- Covered with snowy wastes and populated by savage tribes, Bludheim is a province only a Nord would want to call home.
Bludheim is the sixth questing area in the game and becomes available when all sub-quests and boss encounters have been completed on at least normal difficulty in Vornstaag.
|Malovar River | The Frozen River | Terracles' Meander | Hralborg | Frost Wyrm Camp|
|Title||Level 1||Level 2||Level 3||Level 4||Level 5||Level 6||Level 7|
|Blood on the Snow |
(Complete Bludheim on Nightmare difficulty.)
|Stone of Zuxala||Used as an ingredient to craft Power of the Demon Stones||Bludheim - Terracles' Meander|
|Nordent Sword||73||47||85||Bazaar - Bludheim|
|Nordent Shield||30||70||48||Bazaar - Bludheim|
|Nordent Spangenhelm||42||58||57||Bazaar - Bludheim|
|Nordent Mail Hauberk||42||58||57||Bazaar - Bludheim|
|Nordent Bracers||42||58||57||Bazaar - Bludheim; guild raids|
|Nordent Breeches||42||58||57||Bazaar - Bludheim; guild raids|
|Nordent Boots||42||58||57||Bazaar - Bludheim; guild raids|
|Nordent Rune Ring||56||56||70||Bazaar - Bludheim|
|Aesa||70||50||83||Warrior of the North: Chance for bonus damage; Extra damage for Nordent Generals and Troops in Legion; Extra damage for each Aesa's Rune owned (max 30).||Questing: Bludheim - Malovar River|
|Frost Wyrm Chieftain's Shield||60||120||90||60||Increases Energy by 7||Nightmare Kalaxia quest boss|
|Yule Tribe Sleigh||85||95||109||Slay: Increases chance to land a critical hit||Bazaar: Bludheim|
|Wintermail Spangenhelm||138||122||169||Winter Night Curse: Chance for bonus damage; Extra damage against Bludheim raids; Extra damage for each additional Wintermail item worn; Extra damage if the Abominable Yeti Skull is equipped; Extra damage if Inga, Jarla of Hearts is equipped||Snow Beastman Pack|
|Wintermail Hauberk||138||122||169||Winter Night Curse: Chance for bonus damage; Extra damage against Bludheim raids; Extra damage for each additional Wintermail item worn; Extra damage if the Abominable Yeti Skull is equipped; Extra damage if Inga, Jarla of Hearts is equipped||Snow Beastman Pack|
|Wintermail Bracers||138||122||169||Winter Night Curse: Chance for bonus damage; Extra damage against Bludheim raids; Extra damage for each additional Wintermail item worn; Extra damage if the Abominable Yeti Skull is equipped; Extra damage if Inga, Jarla of Hearts is equipped||Snow Beastman Pack|
|Wintermail Breeches||138||122||169||Snow Beastman Pack|
|Wintermail Boots||138||122||169||Snow Beastman Pack|
|Hrolf's Helm||55||55||69||50||Increases Energy by 3||Quest boss - Gunnar the Berserk|
|Hrolf's Scale Cuirass||55||55||69||50||Increases Energy by 3||Quest boss - Kalaxia|
|Hrolf's Gloves||55||55||69||50||Increases Energy by 3||Quest Boss - Nidhogg|
|Hrolf's Fur Breeches||55||55||69||50||Increases Energy by 5||Quest Boss - Kang-Gsod|
|Hrolf's Boots||55||55||69||50||Increases Energy by 3||Quest Boss - Ulfrik|
|Brown War Horn||Craft x2 Stat Points||Bludheim quests, help requests and gifting|
|Grey War Horn||Craft x2 Stat Points||Bludheim quests, help requests and gifting|
|Green War Horn||Craft x2 Stat Points||Bludheim quests, help requests and gifting|
|Blue War Horn||Craft x2 Stat Points||Bludheim quests, help requests and gifting|
|Purple War Horn||Craft x2 Stat Points||Bludheim quests, help requests and gifting|
|Orange War Horn||Craft x2 Stat Points||Bludheim quests, help requests and gifting|
Encounter - Location (Area)
- Frost Wyrm Raider - Malovar River (a1)
- Frost Wyrm Warrior - The Frozen River (a2)
- Frost Wyrm Huscarl - The Frozen River (a2), Frost Wyrm Camp (a5)
- Snow Beastman Warrior - Terracles' Meander (a3)
- Snow Beastman Ambusher - Hralborg (a4)
Note these can only be found on Legendary/Nightmare difficulties.
|Time passes slowly in Fallows. And though part of you itches to return to the frontlines, you're grateful that you and your companions were assigned to a short period of garrison duty in the town. Constant marching and heavy fighting takes its toll on even the greatest warriors.
