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PF1E Crowns of Ice - A Tale of Blood and Betrayal - Chapter I - The Isle of Heildam

Archon Basileus

First Post

‘In halls of blinding light and thundering laughter, a warlock and a man in disguise share fresh mead and play. A shy, innocent game, it begins. The warlock of solemn virtue glides a king through the tawlbwrdd. The disguised, so sly, pushes a peon around, hiding two more in his sleeve. “One eye too short to see” – the sly man says, while the other retorts – “My king will see it for me.”

Both men drink from cups always full, both man boast, and argue, and laugh. Both men think the tawlbwrdd is theirs. Each move one makes brings the other to wrath, the first thinking of conquest, the other thinking of payback. So far do both go, the one-eyed warlock and his masked companion, that both demand from the bard a song to be played in a lyre. The thing, huge and golden and sturdy, resounds as the laughing musician strikes it with care. Onwards they go, happy, furious, mad. If only they knew! The lyre sings with the bard for an instrument as the tawlbrwrdd plays its hand with men for slaves…’

@Fenris @Queenie @tglassy @Jago

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Archon Basileus

First Post

‘In halls of blinding light and thundering laughter, a warlock and a man in disguise share fresh mead and play. A shy, innocent game, it begins. The warlock of solemn virtue glides a king through the tawlbwrdd. The disguised, so sly, pushes a peon around, hiding two more in his sleeve. “One eye too short to see” – the sly man says, while the other retorts – “my king will see it for me”

Both men drink from cups always full, both man boast, and argue, and laugh. Both men think the tawlbwrdd is theirs. Each move one makes brings the other to wrath, the first thinking of conquest, the other thinking of payback. So far do both go, the one-eyed warlock and his masked companion, that both demand from the bard a song to be played in a lyre. The thing, huge and golden and sturdy, resounds as the laughing musician strikes it with care. Onwards they go, happy, furious, mad. If only they knew! The lyre sings with the bard for an instrument as the tawlbrwrdd plays its hand with men for slaves…’

Clear skies and the burning light of spring, a mild day for a mild sea, as if the hands of the gods were joined to give the world a moment’s rest…

And yet some men were never in peace.

Such cruelty from the gods, to weave the threads of fate in such contrived and painful ways! Young lovers thrown against each other to cause the deepest wounds, wounds no enemy could possibly inflict. Such madness from the gods, yet to test the loyalties of kin without restraint, fathers, daughters, brothers and wives, all for a ransom’s price.

Alas, if a single tear is to be shed by humankind’s breath, the skald, the bard will be the one to deliver. The corners of Midgard resound with his voice and bend for his chords, sweetly, softly, under the wind. And so great Bragi sings once more a vibrant memory, a shard of men’s lives.
Who’s to know who wept the first weep? Was it Bragi in sorrows that made men suffer, or the world in its pains took Bragi to tears?

It would be easy to say, yet again, “the gods smiled upon them”. That song does not continue like this, though. The gods compelled the snekkja through mirror-like oceans towards Heildam. And what a meeting point for man and god alike! Asgard’s sorrow would bring solace to feeble mankind for countless days, up until the bitter end, when war would envelop everything, and the little altar of peace would mean nothing, a drop, some lost hope, perhaps.

The black stone that paved the island was outwitted here and there by patches of lively grass, adorned by flowers of rare breed. All that was minor sought out protection in such an isolated place. Rabbits and foxes ran around feeding from the fruits of the land, unwilling to disobey the slain god and its eternal truce. How instigating to reach a place yet untouched by strife! The god’s imperative lived on, and even beasts refused to do harm to each other!

The bay of black sands receives the travelers with a light-hearted disposition, greeting any wanderer with the sounds of paradise itself. Cold streams cascade from nearby cliffs, cast under shadows of harsh, black walls. No disposition would be violent, and for a moment the legends hold may truths. Maybe the swords won’t come out of their scabbards; maybe arrows will break; or maybe a man’s heart will weep blood before risking a stain upon such beauty.

[Welcome again! You may post preparations, or you may go straight to the meeting, as you prefer!]

@Fenris @Queenie @tglassy @Jago
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First Post
As the snekkja slid up onto the sand and came to a halt, Thorir started calling out orders to bring the sails down and started unloading.

Thorir turned to his brother. “I’ve taken your requests into consideration and I think you are correct brother. The Princess will have freedom on the island, as will her beast. I will go speak to the girl. You go oversee the men for now.”

Thorir sent Eben along with 4 men to refill their water stores, but also to give Eben something to do. As Eben and the men head out with the barrels Thorir had men bring out the tents. As men unloaded supplies, gathered firewood, and set up tents, Thorir head back to the stern of the ship. He stood before Astrid once again.

"Ok little Jarlinna. We have arrived at an island and we’ll be staying here for a few days. It seems as though you and Eben know each other in some way. That is a story I would like to hear soon. In the meantime, there is no way off the island. If you will provide your word of honor, as the daughter of a Jarl, that you will not try to escape, then I shall provide you the liberty to roam the island. I warn you the consequences of you not holding to you word will be severe. And not just from me, the magic of this island will hold you to it as well.”

Astrid cast a wary eye around the island. She’d been watching the area as they sailed toward it and having known where they had been headed and approximately where they detoured to, she knew where they were. She knew of the legend of this place, not just from her schooling but from Eben himself; though he had grown up surrounded by the Demiurgist religion his mother had taught him of the gods of his father. Astrid knew of the stories, she’d heard them not just at court but from the idyllic days and nights her and the poet spent together huddled under blankets next to a warm fire; her giggling, trying to distract him, while he tried to teach her the old lessons through song and poem before finally giving up all hope and attending to her instead. The memory made her smile, though this situation certainly did not.

She wasn’t about to argue anew with the Sea King.

“Where exactly is it do you think I will go? You already know I cannot swim my way out of here. So yes, I give you my word as the daughter of a Jarl that I will not try to escape.” She offered up her wrists to the Viking and hoped his aim was as sharp as his tongue.

Thorir cut Astrid’s bonds, and had her hold Ruby as he cut the muzzle from the wolf as well. Thorir then led Astrid to the bow, and helped her down to the shore. He then escorted her to the largest and nicest tent, the one he usually kept for himself.

"For the next few days this tent is yours."

Thorir gave Astrid a small bow, but without a grin or any mockery, before he head out to see the rest of the camp set up.

Astrid rubbed her wrists and watched as the warrior walked away from her. He was certainly a confusing character. One moment he showed the manners of a noble born, the next, a rough pirate. She’d never heard of someone who lived in both worlds so seamlessly. Though if she had to guess pirate fit him a little too well. She also noted the marked similarities in the brothers appearances… though Thorir was quite a bit taller the brothers shared the same features; coloration, hair and even eye color. It was quite uncanny.

Before she could ponder it too much, Ruby was nudging her. She longed to run free and was also probably starving.“Alright my friend, let us walk.” Astrid led them off down the beach, away from where the men were setting up the tents and camp. She’d have time to be alone and think away from the chaos and noise of all these men.

Thorir spots the men he had sent with Eben to fetch fresh water, Eben was not with them. Thorir scowled. he headed over to Astrid's tent and called out to her, waited a moment then flung back the tent flap. Empty. The wolf too. Thorir scowled again. She could not escape from the island. But could she escape from her past? Would it matter? It might, Eben followed his heart more than his head. Depending upon how involved these two had been, Eben might make some foolhardy effort to free her. Thorir laughed in spite of himself, spoiling his foul mood. Still, this was a delicate exchange, mores so than he had expected. Not that he would let his men know or see that. To put him back in a mood to dwell in he started barking orders to the men. Camp set up, fresh fish caught. And a table with seats as best as could be managed. The crew looked at him to double check that last one. "Does not Odin require hospitality?" he asked rhetorically. Raveneye smiled and looked into that preparation himself.
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Queen of Everything
Part One ~

Eben watched her from the camp near the shrine, pacing the dark sands while starring into the cold sea. The Skald had made sure that she received her furs at the very least: it was far too chilly on the island to be in nothing but a small piece of linen.

Thorir had agreed to letting her have a small degree of freedom to keep Astrid complacent: swimming out into those waters was certain death, the nearest land was miles upon miles away, and there was relatively little her magic could do to harm them that would not be warded by Baldur's Blessing upon this holy land. A small part of Eben wondered if Thorir had allowed her this measure of autonomy that they might have a moment to talk. He had said so on the ship, after all, right after punching him.

Eben curled a fist at the thought. Coward, was it? Eben left Astrid for her sake, not for his own paltry life. If he had not been so sure that Alec MacTier would have disowned his daughter, as the Clergyman had said, Eben would have risked anything for her. That was another issue entirely: If Alec had not liked the Son of Maren before ...

Eben gave up procrastinating and headed down to the sands to join her. He had shrugged off the heavier chainmail and gambeson, leaving him in just normal clothing: a tunic of yellow and jacket of leather atop, just enough to stop the wind that swept off of the ocean. He had even parted with axe and sword, approaching Astrid as just a man, not the warrior she had seen before. Beside her strode her faithful animal companion, the wolf seeing Eben first and raising her hackles at the Viking. Ruby, too, Eben had reasoned for the release of: so long as Baldur watched over this place, the wolf could do nothing to harm anyone, and it seemed cruel to keep the animal tied up in the face of such protection.

His hair whipped back in the salty breeze, the tide moving swiftly with the roll of the wind. Though it pulled at her hair, the braids of Princess Astrid MacTier seemed to hold the majority of her mane in regal form still. She was beautiful: Eben had never doubted that, but it struck him so now, to see her as a Woman. It made his chest tighten in sorrow and joy, to know that he had kissed those lips and yet feared he may never do so again.

Though he had no plans to send her on to Grandael, he could not forget what she had said: She had to marry Einar, or so she thought. Something was important about that union, and Eben had every intention on finding out what. But not before he had a chance to reconnect with her, to see if the quick vows they had spoken on a fleeing ship still rang true to when they did so in a nocturnal forest.

" I missed you."

It was a simple declaration once Ruby had alerted Astrid to his presence, but it was at the forefront of Eben's thoughts: he had missed her dearly, trying so desperately to not think of it.

