but the others had taken to harassing it and flying safely out of reach. Borga was probably doing the most damage from atop her War Pig, her bow singing and sending a string of arrows into the screeching creatures, and her boar swatting any that came too close – but they just kept coming anyway, and hindered by our ropes we were making no progress.

As I watched a couple of bats managed to blindside the boar and inflict grievous gashes in its flanks. The beast lost it’s footing and toppled over the edge. My stomach growled at the thought of all that bacon gone to waste. For a moment I thought we’d lost Borga as well, but she managed to throw herself off her mount just before it fell. So apparently her legs were working just fine after all.

We regrouped and tried to push onward – Warg and Ulther cut off their ropes, which were more of a hindrance at this point. The druid was already running ahead but the rest of us were being harassed by the bats – Ulther, now on four legs, and our new Stalo companion had taken the most damage – one of the beasts had using and the stalo was leaning on his spear, bleeding from many wounds. Warg couldn’t do much fighting with one arm, but he cast a spell of protection at Ulther and me, then some alkas to impede our foes.

Unfortunately, the alkas impeded me as well and I had no good route forward on the bridge. Instead, I calculated my next moves carefully. First I drew from my protective fylgia’s abilities to heal Ulther’s blindness just as I finished off a bat he had injured. Then I danced back a few steps, swung around, and with a backhand swing I caught another bat that was flying away from the tree-thing. Finally with the way ahead clear I charged at third one that was harassing the injured stalo, and clipped off its left wing to let it tumble in the dark. I heard a rumble behind me and rolled back just in time to avoid the tree’s charge. The thing rushed past me and flattened yet another bat to the ground.

Yet we still were getting no respite: The stalo managed to stumble into some healing alkas thrown by the druid and Ulther just howled, letting his inner beast’s spirit heal his wounds, but the bats just kept coming and cutting at us. The only way to safety was onwards.

If that was not bad enough, Ulther snarled some curse at the Gods, and as if in response the whole bridge shuddered and groaned, chunks of stone falling off into the darkness.

… to be continued.

Into the Mines...

