The Swordlands

Descent Into Saalsgard
Intro To Next Session

On the eve of his 50th year, King Siegfried of Himinborg received a gift from his half-brother. Fishermen had found afloat in the harbour caskets of faerie ash in which had been placed the hands, heads and hearts of those who had opposed the warlock in towns and villages as far away as the mountains of the Beastlands. Fingers still bore wedding bands of bronze, teeth still were studded with gold, and runes of destiny and doom were inscribed in the damp wood inside and out. That night, the troubled king remembered the first and last time he ever saw the creature that was his estranged kin.

He was a boy not yet a man, following his father’s footsteps in the snow, when he found himself alone in the woods far from the hunting party. A young centaur appeared and challenged the boy to a fair contest of his choosing. Being a son of Himinborg and a child of Kord he accepted. Young Siegfried knew that as fast as he was, he was no match for this beast in a race nor did he appear to be able to match it in strength, and so instead he decided on a singing contest.

The young fawn accepted and thus declared that the whole world and all it’s kingdoms would belong to the victor, and that the birds in the trees and the stars in the sky would decide who sang most beautifully. Siegfried sang a song so merry that songbirds echoed his melodies and stars came out even though it was not yet dark. When he was finished the centaur sang a song so sad that the forest fell silent, and the sky grew dark without sun nor moon nor stars. When each song had been sung the boy and the fawn complemented each other so greatly that neither could say who would be awarded the world and all it’s kingdoms.

Many years later, if Siegmund ever learned of his brother’s death in Skeinwael it did not appear to halt his advance. His raiding parties continued to ravage the land in pursuit of a secret quest. Only now have the raids ceased. The armies of Himinborg and every home of men and women across the length and breadth of the Swordlands begin to gather in the foothills of the mountains within which Siegmund is said to be encamped.

And only now does his intention appear clearly. He is said to seek The Crown of Byfrost, an ancient power as old as the world itself that is said to bring salvation when Ragnarok comes. As the legend goes: He who holds the Crown holds the Bridge, and from the Byfrost Bridge shall the last among men watch the giants fall. If the legend is true, Siegmund desires that which was meant for the good of all. If the legend is true and the Crown does exist, then there may yet be a salvation from Ragnarok.

The Crown is said to have once been guarded by the Einherjar, immortal sentinels whose only purpose is to defend humanity at the end of time. But when mortal kings went to war over this most sacred of all treasures some 500 years ago it became lost, and with it vanished the Einherjar.

It is said that all these long years since Siegfried first received the gift of skulls, Siegmund’s warbands have been searching for the Einherjar, retrieving them one by one from the caverns and secret places of the world in which they are hidden. 10 years of searching has led the centaur to discover almost every one of the 500 guardians of the Crown, and curiously, wherever they lie are also found the undead hordes not seen since the time of The Curse, a plague that caused the dead to rise from the earth and walk the land almost a century ago.

In some cases it has been reported that these undead destroyed the Einherjar that they had watched over for so many years as it awoke. In others Siegmund has emerged victorious and retrieved the sentinels only to destroy them or corrupt them in his laboratory. How this research will lead him to the Crown is as yet unclear.

Also in this time it is said that Auslanders traverse the kingdoms in the service of their Fey masters, for the oracles of Aelfheim have seen that Ragnarok approaches, and destiny and doom await.

So it is here that we find the Auslanders, Swordlanders, and Einherjar, carried by winged horses high over the Skøninjen Way. From their altitude the mountains appear little more than creases on a map, and the long and winding Dragon Lake but a black thread sown into it’s folds.

Sighting the circular falls that encompass the ancient keep of Saalsgard the adventurers change course in the brilliant blue sky. As they descend, the gleaming white mountains rise around them and the inky black waters spread beneath them until trees appear on the mountainsides and rocks emerge from the earth. When finally their own reflections are visible in the lake below it becomes apparent that the water here is but inches deep.

