The Earthshaker's Oath IC

Discussion in 'ROLEPLAY GRAVEYARD' started by Grif ♥, Jan 13, 2015.

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    The Earthshaker’s Oath
    Prologue


    “I have no time for your politics, Chancellor. We have a problem and we need to stop it.”

    Two men stood in a large room, dimly lit by dying candles and the thin streaks of dawn light that fell through the tiny arched windows. They stood on opposite ends of a long, dark oak table, the surface of which was covered in maps that had recently been laid out, detailing the whole of Isanbjorg and the recently captured holds which surrounded it. One was tall, heavily built and with rugged features, and he wore fine clothing in the city’s white and blue. He wore a steel breastplate and greaves over his clothing, and a helmet had been placed on the table beside him. He rested his hand on it, the other placed gently on the hilt of the blade that was sheathed to his hip. The other was shorter and his age had clearly taken its toll on his body. Thin, wispy grey hair fell from his head and he wore long robes and a medallion around his neck, both of which appeared to be as old as he. With a thin, bony hand he pointed at the other man, his face twisted in frustration. He spoke.

    “No, Vargr. You have a problem. These rumours have no credit, yet you follow them blindly in an attempt to reclaim some stolen glory, and ignore the real issues at hand!”

    Vargr had grown tired of listening to Chancellor Aldafar’s complaints. The old man was senile at his best, but a paranoid and manipulative weasel at his worst. The man was powerful though, and had been advisor to the royal family in any and all matters for longer than Vargr had been alive. There had been a time when he had respected the older man’s council, but that time had long past, and Vargr found himself constantly fighting with him whenever it came to matters involving the city’s protection. Vargr had worked long and hard to earn the position of Isanbjorg’s marshal, and it was his job to keep the city he had been born in safe. If it were not for Aldafar’s meddling then he might be able to do his job, but the elderly man was in a position of greater power, and his sway over the ruling of the city was stronger than he would have liked you to know.

    Thankfully there was only one subject where the two of them clashed, which meant that Vargr could usually do his job in peace. Whenever he attempted to enforce changes in the managing of the Earthshaker’s; Isanbjorg’s resident giant population and militia, Aldafar would complicate things. Vargr not only managed the city guard but also the Earthshaker’s, and thus had control of the city’s most powerful resource. Furthermore, he saw them as less of a tool and more as individuals, unlike Aldafar, and understood that they had all come to Iron Fort for refuge. If a human sought refuge in Isanbjorg then they would be found a room to stay and be fed a hot meal, not enslaved and forced to build stone walls. While he could not deny the usefulness of giants as soldiers and builders, Vargr knew that they had come here seeking sanctuary, not imprisonment, and that a stronger alliance between the two peoples could be forged if only they were willing to give it to them.

    That was where their opinion differed. Aldafar saw them as little more than wild beasts to be tamed and sent to the slaughter. To him, any giant that questioned an order was a traitor, plotting to overthrow the Iron Fort, and he would have sentenced a hundred giants to death if it had not been for the Queen stepping in. Vargr had no doubt that Aldafar was loyal to the city and sought only to protect it, but if he were left unchecked then we would cause more harm than good.

    Creator bless that woman, Vargr thought. At least she has some sense about her.

    The marshal grit his teeth and flexed his hands, fighting back the urge to raise his voice. “So you would force us to reorganise the Earthshaker’s, throwing them into disarray, the moment we might need them to help on the southern border? Just because you want to separate giants you think might be plotting something?”

    “Rather risk attack from the south than risk attack from within.”

    “I am tired of your-”

    A man threw open the door, bursting into the room. Vargr’s voice fell silent as he turned to face the man, a furious expression across his face. The man who entered was one of the marshal’s messengers, and it was clear that whatever he had to say was urgent. “What?” Vargr barked.

    The messenger gulped, holding up a piece of scrolled up parchment. “It’s the fort at the Dálkr Pass, sir. It’s been attacked.”

