Herein lies the log of events taking place between the 42nd of Mittern and 5th of Sunmar. The weather was favourable. And all in company in good health, except for myself, who was already tired from my previous journey. I, Entity, sworn to the Lord Earl Westingford of Westmarch, put pen to this telling of events. Know that within is all one needs to find Hess, if one has time and tenacity.
Our number was four:
Gathered to make an attempt to reach Hess the group gathers for the journey to the skull platform. Spirited away safely as always, we arrive in Sarek. Here it is also summer as the now missing snow tells. We strike out straight for our destination, heading north west into the pine forest. We travel for 24 miles in that direction before making a camp. Our spirits are high as the weather is pleasant, though not much is said between us. As we continued our journey that next day we hit a crevasse, and so need go around it. We took the path south west alongside it, a poorer choice it would turn out, yet not disastrous. What we ought have done was go north and east, thus walking by the Fane of the Blood-axe and finding the river and the bridge there which we used on our way home. So we would have saved many a day of travel. But we did not and therefore went along the crevasse for another 12 miles before we needed rest once more and there we came upon a cabin. It had been recently stocked, perhaps a summer task and the attic was brimming with goods. This cabin also lay near a small spring, making it an excellent stop if one were to travel the road and not mind a detour for water. Ida found the spring as she was out hunting, and returned with the news of it, as well as two rabbits, making food for a man and six days. The following day saw us still wandering such, but only for a further 6 miles; where the crevasse ended and met up with the road, only to continue onwards on the other side of the road. It seems that both road and crevasse would be hidden under snow otherwise, and unwary travellers in spring or autumn ought not be so; for one might fall in. Sometime early that day we also found that a campfire had been set not long ago, with tracks of boots heading east, I think it was in the afternoon, thus placing it near the road and the end of the crevasse, making me think they travelled east not by woods but on the road.
The forest left us here, and we entered a wide plain, now attempting to make our way back whence we had come, having lost days to the crevasse. And yet Vondal slept, or perhaps raged elsewhere, for calm was the wind and cloud. North west was now our direction for 12 miles, then north for 6. During this day we passed by trees which had been clawed upon by some great animal, I tended their bark with magics as the other broke for a quick rest and then we set off. Also, I do not recall where on our path, was another campfire; this one had bones scattered all around, and so we left quickly.
We camped again, and the next day we managed our way further north, 6 miles into our journey was a crag, and it seemed to open unto some cave or other deep down. We had not time to investigate and so pressed on. So we hit the river 6 miles farther north and sending Valdin, and Sphere, east and west respectively, we waited for news of a crossing. For the river here was maybe 30 feet across and very deep with clear snow melt from the north and west. Sphere told that west and north the river ran ever more fierce, but Vladin said east it was wider, calmer too. Ida, our guide, said that rivers run calmer and shallower where they are wide, and so we headed east to find crossing and so we did 12 miles down river. We made our crossing and so found a cabin there. It had been damaged by claws, examination showed that the creature was two legged, and yet the marks were all at waist height. Inside was no better; blood there was and more damage. I set about mending the shelter with magics and this would turn our fates. For it seems there are powers that be in Sarek which feed of such, and they came for us, invisible and hungry. We tried to fight, to block the entrance and so lock them inside, but we could not hear them, not see them and when one walked straight through Sheik, or so he's told me since, it started to dawn on us that retreat was an option best taken. Barakus and Valdin were our rescue; for so we could make our escape safe and sound, travelling two miles east.
We made camp once more, some miles from the cabin and now Ida told more of the creatures which had come down upon us, calling them followers, or spawn; which she was not sure, of Nemir. They sense magic from miles away as it flares in their otherwise blind eyes, so they gather to feed. As she told, we made camp, and then an elk appeared. No normal elk either, for it was such in size that none before have been larger. Ida, inspired by the mounts of Eddon and Sheik, approached it with calling sounds and open palm. Indeed it seemed to take to it, but only for a moment, and as we made ready to fight, she suddenly changed her tone of voice and now the elk responded. She fed it some berries from her rations while petting it, and until she tried to mount it all was fine. But then it was not; and the elk attacked. However, such are elks that even if big, they are not a danger to four armed and ready; we drove it off. The night was peaceful after and we had rest.
We now struck north west once more and so, even as I began to doubt Ida's honesty about her claimed intent as our guide, we came upon a stone. It had a leather band with hair tied fast onto it as a crown, marking it fane to a god. Clearly the site of ritual, and ritual sacrifice at that, the only sign of life nearby was a leather tent. I argued with Ida, coming out into the open about my doubts and this place she had taken us to, and when pressed she confessed that she had been lost, but that this was the landmark she had searched for. I wished that we press on; for this was not the forest we sought, but it was argued that perhaps whoever lived in the tent might know the way, and so I was satisfied by sending Sphere to look north for us. Sphere returned to tell that beyond the hills only miles north of us was the start of a twisted woodland. Yet we stayed, for perhaps the stranger might know ought of the land and the dangers ahead. And well was it that I took advice and calm head with my companions; for they were right indeed. Me and Ida went out to hunt once more, I asked Valdin come with me should need be for haste, and learned from talking with Sheik that Valdin was once a normal horse, but wandered into the mists. There the horse found the ancient soul of a man sworn to duty beyond death; Valdin. As was the man’s want and custom he took possession of the horse and so Valdin could leave the mists once more to seek a means to complete its duty. It seemed to me that Vladin had done so before, being many horses over the years. Thus I thanked Valdin, not Sheik for the favour of company as it was Valdin who chose to go of reasoned free will, an ability more horses ought to practice in my opinion. Yet I returned empty handed, not knowing what men would eat. However Ida had success once more and came back with two birds to be plucked, cooked and consumed.