The Pegasi come thundering down into the shallows, hooves splashing on the pebbles and wings beating a spray of water droplets into the golden air as they slow to a halt. Here ringed by a series of cascades, the towers of Saalsgard emerge from the water. This is the home of the Dragon peoples since the time of Nidhog and the Crown Wars, and here are to be found the Valkyr, powerful allies in the search to end the conjunction and save the Feywild from Ragnarok.

Not A Dream

It was midnight on the fourth night after the dragon’s attack. The adventurers were huddled around a small campfire while all about was utterly dark, the only sound to be heard was the soft crackle of flame.

Suddenly, the dragon appeared from out of nowhere. There was an intense flash of light, huge brilliant coils writhing all around them, it’s serpentine head poised above them. The enormous wyrm unleashed it’s dazzling breath weapon down upon the group and several of their number turned to stone where they lay. The remaining adventurers leapt to their feet and drew their weapons having been taken completely by surprise. The dragon reared up and came crashing down upon them, it’s gaping maw of golden teeth slamming shut…

Sigurd awoke and looked around. The party lay sleeping in a small cave in the hills near Dragon Lake. Outside the cavemouth could be seen the shapes of the pegasi against the starlight.

“We have three more moons,” thought the Oracle, realising that this had not been a dream, but a premonition.

The Day That Never Comes
A Memory

The Strength of Steel stands before the legion for the last time.

“Soldiers of the Legion, we have failed in our sworn duty. No strategem can avail against this foe, no parley can placate it. Our very presence here is a threat to that which we hold most sacred, and so we must retreat from the world.

One among you, however, shall remain. One among you shall sound the call, when the time is near. The council has considered the matter and we have chosen one who is suited to the task. The burden upon you is heavy. You must watch while all of your brothers sleep. You shall remain alone, without solace nor succour while chaos reigns around you, and you shall wait. You shall witness horrors unimaginable and you shall question your very existence, but you shall overcome your fear and you shall hold true to your solemn duty. You shall wait. The rank of Awakener is no blessing, it is a curse, and this curse you shall bear for an unknowable time, and still you shall wait. When the end is at hand you shall sound the call and your brothers will awaken once more to fight the war at the end of time.

Let that one among you who has been chosen for this task now make themselves known.”

From amongst the ordered ranks, a single warforged takes one step forward.

The Journey To Hamingjen

As the last heir of Fenryr lay dying amongst the mud-brick dwellings of Mycklegarth the red sun began to descend in the sky. All about, the battle raged between the werewolves and the barghest until the sun had dipped below the horizon. The sun that should never set had fallen into the underworld within minutes of the death of Fenryr’s bloodline. The disjunction had begun, the bond with the Feywild was breaking. The curse of lycanthropy quickly vanished, leaving packs of feral wolves where once were werewolves, and mangey mongrels where there had been barghest. The canines scattered into the forest, their combined howling and yapping fading into the air.

Facing the prospect of a 1000 mile march southwards to Hamingjen, the party decided to construct a ritual to seek a faster means of reaching their destination. Making their way to a craggy lookout in the light of the moon they began their individual contributions to the ceremony. Thunder prayed to Kord for the speed of the storm, Aengus used Fey magic to make a bridge from moonbeams, Oellorn hurled his sword into the sky, carrying him with it. Karl, overcome by the feral rage with which he had been previously stricken had run into the forest after the wolves.

The next morning the party found themselves in a verdant forest grove, standing at a crossroads where also waiting was Sigurd. In the sky above the thick forest canopy they could see winged creatures, apparently pegasi, descending towards a nearby hilltop. Making their way through forest the see the winged horses grazing on the hillside, as a group of Kenku Horse-Eaters creep towards them with knives and hooks at the ready. Knowing that startling the pegasi will mean losing them the party engage the kenku hunters in a quiet battle, in which movement is slow and voices are low. The party find the battle fustrating, and they are soon joined by Karl who snipes from the tree line. Aengus meanwhile uses Fey magic to communicate with the pegasi and draw them away from the battle until he is finally able to mount one and fly them away from the fight. Dispatching the last of the Kenku the party are able to fly over the mountainous terrain, along the course of the Skoningjen Way.

