7 Growth 508 (con’td)
The marketplace at Josemeedt is as robust as the party remembers; merchants hawking their wares, traders negotiating prices, and travelers gathering at the Hall of Yülthn to swap tales and drink ale.
The party makes their way to the Hall of Yülthn to find Almaric. The hall is full of travelers, the smell of smoking meat and sweat, and badly-sung songs of battle. Eventually, they find the Boraelan in his usual seat. He seems glad to see them—until they reveal that not only do they not have “his” book, but that it may have been destroyed. They try to make it clear that they were never at the burnt out keep but at the same time make it clear that they were not able to retrieve the item the wizard seeks. They do, however, offer to sell him a spellbook they “came across in Borael”. Almaric grudgingly purchases the book for 75 gold pieces.
Surm and Mõrvar go with Almaric to his room to make the exchange of funds for book. There, Surm asks about the other news that Hakak had brought—that of their brother, Lothar. Almaric confirms that Lothar had been in Josemeedt, looking for them. From what he understands, he and three others were camping out some half-day’s walk north of the settlement.
At this point, the party takes their leave of Hakak. While the split is amicable, it is clear that the party will not miss him, and that he will not miss the party.
The party travels north, with Savaric tracking along the way, looking for the encampment. Sure enough, they find the remains of a camp. The tracks lead to the northwest—toward the village of Aeth, Lothar’s home—and Surm and Mõrvar’s former home. It seems that the band has gotten a two day head start on them. However, the party is on horseback while Lothar and his group are on foot. They decide to head toward Aeth, thinking to encounter Lothar along the way.
9 Growth 508
Having encountered thick forest the previous day, the party is slowed in their trek toward Aeth. Nevertheless, they encounter Lothar and his band that morning.
Lothar Ulrich is a tall man with blond hair and beard and piercing blue eyes. He carries a greataxe and wears several throwing axes on his belt. He travels with three others, two men and woman—all Jossians.
The meeting between Lothar and his two brothers is tense. Surm, as always, tries to keep the peace while Mõrvar is sullen and antagonistic. Lothar seems to be using all of his willpower to keep his anger in check. It seems that Alrik Brytagsson, the King of the Aethyngs (the clan to which Surm and Mõrvar used to belong), has told Lothar that he must offer Mõrvar the option of paying the weregildt (or blood-price) instead of killing him outright for the murder of their father, Kromas, two years ago. The price has been set at 500 gold pieces. In course of the conversation, it is also revealed that Alrik has called the Aethyngs to battle. A new warlord called Magrathar has been riding down from his stronghold in the mountains and raiding various small settlements in the area. Recently, he had the audacity to raid Aeth. In the process, the Ulrich’s sister Sonja was killed and their brother, Ren, and mother Hilda, were taken as slaves. This, so Surm speculates, is why Alrik has insisted on the weregildt. And this is a way in which the two of them could come home again, if they help the Aethyngs defeat Magrathar and rescue their mother and brother. Mõrvar doesn’t see why they should bother—the Aethyngs don’t want them and he and Surm do not need them. But Surm is insistent. After Lothar and Mõrvar trade more barbs, Surm asserts that, right now, they will not pay the price nor do they wish to battle Lothar. Lothar insists that Mõrvar is a coward—but allows the party to leave without attacking.
Surm and Mõrvar decide that the party should go to see their great-uncle Thormax. Like them, Thormax had been exiled by King Alrik for his sorcery and his undead-touched heritage. When Surm and Mõrvar were exiled, they went and lived with their great-uncle for a time. Along the way, they also tell the story of the death of Surm and Mõrvar’s father, Kromas. When the twins were 17, they returned home to attempt to reconcile with and forgive the family for the “taint” their father passed on to them. Upon the suggestion that he carried the tainted blood, Kromas became enraged and charged Surm with an axe. As the young man stared in disbelief, Mõrvar stepped in front of him, caught his father’s wrist in his hand, and as the older man physically shook with fear, Mõrvar slit his throat with the man’s own dagger. Mõrvar then tossed the bloody dagger at Lothar’s feet and said calmly, “I dare you to avenge him.” Mõrvar then just turned and walked away as if nothing had occurred. Surm surveyed the family as they stared in shock, shrugged his shoulders and said, “Well, you’re forgiven.” Then he followed Mõrvar out of the village. They have not been back there since.
Later that afternoon, they arrive at the hut where Uncle Thormax lives. After greeting the old man and settling, Thormax confirms Lothar’s tale regarding the raid on Aeth. Though they exiled him, Thormax keeps his ear to the ground for news from home. He also relates that Magrathar apparently has a witch in his employ—a witch with a bound demon that turns the tide of battle in his favor. When asked about Surm’s thoughts regarding helping the Aethyngs against Magrathar, Thormax agrees with the young man’s reasoning, and that Alrik needs all the help he can get against the witch’s power, but is not as optimistic that they will be accepted. Thormax allows the group to camp at his home and to leave some of their gear and treasure behind with him when they go to Aeth to meet with Alrik Brytagsson in the morning.
10 Growth 508
The party arrives at Aeth early in the morning. The village, never particularly large or grand, still smolders from the raid. Burned out buildings line the dirt streets. Families camp outside the remains of their homes. Warriors are gathering in camps throughout what is left of the village. They finally arrive at the longhouse, the seat of government for the village.
Here they are met by a villager called Koran, a man who remembers Surm and Mõrvar. He grimly greets the twins and their party and offers to let the King know that they are here. Soon, they are seen by Alrik Brytagsson. Alrik is a hale, but elderly, Jossian with white hair and a long white beard. He has a hawk-like nose and piercing green eyes. He is also currently in a leg-splint.
After exchanging tense pleasantries, Surm presents his proposition of aid to Alrik. The old king is persuaded by the sense of it, but, as Surm proposes, the two exiles cannot join the main forces. They will act as a separate scouting team. The two also come to a compromise on the weregildt. Surm and Mõrvar will aid the Aethyngs in their fight against Magrathar and pay a sum of 50 gold pieces to Lothar Ulrich in order settle the death of Kromas Ulrich.
Later that day, Lothar and his companions arrive in Aeth. Though still angry, he agrees to the settlement negotiated with King Alrik and is paid the 50 gold piece weregildt.
The party decides to head out near nightfall to start reconnoitering the keep of Magrathar. Given directions from King Alrik, they follow a narrow nearby pass. Along the way, the group encounters—and successfully ambushes—three sets of guards place along various checkpoints along the pass. After hiding the bodies, they continue down the pass. They finally come to the end of the trail, which opens into a valley where they can see various campfires being lit beyond a final checkpoint with four mercenary guards. The group manages to ambush and successfully dispatch this group as well. They then settle in hiding to determine their next course of action.