Most of your days are spent helping to train the new recruits, teaching young men and women the rudiments of combat before they're sent off to war. In truth, they'll learn more of value from their first battle - if they survive. But though the basics of spear-work and swordplay you show them might not stick, each and every one of them seems inspired by your very presence. You're almost embarrassed by their wide-eyed gazes, and the tones of awe they use when they address you. It's as if they think you're a second Tyranthius, or a new Terracles - a mighty warrior from the pages of legend. They're eager to fight as you've fought, to earn honors as you have. You wonder if they'll think so highly of you after they've tasted the rigors of war for themselves, and come away from a battlefield covered with the blood of friend and foe alike.
Between these training sessions, you take part in patrols through the surrounding countryside, watching over the roads, farms, and small villages which dot the landscape. Most pass without incident, though on one occasion you come across a group of beastmen scouts who somehow managed to slip behind your lines. You make short work of them. On another patrol you happen upon a gang of bandits who have been waylaying refugee caravans in the area, glutting themselves on the spoils of war like carrion birds. The example you make of those miscreants should be enough to dissuade other criminals.
The evenings are pleasant enough, though tavern prices have become rather steep. In the exhilaration and revelry that followed the death of the black dragon outside the town walls, Fallow's barkeeps almost flooded the streets with free wine and ale. But when the celebration died down, and cold, mercenary reality sank in, they must have realized just how expensive that outpouring of generosity had been. Now they seem determined to recoup their losses, much to the grumbling of stationed soldiers and native townsfolk alike.
It's during one of these costly drinking sessions that you first hear the rumor.
A man staggers into the tavern, stumbling through the doorway in the manner most people stumble out at the end of the night. His clothes are well-cut, but crumpled, stained with faint traces of dirt and old meals. A traveler most likely, back from a long journey, probably thrown out of another pub for some drunken mishap but not yet satisfied with his level of inebriation. You begin to turn away, believing he holds no interest for you. Then he speaks, and your gaze fastens upon him.
"They're with the dragons!"
Quiet spreads from him like a magical aura, until it floods the room and all conversations are smothered. The man looks around, as if to make sure his audience is paying attention.
"The Nords, damn them! Sided with the dragons, I tell you!"
Several of the tavern's patrons get off their chairs or barstools, and swarm around him. A babble of questions fills the air.
"Hold on!" says the man, his voice rising above the clamor. "Can't talk with a dry throat. Need a drink to slake my thirst."
There's a murmur of amusement and annoyance, and some of the crowd disperses. Their thoughts are obvious: that he's drunk making up tall tales to get a tankard of ale. But others continue to hover around him, and after a moment one passes him a frothing beverage. The man takes a sip - which turns into a quaff - as the crowd waits, their bodies tense with impatience. Then he lowers the tankard, nods in satisfaction, and wipes his sleeve across his mouth.
When he speaks again, his bloodshot eyes are gleaming, and the eagerness in his voice seems sincere. Though he was glad enough to get a free drink, he appears genuinely keen to tell his tale. You find yourself leaning forward in your chair, as if drawn in.
"I was part of a supply caravan, taking food to one of our northern camps. That's where I found out about it, from one of our soldiers. He'd heard it from some of their scouts. The Nords have sided with the dragons. They're up there killing our men and women at this very moment."
There are shouts on all sides, some bespeaking anger, others incredulity.
"What a load of pig crap!" someone yells. "You're drunk!"
"So? Tomorrow I'll be sober. But those Nords will still be bloody traitors!" the tale-bearer replies. "Mark my words, you'll hear about it soon enough. The nobles are keeping it quiet. But you just wait till the armies march back south, with axe wounds... or... reindeer wounds... Whatever it is those thrice-damned Nordent savages use."
"I knew them Nords couldn't be trusted!" growls another man, making a sharp gesture with his arm to punctuate his words, causing ale to swill over the lip of his tankard and splash onto the floor.
The stranger drains the rest of his drink, then looks around as if in search of another generous soul willing to furnish him with a replacement. But no one is looking at him now. Those in the middle of the room are shouting, and those at the tables muttering to one another. So the tale-bringer staggers towards the door, and into the street beyond - perhaps in search of another tavern where he can trade information for alcohol.
Just some gossiping fool who wanted a free drink, you tell yourself. The idea that fellow West Krunans would side with the dragons is ridiculous... And yet, you don't feel like drinking anymore. You head out into the night to see what you can learn.
The following morning you wake to find that rumor has slithered across the entire city, babbling from her million tongues and spreading the story to all quarters. It seems that the drunk in the tavern wasn't the only tale-bearer. Other travelers from the north have been relaying it too.
Mayor Bloodwyn receives official dispatches, as the nominal commander of Fallows' men and women at arms. But when you tried to wrest information from him last night, you received nothing more than a supercilious sneer and an almost overwhelming desire to pitch him through the nearest window. Your other inquiries were equally fruitless. If the town's officials know the truth, they aren't willing to share it.
"Met a lot of Nords on my adventures," Roland tells you when your commanders meet to discuss the matter. "Killed a fair few. Savage bastards, some of them. But siding with the dragons... Won't believe that till I hear something better than rumors and drunken blather."
"Actually..." begins Lucian, "...there is one particular-"
He breaks off as the door flies open, revealing a breathless guardsman. The man's face is familiar, and you're sure he fought beside Marcus when you battled the monsters atop Fallows' walls.