5 days of flight bring them some 800 miles to Dragon Lake where they see a huge storm has blown in from across the Endless Sea. As they descend to land on the shore they are attacked by an enormous draconic creature lurking beneath the lake. The creature appears to be some kind of Faerie dragon. It’s body is covered in millions of fronds of glowing light and rainbow hues are cast in the water that pours from it’s writhing coils. It opens up with it’s breath weapon which leaves Karl and Oellorn struggling to throw off the effects of petrification. The party rally to attack the dragon discovering it is resilient and well-armoured against all their attacks. They succeed in landing a series of blows, flying their winged mounts in and out of the all-encompassing radiant dragon coils.

Then the storm hits them. The party and the dragon are swept up in an enormous cyclone and thrown out of control (see an approximation of the mechanics here). within the storm the party struggle to retain control of their mounts while colliding with all manner of strange creatures and objects. Eventually Thunder finds his way into the dead zone at the center of the storm and retrieves ‘The Eye Of The Storm’.

When the cyclone dissipates the exhausted party make a camp far from the lake in the foothils of the mountains around Dragon Lake. They estimate that they are somewhere near Saalsgard, the home of Aldis and the Dragonborn. That night, whilst hunting moor-hen Karl finds weather-worn stone statues of ogres and orcs along an ancient decrepid paved road, probably the last leg of the Skoninjen Way.

That night Sigurd, Oracle of Kord, dreams The Chronicles of Wyrm and Man.

In the clear light of morning it is revealed that an entire army of ogres and orcs stand petrified along the road. Oellorn identifies this as the lichen-covered remains of a Mammoth Clan army, who were said to have marched against Bangog over 100 years ago. Needless to say they never returned. This loss was almost the end of the feared Mammoth Clan until they allied with the fledgling Prince Kindrbode.

The Hanged Man

Whilst walking along Skeinwael’s black sand shoreline, Sigurd happened upon a trail of bare foot prints. The tide washed over them and then withdrew, fizzing and popping over the coarse dark grit. The oracle followed the faint foot prints across the beach and into the woods outside of town, where they became damp imprints across the dry earth. There in a clearing she saw a figure hanging upside down by the legs from a stooping ash, apparently caught in a hunter’s trap.

“Is this Lady Snowshoes?” asked Sigurd as she entered the clearing.

“Junge fraulein,” responded the figure in the gruff voice of an old man, “You have the benefit of both of your eyes. Do see fit to use them on occasion.”

The old man was gently swinging to and fro. The noose around his feet creaked as he slowly turned in the breeze. Sigurd stepped closer and saw that this was indeed an elderly yet heavily built man, half-elven possibly judging by his ears, dressed in weather-worn travelling clothes. His upside down face, reddened and flushed, was framed with white braided beards that hung over his broad features towards the ground, his large broken-knuckled hands trailing in the leaves that lay beneath him. One keen blue eye looked up at her while an empty socket remained where the other one should have been.

“Would you care for some assistance?” inquired the oracle, stooping while craning her neck, so as to see the old half-elven gentleman the right way up.

“Have you anything to drink?” replied the old man.

“I have some goats milk, but i’ll have to fetch it from the village.”

“You are the Auslander woman they talked about,” began the one-eyed man, ignoring Sigurd’s offer of refreshments, “And yet you bear the mark of Kord. That could be said to be… auspiscious, wouldn’t you say? And to think we had no idea who had called you!”

“The Legion must be remade.” spoke the Auslander.

“That’s all well and good i’m sure, but right now my power is on the wane, thanks to the actions of you and your companions. Don’t think me ungrateful, but what I really need you to do is to find my eye.”

Sigurd scanned the forest floor around her. “Do you think it is somewhere around here?”

“Probably not, I lost it in a storm some time ago. I suppose it could be anywhere really.”

