Astrid nodded her head along with Thorir's words. "I see, so you trust him but do not know if you can trust him."
She took a long drink of her wine. Begrudgingly she went on, "Yes, oddly enough for a complete scoundrel you have been honorable and kept to your word. I do not know what to think about you, Sea King."
"After my father speaks his mind on this, and we are all returned to the table and agreed, I have a spell I will use. We will all state our intentions to move forward with the plan and we will know who is speaking the truth."
"Father? You have been quiet. What say you about all this?"
[MENTION=6855204]tglassy[/MENTION], are you still with us?
Still here. Alec just has nothing to add. He said his peace.
"It's clear we are headed to meet Einar," Alec said. "And that I will be accompanying my daughter, now. This will not be seen as strange, in fact it will be expected. If we are to try to find information, we should decide on our story to tell Einar and his men. We can say that I hired Thorir and his ship to help me take back my daughter, which he did. He is now escorting me, under my employ, as I make sure my daughter is safe. I will be undoubtedly upset at Einar for not making sure my daughter was safe, and as such the wedding will be postponed until I am sure of her safety. It will be a slight insult to him, but one that puts the burden of restitution on his shoulders. I have Thorir and his men with me because they helped me, and I trust them. It gives you, Thorir, a reason to be with us as we return to Einar."
Astrid nodded at her father's words. "Then it is settled. I will retrieve Arvid and we can do the spell. Then... we go."
Suddenly the thought of sailing back to Einar made her quite uncomfortable. She'd have plenty of people to help watch over her but who knew what dark and sinister plans they had in motion in the halls of Grandael?
She excused herself and followed the path down to the beach, escorted by two of Thorir's men.
Astrid returns with Arvid and Thorir nods his assent to Astrid who weaves a spell over the table and the guests. They all feel a slight tingle as the spell takes affect. Thorir knew a little about magic from his time with Eben, but he always wanted to learn more. He gave it a try "I hate mead" he started to say but the last word caught on his tongue. His grinned. "Ok, it seems we have our additional assurances. I will gladly state here that I am dedicated to our common cause to rid all our lands of the influence of the cult, to help Astrid find her lost child and to see Einar removed from power."
Arvid follows Astrid back and startles as she starts casting, but realizes what happened from the comments and he nods. "I'm am committed to fight Einar and the cult. I will do my best to help you destroy the cult and prevent harm to any of you. I will also protect Jarl Volund to the best of my ability."
After that he laughs "I see that Jarl Alecs blood is strong within you too. If Einar doesn't know that you are a witch keep it secret."
OOC: witch in this context is traditional name for any sorceress, not just the class witch.
Astrid addressed Arvid's statement with a sad grin. "Einar knows I wield some power, but not exactly what I can do. He knew I was a daughter of my father and could inherit his skills. For some time I assumed that is why he pursued me so vigorously, hoping to have magic at his side."
"As for me, with the goal of finding my daughter, I vow to do everything in my power to destroy this cult, and if that means injury to Einar, so be it. I also vow to hold anyone who breaks their promise here today accountable for their actions."
Eben had been silent, listening intently after his rebukes. Still he was here and had as much of a purpose as anyone. "I too swear to find Karsii, and hold those who have harmed her, or Astrid, to justice. Further, as Einar is behind this, I vow to help destroy him, not only for Karsii, but for the injuries he has done to me personally and to Thorir."
Astrid gave him a smile from across the table, his devotion to a child he never met was commendable, not that she expected less from him.
"Erm..." Arvid starts a bit insecure in his role "Apologies, Lady and gentlemen, but no. We agreed to cooperate, but not how will we accomplish anything.
I suggested Thorir goes undercover, you rejected it. No problem, we work with that. But what do you intend to do once we're there? What kind of support are we to offer Astrid if she gets her own suite - as she will? Also, there are several men I trust in the halls and the town. I'll describe them to you. We should agree on a secret word that will tell others that things are under control. Or not, as the case may be."
He stops, not willing to rush into planning again until he hears what others are thinking. "They are organised and ready. The appearance of Thorir may surprise them and make them more cautious. Or might cause them to rush everything. I'll put personal servant to Jarl Volund, one capable of defending him if needed."
"What exactly are they organized and ready for, Arvid? Without knowing these details, we cannot properly prepare for anything. We can come up with secret words or whatever might make you feel better. But my father and I have been dealing with these scoundrels directly for years now. Do not consider us fools or unresourceful.
They are expecting a wedding, and an entourage to go along with it. They would have been cautious and suspicious regardless of this happening. I would feel better knowing there is protection for me, yes. But with my father present, they will have to be even more careful, now they risk exposing themselves and open war if they try anything while he is there.
How would you suggest proceeding? We cannot simply sit here and try to come up with every scenario they might throw at us. I understand that is frustrating but we just cannot know what to expect, unless you know more than you are telling us."