" When, when I left that day, I wanted so to come back and take you with me," he told her, stepping a few paces closer so that he could see her eyes, her soft, green eyes better.

" But I was told that your father would sever your name. And already had I spent time sailing with my brother, Thorir. Being pursued. Knowing what it is like to run. To go hungry. To wonder if the next ship on the horizon is the one that will end your life. That is not the life I wanted for you, min kjærlighet."

He hung his head, reaching for her hand as if the very touch of her skin could alleviate the morose memory of that fateful night.

" I knew your father had greater things in store for you. I knew he would have pursued us endlessly until the bastard who 'stole' his daughter was dead and you were married to someone else anyway. I thought I could claim my family's name. I thought I could make a proper wife of you, to a proper man."

Eben grit his teeth, scowling at the damp sand under his boots.

" But I was wrong. First I was denied my name by Einar, and then he made it that I could not return to Grandael at all. Add that to coming home to you and being told that my very love for you would mean the end of your life?"

Eben caught her eyes upon his own, holding them with that long, gentle stare of his that she had witnessed by candle and starlight.

" I swore I would not be the reason you suffered. Not matter what it meant for myself. And for that, I beg of you, Astrid, you cannot wed Einar. Whether or not you still believe I love you, whether or not you believe that I would escape with you from here if only you asked me, the only thing that matters is that you do not go to the House of My Father. Einar is a cruel and savage man: whatever he's promised you and your father is only to help him, and nothing more."

Eben took both of her hands in his, unwilling to let her go as he once did.

" I love you, Astrid. I never stopped. No other has ever entered my heart nor my bed, no other could ever be the muse to my songs. I cannot watch you go into a home which will break you. I will not stand idly by; I've made that mistake once, and never again now that I have you here."

Astrid gave the poet a sad smile and squeezed his hands in hers.

“ Oh Eben, that must have been so lonely, a long, lonely three years traveling everywhere with all these men and a cold, empty bed at night with no one to comfort you.”

Not that she didn’t know exactly how that felt herself. But she had been locked away in the longhouse as ever she was, surrounded by the same family and court as ever she was. Eben traveled the world in adventure, he was handsome and charming, the perfect recipe for romance. Yet, she did not doubt him.

She took the unhurried moment between them to stare into those deep blue eyes, it was much pleasanter to do it here rather than under the threat of the Sea King’s wrath.

” I cannot tell you the joy I felt upon seeing you on that ship. After the shock wore off,” she gave a small smile, “ I have spent years wondering if you were okay, if you were alive and alright. Hoping you were thriving someplace, hoping and praying you were content with life. I understood if it was too difficult to have those things with me I just …”

She broke eye contact and the smile faded from her face as she looked away from him then, her eyes gazing out over the open seas.

“ I just hoped you had found happiness somehow, even if it was with someone else.”

Astrid took in a slow breath before continuing.

“ I do not suppose it is worth arguing over anymore, but never did I think you not a proper man, and I believe I told you of this many times. I cared not for what my father or anyone else thought on the matter, it was not up to them to pass that judgement on you, or on us.”

She ran the back of her soft hand down his cheek. “ I only wish I could have gotten you to see that My --” she stopped her words short.

My Love. She almost said it. After three years it still came almost as natural as breathing. But she could not say it, she couldn’t. It wasn’t fair to him or to her. She was getting married, in the eyes of the church, and it was not to him.

She pulled her other hand away from Eben and started walking slowly along the beach so he would have to catch up, giving her a chance to compose herself. The wind still whipped at them, blowing hair and fur, yet she still didn’t feel the cold, not when he was near her. Ruby ran to keep up, circling around her, occasionally running to the water to look for fish, though none could be found with the surf pounding like it was.

“ Einar.”

She stiffened again, it was an uncomfortable subject to speak to Eben about. She tried to keep her eyes forward, though it was hard knowing he was walking next to her and her instincts were to run to him and never let go.

“ I … I truly did not know you were related in any way to Einar, you must believe this,” she implored.

“ You say Einar is cruel; cannot this be said about most men who must lead these days? Can you truly tell me your leader, this Sea King, who steals women and the clothes right off their bodies, does not do things one hundred times worse when the mood suits him? I saw it in his eyes, he would inflict violence if he felt he must. He will try to kill my father if he does not get his precious silver and gold. And for what? Greed? Vengeance? Is that not cruel?”

She stopped walking and faced Eben.

“ You do not know the things I have seen in the past three years Eben Marenson and you do not know the things I have lived through. I am not the fragile little creature you left behind. I am harder to break than you think. If Einar Volundson wants to break me, he can try, but I will not make it easy for him.”

Astrid took in a long deep breath of the salty air, breathing in until it hurt her lungs and her eyes burned from it.

“ And I will take from him what I need in the process.”

Her green eyes met Eben’s blue in a determined stare.

“ But I will marry him Eben, this is going to happen. It has to.”

Eben regarded the woman before him with a newfound sense of ... was that worry? The sheer iron in her voice as she declared her intent to wed Einar, it was wholly unlike the girl Eben had left behind. She was entirely right: she was not fragile. Not that she ever was, but something ... something had changed her.

" My brother, Thorir that is, is nothing like Einar," Eben defended his kin, " Thorir saved my life when Einar sent men to take it from me. He hadn't even the stones to do it himself: Yes, Thorir and ... and I, we have drawn the sword when need be. But when need be. Einar does it simply because he can."

He had no clue how to impart to Astrid the severity of her situation. And by what right did he even have to alter her course? He had left, but still ... Still she wanted to call him hers, and only hers. It had pained Eben deeply to watch her mouth form the word and yet no sound pass through her lips. She had stopped herself when he had not. She truly did mean to go to Grandael, then, even now. Eben felt the cold of the beach for the first time, shivering slightly.

" I am sorry your dress was torn like that," the Poet offered with a sigh, " That I had known it were you, I would have stopped it, brother or no. But the tearing of a dress is nothing compared to what Einar will do. Take from him? He will use you, your father, and all of Viuland to slake his lust for power and then toss you to the wolves, Astrid. I cannot lose you again, especially not ... not to him!"

That phrase. "Take from him what I need". That was not something Eben ever expected to hear from Astrid, warm Astrid. It felt so ... icy. Was this the blood of the Silver Dragon manifesting in her finally, or something else entirely?

" ... What happened while I was gone?" he asked cautiously, " The woman I knew never spoke of taking from others as if they were a well ..."

Eben was right, of course: the girl he knew would never take from others like that. Astrid hadn’t been that girl in almost three years. Einar had never been anything but kind to her, yet she was not stupid and knew Einar wasn’t fighting this hard for her because she was beautiful. He wanted something more than a pretty girl; any Jarl could have that any time he wanted. Still, Astrid needed him too and she felt it a fair trade to give him whatever he needed to get what she needed in return.

Her red hair blowing around face, she considered the man before her. Astrid was hesitant, so hesitant: she did not want to tell Eben, she did not want to break his heart when nothing could be done to change the path they were already walking. Eben’s gods believed their story was already written. He knew this, he sang songs of this.

Still, he should know his part in it and she knew this in the deepest recesses in her heart. Astrid sighed and steeled herself against the coming storm. She nodded her head and continued walking down the beachfront. It was a beautiful, green oasis, and any other time Astrid would be delighted to go exploring amongst the exotic flowers, colorful bushes, and tall trees that lined the sandy black beaches and interact with the playful and unique animals that call this little piece of heaven home.

“ Just this morning, while my father was saying goodbye to me, he spoke to me about love. He told me, ‘Love is something you do for another, not something you feel. And the more you do, the more you will feel.’ And I’ve been thinking on that all day.”

She turned her face towards Eben to consider him as they continued to walk forward. “I’ve always felt so much love for you Eben. So much. But what have I ever really done? Not much when you think it over. But you? Eben, you?”

She reached out and squeezed his warm hand in hers.

“ You thought my life was in peril and rather than have me hurt, you left, you gave up your life, for me. I thought I might die from you leaving so many times since that night, I truly did, but I see it now so clearly that you did it out of love and it was the most unselfish thing you could have ever done for me. I see it and I understand it clearly.”

Astrid felt a small blush rising to her cheeks, looking away from the poet even as her fingers intertwined with his own.

“ Eben, do you recall that night in the forest when we snuck off under the full moon with a blanket, basket full of bread and cheese and some mead? And we went to one of my favorite places, that lush clearing next to the Sacred Pool of Freyja? It was a warm, gorgeous night, the sky was full of bright stars above us and there was a scent in the air like the sweetest honey. We never could figure out where it was coming from.”

She chuckled a little at the thought and it was almost as if she could smell that honey right then.

” And we sat on our blanket and lit some candles and we enjoyed our food and our mead …”

Astrid stopped them from walking suddenly. She turned and looked Eben in the face. Her own face grew more serious, though still filled with love, a much more solemn expression was in her eyes.

“ And then we made some vows to each other. We promised each other, we promised each other that we would love each other forever plus a day. We said that another would never enter our hearts. You said I was as a wife to you, Eben, and I said you were as a husband to me, and though it was neither in my church or yours we would both keep that in our hearts and souls and I have. I have, you have to believe me… ”

Though she would not let herself cry a few stray tears rolled down Astrid’s cheeks, rosy pink from the wind whipping all around them. She composed herself, though she refused to wipe the tears: the wind would dry it soon enough. She shut her eyes then, the memories overwhelming her.

“ After we made those vows, we went into the Sacred Pool – the one that is supposed to be blessed by your Goddess Freya, that gorgeous crystal clear pool that only married people go to when they are newlywed or tare having trouble conceiving ... We went into the Sacred Pool and we made love there that night. Under the starlight, all night we made love. Do you remember? I got in trouble the next day for being out all night, but I did not care, it was worth every second of punishment.”

Though she knew what came next, Astrid still smiled: though the future had been terrible, at least that moment would always be blissful to her.

“ It was the most wonderful night of my life, and it is the memory I think of before I go to sleep and the first thing I think of when I wake. No matter what happens to me, no one can take that away from me.”

Astrid took another deep breath in. The happy memories were about to turn.

“ I have a confession to make. I did let another in my heart.”

