After a winter spent profitably raiding in Kattegat and the Skagerrak with Bjarki the Red & brother autumn came to Rohald.
Despite the peace treaty brokered by Kjari between Jutes and Danes at the Jol feast the year before, piracy proved a continued issue. In the growing unrest, King Frodi saw the opportunity to take advantage of the recent bereavement of Jarl Hord Benirsson of Odense. He made a treaty with a Jute war-leader to marry the Jarl to his daughter. It did not sit well with those of the Isle of Fynn that in doing so they would finally be obliged to bend the knee in submission to Frodi’s Overlordship.
As if this did not bring dark enough thoughts, omens and other augery were mentioned around the hearth fires of Rohald. It was one such dark night that found all of Jorun Hrolfsdottir retinue appearing to be in a shared vision. They saw Wulfgar Gunnarsson as a bear, and others of their village in danger. They all sought Jorun, whom they found carving something into the Law Stone with a silver spear overlooked by ravens. As she turned to the group, her eyes beeding and empty, fire and destruction reigned down upon Rohald forcing all to the sword.
Hrolf Bjornsson sought the counsel of his Volvas’s – seers gifted with divination. Hild Thorbjornsdottir, a childhood friend of Jorun, was brought to the hall. They cast runes to identify who should be sent from Rohald to seek the council of the Lady of Winter – a legendary seer – found in a frozen land beyond the Skagerrak. The runes called for a noble, a warrior, a man with the soul of an animal , a loyal sword, one who stood between the living and the dead and a coward.
Casting forth on their svekkjar the “Wavedancer”, under the command of the Styrimadr Osvif, they made good time. Unfortunately a sudden meeting with Bjarki the Red caused disharmony on board, for whilst he had not recently raided Kjari vessels that was not always the case. This disharmony did not come to any great consequence, for the next morning the band found the crew frozen and dead. The ship seeming to sail its own course through a dense fog.
The fog played on the spirits of the group – causing them to snipe at each other – and almost caused the death of Bjarki as he was knocked into the water by Wulfgar. Finally their spirits were restored when they sought to tame a sea eagle.
They crashed into a shore, to judge by the dancing of the night’s dragon (the Aurora) and the location of the Bear and Wolf, Wulfgar Gunnarsson suspected they were to the far west. Kester the Thulr suspected that this may be Thule or other darkened shores.
For once Rag the Skald demonstrated some courage and saved Jorun Hrolfsdottir from the crude spears of primitive blue marked skraelings. A plan to draw these creatures out was laid, and whilst well executed, they found themselves sore pressed, with Gisli ‘Ashen Shield’ almost laid low by their leader.
Wulfgar Gunnarsson marked others on his axe, but not before they fled towards their village. When the Thulr sought to intervene to heal the Collossus, he was thrown backwards against the ship, and the Ashen Shiled earned his name by showing the full flowering of his tattoo across his shield arm.
Travelling into the icy mountains, they came across the Palace of the Lady of Winter. In an ice crater where men were frozen beneath the lake, stood a series of circular chambers made of a wood which did not grow here. Entering the huts, Bjarki the Half-Dead stood guard, refusing to go further.
Seeing a sheet of ice blocking their way, Gisli ‘Ashen Shield’ braved touching it first and fell into a trial. His soul laid bare, he was judged for his amorous ways, and barely made it past into the great hall.
With trepidation Jorun Hrolfsdottir stepped in next. She saw the all-father sitting on his throne, who sought to weigh her loyalty to her friends and to her family name. With regret she chose her family, and knew instantly a sacrfice would be called for. The All-father looked at her and made her choose one of her companions, the one she valued most, and she uttered the name of Bjarki. With a wolfs-grin he promised that Bjarki would not be the first of them to die for her families renown.
The final test fell unto Wulfgar Gunnarsson, He saw all he had every slain or destroyed. A spirit for each notch upon his axe. Whilst he fought hard, he did not prevail. So as it was foretold by Skagen, only Gisli and Jorun saw the Lady of the Ice.
They entered a great room, where a throne was carved into a giant ash tree, one that mirrored the tattoo on Gisli. Looking at them she slowly called up all of the runes carved into the tree which glowed and pulsed with the same eerie blue that marked out Gisli. Jorun entreated with the Lady and found odd her kenning of the wyrd
“Ice and fire, fear and bravery, day and night, all become one. Who can stop it, when even the gods may succumb? The children will pay for the sins of their fathers. Your Fate has already been written, the Norns have seen to that. Now only the battle matters. You! You may have the power for such a fight. Were you seeking an answer? This is only the beginning. If you believe you are strong enough to follow your Fate, then glory awaits. Nothing will be in vain. Seek out the face of Odin.”
When Jorun pressed further,her words chilled to the bone. “Soon you will pay what is due. But for the moment be still” as she shrouded herself in freezing fog, she drew Gisli away and vanished.
Leaving the room, they pondered whether the lady was the one to give them the spear from the earlier visions. They found the Beserk lying out cold, with a bear claw scar down his face and a fine mead horn by his side.
They returned to shore and found Bjarki speaking to a stranger. He claimed to be a great captain, and drained Bjarki’s mead horn thirstily. Returning, he demonstrated the keen eyes that had kept him alive and away from the tribesman since his ship was wrecked months before. From below he saw the Skraeling’s exiting their camp and above he spotted silver glinting in the winter’s sun.
Jorun barely managed the climb, hands bleeding raw stripped almost to the bone, but she claimed the Raven Spear. Only later would she hear the Skald say he believed this to be Balder’s spear, lost to the Jotun’s and reclaimed by the hero Jund Jaralsson.
The other’s did not seem to manage this journey as well, almost dying on the mountain twice – losing shield and sword down the side of the hill. As they retreated the cornice they had walked upon crashed down the side of the hill. With haste they returned to their ship, where ‘Oar-Breaker’ sought to clear the deck of those that were frozen. The ship seemed stuck, despite the best efforts of the others to push it off. They could see the hordes of the Skraelings bearing down upon them and felt their time had come.It was only when Kester turned to Jorun and said he “saw now her choice”. He leapt off the side and threw himself into hordes of the Skraelings, cleaving them with his axes. Brave as he was with each one he felled, another three took their place, and with horror the crew saw him fall to the hands of the tribesman as they fled that place.
His sacrifice allowed them time to return to the Skaggerak, with their new captain demonstrating his skill with the waves was matched only by his capacity to outdrink the skald.
They chanced upon a Jarl’s vessel, in distress from a pirate of Hirsk, sporting the red banners of the city of chains. With seamanship that could only be from one beloved of Njord, the Wave Dancer smashed through the oars of the other vessel and stole its winds. Leaving the pirate vessel dead in the water, they followed the Jarl’s vessel to safety.
Having a celebratory meal to thank their rescuers, the ships crew confirmed that they had lost the vessel containing Princess Hedriss and Vagn Hordsson. The one-eyed Jutish captain offered the use of his crew in pursuit, whilst he limped the other vessel back to Fynn. Jorun promised to find the mssing noblemen, as soon as her drunken captain remembered the way.