"They are prepared. To try and steal Astrid away. They are not prepared for the fact that Alec or I will be there. And they most certainly will not be prepared for the fact that we all know of their existence, or the fact that we know Einar is involved. I think a password is prudent. And while this wolf creature has been harrying and foiling them, they are not ready for a the hard push they will feel from us. We will not know for certain anything until we are there, however we must remember that cutting off the branches will not be sufficient, we must strike at the root. Which means we may need to let you Astrid be taken. The cult hopefully does not realize the power you know have, which works to our advantage." adds Thorir
"I do not know, that is frustrating. The cult is organised, they work slowly and carefully. They are expecting you and my fear is that they will try something immediately once they see Thorir. Otherwise I thought na they would wait until after the wedding since you would be alone with Einar.
The words would not necessarily be for us, but for others. For example I send a stable boy to fetch Jarl Alec. If the boy uses the word, Alec knows I sent the boy."
Arvid thinks for a moment. "I would never underestimate you, Lady, you convinced Thorir to free you before we arrived. But this is not the same as hunters the cult on your own grounds. Einar may stop us if he suspects something. He may accuse Thorir of something or delay the wedding so that your father has to return home or just invite him for a hunt. Either to remove him from your vicinity or just remove him. Remember that in your land people know you and over. Here, Einar and his men are in charge. Remember my previous suggestions. You talk to the maids and other woman. Jarl Alec talks to hersirs. Thorir finds those who would prefer him as Jarl. I will get someone to Jarl Volund, guard you by night by checking the hall or having Songren, one of the local guards do it. I may take any of you throughout the halls...and look for cultist signs. I didn't know what to look for until now. But we can talk on the way."
OOC: worry, worry, worry, old hen
[MENTION=6855545]Archon Basileus[/MENTION], I think we're done here. Lets finish up my intro
Under the auguries of sacred Heildam, the pact was forged.
Soon enough, the entourage is ready to leave. The island is once more left to its silence as it oversees the departure of a much larger fleet. Signs of their passage are abandoned to the peaceful rest of those lands, a testament to Baldr’s valor and lament.
The day goes by, bathed in sunlight and visited by good winds. The fleet moves steadily towards southeast, opening way towards Grandael once more. In the distance, the land mass begins to appear, first as a faint, grey line, and later as the meeting of many competing lines. Mountains are outlined, and then the fjords, and lastly the top of the sails and masts sewing the familiar areas of Grandael’s port. The vastness of the boardwalks are crowned by the sacred arches that separate docks and land, watched by the heavy wooden statues of Grandael’s ancestry. The twelve stern warriors hold shield and lance, staring at the distant seas with weapons raised, as if to announce, or incite, the adventurous spirit of conquest to the sailors.
As the longboats approach, the dragged, solitary lament of a horn raises, as always, to announce the arrival of the fleet. Soon enough, three others join the first one, coming from distinct points of the hill-city of Grandael. Built over a mound, the agglutination borrowed its shape from the land underneath. At its top lies the Jarl’s longhouse, surrounded by strong walls and a solid fortress, overseen by four jottun-like images, each representing one of the heroes that came together to make this land hole.
In response to the signs, fires are lit in the surrounding hills. The stern face of Grandael opens itself up in a smile as a crowd invades a distant dock, as if to receive the newcomers. Decorated arches can be seen in the distance, covered in wild flowers. The whole boardwalk waits in expectation and anxiety, and above, in the surrounding walls encrusted in the majestic fjords, archers observe, impassive.
[Sorry for the delay. I was working on some setting changes. Any last-minute preparations may be done now. Also, you can rearrange the fleet as you see fit, and even approach in diverse manners. Any necessary corrections can be made as we move on.]
[MENTION=8058]Queenie[/MENTION] [MENTION=2820]Fenris[/MENTION] [MENTION=6855204]tglassy[/MENTION] [MENTION=24380]Neurotic[/MENTION]
We are returned from our travels. Again! So, onward...
As they approached Grandael Astrid stood at the prow of her father's ship, rubbing her forehead where her ladies had again made her braids too tight around her crown. They had fawned over her as if she had been returned from the dead and she hadn't the heart to tell them to knock it off.
Her stomach was in knots, but these knots were quite different than the last time they had been approaching this port. She knew she had an army behind her, her father, Thorir, Eben, possibly even this new advisor Arvid yet the danger was vast and uncertain. She knew deception wasn't generally her nature but it would have to be, to make this work. She could make out a crowd on the docks and that twisted the knife in her belly a little more.
She looked back over her shoulder to Thorir, who was standing nearby. "Your land looks quite lovely, those flowers are beautiful. I imagine the locals will be more interested in you than in I once we land. Has it been long since you have been home?"
"Those are violets that you see. We call them the lady of the snows, for they come up through the snow as Spring is approaching." remarks Thorir. "I haven't seen these violets for four long years." he says wistfully staring out at his homeland.
A wan smile crosses his face. "Oh I have no doubt you will be the shinning star here Astrid. They all know who you are and are expecting you. No one is expecting me. And I don't know if many outside my family will recognize me instantly. But yes, once my presence is known, there will be enough interest in my arrival by those in power who will wonder about power. But for the locals, it will be your name on their tongues I am sure."