Even with another great victory under their belt—the defeat of the dreaded wolf, Frageir—the stalwart companions, breakers of the curse of Hel’s Needle, did not tarry; instead, headlong they rushed over withered forest toward their destiny at the Cornerstone of the World. Hungry for their chance to, once again, earn their seat in Odin’s hall by battling the evil corrupting the roots of the cosmic tree, Yggdrasil, but hounded, yet again by wolves, the party broke out in battle formation to face the circling pack as they loped into view. Bows were strung and axes unslung, claws were unsheathed from paws, and even in the dim twilight, sharp teeth gleamed in foaming jaws, as the man and wolf yet faced each others again!
All except for one. Uhtred, the Ulfhednar, shape changer, wishing neither man nor beast to spill blood that day used his cunning animal empathy to allow the wolves the opportunity to back down. The pack, perhaps weary of doing battle with the slayer of one of their strongest, scampered off, leaving the party fresh to resume their march to the mines.
At last, the warriors caught sight of human encampments up ahead. Yet, upon drawing near it was clear that death and destruction had ridden through the desolated town before the mines, and the smell of the dead hung thick in the air despite the cold of winter. Though signs of struggle abounded, strangely, not a single body of any warrior was to be found to bury with his weapons while the corpses of slaves lined the streets. Yet, apart from that, the town itself offered the companions no clue as to what had befallen it nor the nature of the enemies they would face. Only one incident did strike the Galdr, Warg, as portentous: a curious collection ravens cawing a strangely familiar lullaby in union atop dead slaves struck up at the public gallows. After a few moments, he reported to the rest of the party that the song evoked a memory a tale he had heard in childhood of a bitter, ancient hermit, and his wife who had to “cure his mind” before he himself could be saved.
The Taskmaster’s house became their last stop before venturing down into the Earth. Pieces of paper and a bound volume full of hand scribbles were found; however, the warriors were men of action, and none had ever bothered to care for the silly runes and symbols some men used to record the storage of fish, the ravings of mad men, the boasting of want-to-be pretenders, old wives tales, and other trivial matters. Even the Rune Master, the one of all who might had inclination and opportunity to learn the symbols, had scoffed at the notion of such a weakling skill.
Mighty thus were the dedication to Viking-hood and the discipline of the warriors!
Warg’s sharp and un-paper-dulled eyes lead to a discovery of a hidden compartment hollowed out within the table. Inside laid an ornate box with well oiled lock of masterwork quality. It’s intricacy itself saved it from being smashed to match sticks with ax or hammer as the companions decided to keep the trophy in case somehow the task master had survived.
Just as the companions were about to enter the mines, figures started appearing in the distance. Although they were shaped as men with longsword and shields, their flesh were blacken and hung tight to their bones. Grond’s sharp eyes alerted him and the warriors that there was no mist arising from their breath despite the chill of the eternal winter. As they neared, and their true nature could no longer be concealed, the Galdr finally remembered what his study of Niflheim’s horde had revealed: the spiked shield made of Death Bone, apart from its defense against the spiritual also attracted the Draugr—the souls of those whose deeds had not warranted them a place in Valhalla or the fields of Folkvangr, but were condemned to walk the earth of Midgard again except as shells of their former selves. As the ghastly undead approached, erecting alkas of power, they just as suddenly stopped maintaining their position and distance, waiting. After sometime, a lone Draugr approached and stopped at a distance from the party as if in entreaty.
Deciding to ignore the their presence for a moment, the warriors move towards the mines. The lone Draugr followed, heads immediately tracking the movements of the shield strapped onto Warg’s arm. Rather than have them follow the rest into the mines, the warrior consented to give the Draugr their quarry. As he placed the shield upon the ground, a skeletal hand, unbelievably quick, latched itself upon Warg’s now bare arm. Mistaking the gesture for a signal of consent to the trade, the warrior nodded to the skeletal face, unmindful of the raised longsword in the abomination’s other hand!
With a singular blow, the undead lopped off Warg’s shield arm, attempting to carry it off as a macabre trophy! As the crippled warrior screamed in pain, his companions readied to return insult to injury, in kind, drawing their weapons and charging. The battle was over in a matter of minutes, with Ragnar’s mighty treant decimating the Draugr that hung back, breaking their encircling alkas after Borga’s arrows felled their first ranks. War Pig and Uhtred, now in wolf form, raced to deliver the final blow to the last Draugr forced to retreat at the furry of the party’s underlings. The wolf finally won, ripping out the throat of the last unworthy warrior with his mighty fangs.
Reduced to one arm, but still conscious, Warg decided to keep the set of keys found on one of the bodies and identified the still usable longswords and shields. Each longsword had been slightly enchanted with magic, though none matching the one still waiting for the heroes return at the smithy in Evingard. One shield, however, proved to help boost a spell caster’s power and was claimed by Warg who only had but the one arm left to use it.
And so, with lanterns lit, and Ragnar quickly pulling his cold-healing necklace off, the heroes descending into the mines. They found carts, then ore which they were not allowed to touch. Their journey lead them to a room full of mining tools and then a flooded section taller than any of them could walk without sinking. The party, utilizing the tools at hand built 2 small crafts, one for the party and one, later, for War Pig who did not take a liking to his first attempt at braving the water by himself. Ragnar’s treant pulled the craft along until the party could disembark on the far shore where a path lead them to a large barricade holding back the smell of rotting dead. Rather than dull our blades and waste our precious lantern oil, the Druid, using his sect’s powers of terraforming, commanded the rock to create a narrow path bypassing the barricade. Once through, the party spotted a person attempting to camouflage himself in the earth ahead, but Warg’s sharp eyes detected the ever so slight movement up and down upon the ground.
Upon the threat of an arrow through him, the stranger came out of hiding, revealing himself to be …., an engineer sent by the Angel of Death in … to scout the minds and handle the burial affairs of the victims. He read the papers we had found earlier at the Taskmaster’s cabin, and established that the mines had indeed been shutdown by revolting slaves, though whatever caused the slaves to revolt seemed to scare the man enough to build the barricade to keep everyone out. The party escorted the man out and told him to rest at the Taskmaster’s cabin, where they themselves rested before heading back to brave the mines in the morning.
At last, they came upon a group of what appeared to be large lizard or reptilian men inside a large camber room backed with a large metal door. The battle was over quickly and was more of a slaughter than anything. Of note though was that a snake seem to jump out of every dead slave. After the battle, Warg, proceeded to commune with the spirit of the dead slave. The images he saw were disturbing: It seems Niohoggr, the dragon gnawing at the root of Yggdrasil itself, was the origin of the snakes that had somehow consumed the human slaves. Though lesser men might be daunted at the prospect of such a mystical adversary, the party steeled themselves and pushed on through the metal doors to find a large, dark, seemingly endless hole into the earth transverseable only by a thin bridge to the other side.
Then, as the party began crossing the chasm, large, screeching creatures their wing span the size of a man from head to food swooped down on them from above…

