Blood on the Snow

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In the northeastern reaches of Darkwood, 50 miles from the coast of the Frozen Sea, a community of 400 hardy souls scrapes out an existence in the forested valleys along the edge of the Ozgarn Mountains. They call themselves the Nord, descendants of seagoing explorers from Icelund.

You are of these people.

The village of your birth is in a thickly-treed valley bottom and protected by a ring of 10' thick thorn bushes and sharpened spear-like stakes pointing outwards. This mostly keeps the wolves and trolls away.

A trout-filled creek, which surges up to 5' deep, 30' across in spring, runs through middle of village, requiring a simple wooden bridge. Your huts are built of mud and branches and hides, though one squat stone building houses King Valgard and his family.

Domesticated dairy goats and sheep wander around in the village, and daily foraging trips into the forest bring back berries, nuts, and venison. A dozen horses are used for occasional heavy labor.

The elevation is 7000', and snow remains on the ground well into early summer.

Late most summers, tax collectors from Nottingham pay a visit, and an uneasy negotiation takes place over several days. They often bring spices, fabrics, small tools, and trinkets to soften their demands for what little gold and gems the village has pried from the ground over the previous year. Some in the village question the value of compliance, but Valgard says it is necessary as long as the Nord inhabit these lowland valleys.

It was not always so; the Nord lived among the rocky crags of the Ozgarns for generations. It is a sad tale, known to you all, that brought your people down from those heights.

One summer morning, instead of tax collectors, a different Nottingham group arrives: Bishop Salvatore, three soldiers (Rolf, Mads, and Erik), and a half-elven ranger (Quillian), all on horseback.

They meet with Valgard and his advisers all day. At the outdoor firelit feast that night, King Valgard, flanked by the newcomers and Elder Einar, makes the following statement:

 We are the Nord.

 100 years ago, ours was a proud people. We worked high in the mountains, 
 the mighty Ozgarns. We worked the land, the harsh and frozen crags, along 
 side the dwarves and hobgoblins and stone giants in a fragile peace. We 
 hunted caribou and musk ox and wolves and mammoths, and mined precious 
 metals from the mountains, and drank joyously in great mead-halls constructed  
 among the cliffs of timbers as thick as a man is tall.

 Our forge, Brannjern, turned out weapons of steel that never broke, 
 never dulled. Our smiths were legendary in their prowess, and to this day,
 Nord Steel, forged in Brannjern, knows no equal.

 Our king in those days, our sovereign leader Asgrim, a mighty warrior, 
 Asgrim Whitebeard,  Asgrim Bloodletter, father to a dozen sons, led our 
 men to victory in countless battles with beasts of the mountains – orcs, 
 ogres, formorians, worg, and ice trolls.

 Some said it was Asgrim's greatsword that made him undefeatable on the battlefield; 
 others said it was his great ruby ring. Both had been passed down over 16 generations, 
 since even before our people crossed the Great Water to this land.

 But Asgrim was to be defeated, and our people nearly destroyed. The ring and sword 
 of Asgrim were not enough to save us.

 One dark afternoon in January, Asgrim led our strongest fathers and brothers and 
 sons into a new valley beyond a deep blue glacier. 

 What befell them is unknown, but all were slain and left to freeze on the ice.
 Our strongest bloodlines were extinguished that afternoon, and we Nord have
 been struggling to regain our former stature since that day.

 You all know Elder Einar. He is the last survivor of that tragic event on the
 ice. As he approaches the dimming of this life, he has made his wishes known to
 me. The Nord must reclaim the Sword and Ring of Asgrim from the battlefield in
 the valley of his doom. 

 And now the opportunity is upon us.

 We have transferred treasures to the tax collectors of Nottingham since I was
 a child. Many have asked me, and before me, my father, King Fromund, why we do
 so. And the answer is here, today. 

 These men of Nottingham, Bishop Salvatore and his soldiers and guide, have come
 to us today to help regain our ancestral treasures.

 They will accompany a group of our strongest Nord on an expedition to the 
 Valley of Doom to find our fallen fathers, put their bones to rest, and bring
 home Asgrim's greatsword, ring, and the rest of the Nord Steel.

King Valgard himself suffers from asthma, and doesn't do well at high elevations. He knows he cannot lead the party, and so must choose a representative to lead the group, preferably a blood relative.