Astrid looked Thorir up and down but her eyes flickered momentarily towards Eben standing back behind his brother.
Four years ago Eben was just a sixteen year old skinny boy poet, and she was just the skinny fourteen year old girl in love with him. They blissfully snuck around, doing whatever was necessary to see each other as often as they could, playing house, dreaming it was real and that there was a way to make it all reality. Four years ago Astrid thought it would last forever and her life was almost complete.
Not long after that her dreams were shattered, and she survived a nightmare she never seemed to be able to wake from.
Eben was no longer a skinny boy poet, but had grown physically and in other natural ways. He was a warrior now, though he promised her he was still that poet at heart and she was still the thing that made that heart beat.
Astrid had grown too, she added inches to her height, her curves had all filled out. She'd grown in other ways too, she learned of politics and diplomacy. She was also educated to how cruel and evil the world could be. Her powers, like her father's or some other kind of powers, had manifested, making her a much more valuable, and feared, commodity.
Four years felt like a million lifetimes ago.
Her eyes returned to Thorir. What had he been like four years ago? Looking over his form, she doubted he was ever a skinny anything. What aspirations had his parents had for him? What actually happened between him and Einar?
So many questions.
"Four years is a long time Thorir," Astrid said to him softly, turning back towards the docks. "Many things change."
The Astrid of four years ago would never have dreamed of doing something like this. She'd be needing the Astrid of now to survive it.
"What is Einar like? I have met him quite a few times but he has always been kind and caring towards me. Yet here he is wanting to do... who knows what with me. Something nefarious."
She turned again back to face the tall warrior.
"So tell me. What is he really like? If I have to be in close quarters, tell me what I need to know."
OOC: I don't know what we decided to do with Eben so I mentioned him, but I can edit that out if necessary.
Alec strode on his deck, overlooking the work of his crew. He did not captain the ship, and he stayed out of the captain's way, as he was competent and knew his job well, but Alec was the Jarl. It did the men good to see their liege lord walking among them.
At least, that is what he always told himself.
He moved to the forefront of the ship, seeing his daughter standing there talking with Thorir. He wasn't sure if he should trust this Thorir, but he had given his oath, and that was not easily broken.
He stepped close to his daughter, looking out at the land in front of them. He'd visited many times in his life. He and Einar had always been civil. They'd had to be.
He didn't speak. He merely allowed his presence to be enough. Support for Astrid. A reminder for Thorir and Eben. He fingered the hilt of his bastard sword as he thought about Einar. The next few days would be very...interesting.
Thorir did not turn his gaze from his homeland. The flowers, the valleys, the open fields, the familiar thatched roofs of the fishermen village. He replied to Astrid though. "Einar? Heh Einar was a fine older brother in my youth. We would ride and hunt in the mountains. Arvid trained us in weapons and manners. And then, and then" Thorir sighed "And then we grew up. I carry the laughter and joy of my mother. Einar got all of my father's moodiness and darkness. Now my father is a kind and just man, but not a man who enjoys smiling. In Einar this disposition worsened as he grew older. In hindsight, I do not know if this made him seek the cult or if the cult sought him for his darkness."
" Einar is even taller than I am, or was. I think I may have grown some after I left. Einar has a mind for weapons, and he is quite a skilled swordsman. But he lacked tact and discipline, a feature Arvid never failed to be frustrated with. the last few years I lived there, he grew cruel, secretive, and jealous. He attracted men who were like him. He seldom left his hall while these thugs went and did dark deeds for him. To my father, he was polished and the perfect son. To me he was civil. At least before I left. Einar could be polite and even eloquent in the hall. He presents a fair face to the world. In his unguarded moments the veil drops, and his demeanor is sour. He desires power. By any means. I have no fear of my brother, but I know that he can be a stern and intimidating man." Thorir looks down and grins ruefully.
"My apologies, despite our plan, I find that I wasn't quite prepared for a homecoming."
"He always smiled at me," Astrid sighed, "I suppose that was part of his deception. I saw the fair face; the polished and perfect son and husband. And while everyone claims he never leaves his walls, he always came to me. To us. To Viuland. I have never been many places myself."
As her father stepped near to her, she felt some relief and she smiled up at him.
"No need to apologize Thorir, you have been helpful to me. I was not exactly expecting this situation either. Any of it. I cannot imagine any of us were."
"Arvid spoke of a codeword. We should come up with that now."
Arvid enjoys the sea and the wind - he so rarely goes out to sail now that he's injured. And Einars not going onto raids any more anyhow. What a waste of a good warrior. He spends time observing his new companions and learning their manners and normal behaviour.
He is open when asked about his life in the long hall under Einar, but evasive as always if asked about his early life. "How about: if we send a person, he should say he comes from son of Ingvar - rare enough name. If you're in trouble, work invocation of Baldur into the conversation. Or the phrase 'Remember the island.' I would like the code for immediate help and hold your hand too, but is it too much?"