Journey towards the mines and the problem at the Cornerstone of the World

The Heroes who Broke the Curse of Hel’s Needle were feasted and celebrated by Ingvard and Magnus in Evingard. Those great people and all clans present toasted to the Heroes’ victory and the end of the deathless polar bear threat to Evingard though some of the Wolf clan undoubtedly resented the fact that the Heroes succeeded where they could not. The gaze of the All-Father is surely upon the victorious over those who fail.

The Heroes were richly rewarded with weapons, armor, shields, and trinkets… all of arcane power. The gifted Hero, Warg, inscriber of runes, divined each items’ power as nothing magical can hide from his sight. In their possession, the Heroes have a tower shield of great defensive power which the stalwart Hero, Grond, wielder of Friðrgefa, claimed and would use to life-saving effect; graceful armor which allows its wearer to move rapidly and avoid all attacks; Hel’s Wrath, a longsword that makes it wielder more and more defensive the more spiritually harmed they become; a Nilfheim Death Bone spiked shield of strong protection against the spiritual; a brooch of inverted ice that is a double-bladed sword – its wearer does not feel the cold but heat and fire are intensified – the Hero Ragnar, Druid of the Forest and master of trees, proudly wears that brooch; and lastly, a necklace that strengthens the spirituality of the wearer. Alas, the Heroes felt no strong need for that item and sold it off to help fund their upcoming journey.

Brimming with confidence over their success at Hel’s Needle, the Heroes paid a visit to Magnus and got the story of the mines and the thrall revolt. An unheard of situation. The slaves rose up, killed their taskmasters and took over the mines. All envoys to the mines did not return. Obviously someone or something is behind the slave uprising and Magnus needed the incident rectified immediately. All ore production stopping in the mines is a disastrous event. Viking warriors must be trained, their mettle tested in battle, their lives ended in glorious combat, received in Valhalla and returned to Midgard for the final battle against the Jotun. The Heroes who Broke the Curse of Hel’s Needle were tasked with ending the slave revolt in the mines so that the all important ore production can resume.

Normally a 10 day journey from Evingard to the mines, the Heroes (the aforementioned Warg, Grond and Ragnar along with Borga, daughter of Ásta, master of beasts, rider of the tenacious golden boar War Pig) did the trip in just 7 days due to the pathfinding skills of Warg. All was uneventful through the endless twilight and never ending cold of Fimbulwinter until the Heroes came upon a thriving and bountiful tree in the distance. A lone man, rugged, handsome, middle-aged, danced nakedly around the tree, singing prayers to Njord, the Vanir god of the fertile. The Heroes had heard rumors of the mad druid Ivar while in Evingard and, upon conversing with the man, that had indeed found him.

While wild in appearance, Ivar was not wild in the mind and seemed completely conscious of a great many things and had an underlining intelligence of the cosmos beyond all the Heroes. He spoke of a need to have Ingvardson brought to him to be taught and mentored to greatness. He also spoke of some evil… some sickness… at the Cornerstone of the World where the cosmic tree, Yggdrasil, connects with Midgard. The miners dug too deep and released some evil upon the Cornerstone. Ivar sent a spirit of the land down through the mines and into the Cornerstone to heal the corruption but it never returned and Ivar feels that the spirit is engaged in a mortal battle with some evil there. The Heroes were needed once more and they agreed to help… though Borga’s assistance was extra special.

