Dusk falls on the autumn night sky. It is the twenty-eighth of Haustmánuðr, the “Harvest Month”, and twenty-eight days since Haustbolt, a local minor private festival celebrating the autumn equinox similar to Octoberfest where it signifies the end of the Harvest and a toast to beer in front of bonfires while eating ribs. Since that day, the brewmaster of Vaktsom, “The Watchful”, has been working on his blend of pumpkin spice ale; an ale that is not poplar in the Vanir Valley, but still, he brews it hoping to bring it to Vanir at Vetrnætr, “Winter Nights”, to win the great reward of “Brewmaster of the New Year.”
Vaktsom is located at the top of Jordbruskland Elv and at the end of the Jordbruskland trail. This location is primarily used for raising sheep and horses, but they do harvest many melons and wheats and raise some cows and chickens. Within the long house, there is a storage room where the brewmaster sits and several young boys’ car piles of wheat into the room. There is dairy room that no one is in. And then the great room where there is a large loom, a fire pit, and a bench. Running through the front door is a young boy shouting, “Amma Amma, they are here."
Lorkine darted out the backdoor and up the ladder to roof to get a view of who was here. Her red hair blowing in the breeze of the afternoon southern wind as she sees a large very human looking half-orc leading two rows of soldiers, and a motley crew of races and colors. She had never seen so many different tribes coming to one location.
Inside Annfinn responds to the boy, “Thank you Oli.” She leans over the cooking fire pit, sing one of her songs into a large pot that smells sour. Her bright orange and gray hair bouncing as she pours more ingredients into her pot.
As the group nears the entrance of the door, Lorkine makes her way back down the ladder and enter the longhouse through the rear door. She quickly darts inside and then up a column and into the rafters.
“Do not be so worried Lorkine. They have been here before.
A half-orc followed by several of the colorful character’s barges into the longhouse. The half-orc takes a look around the room with his good; the other eye with a slashed scar through it and a patch over it. He stands intimidating as armor wearing half-orc, his hair pulled back from his face. His good eye final catches Annfinn and quickly walks towards her.
“Annfinn” says the half-orc.
“Brodd, come to collect the dead?” she responds not looking up from her pot.
“You know that that is not the intent of the Gathering.”
“And what is the intent of the Gathering, Mr. Gatherer?” she says eyeing him.
He stares back for a moment and responds, “Do you have your ready warriors?”
“Last time I gave you warriors, you killed them in Sør Dalen.” An oddly attired swamp dwarf with a crossbow slung across his back raises an eyebrow at to Annfinn’s response and looks to a swamp gnome attired in a cleric’s battle armor with the symbol of Freyja across her chest.
Brodd rolling his eyes begins his speech, “You know that …”
Annfinn interrupts with rage, “You KILLED my son!” The room goes silent. The dark elf from the group of travelers makes his way to the top of the rafters near Lorkine and disappears into the shadows.
Lorkine gasp as she had never seen her amma with such anger, but even more, she had never heard of her amma speak of an uncle she might have. It was bad enough for Lorkine to have never known her mother and father, but to have an uncle that would make her amma so anger to speak of his death, made Lorkine unsure of who she is.
Annfinn then calms herself and sings quietly to herself.
Brodd holds his tongue; patient and respectful. A young half-orc in the crowd, with snow shoes across his back admires his new leaders exemplify mannerism towards the lady. Annfinn breaks the silence, "you and your troops are staying the night, right?
“I need to have them back in two days, by Gormánuðr the first, we can stay one night.”
“Of course, wouldn’t want to miss your Vetrnætr.” She says to him, mocking him.
Brodd stands before Annfinn brooding, debating whether or not to say what is on his mind. He takes a step forward and says over his shoulder, “I lost a son too, Annfinn.” Brodd storms off followed by the young half-orc and several others in the group.
As Brodd leaves, Annfinn yells, “I’ll have your warriors tomorrow.”
The swamp dwarf takes a seat at a table with his back to the wall and the brim of his hat down. Oli takes a seat at the other end of the table looking at the stranger.
The gnome, with sympathy in her eyes, approaches Annfinn. She introduces herself as Frenlys Zanidira, a cleric of Freyja, and ask “is there anything I can do to help with your lost?”