Character Creation

Background Knowledge

Historical Knowledge

You know the story of the reason the Nord came down from the mead-halls in the high country. There is a cultural thread of return to the homeland, which comes up frequently, wistfully. There are some who say that your leaders, Valgard and his father before him, have been simply too weak to lead the people back. There is occasional talk of a split of some kind. But that would be foolish. The Nord are one people.

It is said that the Nord once traded with tribes of thick-bodied hobgoblins, and stone-skinned giants of the mountains. Some say that the retreat after the loss of the king and his top Nord warriors was an emotional, panic reaction. Others say it was strategic -- that either the hobgoblins or giants planned an attack, knowing that after their great loss, the Nord were weakened and vulnerable to defeat.

Who knows the truth? The decision was made to come down from the mountains to this green valley, in the days of your grandmothers' youth.

Cultural, Area Knowledge

These lowland forests are rich in forage, relatively temperate, but plagued by trolls and orcs, who occasionally cause problems for the Nord.

You certainly know some basic woodsman skills. You might even specialize (4+ points) in Tracking or Survival (Forest), if your story explains it. Or, maybe you're the Nord in charge of fish-drying, or arrow fletching, or forge operation, or cooking for the community.

The Nord believe strongly in the family unit, and many are married (for life) before their 20th summer. Fur-clad blond-haired children, possibly yours, scamper cheerfully underfoot.

The Nord only occasionally ride horses. You consider horses beasts of burden, like others might consider oxen. Here in the forage-rich lowlands, with its trout and deer and wild mint and onion and various berries, there's little reason to ride more than a dozen miles in any direction. So you can ride, but rarely do. In the high crags of the Ozgarns, it is said, horses are useless.

Threats in the Forest

When hunting and forage parties (of usually 6-10 Nord) encounter orcs, both sides do a quick calculation: the smaller party retreats or changes direction. When it's not clear, the orcs usually seem to issue a challenge in their own incomprehensible tongue, and if a quick retreat is not begun, they attack. However, these skirmishes usually break off once two or three from either side fall. It is usually a near-even match, and neither the Nord nor the orcs seek to slaughter the other. There is enough forage for all.

Trolls are another story. Trolls are fueled by something other than nature, and are built through-and-through of a tough spongy substance that gives them some sort of super-healing ability. They fight to the death with a great hunger, and no fear, and can only be truly killed by fire. They devour their kills entirely, hair and entrails and even clothing. They are 9' tall, ferocious, and horrible. Nobody ever leaves the village alone. A single man would stand no chance against a hungry troll.

Happily, encounters with these creatures are rare. In a typical year, there might be six orc hunting party encounters, resulting in one or two Nord slain. Every 2-3 years, a troll encounter kills a half dozen. You have all lost friends and/or family to trolls at some point.

Because these violent encounters are regular (though infrequent), the Nord have built the thorn-wall defenses, and kept up their longstanding tradition in training all youngsters in the use of the spear, the spear, the bow, and the shield, as well as hand-to-hand techniques (Wrestling). All are prepared to defend the Nord.

However, these near-continuous losses have kept the Nord from growing. Einar claims that the original migration down from the mountains was of 500 souls, after Asgrim's Defeat. Today, there are 400.

The Quest

As for the location of the Valley of Doom -- none of you is sure, having never been more than a dozen miles from the village. But Einar knows, and will only tell his Nord kin of landmarks and passages deep into the mountains beyond the snow-capped horizon.

You have no good reason to trust the Bishop, but if he and his warriors can assist in retrieving any of the ancestral artifacts, it could be the beginning of a reinvigoration of the Nord, and a first step towards returning to your family homes in the mountains.

Why You're on the Team

Each PC is a known as the best at something, hence the reason for your selection by the king. Possibilities include:

  • orc slayer ("everyone wants him in their foraging group")
  • healer (magic or firstaid/physician/diagnosis)
  • tracker
  • archer ("wins the contest every year")
  • hunter ("brought back 4 elk the dry winter we almost starved")
  • orienteer
  • climber ("she scales boulders like a mountain goat!")
  • wood-chopping / axe-wielder
  • strongest ("picked up that fallen tree off little Greta!")
  • toughest / best wrestler ("Korak the Iron-Limbed")

You might even have nicknames. Bjorn Orcslayer, Freya Dead-arrows

Points and Equipment

One character should be Valgard's representative and lead the group (and roleplay it). A cousin, or nephew, or daughter-in-law, or some such. That individual must put 5 points into Status. They must take a 5 point Duty (to Valgard) as well. To be effective, this character might also choose some Charisma or Leadership, but this is not required. Alternately, the king's representative could appoint a Leader who could be more effective in day-to-day tactics/management, and play more of a background role, a symbol of the king, consulted only in dire circumstances.

