My brothers and sisters had done well the previous weeks, winning two of the four competitions given to the realm by the Gods of the Aesir and their Giant opponent, Thrym. The competitions it seemed were used to sort out who amongst the nations was strong enough to gain the gaze and help of the two sides. It seems to me, as the sunset with the arrival of my caravan to the designated campaign lands, that Odin had once again smiled on my Felgardian brothers and sisters.
Once many many moons ago, Odin had smiled on the lands of Asaheim, as we toiled beneath a blanket of constant fog to grow our crops to feed our people, Odin gave us back the sun. A sunrise, to many that saw it, seemed like the eye of the All-Father gazing on the lands and finding our people worthy of the survival we had fought so hard for, for those long centuries, but that is a story to let the historians tell.
The Black Raven, Jarl Wulfvin Sturmbjorne, always traveled with a long train of Caravans behind him. Everything the Jarl needed was within grasp; Ravens to send the messages needed, mead to fill his nights, food to fill his plates and train upon train of weapons for his brothers and sisters to use.
This time, the weapons trains carried something beyond worth to the Jarl. Long had he toiled in the forges and temples of Tyr to create his most holy possession, Spiderbane. Spiderbane was the Jarl’s holy great-axe, blessed by Tyr to destroy all the evil in the realm under its massive blade. Spiderbane had gotten it’s name when the Felgardians were camping in an unknown lands and the ground around them erupted with giant eight-legged beasts the size of a direwolf. It was with fire and blade of this axe that the Felgardians destroyed their foe, earning the axe great favor with the Jarl.
When the Jarl arrived, he noted the tent of his Ronin brother, Vyr the Shadowwolf, but could not find him.
Having unpacked his caravans, he was approached by a messenger in black and red. His skin was like the scales of a lizard, where the scales met what could only be described as skin, it was twisted blistered and bleeding.
“Contract. Gold. Yes.” the haggard lizard being croaked out from a voice that seemed to be as dry as desert sand.
“You wish to hire me?” Wulfvin asked inquisitively
“Good. Follow.” the lizard turned and walked away without waiting for Jarl Wulfvin to speak or take a step.
Wulfvin followed the lizard creature up the hill to his camp. A steady wind had carried the smell of death from the lizard into Wulfvin’s nostrils. The lizard man smelled of death, not fresh death but weeks of decay, wet, swampy decay and blood.
The camp was one that Wulfvin should’ve expected. having had some dealings with the beings of Ched Nasad, he should have expected the massive effigies to their demon gods, the rotting corpses nailed to the walls of their rag-tag disorder of a camp, the ever-burning fires and the images reflected in the fire by the taints of foul magics.
Next to the fire the lizard man stopped, pointed and ran off to throw himself in his seat; a pile of fish heads and bones. At least that explained the smell.
The creatures that the lizard had pointed to Jarl Wulfvin had some contact with in the past. A Tall demon-man named Father Caedes, and his son in dented and bloodied plate, Game awaited the Jarl.
“Greetings Caedes” nodding, “Game. What can I do for you”
Caedes, contempt always in the pits of his eyes spoke first. “We need the strength of Felgard. Tonight, and in the games.”
“Why does the mighty Ched Nasad need the help of my group of mercenaries? Do you not have the strength of your gods?” Wulfvin asked
“We always have the strength of the gods”, Caedes began grinding his teeth, handing reaching to his waist.”We ask for the help of Felgard because many of our more bloodied commanders are elsewhere, and many must leave this night to deal with things… that are none of your concern. My son here will be in charge of this battalion of hordelings.”
“Then you are leaving?” Wulfvin asked, knowing that Caedes would not relinquish command without its necessity
“Yes.” Caedes said curtly
“What price do you offer?” Wulfvin asked
“We will pay you the same we paid when we had you fight for the Drow, against the Northern men.” Caedes said, without a hint of the possibility of negotiations.
“That is quite a sum. If I remember correctly, you jumped the asking price to ensure your victory in securing our contract during this war. We have a map. It arrived a few minutes before your messenger. How much for that?” Wulfvin spoke calmly, knowing that one does not kill a man during contract negotiations.