Eben felt his entire world crumble in an instant and stop itself from collapsing entirely by a single thread. He made to release Astrid’s hand, though her grip tightened and her green eyes begged him to hear her. The poet released a breath he was not aware he had been holding: what right did he have to be angry? He had left, after all. Resolved in his sorrow, Eben nodded slowly and stayed with his love as she went on.

“ The day you left me, I could not wait for you to arrive home. I was so happy, so excited to see you. I was always happy to see you return but this time was … special. I had some news to share. I rushed out to meet you and you would not let me speak … I …”

Astrid hung her head.

“ I think you can recall well what happened between us."

She sniffled, rubbing her nose gently: the salt was getting to her. Whether from the sea or her eyes, she couldn’t say.

“ All was not what it seemed, Eben. Please do not blame yourself, for you could not have known any of this would happen, as none of the rest of us knew either. That man who told you to leave … He was not a Clergyman. He was something … it will take some explaining. Something evil. He was not a priest of my church. His first goal was to make you leave, as you were very much in the way to his real goal."

The Skald listened intently, confused, unsteady. Someone had forced him away? That priest was not a priest, and somehow Eben, the bastard Eben, was a threat to … whatever it was that he wanted with Astrid? He swore inwardly: the entire goal of his leaving her had all been a ruse? By ‘Something Evil’, as she put it? The poet felt his entire body tense.

” What was he after, then ..?”

“ The real goal was me. And … ”

She had put it off as long as she could. She looked away from him for a long moment, her face pained. Finally, she looked back at him sympathetically. She placed a warm palm flat on his cheek and held it there.

“ I was so eager to see you that day you returned because of the news … it had been nine long weeks since I had seen you Eben, nine weeks since we made love under the starlight in the Sacred Pool of Freyja.”

Breathe in, breathe out.

“ Nine weeks had I been carrying your child inside me. Nine weeks I and I alone carried that secret waiting for you to return.”

Eben immediately made to interject but Astrid shook her head resolutely and placed a finger over his lips. She had to get this out in one go: she didn’t have the energy to try and restart this all over again, hard as it may have been for him to bare so suddenly.

“ For nine weeks I dreamed of the life we might have together. I dreamed you were so happy to hear the news you finally stopped that crazy crusade of yours to change your family name, finally stopped leaving me behind. You finally married me like I always wanted and we moved into your mother’s little cottage. As your child grew, you would rub my belly affectionately and sing songs to your love underneath, even when I was sleeping you would sing. You would play games to try to get the baby to kick you, and it would! And you cared for us and loved us like you always cared for me and loved me Eben. It was wonderful, it was joyful, it was blissful. For nine weeks I dreamed and for nine weeks I was so in love with our life … And then nine weeks came and you came and you left without me ever getting to tell you.”

Astrid paused, keeping her hand on Eben’s cheek, hoping to offer some kind of solace to him after learning this devastating news. She had spent the last hours considering what it would be like to learn this, after all this time, but it was inconceivable to her the depths of that pain.

Eben’s hand slipped from her own, the sailor sinking down onto the cool sand and resting his arms on his propped up thighs. He smiled, and then buried his face in his hands, suppressing a shudder. A laugh? A sob? He was a father. A father who had abandoned his child, had abandoned the mother of that child. He recalled her joy that day, recalled how he had destroyed any trace of brightness from her eyes on those docks. Now that he knew the reason behind that light, he thought himself all the worse for having extinguished it. He looked up at her, seeking an answer: what to feel, what to do? She allowed him this confusion, but knew that this was not the end of the story.

“ There… there is more. So much more.”

Eben’s brows raised. More? How could there be more? Astrid knelt in front of him, placing her palms reassuringly on his bent knees. This.

This would be the difficult part, she knew.


Queen of Everything
Part Two~

“ I… I was devastated. I was crushed. I was also terrified. How would I tell my father? What would I tell anyone about being pregnant and being alone? Not having anyone to marry me or care for me? This is not how we do things, Eben. I did not understand then why you left me but I hoped you would come back … but how would this look to everyone if you did? So I went to the only place I knew I could go. My church.”

A look of disgust crossed Astrid’s face, but quickly dissipated. She tried to smile for Eben, but they both knew in their own way that there was no happy ending to this tale the Jarl wove.

“ They seemed kind and helpful. They said they would help. They sent me home and told me they would let me know when they were ready to help. A few long weeks went by and they contacted me and told me to meet them at the church. I did.”

Astrid’s hands ball up into fists and all the muscles in her body tighten. This was obviously a very tense subject for her. It was Eben’s turn to place his hands atop her own, stroking down her forearms to try and ease her struggle. Even Ruby sat mournfully at her owner’s side, placing her muzzle into Astrid’s lap. Through a tight jaw, she continued.

“ When I awoke from a drugged stupor, I was tied to a stone altar in my forest. MY FOREST, Eben! MY sacred place. I was surrounded by hooded people; some of this was a blur and some of this is hard to remember, but I recall much.”

She sighed.

“ You may not want to hear the details of this, it’s quite gruesome.”

” You lived it. You lived it after I had already torn out two hearts from you,” Eben lamented, touching his fingertips under her chin and tenderly coaxing her to look up and meet his eyes.

” The least I can do is hear what you went through, what … what I caused.”

” This is not your doing, Ebe --“

” Then spare me nothing, if I am truly so blameless. Let me feel what you felt, that I might know you even better now. I may not have been there for you then, but I can be as you relive it …”

Astrid gave Eben a small grimace: he didn’t know what he asked for, she thought. But, she also supposed he had a right to know. Though the tension in her throat strained her voice, she agreed to continue with a dip of her head.

“Alright. Alright,” she sighed, “ Those people, they worked some kind of strange magics, I know not of what origins but it must have been of the blackest sort. It was painful, and it was horrible, and it nearly killed myself and the baby."

Eben’s hold tightened on her hand and she leaned into his touch upon her cheek. It was … comforting, at least, to know he was here, despite the damage she knew she was doing. And for what? Still she would marry Einar … but that was another day. For now, she was with Eben, and the horror of her story felt muted enough from that alone to continue it.

“ It … it caused me to have all the remaining months of the pregnancy go by in just that day. Over just hours rather than the remaining six months. I do not know how many but it was a very, very long day. Sometimes I would be barely conscious but the great pains would wake me. I could feel the baby move around as it grew unnaturally … it was terrifying. Then I had to labor after that. It was …”

Astrid wanted to stop but could feel Eben gently nudge her. The words came out clipped and terse, forcing herself to be composed enough to tell her tale.

“ It was a difficult birth Eben. I do not know if it would have been anyway or it was because of the spells and magics on me or the circumstances. It was quite bloody and … ”

She stopped and just couldn’t go on speaking of it. Her face was pale and she looked as if she might actually be sick. She took a few deep breaths of the salty air and it seemed to help. Ruby yowled mournfully, laying a large paw (for a pup) onto Astrid’s thigh. It was as if the animal could feel the sorrow of her master. She bent down to pet the wolf’s soft fur, reassuring her companion. Upon seeing Eben edge away gently from Ruby, Astrid could not help but feel a chuckle rise in her chest.

“ She won’t bite you, you know. She only protects me and bites those who I tell to bite. Likely that Sea King brother of yours,” she teased, a small grin coming to Astrid’s face finally.

Another deep breath and she began again.

“ During this time, these people, they explained what they were doing. They were never with the church. All that time, years Eben, YEARS, they pretended to be church members to get close to me. They wanted my baby. Our baby. That is why they wanted you gone. You cannot feel guilty about this …” she pleaded, though she knew the man before her would anyway.

“ They planned on killing our innocent, defenseless baby after it was delivered. They planned on spilling every last drop of my blood on that profane altar to their wicked gods, and they were doing a fine job of that: I was growing so weak, I could barely keep my eyes open. They were a cult, they are a cult…”

A hardness came to Astrid’s flowing voice, and even Eben noticed the way she referred to this group with nothing but venom and hate.

“ But then, you see, something miraculous happened, Astrid continued on, feeling a touch less angry, ” My father showed up. My father was somehow called to that very spot, in the middle of the forest. He brought a few of our huskarls with him … they were greatly outnumbered but you know my father is a great warrior, as are his men, and they started cutting down these skraelings left and right. Some ran, some fought and in the end, my father caught a few for questioning.”

Astrid’s eyes wandered: she still remembered the screams of that night, the screams that did not come from herself. Magic flew and tore up that precious place of hers, swords clattered and shields splintered. That peaceful, wonderful haven, ruined by everything those cultists had done. Eben caught her attention again and she blinked to clear her mind, moving forward.

“ While that was happening I delivered the baby. Eben,” Astrid took both of her old lover’s hands in hers and their eyes met. Even though telling this story was obviously draining for Astrid and sad, her eyes glowed with love as she spoke. She squeezed his hands tightly in hers.

“ Eben, we have a baby girl. We made the most beautiful, perfect little baby girl. I have never seen anything more precious in my entire life.”

For a moment, Astrid was completely lost in that memory of her daughter, the sight of her, the thought of her. Sharing it with Eben somehow made it more real for her, the love of her more real.

“ It is she who shares my heart with you, and she only made my heart grow larger for the both of you.”

Astrid bounced a little with excitement as she continued to talk about her daughter.

“ She had little teeny red curls and when she opened her eyes, they were blue, like yours, like your mother's,” Astrid smiled fondly, “ And my nose, but so very small. And, you wouldn’t believe it, she has the tiniest little star shape on her wrist! A star! Just how we made love under the stars that night Eben. She is just the most perfect thing…“

She squeezed the poet's hands again with pure happiness on her face.

” Eben, you made me a mother and you are a father now ..."

” Astrid …”

Eben took a deep breath, keeping his hold on Astrid’s hands as if he could fall over if he dared to let go. He had a child. He had a family, for Astrid had promised herself to him, and he to her. In the eyes of The Gods, at least, they were one, and now even more than that. Despite the terror and sorrow the poet felt for Astrid’s traumatizing experience, he couldn’t help but feel pure bliss at the notion that his child had come into this world.