    ~​


    It is the early hours of a freezing cold morning when you receive your calls to action. A young human man, fresh faced and no older than twenty, dressed in the fine garbs of the Queen’s messengers, has delivered a letter to each of you individually. Each one of these letters is marked with the seal and signature of the city marshal, the man in charge of Isanbjorg’s military affairs, but also the man who officially leads the Earthshaker’s. This seal features the head of a stag, the icon of the marshal, which is well known among the giants of the city as a call to duty. It is highly unusual for a group of giants to be called so early in the morning, but it is clear by the messenger’s short, sharp breaths that he was told to deliver the notices as quickly as possible.

    The letter is brief but clear, as while most giants speak the common tongue of Isanbjorg it is only a minority that can read or write it, and even fewer that can do so well. Still, even the newest and least educated members of the Earthshakers are taught to recognise certain words that the marshal deemed important, and for those still unable to understand the message the messenger has been instructed to read it out for them. Once the message has been delivered the man bows his head and leaves, clutching his satchel of messages tightly in his hand.

    The letter says that any who receives it is to report to the Iron Keep, the grand spire of in the centre of the city, where they will report to city marshal for further instructions. Most giants in the city know of marshal Vargr Stål but only a few have met him personally. Opinions of him vary greatly, but he is known to sympathise more with the giants than most people in the city. It is likely that Queen Elisavet offered him the position for that very reason.

    The letter continues, stating that each giant involved has been reassigned to a new group. Giants usually operate in small groups, the number varying depending on the mission but usually consisting of five to ten individuals, and will rarely change unless a death occurs or a new giant arrives in Isanbjorg. A change in the structure of a group is usually done under exceptional circumstances.

    The letter itself is exceptional, however, and certainly means that change is coming.
     
    #1 Grif ♥, Jan 13, 2015
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2015
  2. By the light of a small lamp, Caylor fished a coal from the firebox of the hearth, pulled free with a blackened set of wooden tongs, he dropped the small ember into a handful of woodshavings and dust, and gently blew across it. The coal brightened, the dim red flickering to orange for a moment before withering, another breath brought more heat from the remains of yesterday, before it finally caught the dust alight, which readily transferred to the wisps of wood shavings. Carefully he returned the fire to the hearth, feeding it slowly to prevent choking it of air. After a minute, the first billet was introduced, and the shaped stone door was slid back into place, the carved openings emitting rays of light into the darkened workshop, dancing shadows across benches and racked tools. Beside the hearth, he pulled closer to himself a small wooden box, and retrieved three black sticks of hardened pitch glue. Opening the oven portion of the heath, he pulled out the small cauldron and added the ingots of glue, yesterdays workings. Closing the oven, he looked over the shop, slowly putting a few errant tools back in place in preparation for the day. The glue would be ready by sunrise, breakfast shortly before then. Time enough for his morning exercise.

    Just as he was pulling on a his hooded cloak to fend off the weather, before heading down to the fields for practice and warming up before the break of dawn, came the knock at his door. His brows shifted between states of surprise to concern. Someone knocking on his door this early, likely heralded ill news. Walking to the door, he opened it and looked down, his lips cracked into a smile as he recognized the news bringer, but tempted into a frown as he read his comrades expression, "Hrodmarr, what is it?"

    Hrodmarr simply responded while pushing the envelope into the giant's hands, "Orders. Be careful Caylor." He then turned and carried on to his next stop.

    A mixture of excitement and trepidation gripped him as he flipped the letter over in his hands, turning back into the shop as the yellow-orange light of the lamp, eying the seal and quill work that was familiar to him, when had the time to help his mother. Marshall Vargr. He peeled the seal free, opened the envelope, and unfolded the small scrap of paper as he stepped to the work bench where he had left the oil burner, his eyes danced over the script quickly. When he had finished, he paused for a moment to think, as he pulled on the deerskin cloak. The orders were strange in a way, not so urgent as an imminent attack on Isanbjorg itself, but definitely urgent enough to send runners the now. Likely, this initial meeting was to brief the Earthshakers on a situation, divide the groups for whatever reason, and set up a muster point, probably for dawn. Just in case however, he turned to the rack by the door, he pulled out his fighting knife in its sheath, and slipped it into the sword frog on his belt, it canting the blade back behind him on his right waist. The unstrung yew bow stave, strapped to his loaded quiver, being quickly thrown over his shoulder, before he took his warhammer in hand. Pausing to extinguish the lamp, he finally left the workshop, and headed out into the pre-dawn hours, jogging quickly towards the Iron Keep.
     