“You have too many questions. We will give you 200 gold for the map and the price of your men will be the same as last time. No different.” Caedes’ already red face began to grow darker with anger.
“Very well. you have a contract” Wulfvin reached out with his hand. The two shook hands, binding them both to a Felgardian Contract of Arms. Bound by honor, Released in death.
“Keltor!!! Take this human back to where you found him. We will summon you again when the time to decipher the map is here. And don’t worry viking, Ched Nasad will get you your gold.” Caedes bellowed.
Jarl Wulfvin nodded to Game, whom had remained silent during the exchange, allowing Caedes to do the negotiations.
Some time later, the rest of his brothers and sisters arrived, this time on the backs of the trained dragons of the Laga Dreki. The Fadir Dreki, Vekin Wyvernkin, liked to show how wrong he had proved the Jarl to be when he opposed the raising of the dragons within the walls of Felgard.
“Greetings brothers and sisters. Set up your tents, we must speak. We are fighting for the Chaos men of Ched Nasad. They are paying us extremely well.” the Jarl said, stern but not a command.
The three arriving on the dragons, Vekin Wyvernkin, Thora Firemane and Zinc the untested, nodded and began the work of unpacking their dragons, whom often liked to walk away while being unburdened.
Throughout the night, more and more Felgardians arrived. Some had been stuck in the mud on the slopes of the Felgardian Mountains, others finishing other tasks and works before coming to the games. The Might of Felgard was in full bloom on the day of the games.
The Games begin
With the rise of the sun, Jarl Wulfvin gazed upon all that come to these games. It seemed that every nation of Darkon had come to these lands in force. Every camp buzzed with activity. The camp cooks working to feed the armies arrayed, the laborers gathering wood, water, staking more and more fortifications into the ground to give their armies an edge, blacksmiths sharpening the edges of blades large and small, squires and pages arming up their charges.
Today would be a day of a great many deaths, and if the Felgardians had anything to say about it, it would at the end of their blades.
The demon-cleric Game approached Jarl Wulfvin as he was breaking his fast.
“I want you to take the Bloody Axe druid” pointing to another creature that Wulfvin was fairly used to seeing, a gator-man “ And any of your men you need, And go find this Naked Druid. Get any information from him you can, then kill him.”
“And where will the remainder of your army be?” Wulfvin asked, always wanting more information. Wulfvin had only reached his current position of power by making wise decisions based on solid information and planning. He did not like to go anywhere without a plan.
“We’re going to scout the other paths in this land and find us some rings.” Game began to laugh. It was a deep, guttural sound, flecked with a voice and in tones that did not belong to Game.
Gathering his men, all arrayed and ready in their complete sets of armor, Wulfvin set down the Straight Road to find the Naked Druid.
Wulfvin encountered one of his people, a Viking.
“Greetings brother, join us!” Wulfvin proclaimed
“I cannot. I seek something here, and cannot aid any who do not aid me.” the viking proclaimed.
“What do you seek? How can we help?” Wulfvin asked.
“I wish to finally go to Valhalla. And I have been told that I need a ring to get there.” the viking said, sadness in his voice.
“The only way I know to get into Odin’s Hall is to die with your weapon in your hand. Believe me when I say that I have tried. The Gods do not find me worthy and I am brought back into existence over and over again, no matter how many fall to my blade before I succumb to the wounds” Wulfvin said, eyes showing the disappointment of not being able to join his ancestors.
“Find me a way to get a ring, and the soul to destroy it, and I will save you a spot at the tables of Valhalla.” the viking said
“You have my word, that If I find a ring and a way to get you a soul, you shall have it.” Wulfvin reached out and shook the vikings hand and bid farewell.
Shortly after leaving the roaming viking behind, the group found a seer of sorts that offered to read their fortunes.
“Only the leader of this party may approach.” The seeress said, soothingly.
“That is me. Cast your bones” Wulfvin commanded, always suspicious of those whom claim to speak for the gods.