"Captain!" he gasps, addressing Marcus by his former title as you've heard many of the townspeople do. "There's a mob, heading for Sven's place. They have pitchforks!"
A fluttering chord comes from Medea's harp, accompanying an equally musical laugh.
"Pitchforks? How much damage can you do with a pitchfork?"
"You'd be surprised," you say.
Marcus is already on his feet, heading towards the door. You follow, the rest of your companions behind you.
A short run takes you to the scene of the disturbance. As the guard said, you find a crowd of citizens there, grasping pitchforks and torches. Fallows isn't a farming town, like Burden's Rest. Why would its inhabitants have pitchforks lying around? But you have no time to ponder the matter in full.
A line of guardsmen stands facing the mob, shields on their arms but swords still sheathed at their sides. They appear worried, gazing at one another as if unsure what to do. Behind them is a broad, squat building. A sign hanging above its entrance shows a crude depiction of a hammer striking an anvil. A blacksmith's forge.
"Let us past!" screams one of the torch-bearers. He waves the makeshift weapon in a passionate gesticulation, and the woman next to him ducks aside just in time to avoid having her hair singed off.
"We'll show that bastard what we think of Nords!" says one of the pitchfork bearers. His clothes are silk, and of good tailoring. He looks like a merchant. Why would he even own a pitchfork?
"Death to the Nords!" shouts someone from the back of the crowd. The cry is echoed by a dozen others, accompanied by wordless roars and howls.
Marcus strides between the two groups, and turns to face the mob. His voice doesn't seem loud, but somehow it carries - projecting a sense of authority over the entire tableau.
"What's going on here?"
The question seems superfluous to you. It's rather obvious an angry mob has assembled to destroy the blacksmith's forge. and yet it seems to give them pause. You see people at the back of the crowd breaking off and walking away. Others are looking at each other, nervousness or even sheepishness replacing the anger on their faces. It's as if Marcus' authoritative voice and bearing are calming them, bringing the weaker-willed ones to their senses.
But those at the front of the crowd, whom you take to be the ringleaders and prime agitators, are holding their ground. They're almost snarling with rage.
"Out of the way, Marcus!" shouts a plump woman, wearing a flour-smeared apron and brandishing an equally floury rolling-pin. "We got nothin' against you. It's the Nord we want."
"Sven?" asks Marcus. "Sven isn't even a Nord - he's a Sord."
There are confused murmurs in the crowd.
"What's a Sord?"
"Bleedin' sounds the same, dunnit?"
"Do we hate the Sords as well?"
A soft melody comes from Medea's harp, so subtle that it's almost inaudible. You only begin to hear it when you glance towards her, and realize that her slender fingers are gliding over the strings. The music is working its magic on the crowd, playing on their embarrassment and confusion. More people peel away, breaking from the mob and once again becoming individuals, respectable men and women of Fallows who have no desire to burn and loot.
But still the core of the mob remains, glaring defiance at Marcus and the guards.
"Nord, Sord... You're not going to get rid of us with your fancy talk," says a man at the front of the crowd. He stands at least a head taller than the rest, and the breadth of his shoulders reminds you of Sir Cai. Scars line his face, unmistakable memories of brawls gone by. "If you're siding with that traitor, you'll get the same as him!"
There's a cheer from the mob. Clearly the man's one of their champions, and from his look and manner he won't be talked down by rational words. Marcus must know this too, and his hand is moving towards his sword, as if unconsciously. You know full well that he doesn't want to spill the blood of civilians on Fallow's streets, but he might not have any choice. Unless you do something...
You move from amongst your companions, and step in front of the scarred man. He glares down at you. There's a murmur from those behind him. Until then their attention was focused on Marcus, the guards, and the building behind them. Now they're aware of you, and you sense their trepidation. But there's no hesitation in the man facing you - only the signs of violence waiting to be unleashed.
"You're going to leave," you tell him, your voice calm. After the adventures you've been on, a mere thug is hardly likely to intimidate you. "Now."
"Bugger off," he says, saliva flying from his mouth as he spits out each emphatic word, "or I'll smash your soddin' face in."
You feel your lips twitch in an involuntary smile.
"You're new in town, aren't you? Maybe you should ask your friends if fighting with me is a good idea."
Some of the savage belligerence leaves the man's face. It appears that your quiet confidence has shaken him. He turns to the rest of the mob, as if in search of answers. Numerous voices rise up from them. Some are no more than whispers, but all carry a sense of frantic urgency.
"Dragon-rider of Burden's Rest..."
"...killed kobolds by the 'undred, so i 'ear..."
"...tosses an ogre off the top of some castle..."
"...killed a bloody big dragon..."
When the scarred man turns back to face you, it's with an expression of almost horrified awe.
"I... I got nothing against Sords. Just a mistake, is all."
He pushes his way through the crowd, and walks off. The mob begins to fall apart in his wake, unraveling before your eyes until only your companions and the guards are left in the street.