” Astrid, that … Gods Alive, that’s wonderful!” Eben declared, rising suddenly and sweeping her into his arms. He easily lifted her off of the sandy beach, twirling her around with him as he laughed. Ruby chased after the heels of her master, yipping the entire time.

” Me! A father!” he beamed, setting her back down but still keeping his smile bright. Though her story had been horrendous, surely this would make up for it all: her father had saved her and their child, and Eben had half-a-mind to leave Thorir’s ship entirely and simply go home to see his new family. What more did he need in life?

” Forget everything else: we must return to Viuland at once! I have to see her, I must see my little Starlight. Is she back in the home of your father? Is Sylvia taking care of her now?”

Astrid’s voice echoed away and the smiled faded from her face as did her mirth at the memory. Eben’s elation fell with her own, his brows furrowing with anxiety and a sudden sadness.

” What … What is wrong? Our child is safe, is she not ..?”

A sudden panic gripped him, and he in turned gripped her arms.

” Please tell me she is safe …”

“ Eben …”

Astrid’s full lips trembled to give him this awful news; now that the time came for this heartbreak she felt like she couldn’t do it. She could not bear it.

“ I … she …”

Eben gripped her arms tighter in his hands, imploring her answer to come forth. She squeezed her eyes tight, keeping in the tears and the memories both. The pain and anguish evident on Astrid’s face, she finally looked again to her love.

“ This will sound insane …”

“ Then let me be insane with you, Astrid,” Eben pleaded with her, pushing her hair back off her face, “ Tell me.”

She nodded to him and continued her saga.

“ As I lay on that table, dying, the brightest of lights came to me. All around me was death and dying, my father and the others killing those murderers and blasphemous defilers … but this was so … so … peaceful and bright. It felt loving, and kind, and like everything good in the world. Like how I had always felt in that forest. My whole life I always felt safe there and this is how I felt. And somehow this light it … it looked somewhat like my … mother.”

Astrid stopped there, her eyes going unfocused as she recalled it.

“ I know, it is crazy. I am crazy.”

She took some deep breaths in and out again, trying to steady herself.

“ This light… was holding our perfect baby girl. And looking at her, with love?” Astrid looked confused at this, she could not explain the why of it: only what she saw.

“ She placed our baby in my arms and told me to name her.” She shut her green eyes, the peace of that one moment of this distressing memory filling her with bliss.

“ She was so lovely there, so soft in my arms. She had this rosy glow about her, those beautiful blue eyes that only opened briefly to peek at me but then she cooed at me and it melted my heart. She smelled delicious, like the most wonderful dessert you’ve ever smelled. And I looked down upon her and it just came to me.”

Astrid opened her eyes to look into those of the father of her child. Their child.

“ Karsii Saria Maren Ebendottir av MacTier. That is what I named her Eben. That is your daughter’s name. Karsii.”

She smiled briefly, but that happiness and hope faded fast.

“ But then as quick as it happened, that moment had passed. And that … spirit, that light … whatever it was, it had her. It had her in its arms instead of mine. It was not quite clear to me what she said, or perhaps I just do not recall it well. She said she was taking the baby and would watch over her until she was safe, until we were strong enough to protect her. That she was leaving me with part of her powers, for my own, to help me on my journey, which was only just beginning.”

” But … But what does that mean? She took her took her where?”

” I do not know. 'Someplace where darkness cannot reach her,' the creature told me. 'Someplace only My Light can find'.”

” 'My Light' … Do you think that's what she, she gifted you? This … Spirit?”

” I am not sure. Without her, I know I surely would have died. Our Karsii would have died, but the spirit held her aloft, as if raising her to the stars. She asked those stars to guide her home, Eben, and then she, and our daughter, were gone. A flash of light, and nothing more.”

Astrid clearly started to break down, her hold on herself started to leave her. “ My baby was gone. I was so weak. My father had the guards bring the cultists back to the longhouse for some very long days of questioning. My father, he, he carried me himself, Eben, he carried me all the way back to the longhouse. I was covered in blood and, and, just limp but he, he carried me. He kept watch over me … I was very ill for a long while. The magics and that ceremony made me quite sick. I have never fully recovered all my strength from that day. I am not as physically strong as I was before that.”

The toll of that story, those years, was strong on the woman. It was obvious now how Astrid the fragile girl was destroyed, a heart encasing itself in steel for the days that laid ahead.

“ My father and I have been searching for and rooting out these cultists ever since that day. We found some leads from those prisoners on the cult and have gone from there. They were so deeply infiltrated into our church, we were stunned. I can show you what their symbol looks like.”

Astrid looked around for a thin piece of driftwood to draw with. She found one, crouched down to the sand and attempted a few times to draw a mark, a sort of circle with other symbols. Frustrated she couldn’t seem to get it right she sighed deeply then looked up at Eben.

“ I will show you.” She unlatched her fur and laid it delicately on the sand next to them. Then she took the bottom of her shift on the right side and pulled it up carefully, up her leg, over her tall stockings and the creamy skin on her thigh, up even over her hip, careful not to expose herself.

Though she had been with Eben many times over years she recognized they weren’t currently together in the way and did not want to bare anything improper. Still, they had shared everything together, and even a child, so she wasn’t as concerned as to let it stop her.

Between her hip and her navel was a profane sight. Marring her perfect skin was a brand, a wicked looking symbol. It was somewhat in a circle shape, a black demon with horns curved around the bottom, a red crescent moon curved around the top. Under the moon were three white stars that almost seemed to glitter and glow.

Eben watched on in horror at the mark upon the pure flesh of his love. At first he reached out to touch it, but drew his hand back slowly: he had seen the care with which she revealed their body, and did not presume to cross a line that she had put down. Not yet, as it were. Before he could say anything from her open mouth, she read his mind and answered.

“ It is magical, and cannot be removed or covered: believe me, we tried. I mean, we inquired about it as we could.” She ran a delicate hand across it, “ It’s not attractive, I know. They burned it there when Karsii was still inside me, when I was on that altar. I was so afraid it would hurt her. I suppose I do not know if it really did or not.”

” I'd … I'd imagine she is safe. The Spirit said so, and she smiled as you held her, yes?”

Astrid thought on this and nodded slowly as she lowered her clothing back down and slipped her furs back on as they were offered by Eben.

” If that is the case, maybe this creature meant to protect her from … whatever it is that these demons planned to do to our daughter. I would hope so, at least.”

He tried to retain his optimism in the face of this, but just when Eben thought the situation could not darken, Astrid blew out another candle.

OOC: There is one final part left to this saga of Astrid & Eben. I'll try to get it up tonight.
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Queen of Everything
Part Three - The Conclusion ~

” Do they carry this mark upon their bodies as well, then?” he asked.

“ That tattoo is the major way to look for and identify cultists,” Astrid confirmed, ” Sometimes it is just the moon and stars, if they need to keep a more hidden profile, but it is there to some degree, usually on the forearm. The search for this cult has kept me busy and has kept my mind off the fact that I … I cannot …”

A painful expression came to Astrid’s face, not a usual expression for her.

“ Eben, I cannot find her. Karsii. We have found many cultists, but they have no information about this, this Light. I have spent so much time in the forest, every extra spare moment I can. Sometimes I sleep there. I have poured over books and every piece of information I can find, I have consulted seidrs, oracles, sorcerers, witches, druids, nobody knows anything. Anything!”

Astrid, Astrid MacTier, lighthearted and sometimes silly, strong willed and stubborn when necessary, began a complete breakdown there finally in the arms of her child’s father. He held her up at first, trying to keep her steady in his strong, safe hold. Her fists grew tight, her knuckles white from squeezing them so tight.

“ I cannot find our daughter, Eben Marenson. And she is out there, somewhere. She is alone! Without one of us! Is she scared? Is she in danger? Is she wondering where her móðir and faðir are??”

Astrid was frantic as she spoke. She collapsed against Eben’s chest, tears finally releasing, streaming from her green eyes. The Skald sank with her, trying to keep his own eyes dry as they fell to their knees back into the sand. Eben tucked her head to his shoulder as Astrid vented everything that had been building since she started this story. Softly, he stroked her hair, trying to soothe her even as he himself shook with fury and sorrow.

“ She is three years old now Eben, three years old. She does not know us, she does not know her own mother! Who is raising her? Does she have a safe roof over her head? And proper food? Who is teaching her to be a good person, to know the difference between right and wrong? Does that wicked cult have her and are they doing foul things to her?? Who is loving our daughter, Eben??

She wept against his chest, her tears soaking his yellow tunic. Her entire body shook with the emotions pouring out of her, her small body heaving from the sobs. Eben’s arms around her provided some comfort but these were emotions that had been bottled up, kept secret for years upon years with no one to talk to, no one to commiserate, no one for her to share the deepest and darkest fears of her life. Her father was not an emotional man: he was a man of action and plans, not a man to let this out to. He never was. Not about her mother, not about Eben, and not about this.

Those luminescent green eyes now puffy, red and blood shot looked up at him, wearied from the extended story and crying.

“ Who is loving our daughter? Soon it will be too late. We are running out of time.”

We are loving our daughter, Astrid.”

Eben spoke with desperate purpose, knowing now that his heart, too, belonged to someone he had never even met.

” I don't care how large or powerful this Cult is: they will not touch a hair upon the head of Karsii or yourself, never again. By Tyr's Right Hand, so I swear it.”

The poet shook too, though it was only partially from mourning.

Rage. Eben felt a deep, burning anger in his chest, far more intense than any ire that had gripped him before. These, these Cultists had harmed his love. They had nearly killed her and his unborn child. They were the reason his daughter was now gone. They were the reason he had abandoned all that he held dear. They would feel his vengeance a thousand times in this life, and forevermore until Ragnarok.

” I will find her.” Eben declared, gently tilting Astrid up to look at him. He cupped her cheeks as he used to in their youth, cradling her beautiful face in his coarse hands.

We will find her. I will never stop looking until she is safe back in your arms.”

The Demiurgists frequently begged for their vaunted Unifier to save them from the fury of The Northmen. Now, Eben planned to tap into that primal rage of his blood and use it against those that had marred his family so. For now, though, he held his wife, the mother of his resplendent daughter, with all the tenderness he had denied her for three years.