The Seeress reached into her bag of bones, and scattered a handful into a circle of salt.
The Seeress’ eyes darted back and forth from bone to bone, a smile slowly making it’s way upon her face.
“The Gods have two things to tell you, Jarl Wulfvin.”
Wulfvin took a step back at that, for he had not introduced himself, hesitantly placing his hand on his dagger at his hip.
The Seeress ignored Wulfvin’s hesitation and continued “The Gods will be watching you this day. Trust none but yourself in the tasks ahead” with that the Seeress faded out of view, as if shrouded by a fog.
Jarl Wulfvin’s companions considered the words of the Seeress and moved on, puzzled.
Little resistance was found on this road to the Naked Druid. Jarl Wulfvin and his men never reached the Naked Druid, turning onto a path that they were convinced would lead them to their target, but never did. Instead they trudged through the woods, only to find a small puzzle box that seemed to be impenetrable and large chest.
Their allies, through the coin of Ched Nasad, The Bloody Axe Mercenary Company joined them then.
The thieves and mages of the party worked in perfect unison in attempting to open the box. Using the tools of the Laga Dreki, the tools used to examine the corpses of strange creatures across the realm to learn more about them, the Chest was opened to reveal another chest, only to have that chest opened and find a third chest.
In frustration the party considered their options.
“The Emperor, he has the key. We must find him.” Joshua said, in a strange accent full of slurs and long pauses.
“Where is he?” someone from the group voiced
“He was going that way!” Joshua pointed. As they began to walk in the designated direction, we heard a conflict and began to run. By the time Wulfvin arrived, the Emperor was dead, his pockets emptied and his combatants had escaped.
Wandering, lost in the woods, the gator-man of Bloody Axe began to speak to the trees, finding hidden chest and puzzle boxes, all of which had already been emptied. We were too late. The games had begun and we were behind the curve.
And so began the day of wandering, unable to find any of the rings.
My companions found a graveyard and began to look for important things within.
Great Wolf Gor, arrayed in his rusted chainmail, hiding his disdain for working with the demon-men behind his mask of leather, wielding his worn, chipped and proven greatsword began to wander.
Jarl Wulfvin followed, not allowing any of his brothers to wander in these lands alone.
Some of the mercenaries of the Bloody Axe followed suit, leaving a few of the thieves and mages to decipher the runes of the graveyard.
Joshua pointed the way that Gor was traveling “Look, there is the Northern Kingdoms. That is Caetrel. We should kill him.”
“Baron Caetrel.” Wulfvin said sternly, looking in the direction of the Baron.
Baron Caetrel waved Jarl Wulfvin over to parlay.
“Sir Wulfvin, we must speak. I mean you no harm.” Baron Caetrel said, showing his empty hands and began speaking again, knowing that Wulfvin was an honorable man and would not attack without provocation. “We need safe passage. We have something that you can appreciate in its destruction.”
“And what might that be, Baron.” Wulfvin said, nodding to Lord Thorson, whom stood next to the Baron.
Grabbing a piece of parchment out of his pocket, the Baron began to read. “This is a way to kill the God Thor. For Good. And we don’t want that.”
“Agreed. You may have passage.” Wulfvin said.
“Make sure the Bloody Axe does not attack us, they don’t like me.” Caetrel said, hesitantly.
A shining man, garbed in the most perfect of whites, standing easily a head above everyone around him came up behind us just then.
“Hail. I am Eban! How goes your quest?” Eban asked, slightly jolly, but full of only barely contained rage.
“You must destroy this, now Thor!” Baron Caetrel said to Eban.
“Quite. Do not speak my true name. For I have enemies here!” Eban’s rage boiling over into a clenched fist, taking the parchment with the other hand. “Take this as gratitude. You might need it”
Eban began to draw out a glowing dagger with golden runes in its blade.
“No, I must not. I promised this to another. You will have your reward later.” Eban said, withdrawing his gift and retreating into the woods. Baron Caetrel and Lord Thorson made their exit at the same time, not wanting to be attacked by the Bloody Axe Mercenaries.