Later that day truth finally emerges from rumor's shadow, belatedly shuffling into the light and attempting to be heard above the cacophony of her more alluring sister's many tongues. The mayor's criers step out into the streets and squares, ringing their bells and yelling across Fallows - ostensibly at Aurelius Bloodwyn's request.
As was no doubt intended, the announcement eases some of the tension. There is greater anger, incredulity, and horror at the thought that any humans would side with West Kruna's monstrous enemies, and suspicious glances are cast at the town's few Nords. But the knowledge that an entire province hasn't defected as was first reported, that the other Nords continue to fight for the king, prevents any further public disturbances.
It's with no surprise that you receive an order to visit the mayoral building that night, and find yourself ushered into the presence of the same royal emissary who sent you to Ryndor in search of Tyranthius's tomb.
"I'm going to Nordent, aren't I?" you ask, after the initial pleasantries.
"Yes," he replies. "Wear something warm."
|Nordent is a remote and isolated part of West Kruna. Traveling there by land would involve a lengthy trek around the mountains which extend across the continent like a slit throat, or else a dangerous hike over those foreboding peaks. But the broad expanse of the Malovar River stretches almost the entire length of the kingdom, cutting through all forms of terrain with calm equanimity, penetrating deep into the inhospitable north to die a frozen death in its snowy wastes.
The ships the king has provided you with are swift, the pride of a navy which has little to do in a conflict where West Kruna's enemies have appeared within its borders rather than approaching from across the waves. Under their magic sails you head north, passing by the plains of Caelnarn to your right and the dark forests of Stromhamre to your left.
You feel Nordent before you see it, as the atmosphere grows cold and a chill wind begins to bite at you, a series of icy teeth raking your flesh. Piles of furs are brought out of the cargo hold, so many that it seems as if entire species must have been exterminated to provide them - and under the present circumstances you feel that a little genocide is a price worth paying in exchange for warmth. They're handed out to those who desire them, and only the undead or those made of stone decline.
The northernmost regions of West Kruna appear soon enough after the bitter cold which heralds them - Nordent on your right, Sordent on your left. On each distant riverbank you see an expanse of green, verdant plains and fields. But this picturesque vista falls away as you follow the branch of the river which leads further north, deeper into Nordent, replaced by a blanket of white. Here there are blobs of ice in the river, minor triumphs of coldness foreshadowing the total victory you know lies ahead.
"Ships!" calls a sailor from the crow's nest.
You move to the prow of the ship, and stare out across the water. Sure enough, you can make out tiny shapes in the distance, which must be other vessels. Nords loyal to the crown are meant to be meeting you along this stretch of river, and traveling with you the rest of the way. But the specks on the horizon don't look right...
"There's a battle on the water!" the lookout cries.
As you sail closer you see longships drawn up alongside each other, forming the floating imitations of land upon which the Nords like to conduct their naval battles. On some you can make out a blue dragon on the sail - symbol of the Frost Wyrm Clan. The others bear a mixture of emblems, and no doubt belong to the Nords who were to meet you. Figures on board the ships are locked in combat, in a whirling melee of clashing steel.
Your companions scramble for their weapons as you approach the raging battle.
Smote on the Water
|As soon as the deck of your ship is right above the fray, you leap down onto one of the tethered longships. Nords carrying shields with the Frost Wyrm Clan's symbol converge on you, swords and axes in their hands.|
Dazed by the Drake
|Your companions drop into the longship's deck in turn, and rush forward to meet the bellowing Nords. Then a big blue mass crashes down, as Solus finds a place to land beside you. All of a sudden the Frost Wyrm Nords stop as if frozen, gazing at him in awe. You take advantage of their surprise.|
The Vengeful Shaman
|The enemies recover from their shock, but the temporary advantage was enough, and you cut your way to the adjacent craft. There a woman in a blue cloak stands at the head of a small group of survivors, weaving magic and swinging her sword at the enemies around her.|
Rivers of Blood
|You cleave a path to the Nords whom you take to be the allies sent to await you. They waste no time in words, but join your ranks as you hurl yourselves against the remaining Frost Wyrm warriors.|
Boss: Gunnar the Berserk
The Frozen River
|The shaman, Aesa, explains what's been happening in Nordent as you continue to sail along the river. Some of what she says was told to you in Fallows, but much is new.
Centuries ago, the Frost Wyrm Clan was a great power in the region. The nearest tribes lived in subjugation to them, forced to pay tributes as the price of their continued survival. Those further afield were the victim of constant Frost Wyrm raids, their livestock and women seized, their homes burned to the ground.
Eventually, the clan's enemies banded together, united under the leadership of a great hero. A brutal war ensued, and by the end of the conflict the Frost Wyrm Clans strength was but a fraction of what it had once been. They could no longer extort tribute from their weaker neighbors, or prey upon other tribes with impunity. They were forced to withdraw from the territories they had conquered. Their dominance was at an end.
Not long after that defeat, the broken clan's shamans began to speak of a prophecy, which claimed foretold of their eventual return to ascendency. According to this divination, a blue dragon -- the symbol of their people -- would emerge, and lead them to their destiny.