The way the old man pronounced ‘anywhere’ left Sigurd in no doubt that he really meant it. She pondered on this for a while. The old man slowly rotated in the hanging trap. When he had come full circle Sigurd continued. “Well, if I find it I will be sure to keep it safe.”

“That would be most kind of you fraulein. I will be sure to reward you if you are able to recover it.”

Sigurd left the clearing, scanning the leaf-strewn ground around and abouts. From far behind her the old man, still hanging upside down, called out. “Any luck?”

“Some good sized acorns, a snails shell, nothing else.” the oracle called back.

Sigurd wandered far through the forest until she had lost her way. At length she arrived at a crossroads.

The Wyrmling Turns

This land is young and this people strong,
The children of Nidhog and Helman,
Born as slaves,
May yet die free.

As he spoke, the Battle Chaplain poured wine into the chalice.

This land is young and this people brave,
Of dragon and man,
Of this world and that,

Aldis, kneeling at the other side of the altar, took the intricately worked golden vessel in both mailed hands.

Of storm, the vengeance rising,
Of fire, the desire in our hearts,

Slowly, she raised the chalice to her long mouth.

Of ice, the resolve in our cause,
Of acid, that no chains may bind us.

As the words of the oath gradually increased in volume and intensity, she began to drink the Blood of Bahamut.

This land is young and this people true,
The sons of Man and the daughters of Wyrm,
Hold to the oath of our ancestors,
That none shall set themself above another,
That the poorest has yet a mouth to feed,
As the richest,
That the smallest has yet a life to live,
As the Mightiest,
And so with all things,
Must the heart of the Valkyr guide her.

The dragonborn paladin rises to her feet and gradually unfurls a set of wings, joint by joint, ligament by ligament, skin stretching taught over strong sinews, until the two clawed extremities could almost touch the walls on either side of her. Her whole life had been but preparation for this day. This Valkyr had reached the final stage of her rebirth, and now she would see her people to freedom.

“The Valkyr are ready, Aldis” began the Chaplain, “Will you lead them?”

Aldis breathed deeply, savouring how her wings and her armour weighed heavily across her body.

“I will,” she replied, “For the Auslanders approach. Tonight we shall pray for their safe arrival.”

The King In His Hall

Alone on a mountain of bones sat Serkeljof, king of Himinborg. Lost in thought, his gaze wandered over the remains of Himinborg’s defeated enemies. All about lay giants and sea-monsters piled high about the three thrones of the Great Hall, until his gaze finally came to rest on the bones of Nidhog, the great faerie dragon herself.

At length a warrior arrived, the creaking doors allowing a wedge of red sunlight to break the dim and dusty peace of the windowless hall. Tall, broad and advanced in years the braided knight approached the throne where the king sat quietly.

(Translated from Old Norse) “Sire, We have word from Kindraed, Konigshelle, and Karlsbad on the Eastern shore. We have word from Braekonsgard, Braeborg, and Brershalle at the Southern Edge. We have word from Igglingsborg, Wayweary, and Thruthgelmir at the World’s End. We have word from those that yet remain on the islands of the Kindersee. They will all answer the call. They will all make for Skeinwael and await your order.”

Serkeljof remained silent for a time, as the aged veteran patiently waited for a response. “Imagine, if you will, that you were a loyal servant of Kord,” began the king quietly, “Would it not be appropriate to kneel on entering the Hall of Rivenhart, as it has been for the five centuries or more since it was built?”

The warrior quickly knelt.

“Kindraed, you say?” continued Serkeljof, “I was not aware that goats and pigs could be trained to bear arms.”

“The thirteen families and the lands around have proffered several hundred fighting men, sire. They seem quite spirited. They will not fight in the name of Kord, but they will fight nonetheless.” explained the veteran.

Serkeljof leaned forward on the plain wooden throne. “And what of Thruthgelmir? I understood that the Auslanders had rendered that acursed hall vacant.”

“Indeed my lord. There we have the pledge of Queen Rusalka to send archers numbering near a thousand, but as mercenaries requiring gold, or gems even.”

“I should have kept that sword of Siegfried’s. It would have fetched enough to pay for twice that many.”