150 points to spend

max 100 on attributes
max 50 disadvantages
max 50 advantages

Skill Template for all:

Tracking - minimum 1 pt
Survival (Woodlands) - minimum 1 pt
Wrestling (a Nord pastime) - minimum 1 pt

Advantage template for all:

Patron (King Valgard & the Nord) (10)

Disadvantage template for all (this cancels out the advantage points, net zero):

Duty (Nord) (-10)

Recommended attributes: ST, HT (gene pool)

Recommended advantages: Fit (Nord are a hardy people, lots of high-altitude genetics)

Recommended disadvantages: Code of Honor (Soldier's) -- not because you are soldiers, but because this set of values is admired among the Nord and particularly desirable on a small group's hazardous quest.

Appearance: The Nord are a big-boned Scandinavian-type people. Think Vikings.

Magic: The Nord rely on axes, leather, and spears more than magic. But, combined with a 5-point Unusual Background Advantage, one level of Magery is permitted, as are spells from the following colleges:

  • Plant
  • Weather
  • Earth
  • Fire
  • Food
  • Healing
  • Making & Breaking
  • Protection

Equipment: Nord Steel, forged in Brannjern, is not present in the village; it was all lost with the decimation of the warriors beyond the glacier in the valley of doom. One exception: the king's own blade, Ulvtand, which he will lend to his personal representative. It is a Thrusting Bastard Sword, and imbued with special characteristics typical of Nord Steel:

armor divisor: 3
+2 to skill
+2 to damage
  • Armor is generally limited to furs and leather; metal shields, helms, and mail shirts are rarely used. Winter clothing is required for this journey.
  • Weapons: spears and axes are typical, bows and broadswords less so.


  • Hjordis : Valgard's daughter, the princess, carrying Ulvtand.
  • The Eldur : Chosen for his ways with fire; it is believed he will be able to relight Brannjern.
  • Kjetl : An herbalist and healer.

What Happened


King Valgard of the Nord

King Valgard assembles the entire village near the entrance to the thorn wall. Just outside it, Bishop Salvatore, three soldiers (Rolf, Mads, and Erik), and a part-elven ranger (Quillian), await on horseback.

Bishop Salvatore of Nottingham

The king gives a short speech to the intrepid party, reminding them of the gravity of their quest -- the salvation of the Nord via the reclamation of both the ancestral relics of Asgrim, and the Nord homeland in the high country.

The two younger Draxen brothers prove to be boisterous and unruly, and Mads in particular makes advances on Valgard's daughter Hjordis, leading to a series of confrontations with Udyr over the next few days. The Bishop is a charismatic storyteller, and regales the party with compelling parables.

The second night up the river, in increasingly unfamiliar territory, an injured doe rushes through the underbrush to within ten yards of the campsite, and collapses. Mads Draxen comments, "Well, that's convenient," and prepares to butcher the creature. As Kjetl and Udyr euthanize the doe, its hunters surround the camp: a band of eight orcs.

Mads Draxen shouts at them in Orcish, and they all raise their weapons and shout back. The other brothers draw their weapons and start planning tactics, but Udyr forcefully advises that the deer be simply handed over to the orcs.

Mads objects, hungry for a fight, but the Bishop agrees with Udyr, and the orcs slink back into the forest with their meal. Mads commented that he's never backed down from a fight and that his honor was tarnished, to which Udyr replied, "you know nothing of honor." Mads grabbed Udyr as he walked past, but the struggle ceased abruptly with Udyr's shield smashing Mads' face.

Another day of upriver travel through the pines, and another campsite, with the Bishop in his personal tent, and the rest of the party outside -- in the rain. The cold rain falls continuously throughout the night, turning the camp into slippery mud as Mads and Erik get blindingly drunk, again.