As the part began to regroup at the Jarl’s position, they were joined a few of the demon-men of Ched Nasad.
It was then that they saw the wall. A wall of purple and black.
“Exsilium comes.” Wulfvin said, readying his blades.
It was then that the small contingent of Ched Nasad moved forward, shouting profanities at the enemy and charging.
Jarl Wulfvin watched from afar as he saw the rag-tag group of hordelings get swallowed whole by the legion of plate wearing men.
“That was not wise. Thora, Valkyrie. Take the information and items you have found and get lost in the woods. We will stay here and slow them down. Let none have the information we have gathered here.” Wulfvin commanded, and the sisters of Asaheim departed swiftly, taking some of the Bloody Axe Mercenaries with them.
“Vekin. We need fire. Prepare to burn them to the ground.” Wulfvin commanded again, this was where Wulfvin truly felt alive, commanding his brothers and sisters to victory, preparing for the coming conflicts.
Looking at the battle that had been waged, it looked that the hordelings poorly executed charge had done some damage. The legion had stopped and began to heal its wounded.
It was as he observed the legion healing that Jarl Wulfvin noted the line of the experienced members of Ched Nasad assaulting the back of the Legion.
“Reinforcements. We must go help them now! Vekin, get rid of that fireball. Let the Gods know we are here, burn these woods to the ground!” Wulfvin shouted as he began his run to aide the true force of Ched Nasad.
There were few of the Exislium line still standing when the Felgardians arrived, just the bleeding, gutted and dead.
Sometime later, after wandering the straight road looking for rings, the Felgardians decided to examine some of the other locations marked and deciphered from their prized map.
The cave of Osaar was empty, save for pieces of armor, the bones of the dead and a large mound of rotting flesh that was most definitely Osaar himself.
While leaving the cave of Osaar, the Jarl and his companions ran into their old friend Eban.
“Greetings Thor… I mean Eben.” Wulfvin said, smiling only to be greeted by the barely-contained rage of the Thunder God.
“We have come to find rings, and have yet to see a one.” Wulfvin said.
“The Dwarf has two. He just needs to the souls to destroy them. Do not trust him though. He is a liar. Make sure you watch his destroy the ring.”
“Thank you friend.” Wulfvin said as he began the long climb to the cave of the Dwarf.
Valkyrie, whom had always been better at persuading people than Jarl Wulfvin, walked up to the Cave and spoke to the dwarf, weapon left at the mouth of the cave. This was a violation of one of the tenants of Felgardian law. All Felgardians must be armed or within reach of their weapon; always.
She returned and updated the companions. The dwarf did not have a ring like Eban had said, but had two of the daggers that would steal a soul from the dead.
Wulfvin handed over what wealth he had brought and found on this voyage and Valkyrie returned with a dagger.
“Let us collect souls” Wulfvin said, handingly the dagger with careful precision.
Making their way back to the encampment of Ched Nasad, the Jarl saw the men and women of the League of Angry Peasants charge a line of Chosen Blood and Waagh!, only to be surrounded quickly.
“Valkyrie, take the dagger to Ched Nasad and wait.” Wulfvin commanded as he began to run to the aide of the peasants.
Two of his foes died quickly before his sword. The last thing Wulfvin saw was a flash of searing flames as he charged a foe, then blackness.
Jarl Wulfvin awoke again in his camp, surrounded by his brothers and sisters.
“I take it we did not win that battle then…” Wulfvin said, disappointed.
“No. They had reinforcements lying in wait. There was nothing to do but kill and die.” Gor said, somewhat pleased.
“Let us find us some souls then.” Wulfvin said, as he got up, grabbed his weapons once again and started down the roads to where the armies were fighting.
The first soul was easy enough to get. Wulfvin ran into his Viking friend from earlier in the day, whom was being led by the Seeress and Eban back to the dwarf. The Seeress claimed to have a ring to get the Viking into Valhalla.
Wulfvin could see through the lies of this Seeress, and when they paused, Wulfvin drew the dagger and placed the tip in between her ribs swiftly and quietly, feeling a pulse of raw energy and life force fill his hands and the blade of the dagger.