The other tribes had always dismissed the prophecy as a pathetic attempt by the Frost Wyrm Clan to soften the blow they had suffered, a feeble dream of fanciful future glories. Until recently, when a blue drake appeared in Nordent, part of the force which now wages war on West Kruna.
What happened between the Frost Wyrm people and the dragon is unknown. But when the beast was spotted again, it was accompanied by a great army of Nord warriors.
"Some of the nearest tribe surrendered when the first villages were destroyed. They started paying tribute like in the old days." Aesa spits on the deck of my ship. "My people refused, and they were butchered."
You have many questions. Why would one of the dragons choose to ally itself with humans? They've shown no desire for diplomacy elsewhere in West Kruna, no yearning for anything other than violent conquest and destruction. Can the arrival of a blue dragon in Nordent be mere coincidence or is it a prophecy truly being fulfilled? And if the powers of fate are indeed at work, what can you possibly do to thwart them?
But Aesa cannot provide you with the answers you seek. She knows nothing of the dealings between the dragon and the Frost Wyrm Clan, let alone the inner workings of destiny.
So you're left to mull those thoughts over as you continue along the river. Further up the broad stretch of water a tributary branches off, which will take you close to Hralborg. That ancient fortress is being used as a gathering place by chieftains who remain loyal to West Kruna and will be the staging point in the campaign against the Frost Wyrm Clan.
"No use," says the mage. "The ice is too thick. It'd take us forever to fireball our way through it all."
"The river shouldn't be frozen this far south," Aesa says. "It's not cold enough."
The air feels cold enough to you accustomed as you are to more civilized climes. But she's right. It's no colder here than it was further down the river, yet now an expanse of ice stretches ahead of you, preventing your ships from sailing any further.
"Sorcery," says Medea. An ominous chord accompanies the word, a remarkable feat considering the thick fur gloves which muffle her fingers.
"What makes you say that?" asks Lucian.
"It's surrounding our ships," she replies.
The rest of you crowd to the portside rail, where Medea stands. Sure enough, the water there is freezing before your eyes, ice creeping along its surface like a blanket being drawn across a bed. There's a soft, crisp, crackling noise as it takes hold. In a few moments your vessels are trapped, held in place like flies in treacle.
You hear a chorus of oaths, and turn to see grim, perhaps even fearful, expressions on the faces of some of the Nords. A few are clutching what look to be religious icons, and others are tracing runes in the air -- as if to ward off evil.
"The Frost Wyrm Clan's prophecy speaks of this," Aesa explains. There's a faint tremor in her voice. "It says that when their drake comes, all the rivers will freeze."
"Can we get to Hralborg by land?" you ask.
"Yes. From that shore." Aesa points to the east. Across the ice a distance of perhaps half a mile is a snow-covered bank.
You give your orders, and your companions begin to climb down from the ship onto the surface of the frozen river. The thick ice appears solid enough beneath your boots though a chill seeps up through their soles. And your feet seem inclined to slide off in different directions, forcing you to adjust your balance with each step. Even Medea and the other dexterous elves slip and slide a little as they walk. Only Aesa and her Nords are surefooted, used to walking on ice in their tundra homeland.
Like a troupe of comic actors performing some frivolous routine you shuffle, skid, and tumble as you make your way towards the riverbank. You're less than halfway there when you hear the sound of war horns...
A host of galloping horsemen appears on the horizon, their mounts' hooves trampling through the snow, kicking up great clouds of white. To your amazement, their charge continues when they reach the bank. The horses run out onto the ice-covered water, somehow keeping their footing on its slippery surface.
Your companions are a disorderly rabble, every warrior trying to find solid footing and stay up on the ice. You have no hope of breaking into a charge of your own and meeting your enemies halfway, or else maneuvering to avoid the brunt of the attack. You must either withstand their assault, or perish in this frozen realm.
|If you're charged as you are, scattered and unprepared, you'll be ridden down and slaughtered. You yell orders to the troops around you, trying to put some semblance of a battle line. Elsewhere your commanders are doing the same, to the tune of Medea's harp.|
Holding the Line
|You stand firm as you can on the ice, your companions forming tight ranks around you in the hope of supporting one another. Spears emerge from your lines. The horsemen are on the verge of crashing into you, and you raise your shield to meet the impact of their charge.|
Down from the Saddle
|Somehow you hold steady under the weight of the charge, and find yourselves struggling at close quarters with your foes. Next to you Marcus grabs a horse's bridle, and yanks it down while others drag the rider to the ice. That seems like a good strategem, and you decide to do the same.|
Something's Down There
|There's an immense thud from beneath, causing your legs to tremble. Cracks appear in the thick ice, snaking across its surface. There's a second thud, which seems to rock the entire surface of the river. You yell for your companions to fall back as the ice gives way. But as you move to follow, something yanks at your leg, and you fall. A dying Nord, clinging to you in desperation as the ice begins to tilt, threatening to tip you both into the water. Need to free yourself...|
|Snow starts to fall as you march, at first a gentle flurry but then becoming more insistent -- until it seems as if it's trying to smother you. A soft blanket of white is on the ground, and your calves sink into it with every step. You envy those at the back of the line, who get to walk on a crunched and compacted path instead.