The Heroes returned to Ivar’s abode in the forest where he would enact a lengthy and vigorous all-night fertility ritual (with Borga’s “help”) to create the necessary potion that the Heroes would bring to the Cornerstone and give to the spirit to help it in its battle. Ivar’s home was a pitiful shack on the outside but a glorious hall on the inside. Druidic magic abounded. Ivar was tended to by various women who felt a bit unnatural. They provided food and mead to the Heroes while Ivar and Borga partook in the fertility ritual (several times).

Indeed, something was off about that place as upon awakening in the morning, Grond, son of Trond, wielder of Friðrgefa, needed more feminine clothing and is now more apt to be called Grond, daughter of Trond. It remains to be seen if this transformation is everlasting or not. Grond preferred not to discuss these complications with the other Heroes and wished to be on the road again posthaste.

Ivar bid the Heroes farewell and warned them to be wary of wolves… particularly of one called Frageir. The Heroes had another day to travel to the mines and were guided by an abnormally intelligent squirrel on Ivar’s request. Upon sighting the mines in the distance the next day, howling shattered the darkness. The wolves had found the Heroes.

Closing ranks and preparing for gruesome battle, the Heroes saw a lone wolf as massive as a polar bear in the distance. Borga urged War Pig forward and unleashed a flurry of arrows at the beast. Five in total hit the wolf though it seemed only to be pin pricks to it. The wolf charged forward at unearthly speed, crashing into and running over Warg, Grond and Ragnar; grievous injuries were done to all three as the momentum of the wolf was immense. However, the defensive magic of Grond’s tower shield made the damage less than it could have been so the three heroes were badly injured instead of being outright killed by the wolf’s charge. Additionally, the shock of the tower shield’s magic slowed down the wolf so that it remained close enough to the Heroes after its charge that the mighty treant that Ragnar summoned with his powerful druidic magic could reach the wolf and with two thunderous blows, the wolf was crushed and its lifeblood ran red in the snow. It was all over in mere seconds and Odin, the Enemy of the Wolf, smiled down on the Heroes from Valhalla.

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!

The Song of Barl
The Bear

Nothing lasts, but glory, here at the world’s ends
When five set out in this story, a longship full of friends
They set out to seek new markets, they sought full bags of gold
but the rewards that they were given were bittersweet and cold

It was Barl – the bear – a freeman
and Ulthar – the wolf – his brother
who formed the muscle of this crew

Others joined and vowed to fight
as allies by their side and shields to all their foes
even the golden boar promised to be true.

When at the port they landed,
The man there then demanded
“Pay lest ye lose your ship”
so the slow bleed of coins began with that single drip.

At every turn they paid prices far too high and dear,
and beggared themselves again and again just to buy some beer,
And Wolf and Bear played at battling arms to turn a coin
Barl came out the strongest, though we think he pulled his groin

The bear it seemed triumphant – till the guardsman chief arrived
and beat the blustering zerkir, though Barl really strived

The chief he set the party straight, and told them of his woes
The town, it seemed, faced dark fates – surrounded by its foes
Thralls uprising in the mines and bears that stalked the night
were causing unrest everywhere and the guardsmen couldn’t fight

So the five set out at once – charging into certain danger
despite the advice of the druid, the skald, or even that piggish ranger.
They trekked through snow and mountain
they hiked through valley and there
they found a source of darkness – a hole filled with bear.

The battle joined was violent and in the end it was
that the skald and that zerkir were torn by undead claws.

The party took a moment, after the blood was quiet
to set their fallen comrades down and their corpses set alight.

Braver friends there never were than Barl – and that bard
though perhaps – gods willing – the next we’ll get some
that do not die so hard.

The bard responsible for this song was shortly thereafter eaten by an undead bear.

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