” Though.”

He mused carefully. Considered.

” If this Spirit took Karsii. Perhaps even the Cultists are as in the dark as we are. 'Someplace where Darkness cannot reach her', the Spirit said? If so, she must be protecting her just as we would have. And she granted you a measure of her power ...”

Slowly, Eben moved closer and laid his lips upon her brow. A kiss of fondness. A kiss of affirmation. A kiss that wanted to be so much more, and yet remained so simple, so longing. Eben rested his crown against her own as he held Astrid, his voice losing its coldness as he worked through his thought.

” That means you, Astrid. A place 'Only My Light' can reach? You have that Spirit's Light, then. You are the key to finding our daughter and getting her back. And I will not leave your side until we do.”

Her poet, he was still there. Always hopeful. Always a man of honor and courage. Yet he hadn’t seen these cultists, and what they could do. Not yet he hadn’t. And he was just one man. She could not trade that for an army, as much as she would give anything, anything to be able to be in his arms again. There was only one thing that was more important in this world than that.

Astrid tried to recover herself from telling her tale. She could never snuggle herself enough in Eben’s arms, she’d never want to leave his embrace, she would never want to not be in the place where she could have his love and his warmth and his comfort and his kisses. She pushed her nose into his tunic to inhale his scent deeply for long moments, and when his lips touched her brow, she felt warm tingles fill her body like they always did when he kissed her. She longed for it to be more yet she knew it could not.

Finally she gathered her strength. She pulled out of his arms: it was so hard, so very hard to separate herself away from him, but as she pulled back she stroked his cheek one final time. She stood up, the wind blowing her hair and fur around her like she was caught in a vortex. Her emotions certainly felt like they were made of nothing but the fiercest of storms, though she tried to weather it bravely.

“ Eben, My Love,” she finally said it, she didn’t care, “ Einar has an army. He has the wealth and the power and the influence that I need, that WE need, to find our daughter. We need to continue to find these cultists so we can find her, and we need to do it now with all urgency. I needed to get away from the Demiurgist church because I do not know how deeply they have infiltrated other houses or how far their reach is.”

Astrid straightened her back and steeled her voice: she would need to be stout against the protestations of the man she loved. Every time he tried to speak, she found another way to cut him off, unwilling to give ground. Unwilling to listen to that voice she had imagined every wind to be. Unwilling to be swayed by those honeyed words.

“ I know you do not want to hear this, but the cult is large, and they are deadly. They are more than one man or woman can handle, no matter how passionate their cause.”

Her voice went emotionless as she continued, “ I will marry Einar. I will give him children. I will give him all the metal he wants from my father’s lands, I will give him my father’s lands once they pass to me: I do not care. I will give him whatever he wants.”

Eben tried to protest, standing finally but his height felt so very small beneath the glare Astrid threw his way, demanding that he keep his tongue silent for the moment.

“ But I will use what he has. I will grow strong too. His power and influence will become my power and influence and his army will be my army. Together with my father’s army we will destroy this cult for good.”

Eben and Astrid stared at one another for a long moment. The poet was not quite sure where the sweet girl he had fallen for had gone for all her talk of power and armies and vengeance: had the trauma she suffered truly burned away any sense of softness in Astrid? As the woman’s voice finally turned somber, her green eyes misting when she looked away, Eben realized that this newfound fury in her was a thing born of that soft heart of hers.

“ And I will do all this so I can find Karsii. She is the only thing that matters to me, Eben. She is the only piece of you I have left. You are standing before me now, but you were not here yesterday or even this morning. She was all I had of you, but even with you here, I still have to find her. I cannot abandon her to a life without me.”

She took a step closer to her love, her one love in life, meeting his look.

“ So I will do this for us: like my father said, love is an action, not a feeling. Now it is my turn to show my love for you by doing for us and our family. I will marry Einar and I will find our daughter, I will make her safe and I will do it for all of us.”

Astrid reached out and squeezed the poet’s hand in hers.

“ Einar will never have my heart. Never. I have told him as much already. It is yours, it has been yours since the day I first saw you, the day we met in my father’s court. Only strengthened when you found me stowed away on your mother’s ship and you laughed at me, the skinny little Jarling child with the big green eyes wanting to see the world and have adventures with you. And confirmed to me every single day since then in so many ways I cannot even count them.”

The smile she gave him was genuine, but it fell quickly, as fast as her hand from his.

“ Yet no matter how much I love you Eben Marenson, no matter that it is only you that holds my heart, that in that heart you will always be my husband, I must do this. I must marry Einar Volundson.”

Eben refused to let her step away, reaching back out for Astrid as she tried to turn from him, tried to put a final point on this conversation. The poet would not let the story end.

” You must not go to Grandael,” he declared, clasping Astrid around the waist and keeping her on the sand.

” Your … Our daughter does not need armies, or, or power, or Einar! She needs us, Astrid. Waging this … this war upon these cultists is not going to bring her back. Nor is walking into the wolf’s den.”

Eben shook his head, unsure on how to convince her, how to show her that this plan was beyond hope. He was conflicted on all accounts: He wanted too to find the daughter he did not know, but knew that Astrid had been the one carrying this fight for three years and knew their enemy far better. He wanted to keep Astrid with himself, to be the husband he vowed to be, but also knew that to do so now may very well cause war between Grandael and Viuland. Everywhere he turned, there was another dam stopping the river from flowing smoothly.

” You don’t understand this man. He will not just use you: he will destroy you and Viuland for his own desires. You will get no army, no assistance. He would care naught for the daughter of a bastard, nor your hope to find her.”

His hands slid up, holding her face and begging her with his eyes.

” Astrid. My Love. I know why you do this, but you do not know what you do. And now you place me where I long to save you from this and have no power to do so. But I beg of you, I need of you: return to Viuland. Have your father call this wedding off. Your family’s reputation should protect you enough. I will return home, and we will set off together to find Karsii.”

Eben stepped closer, pressing himself gently to her as they once had enjoyed. He leaned in softly, as if to kiss her, stopping himself short briefly. He bit on his lower lip and shook slightly, barely able to contain himself for her sake.

” Do not make this infernal bargain to save our Daughter. There must be another way.”

She lingered there as he held her, pressed against the warmth of her poet with the roar of the ocean next to them like it always had been at home, the dream of them swirling in the air for an extended moment; a moment she cherished and held dear to her heart. That same heart pounded in her chest like a drum; she had desired this with all her being for the past three years and now it was in front of her for the taking.

But she could not just throw away all the plots and plans, everything that had been in motion since the very night her love had been tricked into leaving her. Her daughter, their daughter was her focus and she could not let herself be swayed by the longing of her body, the reason of her mind or the deepest desire of her heart.

Yet that look in his eyes, the look she had seen so many times… his own yearning for her… it was so very hard to deny what they both wanted. In just an instant they both gave in to their craving, pressing soft full lips to each other urgently. The poet kept one arm around his muse’s back, coaxing her body to his tightly, burying the other hand into her long hair as he used to when their passion overtook them. She let her hands explore the boy who had developed into a man in her absence; feeling his strong arms, broad chest and shoulders and ended cradling the now grown in lush beard on his face. Like this they stayed for an eternity, it seemed as such after their three long solitary years apart, the two of them joined together on the beach in love and desire.

Until Astrid abruptly pushed away from the poet, her expression pained, tears filling her soft green eyes as she faced him down.

“I cannot do this. The bargain - it is already done My Love. And I will see it through, for all of us.”

Astrid lifted her furs then and ran off the beach, ran away from her love, ran from the man who filled her heart and made her the woman she was today, she ran from him as fast as her feet would carry her, leaving her past standing there helpless and alone on that perfect idyllic beach.


Queen of Everything
Astrid ran all the way up the beach back to the camp, until she came upon the Sea King himself. She was in no mood for games, his or her own, and she barely waited until he was finished what he'd been doing before interrupting. The woman was an even mix between emotional and angry, it wasn't quite obvious which was winning out.

"As per the Rules of Warfare that you so eloquently quoted to me earlier, I have some demands. Yes, demands, if you expect your wereguild to be paid you have a duty to do." As she spoke, her wolf circled protectively around her feet, keeping any other Viking at bay. "I'm not some empty headed Princess who only does needlepoint and... births babies." The last words came out very bitter.

The Lady stood taller as she spoke forcefully. "I request that you guarantee my safety among these men of yours while we wait for my father and for Einar's men to arrive, as I believe both will be coming for me. I expect to be kept safe from any depredations you or your men may see fit to engage in over the next few days while we wait."

"I expect to be kept fed, have access to my belongings and clean water for bathing and I expect to have my privacy."

"I also want assurances that you will guarantee my safety if and when violence erupts during the negotiations. I understand that you trust Baldur will protect you but if he decides to overlook your little party here I want to know I shall be safe."

"And finally," her words faltered before she continued again more strongly, "I want Eben Marsenson to be kept away from me. I understand he will want to watch over me and I do not object to that but I do not want to speak with him again right now." It pained her, she felt a literal pain in her heart to speak the words and not look out towards the beach where she knew he was.


First Post
Thorir had not been in a good mood finding Astrid and Eben both gone so quickly. He had been seeing to the set up of the camp when Astrid stormed up to him. He had been about to snarl out a question when Astrid's verbal barrage began. Thorir stood and listen with his arms crossed. A fierce look upon his face.

Thorir had to admit to himself this girl had spirit, a fierce, proud spirit. She would have made Freya proud. And she was courageous and smart enough to invoke the laws of the Thing in her defense. Didn't MacTier turn his back on the old gods? Maybe his daughter had been blessed by the old gods anyway. Those were old lands up there, not easily relinquished by humans changing their minds.

Thorir waited for the verbal torrent to stop before asking "Finished?" Astrid nodded.

"First of all, I gave you my word that you would be safe. I have told my men to not accost you, and they also understand that you are here as a wereguild and not a captive and will not endanger the rewards their fellows would lose if they were to depredate you. So do not question my honor or you will see how angry I can get." he said this last sentence with such ferocity that Astrid took a step back from him despite herself. Again Astrid saw a confusing blend of noble words with the bearing of a savage pirate. She never knew which she would get.