  3. Ruda Irsdunsdottir was far too proud to allow the puny human messenger to read this missive from the Marshal aloud to her, simply accepting the stag head embossed missive in the palm of her wide, calloused hand. She knew of this Vargr Stal, this city marshal who was even-handed and fair-minded with the giants of Isanbjorg - or so at least it was rumored. She nodded her proud head solemnly to the messenger, her actions if not her words dismissing the young man as she turned to the rough-hewn stone building that served as the most permanent and immoveable home she had ever known.

    Mortarless stone, expertly stacked so not a single aberrant breeze might find its way within, formed the foundation of the large, circle-shaped home on the farthest edges of Isanbjorg. Overhead, wide beams formed of the great tusks of leviathans arched into a dome, a single opening to the frigid grey and barely lit sky above them all. Expertly-treated and stitched weatherproof hides served as roofing, draped over the massive tusk beams. From the outside this might seem a strange and crude home, to be sure. Certainly not a human home, nor even one common among the giants. Still, this was a sturdy home nonetheless, and the unexpected warmth and comfort within its walls was the least stunning of all the surprises to be found inside.

    Missive in hand, Ruda pushed at the bone and hide constructed doorway, moving within toward the massive crude fire pit at its center that served as the hearth. She prodded the embers of the fire with one hand, stoking them expertly with a long branch and bits of dried moss kindling until the flames leapt up to the open sky above. Their flickering amber light illuminated the darker corners within the house, prancing lightly over the carven ivory beams and animating the meticulously detailed scenes of great herds of caribou and mammoth, dire bear and wolf and countless other beasts of the north lands, migrating among mountains and tundra exquisitely hand-painted on the hides within.

    The light of the flames also illuminated the tousled, shaggy brunette head of a boy child peaking from beneath a palette piled high with furs and the most butter soft leather coverings. When he rose, one might note the boy was verging on those first steps of manhood, taller and leaner now than only a year or two prior. But for the moment all that could be read in those large grey eyes was a child’s petulant reluctance to roll himself from the sleepy warmth of the dream lands.

    “I have a letter from the city marshal Audun,” Ruda said softly, holding her hand out expectantly toward the child she knew very well was not sleeping at all, shaking her wrist with just enough impatience for him to know without a word that this was nothing to take lightly.

    Not, of course, that he would or did. The boy shoved the furs away immediately, rising with a nimble swiftness to do as his mother bid, taking the parchment and breaking the stag head seal to unfurl it. Audun would have fought any man – or any giant for that matter – who dared say his mother was stupid or ignorant for her inability to read the human words. His Madir was simply… Older. Older, and more set in her ways. She was a brilliant warrior, a leatherworker and stoneworker and an exquisitely talented artist, but the strange tiny lines and curly-cues of the human’s written words simply would not translate to anything meaningful in her mind, no matter how she tried.

    But Audun was still so young, and necessity and circumstance demanded he would grow in a world far different than the one his parents had known. And so Ruda ensured he would have all he needed to thrive in this new place – including an education the likes of which neither she nor Haldulf ever had. Ilsa was the giantess nearest to them, who had been here in Isanbjorg for over a decade now. Younger than Ruda, she and her mate had a girl child a few years older than Audun who had become both much loved playmate and his very first starry-eyed crush - though he would be mortified to realize his Madir knew this very well.

    Ilsa was also the closest thing to a friend Ruda had behind the great stone walls of Isanbjorg. The younger woman provided a second home to Audun during the excursions his mother must make at the Queen’s behest, and an education Ruda simply could not. And in return Ruda’s talents provided many small luxuries for them all: the most supple and warm clothing and outerwear, delicately and colorfully hand-painted and decorated, and all the lovely extras that human coin could purchase like jars of honey, fresh vegetables and preserved fruits in the winter.

    And so Ruda listened as she rolled out the acorn paste she had ground earlier onto enormous flat stones she had heated by the fire, a morning flatbread for breakfast she would supplement with the wild honey on the comb that Audun loved so dearly, alongside a hunk of the cow’s cheese her scrimshaw had paid for and salted, smoked caribou meat.