Solus flies above, lost to sight amongst the falling flakes, appearing only now and again as he swoops low. You thought of mounting him, but it's probably even colder up there.
"They say it's grim up north," mutters Marcus, his teeth chattering. "They're right."
"How much further?" you ask.
"The opening of Terracles' Meander is close," Aesa replies. "We'll be shielded from most of the snowfall in there."
Terracles' Meander... You've heard of the place. It's one of the most famous natural features in Nordent. According to legend, Terracles had to journey to the northlands during one of the labors he undertook to prove his divine parentage. He supposedly got lost amongst the snows, and blundered through the mountains -- smashing a meandering path through the rock and forming a snake-like valley.
As the shaman promised, it isn't long before a rock face looms up before you. Though to your eyes the snow is a trackless waste in which all directions blend into one mass of whiteness, she has brought you directly to the valley's entrance.
Your companions sigh in satisfaction as they enter its shelter. It's still cold, but more bearable. Tall walls of rock rise up on either side, slightly curved at their crests -- forming almost a canopy over the passage below, keeping out much of the falling snow.
"There should be sentries here," Aesa says, a frown creasing her brow. "Either they're shirking their duty, or..."
The Nord shaman draws her weapon, and begins to move along the valley. As you're about to follow her, one of the zombies calls out.
Aesa turns round, a scowl on her face.
"Silence that dead thing," she hisses.
Then she turns round, takes a step, and slips on something. Her legs fly out from under her, and she falls onto her rear. Her sword clatters against the stone.
"Brains," repeats the zombie. "Told you."
A mage approaches the shaman, enchanted flame dancing on her hand and chasing away the shadows. In the arcane light, you see what she slipped on. It seems that the zombie was right.
Aesa gets to her feet, spitting out words in what you assume must be her native tongue. They're unintelligible to you, but her tone makes it clear that they're profanities.
Roland crouches, and examines the smeared mess.
"If someone killed the sentries," says Lucian, "shouldn't the rest of their bodies be here?"
"Not a person, I'll wager," Roland replies. He looks up at Aesa, who's rubbing the sole of her boot against the ground in an effort to scrape away the remaining traces of brain matter. "Do any predators live in this valley?"
"There are snow leopards," she replies. "They live in the caves, further in."
"Then we have trouble," Roland says, getting to his feet.
All around you, your companions draw their weapons. Then you move off down the valley together, to the first of its snaking bends.
Beasts of the Snow
|They're on you as soon as you round the corner, no doubt lying in ambush as soon as they heard your entrance. Beastmen, like those you fought before -- but these ones have white fur, as if adapted to the tundra.|
|A volley of missiles rains down from above as you turn into another stretch of the valley, launched by beastmen standing atop rocky ledges on either side. Some of your companions raise their shields, and from under their cover Aesa traces a rune in the air. In response, a nearby pile of snow begins to throb with eldritch energy...|
Bold and Boulder
|There's a scraping sound from above, as rock grates on rock. You look up to see a beastman shoving at a boulder, trying to drop it onto Aesa as she stands below -- distracted by the rune she's weaving. You dash over, to get her out of the way.|
Spelunking With Swords
|You drag Aesa aside as the boulder crashes down, and a hail of arrows from your archers puts paid to the beastmen. Your path seems clear now, but for all you know there are more creatures in the cave network leading off from the valley. You can't allow them to live, and maintain control of this crucial passage.|
|Leaving the winding valley behind, you trek across Nordent's white mantle once more. The snow has stopped falling at least, and the winds are calm. You only have the land's natural chill to contend with.
The ground begins to rise as you trek. Its increasing gradient is imperceptible at first, hidden beneath the shining white blanket. But soon you find yourself hiking up a hill, listening to those behind you grumble as you inadvertently kick snow back into their faces.
"We'll be able to see the fortress from up here," Aesa says, gesturing further up the slope. From the sound of her voice, with its easy breaths, trekking up a snow-covered hill is no great ordeal for her. But you know that if you replied, it would be with a gasp. So you simply nod.
The ridge ends in a wide plateau. From here you can stare out across expansive plain below. Its snows shine in the sunlight, so bright it's almost blinding. In the middle of this vast whiteness stands a stone wall, encircling a snow-capped keep. From this height it's like an ornament, displayed on a soft white cushion.
"There's no army," says Lucian.
"It's been and gone," replies Medea. The strings of her instrument twang out a mournful note, and for a moment the atmosphere seems even colder. "Those are Frost Wyrm banners flying above the keep."
You strain your eyes, making them water in the chill air, and can just make out blotches of blue in the middle of white flags.
"Impossible!" Aesa says, the word barely above a whisper. "No enemy has ever breached that wall..."