Thorir's face soften a little and his wolf-like grin returned "Secondly, I have no obligation to fed you, much less provide you bath water. I merely need to keep you alive. I also have no need to allow you to be free. So by all means keep up your demands little jarlinna and you will find yourself, bound, dirty, and hungry."

"Thirdly, if violence erupts it will be Einar or your father's fault, not me or my men, and so I have no duty to keep you safe from their stupidity."

"And lastly. In the matter of Eben, I have a desire to know why but will hold that question, and simply grant that last demand in full"

"Now my little jarlinna. Shall you continue to demand to be fed and make other demands on me? Or shall you rely on my hospitality and trust in my honor to allow you to remain unbound?"

Astrid huffs at the unexpected answers, then whirls and stomps away. Behind her she can hear Thorir laughing.


From the perspective of the island, a dot appeared in the distance. As that dot grew closer it separated into two, then three, then more dots appeared, until twelve ships could be seen heading towards the island of Heildam.

Alec had responded to the message.

On the foremost ship, Alec stood, full battle armor on and sword in hand. He liked the feeling of the blade, a large Bastard Sword that he had trained for years to be able to wield with one hand.

Anger simmered cold within him, his blood running frosty in his veins. He was never more coolheaded than when riding in to battle, when his dragon blood coursed free. His grip tightened on his blade as he recalled the last day.

He had flown into a flurry of motion when the news had come that his daughter, his beloved Astrid, had been captured. He had sent Sylvia to her room, and orders had rung steadily from his lips as he delegated responsibilities out to his trusted retainers. He sent a messenger to Einar, and had boarded a ship at once. He could only put together a dozen ships before leaving, but it would have to do. A dozen ships, against one Sea King.

His ships had their orders. As they approached the island, they spread out, surrounding it. Supposedly, he could not fight on the island itself. While he did not put faith in the pagan gods, he also did not doubt that powers existed in this world that men had worshiped since time immemorial. They worshiped the creation, rather than the creator, but all the same, those powers existed. It was possible there was some kind of magic that prevented violence on this island. Well, he had come prepared for that.

He didn't need to give orders at this point. Everyone knew what was required. He boarded a smaller boat with four of his best men, all from lines sworn to his family since his grandfather's days. Goren, Ulfgar, Jaric and Wulfar. They had grown up in his house, and would die for him if need be.

He stood on the boat as it was rowed to the shore, where he stepped out just as it touched dry land. His men stayed behind him, letting him lead the way, open and unafraid, to where this so called Sea King had made camp. He stopped some hundred paces away, and waited.


Queen of Everything
Eben sat on the beach for some time after Astrid left. She had told him wonderful things, horrible things, things he could not accept. And nothing he said had changed her mind. He, a skald, a storyteller, a man who had talked the crew out of more impossible predicaments than anyone could recount. But Astrid was not just anyone, maybe that was the problem, he loved her so much that he couldn’t influence her because this was the path she chose, the only path she could see. Eben knew it was not the only path, but it was a path that for certain led through Nifleheim, and perhaps it never returned.

It was not until the tide was coming back in and threatened to soak him, that Eben finally stirred and stood, he looked out across the water. He was struck by the bounty the sea had given him; reunited with Thorir, an escape from monotony, wealth. And yet the sea had just brought him more sorrow than he knew was possible. Sighing, he turned away and wandered back towards camp. Rolf had been setting snares for rabbits when Eben came across him.

“Oi Eben, Thorir’s been looking for you,” he said barely looking up from the trap. Eben nodded and gave thanks for the message. Eben set a more direct course for camp. There was nothing to do but bare his soul to Thorir. He was Einar’s full brother, a true Volundson. Perhaps he could find some way to help, to stop Astrid from enacting her desperate, suicidal plan.

As he entered camp, the men slowed their work and stole glances at him as he walked. Thorir must have put the word out, and within this crew little remained secret for long. Eben headed towards Thorir’s tent. But he found Old Raveneye there sitting on a stump carving rune sticks to protect the tent. Raveneye looked up at him, and just shook his head and pointed to a tent a little ways off. For a moment Eben was confused. Then he heard a whine from inside the tent, a wolf and suddenly all became clear to him. This was indeed Thorir’s tent, but Astrid was inside. And he wasn’t. From the stance of Raveneye, Eben wouldn’t be inside any time soon either. Eben nodded to Raveneye and turned and headed to the other tent directed. There he called out to his half-brother. The tent flap opened and Eben stepped inside.

For the next few hours Eben told Thorir everything. All the hidden history Thorir had never asked about, he had just accepted Eben as he was. But now Eben needed to tell him, tell him everything so he would understand. Flagons of ale were consumed, lanterns lit and still the tale continued. The secret, desperate love, the pain of separation, all the way through to the events at the beach. Not a detail did Eben spare. Finally as he wound down he pleaded, “She can’t do this Thorir, you know Einar, you can’t let her do it.”

Thorir had listened patiently, carefully. The Norns had woven a Gordian knot around Eben and Astrid and it appeared he was now tangled up in this as well. He listened intently so he would know the why and the history. Thorir drank and listened and lit the lanterns as the history unfolded. Thorir asked no questions throughout the entire story, just letting Eben let the story spill out like a river.

As Eben emitted his final plea, the ultimate result of hours of storytelling, Thorir still did not speak. He stood and poured a large mug for Eben and sat back down and stared at his brother. That deep piercing stare that Thorir had that Eben had seen so often as he was assessing a target. Eben had never had that stark glare turned upon him before though. It was quite unsettling. Eben drank deeply and waited. Thorir stroked his beard for a while as he stared at Eben. Finally he spoke. “That is quite a tale Eben. It will make a fine saga someday.” Thorir paused nodding his head. “Tell me again about the mark on Astrid, the one from the cultists.” Eben described it again. Thorir’s eyes flashed in the darkness, the only reaction Eben could see. Thorir sighed. “Okay. Stay here. Drink. Heavily. You are to stay away from Astrid while on this island, by her request and now my order. In the meantime, I will see what we can do for your lassie.” Thorir opened the tent and entered into the night.

Thorir finished his ale and headed to the store pile and picked up a couple bottles of wine, good southern fare. He then walked back to his tent, his proper tent. He greeted Raveneye who let him pass. Thorir called out to Astrid. He then waited until she said it was fine for him to enter.

Astrid of course knew that voice, knew it was Thorir. She had seen that he had set a man outside her tent, which was at least somewhat reassuring. As the Sea King entered, Ruby jumped up despite having been invited, Astrid settled the wolf down before gesturing Thorir to a chair as she sat back down on the couch that formed the only furniture in the tent besides a small table. Thorir saw the remains of a small meal there and was pleased. This whole kidnapping scheme had gone to the trolls very quickly. Thorir pulled out a bottle of the wine. “Very nice wine we picked up down south, care for some?” he offered as he poured himself a glass.

Astrid nodded her head in affirmation but she was wary. She didn’t trust the Sea King and did not know why he was here and so would keep her guard up. She accepted and thanked him for the wine and waited for him to reveal his intentions.

Thorir sat and sipped his wine as he gave Astrid a long evaluative look, that look that made her always feels so uncomfortable, the same look he’d just given Eben. After a long moment he finally spoke up, “So I have kept Eben away as you have asked. And Raveneye will keep him away as well as any depredations,” the grin returned. “Eben has provided me with a very, uh thorough, history of the two of you. He also asked me to stop you from marrying Einar.” Thorir held up a hand to forestall Astrid’s opening salvo. “He told me of your plan, and of your determination, yes.”

“However, before we begin to make any decisions about the future, I need to know more of the past. I have a request of you, one I do not make lightly, yet it is for your own safety, and for Eben’s, and even for your child that I make this.”

Astrid again looked at him suspiciously but let him continue on.

Thorir continued. “This does break bounds of modesty, but seeing as you intend to be my sister-in-law and are apparently the mother of my niece, I feel a little more within rights to ask. Please lift your dress. I need to see your brand.” It was not a request, yet there was no hint of salaciousness. It was as if he was inspecting a horse or a ship and wanted to see some evidence of the structure. Astrid noticed that Thorir’s eyes flashed when he mentioned it. A harsh burning light, despite the anger he had shown before, despite any sign of intimidation he had shown her on the ship, that fire was more frightening for Astrid for she saw anger, and pride and hurt and fear in that fire. She did not want to allow it to come out, even if it was not directed at her. But he was not giving her a choice. And didn’t he know everything?

“Are you insane? No! I am not letting you… I am not doing that...” she violently shook her head no.

But there had been something in the way he asked and something in the way he looked at her… she would do anything to help get Karsii back and why would Thorir be asking this of her if not to help her?

Astrid looked into the warrior’s eyes critically, those blue eyes so similar to Eben’s, so similar to Karsii’s…

“Alright,” she agreed reluctantly, standing from the couch. Though she felt extremely uncomfortable, and considered asking for Eben to join them, in the end she decided to just take a breath and do it.

With more care than she had done with Eben, she lifted her skirt all the way up to reveal the foul brand upon her abdomen.

As Astrid lifted her skirt, Thorir kept his face impassive. This was not a show, this was deadly serious and his gaze was intense. As the brand became fully visible, Thorir swore under his breath, "By Hel's ice cold teats," and the drinking horn in his hand shattered in his grip.

Astrid jumped back and Ruby startled up off her perch on the couch at the warrior’s reaction. The girl quickly patted her shift down to her ankles to cover it then stood back up, afraid to look at Thorir again. The wolf came to stand between her master and the man sitting on the chair with wine dripping between his fingers.

Finally Astrid lifted her eyes to meet his. “I know it is quite ugly, luckily for you it is covered and you will never have to see it again.”

Thorir was silent for a minute, lost in thought. He shook himself to clear his head, and saw as though he had been unaware, the remains of the drinking horn. He gave Astrid a rueful smile.

"My apologies little Jarlinna. That was not for you. Yes, that brand is ugly, all the worse to have been put on such beautiful skin. My anger was not at the brand as such," said Thorir wiping his hand on his pants. "No, you see I know that symbol, I have seen it before."