A man came to us at twilight, a word used to set time and not scene for indeed the sun does not set in Sarek this time of year, and instead lingers red in the north before riding once more. The man was as the tent; clad in leathers and hides, and seemingly without forged metal. So it told he was a hermit and by closer inspection Sphere found the figure male, with amber eyes; slitted like those of a cat. He spoke to us, naming himself Hirkar, shaman of Hess, and likely it seems too. He calls me spawn of the beloved of Kine and warns me of entry into the forest, and yet he is willing to guide us. We all make camp around the tent and in the morning Hirkar leads us into the hills and the forest beyond. The branches seem to move out of his path and well is that, for here no mortal may travel unhindered, and, says Hirkar, her children would shred us bone from tendon. He leads us on and we seem to lose track of time, travelling ever deeper. We come before a house, old, unkempt and filthy with refuse, trash and old bones, even humanoid ones. Hirkar leads us inside to a circular room where he has a desk. He mixes a potion and explains that once he drinks it we shall have words with her, and that she has limited time. I ask that I go first, for I seek not only to rid myself of Lithar's mark, but others as well. They graciously agree, and so I am allowed to make my attempt as Hirkar downs the potion; blood and herbs all. His eyes roll back into his skull; showing a white which we thought not there, and he then speaks…
Hess is much like seraphs, and, I think other gods, for she does as she pleases in her own manner, and starts by addressing us all in turn, calling Ida daughter of Koros, me a spawn of the belowed of Kine and of Sheik and Eddon as children of Voros. She speaks her hatred of the Masters who supposedly sowed the first seed of my people, she speaks of Sheik's and Eddon's gods, and that she is saddened by their fate; not being able to come with them as the dwarves' progenitor did. I attempt to ask my favour, and she seems almost insulted that I thought one such as myself, a Colossi, would be allowed to enter and leave her domain alive. We talk of Lithar, his purpose is made clear; to hunt those who waste and take where there is no need. It seems to me a just cause and I explain that we did not mean do such in the ruin of the cave, for we saw not food in the human meat, we saw not shelter in the cave, but a dangerous hole in which some monster might lurk to prey upon the hunters and providers of the land. So we learned one of the wills of Hess; that one take only what one is owed by the land. She says that if one in the party would speak for me, and take the mark upon themselves, there to be inactive for a year and a day, to be removed upon the completion of a task, she will indeed agree to remove it, but not from all, just me alone. The others she says, shall have to come before her themselves to seek their freedom. I dare not ask this, I do not ask this, of any of my companions, yet Ida unwaveringly speaks up. She says she seeks her own boon of Hess, and that she will take on this task, in exchange for powers that would grant her passage through the lands of Sarek. Hess agrees, and sets Ida the task of finding and slaying a man, a poacher and, in her eyes, pest upon the land. Ida agrees also, and though I make clear that I expect no such sacrifice on her behalf for me, she makes the bargain. Hess turns to the remaining two, but they would ask no boon of her, and she says she is sorry to hear so, for there is much they could ask, and she answer.
So Hirkar regains his senses, and sets about mixing another draught. He offers it to Ida and it is he who explains her task, to find the man, two days north of here where the children of Horsh dwell, and to slay him. He sets the deadline; one year and a day, and bids Ida drink. She does, and her eyes turn into those of a cat; yet blue still. I find them unique and when she asks me I say so. Her final boon from Hess is a single hair, a foot long, to be used for a shrine in her name which Ida wishes to build. Thus Hirkar leads us out of the cursed woods, and I ask that he tell me Hess' wish that I might write it down, for it seems to me that the people of the land are not as aware of her wishes as they could stand to benefit to be. Yet he would not for Hess does not wish her word writ, but rather learned, she wishes not to make scholars, but wise men and women; survivors. So I am told to tell of my story and meeting, and so I agree to do, as the people of Sarek ought know what Hess thinks wrong before they do it, and so choose with open eyes their own path. Ida consults with Hirkar, and they seem to be in understanding with one another, she names him brother fore we leave.