Just before dawn, the trolls attack. They first target the horses, but then several others move into the camp. The younger Draxens protect the Bishop, who has fallen into the mud in some sort of seizure. Quillian rains arrows down upon the trolls, and Udyr deals them mighty blows, but 10 seconds later, Udyr and Hjordis lie in the mud, rendered unconscious by their grievous wounds.

The Draxens tend to the recovering Bishop while Kjetl dazes the remaining two trolls, enabling the Draxens to finish them off. He then casts magicks to stop the Nords' bleeding, gropes the unconscious Hjordis' bared breasts, and single-handedly prepares breakfast.

As the gray light of dawn arrives, the only sounds are that of weary travelers devouring venison and squash mush.


The party elects to rest a day to allow injuries to heal. Quillian and Kjetl collect healing herbs to help, and it is on one foraging expedition that Kjetl encounters The Eldur, who had absentmindedly forgotten to show up for King Valgard's send-off.

In addition to her grave throat-wound, the Princess is mentally wounded, and lolls about the camp in a crippling depression, despite Bishop Salvatore's rousing parables.

The younger Draxens finish off all the mead and sing drinking-songs uproariously.

For the next few days, the group forges onwards, along Trout Creek, gaining elevation and leaving familiar forests behind. The sole remaining horse is shared between the Bishop an the Princess, though once Rolf Draxen's lack of cardiovascular fitness is ascertained, he mounts up.

At one resting place, Mads Draxen takes another run at seducing the Princess, leading Kjetl to daze him senseless. Taking advantage of the opportunity, Erik Draxen repays his brother's favor with a crushing punch to the eye.

After two more days of marching onwards, dining on a Quillian-bagged wild boar and raspberries, the group comes upon the great cliff, atop which, it is believed, the historic Nord village exists. Before the ascent, however, a woman's shriek is heard to the south, and Udyr, Mads, and Erik approach to investigate.

They spy a woman wielding two swords, defending herself against a dozen brutes. Mads sends Erik back for help, and he and Udyr charge in to help. Together, the decimate the assailants, and survivors turn to run as the rest of the party emerges from the trees in pursuit, Quillian and The Eldur firing their missiles along the way. However, Udyr, still wounded from the troll encounter, succumbs to his injuries immediately thereafter, requiring Kjetl's assistance again.

Natalia Modesta of Talathese

As hostilities subside, Mads begins his attempts at seduction on the stranger, who turns out to be Natalia Modesta of Talathese. Princess Hjordis intervenes, and listens Natalia's story of romance and adventure: she seeks Nord Steel as a gift for her beloved Brad.

Hjordis attempts to keep the party's mission under wraps, but the Bishop soon arrives and tells part of the real story.

Meanwhile, Rolf and Erik hack one of the hobgoblins to bits while Mads leers lecherously at Natalia's ample assets.

Natalia, grateful to be rescued and seeing strength in the party, recognizes their shared goals, and joins the group. With Udyr back on his feet, the party returns to the pond at the foot of the cliff.

Passing the sun-bleached remains of mountain goats and sheep, the party begins the ascent up the steep switchbacks hacked into the cliff. After the group crests the first few switchbacks, 200' above the rocks below, an eagle with a 60-foot wingspan attacks. It beats its wings violently, sending hurricane-force eddies of wind to buffet the travelers to and fro. Erik and Mads are thrown from the cliff; others crash violently into the cliff wall.

The beast is repelled seconds later by Kjetl's growing rock spike, The Eldur's fireball, and Quillian's well-placed arrow.

Bishop Salvatore consoles Rolf Draxen about the loss of his younger brothers, and the party presses on, back and forth up the steep switchbacks.

Atop the cliff, the original Nord village is found much as it was abandoned eighty years ago. From GM Notes:

... a broad and modestly-inclined slope of bare granite, into which the old village was built. 
Crevices and dips which catch rainwater hold the struggling descendants of gardens – radishes, 
mint, maize, pumpkin, even some tomatoes. Beyond, a few pockets of forest and towering 
snow-encrusted crags.

The village consists mostly of dozens of small stone huts, sloped on the uphill side to better deflect 
the rare avalanche, all facing west. A few have collapsed, but most seem intact.  Some huts' doors are open.  

A few larger stone structures for storage, and the great wooden mead hall with its massive fireplace and 
chimney, its doors open, now a roost for bats and shelter for mice.