Astrid’s brows furrowed together in surprise. “You-you have seen this before?” she stammered, pointing to the brand, forgetting it was now not visible. She recovered herself, and asked, half forceful, half frightened, “I mean you have seen this symbol before? Where have you seen it? Tell me now.”

Thorir smiled at Astrid's insistence. He momentarily forgot his anger seeing Astrid’s own passion. However his smiled faded away and he stood up and poured a good measure of the wine into Astrid's drinking horn. He noted Astrid was getting upset with his silence. Thorir then took a big swig from the bottle, keeping it as his new drinking vessel. He resumed his seat and gestured for Astrid to sit as well. She glared at him and huffed as she sat, he had still not answered her, not even spoken yet.

"There is a long story behind this, one I will not speak of in its entirety at this time. However, I think that I know more, or suspect more than anyone has guessed. I may know more of this story than anyone now. Yes, I have seen that brand before. I have seen it among my own people. Among ruffians who bully people, and take what they wish. I have seen it, but did not know what it meant, had no idea of the significance. But now that I do know, many things will be different little Jarlinna. If what you say is true, if this is truly a symbol of a cult, whether a part of the Demiurge or not, then there is much evil afoot in your lands, but even more so in my homeland. For you see, the first place I saw that brand was on my own brother, Einar."

Astrid slowly rose again from the couch, her now stormy green eyes narrowed at the warrior. She never broke eye contact from the Sea King, that man who dared to challenge everything she carried with her the past three years and everything she gambled her entire future on.

“You lie!” she accused him, jabbing a delicate finger at him, “You LIE! You are lying about Einar! You have been trying to cause trouble from the beginning of this whole… whole… scheme… you are a lying LIAR!!!!” she screamed.

Thoughts swirled through her mind… Einar pursuing her so persistently… charmingly wooing her for years… offering her everything and anything she wanted… something Eben said earlier came to mind, why would Einar so willingly offer to help her find her daughter and be willing to raise the daughter that he did not father, with her?

The anger rose inside the sorceress until it exploded out of her uncontrolled; she screamed in fury as a blast of magic emanated from her like a rogue wave upon the seas. The invisible wave caused Thorir to push back against the back of his chair and the bottle shattered in his hand; they could hear Raveneye curse as he was suddenly knocked clean off his log by the force of it. Gulls screeched and took to the sky; frightened, startled animals ran for cover. The camp became a loud cacophony as they tried to figure out what had happened.

Astrid crumpled to the ground, crying on her knees. “You lie,” she sobbed quietly, knowing full well the Sea King was telling the truth.

Thorir shook the wine that was dripping from his hand as Raveneye poked his head into the tent. Thorir told him to fetch another bottle of wine. Thorir was standing in front of the tent waiting for Raveneye to return when Leif the Wise came up trying to find Thorir. Bewildered he said, "The men are concerned, what was that, that force?" Thorir smiled and placed his hand on his shoulder. "That my friend, was a blessing of Baldur. A show of his presence. Go tell the men, tell them things are fine." Leif gave Thorir a quixotically look, their captain had never been one to see and acknowledge the presence of the gods, but he had no reason to doubt him and so Leif went among them men telling them of the blessing. Voices rang out to Baldur and toasts were drunk and the camp settled down by and by. Raveneye returned with a new bottle of wine and handed it to Thorir. "Thank you Raveneye. Please, resume your post." said Thorir ducking back inside the tent.

Astrid was still lying on the ground crying Ruby had come over and laid her head in Astrid’s lap. Thorir resumed his seat, took a drink, and watched her. He smiled at his own thoughts. Somehow this woman’s passion and vulnerability made him want to walk over and hold her, comfort her. He didn’t know what drove the urge but he knew it would not be well received.

Thorir waited until Astrid’s sobs became softer and less frequent. Softly, softer than Astrid thought his voice could be, he said, “I know Astrid, I know. It is hard to swallow, to understand, to believe. And I know today has been very hard on you. Being kidnapped hasn’t even been the worst thing.” Thorir had to laugh in spite of himself. “But Eben and now Einar. Hell, there isn’t a son of Volund who hasn’t done you wrong today, huh?”

“Women are always just pawns in the games men play,” the sorceress responded softly.

She was quite drained from this long day, and the power that had just burst out of her left her weak, though she would never admit that. She stayed on the ground gently petting Ruby for some time before she finally pulled herself up off the cold sand.

She stood and resolutely faced the warrior. “I thought I would need some time to think on this but the answer already seems to be in my heart. I still need to go to Einar.”

Thorir smiled. That damned grin that Astrid had come to hate. "Well, maybe. First, I think you need to sit back down, I can see your hands shaking. Second you either need more wine or more food I don't know which."

Astrid's face went white as her weakness showed. Still she wouldn't show any more to this vile man. She slowly and gracefully sat down in the chair and took a small sip of wine and had a small nibble of the cheese. "There, I have had wine and cheese." she said almost childishly.

Thorir roared with laughter. "By all the fires in Muspelheim woman you are a tough one!"

Thorir took a long drink. "Now there are some... concerns I have with you returning to Einar. I haven't finished taking my own counsel on it yet. I might even permit it."

Astrid's chest swelled with a barrage of words she was about to unleash on the Sea King.

"Wait…" he said in that commanding voice of his, that instantly deflated Astrid.

"First things first Jarlinna. You are a Voelva. And yet from what Eben has said you had no powers until the ritual. You did not inherit your father's power did you?"

Astrid took a deep breath in, buying herself some time to think before responding. She considered, should she share with this man? But what choice did she have now? Now that everything was ruined, everything was changed…

“I have always had some powers of my father’s. The dragon’s blood runs through my veins. But if you are asking if I have the same powers as my father… I currently do not.”

She looked down at the horn filled with wine still in her hand then took a few rather large gulps.

“Eben told you of what happened? When we were apart?” Thorir nodded in response. “When I had my baby, my daughter,” pain crossed her face as she spoke the name, “Karsii, when I lost her, whatever it is that took her, that light, left me with powers. Certain kinds of powers.”

Astrid’s eyes slowly rose to meet the warrior’s. “Call me what you will. Sorceress. Voelva. Witch. I do not care what you call me. Yes I have powers.” With a graceful flick of her wrist Astrid spoke a word very foreign to Thorir and four hazy purple glittering lights appeared, bobbing inside the tent lending an ethereal glow to the air.

“Yes, I am a Witch. And I could make you do whatever I want you to do.” The tiniest hint of a smirk appeared at the corners of Astrid’s full lips but she beat it down.

“But I would much rather you help me because you want to help me.” Astrid took another large gulp of wine, then stepped towards Thorir, placing a warm, soft hand on his arm.

“I want you to help me find your niece. Your beautiful baby niece that belongs with me.” She paused for a brief moment and locked eyes again, her green with his blue. “With us. Her family.”

“And I want you to help me get back to your brother Einar and find out if he knows anything about where she might be, about if this cult knows where she is. And then,” her green eyed stare turned hard. “And then I am unsure. I do know your brother surely wanted to acquire me so this cult could use me again for their vile and sinister purposes. What punishment does that merit?”

Astrid's touch created a wave of emotions in Thorir, emotions he quickly mastered and suppressed. "I suppose she is my niece. Though the Thing wouldn't recognize her since she was fathered by Eben," he mused.

"Einar has offended my blood, my family, and my honor. That deserves swift and sure punishment. I trust Eben's story and seeing the brand I see it is all too true. Einar is no longer fit to rule, much less stay in the hall of my fathers."

Thorir pulled his eyes away from Astrid. He wasn't sure if it was difficult because of her spells or her bewitching beauty.

Taking a large swig from the wine bottle, he paused and finally said, "Yes, yes I will help you. I have taken Eben as my brother, so his daughter is my niece, no matter what blood says. I know why you want to return. If the cult still wants you it would be dangerous. However, while I had no intention of returning soon, I feel I must return home and redeem my family honor."

Astrid released the breath she did not know she was holding at the warrior’s words and her body visibly relaxed. Her instinct was to hug him for agreeing to help her, to be comforted by him after this draining day; she could not have Eben do it as much as she might want to. Yet she did not forget the Sea King infuriated her only moments earlier, he enraged her so easily, he tested every ounce of her patience, so she resisted.

She stood from the couch so he wouldn’t be towering over her like an actual giant as they spoke.

“Karsii MacTier is heir to Viuland, she has noble blood because she has my blood and my parent’s before me, along with what Eben has given her. I still have not worked out exactly what about she or I made them take her…” The sorceress’s voice trailed off into quietness for a long moment before she rejoined the conversation.

“Still, I am overjoyed with happiness that you will help me. Eben will not be so easily swayed. He does not think this is the right thing to do. He wants to return home and search for Karsii just the two of us together.”

Astrid wandered over to one of her globes of light, stopping underneath it to stare up into its swirling, pastel light as she took another large gulp of wine. The pale light illuminated her flawless skin as it danced across her face, it made Thorir think wonder for a moment if she was even human; she looked so perfect standing there he pondered she must be a Valkyrie or some sort of faerie.

Thorir snapped out of his thoughts immediately when she started speaking again. “Your brother has not spent the last three years as I have, desperately searching for our daughter. Alone. Lonely. Surrounded by these evil cultists. Evading them while trying to capture them, trying so urgently to get this information…” Astrid sighed again, this time deeply.

“I care for him Thorir, so much, but I cannot abandon my daughter.”

She looked up at the tall man from under her eyelashes, her green eyes met his, this time soft and pleading, asking him to stay with her in her cause.

“Do you understand?”

Thorir stared back into Astrid's eyes. "No, I don't understand. Nor do I know if I ever could. I am not a father so I can't understand, nor could any father understand losing a child like that. Not compared to a mother. However, understanding or not, I will help you. I cannot deny the threads the Norns have woven about me. Woven Eben to me, woven you to me, woven even it seems a way back to my homeland. Only a fool could ignore their own Wyrd when it presents itself so plainly."

Astrid gazed thoughtfully at Thorir, a long, penetrating stare as she considered him fully. She hadn’t expected it to be easy to convince him, nor did she expect him to be so… what was it about him, exactly? She wasn’t surprised that he was intelligent but was it that somewhere hidden among that annoying roguish Viking attitude was a thoughtful and kind soul? One thing was certain, he was correct about their destinies all being woven together…

Ruby nudged her hand just then, breaking her stare and her concentration.