    "Wait... Read that last part again, Audun?" She flipped one of the flatbreads easily with her fingers to brown the other side.

    The boy peered up at her with his large grey eyes, scratching his bare belly sleepily where he squatted beside the fire, and did as he was asked.

    “Reassigned?” Ruda frowned mightily as she stood, turning away from her son to take up the clay pot of honey. She had no wish to distress Audun who, by now, knew very well this missive meant his Madir would be leaving – for a short time or long, would be anyone’s guess. He accepted her absences as well as any child possibly could, knowing very well that if she failed to return he would be bereft of the only parent he had left, an orphan in this strange new world.

    Ruda hated change. She had not heard of any deaths among her band in Isanbjorg, and yet the city marshall said she was to be ‘reassigned,’ with no further explanation beyond this summoning and her expected arrival at the Iron Keep. Change brought nothing good to her world, and never had, and though she knew the marshal’s reputation as well as any of her kind? Ruda could not help – and honestly did nothing to stop – the winding wyrm of growing resentment in her belly.

    Her face however, was studiously calm, clear of all storm clouds by the time she returned to where Audun crouched. Ruda even managed a smile to very nearly match his own when he saw what she set beside him. One large, calloused hand ran lovingly over the boy’s long, shaggy locks as he let long drips of sweet, sticky amber fall along his acorn bread before rolling it all up tightly. ‘To the seven hells with the humans and all their needless meddling,’ she thought, only the softest sigh escaping her lips while she watched her precious boy eat. ‘Damn the marshal, damn this place and these walls and all the shifting ground that will not remain fast beneath our feet.’

    But for all her frustration and all her irritation, Ruda knew very well she would do what she had sworn to do, to fulfill the bargain implicit in the trade she had made for Audun’s safety. She would gather her spear and her knives, don the hardened leather armor, pack her traveling bags and wrap herself in the cloak of the silver dire bear for whatever journey might come.

    Yes, Ruda Irsdunsdottir would fulfill her duties to the last, but the humans could still damn well wait at the Iron Keep until the end of breakfast.
     
    #3 Muirgen, Jan 16, 2015
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2015
  4. The sun had barely risen yet and a pounding resounded against the thick timbers that made the door to Slavuk’s home. Still sound asleep the wakeup call was repeated with greater force. The giant awoke with a bit of a fright, kicking out with a leg and striking the wall next to his bed. The timber splintered, but luckily held firm. Grumbling as he rolled over under blankets of fur Slavuk called out to the intruder in a gruff voice. “To what end am I needed now?” He grunted as he swung his legs out of the bed onto the cold stone floor, pulling himself up with a heave-ho. The paper carriers, as he named them, knew he wouldn’t read their language out of some misconstrued spite and so the letter was recited to him through the door. As the messenger ended the letter Slavuk opened the door to greet him, scarcely garbed and with gruel dripping from his curled lips. After gulping down his brisk meal he knelt to speak to the man at eye level. “You can go, I’ll be out shortly.” The messenger curled the parchment back up and placed it in his pack. He nodded to Slavuk and turned on his heel to work his way to the next giant that would be awoken in the darkness of the morning. Silly paper carriers Slavuk mused. Nonetheless Slavuk understood the importance of the message and wondered to what end they would be reorganizing the groups amid the Earthshakers. Certainly it wasn’t something he ought to be late to.

    Stretching upwards Slavuk gripped his wrist and pulled stretching his arms and back. He inhaled deeply, held the breath, and with the downward motion of his arms released it. Turning around in his doorway he shut it firmly behind him and rummaged through his clothing. The morning air was brisk and nipped at the toes, but was nothing he wasn’t accustomed to. Pulling up a pair of handmade trousers and fastening them with a broad belt Slavuk found himself something akin to a fur jerkin. Made of the pelts of large beasts the thick fur kept away the brunt of the wind and cold. Before leaving he bent down over the pit that lay in the center of his home and crudely fished out a fingerful of gruel and plopped it into his mouth. Lastly he found his spear and pack, which had everything an adventuring giant might need, and headed out into the crisp morning air.
     