The veteran shifted uncomfortably as he stood up. His knees troubled him more these days.

“How long before the southern edge forces are on the northern shore?” asked the king.

“Fourteen days, maybe less with favourable winds. The Auslander witch says that Kord will bless their voyage.”

“How kind.” declared Serkeljof, as he rose to his feet and stretched out his crooked spine. “Then what remains, o valiant Fruhli, Knight Himinborg?”

The veteran Knight Himinborg and champion storyteller thought on this a while. “Er, provisions and supply trains are in progress sire…”

“Hmm, no. There must be something else…” pondered Serkeljof.

“Our scouts are searching the mountains for Siegmund’s camp, we expect to receive word any day now.”

“No, no. I’m sure there is something else.”

Fruhli thought some more. “There has been no contact with the Auslanders for near ten days…”

“Pah! There is one other thing, i’m certain…”

“I know not what my lord.” returned the baffled veteran.

Serkeljof looked skyward in despair. “My armour, perhaps?” he sighed.

Fruhli bowed quickly and strode out of the hall, calling for the king’s armour. Outside the hall he descended the muddy wooden stairs through the streets of Himinborg. All about, in the blood red light of the Cycle of The Sword, the remaining elite veteran knights were readying themselves for one final ocean voyage.

A World Apart
Sigurd's Divinations

“We are a world apart,” said the stars on the water, “We are not you.”

“I am Sigurd of Concordance, I am the Eye of Kord.”

“Welcome Sigurd,” spoke the souls of dead heroes, “We too are children of The One God, a thousand deaths here dance in a single ripple of your oar in the water. We are not you.”

Sigurd raised the oars out of the water and watched as water ran from them, disturbing the calm surface of the Kindersee.

“Look,” said the departed, “The Battle of Skøninjen Way!” Sigurd saw the specks of reflected light weave and bob in spreading circles on the dark water.

“Look,” said the fallen, “The Death of Bør!” More drops fell into the darkness and sent ripples across the flat plane of the sea.

“You honour me with your dance.” said Sigurd, “But I am not you, I am a world apart.”

“Yes,” spoke the dead heroes, “You are not of this land. You are an Auslander, and so shall you remain until Ragnarok comes. Surtur will reunite us, can you see?”

Sigurd looked long into the dark water. At length she spoke “Yes I see him, he is near, and Thrymm follows.”

“The power of the New Gods begins to fade.” continued the dead, “Soon, this land will once again stand alone.”

“The conjunction weakens,” replied Sigurd, “I see this too. And what of Concordance? I saw once that my city was destroyed.”

“It is Hel’s will that you are here. You have all answered the call. It was her will that forged the link between our worlds. When she is gone, so shall be the conjunction that brought you to us, and here you shall remain until the end.”

“Then it was no ocean crossing that took us to this land?”

“No,” replied the dead, “For we are world’s apart. It has always been so.”

The next day Sigurd awoke to a blood red dawn. She knew then that Fenryr’s bloodline had been broken.

Fenryr's Heir
Session Summary

“If it is monsters you seek, then you have come to the right place.” announced Snøflgrøf to the adventurers as they prepared themselves for the next stage of their quest. “Here in Mycklegarth we have monsters and heroes aplenty. The biggest and baddest of which is none other than Nyfellryr, as foul a creature as ever there was. Nyfellryr has plagued these lands for many long years. It appeared from who knows where centuries ago and claimed the forests around as it’s own until it was slain by my great grandfather. During the time of The Curse it rose from the ground and then reappeared briefly. 10 years ago, when Siegmund first began his forays into this part of the world, he disturbed the dormant beast and since then a tribe of savage shapechangers has taken to worshipping it as a god. I am certain that the death of Nyfellryr will bring you closer to the end of your quest.”

The party set off from Mycklegarth guided by Finn, the storyteller. Several days journey through the woods led them to the Barghest Quarry, where they found a brutal sacrifice in progress. The survivors of the sled chase, orcs and ogres alike, were chained at the bottom of a chalk quarry pit awaiting some end. The ruined village was shrouded in a fog of chalk dust as the Barghest horde danced and howled to summon their foul god.