“I agree with you, Thorir Volundson, only a fool would ignore their fate.” It was the first time she’d addressed him by his actual name and it made her feel... she wasn’t certain what that emotion was but it made her feel something as she spoke it.

“So, now that we have agreed that we are returning to your father’s halls to investigate, all we have left to do is convince Eben and my father, once he arrives here. No problem, right?”

Her full lips had parted into a large grin right before she took another large gulp of wine, finishing off her horn.

Thorir returned her grin. "Right," he replied before taking his own swig of wine. He turned from Astrid and resumed his seat. From his seat he stared at Astrid for a moment. By Odin, what the Norns did weave. Here he thought it would be a simple kidnapping, a quick and easy ransom. And at every turn, the Norns had tied knots upon knots to different threads. First Einar, then Eben and back to Einar in a new and deadly way. Now he sat here drinking wine, conversing and plotting with his kidnapping victim as though the last day hadn't happened.

Maybe it was the magic of isle, maybe Baldur was protecting them all. But here was uncovered evil in his father's hall. Evil against his name, his blood.

Thorir shook his head. "Ok, I can handle Eben, he won't like it, but I will take care of it. Your father may be a different story, you will need to do the bulk of that convincing. But I will be able to have a hand in it as well."

Thorir took another deep drink. "Hrmm, you know, I didn't leave a calling card on your ship, only a destination. Nor did we use any names. So neither Einar nor your father knows who took you, maybe that can be used to our advantage. As a way to insert me back into court. Perhaps we spin the tale that it was I who rescued you, that would be quite a tale to tell. But you are going to have to convince your father that it is in his best interests to work with me. I assume he has supported you during your quest to find your daughter?"

“Of course he has!” Astrid answered, her tone prickly. “Why would he not? That is his granddaughter you are speaking of!”

The sorceress walked over to the small table where the second bottle of wine waited. She took her time pouring herself a second glass while she calmed, then took a sip.

She turned back to the warrior. “I am sorry I snapped at you, obviously it is a touchy subject. My father has invested considerable resources into searching for Karsii, and this cult in turn over the last three years.”

“It will be… difficult… to convince my father to work with you but hopefully he will see it is for me and for Karsii and he will do it.”

She tapped at her lip with her free hand. “Hmmmm, it could work to say you and your crew saved me from the real kidnappers, and then my father and yourself continued on to escort me safely to Grandael for the wedding. Though, I would certainly not want to go through with that .”

"Well, if you wish my help, you will need to convince your father to allow me to help. If we can go forward with that plan. We can get you to Grandael, but claim you need some time to recuperate from your ordeal and forestall the wedding for a while. That should buy us enough time to find what you need. I need evidence of this cult. Hard evidence of their intent, acts and treachery. With that I can challenge Einar legally. I am not sure how to gather that, but I would think that searching for your daughter will turn up evidence of it."

“Very well. The plan is set.” Astrid took one final long drink of the wine before place the horn back down. “I am sure my father will come soon. It will not be three days.”

She walked over to the couch and stood before it. “I am getting tired Thorir, and it has been a long, draining day. I suspect more to come just like it."

She sighed at the sight of the couch. “And here I thought I would be celebrating my wedding night right now.” She glanced out of the tent for a moment, knowing there was someone she desperately wanted so very close by…

A wicked grin crossed Thorir's face, but he quickly suppressed it and the thought that prompted it. Thorir stood and cast that appraising eye of his on Astrid once more. This woman, whom the Wyrd has thrown into his course, was definitely a Voelva. Not that Thorir hated magic, he respected it and those who practiced it, especially those in the old traditions. But he was beginning to understand why in the south they called them witches. Wasn't the word bewitching? To fall under their spells? And many Voelva followed Freya, and her beauty and charms were legendary. Perhaps it is Freya behind her powers, Thorir mused. In any case, Thorir had to admit that behind a beautiful face lay strength, courage and power. Certainly a fitting bride for a powerful jarl.

Thorir's face darkened as his thoughts turned to Einar. That blackguard has betrayed his name, his blood and his land. Thorir knew what he would have to do. I cannot let evil go unchecked, not in my homeland, he thought. But if I remove Einar, for surely he is beyond redemption if he has allowed himself to be branded, then who will rule Grandael? My father is old, and Einar has weakened him. The title and responsibilities would fall to me. I would lose the freedom of the Sea. Lose this life I chose. Yet, my life is not entirely my own, I am the son of a Jarl, I have a duty to our people. What would happen without a clear descendant of Volund?

Thorir sighed and shook his head, "I am sorry Astrid, I was lost in my own thoughts as I see you are as well. I will take my leave. Please consider yourself my guest from now on, and no longer my hostage. I hope that in time you would consider me an ally as well. We share the same enemy after all." Thorir gave Astrid a small formal bow and turns and left.

He stopped by Old Raveneye giving him a few words of new orders, then head out to see to further preparations. They had a Jarl visiting and he must ensure they were prepared.

After the Sea King left Astrid collapsed belly down onto the couch, her wolf quickly hopping up then curling up against her. The large amount of wine left her mind swirling, or maybe that was just everything that had happened this day. She didn’t want to think, she wanted to sleep, she wanted to escape back to that place of happiness and safety. Her eyes shut and she quickly drifted off to a restless sleep.


First Post
As Alec waited on the beach, from the trees six men emerged. They paused as they emerged into the open to be seen. None of the men carried anything more than a seax, and were not wearing armor. One man holds up his hand in greeting. "Hail Jarl MacTier. If you would follow us, your daughter, as well as your host await your arrival." After the greeting and without waiting for an answer, the men turn and in single file walk back down a small game path, slow enough that they may be followed easily.

If Alec follows the men:
[sblock] Alec and his men follow the emissaries, they walk only a short distance to the west before heading around a small rise. They emerge into a clearing. In the clearing there is a long make shift table set up with tree trunks as stools around it. The table is laid out with fish and root vegetables freshly roasted. Bottles of wine are lined up along the table. At the far end of the table sits a tall warrior, a man Alec must assume to be the SeaKing. The only other person at the table is a young woman, with familiar red hair. [/sblock]


Alec merely stares at the men as they depart, his arms crossed, stone faced. He had traveled far enough. This Sea King would have to come to him.

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I plan on living forever. Or die trying.
"Come, Jarl Alec. No sense in delaying the inevitable nor leaving your daughter in their hands longer than is necessary. You will have to talk to him here or there. No combat on this island. And starting power play at the beach is small benefit for potentially very large cost of making things harder. You said it yourself, they will not leave the island without a fight. But here and now, you need to get Astrid back."

Arvid is not stupid enough to take Jarls hand and pull him forward. But diplomacy has worked before. And maybe they will all come to an understanding once this business is concluded. Poor pirates, of all the traffic on the seas, they captured one woman that was sure to get them killed.

"And maybe I can find new home if Einar really falls as Gataberg did." he thinks to himself.


The look Alec gives Arvid is cold enough to freeze the hells and hard enough to shatter diamonds. He didn't say anything, but the implication was clear. They would wait.

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I plan on living forever. Or die trying.
"Jarl, I am here as Einars representative. While I would prefer to face the pirates with you, I am fully entitled to retrieve Einars bride without you. Please, do not make me do this. They shouldn't see tension between us. At least tell me why are you doing this, they are out of the earshot now. What would your daughter think when they return without you?"

OOC: We are off at the great start - we didn't even meet the pirates we're supposed to fight and we're already fighting. Below is thinking not talking so please do not respond to it :)

Behind the pleading facade, Arvid is tense, even frustrated if not outright angry. He stares at the Jarl Alec, waiting for some hint of the answer.
"If we tarry too long, we'll lose them. And this stubborn Jarl doesn't help. Like we have something to bargain with. Bah! Losing energy on gestures instead of real action. Oh, if I just could stalk them, they would soon regret it...alas."
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OOC: You're the only one fighting. Did Arvid bring any men or is it just he, Alec and Alec's guard?

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I plan on living forever. Or die trying.
OOC: Arvid has a ship. With the crew. But here, it is only him. And no. We're fighting, you're just Being strong and silent type :p . I was kinda hoping for a dialogue, that would keep Arvid here and I'd hate to split us up. PbP is slow for that. And yet, letting you dictate his actions (if Arvid remains) kinda puts him into going with whatever you're planning. Hmmm, dilemma.

Could you put some ooc reasoning or ic thoughts of Alec when you get to the computer?
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OOC: His daughter was kidnapped by pirates. Those pirates then demanded he he meet them on an island.

Alec is a Jarl. He's a ruler. There is power in getting someone else to come to you. It makes you the one with the upper hand. Alec is not going to come crawling to a Sea King to get his daughter back. The Sea King will meet him on the beach. It forces the Sea King to get off his high horse and approach Alec, rather than having Alec approach him. Sending a lessor man to "fetch" Alec was an insult, even if unintentional.

And Alec will be paying no random. Either the Sea King gives his daughter back, or they all die, and if Arvid pays the random against Alec's wishes, his ship will likely not make it back to Einar. This father is in no mood to compromise, treaties be damned.

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I plan on living forever. Or die trying.
OOC: This is why I asked earlier that we discuss the tactics and how we deal with this.
You're essentially telling me I need to do what you decided or you will kill my character. I can understand the insult part although I wouldn't read it as such. Even between two rulers, the one visiting is escorted by lesser jen to the ruler visited. And you cannot expect pirates to know that.

Finally, Alec behaves as if the daughter is secondary and his power everything. You could also say let's get this over with and then sink everyone leaving the Island.
Disclaimer: this is ofcourse my view and yours is different. Just stating that in PbP we cannot do a quick over the table discussion.
Moot point since know we're on the same side, just please take other PCs into consideration when doing something this absolute. I'll play along. Can I assume you told this aloud? Or Alec remains silent?


I plan on living forever. Or die trying.
"Fine." huffs Arvid "We do it your way." Arvid finds a good rock to sit upon and rest his leg. He rests the Hands upon cane round head and waits.
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Halloween Horror For 5E