  5. I had arrived in the city a month ago, and was still getting acquainted with the workings of these "Earthshakers." As such, I was having a pleasant dream about a wonderful encounter with a luscious human barmaid. Right as I was reaching the "climax" of my dream, I'm awoken by a faint voice, and some sort of prodding. The accommodations I'd been given were said to be temporary, and they were far from private. Slowly, I force one eye open, using it to spot the itsy-bitsy courier. He was young, no more than twenty, and he'd poked me with some sort of scroll. He looked nervous, but when I did nothing, he began to read off of it. "By the oath you, Jotunn Gygax, have signed you are called to-" He'd pronounced my name wrong, and I let out a sigh before turning over. "Sssshhh...The gods of light aren't even awake yet. As soon as the sun rises, I will. Until then, I snore out fire. You may want to leave." Okay, so I lied about the last bit, but it was just so EARLY!

    Unfortunately, the young man was determined to give his schpeel. My desire to sleep eventually lost out, and I pushed myself up drearily as the man droned on in the background. I tuned much of it out, but the Marshal, whoever that was, had called a batch of my kin to the Iron Keep. I'm pretty sure that's where I signed my oath, but I don't know. I fumbled with my cloak, clasping it around my shoulders. I only owned one pair of clothes, so I'd worn them to sleep to help fight the night chill. Lastly, I took up my staff, a relic from my previous life, and headed out. I figured that there'd be others headed to the same place, I would follow the first Giant I saw. It wasn't that hard, we were both taller than the human housing. I don't know exactly who I'm following, but he's well muscled and carrying a spear.
     


  6. Patches of ice had appeared across the leather sidings of Arnaute's home overnight, the last few embers of the previous night's fire failing to keep them at bay. Underneath her furs however, the world was still warm. Others could keep their wooden homes, in Arnaute's opinion, but a large, simple tent was more than enough for her and Niels.

    The both of whom were woken before the sun had even risen fully above the horizon to the sound of the bell-post outside. Groaning, Arnaute rose to her feet and made her way to a cast iron bucket kept by the fire. After splashing some of the chilly water inside across her face, she poured the rest over the remains of the fire. A small puff of steam was all the resistance it provided.

    Outside the tent she found a human, young even for their race, clutching a missive in his hands. "For who?" she asked bluntly. Most of the time these messages were for Niels; he was far more personable with others and knew how to track, so was usually in higher demand.

    "For Arnaute, from the marshal," the boy replied. "Is that you, or-"

    "It's me," she said, and held out her hand for the paper. Once the boy handed it over, she returned to her tent without a word. <What does it say?> she asked Niels in their own tongue, passing him the missive.

    Niels didn't answer for a moment, taking the time to read the letter over first. "Vargr Stål calls you to the Iron Keep-" he began.

    <In our language.>

    <You need to learn,>
    he replied before switching back to the human tongue and explaining the rest of the letter, stopping now and then to translate certain words.

    <Don't trade the loom for a cow while I'm gone,> Arnaute joked as she grabbed her axes from where they hung by leather straps and heading out into the cold outdoors. There were very few people out at this hour, in this weather, almost all of whom were human. She took some pleasure in the fact that she towered over them as she did, used to being considered short by other giants.Further down the street she could see the back end of the messenger as he made his way to his next delivery. Turning the other way, she began making her way to the Iron Keep, axes hanging from her waist.
     

  7. The giant quarter of Isanbjorg was quiet that morning. While it was not unusual for a few of the hunters and warriors that had taken residence in the city to be out this early, eager to earn their pay for the day and to spend some time out in the wilds outside of Isanbjorg’s stone walls, which many giants found oppressive and uncomfortable, most were content to stay in their homes. Still, hunters, shamans, warriors, and beast tamers could be seen dragging themselves from their beds and their homes and making the long walk to the Iron Keep or to the city gates. A few humans reared their heads, peering out of their windows to see what had caused such a tremendous amount of noise, but the exodus of giants made all but the boldest humans recoil and quickly return to their beds, hiding their heads underneath their pillows until the marching ceased.