“Oh no deary,” says Annfinn looking down from her pot. “This was a long time ago, before you were you, but seeing Brodd again brought up all that anger, I am fine now. Here.” Annfinn hands Frenlys a cup of what she was brewing. The gnome takes the cup.
“Lorkine, get down here and have a drink.” Lorkine tucks her ears under her head band and snakes her way down from the rafter to the seat next to Oli. Lorkine knows that her amma makes drinks that you sip and fill better; however, this time, it was stronger. Either way, Lorkine sips the drink.
Annfinn continues around the table, and stops looking at the swamp dwarf, place a cup under his hat saying, “Drink up.” He takes a sip with the gnome beside him who had been sipping the drink.
Annfinn, knowing every inch of her place, looks up to the rafters, she knows someone is up there, but does not see him. She calls out, “You don’t want a drink?”
There was no response from the rafters. As Brodd enters, followed by the young half-orc and several of the soliders, Annfinn begins her story, walking around the room. “Freyr was in the forest hunting with his hawk Njord. After a long travel, Freyr spots a water fall and goes to drink. Njord swoops down from above and knocks the cup from his hands. Freyr looks at the bird “what is your problem” the bird continues to fly. Freyr fills his cup again, and again the bird swoops down and knocks it out of his hands. This time, angry, Freyr produce’s his longsword and waving it in the air says, “you come near me again and I will cut you.” Freyr bends down again, and fills his cup, and as the bird swoops down, Freyr, cuts the bird, sending flying against the rocks beneath the waterfall. As the bird laid their dying, Freyr began to mourn, saying “what did I do?” He climbs to the top of the waterfall, to see what mad the bird so mad, as to continuously knock the cup from his hands. When Freyr looked into the pool at the top, he sees a dead viper lying in the pond; poison dripping from his veins and into the water. Freyr thought he knew everything, but he did not trust his friends.”
She stops, looking a Brodd with a look of disgust and pushes past him to the young half-orc. Annfinn hands him the cup, he takes the cup graciously and downs the drink in one shot.
The young dark elf, hiding in the rafters, makes his way down, unseen and over to the pot to steal a cup of the potion, but, to his surprise, a cup was sitting there waiting for him.
Five cups were passed out among the many in the hall. One to the kind and talkative swamp gnome named Fenlys Zanidira. One to quiet and nervous half-elf Lorkine. One to the gruff and standoffish swamp dwarf Orsik Ungart. One to the silent and energetic artic half-orc Feng. And the last one to reserved and suspicious dark elf named Jarl of Axle. Each received a greater since of war with increase to their abilities in attacking and causing damage.
The long house is quieter with Brodd in the room. Annfinn, seating by the fire, begins another tale. This one of the origins of their world.
“In the time of our forefathers, Vanaheim was a great nation that explored the world and discovered many fantastic wonders. The nation discovered the ability to control magic, which helped them to sail further than any Vanir had been before. They had built a bridge to connect to the gods, and learned the ability to alter the course of destiny.
“Eventually the ship Heiðr (“Bright”) under the guides of the Goddess Freya discovered Asgard. The Aesir sought the Vanir’s power, so much so that they blamed the Vanir for their greed. They called them Gullveig (“Gold-greed”) and attempted to murder the Vanir’s ship captain, Henri Wangberg. Three times they tried to burn him, and three times from the ashes, he was reborn.
“The two nations grew to fear one another, fear lead to hate, hate lead to hostilities, and hostilities lead to war. The Aesir using weapons and the Vanir using magic. The war lasted for years, with each side winning and losing. Until, they grew tired and called a truce.
“In a truce, they each sent the wisest of their lands to each other’s home. The Aesir sent Heonir and Mimir to Vanaheim; shortly after his arrival, Heonir was made chieftain. But during the ceremony, Mimir went missing. Heonir, in his anger, had a vale order to be placed over all of Vanaheim. Trapping us in the valley, cutting us off from the world for thousands of years.”
Brodd rolls his eyes “I have been from one end of the valley to the other, there is nothing to say there is a world beyond the border mountains.” With that Brodd leaves the long house and heads towards his tent. Many other follow and the fires are dimed.
Annfinn says to Lorkine, “don’t trust Brodd, here is a map of the valley, keep it close and seek the world.”