Nearby is the meadery, with a stone path leading along a ledge to a patch of wildflower meadow above, 
and some stacked stones which act as an apiary.
Aughra, Hobgoblin Witch

One hut emits a wisp of smoke from its chimney, and within is found Aughra, a hobgoblin witch who lives alone in the abandoned village eating "mice and lentils" and conducting rituals to attract the Nord back; she now believes her charms have been successful.

The Eldur relights Brannjern with his magical fire, and as the Bishop expresses his praise for the group with typical bombastic alacrity, Nord members of the party all feel a swell of pride at their collective accomplishment.

On the Princess' direction, Quillian heads into the forest to hunt for a main course to combine with a harvest from the struggling remnants of Nord gardens and a cask of 80-year-old mead, and a celebratory feast is soon thereafter prepared.

Blood. On the Snow.

Looking back to the foothlls to the west

Aughra bustles about preparing a feast, while Salvatore chats with Natalia about her history, training, and adventures and Rolf Draxen attempts to drown himself with strong Nord mead, eventually pissing and puking on himself in despair over the loss of his brothers.

The party stays an extra day in the mead hall to rest up for their journey, which Aughra warns will be perilous due to the presence of potentially hostile Stone Giants and a cursed "Sleeper" she calls Nukkaja, beyond the ice wall in the Valley of Doom. She prepares several goat scrota of herbal preparations: potions of warmth, sure-footedness, and healing slumber.

Once Udyr is healed up and Natalia properly dressed for the weather in a bearskin robe, the questers forge on through the freshly fallen snow into the high country.

Rock-encrusted crevasses

A day into the high mountains and the group realizes their winter clothes are barely sufficient when the wind picks up. Several have just begun to suffer the effects of hypothermia with the worgs attack.

Deep crevasses

Luckily, the beasts are afraid of fire, and so The Eldur is successful at repelling them; the fact that they prefer to make a meal of a downed member of their own species rather than a fighting human saves the day, though Natalia, Quillian, and Udyr are injured.

Hiking on to the top of the talus slope, the group emerges in a howling wind 1000 yards from a 20' wall of ice flanked on either side by snow-encrusted Matterhorn-style crags: The Glacier at the foot of the Valley of Doom.

Weary from battle and Warmth quickly leaving their limbs in the frigid wind, the party debates their options. Kjetl saves the day by magically shaping the rocky ground into a hemispherical shelter, into which the party piles and spoons to warm up.

Princess Hjordis and Rolf head back down the slope before sunset to retrieve three thick worg hides and various missile weapons that were left behind.

The next morning the party approaches and examines the glacier. The Princess knows intuitively that crossing it will be extremely hazardous, and asserts that the group will bypass the obstacle by ascending the slope to its south, following the ridge, and then descending into the valley beyond it.

The group leaves the small shelter to the next band of intrepid adventurers that discover it, and begins the ascent, eventually emerging from clouds and flurries into bright sunshine, a sea of clouds below them.

Late in the afternoon, huge human-shaped bare footprints are found in the snow, and a drop of blood. A hundred yards later, the party is shocked by the sudden appearance of a 10' tall roaring cave bear and and equally massive Stone Giant.

The Sleeper Awakens

While extremely startling, the stone giant and his companion cave bear mean no harm. While the Bishop slides down the hill in a seizure and the warriors try to regain their composure, the Princess steps forward diplomatically introduces herself and the party's mission.

Nasmodian, Stone Giant Shaman

The giant, now known as Nasmodian, invites the group back to his smooth lozenge-shaped cave, warmed by the heat of magically glowing stones that double as a roasting pit for a freshly taken elk.

Over elk steaks on stone skewers, the party hears of the curse of The Sleeper:

More than two hundred winters past, the Frost Giant king had a daughter (now Queen Lara), 
skin as white as fresh snow, hair of molten gold, and eyes like the clear blue winter sky. 
Nukkaja coveted her beauty. This is forbidden. We are stone giant, we do not look upon 
other giant-kin with lust. Nukkaja was found out, and the frost giant shaman placed this 
curse upon him: to live for a thousand years in constant agony, unable to sleep, unable 
to harm himself, the slightest sound of a trembling mouse redoubling his pain. And so 
it is that Nukkaja crawled into the ice cave to live out his days in anguish and remorse. 
As befits his transgression.