    The path towards the Iron Fort was quiet, and the gates were left wide open for the giants that were expected to arrive. A few human attendants stood by the gate alongside the usual guardsmen, looking up expectantly as they noticed giants on the horizon. They were here to escort the giants who had been sent the marshal’s message, and after questioning those that approached to ensure that the right people had arrived, they would turn and guide them.

    Six giants in particular would cause the attendants to take more interest. “I am here to lead you to Marshal Vargr,” they would say to Arnaute Ec-Savin, Blomma Grobiansdotter, Caylor Heggradun, Jotunn Gygax, Ruda Irsdunsdottir, and Slavuk Kazyar, should they arrive, and would lead each one individually through the castle grounds.

    The castle grounds were not particularly spectacular, with little decoration beyond the occasional stained glass window of the castle or a long, coloured banner of Isanbjorg in its iconic white and blue held up along the wall. The spire grew more decorative closer to the main complex, but the outer grounds were plain. This proved useful, as the empty cobblestone pathways were large enough to accommodate the giants with ease, and even the gated archways were tall enough only the tallest giant would have to duck her head. The walk only took a few minutes, and the giants eventually reached a courtyard paved with more cobblestones, which was filled with a small regiment of human soldiers.

    They were armed with spears and held heavy shields, which they immediately turned towards the giants as they approached. They made no further moves though, until a man stepped out from a doorway into the castle behind them. He wore simple but clearly high quality armour, had a sword fastened to his belt and held a helmet under his arm. While few giants ever met personally with the city’s marshal, some might recognise the man as he approached.

    He motioned to the guards who lowered their weapons, and then turned to the giants. Vargr smiled, albeit briefly, and introduced himself to the giants that arrived and explained in equally brief terms why he had called them here. “I am Ser Vargr Stål, marshal of Isanbjorg. I apologise for bringing you to the castle so early with little explanation, but we were in dire need of a group to be mobilised immediately.”

    “Once the rest of your kin arrive we shall talk business properly, and answer any of your questions.”​
     
  8. The giantess eyed the tiny human attendant grimly, her only response to his question the fullness of her name, followed by a low and unwavering "Aye." She followed him over the castle grounds, struck once more by the strange sparseness of the keep and its environs. She knew very well that the humans had their artisans among them, one or two of the most talented of whom she had even shared her ivory and bone-staining techniques, as well as her deep knowledge of the bestiary of the wild north lands.

    But beyond a few pieces of prettily shining colored glass, the bareness of these grounds spoke only of a strange and growing despondency to Ruda's eyes, though how or why she could never quite precisely put her large, thick finger upon. The artisan within the woad-tattooed warrior ached to lay hands on these bare, unloved and unadorned stones, to lift the faces in the rock so they would be a marvel to behold in the sunlight, and a dazzling and bewitching display beneath the moons.

    Yet this was not the place where giants such as herself were often welcomed - at least with anything less than begrudging reluctance it seemed - and so Ruda forced back the urge to stop, to run her fingers over the solid but plainly homely walls and see what designs, what birds and animals, plants or weapons the rock whispered to her, begging her to bring it to being.

    Such notions ended at the contingent of human soldiers who turned shields and lowered spears at the approach of the very creatures summoned here. Ruda stopped, the bottom of her own massive spear slamming into the cobblestone walk with a resounding *crack* Grey eyes narrowed thoughtfully, she wrapped her dignity about her as easily as the silver dire bear cloak draped over her shoulders.

    She did nothing in these moments though, but listen. Ruda nodded when Vargr finished his small speech, the frown on her stately face not so much for him but for the circumstances she could see coming on the horizon. 'Dire need?' 'Mobilised?' That could only mean days gone from Isanbjorg at best, and though this was the bargain struck to keep Audun safe behind its walls, and a bargain she would honor to her last breath? No mother wishes to be parted from her child.

    Ruda could still appreciate the plainness of his speech, and the almost humble, unadorned appearance of Isanbjorg's marshal. True power should never have to shout, nor make itself beautiful and shiny with baubles and whatnot to be noticed. She remained silent for the moment, as curious as any of those gathered for the true purpose of this gathering, but she was no small child. Ruda could be as patient and long-suffering as stone itself, when need be.
     
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