Waving to Thora, Wulfvin had the body looted before her companions knew what had happened. Nothing.
“Your Seer has lied. She has no ring.” Wulfvin said
“What have you done? You have ruined it!!!” the viking shouted!
“I have done no such thing, I am getting a soul to be used to get you a ring, friend. This Seer has lied from the very first words. None speak to the gods the way she does. There is no ring on her. Check for yourself.” Wulfvin said, turned and walked away.
Only the Jarl’s companions followed, the Viking seemed to realize the truth behind his words.
The Felgardians made their way to the shrine of death they saw earlier in the day. It was there, that Valkyrie cleansed the blade to make use of it again.
As they made to leave the shrine, the Felgardians ran into two men carrying a third; Davey, a peasant. Davey was writhing in agony, begging for release from this pain.
Jarl Wulfvin looked around his men, knowing each of them and the abilities the gods had given them. He shook his head.
Davey lay twitching and screaming on the ground. Wulfvin took the dagger from Valkyrie’s hands, knelt down next to Davey and said “This is all I can do for you.” With that, Jarl Wulfvin thrust the dagger into Davey’s stomach, blood boiling over the hilt of the blade, his body shuddered and his eyes went blank. “Be at peace.” Wulfvin said, wiping the blade on his leg.
“Valkyrie, cleanse the blade and we must leave.” Wulfvin commanded, gathering his weapons.
“ORCS!” Vekin shouted from behind him.
Wulfvin turned to see a group of slavering, feral orcs charging his way.
“Stand firm, they are orcs. Slaughter them as they approach” Wulfvin said calmly.
The orcs charged and died as expecting, failing to dent even the lightest of armor amongst the Felgardians.
Men in green, covered in pox, boils and smelling of decay approached the way that the Orcs had come, Nurgle had arrived. Alongside them was the grey and black of Minathalan.
“Who killed my orcs?” One of the pox scarred Nurglings asked.
“I did.” Wulfvin said, stepping forward.”Problem?”
“No, they are just orcs after all, you can’t really control them” the nurgling said, trying to dismiss the bloodlust heard on the Jarl’s voice.
“They were your Orcs? I guess you gotta die with them then.” Wulfvin said and stepped into combat with the nurglings and allies.
The combat was long and drawn out, none taking full advantage of the poor positioning of the others.
It was not until Saint Valeris stepped, with his men, that the battle fell in the Felgardian’s favor. Knowing victory would be theirs, Wulfvin charged in, only to meet the Blackness again.
Wulfvin woke again in his camp, surrounded by his brothers and sisters.
“Did we win that time?” Wulfvin asked, a his head pounding from the return to his body.
“Yes. Only Zinc, Vekin and you fell. Don’t charge in like that next time.” Gor said
“I was heated. I longed for more blood on my sword.” Wulfvin tapped his trusted sword at his hip.
“Well, it was stupid. Here. Eat. Truce has been called for now.” Gor handed Wulfvin a bowl of potatoes, carrots and a leg of chicken.
Wulfvin ate quickly, knowing that the truce would not last long.
Wulfvin was right, the truce did not last long, and the Felgardians were on the prowl once again.
The sun had set, and the final ring had descended into the field, where two mighty armies were fighting over it.
Wulfvin and his Ched Nasad allies lusted to join the fray, but their feet were stuck and could not move.
Wulfvin could hear a voice in his head saying “YOU MAY NOT JOIN THIS FIGHT. ONLY AFTER IT IS RESOLVED MAY YOU KILL AGAIN.”Shaking his head, he waited.
The battle was over, the ring claimed, yet the dead rose from the battlefield and lived again to strike back at the foes. Wulfvin fought and fought until the Blackness took him again.
The final ring was gone. The games had ended. It was time to get our gold and drink mead.
The Felgardians feasted well that night, for they had fought hard, with little guidance from the demon-men whom had contracted them and had overheard rumors that they had been victorious in their efforts. More Felgardians began arriving to take part in the following days, but that is not the tale of The Ring Games, so we will not discuss that here.