The group appeals to Nasmodian, requesting his aid in retrieving the Nord ancestral treasures, but the great giant advises that they turn back, or they shall all be slain. Eventually, Salvatore convinces him to at least guide the party as far as the Valley of Doom.

The next morning, the trek is made, three hours across steep rocks and snow to overlook the valley, and after a brief descent through the snow clouds, Nasmodian bids farewell and turns back. The Princess decides that she and Natalia (whom she has observed to be graceful on her feet) will approach first.

Nukkaja, The Sleeper

Fifty yards from the valley floor, Nukkaja makes himself known, howling and shrieking in agony as he rushes towards the female invaders of his zone of silence. The princess wields Ulvtand with great skill, slicing a deep cut into the beast's thigh, but soon his 300lb stone club connects and sends her sprawling.

After downing Aughra's "goat foot" potion provided by Kjetl, Udyr springs down the dangerous rocks with astonishing speed and engages the roaring Nukkaja. After a crushing shield bash and several well-placed axe strikes, he too is knocked to the ground unconscious.

Meanwhile, Natalia slashes in vain at The Sleeper's injured legs, scarcely scratching his leathery skin, but earning her a rib-crushing kick that silences her.

In Udyr's wake come The Eldur and Kjetl, stick-thin mages with no apparent fear.

Kjetl bravely approaches and Dazes the beast and then whacks it with an axe and further enrages it. It strikes him, crushing his leg and felling the mage. The Eldur moves in to engage the creature with fire, but a moment later, after a flurry of fist blows, it has grabbed both mages by the leg and begins wrenching their ankles.

Before the two mages both lose consciousness from their injuries, The Eldur creates a magical flame and maneuvers it into the beast's mouth, melting his beard and scorching his tongue and throat. Pushing the fire deeper into those great lungs, Nukkaja's howls diminish, and as the giant's grip begins to loosen, a whistling black-feathered arrow buries in his heaving chest.

Time passes.

The Princess awakens with the Bishop staring closely into her face, inquiring as to her condition. She is informed that Alas, Udyr is dead. She immediately drags her broken body over to him and finds steaming arterial blood actively squirting from his neck; he is not dead but will be in a few moments without aid. She commands Rolf Draxen to assist her to stop the bleeding.

Before sundown, the entire group relocates to Nukkaja's ice cave for shelter, where healing salves are applied and the group spoons for warmth.

That night, with Natalia and her broken ribs keeping guard, Princess Hjordis goes exploring. She retrieves the weapons left on the battlefield, and spends hours searching the valley floor for Nord steel. Eventually, she is successful, locating skeletal remains with a greatsword and large ring nearby. She brings the greatsword back and hides it under Udyr's sleeping fur.

The next morning Udyr "Orc Thrower" Hjemta stalks out to the battlefield again and beheads the scorched, wheezing Nukkaja.

Victory, Ambush

The party catalogs the collection of Nord Steel and provides ceremonial burial rites for the ancestral bones, with The Eldur's summoned fire spirits.

Loaded up with hundreds of pounds of gleaming weapons and armor, they then begin the climb out of the Valley of Doom, traversing the snowy ridge, passing the uphill turn-off for Nasmodian's cave, and then descending to the stone shelter created by Kjetl a few days earlier. The wind picks up and the temperature drops; the party is out of food, injured, exhausted, and cold, and crowds into the shelter for warmth.

Udyr and Quillian scavenge a few last strips of edible material from the cold Worg carcasses; Udyr carries Quillian the last hundred yards back to the shelter.

Hobgoblin Warrior

The next morning, sucking on worg ligaments for breakfast, the party descends the talus slope and into the deep forest, reaching the cliffside Nord village by mid-afternoon. On approach, the Princess senses danger ahead, and as the group comes among the stone huts, a dozen hobgoblins attack, hurling their heavy spears with a collective roar.

Udyr's leg is pierced through, but he removes the spear and hurls it back with deadly accuracy. The Princess, Rolf Draxen, and The Eldur are gravely wounded, and while Bishop Salvatore froths and jitters in epileptic seizure, Quillian rains arrows, Udyr wrenches limbs, and Natalia Modesta slices and dices to victory.

Udyr allows the hobgoblin leader, now with two broken arms, to escape in defeat, with a stern warning. The badly injured party then retires to the mead-hall with Aughra to recover.