"They wouldn't have to," says Medea. "The dragon could have flown them over it instead. For all we know, the wyrm we came to slay is behind those walls as we speak."
"Only one way to find out," you reply.
Solus blinks at you, and crouches down so you can get onto his back. He waits for a moment until you've made yourself comfortable. Then he leaps from the ridge, his wings unfurling and flapping. In a matter of moments you're high in the air, circling above the fortress -- beyond the reach of any bow.
You look down as Solus makes his circular passes, allowing your eyes to adjust to the speed you're moving at, and take in everything that lies below. Distant warriors are staring up at you, some of them pointing or brandishing their weapons. There's no sign of any dragon in the open space between the outer wall and the keep. But you can make out large double-doors leading into the building. Big enough to admit a full-grown drake, perhaps.
Solus breaks out of his circuit, and heads back towards the ridge where your companions stand. It looks like you'll have to try something else...
You lead your forces down from the ridge, and around onto the plain. There you draw up your ranks, out of range of any archers atop the walls.
You glimpse figures moving onto the battlements, between the crenellations.
"Will they hear me up there?" you ask.
"I'll make sure of it," Medea replies.
"Nords of the Frost Wyrm Clan..." you begin. Medea's music seems to envelop your words, as if it's somehow lifting them from your very throat, and launching them through the air like a volley of arrows. "...will you hide behind your walls like sniveling cowards, or will you give battle?"
Aesa nods approvingly at your side.
"No Nord army in a position of strength would cower away while the enemy stands before them," she says. "If they won't fight, their dragon isn't with them."
On the ramparts, a man rises into view as he steps up onto the crenellations. A mail shirt gleams at his torso, and a voluminous fur cloak flaps around him. He stands there as steady as a rock, not seeming to care that a fall from that height would mean certain death.
The main raises his hands to his mouth, and yells. His voice is powerful, and the words reach you with perfect clarity. But he's speaking his native language, and they mean nothing to you. He goes on speaking for half a minute, before falling silent, turning around, and jumping down -- disappearing from sight.
"What did he say?" you ask.
"He told you to go away," Aesa replies, after a momentary pause.
"If my knowledge of the local language serves me well," says Lucian, "he also made disparaging comments about your parentage, and asked you to perform various anatomical impossibilities."
Aesa turns up to you, her eyes glinting.
"The dragon may not be here, but we can't leave our strongest fortification to the Frost Wyrms. If they keep Hralborg, we'll never dislodge them from the region."
She has a point. Besides, you don't know where the rest of their army went after they took the place. You'd have to go running around the tundra to find them. But you bet someone inside knows...
"Is there another way past the walls?" you ask. "A dungeon entrance? A waterway?"
The shaman looks at you as if you're insane.
"What fool would build strong walls, and then allow their enemies to walk in under them?"
"You'd be surprised how often that happens. But I suppose we'll have to break the doors down."
"Didn't you hear what I told you earlier?" she asks. "In centuries no one has ever managed to break through those fortifications."
"Maybe. But your people aren't exactly known for slegecraft..." You turn around, and face the ranks of your companions. "We'll fashion engines of war, and smash the fortress open."
"Building war machines requires skill and science," Medea says. A flutter that resembles a laugh comes from her harp. "What would you know of such things?"
"For your information..." You pause, as your common sense tries to tackle your bravado before it can work your mouth. It dives just a second too late. "...I've built a catapult before."
Medea raises an eyebrow, clearly dubious. But she nods, no doubt unwilling to question your word before the troops. You issue some orders, and everyone moves out -- heading for a copse of trees that stands across the plain, branches draped in so much snow that it resembles a choir of robed men.
Roland waits by your side until the others are out of earshot.
"I remember hearing about that catapult," he says. "You used to throw rotten eggs at the other children."
"It worked, didn't it? These ones just need to be bigger..."
|First, you'll need wood. So you and your companions begin to chop, hack, and smash your way through the copse of trees -- making up for whatever you lack in the way of skill with an abundance of raw enthusiasm.|
Preparing the Wood
|A few of your soldiers were carpenters before the war, so you rely on their expertise when it comes to stripping away the bark and preparing the wood for use. The mages also prove useful, their arcane craft speeding up the process.|
|Through magic, brawn, and ingenuity, you end up with a number of beams and dowels. Now it's just a matter of assembling the contraptions. How hard can it be to put bits of wood together?|
|Now it's time to test fire your machines, and tweak them until they're launching their missiles along the right trajectory...|
Frost Wyrm Camp
|Heavy snows have fallen since the dragon's force preceded you, obscuring even the tracks of so great a host. But as you head in the direction told to you by the Nord commander, you come upon a sacked town -- proof of your enemies' passage. A few wrecked buildings still stand, tottering like drunkards above piles of tumbled stone, cold ashes, and splintered wood. Corpses lie amongst the rubble, and strewn about the snow, where they fell in the defense of their home or else were cut down on their flight.
