Friday, September 19, 2014

Art 5

The Hill Giant Chief - Nosnra's Saga Part II

The Great Hall was empty, though it had rung with peals of hearty laughter, choruses of song and the clash and clatter of good-natured rough-housing late into the night. Now an icy wind blew in from the wide ventilation slots in the roof above the central firepit; a massive circle of stone filled with bones and ash.

Nosnra's footsteps echoed across the hall as he followed Ursoth's snuffling path. The bear padded slowly on all fours nosing among the sawdust liberally thrown over the floor to soak up spilt ale as well as spilt blood, and stopped from time to time to swallow some tidbit left by the now slumbering revelers. The pair made a slow, directionless journey, the bear at its own pace and following only its nose, Nosnra walking behind, uneasy but distracted by stray thoughts and half remembered dreams from his interrupted sleep.

The hall appeared to him layered in memories of the past; His father, Tofig, sitting at the high table while he, a mere boy, carried forward the body of a centaur warrior and placed it before him; His father stepping down and proudly cutting the heart from the beast, placing it into his youthful hands then marking him with the centaur's lifeblood, placing on his brow the symbol of adulthood. Engulfen, his father's witan, a priest, wielder of magics and advisor combined, stood at his shoulder.

Laying his hands upon the heart Engulfen summoned the power of the kindred, living, dead and yet to be. There was a burning that passed into Nosnra's outstretched hands then the heart began to beat. It pulsed with an eldritch life and burned at his mouth and tongue as he bit and chewed the tough flesh.

"Now the beast's strength is yours!" Engulfen said to the crowded hall. "Now the strength of the kindred is yours!" he called out. "Now your strength is one with the kindred!" he shouted.

Tofig stood before his son and held out a knife, its blade made of jagged rock, its hilt carved from the horn of some ancient beast. "Now you are a Warrior!" he called out, and his voice rang with the pride that was his renown. "Take this warrior's blade," he said to Nosnra, "as my father gave it to me, and his to him, as the first father gave it to his son in the dawn of days when the kindred were born."

Nosnra reached out his blood-covered hands and took the blade reverently from his father. The dagger felt alive in his grasp, like an extension of his own self, and for a moment he felt the presence of each hand that had held it as he did now, a line disappearing into the distant past. Kneeling he severed the beast's tail then stood, feeling taller than any other within the hall and held it for all to see. The cheer that met him almost knocked him back; it roared till the rafters shook then faded into the grey mist of memory and times past.

 Nosnra stood alone amid the Great Hall, but for his bear Ursoth. The wind blew a bonechilling stream and moaned a sad wordless tale that he could not understand. 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Witch 2

The Hill Giant Chief - Nosnra's Saga - Part I

The Hill Giant Chief - Nosnra's Saga - Part I

He awoke with a start. Pushing the heavy fur-cover aside and sitting up he wiped the beads of sweat from his thick brow with the back of his hand. Something was not right, he could feel it in the marrow of his bones. Placing his feet upon the cold, wooden floor, worn smooth by years of use, he cradled his head in his hands and listened.

At first he heard nothing, stray thoughts and the ghosts of dreams still inhabiting his mind, then, the breathing of his bear and the beating of his own heart. The walls were thick; the boles of ancient trees trimmed of branches but set in place still bark covered and green. They had a voice of their own, creaking and groaning, as the wind, the weather and time wore at their very hearts. Outside, beyond the wall of his chamber, a hound bayed then a chorus began as the pack joined in. He could hear a yelp of pain and a shout, loud and commanding, then silence.

All seemed well. No stirrings or misplaced sounds, yet his unease did not cease. He was bound to this place, born upon this very hill when this had been his father's steading, Tofig the Proud, a thegn of great renown. Now the steading was his, and he was chieftain over a dozen thegns, and these walls, the stones and the very oerth of this hill itself were a part of him. There was a presence, a wrongness, it twisted in his bowls and allowed him no rest.

Nosnra, Chief of Thegns, Master of Nidaros, greatest of all hill giant steadings (Trondheim in the tongue of the Frost Giants), balanced on one foot in the cold dark of night. He wavered and nearly fell as his other foot caught in the leg of his hide trousers. Somewhere nearby he had his boots, they took some time finding; one was under the bed and the other was under the bear. Ursoth, his pet bear, was slow to rouse.

* * *

The hall was cold, the great fireplace in the eastern wall had long since gone out. A cool flow of air came from the passage to the north where it lead to an outside door opening on the yard where the hounds ran and played. He had not sat in his hall this past night, there had been, instead, a great feast, then a private meeting. Zervan, the ambassador from the Cloud Giant Confederation, a more indecisive, stuck-up, self-important bunch he had never known, had talked until Nosnra was sure his tongue would fall out. A twisted, lying, weaselly tongue at that. Those giants had more than their heads in the clouds, but some, it seemed, might be talked down to oerth. He shook his head. Dealing with Zervan was always unpleasant. Just thinking about it made his head ache and throb. Ursoth gave a growl of sympathy, aware of his master's distracted mood and pained expression. Nosnra reached down and patted the bear's back and smiled, but it did not last. The feeling of unease returned like a recurring movement at the edge of vision which cannot be discerned no matter how quickly you turn to catch it. The mere thought of a fire warmed him, but he felt a tug of worry that there was some action he should be taking, and was not.

No time for a fire. Warmth from action. He would walk through the corridors of the steading himself. That eased him a little. The wall around the fireplace was festooned with skulls, skins and shields of defeated foes. Nosnra ran a hand across them. He tussled the hair of a fierce rival chieftain whose body lay among the charnel pit in the dungeons below, but whose head shouted an eternal scream of silent defiance. He pinched the nose of a proud dwarven lord, the look of shocked disbelief set forever on his face, and carefully fingered the razor's edge of an enchanted sword belonging to some forgotten knight.

Why could he not set himself in motion? Some dread foreboding nagged at him, but the smallest distraction served to pause him in his course. With a shout he could raise his people from their slumber, but his pride stayed his voice. What would he have them do; Chase the night-phantoms away like a child in the creche crying in the dark? Nosnra banished such thoughts. He gathered his will and heeded the warning which called out from within him. Letting Ursoth lead, he would follow the bear's inclination, at least for the moment. They left through the western arch heading for the great hall. Ursoth no doubt would take them to the kitchens and the promise of a midnight snack. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Minstrel Tales - The Bold Hommlet Farmer (repost)

Minstrel Tales - The Bold Hommlet Farmer

The Bold Hommlet Farmer

Here is a ditty that is about a small village on the road north to Verbobonc. In the inns and taverns of the area a quick gulp of ale is normally taken at the end of each chorus.

One evening of late into Hommlet I strayed
and bound for Verbobonc I was making me way
At the Welcome Wench some time I delayed
For to wet me auld whistle with Keoish

To Hommlet, To Hommlet,
To Hommlet I strayed
To Hommlet, To Hommlet
To Hommlet I strayed
The road to Verbobonc was dry as a bone
The road to Verbobonc
Was dry as a bone

I scarcely had travelled a mile of the road
When I heard a dispute in a farmer's abode
There stood a bandit, an ill looking toad
And the wife of a bold Hommlet farmer


"You're a robber" the bold farmer's wife she replied
"You're as bad as a goblin with whom you abide
But the men of Burne's Badgers will put down your pride
They'll be here like lightning in front of a storm


I spaded me fist and I picked up me stick
and behind that foul bandit like a mouse I did trip
Then with all my strength I gave him a lick
and the bold farmer's wife was adoring
(Loosely adapted from 'The Bold Tenant Farmer')