Retribution, Return, Redemption

With the Nord Steel ensconced in Aughra's hut, the party consumes healing slumber potions and rests through the night in the mead-hall; Udyr forgoes the potion and attempts to guard the group overnight but loses consciousness in the middle of the night.

The next day, the Princess announces that one more day is needed to recover, and Quillian is sent out to hunt a proper meal. Udyr follows him briefly and demands an answer to what happened when the party was unconscious in the Valley of Doom. When pressed, Quillian cryptically asserts,

You are a warrior. Life is a battlefield.

Udyr returns, limping from his impaled leg, and after chopping half a cord of fire wood, consumes a healing slumber potion and reclines on a mead-hall table.

The Princess begins to concoct a plan involving imprisoning the lowlanders in a stone hut with Kjetl's help, and he begins modeling the details, manipulating solid granite as if it were clay.

Later that evening, with squash and venison roasting on the fire in the mead-hall, Salvatore and Natalia chatter away, sharing stories from their respective cities. The Princess diplomatically wrangles an explanation of Udyr's neck wound from Rolf, who mutters,

I am soldier. I do what I am told.

With that apparent additional hint at treachery, the Princess consults the mages. The Eldur begins to lay out the treachery in stark terms, but loses his train of thought. Kjetl concocts a plan involving Natalia's seduction of Rolf and the Bishop, which she rejects.

When Udyr wakes up from his healing slumber, he decides to confront Rolf, who is standing against a wall, shirtless, with a pitcher of mead in one hand and a mug in the other. Udyr walks up and grabs him by the neck.

Rolf, glass-eyed and injured, doesn't flinch, and Udyr grabs his wrist as well.

The Bishop notices the sudden grapple and calls for disengagement, whereupon the Princess grabs him by the shoulders and throws him to the ground.

The Eldur and Kjetl notice Quillian readying his bow on the other side of the room; The Eldur prepares a fireball and Kjetl moves in to daze Rolf. The former's spell works, the latter's does not.

Kjetl then lunges at a confused Natalia, perceiving her to be in an impending crossfire, and the two hit the floor for cover.

Udyr demands answers from Rolf, who finally says in a hushed town, "I saved your life!"

Fireballs begin exploding around Quillian, who subsequently buries an arrow in The Eldur's chest. Nevertheless, the Eldur persists, setting the ranger horribly ablaze.

Meanwhile, the Bishop begins to rise, is grappled by the Princess once again, and responds by dazing her. He stands up, her arms limply falling away from his shoulders, and readies his small mace.

Udyr unhands Rolf and moves towards the motionless Princess and mace-brandishing Bishop, who commands him to stop and raises the mace high above the Princess' unprotected head.

Udyr steps in to protect her, but the Bishop manages to strike the Princess down with a blow to the skull. Udyr grabs him by the neck and wrenches, and the staggering princess draws Ulvtand and runs it into the Bishop's stomach before losing consciousness.

Rolf raises his hands in surrender as Quillian crashes into the meadery, moaning from his dire burns.

In the aftermath, Kjetl, Natalia, and Aughra heal the wounded while Udyr considers the fate of the lowlanders. Rolf warns that killing the Bishop could be a bad day for the Nord, since the Bishop has armies awaiting his return.

With Udyr's assent, Rolf packs his gear and leaves in the dead of the night, headed south towards his uncle's lands in the Forbidden Steppes.

The next day, the Nord Steel is entombed in a hut by Kjetl and the group descends the switchbacks on the cliff face, to find the remains of Erik Draxen and Mads Draxen torn limb from limb (by hobgoblins, it is assumed) and hung in a dead tree. Rolf Draxen's tracks are discovered at the base of the tree, and subsequently lead south.

Four days later, the Nord questers and their friend Natalia Modesta arrive back in the forest village, causing a great celebration to erupt. King Valgard heaps public praise upon his daughter Hjordis and announces to the village that the Nord will soon reclaim their ancestral homeland in the mountains. A roaring cheer echoes deep into the forest.

The celebration lasts well into the night. Natalia and Kjetl spend quality private time together. Udyr and Myanna begin planning for the birth of their child in the high country. The Eldur wanders the crowd saying strange things.

And the Princess tells the tales of the quest to her father and the village elders, and all who hear the stories begin to imagine her fondly as the future Queen of the Nord.