Making their way unchallenged through the horde the adventurers descend into the pit where they are set upon by a stampeding undead were-mammoth. Nyfellryr was nearly unstoppable, and the writhing mass of necrotic rot-grubs that constantly consumed it’s regenerating flesh were flung in a spray from the huge beast wreaking havoc amongst the living.

After a hard fight the party slew the beast, causing panic amongst the watching Barghest horde. The party decide to hasten back to Mycklegarth, before the Barghest reassemble and launch a revenge attack on the village. Leaving the quarry they find a series of chalk caves and a runic circle where once stood a warforged.

Back at Mycklegarth they are met by rejoicing villagers and carried shoulder high to Snøflgrøf. Whilst the villagers prepare to defend against the Barghest attack, Snøflgrøf asks to speak to the party in the privacy of a mud dwelling.

There he reveals that, while Nyfellryr was a terrible threat, it was not the beast they were seeking. In return for ridding Mycklegarth of this foe he tells them that it is he who is Fenryr’s heir, and offers to lay down his life to prevent Ragnarok destroying the Feywild, the land of his forefathers.

The party reluctantly acknowledge that they must do this for the greater good. Oellorn is torn as he sees that the killing of a goodly soul must serve a higher purpose. It is Karl who strikes the first blow. Attempting a mighty and well-placed death strike he finds that he has only inflicted a minor wound on the spawn of Fenryr.

Just then, Finn and his captains burst into the room, announcing that the Barghest horde has reached the village. They stop in horror at the scene that confronts them. With the cry “ASSASSINS!” Finn and the villagers tranform into werewolves and attack, some shielding their king with their bodies, others leaping ontop of the adventurers.

A savage battle ensues in which the werewolves try to drag the struggling Snøflgrøf to safety while they battle the party. In the closely confined chaos of the fight, first Karl, then Oellorn, then Aengus are infected with a form of ‘Full Moon Fever’ which sends them into a feral rage, attacking friend and foe alike, only the warforged Thunder appears to be immune to the effects of the werewolves’ bite.

After a long and brutal struggle the party succeed in killing Snøflgrøf and the werewolf captains, to find that the entire village is under attack around them. Ferocious Barghest wolves are locked in combat with the villagers who have all transformed into werewolves. The only way out of the village appears to be through the midsts of this savage battle.

Sigurd's Retreat

Whilst recovering from the effects of a near-fatal Drow poison, Sigurd retreats to a small fisherman’s house on the black stony beaches of Skeinwael. There she completes her spiritual initiation and becomes an Oracle of Kord. She studies the natural forces around her.

By day the ebb and flow of the tide, the gentle rise and fall of the waves, the movements of schools of luminescent dragonfish as they swim through the shallows of the Kindersee, all these things speak of change to come.

By night the dark water becomes still and calm, a mirror onto the heavens where each reflected star is said to represent the soul of a hero. In the land where the brave may live forever, dead heroes dance in ripples on the surface of the sea.

For those that did not die well, their suffering in the underworld reveals itself in the Nightshade blossom that is found on the moor. A white flower with a black center the Nightshade is said to be Hel’s own flower.

Sigurd now partly dwells in the land of the dead, the stars above, their reflections below, the nightshade in the field, and the Ghulra clusters (see An Urn of Questions) that she has lain out in patterns in the straw-strewn ground of her cabin. Sigurd still dreams of Ragnarok, and come the dawn the rainbow remains clear in her minds eye. This is Kord’s land. Beyond Himinborg people talk of the gods of Aelfheim, they are but invaders in Kord’s bright gift. Lady Snowshoes, The Hanged Man, The Boon Companion, even Hel herself. One day they shall all be gone and the strength of the One God shall remain.

Worlds above and worlds below reveal their secrets to the Oracle of Kord. Making sense of the voices will take time, and her journey is just begun.


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