She now takes us east, to the sea indeed. But ever dangerous is Sarek, and here lay ship smashed upon the shore, bodies of men thrown up on the shore. And not by storm of Vondal, but by creatures of the sea; they have been stabbed by spear and dagger, and their chests crushed in by suction-cupped tentacles, others broken by claw and force. This may well the work of the Draugr; sworn enemies of Thane Rolf's people and foe to all of Volkenheim. Not wishing part of this fate we leave and make camp elsewhere. So we come to the river where it meets the sea and west by few miles we find a bridge to cross by. We pass by due east of the Blood-axe's Fane and so come finally to Volkenheim's lands. Here I ask that we detour to meet the Thane, for I wish to bring him news and tidings. And Ida also, has business there and so our course is set. I tell Sheik and Eddon for the blood they take and inspect, to make sure enemies do not pass over their threshold, and how they do not keep the blood after, but destroy it. Eddon would still go, but not Sheik, who would wander the shore with Valdin for some time. Sphere stays with them as messenger in need, and we approach the settlement of Volkenheim. The sentries go to fetch Thane Rolf and he greets us warmly as always, but, again as always, insists that the test be taken. Ida turns her head so her eyes might not be seen, and I attempt to cover for her by telling loudly of our adventure, but Hildr, mother of the Than and seer of Volkenheim, bids her meet her eyes and so Ida is revealed, but instead of fear or anger, her change is taken as proof of our story, and so my words, that Hess, goddess of Life, Death and the Natural order, wishes that all take only that which they are owed and not waste. Thane Rolf, wise and understanding of my purpose sees the need for this to be known, and so bids that word be spread of this. Ida and Hildr talk, and it soon becomes clear that Ida has commissioned a totem, animal heads in pole with Hess' on top; in there to be entombed the single hair of Hess. She wishes it raised by the platform so travellers from Westmarch may give tribute and service fore setting out, and perhaps take wisdom from Hess.
I introduce Eddon to The Rolf Wyrmbreaker, and they exchange cultural and titular knowledge. For the rites of the Sarek people are not as ours, yet not alien. They select ruler not by trial of arms by other men or by succession, but by duel, the Holmgang. A ritual battle, duel even, between two who would settle a dispute, take territory or defend honour. It seemed a kin to the duels of honour we have, but Eddon explains that we rather use lines of succession and a system of nobility, where those who rule teach their children the task and set them to it in their stead upon their death. Thane Rolf would know if that means one cannot take rule by force and if perhaps one ruler would set men against another's in what the Thane seems to think, and I agree, a waste of life. Eddon iterates that this is not the custom, but that war, battle, is something which happens indeed, but that those who so claim power, are named usurper and so not always seen as just. Such is not our system of duels however, and Eddon details that nobles hold the right of trial by combat, whereby they may prove their right by arms as the gods shall see fit that the on in the right wouldst win such a contest. I mention that indeed our duels of honour and the Holmgang seem similar enough to me, and as Champion, representative in duels of honour for the Earl Westingford of Westmarch, it is my business to know such. The Thane warms greatly to Eddon, and tells the story of how he came by the name of Wyrmbreaker. A giant breed of wyrm, as snake and dragon crossed, lives in the oceans of Sarek. They are mayhaps of Vondal for they may breathe thunder and lightning. He details that they grow to be as long as sixty foot, but the one he fought and bested was fifteen. It sounds a great deed and "It would not crawl onto land here in Volkenheim to face my wrath now would it?" said Thane Rolf when I inquired if the fight was at sea. So we learn the serpent was fought not on land, but at sea, swimming, and the feat takes on heroic proportions.
Thane Rolf makes gift unto Eddon a pelt, one from the summer's Dire Bear hunt. A massive thing with bone plates protruding. I carry it for Eddon who gives thanks and return gift of a flask of oil, as he is not in store of gifts on his travels. The Thane shows some interest in the material used to make it and would offer us room and board for the night. I decline, saying that we left one of our number wandering the shore and that I would not leave him there alone by night. Neither will Eddon and though the Thane had hoped to spar with him, to which Sir Eddon modestly replies that he could not think himself of ability such as the Wyrmbreaker, and we make our leave, being given food for the journey. Ida rejoin us and we set forth. We take the shoreline as our guide and travel south and east. We meet Sheik and so continue along the shore for some time, picking seashells and talking. The bear pelt, being in excess of one hundred and fifty libra pondo is laden upon Barakus as we travel onwards. Sarek has not shown its face fore blizzard and claw have marked you, and the claw makes its attempt as we are set upon by Antseli. Feral and cunning as ever they come upon us from what must be caves or creases in the rocky shore and as a larger pool is inland, they manage a flanking attack. They go straight past me; targeting Ida with ferocious abandon, but she stands proud; calling on Vondal and maybe now also Hess as she turns them away with her divine powers. I bid her step behind me also, and so add the burning of fire to that of the divine light. With Eddon and Sheik stirring their mounts into the foray we defeat them with ease. So we strike an arc around the hills and head up to the platform; now ready to be home at last.
Thus ends my telling of events. Know that not all has been set forth herein as much was said and done which is of less import.
Notes: We found a dead stag somewhere on our journey; I do not recall when or where but I took its antlers.
Early on our journey we also saw more of the pit-traps, now obvious and open as the snow has gone.