As you pick your way through the debris, searching for survivors, a large force of armed Nords appear on the horizon. They shout their war cries when they see you, and break into a charge. You and your companions draw your weapons, notch arrows to your bows. But Aesa calls for you to hold your fire, to stand your ground. And when the Nords draw near, she calls out in their native tongue. They come to a disorderly halt in front of her, bumping into each other as their momentum carries them on.
She speaks with the man you take to be their leader, then switches to the common tongue to explain that they were among those who were to meet you at Hralborg. After finding the fortress under enemy control, they went off in search of the rest of the Frost Wyrm Clan's army, as you now do. They came upon a few raiding bands, and left them dead on the snows. But seeing no sign of the main host's trail, they headed in this direction.
The Nords are awed by what Aesa told them of your taking of Hralborg, and glad to learn that you know where the Frost Wyrms are headed. So they ask to march with you, agreeing to accept your command. They seem a little taken aback when Solus lands beside you, but they've been told about the dragon-rider of Burden's Rest, and their alarm soon subsides.
You pass by the remains of a few smaller settlements as you continue your journey, villages put to the sword and torch. The sights are grim, but each atrocity brings you closer to your quarry. They stopped to kill, loot, and pillage. If fate smiles about you, that will be enough to let you overtake them.
Darkness has fallen when you discover them. There's a glow of campfires in the distance, the noise of boisterous voices raised in song and shout. The march was long and tiring, and the thought of the coming battle almost makes you groan. But you've found your enemy at last, and they will likely be weary too from the carnage and destruction they wrought.
You send out your best scouts, and they return to report that there's no sign of any sentries between you and the camp, nor on any of the nearby hills. Perhaps they feel untouchable, clad in arrogance as if in armor.
Lying atop a vantage point on a hill, you look down upon your foes. There are dozens and dozens of tents, stretching out across the snow. In the open spaces between them, Nords sit around campfires. Some are bare-chested, their hardened northern bodies seemingly immune to the cold. From the looks of things, the fires are there to provide them with light, and for cooking their meat over.
There are banners dotted around the camp, embedded in the ground. Most display the Frost Wyrm symbol, though you can make out others as well.
"The conquered tribes," Aesa explains. "Forced to serve the Frost Wyrms in battle."
"There are lots of them," you say. "If they join us when the fighting starts, or at least stay out of it-"
"You don't understand Nordent, southlander. Is it the way of your people to break oaths, as if they mean nothing? As if vows are merely words lost upon the wind as soon as they're spoken? Among our people, oath-breakers are outcasts."
Medea rolls her eyes. You sigh.
"Those ones at the near edge of the camp," she continues, "with the baggage. They have the look of slaves, not warriors. They're captives, and will have pledged no oaths. They won't raise their hands to us, and we should spare them when the bloodshed starts."
There's a blotch of light on the horizon, far away from the Frost Wyrm encampment. It looks like it's being cast into the night air by more campfires, though you can't make them out.
"I don't see any beastmen with the Nords," Roland says. "The fires out there might be theirs."
"Yes," Aesa replies. "Even the Frost Wyrms would balk at sharing a camp with those monsters."
But there's still one monster among them. At the far side, beyond all the tents, lying some distance away from the Nords and their campfires, is a big blue mass. A dragon curled up in slumber.
"It will be a hard battle," says Marcus. "And we don't know how many beastmen we'll have to fight after that."
You nod. It's a huge army of Nords you see down there, along with a full-grown drake. The losses would likely be heavy. But perhaps there is another way...
"Tell me everything you know about the Frost Wyrms' prophecy."
|Your companions think you're insane. But they follow you anyway, trusting you even now. With them a short distance behind, you and Solus stride towards the camp. The slaves gaze at you with wide eyes, and the Frost Wyrms grab their weapons when they see you approach. But the sight of Solus causes them to falter. If you maintain your confident stride, the air of one who has every right to be here, perhaps you can pull this off...|
Lies, Damn Lies, and Prophecies
|Nords have gathered all around, surrounding you. Their knuckles are white as they grasp their weapons, but still they hold their ground -- uncertain looks on their faces. Some of them step back as if stung, when Solus meets their gaze. You'll only have one chance at this. "Nords of the Frost Wyrm clan, the blue drake has come to you, as was foretold..."|
I Find Your Lack of Faith Disturbing
|Your words, combined with Solus' deep, penetrating stare and regal bearing seem to do the trick. Several of the Nords are arguing, a confused babble arising around you. But one Nord, some kind of chieftain from the look of him, pushes through the circle. He yells at the others, and cuffs the nearest Nord around the head. Yet they still don't move, though you believe he's asking them to attack you. He gives an angry snarl, draws his weapon, and hurls himself at you.|
The Two Drakes
|There's a thudding noise, and a large, reptilian shape looms above the Nords. They scatter before it, falling away until you and Solus stand alone in front of the dragon. The beast's gaze is locked on him, and you see something strange pass across its face. Emotions are hard to read on its scaly visage, but is that... fear? Solus trembles, and gives a low hiss. Something is happening between the two drakes, some battle of wills beyond your comprehension. You place your hand on Solus' neck, willing your strength into him.|